In a previous post I wrote that Jesus was using a metaphor in referring to His rule as a kingdom. Metaphors are meant to communicate packages of information by explaining something not known in terms of something known.
Because Jesus was the greatest communicator ever, we must assume He chose the metaphor of the kingdom because it most closely paralleled the nature of His rule. Therefore, by examining earthly kingdoms in conjunction with what the Bible says about the kingdom of God, we can gain a better understanding of how the kingdom of God works.
The first thing that would have come to the minds of a first century audience when Jesus began talking to them about kingdoms would have been kings. The king was the most powerful person in an earthly kingdom and could command the obedience of all persons in the kingdom, even those who did not like him or want to serve him.
Kings were sovereign. They had authority to make laws, execute laws and judge those who broke them. Without authority in all three areas, a king would not have been sovereign. If a king had authority to make law, but no authority to judge law breakers, he would not be sovereign. If the king didn’t have authority to enforce his laws, his laws would not be laws, but suggestions. We might call one who gives good suggestions wise, but we would not call him a king.
In first century kingdoms, the three functions of the sovereign typically resided in one person. The Roman Empire is an example of such a kingdom. Caesar held all the powers of a king, and even though the Roman Empire had a Senate, by the first century A.D. Caesar ruled by decree. Even though the Romans had a court system, all appeals ended with Caesar.
When Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God to his first century audience, it is this sort of sovereign that would have come to mind.
Like earthly kingdoms, the kingdom of God has a king, and His name is Jesus:
Pilate therefore said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37)
Like earthly kings, Jesus has the complete authority to rule. (Psalm 110:1-2). Jesus has authority to make law (Matt. 5:21-28), to execute the law (Matt. 21:12-13), and to judge those who break it. (Acts 10:42).
Tomorrow, I’ll explain how King Jesus exercises His sovereignty on the earth. GS