“…they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21-22). A second look at the 6th occurrence of ‘pistis/faith’ in Acts.
Between Synagogue and Church in the Judeo-Christian tradition there lies ‘The Kingdom of God’. This theme occupies a major portion of Jesus’ Parable teachings. To be sure, the ultimate concern that Jesus has for ‘the Kingdom of God’ can clearly be seen in Mark’s first words of Jesus as he emerged from his ‘wilderness experience’ “preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe the gospel.”
John Bright has been exceptional in his study of ‘The Kingdom of God’ for which he entitles one of his major works. He points to the concept being ‘new in Jesus’ as there are no uses of this expression in the Old Testament. It is not a possibility, it is not wished for or hoped for but— it is present! Before the thought of ‘the Kingdom of God’ being synonymous with ‘heaven’— some other world beyond this life; Jesus speaks of ‘the Kingdom of God’ being ‘at hand’— here and now!
It must not go unnoticed that in the gospel according to Jesus’ ‘Sermon On The Mount’ he says: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…”. Citizenship in the ‘Kingdom of God’ is a life that transcends monarchy, democracy, communism, socialism; it enables a (hu)man to live in any space in any time. It is a life that transcends language, culture, class, caste; it transcends Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam. It is a nation of people whose realm of life is built upon, as a primary indication— ‘His’ righteousness.
‘Righteousness/dikaiosune’ has at it’s root ‘dike/divine law’. With so many words for law in Bible this law is rarely used by New Testament and holds the idea of law with religious, political and ethical magnitude. It is for the classical philosophers one of the ‘4 Cardinal Virtues’. It is not external! But law at work ‘in (hu)man’! It is ‘a manner’; ‘an attitude’; ‘a custom’ a doing unto others as you would have them do unto you! When seen in the form ‘dikaiosune’ it implies relationship— (‘His righteousness) with God. Righteousness of God is Covenant. “…and all these things will be yours as well.”
Barnabas and Paul, returning to Antioch after their first perilous journey in mission to take the Gospel to unknown parts now have first knowledge of the ‘tribulations’, the persecutions, the assaults upon life living in the ‘Kingdom of God’. They return in righteousness, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying…” “… we must enter the kingdom of God.”
In a world motivated by greed, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”
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