When Jesus is seen discussing the Kingdom of God in the Gospels, too often we as readers turn our attention to the coming Kingdom of God. Unfortunately, if we so, we miss much of Jesus intended message to his disciples in the first century and today.
The Gospel writer Matthew captures a moment of Jesus teaching about the coming Kingdom of God in chapter 25. Within verses 31-40 Jesus is speaking of how he will take his throne and divide the people according to their relationship with him. In verse 32-34, Jesus says the King (Himself) will divide the sheep (faithful followers) on his right and the goats (unfaithful followers) on his left, and to those on his right he will say “Come, you who are blessed by my father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”. He then continues by listing off several ways the followers on the right distinguished themselves from the followers on the left by providing food, drink, friendship, clothing, compassion, and hospitality to the King without knowing it (vs. 35-36). What Jesus is saying without saying though in this discourse is that there is an in-breaking of God’s authority that is built upon service and inheritance rather than fight and spoils (Baker, 2001), which stands in direct opposition to the Roman Empire.
Jesus made it clear that the Kingdom of God had arrived (Lk. 10:9, 10:11, 11:20) with him, and it wasn’t just an eschatological event. Jesus was speaking against the Roman Empire from economic, social, and political perspectives (Antonova, 2005) because the Kingdom of God was present and their citizenship was there rather than Rome, meaning they should live differently than the Romans by caring for their fellow man to receive their eternal inheritance.
Antonova, S. (2005). In search of Paul: how Jesus’ apostle opposed Rome’s empire with God’s king… Union Seminary Quarterly Review, 59(iss. 3-4), 196–203.
Baker, D. W. (Ed.). (2001). Looking into the future: evangelical studies in eschatology. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic.