The conception of the Kingdom of God (or in Mt. the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’) is a central element in the teaching of Jesus Christ. Its origins lie in the OT. God's reign was expected to bring with it order and justice, thus manifesting His purpose in creation. When the Jews lacked political autonomy, the Kingdom became linked with ideas about the future manifestation of Divine sovereignty in history. In the inter-testamental period, the coming of God's reign was seen as involving the overthrow of the powers opposed to God and the transfer of power to Israel or to God's agent, the Messiah.
According to Mk. (1: 15) the ministry of Jesus began with the proclamation of the imminence of the Kingdom. Occasionally the Gospels suggest that it may be already present (e.g. Lk. 17: 21). Entry into the Kingdom is a present possibility, but it demands patterns of behaviour which contrast with the current perceptions of the nature of human dominion (Mk. 10: 13–27). There is, however, little explicit teaching on the nature of the Kingdom. Throughout the Synoptics, Jesus uses parables to illustrate the meaning of God's Kingdom, its novelty, and its demands. There are hints that He may have expected its arrival within a generation (Mk. 9: 1). The journey to Jerusalem, the triumphant entry and the incident in the Temple have sometimes been taken to suggest that there may have been a political component in Jesus' understanding of the Kingdom of God as well as in the reasons for His arrest and execution. See Jesus Christ.
Throughout the NT and early Patristic period it was expected that the coming of the Kingdom would take place in this world. By the 3rd cent. belief in the imminence of the Parousia was fading and St Augustine argued that the Kingdom of God was a supernatural entity whose presence could be only dimly perceived in the time between the first and second coming of Christ. Joachim of Fiore's interpretation of Rev. reopened the possibility of a visible establishment of the Kingdom of God in this world. Much modern political theology has also refused to accept the view that the Kingdom is utterly transcendent and has tried to find a place for human endeavour in its establishment. See also eschatology; Liberation Theology; millenarianism; and Parousia.
Subjects: Biblical Studies.