December 3, 2014

A Biblical Exploration of “Kingdom”: The Parables of the Kingdom

by Lyndon Unger

In my previous posts, I explored the Old Testament usage of “kingdom” as well as the usage of “kingdom” in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament.  Now there remains one final frontier to explore: Jesus’ parables on the kingdom.  I imagine that there will be a fair amount of disagreement here, but these parables need to be understood in the light of two things:

a.  All the previous posts.

b.  The understanding that parables are not meant to communicate all aspects of complex and multifaceted theological concepts.  Parables are simple illustrative stories that serve the purpose of making one main point.  To attempt to pull 15 different ideas, related to five totally separate topics, from a parable is to misunderstand the entire nature of parables in the first place.

These are some notes and thoughts about the kingdom parables in the gospels (which are mostly Matthew).  I hope this blesses, or at least stimulates some thought in those who wildly disagree with me:   

the-kingdom-parables-thumb

The Parables of the kingdom:

a. The Sower (Matt. 13:1-9 & 13:10-23)

Sower and seed50

The point – One’s response to the gospel shows one’s relationship to the kingdom.

– In Matt. 13:19 calls the gospel “the word of the kingdom”.

– Matt. 13:19 comments on those who hear the gospel and don’t respond, Matt. 13:20-22 comments on those who hear and respond positively (but not in saving faith), and Matt.13:23 comments on those who hear and respond in saving faith; namely the message of the gospel produces fruit (though that “fruit” isn’t explained, but Matt. 13:18-23 suggest that it has something to do with  persevering in trial, as well as avoiding “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches“.  It would see to be some sort of vague “fruit” that is the natural product of saving faith; perseverance and righteousness.).

b.  The Weeds (Matt. 13:24-29, 13:36-43)

Parable of the Wheat & Tares-Weeds #1

The point – The kingdom isn’t what it looks like; it includes both true and false converts who will be sorted out at the final judgment (Matt. 13:39-40).

– The true converts are the plants, planted by Christ (Matt. 13:37), that “came up and bore grain” in order to show that they’re citizens of the kingdom (Matt. 13:26, 38) and the false converts are the weeds, sown by the enemy (Matt. 13:28, 38).  Both the grain-bearing plants and the weeds remain together until the harvest where the weeds are bundled and burned in a fiery furnace (Matt. 13:42) and the plants are brought into the master’s barn.

– Matthew 13:41-42 also seems to be talking about the gathering of the wicked at the end of the tribulation, where the angels will “gather out of his kingdom all the causes of sin and all law-breakers”.  This is the “end of the age”, not necessarily meaning the last calendar day of the millennium (or any other specific time), but that seems to be most fitting if “the kingdom” is an earthly kingdom.  It’s also worth noting that the place of “gnashing of teeth” is always outside the kingdom, and following the casting out in Matt. 13:41-42, the righteous “shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father“.  The kingdom of Christ would seem to be a different kingdom, mostly because both “the Son” and “the Father” are “God”, but “the Son” is never called “the Father” in scripture.

c.  The Mustard Seed (Matt. 13:31-32)

mustard-seed-601-x-400

The point – The kingdom’s beginning is not reflective of its end.

– Like the growing mustard seed, the kingdom is inaugurated with an insignificant manifestation that will change in time; in time the smallest and most insignificant kingdom will become “larger than all the garden plants” (Matt. 13:32).  This seems to sound like the language used in places like Dan. 2:35.

d.  The Leaven (Matt. 13:33)

yeast-dry

The point – The point of this parable is that the effect of the kingdom is (initially) difficult to detect.

– Like the invisible leavening effect of yeast in flour, the kingdom entered the world with little pyrotechnics.  This is suggested by the fact that the woman “hid” the leaven in the flour, and also that the woman was using “three measures” (grk – saton – 16 lbs x 3 = 48 lbs) of flour; a vast amount of flour to leaven.  The kingdom has a tremendous effect (the leaven was hidden in the flour “till it was all leavened“), but on initial glance the kingdom doesn’t look like much and doesn’t seem to have a massive impact.

– I’d suggest that this is related to how Jesus seemed to look nothing like the king that the Jews were expected (especially the whole crucifixion part)…but once the leaven has had its full effect, things look very different with regards to the expectations of the kingdom (i.e. in the Millennium, Israel will be the seat of a global government).

e. The Treasure in the Field (Matt. 13:44)

Treasure Island

The point – The point of this parable is that the kingdom is worth tremendous value.

– It’s worth noting that the fact of the treasure being hidden suggests that the kingdom isn’t an obvious, out-in-the-open treasure, that everyone can equally see.  Rather the kingdom is a treasure that is discovered through no skill in the one who stumbles upon it.

– It’s worth noting that the individual re-hid the treasure once he found it, to ensure that nobody else stumbled across it like he did and stole it (which insinuates the vast value of it).

– It’s also worth noting is how the individual went off and bought the field, with joy.  As the field cost him all he had, the treasure was more far more valuable than the sum of this man’s resources (probably quite significantly, considering he was delighted to lose everything he had to acquire the field).

f. The Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13:45)

pearl-of-great-price

The point – The point of this parable is that the kingdom is worth tremendous value.

– The merchant was a pearl finder, and he would have spent his life basically traveling and searching for pearls…but like treasure seekers, pearl seekers don’t find perfect pearls because of their skill or ability.  Once he found a wondrous pearl for an unlikely low price, he sold everything he had and bought it.  The reason I say that the pearl was found for an unlikely low price was that the merchant sold everything he had to buy it at its current price, which insinuates that its true value exceeded the value of everything he had.

– I would suggest that the parables of the treasure and the pearl are essentially synonymous; once one discovers the kingdom, it’s worth liquidating everything one has to acquire it (since it’s worth far more than whatever “wealth” you currently have).

g. The Net (Matt. 13:47-50)

Net

The point – The point of this parable is similar to the parable of the weeds; the kingdom currently appears in a mixed form with both true and false kingdom citizens in it.

– The good fish (believers/true citizens) and the bad fish (disbelievers/false citizens) appear together in the net (likely the church) and will be separated at the end of the age when the good fish are packed up and the bad fish are burned.

h. The Unforgiving Servant (Matt. 18:23-35)

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The point – The point of this parable is that citizens of the kingdom are marked by forgiveness.

– Kingdom citizens are aware of their immense and immeasurable debt of sin toward God that is removed from them in order to enter the kingdom, and therefore don’t hold the exceedingly meager debts of sin toward them against their debtors.  Those who do aren’t actually citizens of the kingdom.

i. The Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16)

Codex_aureus_Epternacensis_Parable_of_the_Workers_in_the_Vineyard_700

The point – The point of this parable is that the citizens of the kingdom all equally receive entrance into the kingdom as a gift of unmerited grace, without respect to their own perceptions of worth or qualifications for reward.

– Also, the idea of the parable is a bit of a rebuke to Peter’s attitude expressed in Matt. 19:27; Peter was expecting reward for his following of Jesus but Jesus was teaching that all who follow him get the same great reward (eternal life and entrance into the kingdom).  This isn’t to say that Matt. 19:28-30 isn’t true, but rather that one does not enter the kingdom via service or sacrifice.  The ultimate reward of the kingdom is eternal life, not a position of power and prestige (though there will be positions of power and prestige in the kingdom).

j. The Two Sons (Matt. 21:28-32)

Owen and Luke

The point – The point of this parable is quite straight forward; those who believe “the way of righteousness” (the gospel/teaching of Christ and the prophets) do the will of the Father and gain access to the kingdom.

– This parable is about the response of the “sinners” (in the eyes of the Pharisees) to the teaching of Christ and the prophets.  The parable closes with a simple explanation of how John gave instruction in the “way of righteousness” and the Pharisees disbelieved, even when they saw prostitutes and tax collectors recognizing Christ for who he was and believing his message.

– The Pharisees were the son who agreed to work in the Father’s vineyard but never actually went.  To unpack the metaphor, the Pharisees were the ones who, by their religious proclamation and teaching, aligned themselves with Moses and the prophets…but when the greatest prophet showed up, they not only disbelieved his message but also taught others to disbelieve and ultimately wanted to kill him to silence his message.

k.  The Tenants (Matt. 21:33-46)

tenantssm

The point – The point of this parable is quite straight forward; a negative response to the person or message of Christ bars entrance to the kingdom.

– This parable is about the response of the “righteous” (in the eyes of the Pharisees) to the Gospel.  The parable closes off with the Pharisees giving commentary on the just reward to the wicked tenants, who killed the master’s slaves and son, as needing to be put to a “miserable death”.  The Pharisees are the wicked tenants and condemn themselves with their own verdict, which they realize in Matt. 21:45, but did not mention as they were afraid of the crowds (Matt. 21:46).

l. The Wedding Feast (Matt. 22:1-14)

The Parable of the Wedding Feast

The point – The point of this parable is that the invitation to enter the kingdom open to all, though not all enter.

– It’s worth noting that the original guests were executed on the basis of their apathy towards the invitation and treatment of the king’s messengers, but the new guest was executed because he was improperly dressed.  Both are sinful and highly dishonoring to the king, and both are somewhat parallel responses; one didn’t come and didn’t care about the invitation, one came and didn’t care about dishonoring to the king.  Both are improper responses to the invitation to the wedding feast, and both categories are barred from the wedding feast due to lacking the worthiness necessary to gain access (Matt. 22:8, 12), and that worthiness is essentially “righteousness”.  It would seem that the original invitation went to the Jews (and was rejected) and the second invitation went to all (and was rejected by some).

m. The Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1-13)

Virgins

The point – The point of this parable is that the kingdom will arrive when you do not expect it, so one must diligently await the kingdom.

– This is explained in the closing verse (Matt. 25:13), and I suspect that this parable was given in order to explain the dichotomy between the expectations of the kingdom and the appearance of the ministry of Christ.  Even when Christ was on earth, the kingdom had not fully come…but the timing of the full inauguration of the kingdom was a mystery throughout the life and ministry (and even post-resurrection) of Christ.

n. The Talents (Matt. 25:14-30)

duck_juggling(Duck juggling: one activity requiring so many talents)

The point – The point of this parable is to help the disciples understand what to do in the light of the realization that the kingdom is a future reality.

– The master went on a journey, entrusted his wealth to their management, and rewarded or punished them accordingly when he returned.  The details may be slightly uncertain (i.e. a talent might well be “spiritual responsibility”, or “spiritual gifts”, or “knowledge”, etc.), but the thrust of the parable is clear; the slaves should only bother themselves with fulfilling the master’s commission and be as good a steward as they could with what they’ve been given.  I would guess that the talent is most likely something along “knowledge of the teaching of Christ and the prophets”, and those who know much and do much with that knowledge will be rewarded, but those who know little and ignore what little they know will be punished for their disobedience.  This parable isn’t commenting on who is saved and who isn’t, but rather on the responsibility of all people to properly respond to the kingdom instruction that they’ve received. (This is similar to the parable of the lamp in Mark 4:21-25).

o. The Seed (Mark 4:26-29)

Sleeping Farmer

The point – The point of this parable is the invisible and mysterious growth of the kingdom (like the parable of the leaven in Matt. 13:33).

– The farmer plans the seed and “the seed sprouts and grows; he does not know how”.  The idea is that the kingdom comes about through its own means, not through any efforts of any person.

 Those are some rather brief notes about all the parables of the kingdom, but as I read through and consider the parables of the kingdom, it seems difficult to find a whole lot of generally assumed ideas about the kingdom.  Once a person has looked at the terminology (even partially) and the parables of the kingdom, there emerges a rather over-arching conceptual framework regarding the kingdom that is not overthrown by one difficult text…and I imagine that a good number of the difficult texts have been dealt with in this series.  The kingdom is an almost entirely future reality that all believers should prepare for by living a life characterized by patient expectation and disciplined obedience to the word of God.  The kingdom is the first stage of everlasting rewards that God will lavish upon believers.

Seeing that I’ve had a ton of somewhat related questions, I’ll close off with one question that addresses many of the questions I’ve received:

Do you live a Cross-centered or Kingdom-centered life?

Wait.

What?

Well, that’s an entire series of posts on it’s own, but let me give you a hint for some of the thoughts that have been rolling around in my head for a few years:

The cross was about entering the kingdom.

Sure, a believer has their sins forgiven and escapes the coming wrath of God by Christ’s death on the cross…but the forgiveness of sins isn’t an end in itself.

Forgiveness of sins is necessary in order to enter the kingdom, but if you constantly focus on forgiveness you partially miss the meaning of the cross (and then there’s the 40 pages I could write on the kingdom significance of those little events that followed the cross: the resurrection and the ascension).

This is partially why eschatology is far more important than you think.

To put it another way, do you fix your eyes on where Christ is headed from (the cross) or where Christ is headed to (the kingdom)? (Heb. 10:12-13; 12:1-2)

Creation has the right focus (Rom. 8:18-22)

Your own body has the right focus (Rom. 8:23-24)

The Thessalonians had the right focus (1 Thess. 1:9-10, 2:11-12; 2 Thess. 1:3-8)

Paul had the right focus (Acts 23:6, 24:14-16, 26:4-8, 28:20-31; Phil. 3:7-11; 2 Tim. 4:14-18 – Notice that Paul talked about the resurrection as his hope in Acts.)

Do you have the right focus?  (here’s a few hints: 1 Cor. 1:4-9, 15:12-25; Gal. 5:5-6; Eph. 1:11-21; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Heb. 9:27-28, 12:25-29; Jam. 2:5, 5:7-11; 1 John 3:1-3; 2 Pet. 1:3-11, 3:11-14; Jude 1:21)

I’m not at all suggesting that the cross is unimportant, but part of the problem of the church is that we fawn over how spiritually mature it sounds when a person talks about a “Cross-centered life”.  The cross isn’t where we’re called to, and Christians aren’t supposed to “die daily”.  We’re called to live and hope (see. Rom. 6:2-13, 8:10-34; Gal 2:19-20; 1 Pet. 2:24 and also the previous list of passages).

It’s time we straightened out our focus.

Lyndon Unger

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Lyndon is a pastor/teacher who’s currently between ministry work and in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Witness Protection program. If you think you saw him somewhere...you didn’t.
  • Ted Bigelow

    Hi Lyndon, I hope you are feeling well today. Several at our church pray for you and your ongoing health.

    I enjoy your work on the kingdom greatly. Thank you.

    Yet, I do hope you’ll reconsider your closing proposition, “The cross isn’t where we’re called to, and Christians aren’t supposed to “die daily.”

    Paul seems to think it is in 2 Corinthians 4:

    we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2Co 4:8-11).

    Indeed, the glory to which we are presently being transformed to is not Christ’s glory at the right hand of the Father, but His glory displayed on the way to, and up on, the cross (3:18). This is “the glory of God in the face of Christ” the Spirit has revealed to us (4:6), not His present session in heavenly glory. We will see that glory soon, and very soon.

    Press on, brother, and trust in the goodness of God who is transforming you into His Son’s incarnate image.

    • Jason

      I absolutely agree with the point of that closing. Still, I also immediately bristled at the comment that we ought not to “die daily”. I suppose it’s because we’ve heard the phrase “dying to self” mean both sanctification and salvation.

      The idea that we’re becoming new creations every day or even just at every seminar where we’re asked to “rededicate ourselves to Christ” is wrong. People become new creations once or not at all.

      However, those new creations are going to be attacked by the world (even our own flesh), and in that sense Paul says we are “carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus”. It’s not a command to commit spiritual suicide daily but simply a realization that the world will be out to kill us as it was out to kill Jesus.

      The consequences of cross-only (because it’s not only central when the leasons begin and end with salvation) teaching are abundant today. My local church hosted Carman(the singer) just last week.

      His entire sermon was based around how he’d had cancer and was miraculously healed. Not that it’s not a blessing to be given health, but he kept calling it his “second chapter/sequel” and talking about how, no matter where we are today, we all will get a second chapter if we have faith.

      I kept expecting him to say the guarenteed second chapter (which is more like the entire story after the introduction) began at the resurrection of the dead, but no, he meant that God was going to rescue us from sickness, financial hardship, relationship problems, etc… in this life (quoting verses like Isaiah 53:5).

      We are promised that there will be hardship and trials in this life (John 16:33). Our own families may turn against us(Matthew 10:21). Basically, every blessing in this life can be taken, which is why we’re commanded to store up our treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).

      Ultimately, while God does good things in the lives of believers (and even unbelievers) regularly here, the rewards we are promised are stored up for the kingdom to come. If our hope is only in what we can get here and now we have no faith at all (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

      We should be greatful for our blessings as they ultimately are opportunities to do more instead of because they are a “gain” in themselves. To live is Christ and to die is gain (Phillippians 1:21).

      That seems to be the very point of the talents parable and, I think, what a cross-centered understanding is missing because it creates worldly people who assume they just bought an eternal fire-insurance plan.

  • Rick Haluszka

    Lyndon,

    Great post! I love the short, pithy summary statements. I can see myself coming back to this post again and again when examining the parables. Thanks for your faithful labor in the word here! I, too, have questions regarding your final statement: “The cross isn’t where we’re called to, and Christians aren’t supposed to ‘die daily.'” My two main objections are (1) Jesus’ call to “take up your cross daily” in Luke 9; and (2) The ordinance of The Lord’s Table.

    I believe I understand your logic correctly & agree with you when you discuss at the end how “forgiveness of sins isn’t an end in itself.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but what I hear you saying is that the cross is the means into the Kingdom; therefore, if we only revel in the means and remain there without rightly understanding the now glorious results of being forgiven (i.e. Kingdom living), then we have partially missed it. Is that what you are saying? If so, I’d agree.

    But with that said, Jesus has called us to take up our own crosses daily and follow Him. Does this not mean we are to “die daily?” Shouldn’t the Christian “put to death what is earthly in you” (Col. 3:5) on a daily/hourly basis? Doesn’t Romans 6 require both aspects of “counting yourself dead to sin and alive to righteousness?” And secondly, Christ has given the Church the ordinance of Communion so that she may recall the reality of the cross on a consistent basis: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26). Granted, we look not only to His death but also to His coming. Nevertheless, the symbolism is that of the cross—the body broken & blood shed for us. I don’t believe I’ve written anything that you would necessarily disagree with, but maybe I’ve sought to balance it?

    Personally, I do not want to move away from the terminology because it daily reminds me of my great (and continual) need to depend on the Lord’s works on my behalf and seek to serve others by dying to my desires in order to meet their needs (i.e. my wife, our congregation). Yet, I only want us to live a “cross-centered life” if that means that we often recall to mind the total package of Christ’s substitutionary life, death, burial, and resurrection that secured for us forgiveness, adoption as sons & daughters, new life, deliverance from the kingdom of darkness and entrance to the Kingdom of God, and the blessed hope of being with God forever! I guess my proposition would be that the terminology of “die daily” and “cross-centered life” is (1) biblical according to Luke 9, (2) all-encompassing of Jesus’ work, and (3) important in keeping our minds focused on what Christ did & what it means He will someday do.

    Anyways, thanks for your humility to write knowing you’ll receive feedback like guys like me 🙂

    Blessings in Christ!
    Rick Haluszka

  • Mick McDaniel

    Funny, my thoughts are in line with the other comments. Please clarify your Christians are not supposed to die daily comment. It causes me grave concern.

  • AK Lone Dingo

    I’m glad you’ve finally published this last part…I’ve been thinking about it (nearly non-stop) since you started this madness.

    I can’t get any work done today since it is overwhelming my thought process to the exclusion of all else.

    Therefore I must write you.

    Initially, I was disappointed at your conclusion: Live Kingdom Forward (my paraphrase) not Cross Centered (I don’t like the word ‘centered’).

    I’ve sat for an hour and thought that through, actually I awoke this morning thinking of that very concept: GOD’s process in the restoration of the Kingdom.

    I received McClain’s book yesterday and started it, I’ve either read it or someone foot noted it extensively and was ‘really’ disappointed to see the focus was his conclusion of a ‘pre-millennial” eschatology…

    Which started me thinking even more on the restoration process…

    I had to re-read Revelation 19-22 and Romans 9-11 then thought some more…

    Broke out Mathison’ “From Age to Age” and perused it and thought some more…

    I realize (or realized) we (the church?) teach parts of a whole process, addressing the end result far too often (with all the squabbles that come with the variety of millennial views) and not enough emphasis on the whole restoration process. Tomes are penned, read, shelved, and footnoted on a plethora of subjects one can mine from scripture, but I wonder if we don’t spend too much time on the parts and not enough on the whole.

    I love systematics. Can you tell?

    I’ve only recently begun to read you, I like it, keep it up.

    Now I can get back to work.

    M. Howard Kehr

  • Charles Marsh

    “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Phillipians 1:21

  • Lyndon Unger

    Hey there all. I’ll state up front that I’ve got 3 weeks of active medication left, so I
    may be writing in a snarky tone for which I apologize in advance. If
    anything comes across as snide or rude, please point that out to me and
    I’ll immediately edit. I’m not quite in full control of my mind right
    now and ask for a little extra grace.

    I had mentioned on Facebook that I was going to do a whole post as a response, but I decided against.

    Instead, I’ll do my best to offer a bit of clarification.

    The main idea that I was aiming at was one of focus.

    As a Christian, I can try to focus on constantly dying to sin. I can try to focus on dying to sin. I can constantly try to focus on “killing my old man” (as infamous theologian Bob Hartman has said).

    I’m not at all challenging the necessity of dying to self, or the ongoing nature of continually bringing my thoughts and actions into obedience with Christ. I hope nobody thinks I was suggesting any such thing.

    The thing is that I’m not called to spend the rest of my life at the cross. I don’t constantly go back there in the sense that the death of Christ is the continual focus of my thinking. That’s Catholicism. Catholics have a crucifix as the symbol of their faith. Protestants have a cross; an empty cross. Our faith looks forward, not backward.

    Christ died, and along with Christ’s death I also died…but also along with Christ resurrection I will be resurrected. The cross isn’t my future hope (though it IS part of my foundation of hope for the future).

    The future hope of my faith is the resurrection and my everlasting life with the Trinity. I’m going to spend eternity living with God, not dying with him. The focus of my faith should be forward; where I’m going to be…not backward; where I was.

    As for the difficult line “the cross isn’t where we’re called to, and Christians aren’t supposed to ‘die daily'”, I don’t find that the New Testament commands me to spend every day focused on dying. Death (in both physical and metaphorical senses of the term) is something that happens but it’s not really something that I’m supposed to discipline myself to do; it’s not something I pursue or press on toward.

    I’ll try to address some of the pressing texts that people have brought up, in order of posting:

    ***2 Cor 4:8-12 – Eeep. I don’t really want to drag this out, but I’m stuck with disagreement regarding the Corinthians texts. This passage needs two things: the thrust of the greater context and a slower read. Let’s look at 2: Cor. 4:7-18:

    “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For
    we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so
    that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

    13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

    16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as
    we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are
    unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that
    are unseen are eternal.”

    Three things:

    A. Vs. 12 seems to give me reason to believe that what was normative of the apostles might not be normative of the rest of the church.

    B. The affliction (vs. 8) and persecution (v. 9) are what was meant by “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus” in v. 10. That was certainly not something that the apostles pursued, and their focus wasn’t on such things (notice the “so that” in vs. 10 – there was a purpose in the affliction and persecution beyond the affliction and persecution…as well as v. 13-18).

    C. The apostles didn’t command anyone to follow their example (vs. 12 & 15 seem to suggest that their lives weren’t normative of all believers). That seems rather important.

    *** 2 Cor. 3:18 – This passage doesn’t say that “the glory to which we are presently being transformed to…His glory displayed on the
    way to, and up on, the cross”. The talk about Moses in 3:7-17 makes that interpretation rather difficult to substantiate, as does the total lack of reference to the cross.

    ***2 Cor. 4:6 – This passage also doesn’t talk about the glory of Christ “on the way to, and up on, the cross”. It talks about “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (vs. 4) and the proclamation of “Jesus Christ as Lord” (vs. 5). The cross isn’t mentioned in that passage at all, so I’m confused as to why that passage is apparently talking about the cross.

    ***Luke 9:23-27 – Here’s the passage:

    “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.'”

    Now here we have the singular place (that I’m aware of) in the New Testament that there is a command to take up one’s cross “daily”. I’d suggest that the passage explains what that means, namely denying oneself in the specific way of confessing Christ and his teaching publicly, even to the point of death.

    It seems to be a attitude of self-denial, as it is in all the other places that the phrase comes up (Matthew 10:38, 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 14:27), except that in Luke 9:23 it’s a continual attitude (which would be true of all believers); none of the other passages includes the word “daily”. The follower of Christ is to clearly be regularly and normally marked by an attitude of self denial and confession of, and obedience to, Christ.

    That being said, I don’t really know what it would look like to “daily” do that. as opposed to not, without basically proving that I’m an unbeliever (which seems to be suggested by v. 26). The whole concept of this being a condition for initially following Christ (and becoming a Christian) also seems to be suggested by vs. 23 (though that begs the question as to when the disciples actually became regenerate and opens up an entirely different bag of snakes that I’m not really interested in dealing with right now).

    ***The “put to death” passages & communion.

    I’m not denying that Christians regularly need to kill sin or remind themselves of their current position with regards to forgiveness/righteousness/etc. That stuff is ongoing, so in a sense that’s true.

    In that sense, Christians “die daily” or are regularly “putting to death”.

    The balance offered by everyone is welcome and I agree. I may have over-stated for the purpose of making the point.

    That being said, the “put to death” isn’t the focus of the Christian life, nor is it the forward orientation of the believer. That doesn’t mean it’s not important, but it’s not what I’m pressing toward. It’s not the “center” of my Christian life.

    Christ is the center, but I press on to where he’s calling me to. My focus and goal is the kingdom, and the cross is a necessary component of that, but the cross is not the goal of my Christian life; the kingdom is where I finally start being he who God intends me to be.

    I also agree with the comment that we’ve compartmentalized our systematic theology too much, and the churches in Canada that I’ve been a part of (with the glaring exception of my current church) have seemed almost allergic to ever mentioning eschatology beyond absurdly generic statements or uselessly vague “hope”.

    So for those of you coming from theologically deeper or better-instructed church traditions that I do, I might just be playing catch-up to you all. That also may be the case.

    What has struck me most from my study of the kingdom has been that thought the apostles proclaimed the good news of the death and resurrection of Christ, Christ proclaimed the good news of the kingdom. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of “the good news” as ever mentioning the kingdom, or even the resurrection of the dead.

    Jesus and Paul explicitly preached both and I probably need to follow their example. There’s probably a rather long book somewhere in that thought.

    • AK Lone Dingo

      Much sorry you’re not feeling well, I hope the meds will get you past the condition. (I’d say I’d pray for you but I have strong opinions on that issue) instead, I lift you up before GOD to give you the grace to deal with whatever condition you have.

      Eh, you weren’t ‘snarky’, IMO, at all.

      “chilli” is ‘chili’ (one ‘l’) or maybe Canadian is with 2 ‘l’s…minor point.

      “…Christ is the center, but I press on to where he’s calling me to. My focus and goal is the kingdom, and the cross is a necessary component of that, but the cross is not the goal of my Christian life; the kingdom is where I finally start being he who God intends me to be…”

      I think you’re stumbling towards a truth, a simple truth, one overlooked by nearly everyone I read, and you’re standing at the edge asking, “is it really that simple?”

      Well, I wrote a whole bunch more, read it through twice and deleted it.

      Graph out the Restoration Process, as you understand it “right now”.

      I’ll help with a hint: In the beginning GOD created the heavens and the earth…

      It just gets funner from there!

      M. Howard Kehr