Friday, May 22, 2009

Ridderbos and the Kingdom of God

As I continue to study and prepare for my sermons in the gospel of Mark, I have been reviewing Ridderbos on the Kingdom of God. Here are some great quotes from his chapter "The Kingdom of God according to the Witness of the Synoptic Gospels," in When the Time Had Fully Come: Studies in New Testament Theology.
"This, before anything else, that the eschatological Kingdom of God is coming as a seed, seemingly the weakest and most defenseless thing there is. . . . He who brings the Kingdom is a Sower, seemingly the most dependent of men. 'A Sower went forth to sow' and 'He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man' - that is the great mystery of the Kingdom of God."

"[The power of the eschatological harvest] lies hidden in the person of Jesus Himself. The humble and unobtrusive figure of the Sower cover the hidden greatness of Christ's Messiahship. That is the real mystery of the Kingdom. This hidden greatness of Jesus Christ is, strictly speaking, the subject of the Gospels, and it is this greatness which determines the nature of the Kingdom."

"For the character and the purport of the Kingdom is determined by the person and by the way of Jesus. He is the auto-basileia."
With the arrival of the Christ, comes the arrival of the eschatological Kingdom of God. And yet, even at its arrival, it does not break forth in visible glory, strength and military conquest. Instead, the Kingdom manifests the character of the King--a life of suffering and humiliation that leads to glory and exaltation. And yet, this present reality of the Kingdom is not devoid of its future power and glory--it just manifests it in a mysterious way. In Christ, the Sower becomes the seed that is sown in death that in his resurrection gives forth a harvest a hundred fold. And with his resurrection and exaltation, Christ no longer belongs to the earthly world of humiliation, he now belongs to that heavenly world as the first-fruits of the great future.
"In the Synoptic Gospels the present and the future significance of the Kingdom largely coincide. . . . But the resurrection opens up a new perspective. It teaches us to distinguish between what has come, and what is to come. It is the starting point of a new dispensation in the future of the Kingdom."
This means that the Kingdom of God does not end history, but it invades it, it intrudes into it, it enters into history so that the beginning of the new age begins while the old age is still present. We live right now in the time of the in between--the time in which the future is present while at the same time still future, "But this presence of the Kingdom is, so to speak, surrounded by the future. And the presence of the Kingdom is felt only in so far as it is carried and governed by the future."

The eschatological Kingdom of God broke forth into history with the in-breaking of the eschatological King into history. It is this coming of the King and the Kingdom that defines the followers of Christ now. In the church we find the presence of the future, and as such the church is to manifest that future in the present. The Church derives her existence and the mode of her existence from the fact that she is participating in the eschatological Kingdom of God, already. And as the Kingdom derives its character from the King--so the church too comes to derive her character from the King. As such, the Church bears the marks of this mystery - the existence of the church is one of suffering that leads to glory, and yet, as she is already participating in that glory, she is able to endure the suffering.

In this we find a most practical benefit for living the Christian life--the reality of our present participation in the future determines is our present reality, no matter what things look like around us. And it is the presence of the future that molds, then, how we pursue our Christian calling in serving Christ, serving one another, and living in a world that is not our home.


  1. Be sure to get Rikki Watts on the Isaiah's New Exodus in Mark. Really good stuff.

  2. Ridderbos' *The Coming of the Kingdom* is a great source for any preaching on the Gospels. And the Scripture index makes it easy to find where he deals with the particular text you are preaching on. Vos' *The Self-Disclosure of Jesus* is helpful. And if you have access to a library that has it, Stonehouse's *The Witness of the Synoptic Gospels to Christ*, though not a commentary, has some very helpful material. I have a battered, well-used copy in my library, but it is a book that is very difficult (and expensive) to purchase.
    Blessings on your proclaiming the good news from Mark!