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Kingdom of God
Christianity, Judaism and the Kingdom of God
Christianity is a force of both unparalleled influence and of continuing humility on the global scale, being both the salvation of the indigent and the foundational force under great and established power structures. It is this duality that perhaps best helps to initiate a discussion on the concept of the Kingdom of God. Indeed, the Kingdom of God is both everything and all around us. All things which we experience and engage may be seen to those of us who walk in the light of God as emanating from the will and grace of the heavens. This means that the Kingdom of God extends from heaven to earth, convicted each of us to act on earth as we would in heaven. The concept is an important one as it is generally used to justify a wide range of Christian ethics and practices. It is likewise a point of differentiation from the values of Judaism which helped to give right to Christianity but which would in their own right be eventually rejected by the faith. These concepts form an excellent starting point for a broader discussion of Christian values and ideals both in origin and in eventuality.
First and foremost in understanding the concept of the Kingdom of God is understanding how it differs fundamentally from the kingdoms which are ruled by men. This difference is highlighted by our story of origin, which notes that Jesus was born, lived, died and was resurrected in an age of great but mortal kings and emperors. According to our primary text, "numerous emperors ruled over the many years of the Roman Empire, but, only one -- Jesus, rules the kingdom of God. His kingdom is the first, and only one, to confront the human condition at its source -- the inward spirit. There are two aspects of the Kingdom of God -- the Christian Church on earth and the new cosmopolis on the new earth in the new heavens."
These two concepts drive the attention of this discussion and reinforce the strong sense of values and the strict behavioral codes which help to govern good Christian lives here on Earth. It is our shared belief that, as we are all made in God's image, that we must treat ourselves and others as we would behave toward God; with love, reverence, respect and charity in our hearts. This fosters the type of behavior that helps us not just to plan for the salvation of an afterlife next to God's right hand but also to make a better life for ourselves on earth. This, most especially, captures the concept of the Kingdom of God, which is said to extend the joy and goodness of the divine power into our everyday lives.
What is interesting, as one delves deeper into the source material, is that this identifiably Christian concept referring to the Kingdom of God began long before the Christian faith came into existence. As the text tells, almost the whole of the origin for Christian ideals can be traced to the Hebrew scriptures from which the Jewish faith derives its belief system. Indeed, as Jesus is identified as the only true King presiding over the Kingdom of God, it should bear noting that Jesus himself was born as an adherent to the Jewish faith. In many ways, Jesus was more a reformer of values than the creator of a new faith. However, in restoring and refining many of the values that were lost as the Jewish faith became corrupted by Roman values, Jesus would forge a new identity for his followers and posthumous adherents.
As the source text explains, "the background for Christianity is not found in any Greek, Egyptian, Persian, or Roman mythology, but only in the Jewish Scriptures, i.e., the thirty-seven documents that we call the Old Testament." In examination of the beliefs and ideals which carried over to form the Christian ideology, it is important to place these sources within their proper historical context. This helps us to understand the forces that would ultimately give way both the time of Jesus and to the authorship of the New Testament documenting this critical moment in world history.
The primary text is particularly useful in this way, calling from a scrutiny of the bible's terms, not as a practice of refuting its values or parables but instead of understanding with greater insight that which it calls for of its adherents. Indeed, this closer scrutiny also allows us to see how deftly the bible is layered with defenses for its own positions. The primary text points out that the scriptures of the New Testament come lined with a number of preemptive defenses. For instance, regarding the eventual claim by its detractors that the bible is mere spiritual mythology, the primary text points to the New Testament's predictive insight.
Here, the text quotes the bible in warning that "for the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
This is a remarkable demonstration of the manner in which the New Testament would be constructed to support its own claims in relative perpetuity. Certainly, this serves as a powerful way also to convey the concept of the Kingdom of God. By differentiating those who hear truth and those refute it, the New Testament provides a strong support for its own veracity, a decidedly important goal in extending a set of values with not just strong spiritual imperatives but also explicitly pronounced social and legal parameters. Such is to say that the traditions of Judaism and Christianity thereafter display a clear interest not only in commanding the faith and observation of their adherents but also in promoting a sense of civil order the revolves on these spiritual loyalties. Indeed, this inextricable connection between the spiritual and the civic is yet another characteristic that helps us connect the traditions of Christianity to the evolving ethical practices around it.
Christianity was not simply a reaction to the imposition of Pagan cultures and practices such as the Greeks and Romans. While it stood in sharp contrast to these powerful practices, it also emerged along the same continuum that birthed ethical monotheism through Abraham and the Jews. Indeed, even though Jesus was most certainly a radical reformer in his push to return his followers to the core moral values that once defined Judaism, his ideas and actions did not come from a vacuum. To the contrary, our source text tells that Jesus was directly influenced by a number of Jewish reformers that came before him.
Functioning as preachers and clergy, a great many adherents to the Jewish faith had initiated a reform-driven split from the corrupting influences of Roman-Jewish life. In doing so, they began to forge the path down which Jesus would eventually walk. According to the primary text, John the Baptist was a critical figure among those adherents. Accordingly, "the Christian New Testament states that John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus the Messiah. John's parents were Zacharias and Elizabeth, both of priestly descent (Luke 1:5-25, 56-58). Elizabeth was related to Jesus' mother, Mary. An angel foretold John's birth to Zacharias when he was in the Holy of Holies (Luke 1:11ff.). As a young man, John lived in the wilderness around the Jordan River as part of his Nazarite vow (Luke 1:15; Matthew 11:12-14, 18; cf. Numbers 6:1-21)."
By being far removed from the modernizing influences of the Roman conquerors, John the Baptist would help to preserve a decidedly untainted mode of worship and…[continue]
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