The Kingdom-of-God Sayings in Matthew -- By: Mark R. Saucy

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 151:602 (Apr 1994)
Article: The Kingdom-of-God Sayings in Matthew
Author: Mark R. Saucy


The Kingdom-of-God Sayings in Matthew

Mark Saucy

[Mark Saucy is Professor of Systematic Theology, Kiev, Ukraine.]

More than three decades ago Ridderbos made the observation that at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry the kingdom was present (Matt 4:17), but at the end of His ministry it was far away, almost “as if it had not yet come” (Matt 28:19–20; Acts 1:6–8)1 While many will see in this observation evidence for the “already/not yet” view in regard to the timing of the kingdom, few have considered Ridderbos’s observation as a warrant to say much else for the kingdom because of the narrative chronology he has assumed. Could the kingdom in the beginning of the Gospels have differed in nature from the kingdom at the end of the Gospels? This article proposes a yes answer to that question, as seen in the Gospel of Matthew.2 Kingdom sayings at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel should not be “leveled” with those of the end and vice versa. Such a procedure, when applied to the investigation of the kingdom of God in Matthew, will aid in explaining Ridderbos’ observation, and also will yield helpful insights into the nature of the kingdom Jesus preached.

The Kingdom of God in Matthew 1-10

John the Baptist

Though Matthew is replete with references to βασιλεία (“kingdom”), the phrase “kingdom of God” appears only rarely

compared with “kingdom of heaven,” which is more than eight times as frequent.3 As the synonymity of the two forms in Matthew has been upheld by exegetes since Dalman4 , in this article “kingdom of God” shall be considered inclusive of both forms.

The kingdom of God in Matthew is first encountered in the wilderness proclamation of John the Baptist: μετανοεῖτε ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν (“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” 3:2). Several observations about the kingdom are important here. First, the activity associated with the kingdom is “preaching” or proclamation (κηρύσσων, 3:1). The kingdom is proclaimed from the herald’s mouth. “He cries aloud so that all who wish to hear may do so,...

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