D.A. Carson on The Kingdom of God

The following is an excellent clip from D.A. Carson answering a question on the Kingdom:

For those who prefer or require, a transcript follows:

…In both an over-realized and under-realized eschatology, you can have an inadequate anticipation of the glory that is still to come. If you work through all the of the Kingdom…and even some of the gospel of the Kingdom ones, a very high percentage of them have in mind a consummated Kingdom. And this is not a generation, by and large, that is really homesick for heaven.

I’ve been in parts of the world where people are homesick for heaven. I know pastors…who take an average of seven funerals a weekend from AIDS. And some of them are homesick for heaven.

But most of us are so materially well-off that most of us don’t have that side of things right… So there’s a part of me that wants to get that side of things right before I start arguing about exactly what’s meant by the gospel of the Kingdom.

Now, that’s not a rebuke, it’s just…when I hear the discussions all around-that’s far more central. Where are the generations saying, “Yes, even so, come Lord Jesus!”

The notion of the Kingdom is astonishingly plastic, astonishingly diverse. In one sense, you’re in the kingdom whether you like it or not… it’s equivalent to God’s sovereignty. You’re in that kingdom whether you like it or not.

In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the kingdom is likened to [“a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” Matt 13:24-25]

In that sense the kingdom has dawned, it’s already here, but there’s wheat and tares in the kingdom. You don’t want to be part of the tares, but the kingdom’s already here. In that sense, the kingdom has dawned in some sense, but the only question then is are you part of the wheat or the tares?

But in John 3, unless you’re born again, you don’t see or enter the kingdom. So in that sense, you’re not in the kingdomunless you’re born again. You start working through passage after passage and discover that the locus of who is in the kingdom varies from parable to parable. There is a sense in which in a lot of parables the Kingdom is the King’s dominion. That is, it’s God’s sovereign reign. In one sense, God’s sovereign reign is over everything and everyone’s in it whether you like it or not; but then there’s this subset of God’s sovereign reign under which there’s lifeand you may or may not be in that Kingdom.

So in some of the passages that are talking about the building up of the Kingdom, or living in the Kingdom, or living in light of the Sermon on the mount… it seems to me that question gets tied very quickly to how you put together ecclesiology. It’s not just a Kingdom question. It’s the relationship between Kingdom and church.

And in some of those passages, the transformation of life that you expect, is precisely the transformation you expect under that subset of God’s kingdom in which there’s born-again, regenerating life—that is, in the confessional church!

So in that sense, we are certainly to create a new society, a new relationship… it’s a new creation. Of course, it is. But that’s not talking about the transformation of the broader culture

It’s talking about ecclesiology.

One of the doctrines that is, in my view, vastly under appreciated is ecclesiology, and how that ties into the notion of the Kingdom.

Carson’s answers are thoughtful and insightful. I greatly appreciate scholars who are passionate about not just study and intellectual pursuits, but are equally passionate about people and the church (in every sense of the word).

It’s truly a rare combination.

RT: John Ploughman

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  • Keystone

    “And this is not a generation, by and large, that is really homesick for heaven”

    I looked at that line and thought of my request to you recently, for transcripts.
    A first time reader named Peter, did an off-the-cuff transcription of a taped presentation, and came back to take no credit whatsoever for his kind deed.

    “Homesick for heaven” READ, is wholly different from hearing it SAID.
    It really stuck out for me, and I enjoyed the entire transcript, as I do not hear.

    Many churches online have “Pastor Sermons”; few are transcribed.
    Even YouTube has NO Closed Caption.

    At any rate, you all know the story of the Ten Lepers and one came back to Christ and said:
    “Thanks for healing me; I really appreciate what you did for me”.

    Christ said: “Were not ten of you healed? Where are the other nine?”

    After READING that story long ago, I made up my mind to never be one of the nine, but always be a ten.

    “Thanks for the transcript; I really appreciate what you did for me”

  • Wes

    I also applaud you, Aaron, for remembering your readers’ needs and for providing this video with a transcript. Thank you.

    I was curious about your (and anyone else for that matter) interpretation of the phrase “born again”. Personally, I think this phrase has become an over-used buzzword in just about every Christian circle. And because of that, I think it has lost both its true meaning AND its shocking idea. Its become diluted, so to speak.

    So, I wasn’t surprised that Carson tossed the phrase out there when describing the Kingdom, but I’m a bit perturbed that he did it in such a “blahzey” way… almost as if to confirm that it IS a Christian buzzword. But he doesn’t really explain what he thinks “born again” means. It’s like he assumes that the audience should know already. But, personally, I don’t think the majority of Christians actually get it.

    I also think that what he’s touching on is the seeming paradox of “the Kingdom here and now, yet still to come”. Jesus touches on this so many times during his ministry. Carson brings up that certain parables explain the Kingdom (and who’s in it and at what time) one way, and others explain the Kingdom another way. But I don’t think this is a paradox at all. I have a feeling that it’s rather simple, actually. Because we’re not quite cured of the infestation of sin just yet (because that will truly happen at the resurrection), we’re currently “stuck” in this limbo period of trying to support this Kingdom in a fallen world. Perhaps that describes Jesus’ variance on who “gets in” and who doesn’t. But, that cure to sin that we’ll all finally receive will usher in the true, absolute, unfathomable Kingdom of goodness, love, mercy, kindness, etc. that we liken to God.

    That’s my take, at least.

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      He’s definitely touching on the already, not yet-ness of the Kingdom in some aspects, and I’ve no doubt that he’d agree with you that there’s not paradox. My take was more that he was addressing the error of saying that the Kingdom is “a” but not “b,” which has been the trajectory of many of the arguments on either side of the “social justice” debates. Because there’s something of a fluidity in how the term is used, we can have the both/and.

      Regarding “born again,” my understanding of the term is that it’s talking about a spiritually dead person being made alive through faith in Christ and is given a new heart/desires, one that loves God, hates sin, wants to worship Jesus, serve others, and see the Gospel go forth. In short, the doctrine of regeneration.

      • Wes

        Thanks for the reply, Aaron.

        I was always confused with the phrase “born again”. When I first came to God and I heard this phrase, I was like “Yeah, born again. That makes sense. A no-brainer.” But the more you think about it, the more you realize that there has to be more to the phrase than just “coming to Jesus”, like seemingly so many Christians think it means. Those same Christians seem to also have a tendency to emphasize this phrase, but from my experience of asking them what it means, they don’t come up with a bolder answer than saying simply “coming to Jesus”.

        The other day I was researching some passages in Greek, and the story of Nicodemus came into my head. So I looked up what “born” and “again” was in Greek. “Born” is the Greek word “gennēthēnai”, which means to beget, or to bear, especially as in to bear children or reproduce. The word “again” in the Greek is “anōthen”, which means, quite literally, from above. Notice that we translate this word as “again”, yet in another comment on here, I said that the Greek word “meta” literally means “again” in English. So what’s with the difference in translation? That’s weird, huh?

        Anyhow… so literally in Greek, “born again” means, to the best of my knowledge, “to reproduce that which is from above”. Kind of a different meaning than we conjure up when we first hear “born again”. So, now I’m led to believe that “born again” really means that our commitment to the ways Christ taught is what really matters when we talk about the Kingdom. And that makes sense, because what would the Kingdom be if we weren’t reproducing the examples that Jesus laid down during his time here on earth? The Kingdom wouldn’t stand for much because it’d be full of people that didn’t obey nor like the king’s edicts. That would suck.

        This is an unnecessarily long-winded comment, so I’ll end now :-)

        • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

          “…what would the Kingdom be if we weren’t reproducing the examples that Jesus laid down during his time here on earth? The Kingdom wouldn’t stand for much because it’d be full of people that didn’t obey nor like the king’s edicts. That would suck.”

          I just wanted to pull this out because it’s a great thought. Thanks for sharing this, Wes.

  • http://www.srdesigns.ca Mrs_Strongarm

    This is a great video clip, but somebody should have told Mr. Hitchcock down in the bottom left to get out of the way. Horribly distracting.

    • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

      I didn’t even notice him until you commented. Thanks Emily :P