The Rev. Dr. Mark Allan Powell, the author of Gather’s four-part Bible study on “The kingdom of heaven,” has responded to questions about session 4. Thank you for sharing your concerns and questions.
Leader guide note: There is an error in the “how to shorten this study” section at the end of Session one leader guide in Gather’s January/February 2022 issue. You can download a corrected PDF of the leader guide here.
The kingdom of God: What does it mean for God to be in charge?
by the Rev. Mark Allan Powell
New Testament scholar Mark Allan Powell looks at a widely used biblical image and invites us into a discussion of what it might mean for Lutheran women today. The phrase “kingdom of God” and similar expressions turn up repeatedly in sayings of Jesus, so understanding what that expression means helps us to make sense of numerous parables and popular Bible passages (including the Lord’s Prayer). There may be some surprises: the phrase refers to an activity, not a location—and it has nothing to do with God being a “king,” at least so far as that image suggests a (usually male) tyrant who gives orders and dominates the lives of his subjects. Powell is author of the world’s best-selling New Testament textbook and editor of the Harper-Collins Bible Dictionary.
- Beautiful feet: Announcing the reign of God – The prophet Isaiah said, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of one who announces, “Your God reigns!” No one has ever fit the description better than Jesus, who talked more about the reign of God than he did about anything else. We will ask, what would it mean for God to be in charge of our lives? And why would that be good news?
- Mysteries of the kingdom: Parables, banquets and children – This month we will consider “kingdom parables” and ask how the kingdom of God is like a net or a treasure or a pearl or whatever. We will also look at an “acted parable” in which Jesus dramatizes the “kingdom” as a banquet where honored guests include misfits and outcasts. And then we will discover (or recall) who we should regard as the greatest in the kingdom and the most important members of any church.
- Eternal life in the Gospel of John – In the fourth Gospel Jesus uses the expression “eternal life” to talk about what he calls the “kingdom of God” in the other Gospels. The phrase does not just refer to life that is eternally long, but also (indeed, especially) to life that is eternally deep—life that is endless in value and meaning. We will look at some popular passages, including John 3:16 and the story of Jesus and the woman at the well to discover how our lives can be marked by love and purpose.
- Looking to the future: Life forever with God – Most of the time that Jesus talks about the kingdom of God or eternal life, he is referring to something we experience here and now—not later in heaven. But sometimes, he does talk about that future life and in this final session we will learn as much as we can about “the glory that awaits us.” What will it be like to be perfect people in a perfect world, living forever with God and one another?