Book Reviews

Book Review: The Majesty on High (S. M. Baugh)

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book review the majesty on high an introduction to the kingdom of God s. m. baugh

What is the kingdom of God? It is a people? A place? The church? When is it? What did Jesus mean when he said that it was at hand? Is it here now? Stephen Baugh writes to clear up misunderstandings over the kingdom of God. His book is “not a general survey of the kingdom, but an introduction to it, and a simple one at that” (v). Dr. Baugh has taught New Testament at Westminster Seminary California for over thirty years. Dr. Baugh has also written an excellent academic commentary on Ephesians (which I reviewed and wrote some posts on here). To write a book on such an important topic under 150 pages and with no footnotes is very impressive.

But is it really that important to understand what the kingdom of God is? Baugh answers that with a resounding yes. He says it is “the central reality of the Scriptures and therefore of all creation” (2). He defines the kingdom of God and then moves out from there. “The kingdom of God is the new creation” (2). The new creation is not yet completely here. There is still sin and death; one day all things will be created new, and then we will say that God’s kingdom is here. Yet even now the new creation and “the effects of the kingdom” have broken into our world (10).

Baugh’s main purpose is “to demonstrate the new creational character of the kingdom of God by examination of a selection of biblical passages in depth” (2). Rather than looking at what scholars call the “now and not yet,” Baugh looks at the kingdom as being inaugurated now and consummated in the future. He notes five elements of the kingdom (which I’ve summarized):

  1. The King
  2. Ruling authority
  3. The realm (in which the King reigns)
  4. The kingdom citizens
  5. A covenant as the kingdom constitution

Baugh sticks to the New Testament, acknowledging that to fully understand what the kingdom of God is, one would need to write a larger book (or a series) that also includes the Old Testament’s teaching on the kingdom.

Chapter two looks at “God the Father, the king of all creation revealed in Revelation 4” (12). Baugh briefly explains what prophecy is and how symbolism functions in Revelation. He looks at the significance of God’s throne, the rainbow and the lighting, the four living creatures and their song, and the twenty-four elders and their song to establish just how glorious God is as the King. How can the twenty-four elders sing that God is “our God” when the words “our God” suggest a covenantal relationship with the Lord? What is the difference between them and those who cry out to the mountains to fall on them so that they won’t face God’s wrath?

That question leads into chapter three looks at how Revelation 5 presents Jesus, the Lion-Lamb who becomes King through his death, resurrection, and ascension, and who purchases his people through his shed blood. He causes us to sing a new song because of his wonderful redemption. He is “worthy to be coronated as King of the new creation, the kingdom of heaven” (47).

Chapter four looks at 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, in which Christ will rid this world of enemies before turning the kingdom over to the Father. That said, “the Son’s dominion is the Father’s dominion,” and we must be remade new (in resurrected bodies) to enter it completely (62).

Chapter five enters into Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in with John 3. Believers are born from above “from God” of the Holy Spirit. We receive this new birth now, and it guarantees that we are citizens of God’s kingdom. We will receive our resurrected bodies. Even though we do not yet receive our new bodies, we are still “born of God,” and have resurrection life within us.

In chapter six, the Sermon on the Mount (or, the Sermon on the Kingdom of Heaven) shows us the ethics of those who are connected to Jesus, the King. If we are now citizens of the kingdom, then as citizens there is a certain we we ought to live. One day we will no longer sin. But for now, we ought to strive for that perfect standard because we are being renewed. Baugh looks mostly at the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-12) and writes a section on verses 21-47

Chapters seven and eight examine the covenant bond. Baugh describes a covenant as “an oath-bound commitment between two or more parties” (109). Baugh looks at Hebrews 7:20-22, which quotes Psalm 110:4. God “swore and oath” that Jesus would be a high priest forever. Meaning, God made a covenant, a better one that will not end. “This guarantees the eternal effectiveness of his new covenant priestly mediation (cf. Heb 6:16-17)” (113). Thus, God will forever accept Christ’s new covenant high priestly mediation for his blood-bought people. Chapter eight looks at a few things, one being how the oath the Father swore to the Son in eternity past is historically fulfilled in the new covenant. Believers are guaranteed to be in the new creation, where they will not be servants of God but sons (and daughters) of God.

In chapter nine, Baugh gives some concluding thoughts and clarifies why he doesn’t use the language of “now and not yet” very much. He warns the reader that to forget the five elements of the kingdom (summarized above) could lead one to have either an over- or under-realized eschatology. He gives examples through looking at Matthew 7:15-23; 11:2-15; 12:22-29; and 13:24-30, 36-43.

Recommended?

This is more than a book about the kingdom of God. It is a book about Jesus. This book will not only fill your head with biblical information about the kingdom. Baugh gives you a greater understanding of our King who came down and shed his blood for us. He bought us so that we would forever be his people, in his domain, under his righteous kingly rule.

Baugh carefully draws out the meaning of what the kingdom is and how it ought to affect our lives today. There is no Greek or Hebrew in this book and little (if any) scholarly jargon. Baugh makes some playful quips throughout the book that is almost never seen in academic books, so it was nice to see him feel so relaxed (it helps that this is self-published). Laypeople would benefit from this, though note: this requires a careful read; it isn’t light. The pastor and teacher will reap much from this book.

Lagniappe

  • Author: S. M. Baugh
  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 11, 2017)

Other  Helpful Resources

Find it on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Dr. Baugh himself. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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