What is the kingdom of God? Who will be included? What does it encompass? When will it come? Is it already here? How do we know? Does it have any practical impact on our lives right now? Last year I reviewed a few books on the kingdom of God by Sigurd Grindheim (my review) and Stephen Baugh (that review here). Continuing that train of thought, I asked Zondervan Academic if I could review Nicholas Perrin’s new volume on the kingdom of God in the Biblical Theology for Life series. Earlier I review Jonathan and Doug Moo’s Creation Care in this same series.
The Biblical Theology for Life series looks at what the Bible has to say about a certain topic (like the kingdom of God, creation, or money) and then aims to answer the “So what?” question. You’ve told me what the bible says. Now what do I do? The volumes are all structured in the same way.
- Queuing the Questions
- Arriving at Answers
Reflecting on Relevance
In Chapter 1 (Queuing the Questions), Perrin puts forth three popular models on where God’s kingdom is. Is it (1) in our heart, (2) a social renewal, the church, or a new religion, or (3) eternal future bliss? Perrin wants us to ask something akin to this question instead: “What is the connection between the kingdom of our Father in heaven and what we are doing on earth?” (27). He intends to answer the following six questions in the next section, Arriving at Answers:
- What is the kingdom? (chs 2-4)
- Who is involved in initiating the kingdom? (chs 5-7)
- When did the kingdom arrive? (chs 8-10)
- Where does the kingdom extend? (chs 8-10)
- Why do we have a kingdom? (ch 11)
- How does the kingdom function? (ch 11)
In Reflecting on Relevance (ch 12), Perrin reminds us that we exist to worship God (238). The coming kingdom is a “re-creation of Edenic conditions leading to human flourishing” as we live in God’s presence without sin, suffering, and death (238). The kingdom is both here and still coming. Christians are filled by the Spirit and are called to a variety of tasks. Three things Jesus did to indicate the kingdom had come was exorcism, healing, and proclamation. We do not propel God’s kingdom nor move it forward. God does it, and it is his business. We resist the powers and sin. We obey Christ, even when mocked and persecuted. We do it even to the point of death.
In Chapter 10, Perrin focuses on the future signs on the kingdom: tribulation, the fall of Jerusalem, and the second coming in the Olivet Discourse in Luke 21. He pretty much holds to the same interpretation as R. T. France and N. T. Wright when it comes to the coming of the Son of Man (21:27)—that the destruction of the temple points to Jesus as the risen and “atonement-bearing” Son of Man (206). We are cleansed not through the temple but through the death and resurrection of Jesus, our high priest. True sacred space is not found in the Mosaic temple, but in Jesus Christ. Perrin argues (almost) convincingly for this position, though I still disagree. And Perrin still believes Jesus will come back! But he reminds us that when suffering enters our life, we should not be surprised (see vv. 17 and 32*)!
Perrin does admit that “lots of biblical material” will be covered, and “some readers may find [this to be] rich if not almost overwhelming” (28). This is pretty accurate. There is a lot going on here. For example, Perrin covers Jesus seven “I AM” statements in chapters 6-7. There is way more going on than I’ve ever heard. Even though I’ve heard a number of sermons on these statements, and even though I’ve read a good bit, Perrin strung along enough Bible texts that I had to reread a few sections just to keep up.
For example, Jesus as the gate (John 10:1-9) is connected to Ps 118:19-20, which says, “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.” Jesus speaks this parable during the Feast of Tabernacles, a feast in which PSalm 118 was regularly sung (126). This psalm would have been on everyone’s mind. Perrin writes, “On the dawn of the first morning of the feast, worshipers would process through the eastern gate into the temple area…. That the people entered through the eastern gate is an important piece, for just as this had been the door through which the divine glory had departed (Ezek. 10:18-19), so too would the same portal serve as the (re-)entry pint for Yahweh’s return—coinciding with the people’s return from exile (Ezek. 43:1-5)” (126-27). The words of Psalm 118 would remind the Jews of what God would accomplish for them again in the future: “the final return from exile” (127). Now Jesus tells them that he is the Lord’s gate. He is the gate of righteousness. He is the way back from exile. Through his death and resurrection, he will bring God’s people back into a relationship with God.
This will help get me into my Bible to read and check what he’s saying. Perrin’s book is denser than I expected, but he does a good job helping balance it out by providing good illustrations and by writing in clear, non-academese.
This is an excellent book on the kingdom of God. This would be the first one I recommend if you are academically-oriented. You will glean a lot from this book. If you are not oriented academically, I would point you to another direction first (like Patrick Schreiner’s short The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross, then Grindheim’s Living in the Kingdom of God). As well, Perrin has a set of video lectures that simplifies the material here. (Check out Zondervan MasterLectures for more online videos.)
What Perrin said early in his book was correct: “The problem [with our lack of knowledge] is not [that Jesus gave us] too little data, but too much, for the kingdom of God constitutes the mother lode of Jesus’ message” (25). How is that a problem? Perrin writes, “If we are content to be cheerfully agnostic on the overriding point of Jesus’ message, what does that say about our commitment to Jesus’ other teachings?” (26).
The problem is that too few have studied the kingdom of God and how Jesus’ message revolved around it. What should you do? Pick up and read.
- Author: Nicholas Perrin
- Nicholas Perrin serves as president of Trinity International University.
- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Zondervan Academic (February 26, 2019)
Buy it from Amazon or Zondervan Academic!
Disclosure: I received this book free from Zondervan Academic. 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.