There is no doubt that Jesus is a king. In reply to Pilate’s questioning as to whether or not he was king, Jesus said: “You say that I am a king” (Jn 18:37). He was put to death for claiming to be a king, for the inscription put over his Cross, giving the reason for his crucifixion, read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”. And recall what the good thief said just in time to steal heaven: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42).
So Jesus was and is a king. If we reflect for a moment on the content of the preaching of Jesus in Galilee and Judea, we will note that it began with the proclamation of the kingdom of God (or of heaven in Matthew) and that the theme of the kingdom pervades the Gospels all the way to Calvary itself. Jesus began his public life with the plea: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15).
A king is a ruler of people and a ruler is one who has authority over others. “kingdom” can be understood in two different ways: 1) it can mean the territory over which the king rules, or 2) it can mean the power or “reign” of the king over his people. When we speak of the “ kingdom of God”, we are using the word “kingdom” primarily in the second sense.
Thus the expression “ kingdom of God” refers to the reign of God over the minds and hearts of the elect, of his faithful people. The kingdom itself is a mysterious reality. It is also a growing thing — it is not yet totally complete. It is in the process of being finally established. This idea is brought out by the many beautiful parables of the kingdom that Our Lord used in his instruction of the people. Thus he says that the kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; it is like a grain of mustard seed; it is like a leaven that is hidden in dough, like a treasure hidden in a field, like a merchant in search of fine pearls who finds one of great value, like a net thrown into the sea (see Mt 13).
The parables, which express a growth of the kingdom, apply to the reign of Christ in the Church now. They allow for a delay between the historical beginning of the kingdom during the life of Jesus, which is now being continued by the Church through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments, and its full realization and manifestation at the end of the world when Jesus will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.
In God’s good time, world history will come to an end and the power of his grace will become manifest. Those who have died in God’s grace will enter into his kingdom that will never end. Jesus’ kingdom will be eternal because he is eternal and those who are saved will share in his eternal life.No one except the Father knows when the final, eschatological kingdom will be established (see Acts 1:6-7). Accordingly, all are to watch and to wait and to be ready at any moment for the coming of the kingdom, for it will come “like a thief in the night” for those who believe there is nothing to fear. In fact, the coming of the kingdom is an object of hope and desire for those who love the Lord. For, every time we pray the Our Father we beseech the Lord: “Thy kingdom come.”
See the index of chapters from Fundamentals of Catholicism which have been reprinted to CERC here.
Kenneth Baker, S.J. "Jesus' Eternal Kingdom." In Fundamentals of Catholicism Vol. 1 Chapter 29 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995) 87-89.
This article reprinted with permission from Father Kenneth Baker, S.J.
Rev. Kenneth Baker, S.J., has served for the past thirty years as editor of the Homiletic & Pastoral Review. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1947. In 1970 he served as president of Seattle University and in 1971 became editor of the Homiletic & Pastoral Review. In 1973 he published his translation of the Philosophical Dictionary and adapted it to American usage. In 1975 he became president of Catholic Views Broadcasts, Inc., which produces a weekly 15-minute radio program that airs on 50 stations across the United States. He has built and run three community television stations. In 1983 he published a three-volume explation of the faith called Fundamentals of Catholicism Vol. 1, Creed and Commandments; Vol. 2, God, Trinity, Creation, Christ, Mary; and Vol. 3, Grace, the Church, the Sacraments, Eschatology.
Copyright © 1995 Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J.