It is within our experience of worship within the Divine Eucharistic Liturgy each Sunday Morning that we hear echoed the words: "Behold, the Kingdom of God is at hand, i.e. or near us (Luke 10:9-11)
It is very sad that very few Christians, even today, do not have the real understanding and concept of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. Most, also do not understand that we are IN His Kingdom and that we are be believing and confessing Christians. We also need to better understand some of the words that tend to seemingly isolate us, further from God, and that very often tend to strain our relationship with Him.
In the Eucharistic Liturgy we announce that the Kingdom of God is at hand, or near to us. What does that really mean? In Hebrew, the words"to come near" means: "TO BE AT." Many Christians are confused about what the Kingdom of God, or of Heaven really means -- because of the poor Greek translations from Hebrew into Greek and then into English.
The Kingdom of God is at Hand, or near us. The word "near" in our English translations of the Scriptures, comes from a Greek word: "Engiken," which when translated means "has come near. It is important for us know these Hebrew differences in meaning, to help bring further understanding to our Lord Jesus Christ's teachings, both in the early Church and in todays Church.
If we translate that word NEAR back into Hebrew, we get an entirely different meaning and understanding. The Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word: Engiken, is: "KARAV," which means: "To come up to and be with," or "to be where something or someone else is." Why is this so important, you might ask?
Well, if we use the English or Greek word meaning NEAR, the implication is that the Kingdom of God is sometime in the future, not yet here. Yet the Hebrew word KARAV means the exact opposite. It give us the meaning: "IT IS HERE! IT HAS ARRIVED!" The Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God is always -- present tense -- it is NOW, according to the Hebrew usage and the understanding of the Jews at the time of Jesus and also within rabbinic usage even today.
It is unfortunate that the Church, because of a Greek consciousness and/or understanding and translation, all to often, has confused the Kingdom of Heaven with Jesus' teachings on His second coming (i.e. which our Lord calls "The coming of the Son of Man).
The concept or understanding of "Kingdom," is perhaps one of the most important spiritual concepts in the New Testament. Language is an important factor in this vital understanding. In English and in the Greek, the word "Kingdom" is never used as a verb. It is always something to do with territory or a place. But, in Hebrew, the word "Kingdom" is ACTIVE. In fact, it is an action. It is God ruling and acting in the lives of men and women. It is those who are ruled by God, who have surrendered their lives to God, and who are keeping God's Word "abiding in them/living in them," THEY ARE -- "The Kingdom of God."
It is God working through us, in us and by us. We are the Kingdom of God, manifested into the physical world. The Kingdom of God manifests itself through us individually in our individual relationship with Him and then, collectively - when we gather together in Worship -- within the Divine Eucharistic Liturgy.
The Kingdom is where ever the power and glory of God is manifested, witnessed to, confessed publicly, jointly or together. It is where ever Christians are living surrendered lives in Jesus The Christ, the Son of the Living God -- THERE is His "Kingdom."
So it is, that within The Holy Eucharist, Jesus, our Lord and our God is present IN OUR MIDST. God is in ACTION in our midst. Within the Holy Eucharist -- we also are in action. We are praying, agreeing, and participating, and moving forward to receive Him, Who is our Lord within Holy Communion -- there IS the ACTION -- there IS the "Kingdom of God". The Kingdom is, once again, always present tense ACTIVE. It is the movement and action of God in our lives, in our midst, working through us to bring His Divine Light into an ever darkening world. It is the presence of His Kingdom that allows us to show others the Light, the way, the path -- to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So also is it then, that the Kingdom also refers to those who Chose Him then, and choose Him now - to follow Him in His footsteps. To be Baptized and Chrismated. In the time of Jesus, His disciples were to literally be: "The Kingdom of God," by demonstrating His presence and power in their lives. In Luke 10:8-9, we read:
"Whenever you enter a town and you are accepted, heal the sick of that town and then tell them, "The Kingdom of God is here!"
In Hebrew, for to gain a better understanding of what Jesus means in His instructions to the disciples, lets put together the above quoted scripture Luke 10:8-9 into Hebrew understanding. It then would look like this:
"You have seen God in action. Through us God is now ruling here. Satan has been defeated. The miracles you have just witnessed are proof of it.
In finishing up this lesson on the Kingdom, lets look at Matthew 5:20 and come to a better understanding about the meaning of the word, "Righteousness" as it relates to the "Kingdom of God."
In the time of Jesus, the Hebrew word: TSEDAKAH (i.e. righteousness in the sense of "deliverance or salvation) had degraded into a very different mean than deliverance or salvation. It carried a much more restricted understanding by the Jews of His day. To them it carried the mean of Almsgiving [i.e. of monetary help to the poor]. In the eyes or understanding of the Scribes and Pharisees, almsgiving, prayer and fasting were the three most important components of "righteous living" [i.e. living in right standing with God]. And unfortunately, Almsgiving was the most important of the three and came to stand for, in the time of Jesus, or you might say - was synonymous with: RIGHTEOUSNESS.
In reality, however, it still carried the real meaning of "deliverance and salvation." In Matthew 5:20, we then see Jesus is using the two differences in meaning as he instructs the Jews of His day on the real meaning of TSEDAKAH. In Jesus' day, TSEDAKAH had become nothing more then a "meritorious deed," in the thinking of many Jews. Many Jews also believed that they, like many Christians today, that they could somehow work out "their own" righteousness, instead of submitting to the Will of God, submitting/surrendering to the "righteousness of God (Romans 10:3). But Jesus said: "If your TSEDAKAH is not bigger than the TSEDAKAH of the Scribes and Pharisees -- in other words, if it is the limited or restricted TSEDAKAH and not the TSEDAKAH of which the Prophets spoke -- THEN, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven -- into the body of His believers.
In summary, now, lets look once again at: The Kingdom of God. We need to remember that the Kingdom of Heaven is not something that is in the future, or when we die and go to Heaven. "The Kingdom of Heaven," is Jesus' name for his followers, His Body of disciples and believers.
+Perry (Joseph Benedict) Sills, S.T.D.
The Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Church in America
San Jose, California
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