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The Return of the King

Exploring the Kingdom of God in Jesus' Inaugural Sermon

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The concept of fishing for men has a rich Old Testament and intertestamental heritage that regularly indicates that God's eschatological judgment is near.... To fish for men then is to "catch" them so they can be judged by God—some unto death and others unto life. It is not just "doing evangelism" in the abstract, but it is a decidedly eschatological event that marks the coming kingdom of God.

Jesus had waited a long time for his first public sermon. During the first thirty years of his life he was relatively silent, growing in "wisdom and stature" (Luke 2:52) and laboring in obscurity as a carpenter (Mark 6:3). The fact that the Gospel accounts give us precious little information about this phase of his life only heightens our expectations (and curiosity) about what Jesus would say when he was finally ready to step onto the public stage. After all, when you look at the first portion of the Gospel stories it seems everyone is talking except Jesus. In Mark's Gospel, for example, we begin by hearing the prophets Isaiah and Malachi speak. Then we hear John the Baptist speak. After that, at Jesus' baptism, the Father in heaven speaks. By this time, the tension is beginning to build in the mind of the reader about what Jesus is going to say when he speaks. What will be his first words to a waiting world? What will be the subject of his very first sermon? What will be his big opening line?

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1 [ Back ] General works on the kingdom of God include: G. E. Ladd, Jesus and the Kingdom: the Eschatology of Biblical Realism (New York: Harper & Row, 1964); Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1962); George Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986); B. Chilton, God in Strength: Jesus' Announcement of the Kingdom (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987); and N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996).
2 [ Back ] This is not to suggest that Satan was defeated only by Christ successfully enduring temptation. Obviously, the overthrow of Satan involves numerous events, including most centrally the death and resurrection of Christ. G. E. Ladd, The Presence of the Future: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), declares, "It is the entire mission of Jesus which brings about Satan's defeat" (157).
3 [ Back ] For a thorough argument that Revelation 20:2 refers to the first coming of Christ, see Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003).
4 [ Back ] G. E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 54-67.
5 [ Back ] Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 308.
6 [ Back ] N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 268.
7 [ Back ] Numerous Old Testament passages make it clear that God had always had a plan for the nations; e.g., Gen. 17:4-5; Ps. 2:8, 22:27, 96:10, 97:1; Isa. 49:6, 66:1; Jer. 3:17, 10:7.
8 [ Back ] Wilhelm Wuellner, The Meaning of "Fishers of Men" (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967).
9 [ Back ] W. L. Lane, The Gospel According to St. Mark (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 68.
10 [ Back ] Ridderbos, 148-55.
11 [ Back ] Ridderbos, 149.

Michael Kruger is associate professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando, Florida).

Issue: "The Great Announcement" Jan./Feb. 2011 Vol. 20 No. 1 Page number(s): 25-29

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