Gerald McDermott

By: Prof. Gerald McDermott

The Kingdom of God is central for both Jews and Christians. The great Jewish philosopher Michael Wyschogrod taught that the number one image for God in the Hebrew Bible is God as King. The same thing, you could say, is in the teachings of Jesus, that the Kingdom of God is absolutely paramount. The favorite teaching method of Jesus was with parables, and the number one theme of these parables was the Kingdom of God.

Both Protestants and Catholics are tempted to misunderstand the Kingdom. Protestants are tempted to think the Kingdom is only internal and invisible, in the heart. Yet in the Gospels and in Acts, the Kingdom becomes quite visible. The Romans feared that the Jesus movement was an external threat. They knew that if the God of Israel is King, which the apostles preached, then Caesar is not. So, the Romans persecuted the Jesus movement in visible ways.

The Catholic temptation is to think that the Kingdom has already arrived in the Church, and nothing more is to be expected. It’s all done. But if that is so, why did Jesus tell His disciples to keep repeating in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come!”, as if it had not come fully yet?

The biblical message is that the Kingdom is now because Jesus as emissary of the Kingdom has come once. But he will come again to more fully establish the Kingdom. So, the Kingdom is now, and not yet. It’s both!

Now what about Israel? Jesus talks about the restoration of Israel in Acts 1:6 and elsewhere. More and more scholars are realizing that you cannot understand Jesus’s view of the Kingdom of God without understanding his expectation of Israel’s restoration.

In Luke 21, Jesus predicts that one day Jerusalem will no longer be trampled upon by the Gentiles, and this will begin the end of the Times of the Gentiles. Now “trample upon” is a technical term for political and military control. When did that take place? When Israeli paratroopers seized eastern Jerusalem in 1967.

We need to understand both the Hebrew Bible and Jesus teach that God deals with nations as nations, not just individuals. Secondly, God judges the nations by how they treat the Jewish people and Israel. And third, toward the end of days, the nations will turn against Israel and her people. Scripture also suggests that Israel’s restoration is part of the first fruits of the healing of the nations, specifically mentioned at the end of the Book of Revelation as part of the future.

So, what about the Gaza war? We should not be shocked by the savagery and evil of Hamas. What we saw on October 7 was a full-color video of Satan’s hatred for God’s chosen people, the Jews.

Would Jesus support the Gaza war? Many Christians from the pacifist tradition, the Anabaptist tradition, would say no, that he was against all bloodshed and killing. Well, I disagree. I respect them, but I would say that Jesus tells us to love our enemies and hate the evil they represent.

Jesus was a Jew, and the Hebrew Bible, whose every letter Jesus inspired, teaches that the fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil. Paul quotes that in Romans 12:9. Jesus himself hated evil. In Revelation 2:6, Jesus praises the church of Ephesus for hating the works of the Nicolaitans, “which I also hate.”

Jesus is not a pacifist. He believed, as all Jews believe, that there is a time for war, as Ecclesiastes 3 teaches.

Jesus shows his hatred for evil in the parable of the wicked tenants. He tells us the vineyard owner punished the wicked tenants who killed his servants and son by, as the text puts it, “putting those wretches to a miserable death.” Those are inspired words describing a bloody punishment of wicked men.

In Revelation 19, Jesus’s robe drips with blood and out of his mouth comes a sword for killing the wicked. This is the same Jesus whom many Christians think is only mild and meek. But the true Jesus also is holy and punishes wickedness.

The point? While Jesus calls us to love our enemies, his love is holy. That’s very different from the world’s love, which is typically unholy. His call for us to love our enemies does not contradict the tragic need for nations, particularly the nation of God’s chosen people the Jews, to defend themselves against those who seek their elimination.

We Christians need to recognize that Iran and Hamas say quite openly that they are coming after Christians next. Israel today is fighting for civilization and for righteousness. We need to do what we can to support them–spiritually, politically and militarily.

Prof. Gerald McDermott is an Anglican theologian and a leading scholar on Christian Zionism. This message is excerpted with minor edits from his presentation at the ICEJ’s Envision conference 2024.

Watch our Webinar where Prof. McDermott discusses the topic: The Kingdom of God & the Gaza War.