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March 25, 2008



Tim J. writes: "Reader J.R. Stoodley writes;

"do you mean to say that Jesus intended to or even offered to set up an eternal earthly kingdom but the Jews rejected it, so it didn't happen?"

Well, not that I know anything, but I do believe that when Jesus said "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand", he meant it. He wasn't just going through the motions - I don't think he did things that way.

Obviously, as God, he knew that this offer would be rejected, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a real offer."

This is contrary to what the early fathers have taught.

I quote from such a one:

"And note, He does not say the kingdom of the Canaanite, or the Jebusite, is at hand; the "the kingdom of heaven." The law promised worldly goods, but the Lord heavenly kingdoms."

Pay attention most especially to the latter.

He was not offering some "earthly kingdom"; Jesus was offering something more -- the HEAVENLY Kingdom!

In fact, keep in mind what Jesus had said to Pilot:

"My Kingdom is NOT OF THIS WORLD"

From another venerable Church Father:

"For repentance corrects the will; and if ye will not repent through fear of evil, at least ye may for the pleasure of good things; hence He says, "the kingdom of heaven is at hand;" that is, the blessings of the heavenly kingdom. As if He has said, Prepare yourselves by repentance, for the time of eternal reward is at hand."


Since the writings of the early Church Fathers comprise about 38 thick volumes, would you please be a little more specific about the sources of the above quotes?



I can do better than that -- I'll provide you with the new website from the Congregation for the Clergy of The Holy See that features such Patristic commentaries for Scripture:


Tim J

I am not saying - have intentionally NOT said - that Jesus *intended* to set up an earthly kingdom (along the lines of what the people of Israel were anticipating) and then saw his plans thwarted and had to settle for "Plan B".

But I believe he intended to sincerely offer a kingdom - both earthly and heavenly - if his people would follow him.

What *would* have happened if they had is a question that can never be answered or even very profitably considered.

What did happen is that his kingship was rejected (by and large), but he established it all the same, albeit in a way that puzzled even his disciples, at first. He DID undo original sin, he just went on and did it without us.

I think he grieved that his people rejected his kingship. I don't think it is that weird an idea.

I may not have expressed myself that well initially, though. I am given to stratospheric hyperbole, at times.


Tim J. writes: "But I believe he intended to sincerely offer a kingdom - both earthly and heavenly - if his people would follow him."

Sorry, but I beg to differ.

Just like the exultet proclaims:

"O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!"

The Crucifixion was a necessary event for the Redemption of ALL humanity to bring to many the Good News of the HEAVENLY Kingdom and their Salvation by the Cross; thus, "The Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand!".

Tim J

"The Crucifixion was a necessary event"

I have not said it wasn't.

I believe we may be talking past one another to some extent, though.


I believe that the rejection (and, thus, the crucifixion that came as a result) of Jesus by his people was meant to be in the whole Plan of God.

I've got to admit though --

It would be interesting to see what would've happened had Jesus been accepted by God's Chosen People.

Yet, it's similar to those "What If" questions that can never be truly answered -- much in the same vein as "What if Mary said 'no' to God?".

Tim J

You make an apt comparison. Mary cooperated with the will of God by her own free act, but it isn't very helpful to speculate what might have happened if she had not.

In that way, I may have gone a bit far in my initial post. I do believe that when Christ came as the Messiah, he was holding out to his people the opportunity to respond in some way rather than killing him... that they also had the opportunity to cooperate with God, and missed it.

J.R. Stoodley

Well, I likewise am no professional theologian so this is just my opinion or impression.

First of all I don't think a good arguement can be made that the Kingdom of God preached by Jesus was a reference to an earthly kingdom. The vast majority of the actual statements in the text don't suggest that. Consider the various parables about the Kingdom of God, like the mustard seed and the pearl of great price. This is a spiritual reign of God, not an earthly kingdom. Also note how Jesus always seems to speak of it as something real and imminent, something that really is about to happen.

But going beyond that specific issue, did Christ offer anything to the Jews collectively that they did not get? I would still say no, not really. You have to remember the sovereignty of God over history. God ordains good and only permits evil, but ultimately both the good and evil are part of that ideal plan for history.

The time of secular Davidic kings was long over by this point. After the Babylonian exhile the Jews entered a new phase of salvation history, in which they were ruled by the High Priest and usually by a secular Gentile government as well. It was a new phase of history, a step towards being less like a nation and more like a Church.

Christ came to bring that process still further, to fulfill what the whole of Isrealite history had been heading towards. His mission in life was to the Jews still, but it was to call them to remain faithful and accept the culmination of their history and become the original nucleus of the Church which was then to spread throughout the world. He offered that membership in the Church to many, but the relatively few who had been predestined to it accepted it.

What would have happened if more or even all of the Jews had accepted the offer? I don't think there is any point in asking or trying to answer that question. It was not in the plan of God for that to happen. For it to have happened would have ultimately been an inferior course of history.

One could posit a sort of Molinist middle knowledge concerning what God would have done in a different situation, but I'm personally much more of a Thomist when it comes to predestination. Just like I think the Scotist conjecture that the Incarnation would have still happened without sin is pointless because it was God's permissive will that sin happen and necessitate a savior, so I think it is pointless to debate what would have happend if more Jews had accepted Jesus or indeed if any aspect of history had happened differently. God would never have allowed things to transpire differently than they have.

Ultimately such speculation about history comes down to "what would God have done if He had acted differently". There is no sense in asking that.

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