The Kingdom Is...
By Patriarch Ralph W. Damon
Volume 19, Number 3 Sep/Oct/Nov/Dec 2018 Issue No. 76
In the words encased within the New Testament, both those of Jesus as well as his apostles and disciples, there is a strong urgency to “preach the kingdom” to everyone who would give an ear to those preachers of the word. Today, there are those who spend time referencing the scriptures for certain terms and words, counting the number of times those phrases may have been uttered, thus giving power and authority to the intent of those statements. When attempting to describe exactly what the Master or his followers may have meant with that particular phrase, “preach the kingdom,” the responses may be as varied as the individuals who attempt to share their wisdom and knowledge.
As latter day Restorationists, and more specifically, as members of the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we have grown up in our faith believing that when the totality of the kingdom is fully preached and taught, and ultimately adopted by the body of believers, then will the kingdom of God become a reality upon this earth—a kingdom known as Zion, the city of God on earth.
In order to perhaps more fully understand what the full intended purpose is behind the preaching of the kingdom, it may be beneficial to explore more deeply some of the ways in which that kingdom was described to those Jews so long ago. In doing so, we may find that some of their understandings were not too far from our thinking today, for better or worse.
Without exhausting the ways in which the kingdom is spoken of in the scriptures, certain wordings familiar to readers of the Bible are easily found: “the kingdom is at hand”; “the kingdom is within you”; “the kingdom is near”; and “the kingdom has already come unto you” are just a few of the several identifiers of the kingdom used in the New Testament. What they should be fully interpreted to mean to the followers of Christ seems to remain somewhat of a struggle even to this day.
In Mark 4:21–23 is recorded the parable in which Christ told of a man sowing seed and its process of germination. “And he said, So is the kingdom of God; as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep and rise, night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how; For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.”
In the context of this scripture, Jesus was in the process of teaching the gathered multitude, giving them several examples of how to understand the kingdom. He spoke of the mustard seed, one of the tiniest of all seeds, that could grow into a large tree able to house even the birds. He spoke of the sower scattering seeds on various types of soil with the commensurate results where some seed died quickly, other seed took root and grew only to die with lack of nourishment, while other seed fulfilled their creation, bringing forth grain for the harvest to come.
But perhaps the brief scripture in Mark identifying the gradual coming forth of the blade, then the ear, and finally the full corn in the ear deserves more of our attention. It may be in these few words that we can begin to understand the levels of comprehending the coming forth of the kingdom, not just in our own lives but in the life of the world in which we live.
We might first consider the possibility that there may be a difference between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God. To many, these two terms have consistently been seen as synonymous with the church as it would be seen in its fulfillment on this earth. Thus, a church in full representation of the structure established by the Christ would become the kingdom of heaven when it fulfills the desires of divinity. Its sole purpose, then, is to represent heaven on earth with all its power and authority utilizing the ordinances and sacraments through an endowed priesthood until the fulfillment of time when God and Christ will come to reside with those saints who have been granted the privilege of being residents of that kingdom.
This thinking might be supported by the statement Christ made to the Pharisees as recorded in Luke 17:20– 21: “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them, and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; Neither shall they say, Lo, here! or Lo, there! For, behold, the kingdom of God has already come unto you.” Christ had just begun his ministry. What was he implying regarding the kingdom of God having already come unto them? Was he pointing to something yet to be, or perhaps more specifically, toward someone now within their midst; someone with whom they would struggle to accept and acknowledge as the Son of God?
Others see the kingdom of God as applying to a church structure yet to come, or at least different from the earthly expression we now have as our example. Returning to the quoted scripture in Mark, perhaps this is the key we can use to decipher this intent. What does it mean, “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn on the ear”? And let us not forget the described unawareness of the sower who does not seem to notice, or understand, the gradual growing development of the corn.
Those familiar with gardens, seeding, and growing plants know the process of planting, germination, and plant development. However, eons ago, such knowledge was not as prevalent. Farmers knew enough to plant viable seeds and that, given good conditions, plants would reproduce from those seeds. Using Mark’s recorded example, when the leaf begins to break through the ground, it is corn, but only in one stage of development. It is not the corn that it will be
when the ear sets, when it becomes fully matured, and when the harvest is at hand. Yes, it is corn, but still very much immature.
The sower, conscious that he has a wonderful crop breaking through the soil, must still yet pray for that potential crop of corn to mature, to fulfill its potential. Thus, the kingdom was here among the people when Christ was here but only in one stage of its development. It had not achieved its final stage that he had in mind when he prayed in Matthew 6:11, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven.” The kingdom was here, but not in the final stage which it would reach in its time of perfect fruition; the time just before the harvest of the world. It is at that time when Christ’s prayer will be fulfilled; the full ear of corn will be gathered, and the full will of God will be “done on earth, as it is done in heaven.”
With these thoughts to ponder, perhaps we can begin to see how individuals often experience the same event and come to such different understandings of its meaning or intent. Some may unknowingly be speaking of the church, or the kingdom, in terms of the blade, when it is their desire to express their understanding of the development of the ear, or even the completion of the harvest. Being limited in knowledge, understanding, or insight can often place our conversations on such different levels of understanding that it is impossible to communicate clearly. It seems that Nicodemus may have faced this difficulty when, at least during his first conversation with the Master, he could not comprehend the depth of the Master’s counsel to him in John 3:3 that he needed to be “born again.” At that moment he was only able to see the leaf and not comprehend the “full corn in the ear.”
If the coming kingdom of God ever had a clear representation on this earth, it came in the form of the church structured by Jesus. As that church was represented in that day and time, before the apostasy took the teachings of the Christ so far from man’s understanding, so it will be the same true representation by the church on earth today. But the church as we know it is not, and was not by any means, all that the kingdom will be when the day of full fruition and
fulfillment comes. The church will continue to grow, not like the young corn blade, taking its nutrients from the soil, the water, and the air, but gaining its strength from the righteousness, the sanctification, and the holiness of the people. And in that day the Lord will put in his sickle, for the harvest will be at hand, and the kingdom of God will gather those who have been part of, “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear…. the harvest is come.”