Biblical References: Luke 1:32-33; Luke 9:59-62; Luke 11:2; Luke 13:29; Luke 17:23-24; Luke 18:16-30; Luke 21:34-36
The phrase “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven” occur more than 100 times in the synoptic gospels. Luke uses this term more than 30 times.
1. Jesus begins his ministry by saying, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns, also, because that is why I was sent” (Luke 4:43). Later, he sends his disciples out “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2). What are some of the common understandings of what is meant by the “kingdom of God”? Are these accurate understandings?
2. Some passages in Luke make it sound as if the kingdom of God is a present reality (see Luke 11:20; 16:16; 17:21). Other places, the kingdom of God sounds as if it is a future reality (see Luke 13:28-29; 14:15). How should we understand this term? Can the kingdom be both present and future?
3. We have already noted that Jesus speaks of the kingdom as something present, yet also future. In Luke 17:20-21, there is another surprise. “Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.” What was Jesus’ point?
4. In Luke 13, Jesus describes the surprise of people who are thrown out of the kingdom of God (13:28). The picture he paints is of a great feast, with people from east and west, north and south, sharing a meal together. What did table fellowship mean in the ancient world? Why would Jesus speak of the kingdom in this way? Finally, what does a person do in order to be “thrown out” of the kingdom of God?
5. The kingdom of God sounds like something we would want to participate in. But how does one enter such a kingdom? Jesus provides us with some guidance.
A. Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20).
B. Later, in Luke 18:24, Jesus remarks, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
C. In Luke 18:16, Jesus says that “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Are these passages supposed to be spiritualized, or was Jesus literally talking about poor people and rich people? How do we “receive” the kingdom like a child? Based on these passages, would you say that it is easy or difficult to enter the kingdom of God? Finally, is entrance into the kingdom dependent upon membership in a particular religious group or organization?
6. In Luke’s recording of the Lord’s prayer, Christ teaches us to pray, “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2). What are we asking for when we pray this prayer? What is it that acts as a barrier to the coming of the kingdom?
7. Can you think of a time when you experienced “the kingdom of God” as being present in your life—a time when you thought, “This is what it’s like!” What can we learn about the “kingdom” from that moment?