I finished this book a few weeks back and tried a new note-taking approach. I would write a one-sentence summary after each chapter, then type a mixture of quotes and notes. Overall, I think this helped with comprehension and retention. Next up: create my own Zettelkasten. Meanwhile, here’s my review of the book in a new format based on Mental Pivot’s book notes.
G. E. Ladd’s The Gospel of the Kingdom is a short treatment on the New Testament’s (NT) “Kingdom of God” (KoG) theme. Ladd’s introductory chapter considers definitions, arguing that the Kingdom of God (KoG) in the Old Testament (OT) primarily refers to God’s “reign,” and that this focus should be extended to the NT and beyond.
In Chapter 2, Ladd argues that the KoG is a future reality, which has broken into the present. He has a three-age schema: this age, the millennial age and the age to come. Chapters 3-9 then consider the “present” aspects of the KoG. Jesus' coming, death and resurrection initiate the KoG, using Jesus' casting out demons as proof that the future KoG has broken into the present. His term for this is the “overlapping” or “conflict” of the ages.
Ladd considers the “mysterious” nature of the KoG in Chapter 4, which is two-fold. Firstly, it is “mystery” in that what was once hidden, has been revealed, i.e. that Jesus has come to inaugurate the KoG. Secondly, it is “mystery” because the way Jesus initiates it is unexpected. He doesn’t come to to immediately establish a political or military kingdom. Instead, it doesn’t look impressive now, but will be perfected in the future.
Chapters 5-7 considers the more “moral” aspects of the KoG. There are blessings (Chapter 5), but being part of God’s kingdom will require us to be righteous (Chapter 6), and demands a decision that is resolute, radical, costly and which has eternal implications (Chapter 7).
Chapter 8 and 9 are closely related to “popular” eschatology, where he examines the relationship between Israel and the church, then answers the oft-asked “when will the kingdom come?” question. He posits that the church is the new people of God “This new people is the Church… God is not now dealing with a nation after the flesh, but with a holy nation, the Church, on the basis of personal saving faith in Jesus the Son of God (114).” However, Ladd see that Israel is not completely out of God’s plan, and will somehow be grafted back in. He also emphasises that NT faith is individual, rather than national or familial, writing that “Jesus addressed Himself to the individual; and the terms of the new relationship were exclusively those of personal decision and faith (109).” He then closes by writing that the kingdom will come in its fullness when the Gospel of the Kingdom is preached to the nations.
This is a succinct, non-academic introduction to a complex subject. Ladd makes a clear connection between theology with praxis, speaking both to the mind and heart. His approach is exegetical, offering a good biblical theological treatment. The book’s structure is tight and it’s impressive that he can cover this much in so few words.
Intermediate to advanced readers will want more depth and his views on the millennium might not sit well with those with different views. Ladd focuses almost exclusively on the NT, so this is not a whole-Bible biblical theology of the KoG.
Who should read it?
Those new to the subject who are keen to explore it. Within my Christian circle, the popular KoG approach is Vaughan Roberts' God’s Big Picture, which is similar to (but is it dependent on?) Goldsworthy’s Kingdom of God approach. Ladd offers a good alternative perspective, although what he does in this book is not as comprehensive as Vaughan Roberts' God’s Big Picture, which is also centred on the KoG theme.
Notes and Quotes
- What is the Kingdom of God?
- Summary: Ladd surveys various definitions of the KoG, arguing that primarily, it refers to God’s reign, then secondarily his a realm and a people.
- The Kingdom is Tomorrow
- Summary: Ladd considers the future aspect of the kingdom, largely based on the word “age” (Gk. aion). He argues for a three-age system: this age, the millennial age, the age to come. The KoG is perfected only in the age to come.
- The Kingdom is Today
- Summary: Ladd further develops chapter 2’s two-stage resurrection into a three-stage one, extending the effects of the kingdom to the present age, which was initiated by Jesus' coming, death and resurrection. He places an emphasis on Jesus' casting out demons as proof that the future Kingdom of God has broken into the present. He calls this breaking in an “overlapping” or “conflict” of the ages.
- The Mystery of the Kingdom
- Summary: Ladd argues from the kingdom parables in Matthew 13 that there are essentially(?) two aspects to the Kingdom’s “mystery.” The first is that it was something once hidden, but later revealed. The second is that the Kingdom is unexpected, in the sense that it is also in some sense hidden now, but will eventually be fully revealed.
- The Life of the Kingdom
- Summary: Ladd points out that just as the Kingdom of God is a future reality which broken into the present, eternal life is likewise a future blessing present followers of Jesus can enjoy. He elaborates on two aspects of eternal life, knowledge of God (71) and God’s spirit dwelling within us (75).
- The Righteousness of the Kingdom
- Summary: From the Sermon on the Mount, Ladd argues that Kingdom righteousness is “perfection” in terms of purity, honesty, love and forgiveness. He also emphasises that this righteousness must first be given. It “is the righteousness of the man who has experienced the reign of God in his life.” (93)
- The Demand of the Kingdom
- Summary: Ladd argues that the Kingdom demands “a resolute decision” (98), “a radical decision” (99), “a costly decision” (100) and “an eternal decision (106).
- The Kingdom, Israel and the Church
- Summary: Ladd argues that because God’s Kingdom is primarily his reign, when Israel ultimately rejected Jesus, they are no longer his main vehicle of reigning. Instead, it is the church, who submits to Jesus. He says that a big difference between OT and NT is that in the OT, God primarily dealt with the nation and with families, but in the NT, faith and relationship with God is now personal. However, Israel is not completely out of God’s plan, and somehow, they will be grafted back.
- When will the kingdom come?
- Summary: Focusing on Matt. 24:14, Ladd considers 3 aspects to the “when” question: 1) message, 2) mission, 3) motive. In other words, when the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom is preached to the nations (mission), the Kingdom will finally come in its fullness.