Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of
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Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of
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Jesus announced the coming of the promised Kingdom of God and the future advent of the Comforter. Such an announcement could necessarily be addressed only to those who had been recipients of the Promise and who derived their inspiration from them, in other words, the Jews. To Gentiles such an announcement would have been meaningless. Jesus, therefore, never addressed himself to them.
The coming of the Kingdom and the Comforter was in no way foreign to the religious life of Israel, since the pious Jews concentrated their thoughts at least three times a day on this Promise when they recited the Shemoneh Esreh, the eleventh petition of which contained a prayer dealing with the coming of the Kingdom.
Jesus never gave any definition of this Kingdom, and it must be taken for granted that his interpretation of the Kingdom was the same as that of his contemporaries. To Jews it implied the setting up on earth of a new order of things and of a new mode of life, a transformation of the world, beneficial not only to the righteous and the godly, but to all the children of Israel without discrimination. It was not deemed to be a purely internal and spiritual development; it involved an external and material change. The Kingdom was first of all to be established on earth by an act of Divine Power. It was essentially to be a gift of God, a material reality granted by Divine Providence to those who might prove themselves to be worthy of it. Underlying this hope was consequently the desire of a moral and ideal Kingdom: and also the idea of necessity, of human effort, of individual repentance by good works (Matt., 5 : 19; 16: 27), and an exact observance of the Law.
The Kingdom of God, as foretold by Jesus, was likewise for persons whose relations to God depended on their individual deserts. The good only were to be placed on the right hand of God (Matt. 25 : 34); and those on the left hand were to be cursed into everlasting fire which God had prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt., 25 : 41).
To Jesus the Kingdom of God was a reality of the future on earth. He never said, I bring you the Kingdom. He merely expected its setting up.
It would be worth while to examine whether the Gospels speak of the Promise only or whether they represent Jesus as bringing it with him. There are numerous passages which speak of it as a thing to come. The disciples were to give the message "The Kingdom of God is at hand" and not that it had come. The prayer was for the Kingdom to come (Matt., 6 : 10; Luke, 11 : 2). The beatitudes are all promises : "for them is the Kingdom of God," and "for they shall see God," are only two illustrations. On the way to Jerusalem the sons of Zebedee asked for seats of honour in the Kingdom, and even at the Last Supper Jesus looked towards the future when he said that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God should come (Luke., 22 : 18). This, in fact, points more definitely than anything else to the future rather than the present.
Jesus merely claimed to be the way (John., 14: 6) to this Kingdom. He had merely to prepare the Jews for it and to acquaint them with its mysteries by parables (Matt., 13 : 34). The three parables of the Kingdom: that of the Feast (Matt., 22: 2-14: Luke 14 : 16-24), that of the Talents (Matt., 25 : 14-30; Luke, 19 : 12-27), and that of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matt., 25 : 1-13) all of them show the close relationship between the preparation for the future Kingdom, represented by the activities of Jesus, and the future advent of the Kingdom. Jesus never represented his activities as actually ushering in the Kingdom. It would be a singular perversion to regard the parables of the Sower (Matt., 13 : 3-8; Mark, 4 : 3-8; Luke, 8 : 5-8), of the Measure (Mark, 4 : 24), and of the Merchant selling a pearl (Matt., 13 : 45) as supporting the theory that the Kingdom had come in the time of Jesus. These parables prove nothing, or rather, what they do prove, at the most, is that Jesus established a connection between his prophetic mission and the future approach of the Kingdom.
Again, Jesus did not give any definite answer when questioned as to the exact time of the setting up of the Kingdom. Mark puts into his mouth:
"Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the Kingdom of God come with power" (Mark, 9 : 1; Matt., 16 : 28: Luke, 9 : 27).
The word some is very significant, as it points to a delayed future time. Again:
"Verily I say unto you this generation shall not pass away, till all these things be fulfilled" (Mark, 13 : 30. See also Matt., 24 : 34).
It is idle to urge that by this verse Jesus meant to indicate the setting up of the Kingdom in his time. If this be so, Jesus stands self-contradicted by the next verse but one in which he confesses complete ignorance of the event (Mark, 13: 32). Peake's comments on this verse (Mark, 13: 30) are very significant. He says:
"A Jewish apocalypse which may be held to have included 7f, 12, 14, 17-22, 20, 27, 30, has been edited, together with genuine utterances of Jesus, in order to strengthen the faith of Christians about thirty or forty years after the Crucifixion, when they were perplexed by the delay of the appearance of their Lord. The parenthesis to the reader in 15, if it is not a later gloss, suggest that a writing of some kind, not a report of a speech, forms the basis of this chapter" (Peake, Commentary on the Bible, 696).
We have yet to consider another passage: when Jesus sent his disciples to preach the Gospel, he commanded them:
"And ye go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt., 10 : 7).
It need hardly be pointed out that the disciples did return from their wanderings without the ushering in of the Kingdom. In all these three passages, one can detect the editorial influence going to the length of invention, and the evangelists as writing for a circle dominated by the expectation of the Promise. If scepticism regarding the authenticity of these three passages, or at least of their contents, be not carried to its logical conclusion, the only inference which can be drawn from them is that Jesus did not know, or foresee, or announce the precise time of the coming of the Kingdom. Indeed he said:
"But of that day and that hour, knoweth no man, no, not even the angels which are in heaven, neither the son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is" (Mark, 13 : 32-33; Matt., 24 : 36).
The Church has always found this verse difficult. Jesus confessed a limited knowledge and ignorance about a point of utmost importance. In any case this verse cuts at the very roots of the theory that the Kingdom was ushered in the time of Jesus.
The next question concerns the place of the manifestation of the expected Kingdom. For the Jews only one answer was conceivable: Jerusalem. This belief found expression in the Shemoneh Esreh (Shemoneh Esreh, 17). It is extremely common in the Sibylline Oracles (Sib. Or., 3 : 657, 785; 5 : 420), and occurs also in the Johannine Apocalypse (Rev., 21 : 10). The ideology of the Jews of the time of Jesus and of his disciples is aptly disclosed in their disappointment at the time the events had taken place concerning Jesus, whom they believed to be a "prophet" (Luke, 24 : 19). While walking back from Jerusalem, two of his disciples had said:
"But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel" (Luke, 24 : 21).
But Jesus did not agree with the Jews. He cursed Jerusalem and prophesied that it should be made desolate (Luke, 13 : 34, 35). To indicate that it would not be even in Judaea, he also cursed the other cities in Palestine (Matt., 11 : 21-23; Luke, 10 : 13, 15).
To sum up, Jesus did not believe that the Kingdom would be set up on earth as the result of his preachings, but that by announcing the Kingdom, he was proclaiming the way for it, and by immediately preceding it he himself served as an introduction to it. He believed that there was a clear connection between his own activities and the future interposition of God, and he never confounded his ministry with the future Kingdom. He believed that the Kingdom would be an actual realisation on earth of Divine righteousness and happiness; a visible and sensible state of bliss for the good seed, the true sons of the Kingdom (Matt., 13 : 38) according to their deserts. There would, therefore, be no further need of an intermediary between them and their heavenly Father.