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Good News of the Kingdom of God: An Interview with Paul Pomerville

 

PneumaReview.com: In the book you maintain that the theme of the kingdom of God is vital for the mission of the church. Please explain.

I believe it is important for the mission of the church that it understands that in the Gospels Jesus described the gospel as the good news of the kingdom of God.

Paul Pomerville: I believe it is important for the mission of the church that it understands that in the Gospels Jesus described the gospel, or “good news,” as the good news of the kingdom of God. The people of the Southern Hemisphere perceived the gospel as both receiving the benefit of Jesus’ redemptive death for sin and the gift of the powerful indwelling Holy Spirit. More often than not, both were experienced simultaneously like Cornelius’s household experienced the gospel of the kingdom of God in the tenth chapter of the Acts. To say the gospel of “the kingdom of God” is twofold is not just a handy way to include the Pentecostal experience in the gospel message. It is to describe its intended fundamental character in salvation history as Jesus announced it. It is to focus on why the “good news” is something new and incomparable in all of salvation history. Jesus’ redemptive death for sin enabled the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit in people who had faith in Jesus; this experience of the good news of the kingdom is the focal point of all of God’s efforts to bring salvation to humankind. The arrival of these benefits—together—is the Christ-event at the mid-point of salvation history. The prophet Jeremiah spoke of the time when all of the law and the prophets would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, when God would write his law on the hearts of God’s people through the power of the Spirit. Missiologist Harry Boer states that at Pentecost a distinct period in the divine economy of salvation was introduced, the characteristic feature of which is the presence of the Holy Spirit; he said that after Creation and Incarnation the outpouring of the Spirit is the third great work of God.

When Jesus proclaimed the arrival of the good news of the kingdom in the Synoptic Gospels, his whole ministry in those documents emphasized the power of the kingdom over the power of Satan. When the Pharisees saw the miraculous ministry of Jesus they challenged him by saying that he was casting out demons by the power of Satan. He answered, “If it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The Holy Spirit and the powerful kingdom of God are inseparable in his mind and became the central topic his teaching, describing the kingdom of God as an inner kingdom of the heart where the Holy Spirit reigns in Christians. His whole ministry of healings, casting out demons, raising the dead in the Gospels was a demonstration of his kingdom’s power over the god of this world and evil spirits. Even as a preliminary experience with the power of the kingdom, before Pentecost, Luke chapter 10 records Jesus sending out his disciples among Gentiles with the “power of the kingdom” and they personally experienced the kingdom’s power over Satan. When Jesus was with the disciples, the message of his suffering death on the cross was left until the end of his ministry in the Synoptic Gospels. He did this because in the development of the disciple’s faith early on this was prominent in his mind and also because of their false view that he the Messiah would establish an earthly Jewish kingdom; therefore, they were unable to understand or bear this “cross message.” When they heard him first speak of the cross they did not understand it and challenged Jesus. The message that Jesus proclaimed and the message the disciples proclaimed when they were sent out (in Luke chapter 10) was simply: “Repent, the kingdom of God is here” and that message was confirmed by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit. It is the imposition of a Western rationalistic-logical and time-oriented worldview on the gospel story that presents a fragmented view of the gospel. On the other hand, the gospel story is based on a supernatural-oriented, holistic-event orientation of the New Testament documents (the worldview of the apostles).

The gospel story is based on a supernatural, holistic-event orientation of the New Testament documents.

Pentecostals tend to emphasize two distinct events (the cross and Pentecost) as the gospel; they see “two experiences” because of their time-separation of fifty days in the New Testament story (and also, of course, because of their experiencing the Pentecostal experience as a “renewal” and “subsequent” to receiving Christ as savior). After all, they say, the four Gospels that contain the cross narration are separated in our Bible from the Acts of the Apostles where Pentecost is recorded, are they not? However, that Western logical arrangement of the NT documents, putting the four Gospels together separated from the Acts is not reason to view the gospel in a fragmented way. The Gospel of Luke-Acts of the Apostles is actually one NT document, correctly portraying one continuous gospel story in the “Gospel-Acts of the Apostles” early history. Taking Jesus’ declaration of “the gospel of the kingdom of God” as a “theology” brings the cross event and the Pentecost event together. Therefore, the Christ-event in salvation history should be viewed holistically and theologically—as including the Incarnation-ministry of Jesus, his Crucifixion for sin-Resurrection and Ascension-Pentecost as “the gospel.” All of these events are included in the “Christ-event” at the mid-point of salvation history. Jesus declared that the good news of the kingdom of God had arrived; this allows us to view all of the former elements of this “Christ-event” holistically. Pentecost marked the coming of the Spirit (kingdom) in power to New Testament believers (and us today) with outward empirical evidence. The Acts of the Apostles shows that a new people of God was created through the work of the Holy Spirit and that new people of God included both Jew and Gentile. Peter put it all together in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost: God had raised Jesus whom they crucified and they were all witnesses of the fact that he was exalted to the right hand of God and that he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit that has been poured out which they were now seeing and hearing (the twofold message of the gospel of the kingdom). Joel’s prophecy showed that the Advent of the Spirit in salvation history—the age of the Spirit—was upon them.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2018

About the Author: Paul A. Pomerville, PhD (Fuller Theological Seminary), is a seventeen-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department who served as a missionary to Asia and Europe for thirteen years and as a Graduate Professor and Department Chairman of Christian Missions and Cross-cultural Communications at the Assemblies of God Seminary for two years. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of World Mission. For seven years he trained police in cultural diversity all across the United States, and continued for another seven years training police in Indonesia, East Timor and Bosnia Herzegovina. He is the author of The Cross-Cultural American: Ending America’s Obsession with Race (CreateSpace, 2009), Culture Blind Evangelicals and the Good News of the Kingdom of God (CreateSpace, 2009), Recovering Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom in American Culture: A Study in Luke’s Gospel-Acts of the Apostles (CreateSpace, 2010 and second updated edition 2016), The New Testament Case against Christian Zionism: A Christian View of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (CreateSpace, 2014), and The Third Force in Missions: A Pentecostal Contribution to Contemporary Mission Theology (Hendrickson Publishers, 1985 and second updated edition 2016).

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