Vol.XIII No.X Pg.4
December 1976

The Kingdom Is Like - -

Robert F. Turner

Is the church (Gods people) the body of Christ (Eph. 1:23); or is it LIKE (in some respects) a body, and since He is head over these people, therefore, LIKE the body of Christ? Are we literally His hands, feet, etc. or are we figuratively His body?? To ask such questions is to answer them in any sane mind. Yet, many seem reluctant to apply common sense reasoning to Bible figurative language.

The most common and effective way to teach an unknown is to compare it to something known. The common simile says this is like that. His remark was like a knife — it cut, figuratively; or, it had a point, or, it was mounted on a handle. The exact use is left to the user, and is usually indicated in the context. When the comparison is made to an event or happening this is called a parable, or a fable (depending on the type of story told as illustration) . In some figures of speech the like is omitted (tell that fox Lu. 13:32) or is a deliberate exaggeration (running like lightening); but all convey a message limited by context and intent. Metaphorical language is so common it is practically inseparable from communication. We use it all the time, and I just finished using it. (All the time? or just much of the time?)

One need not know the names or the technical descriptions of figures in order to properly use and interpret them. It doesnt take a genius to know we do not drink a container; or that Jesus, holding bread in his hand as he spoke, did not mean this is (literally) my body (1 Cor. 11:23-f). Bread and fruit of the vine symbolize or represent the body and blood of Christ. But symbolism, a form of figurative language, is also subject to the limitations placed upon it by the author. We have no right to alter the elements of symbolism established by the Lord and the Holy Spirit, or to place significance upon circumstances or details which were given no significance by divine authority.

Some figures seem to invite unauthorized extension more than others. The kingdom figure is much abused by repetition of the Jewish materialistic concept. Some expect Christ to sit on the literal chair of David, ruling over a this world realm. His teaching concerning the nature of His kingdom (Mk. 12:34; Lu. 17:20-21; Jn. 18:36-37) and the many references to its present existence (Acts 2:30-33; Col. 1:13) seem to make no impression. And the child of God figure is extended to teach a right of fellowship for the unborn child, or that once one is a child he forever remains in Gods family. Because a literal child so remains, or a literal king has a gold throne, many do not hesitate to assert these things of the figures. Did King Herod have a bushy tail?

The same illustrative material may be used in more than one figure and with different meanings. We become a child of God by birth (or adoption) but the child figure may also be used to emphasize the necessity for displaying characteristics of our heavenly Father (Jn. 8:38-47; Matt. 5:43-45). In every case, the author determines the use of his figures, and we must be content to make only the application authorized by context. (continued, next page)