Is the Kingdom a Present Reality? – The Meaning of “Forging Ploughshares”

And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Micah 4:3

The key question concerning the peaceable kingdom portrayed in Micah and Isaiah is whether this Kingdom has become a reality in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The forging of swords into ploughshares describes a universal reality, that even in these pre-Christian passages, evokes a present tense walk:

For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever. Micah 4:5

With the inauguration of the Kingdom of Christ, has the necessity and ethic of the sword been replaced, for the people of God, with the virtue of peace and the life giving activities of cultivating and reaping, (symbolized by ploughshares and pruning hooks)?  Christians are divided on the issue of what necessities, virtues, and kingdom are to shape their life and walk. Is God working out his primary purpose through the principalities and powers or is the Church the Kingdom of God on earth?  This question is prior to and determinative of whether violence or peace is the Controlling factor in one’s life.  Violence or non-violence is not so much a choice or a reality that we can bring to pass; rather it is the reality of God’s Kingdom established by Christ.  A basic tenant of the ministry of Forging Ploughshares is that Jesus embodies the Peaceable Kingdom and the Church is the inauguration of the Kingdom of God on earth.

So, ours is not first of all the choice of violence or peace but the choice of which kingdom and which king we would follow.  Peaceableness is the witness of the people of God to the Kingdom of Christ, established not on the basis of the sword but by Christ’s death on the cross.  The point in being a follower of Christ is not to be putting people on the cross, but taking up a cross.  Truth is not to be found in the principalities and powers that put Christ on the cross; rather the lie that humankind can establish itself through violence is undone in Christ’s defeat of death on the cross.  This is not a truth we establish but one which he established and which we can only witness to through trading in swords (the symbol of human power) for ploughshares (the symbol of the work of the Kingdom of God).

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Author: Paul Axton

Paul V. Axton spent 30 years in higher education teaching theology, philosophy, and Bible. Paul’s Ph.D. work and book bring together biblical and psychoanalytic understandings of peace and the blog, podcast, and PBI are shaped by this emphasis.

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