We have already treated the central image in Jesus' preaching, the Reign of God. Jesus spoke of the hopes that many people had for a judgment that would finally destroy all evil and permit the righteous the peace and joy in God's presence that goodness deserved. He taught that God's presence could be experienced even in this world if people would live with mercy and compassion, if they would learn to rely on God's goodness rather than on human systems of power. Jesus did not promise that such a life would lead to riches and success on earth. His own life demonstrated that humility and suffering were part of a life dedicated to God (e.g., Mt 5:3–11).
Jesus used images like that of the heavenly Son of man to reassure his followers that success in God's eyes could not be measured by human standards. God's own judgment would vindicate everything Jesus did and taught. The early Christians experienced the truth of Jesus' vision of God when they learned that Jesus' humiliation on the cross had been turned into heavenly glory at the right hand of God. This conviction meant that Jesus' words had the authority of divine revelation behind them.
In this final chapter, we are going to survey some of the other themes of Jesus' teaching that are particularly important for Christians today. The theme of justice and solidarity is especially prominent in social ethics and liberation theologies from Third World countries. The problem of bringing about justice in a corrupt world is understood to require that people overcome the divisions that separate and create hostility between different groups.