The present and future kingdom of God

"Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near!" John the Baptist and Jesus proclaimed the nearness of the Kingdom of God (Mt 3,2, 4,17, Mk 1,15). The long-awaited reign of God was near. This message was called gospel, the good news. Thousands were eager to hear and respond to this message from John and Jesus.

But think for a moment about what the reaction would have been if they preached, "The kingdom of God is still 2000 years away." The message would be disappointing and the public reaction would have been disappointing. Jesus may not be popular, the religious leaders might not be jealous, and Jesus may not have been crucified. "The kingdom of God is far away" would have been neither new news nor good.

John and Jesus preached the soon-to-come kingdom of God, something that was close in time to their listeners. The message said something about what people should do now; it had immediate relevance and urgency. It sparked interest - and jealousy. By proclaiming that changes in government and religious teachings were necessary, the embassy challenged the status quo.

Jewish expectations in the first century

Many Jews who lived in the first century knew the term "kingdom of God." They wanted eagerly for God to send them a leader who would give up Roman rule and make Judea again a non-dependent nation - a nation of justice, glory and blessings, a nation to which everyone would be drawn.

Into this climate - eager but vague expectations of a God-given intervention - Jesus and John preached the nearness of God's Kingdom. "The kingdom of God has come near," Jesus told his disciples after healing the sick (Mt 10,7, Lk 19,9.11).

But the hoped-for kingdom did not come true. The Jewish nation was not restored. Even worse, the temple was destroyed and the Jews scattered. Jewish hopes are still unfulfilled. Was Jesus wrong in his statement, or did he not foretell a national kingdom?

Jesus' kingdom did not resemble the popular expectation - as we can guess from the fact that many Jews liked to see him dead. His kingdom was not of this world (Joh 18,36). When he talked about the "kingdom of God," he used expressions that people understood well, but he gave them new meaning. He told Nicodemus that God's kingdom was invisible to most people (Joh 3,3) - to understand or experience it, someone needs to be renewed by the Holy Spirit (v. 6). The kingdom of God was a spiritual kingdom, not a physical organization.

The current state of the empire

In the prophecy of the Mount of Olives, Jesus announced that the kingdom of God would come after certain signs and prophetic events. But some of Jesus' teachings and parables explain that the kingdom of God would not come in a dramatic way. The seed is growing quietly (Mk 4,26-29); the empire begins as small as a mustard seed (v. 30-32) and is hidden like leaven (Mt 13,33). These parables suggest that the Kingdom of God is a reality before it comes in a powerful and dramatic way. In addition to the fact that it is a future reality, it is already a reality.

Let's look at some verses that show that the kingdom of God is already working. In Mark 1,15 Jesus proclaimed, "The time is come ... the kingdom of God has come." Both verbs are in the past tense, indicating that something has happened and that its consequences are continuing. The time had come not only for the announcement, but also for the kingdom of God itself.

After expelling demons, Jesus said, "If I cast out the evil spirits by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you" (Mt 12,2, Lk 11,20). The empire is here, he said, and the evidence lies in the expulsion of the evil spirits. This proof continues in the Church today because the Church does even greater works than Jesus did (John 14,12). We can also say, "If we cast out the evil spirits through the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God will work here and now." Through the Spirit of God, the Kingdom of God continues to demonstrate its imperious power over the kingdom of Satan.

Satan is still exercising influence, but he has been defeated and condemned (Joh 16,11). He was partially restricted (Mk 3,27). Jesus overcame the world of Satan (Joh 16,33) and with God's help we too can overcome them (1Joh 5,4). But not everyone overcomes them. In this age, the Kingdom of God contains both good and evil (Mt 13,24-30, 36-43, 47-50, 24,45-51, 25,1-12, 14-30). Satan is still influential. We still await the glorious future of the Kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is active in the teachings

"The Kingdom of Heaven still suffers violence and the violent take it" (Mt. 11,12). These verbs are in the present form - the kingdom of God existed at the time of Jesus. A parallel passage, Luke 16,16, also uses verbs in the present-day form: "... and everyone forces themselves in by force". We do not have to figure out who these violent people are or why they use violence
- important here is that these verses speak of the kingdom of God as a present reality.

Luke 16,16 replaces the first part of the verse with "... the gospel is preached by the kingdom of God". This variation suggests that the advancement of the empire in this age is practically synonymous with its proclamation. The Kingdom of God is - it already exists - and it progresses through its proclamation.

In Mark 10,15, Jesus points out that the kingdom of God is something we must somehow receive, obviously in this life. How is the kingdom of God present? The details are not yet clear, but the verses we looked at say that it is present.

The kingdom of God is among us

Some Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come (Lk 17,20). You can not see it, Jesus replied. But Jesus also said, "The kingdom of God is within you [a. Ü. in the middle of you] "(Lk 17,21). Jesus was the king, and because he taught and worked miracles among them, the kingdom was among the Pharisees. Jesus is in us today too, and just as the kingdom of God was present in Jesus' ministry, it is present in the service of his church. The king is among us; His spiritual power is in us, even though the kingdom of God is not yet operating in all its power.

We have already been transferred to God's kingdom (Kol 1,13). We already receive a kingdom and our correct answer to that is reverence and reverence (Hebr 12,28). Christ "made us [past tense] a kingdom of priests" (Rev 1,6). We are a holy people - already and now - but it has not yet become clear what we will be. God has freed us from the dominion of sin and put us in his kingdom under his ruling authority. The kingdom of God is here, Jesus said. His listeners did not have to wait for a conquering Messiah - God is already ruling and we should now live his way. We do not own any territory yet, but we come under the rule of God.

The kingdom of God is still in the future

Understanding that the Kingdom of God already exists helps us pay more attention to serving other people around us. But we do not forget that the completion of the Kingdom of God is still in the future. If our hope lies in this age alone, we do not have much hope (1Kor 15,19). We do not harbor the illusion of bringing about the kingdom of God with human endeavors. When we suffer setbacks and persecutions when we see that most people reject the gospel, we draw strength from the realization that the fullness of the kingdom is in a future age.

No matter how much we try to live in a way that reflects God and His Kingdom, we can not turn that world into God's kingdom. This must come through a dramatic intervention. Apocalyptic events are necessary to usher in the new age.

Numerous verses tell us that the kingdom of God will be a glorious future reality. We know that Christ is a King, and we long for the day when He will use His power in a great and dramatic way to end human suffering. The book of Daniel predicts a kingdom of God, the
will rule over the whole earth (Dan 2,44, 7,13-14, 22). The New Testament Book of Revelation describes his arrival (Offb 11,15; 19,11-16).

We pray that the kingdom will come (Lk 11,2). The poor in spirit and the persecuted await their future "reward in heaven" (Mt 5,3.10.12). People come to the Kingdom of God on a future "day" of judgment (Mt 7,21-23; Lk 13,22-30). Jesus told a parable because some believed that the kingdom of God would soon come into power (Lk 19,11). In the prophecy of the Mount of Olives, Jesus described dramatic events that would occur before his return to power and glory. Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus looked forward expectantly to a future kingdom (Mt 26,29).

Paul speaks several times of "inheriting the kingdom" as a future experience (1Kor 6,9-10, 15,50, Gal 5,21, Eph 5,5) and, on the other hand, indicates through his language that he sees the kingdom of God as something only at the end of the age (1Th 2,12, 2Th 1,5, Kol 4,11, 2T in 4,1.18). When Paul focuses on the present manifestation of the kingdom, he either tends to introduce the term "justice" along with the "kingdom of God" (Rom 14,17) or to use it instead (Rom 1,17). See Matthew 6,33 for the close relationship between the Kingdom of God and the righteousness of God. Or Paul (alternatively) tends to associate the kingdom with Christ instead of God the Father (Kol 1,13). 8th-Century Interpretation, edited by Wendell Willis [Hendrickson, 20], page 1987).

Many "Kingdom of God" scripts could relate as much to the present kingdom of God as to future fulfillment. Lawbreakers will be called the lesser in the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5,19-20). We are leaving families for the sake of the Kingdom of God (Lk 18,29). We enter the kingdom of God through tribulations (Acts 14,22). The most important thing in this article is that some verses are clearly in the present form, and some are clearly written in the future form.

After Jesus' resurrection, the disciples asked him, "Lord, will you restore the kingdom to Israel at this time?" (Acts 1,6). How should Jesus answer such a question? What the disciples meant by "kingdom" was not what Jesus had taught. The disciples still thought in terms of a national kingdom, rather than a slowly evolving people of all ethnic groups. It took them years to realize that Gentiles were welcome in the new kingdom. Christ's kingdom was still out of this world, but should be active in this age. Therefore, Jesus did not say yes or no - he simply told them that there is work for them and strength to do that work (v. 7-8).

The kingdom of God in the past

Matthew 25,34 tells us that the kingdom of God has been in preparation since the foundation of the world. It has existed all the time, albeit in different forms. God was a king to Adam and Eve; he gave them dominion and authority to govern; they were his vice-regents in the Garden of Eden. Although the word "kingdom" is not used, Adam and Eve were in a kingdom of God - under his rule and his property.

When God gave Abraham the promise that his descendants would become great peoples and that kings would come from them (1Mo 17,5-6), he promised them a kingdom of God. But it started small, like sourdough in a dough, and it took hundreds of years to see the promise.

When God led the Israelites out of Egypt and made a covenant with them, they became a kingdom of priests (2Mo 19,6), an empire that belonged to God and could be called a kingdom of God. The covenant he made with them was similar to the treaties that made mighty kings with smaller nations. He had saved them and the Israelites responded - they agreed to be his people. God was her king (1Sam 12,12; 8,7). David and Solomon sat on the throne of God and ruled in his name (1Chr 29,23). Israel was a kingdom of God.

But the people did not obey their god. God sent them away, but he promised to restore the nation with a new heart (Jer 31,31-33), a prophecy that was fulfilled in the church today, which has a share in the New Covenant. We, to whom the Holy Spirit was given, are the royal priesthood and holy nation, which ancient Israel was unable to do (1Pt 2,9; 2Mo 19,6). We are in the kingdom of God, but there is now weeds growing between the crops. At the end of the age, the Messiah will return in power and glory, and the kingdom of God will be transformed again in appearance. The empire that follows the Millennium, in which everyone is perfect and spiritual, will be drastically different from the Millennium.

Since the kingdom has historical continuity, it is correct to speak of it in the temporal form of the past, present, and future. In its historical development, it has had and will continue to have major milestones as new phases begin. The empire was raised at Mount Sinai; it was established in and by Jesus' work; it will be set up at its return, after the judgment. At every stage, God's people will rejoice in what they have and they will be even happier looking forward to what is yet to come. As we now experience some limited aspects of the Kingdom of God, we gain confidence that the future kingdom of God will also be a reality. The Holy Spirit is our guarantee of greater blessings (2Kor 5,5, Eph 1,14).

The kingdom of God and the gospel

When the word Kingdom or Kingdom is heard, we are reminded of the realms of this world. In this world, kingdom is associated with authority and power, but not with harmony and love. Kingdom can describe the authority that God has in his family, but it does not describe all the blessings that God has for us. That is why other images are used, such as the family term children, which emphasizes the love and authority of God.

Each term is accurate but incomplete. If any term could perfectly describe salvation, the Bible would consistently use that term. But they are all pictures, each one describing a certain aspect of salvation - but none of these terms describes the whole picture. When God commissioned the church to preach the gospel, he did not restrict us to using only the name "Kingdom of God." The apostles translated Jesus' speeches from Aramaic into Greek, and translated them into other images, especially metaphors that were meaningful to a non-Jewish audience. Matthew, Mark and Luke often use the term "the kingdom". John and the apostolic letters also describe our future, but they use other images to illustrate it.

Salvation [salvation] is a more general term. Paul said that we were saved (Eph 2,8), we will be saved (2Kor 2,15) and we will be saved (Rom 5,9). God has given us salvation and he expects us to respond to him in faith. John wrote about salvation and eternal life as a present reality, a possession (1Joh 5,11-12) and a future blessing.

Metaphors like salvation and the family of God - as well as the kingdom of God - are legitimate, even though they are only partial descriptions of God's plan for us. Christ's gospel can be called the gospel of the kingdom, the gospel of salvation, the gospel of grace, the gospel of God, the gospel of eternal life, and so on. The gospel is an announcement that we can live with God forever, and it includes information that this is possible through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.

When Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God, he did not emphasize his physical blessings and did not clarify his chronology. He focused instead on what people should do to be a part of it. Tax collectors and prostitutes come to the kingdom of God, Jesus said (Mt 21,31), and they do so by believing in the gospel (v. 32) and doing the will of the Father (v. 28-31). We enter into the Kingdom of God when we respond to God in faith and faithfulness.

In Mark 10, a person wanted to inherit eternal life, and Jesus said he should keep the commandments (Mk 10,17-19). Jesus added another commandment: He ordered him to give up all his possessions for the treasure in heaven (v. 21). Jesus remarked to the disciples, "How hard the rich will come into the kingdom of God!" (V. 23). The disciples asked, "Who can be saved then?" (V. 26). In this section and in the parallel passage in Luke 18,18-30, several terms are used that refer to the same thing: receive the kingdom, inherit eternal life, collect treasures in heaven, enter the kingdom of God, be saved. When Jesus said, "Follow me" (v. 22), use another term to indicate the same thing: we enter the kingdom of God by aligning our lives with Jesus.

In Luke 12,31-34 Jesus points out that several expressions are similar: seeking the kingdom of God, receiving a kingdom, having a treasure in heaven, giving up confidence in physical possessions. We seek God's kingdom by responding to Jesus' teaching. In Luke 21,28 and 30, the kingdom of God is equated with salvation. In Acts 20,22. 24-25. 32 teaches us that Paul preached the gospel of the kingdom and preached the gospel of God's grace and faith. The kingdom is closely tied to salvation - the kingdom would not be worth preaching if we could not partake of it, and we can only enter through faith, repentance and grace, so these are part of every message about the kingdom of God. Salvation is a present reality and a promise of future blessings.

In Corinth, Paul preached nothing but Christ and his crucifixion (1Kor 2,2). In Acts 28,23.29.31, Luke tells us that Paul preached in Rome both the kingdom of God and Jesus and salvation. These are different aspects of the same Christian message.

The kingdom of God is not only relevant because it is our future reward, but also because it affects how we live and think in this age. We are preparing for the future kingdom of God by living in it now, in accordance with the teachings of our king. As we live in faith, we acknowledge God's reign as the present reality in our own experience, and we continue to hope in faith for a future time, when the kingdom will come to fulfillment, when the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.

by Michael Morrison

pdfThe present and future kingdom of God