The Kingdom of God <abbr> (part 2)

This is the 2. Part of an 6 episode series by Gary Deddo on the important but often misunderstood theme of the Kingdom of God. In the last episode we have shed light on the central importance of Jesus as the supreme king of kings and supreme lord in the kingdom of God. In this article, we will explore the difficulties of understanding how the Kingdom of God is present in the here and now.

The presence of God's kingdom in two phases

Biblical revelation conveys two aspects that are difficult to reconcile: that the Kingdom of God is present, but also in the future. Bible scholars and theologians have often picked up on one of them and thus given particular weight to one of the two aspects. But in the last approximately 50 years, a broad consensus has emerged on how best to understand these two views. That correspondence is related to who Jesus is.

The Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary some 2000 years ago in carnal form, participated in our human existence and lived 33 years in our sinful world. By accepting our human nature from the beginning of his birth to his death 1 and thus bringing them together, he lived through our death until his resurrection, and then, after a few days in which he appeared to man, to physically ascend to heaven; that is, he continued to be attached to our humanity, only to return to the presence of his father and perfect communion with him. As a result, though he still participates in our now glorified human nature, he is no longer as present as he was before his ascension. He is in some ways no longer on earth. As another comforter, he has sent the Holy Spirit to be with us, but as an independent entity, he is no longer as present to us as before. He promised us to return.

At the same time, the nature of God's kingdom can be seen. It was indeed “close” and effective in the time of Jesus' worldly work. It was so close and palpable that it required an immediate response, just as Jesus himself asked for a response from us in the form of faith in him. However, as he taught us, his reign had not yet begun in full. First of all, it should become a reality. And that will be with Christ's return (often referred to as his "second coming").

Thus, the belief in the kingdom of God is inseparably bound up with the hope of its realization in its fullness. It was already present in Jesus and it remains in virtue of His Holy Spirit. But his perfection is still to come. This is often expressed when it is said that the Kingdom of God already exists, but not yet in perfection. George Ladd's carefully researched work reinforces this view from the perspective of many strict believers, at least in the English-speaking world.

The kingdom of God and the two ages

According to biblical understanding, a clear distinction is made between two times, two ages or epochs: the current “evil world time” and the so-called “coming world time”. In the here and now we live in the current “evil world time”. We live in hope of that “coming world time, but we do not yet experience it. Biblically speaking, we still live in the present evil time - in the meantime. Scriptures that clearly support this view are as follows (Unless otherwise stated, the following Bible quotes come from the Zurich Bible.):

  • He let this power work on Christ when he raised him from the dead and placed him in the heavens to his right: high above every regiment, every power, power and dominion and above every name, not only in this, but also in the coming world time is called " (Ephesians 1,20: 21).
  • "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself up for our sins to tear us out of the present evil world according to the will of God our Father" (Galatians 1,3: 4).
  • "Truly I tell you: No one has left home or wife, siblings, parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God, who did not receive much more valuable again (already) in this temporality, and eternal life in the future world time " (Luke 18,29: 30; crowd-bible).
  • "It will be the same at the end of the world: the angels will go out and the bad guys will be separated from the righteous." (Matthew 13,49; crowd Bible).
  • "[Some have tasted] the good word of God and the powers of the world to come" (Hebrews 6,5).

This ambiguous understanding of ages or epochs is unfortunately not so clearly expressed because the Greek word for "age" (aion) is translated in a variety of ways, such as "eternity", "world", "forever", and "a long time ago". These translations contrast time with endless time, or this earthly realm a future heavenly one. While these temporal or spatial differences are already contained in the thought of the different ages or epochs, he particularly emphasizes a much more far-reaching comparison of qualitatively different ways of life now and in the future.

We read in some translations that the seeds that grow in certain soils are nipped in the bud by the "worries of this world" (Mark 4,19). But since the Greek aion is in the original text, we should also use the meaning "nipped in the bud by the worries of this present evil world time". Also in Romans 12,2, where we read that we may not fit into the scheme of this “world”, this is also to be understood in such a way that we should not make common with this against current “world time”.

Even the words rendered with "eternal life" imply life in the future time. This is evident in the Gospel of Luke 18,29-30 as quoted above. Eternal life is "always on", but it does much more than the much longer duration compared to this present evil age! It is a life that belongs to a completely different era or epoch. The difference is not just in the short duration of an infinitely long life, but rather between a life in our present time still characterized by sinfulness - of evil, sin and death - and life in the future time, in which all traces to be eradicated by evil. In the coming time, there will be a new heaven and a new earth that will connect a new relationship. It will be a completely different kind and quality of life, the way of life of God.

The kingdom of God ultimately coincides with the coming world time, that eternal life, and the second coming of Christ. Until he returns, we live in the present evil world time and wait hopefully for the future. We continue to live in a sinful world in which, in spite of Christ's resurrection and ascension, nothing is perfect, everything is suboptimal.

Surprisingly, though we continue to live in the present evil time, thanks to the grace of God, we can already experience the Kingdom of God in part now. It is already present in some ways before the replacement of the present evil age in the here and now.

Contrary to all presumptions, the future kingdom of God has broken into the present without the Last Judgment and the end of this time. The Kingdom of God casts its shadows in the here and now. We get a taste of it. Some of his blessings come to us in the here and now. And we can participate in the here and now by keeping fellowship with Christ, even if we are still attached to this time. This is possible because the Son of God came into this world, accomplished his mission, and sent us his Holy Spirit, although he is no longer carnal. We are now enjoying the first fruits of his victorious reign. But before Christ's return it will be an interim period (or an “end time break”, as TF Torrance used to call it), in which God's rescue efforts will still be realized during this time.

Building on the vocabulary of Scripture, Bible scholars and theologians have used a whole range of different words to make this complex situation clear. Many have portrayed this controversial issue following George Ladd by stating that God's reign in Jesus is fulfilled, but will not be completed until his return. The kingdom of God is already present, but it is not yet realized in its perfection. This dynamic can also be expressed in such a way that the kingdom of God has already been introduced, but we are waiting for its completion. This view is sometimes referred to as "present eschatology". Thanks to the grace of God, the future has already entered the present.

This has the effect that the full truth and givenness of what Christ has done is currently essentially deprived of insight, as we are now living under the conditions created by the Fall. In the present evil world time, Christ's reign is already a reality, but a hidden one. In the future time, the kingdom of God will be perfected, because all the remaining consequences of the fall will be lifted. Then all the effects of Christ's work will be revealed everywhere in all glory. 2 The distinction made here lies between the hidden and the not yet perfected realm of God, and not between a present manifest and an outstanding one.

The Holy Spirit and the two ages

This view of God's kingdom is similar to that which is revealed in Scripture on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit and sent him together with the Father to be with us. He breathed his Holy Spirit into the disciples, and at Pentecost it descended on the assembled believers. The Holy Spirit empowered the early Christian church to truthfully testify to the work of Christ and thereby enable others to find their way into the kingdom of Christ. He sends God's people out into the world to preach the gospel of God's Son. We are part of the Holy Spirit's mission. However, we are not yet fully aware of it and hope that this will one day be the case. Paul points out that today's world of experience is just the beginning. He uses the image of an advance, a pledge or a deposit (arrabon) to convey the idea of ​​a partial pre-delivery that serves as security for the complete delivery (2 Corinthians 1,22:5,5;). The picture of an inheritance that is used throughout the New Testament also makes it clear that we are currently being given something in the here and now that we are certain will be even greater in the future. Read Paul's words:

"In him [Christ] we have also been appointed to heirs who are destined to do so according to the purpose of the one who works everything after the decision of his will [...] which is the pledge of our inheritance, to our salvation that we his property would be the praise of his glory [...] And he would give you enlightened eyes of the heart so that you could see what hope you were called by him, how rich the glory of his inheritance was for the saints ” (Ephesians 1,11:14,18;).

Paul also makes use of the image, according to which we now only receive the "first fruits" of the Holy Spirit, but not his fullness. We are currently experiencing only the beginning of the harvest and not yet all of its gifts (Rom 8,23). Another important biblical metaphor is that of "tasting" of the future gift (Hebrews 6,4: 5). In his first letter, Peter puts together many pieces of the puzzle and then writes about those justified by the Holy Spirit:

"Praise be to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who reborn us after His great mercy to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an immortal and immaculate and witherable inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, that you are saved from God's power through faith to bliss that is ready to be revealed at the last time ” (1. Pt 1,3-5).

As we perceive the Holy Spirit at the present time, it is indispensable to us, even though we are not yet fully aware of it. As we experience his work now, it points to a much greater unfoldment that will one day come. Our present perception of it feeds a hope that will not be disappointed.

This current evil world time

The fact that we now live in the anticipated evil world time is a crucial finding. The worldly work of Christ, although it was victoriously finished, has not yet wiped out all the aftermath and consequences of the Fall in this time or epoch. So we shouldn't expect them to be wiped out until Jesus returns. The testimony that the New Testament has regarding the continuing sinful nature of the cosmos (including humanity) could not be more haunting. In his high priestly prayer, which we read in the Gospel of John 17, Jesus prays that we may not be exempt from our present situation, even though he knows that we must endure suffering, rejection and persecution at this time. In his Sermon on the Mount, he points out that we are not yet receiving all the gifts of grace that God's Kingdom holds for us in the here and now, and that our hunger and thirst for justice have not yet been satisfied. Rather, we will experience persecution that reflects his. He also points out clearly that our longings will be fulfilled, but only in the coming time.

The apostle Paul points out that our true self does not present itself as an open book, but is “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3,3). He explains that we are figuratively earthen vessels that carry the glory of Christ's presence within them, but are not yet revealed in their glory (2 Corinthians 4,7), but only one day (Colossians 3,4). Paul points out that "the essence of this world is passing away" (Cor 7,31; cf. 1 John 2,8; 17) that she has not yet reached her ultimate goal. The author of the letter to the Hebrews willingly concedes that so far not everything has been subject to Christ and his own (Hebrews 2,8: 9), even if Christ has overcome the world (John 16,33).

In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul describes how the whole creation “sighs and is afraid” and how “we ourselves, who have the spirit as a first gift, sigh within ourselves and yearn for childhood, the redemption of ours Body " (Romans 8,22-23). Although Christ has completed his worldly activity, our present being does not yet reflect the fullness of his victorious dominion. We are stuck in this present evil time. The kingdom of God is present, but not yet in its perfection. In the next issue, we will examine the nature of our hope for the coming completion of God's kingdom, as well as the full fulfillment of biblical promises.

by Gary Deddo

1 In Hebrews 2,16 we find the Greek term epilambanetai, which is best represented as "to accept" and not to "help" or "to be concerned". Sa Hebrew 8,9, where the same word is used for God's deliverance of Israel from the clutches of Egyptian slavery.

2 The Greek word, which is used throughout the New Testament for this purpose and is again emphasized with the naming of his last book, is apocalypsis. It can be called "revelation,"
"Revelation" and "Coming" are translated.

pdf The kingdom of God (Part 2)