The Kingdom of God (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 death1 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.

Parallel to this, the nature of God's kingdom can be seen. It was indeed "close" and effective in the time of Jesus' worldly ministry. It was so close and tangible that it demanded an immediate response, just as Jesus himself demanded a response from us in the form of faith in him. However, as he taught us, his reign had not yet begun in full. It should first become reality in full. And that will be at Christ's Second Coming (often called 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 present "evil world time" and the so-called "coming world time". In the here and now we live in the present "evil world time". We live in the hope of that "coming world time, but we do not yet experience it. Biblically speaking, we are still living in the present evil time - in the meantime. Biblical passages that clearly support this point of view are the following (Unless otherwise stated, the following biblical quotations are from the Zurich Bible.):

  • He let this power work on Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him in the heavens at his right hand: high above every regiment, every power, power and rule and every name, not only in this one, but also in himself called the coming world time "(Eph 1,20-21).
  • "Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, to tear us out of the present evil world time according to the will of God, our Father" (Gal 1,3-4) ,
  • "Truly I say to you, no one left home or wife, siblings, parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God, who did not receive much more valuable (even) in this temporality, and in the future world time eternal life" (Lk 18,29-30 ; Lot Bible).
  • "So it will be at the end of the world time: the angels will go out and separate the wicked from the middle of the righteous" (Mt 13,49, Bible of the multitudes).
  • "[Some have] tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come" (Heb. 6,5).

Unfortunately, this ambiguous understanding of ages and epochs is less clearly expressed by the fact that 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 confront time with endless time, or this earthly kingdom with a future heavenly one. While these temporal or spatial differences are already contained in the thoughts of the different eras or epochs, he emphasizes a far more far-reaching comparison of qualitatively different lifestyles now and in the future.

For example, in some translations we read that the seeds that are released into certain soils are nipped in the bud by the "worries of this world" (Mk 4,19). But since the Greek text stands in the source text, we should also use the meaning "nipped in the bud by the worries of this present evil world time". Also in the Romans 12,2, where we read that we do not like to submit to the scheme of this "world", this is also to be understood that we should not make ourselves in common with this present "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 conjecture, the future kingdom of God has broken into the present, without it coming to the last judgment and the end of that time. The kingdom of God casts its shadow in the here and now. We will get a taste of it. Some of His blessings are already in the here and now. And we can partake of it in the here and now by keeping fellowship with Christ, even though we are still stuck at that time. This is possible because the Son of God came into this world, completed his mission, and sent us his Holy Spirit, even though he is no longer carnally present. We now enjoy the firstfruits of his victorious reign. But before Christ's return, there will be an interim period (or "end-time break," as TF Torrance used to call them) in which God's efforts for salvation will continue to 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 vision of God's kingdom is similar to that revealed in the Scriptures on the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit and sent him with the Father to be with us. He breathed into the disciples his Holy Spirit, and at Pentecost he went down to the assembled faithful. The Holy Spirit empowered the early Christian Church to truthfully testify to the work of Christ, enabling others to enter the kingdom of Christ. He sends the people of God out into the world to proclaim the gospel of the Son of God. We are thus part of the mission of the Holy Spirit. However, we are not yet fully aware of it and hope that this will happen one day. Paul points out that our present world of experience is just the beginning. He uses the image of an advance or arrabon to convey the idea of ​​a partial up-front gift that serves as security for the complete offering (2, Kor 1,22, 5,5). The image of a heritage that is used throughout the New Testament also makes it clear that we are currently receiving something here and now, which we are certain will be even more significant in the future. Read the words of Paul:

"In him [Christ] we have also been appointed heirs, whom we are destined to do according to the purpose of him who works everything according to the purpose of his will [...] which is the pledge of our inheritance, to our salvation, that we his property would be in praise of his glory [...] And he will give you enlightened eyes of the heart, that you may know the hope of which you are called by him, how rich the glory of his inheritance is for the saints "(Eph. 1,11; 14,18 ).

Paul also uses the image according to which we are now given only the "first fruits" of the Holy Spirit, but not his fullness. At the moment we are only experiencing the beginning of the harvest and not all of their gifts (Rom 8,23). Another significant biblical metaphor is "to have tasted of the future gift" (Hebr 6,4-5). In his first letter, Peter composes 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 has reborn us after his great mercy, to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an everlasting and immaculate and unfading inheritance kept in heaven for you, who, by the power of God, are saved by faith for salvation, which is ready to be revealed to 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

That we now live in the present evil evil world time is a crucial insight. The worldly activity of Christ, though victoriously completed, has not yet eradicated all the aftermath and consequences of the Fall in this time or epoch. So we should not expect them to be extinguished until Jesus' return. The testimony that the New Testament gives regarding the continuing sinful nature of the cosmos (including humanity) could not be more insistent. In his high priestly prayer, which we read in the Gospel of John 17, Jesus prays that we may not be removed from our present situation, even though he knows that we must endure suffering, rejection and persecution during this time. In his Sermon on the Mount, he points out that in the here and now we do not yet receive all the graces that God's kingdom holds for us, and that our hunger, our thirst for righteousness, is not yet satisfied. Rather, we will experience a persecution that reflects his own. Just as clearly he points out that our longings are fulfilled, but only in the coming time.

The apostle Paul points out that our true self is not presented as an open book, but is "hidden with Christ in God" (Kol 3,3). It states that figuratively speaking, we are earthen vessels that carry the glory of Christ's presence but are not yet revealed in all glory (2, Kor 4,7), but only one day (Kol 3,4). Paul points out that "the essence of this world is passing away" (Kor 7,31, see 1, Joh 2,8, 17), but that it has not yet reached its ultimate goal. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews readily admits that so far everything is not yet subject to Christ and His own (Hebr 2,8-9), even though Christ has overcome the world (John 16,33).

In his letter to the congregation in Rome, Paul describes how the whole of Creation "sighs and frightens," and how "we ourselves, who have the Spirit as the firstfruits, sigh in ourselves and yearn for the sonship, the salvation of ours Body "(Rom 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.

pdfThe Kingdom of God (part 2)