The Kingdom of God (part 3)

So far, in the context of this series, we have looked at how Jesus is central to the Kingdom of God and how it is currently present. In this part, we will see how this gives believers a source of great hope.

Let us look at the encouraging words of Paul in Romans:
For I am convinced that this time of suffering is not important to the glory that is to be revealed to us. [...] Creation is subject to transience - without its will, but by the one who has subdued it - but to hope; for the creation too will be freed from the bondage of transitoriness to the glorious freedom of the children of God. [...] Because we are saved, but hope. But the hope that one sees is not hope; because how can you hope for what you see? But if we hope for what we do not see, then we wait patiently (Rom 8, 18, 20-21, 24-25).

Elsewhere, John wrote the following:
Beloved, we are already God's children, but it has not yet become clear what we will be. But we know that when it is revealed, we will be like him; because we will see him as he is. And anyone who has such hope for him, cleans himself, as well as that is clean (1, Joh 3, 2-3).

The message concerning the kingdom of God is by its nature a message of hope; both in terms of ourselves and God's creation as a whole. The pain, suffering and horror that we are going through in this present evil world time will luckily come to an end. Evil will have no future in the kingdom of God (Rev 21, 4). Jesus Christ himself stands not only for the first word, but also for the last word. Or as we colloquially say: He has the last word. So we do not have to worry about how everything will end. We know it. We can rely on it. God will put everything right, and all those who are willing to humbly receive the gift will know and experience this one day. Everything is, as we say, sealed. The new heaven and the new earth will come with Jesus Christ as their resurrected Creator, Lord and Savior. God's original goals will be accomplished. His glory will fill the whole world with his light, his life, his love and perfect kindness.

And we will be justified, or considered just, and not fooled for building and living on that hope. We can already benefit in part from it by living our lives in the hope of Christ's victory over all evil and in his power to redo everything. When we act on the hope of the indubitable coming of the Kingdom of God in all its fullness, this affects our daily lives, our personal as well as our social ethos. It influences how we deal with adversity, temptation, suffering, and even persecution due to our hope for the living God. Our hope will inspire us to carry others along, so that they, too, feed on the hope which does not go back to us, but on God's pure work. So, the gospel of Jesus is not just a message that he announces, but a revelation of who he is and what he has accomplished, and who we hope to accomplish in his reign, in his kingdom, in the realization of his ultimate purpose. A full-fledged gospel includes the reference to Jesus' indubitable return and the completion of his kingdom.

Hope, but no predictability

However, such hope for the coming kingdom of God does not imply that we can predict the way to a sure and perfect end. How God acts on this end of the world time is largely unpredictable. This is because the wisdom of the Almighty goes far beyond ours. Whenever he wants to do something out of his great mercy, whatever it is, it takes all of the time and space into account. We can not understand this. God could not explain it to us, even if he wanted it. But it is also true that we need no further explanations beyond what is reflected in the words and deeds of Jesus Christ. He stays the same - yesterday, today, and forever (Hebr 13, 8).

God works the same today, as it was revealed in the nature of Jesus. One day we will see this clearly in retrospect. Everything that the Almighty does coincides with what we hear and see about the earthly life of Jesus. One day we will look back and say: Oh yes, now I realize that when the triune God did this or that, he acted according to his nature. His work unmistakably reflects the handwriting of Jesus in all its facets. I should have known. I could have imagined it. I could have guessed it. This is very typical of Jesus; it leads everything from death to resurrection and ascension.

Even in the earthly life of Jesus, what he used to do and say was unpredictable to those who had dealings with him. It was hard for the disciples to keep up with him. Although we are permitted to judge retrospectively, the reign of Jesus is still in full swing, and so our retrospective does not allow us to plan (and we do not need) any predictable foresight. But we can be sure that, according to his nature, as a triune God, God will conform to his character of holy love.

It may also be good to note that evil is completely unpredictable and moody and does not follow rules. That makes it at least partially. And so our experience, which we make in this earthly age, which is approaching its end, bears just such traits, insofar as evil characterizes a certain sustainability. But God counteracts the chaotic and capricious meanness of evil and ultimately puts it into his service - sort of as forced labor. For the Almighty only allows what can be left to salvation, because ultimately with the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, thanks to Christ's resurrection power overcoming death, everything will be subordinated to his rule.

Our hope is based on the nature of God, on the good of what he is pursuing, not on predicting how and when he acts. It is Christ's very own redemption-promising victory that bestows upon those who believe in and hope for the future kingdom of God patience, long-suffering and stability, coupled with peace. The end is not easy, and it's not in our hands. It is held ready for us in Christ, and that is why we need not worry in this present age, which is nearing its end. Yes, sometimes we are already sad, but not without hope. Yes, we sometimes suffer, but in the trusting hope that our Almighty God surveys everything and lets nothing happen that can not be entirely left to salvation. Basically, salvation can already be experienced in the form and ministry of Jesus Christ. All tears will be wiped off (Offb 7, 17, 21, 4).

The kingdom is God's gift and his work

If we read the New Testament and, in parallel, the Old Testament leading to it, it becomes clear that the kingdom of God is his own, his gift and his power - not ours! Abraham was waiting for a city whose builder and maker is God (Hebr 11, 10). It belongs first and foremost to the incarnate, eternal Son of God. Jesus sees her as my kingdom (Joh 18, 36). He speaks of this as his work, his achievement. He brings it here; he preserves it. When he returns, he will bring his work of salvation to completion. How could it be otherwise if he is the king and gives his work, the kingdom its essence, its meaning, its reality! The kingdom is God's work and his gift to humanity. A gift can by nature only be accepted. The recipient can neither earn nor produce it himself. So what is our share? Even this wording sounds a bit daring. We have no part in making the Kingdom of God a reality. But we do indeed get it; We will stop in his kingdom and, even now that we live in the hope of his perfection, we will experience something of the fruits of Christ's reign. However, at no point in the New Testament does it mean that we are building the kingdom, creating it, or producing it. Unfortunately, such a wording is more and more used in some Christian faiths. Such misinterpretation is alarmingly misleading. The kingdom of God is not our doing. We do not help the Almighty to realize his perfect kingdom little by little. It is not us who, however, put their hope into action or make their dream come true!

If you make people do something for God by suggesting that they depend on us, then such a motivation is usually exhausted after a short time and often leads to burnout or disappointment. But the most damaging and dangerous aspect of such a representation of Christ and his kingdom is that in this way God's relationship with us is completely reversed. The Almighty is thus considered to be dependent on us. Hidden in the background, the insinuation resonates that he simply can not be more faithful than we are. We become the main actors in the realization of God's ideal. He then simply makes his empire possible and then helps us as best he can and as far as our own efforts allow it to be realized. According to this caricature, God does not remain true sovereignty or grace. It can only culminate in proudly inspiring works justice or lead to disappointment up to the possible abandonment of the Christian faith.

The kingdom of God must never be portrayed as a project or work of man, regardless of which motivation or ethical conviction may induce someone to do so. Such a misguided approach distorts the nature of our relationship with God and misrepresents the magnitude of Christ's completed work. For, if God can not be more faithful than we are, there is truly no redeeming grace. We can not fall back into a form of self-rescue; because there is no hope in that.

from dr. Gary Deddo

pdfThe Kingdom of God (part 3)