After briefly considering four varying views concerning the kingdom of God, we could possibly sum all of them up into two different camps:
- An emphasis on the present reign of God’s kingdom, specifically in Christ.
- An emphasis on the future reign of God’s kingdom at the end of history.
This truly has been the debate for quite some time in regards to the kingdom of God: Is it present, future or both?
I have remarked that Christ’s main message was the kingdom of God. The kingdom is referred to some 110 times in the Gospels, though not all of them come from Jesus. But, as the divine Son and Messiah-King, He came forth with the good news that God’s kingdom had arrived.
We noted the importance of arrival of the kingdom in Jesus through some passages such as these:
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. (Matthew 4:23)
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. (Mark 1:14-15)
…but he [Jesus] said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)
And, interestingly enough, the phrase ‘is at hand’ (Greek = ēggiken), which we read in Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15, is also translated as ‘has come near’. This Greek word was used to pronounce that something was actually here. Thus, Jesus, the great Messianic hope of the Old Testament, had arrived declaring the kingdom rule of God was here.
‘To acclaim anyone as Messiah is to announce in him the coming of the Kingdom of God, for it is precisely the business of the Messiah to establish the Kingdom. Messiah cannot be separated from Kingdom. To be sure, both the Old Testament faith and that of Judaism frequently depicted the triumphant Kingdom with no mention of the Messiah, but the Messiah was never himself thought of apart from that Kingdom: when Messiah comes, the Kingdom comes.’ (John Bright, The Kingdom of God)
Jesus was truly the Messiah, the anointed one, the Christ. He did not fit the expectations of most within first century Judaism. They expected God’s kingdom to break the yoke of the Roman empire. But Jesus, the Messiah, had come to break the yoke of that which held people in grave captivity: Satan and sin.
For as George Ladd remarked:
‘What is the Gospel of the Kingdom? What means the announcement that the Kingdom of God has come near? It is this: that God is now acting among men to deliver them from bondage to Satan.’ (The Gospel of the Kingdom)
Thus, the kingdom was an actual reality in Jesus. He was the King and He proclaimed the good news about God’s kingdom breaking into human history. This is why Jesus would teach His followers to pray in this way:
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)
This is a prayer that is to be frequently upon the lips of all Christ’s followers. We are to be praying that God’s kingdom rule and will be a reality on earth as it is in heaven. No doubt that when the kingdom rule of God comes His will is being done, and when His will is being done the kingdom of God becomes a reality here and now.
‘He [Jesus] made the Kingdom and his will identical: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, One earth as it is in heaven.”’ (E. Stanley Jones, The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person)
Not only that, but Jesus would teach His disciples to seek the kingdom and its righteousness above all else.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
We are to rightly seek His kingdom and His righteousness now.
We also see that, in the powerful ministry of Jesus over the enemy and His demons, the reign of God had truly come:
But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:28)
As Robert Stein makes clear:
‘According to this text, Jesus saw in his healing of the demoniacs a proof that the kingdom of God had in fact come in his ministry. It had not just come near but was already a present reality.’ (The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teaching)
Christ, the King, came delivering people from demonic oppression and this was a demonstration of the reality of the kingdom of God in their midst. The kingdom is one of power and it was the Son of God who walked in the fullness of God’s power.
‘As mediator of the kingdom he [Jesus] was the means of bringing men under the saving sovereignty of God now, of permitting them to experience its blessings now.’ (G.R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God)
Thus, to summarise, if it is at all not clear, there is no doubt the kingdom had truly arrived in Jesus Christ. He was the Messiah-King, the divine incarnate Son, who stepped into human history bringing the rule and reign of God. It’s not that God was not already ruling over all things (as we saw in my thoughts on the kingdom in the Old Testament). But Jesus arrived with the greatest revelation of God’s kingdom rule as had yet been expressed. And it was the King and His kingdom that came to reveal the will of God, the righteousness of God and the power of God.
I’ll pick up some thoughts on the kingdom post-resurrection in the next article. And, for those who think I might be too over the top in the present reality of the kingdom of God, give me some time to lay out more in coming articles.