In the last three articles on the topic of the kingdom of God, I presented the New Testament reality that the rule of God is actually here: through Jesus’ life and ministry (click here), through Jesus’ reign following His resurrection and ascension (click here), and through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit in and through the lives of believers (click here).
Though the church will do very well to recognise that the kingdom rule of God has truly broken into human history, we must also remember that we await a day when it will come in all its fullness. Robert Stein specifically remarks:
‘The passages [specifically in the Gospels] that speak of the kingdom of God as a future reality are even more numerous than the ones that speak of it as a present reality.’ (The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teaching)
Interesting thoughts by Stein. So let’s look at the Gospels and the teachings of Jesus.
21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
The phrase, ‘on that day’, points to a future day of entering the kingdom of God. Yes, we have already, in one sense, entered into the kingdom now (as we saw from John 3:3, 5; Colossians 1:13). But we look forward to that final day when all is completed in Christ.
The future aspect of God’s kingdom is also seen through the parable of the dragnet:
47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50)
There is no doubt that this speaks of a future day when Christ will bring the fullness of everlasting life to His people and judgment on the wicked. We also see something similar in Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25:31-46. It is in that passage that He speaks of the final judgment where the sheep (the righteous) are separated from the goats (the wicked).
Not only was Jesus clear that there was a future day in which His kingdom would come, but we see this throughout the rest of the New Testament as well:
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:22-26)
Here, Paul teaches us that there is a day, ‘at his coming’, when Christ will hand the kingdom back to God the Father ‘after destroying ever rule and every authority and power.’ Even more, the phrase in vs25, ‘For he must reign until…’, teaches that Christ is reigning right now, but we await that final triumph at His second coming. Specifically the word ‘until’ denotes that something is currently taking place but there is more to accomplish.
Another passage to consider, which I mentioned in a previous article is:
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
The knees of the church have bowed and the tongues of God’s people have confessed that Christ is Lord. We recognise His Kingship! But, in this passage, Paul teaches that there will be a day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. This is not teaching that all will be saved. Rather, both believers and unbelievers alike will recognise Christ as the great King when they see Him come in all His power and glory. Yet, the distinguishing factor will be that believers will do this with great joy while unbelievers will do so out of great anguish.
Finally, Peter goes on to say it this way:
10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:10-11)
Suffice it to say, though we have tasted of Christ’s kingdom reign now, we patiently await that day when He will return to judge all evil and establish the full reality of His kingdom rule in the earth. This is the day all the sons and daughters of God, and even all creation, long for. But, with the great patience of God being displayed as His Son awaits to return, we shall continue with proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, seeing people reconciled to their Creator. What a privilege and what a challenge!
Click here to read on in regards to the tension between the the present age and the age to come.