The Practical Reality of the Kingdom (Part 2)

In the last post, I tried to step away from just theological jibber-jabber and really pen some words that made more practical sense in regards to the kingdom of God. In doing so, I stressed that the kingdom is here. It has broken into history and, thus, our lives, and will continue to do so until Christ consummates everything at the end. Such truth gives us hope to continue in steadfastness and pray, ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ (Matthew 6:33).

When trials and tribulations and difficulties and hurt and disappointments come, and they will come, we can know that Jesus is still King, still seated at the right hand of the Father ruling over all heaven and earth, and He can move in our situations for His great glory.

While my heart has always been to emphasise this aspect of the kingdom of God, I know it is not the only reality. We proclaim God’s reign and rule on earth as it is in heaven, but when we look around, we can, so many times, see something completely different. This world is very, very broken.

I like crime shows. I think it’s because I am a detail kind of guy and, so, forensics has always been interesting to me. Therefore, I watch a couple of the CSI series and I will frequently try and catch a Criminal Minds episode.

Criminal Minds is specifically about the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit being called upon to solve crimes. The crimes they are usually involved with are those of a more serial, psychopathic nature. By viewing the evidence of the crime scenes and everything else forensically related, they are able to determine what kind of person they are dealing with and how they can best catch the criminal.

This past Saturday, my wife and I watched an episode of Criminal Minds as we enjoyed a very leisurely morning. The plot was that of a husband and wife who had been accused of murdering multiple teenagers. In all of the killings, the most heinous of crimes they were accused of was the murder of their own son. It had been some 12 years since he had gone missing and, knowing the nature of the two, it was all but certain that they had murdered their own son. They were, now, on death-row waiting their execution by electric chair, which was only a few days away.

But, as one of the agents, Gideon, began to dig a little deeper, also having conversations with the wife, it became more and more obvious that she had never actually been an accomplice with her husband in the murders. Even more, though the wife would never admit to such, the light began to show forth to Gideon that the son was still alive.

Gideon spent days trying to convince the mother to confess her innocence of the murders and tell them where her son was. This would keep her from the execution and would also culminate with the reuniting of the mother and son. Such news could only be good news.

Unfortunately, fear would be the factor that would divert her from such a confession. Her decisions were being dictated by such an enemy. The mother was afraid that, if the father found out the son was still alive, he would have him murdered in the end. The fear seemed irrational, since the father was in jail and was being put to death in only a few days. But she was consumed by it.

After the father was electrocuted, the mother was to follow one hour later. Even as she walked down the prison corridor (the ‘green mile’) towards the chair, Gideon was still there holding on to the hope that the mother would let them know where her son. This would be part of the evidence needed to prove her innocence. Yet, she could not do it. She would not budge. Though she was actually innocent, she felt that the stain of her and her husband’s legacy would still be a chain upon the boy’s life.

She asked Gideon to be there with her in the room as she was executed. And, so, the mother walked into room of execution, sat down in the chair, let herself be strapped in and then the switch was flipped. Her life was no more.

When the episode ended, all I could think was, ‘Where was the justice?’ It was right there in her grasp. But she did not want it. I didn’t ask the question in anger but rather out of sorrow and pain. Though it was only a show, my heart was gripped with pain and anguish. This was probably due to the fact that I know these kind of things actually do happen in real life. Tears began to well up in my eyes.

And that is the reality of today. We live in a world that, though it was created good and humans still maintain the image of God despite the Fall, there is so much hurt and brokenness and tragedy. All one has to do to realise such is take a few moments and look around. Our world is riddled with sin, sickness, disease, injustice, ungodliness, pain, hurt and tragedy upon tragedy. Though we have found Christ and His kingdom, we still find ourselves repeating some kind of refrain like Bono: But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

This, my friends, is the reality of the kingdom not yet. This is the reality that we still await a day, that final day when Jesus Himself will step off His throne for just a moment to come and make all things right. It will be a day when all sin is dealt with fully and finally, evil will be conquered, death will be defeated, righteousness will be fully restored and we will feast at the marriage supper.

One very familiar writer stated it this way:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

So, until that day comes life will hurt, life will sting, life will be difficult. It’s not that we are called to have some kind of defeated view about our situations and circumstances. But we are called to consider real life. And real life will mean real hurts and real trials and real brokenness. For those who would ever deny are either deceived or simply not willing to deal with reality. This is why the health and wealth gospel becomes so poisonous. It presents a picture that is not fully attainable in what the Bible calls this present evil age.

Though the strain is still there and the tears still fall, let this be something that pushes us to continue to pray for His kingdom to fully and finally come. Let us be a people that are, in Him, steadfast, enduring, patient and hopeful. Even though the world may teeter and totter when financial crises hit, or a loved one dies, or injustice is served, the people have God can stand upon the solid foundation of Christ and His kingdom.

I have recently found these words of Paul to Timothy quite comforting:

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8)

Let us long for that day, that day when He appears and makes all things right.

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

 

The Kingdom of God Not Yet Come

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.