The Kingdom of God is a key theme Jesus taught in the New Testament. The word Kingdom appears 162 times and is predominant in the synoptic gospel of Matthew. Oxford scholar R.T. France states: “Some scholars see it as a Christian lifestyle, some as a method of world evangelization, some as the rediscovery of charismatic gifts, others relate it to no present or future situation, but the world to come.” I believe the Kingdom of God is a phrase used to describe both the present state in believers and the future state. In theology, scholars call this “the already not yet.”
The “already not yet” concept was first proposed in the 1950s by George Ladd, professor of biblical theology at Fuller Seminary. He argued for two meanings concerning the Kingdom of God. First, he said the kingdom of God is “God’s authority and right to rule.” Second, he reasoned that God exercises authority, both in the present and as one which will be entered in the future. This is where the phrase “already not yet” came from. God’s Kingdom is being lived out now by those who follow His Kingship, and one day the whole world will be confronted with this Kingdom that will reign indefinitely.
Jesus described the Kingdom of God as being in the world but not of the world (John 18:36). Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, and Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is,’ because the Kingdom of God is in your midst (Luke 17:20-21). Jesus commanded that the religious leader Nicodemus must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. This is not a physical birth but a spiritual one, (John 3:5) marked by repentance and faith. Once a believer repents and believes in the gospel (Rom. 8:16), He is commissioned to herald the news about the Kingdom of God to every tribe, tongue, and nation.
What is the message? All humans have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3). Because of our rebellion against the Creator, we deserve His just judgment of eternal condemnation (Rev. 20). But through God’s infinite mercy and grace, he sent his Son (John 3:16) to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). If we confess our sins, trust in the righteousness of Christ, recognizing that it is a free gift that can’t be earned (Eph 2:8-9), we become adopted into His Kingdom and reign with him forevermore.
Not only are believers to herald the message concerning the Kingdom of God (2 Cor. 5:20), but they are to do so with love and action. James states that “faith without works is dead (James 2:14).” When Jesus brought the Kingdom of God, He not only taught theological truths through parables but He put faith into practice, healing the lepers, giving eyesight to the blind, and caring for those who had been abused or rejected by society (Matt. 8:2-4; Mark 1:40; Luke 5:12-14). As Christians, our mission is to cultivate the fruits of the spirit (Gal. 5:20) and be the light of the world, a city on top of a hill, performing acts of justice to the people of the Earth (James 1:27; 2 peter 3:11-18). The Kingdom of God is a present reality for those who have been born again and is an eschatological hope—when Jesus comes back and destroys evil forevermore.
When Jesus comes back, He will establish a Kingdom made of gold, silver, bronze, and iron (Isa. 60:15-22). This implies security and stability. No longer will wars breakout because it is everlasting. In Revelation the city is described as being made of precious gems (Rev. 21:18-21), which implies it’s permanence. The sun and the moon will not be necessary because God’s presence in the city is all the light needs (Rev. 21:23).
This city will also possess restored shalom (peace) and righteousness. There will be no violence, ruin, or destruction from neighboring enemies. All of the enemies will be destroyed at the Great White Throne Judgment and cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20). The city will thrive by honest gain and not through political or ethical corruption. No longer will there be quarrels among the diversity of people, but every tribe, tongue, and nation will agree in unison to follow God’s commands as the Sovereign Ruler of this eternal nation.
Are you living for God’s kingdom or yours, storing up treasures in heaven or on the Earth? What can you do today to live for God’s Kingdom? Does it excite you that God’s Kingdom will establish righteousness and justice for all the nations? Let us pray that His Kingdom come, His will be done, in Earth as it is in Heaven–Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Ladd, George Eldon The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God (Eerdmans Publishing, 1959).
Stanley Granz, Theology for the Community of God
David Turner, Matthew (Baker Academic Press, 2008), p. 37