As a part of my Kingdom Series of blogs, which can be found here and here, we have been taking an intentional look at the Kingdom of God and what implications it has for our lives. In this blog, we will ask, when does this Kingdom come about?
The short answer is:
When Jesus first started teaching about the Kingdom of God, he would tell people that it was ἤγγικεν. That term is translated as “has come near.” Note that it is not has come, will come, is coming, is here, or has already been coming. Think of it not as the kingdom is on its way, but the Kingdom has come close to you.
Apparently, the pharisees were confused by this as well, so they asked him when this kingdom would come. Jesus responded, saying, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 7:21).
You may be looking around right now and saying to yourself," I don’t see the Kingdom of God." You raise a valid point. In the Kingdom of God, everything would be perfect. Everything would be exactly as the King desires it to be, and our world does not currently operate that way. You perceive correctly!
I believe that what Jesus was saying is that the Kingdom is brought about by his coming, victorious and confirmed at his death and resurrection, and will come to fullness at the end of time.
Since Jesus often spoke of this Kingdom in metaphors, I thought I would try my hand at it. Here are three metaphors that can help us understand the meaning of this now/not yet of the Kingdom.
The Kingdom has been inaugurated but has not yet taken office. It is accepted that it is the winning party, but we live in the time before it has fully taken effect. The important thing to recognize from this metaphor is that Jesus is already victorious. The incumbent kingdom of sin, death, and hell has already been beaten. It was beaten at the cross. We still await when this victorious king will take his throne.
Gift from Grandma
On Christmas, my grandparents would always come over and bring us presents. I remember we would run out to the car and “help them unload.” What we were really doing is seeing which boxes and bags had our name on them. Even though we knew that we would be opening them soon, we felt such great joy at knowing what was coming. If we follow Christ and have joined his Kingdom, we already have the “present” of knowing that we are a part of the Kingdom, but we haven’t unwrapped it yet. That comes at the end of time. I like this metaphor because it reminds me that I have great joy in the anticipation of the Kingdom and that no matter how good I presume this Kingdom to be, it will exceed my expectations.
Jesus often used wedding feasts as a means by which to convey his message. There is even one where he describes the Kingdom of God as a wedding feast where invited guests reject the invitation and the party is ultimately populated by unlikely people who were rounded up off the street. I think we live in the engagement phase of the Kingdom of God. We are committed to it and there is so much joy and excitement. In fact, our lives become fixated on and defined by the coming celebration like a bride-to-be. The question has been popped and accepted. Our only task now is to prepare ourselves. This is true of the kingdom as well. We live in engaged excitement. Our job as we wait out this kingdom is to prepare ourselves to be a part of it (for more info on this idea, check out my upcoming blog "Kingdom Citizenship").
Our task, then, is to live in the now in light of the not yet. We fully embrace the now, knowing the not yet is already accomplished. We recognize that we are in the now, but we belong in the not yet.
Live in the Kingdom now in such a way that will prepare yourself for and point others towards the not yet.