The “Already” and “Not Yet” of the Kingdom of God

After Jesus’ baptism and period of temptation for forty days in the wilderness, Christ begins his public teaching and preaching ministry. Mark writes,
  • Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:14,15).
Notice in this text a reference to the words gospel and kingdom of God. In the kingdom of God, the good news was communicated by Christ and people were expected to believe this good news by faith. They were expected to turn to God and put their faith in the words of Christ. Christ taught; He communicated for three years—message after message, lesson after lesson all about the kingdom of God.

Yet, today perhaps we have thought too much about the kingdom to come and not considered the present kingdom enough. So when I began to study the NT concerning the “kingdom of God,” I was amazed at what I found. I, too, have been guilty of thinking “kingdom” is futuristic. When I looked at the numerous references to “kingdom” throughout the twenty-seven canonical books of the NT, I realized that the apostles continued the message of the gospel of the kingdom of God. I don’t think they were locked into a thinking of the kingdom as a time when Christ rules in David’s stead for 1,000 years. No. Instead they understood the kingdom of God was the reign of God in the people of God which would culminate into the full and complete reign of Christ on this earth—but the kingdom of God was being established present day.

I need to understand that the kingdom of God has both an “already present” and a “not yet” futuristic aspect to it. As a born again believer, I am in the kingdom of God and the kingdom of God is in me. The reality is in the present world in which I live, there are multiple kingdoms of men competing with the kingdom of God. The god of the world is the ultimate leader for the kingdoms of men, and all those who are not in the kingdom of God are citizens of the kingdom of this world. The fact is you are either in the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan. You may say “No I am not—I am a ________ (any religion)”, but the truth is those false religions are just a fraud to deceive you. In the present world, there are parallel kingdoms existing. They both exist simultaneously on the same planet and God sovereignly reigns in both but permits man to choose what kingdom he will live in for all eternity.

There are nearly 200 references to this idea of “kingdom” in the NT. The kingdom of God is referred to as the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of the Lord, the kingdom of his dear son and more. These are not different aspects of the kingdom of God but simply various ways of referring to the same kingdom where the one true God exists as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The kingdom of God is the reign of God, and this reign occurs first in the hearts of those who are truly converted. This is not to say that those who are converts always obey the king, but they share a similar objective, which is to allow the reign of God to occur in their lives. Their lives are not characterized by disobedience to the kingdom. The kingdom of God then expands into the marriages and families of those who are members of the kingdom. Then the reign of God can be seen in the body of Christ, in those churches, whose head is King Jesus. Finally, the reign of God exists on the planet, for God has not given up His control to intervene and limit the god of this world as He sees fit.

The resurrection of Christ is the greatest evidence that the reign of God exists on the planet. When the God of the universe can come to the kingdom of men and subject himself to all that man experiences living on the earth and can still be victorious over sin, death and ultimately over Satan, you know God still sovereignly reigns. Think about what Nebuchadnezzar had to learn.

And they shall drive thee [King Nebuchadnezzar] from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will (Daniel 4:32).

Luke 17:21 tells me that the kingdom of God is within me, and John reports that Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world and “now” is not from here (18:36). So I conclude that the kingdom of God already exists in me, and the kingdom of God will be on this planet in the future, for Christ left that door wide open with his remark “now is not from here” which certainly implies the possibility that it is only temporarily not from here.

In Matthew 24:44, Jesus plainly stated that the good news of the kingdom would be preached throughout the world as a witness unto all the nations, and then the end would come. So I should not be surprised when I find the bookends of the book of Acts to be the same message. In Acts 1:3, Luke states that Jesus “showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Notice what Jesus spent forty days instructing the apostles about—“things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”

Then when I turn to the end of the book of Acts, I find the same thing. The very last verse of the Acts of the Apostles and Luke concludes with Paul’s ministry. He writes concerning Paul’s ministry that he focused upon “Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” That’s it. Luke opens with the “kingdom of God” and Luke closes with the “kingdom of God.” Therefore, my single focus must be upon the reign of God in my life, in my family’s life, in the church’s life and ultimately globally.

Christians are often guilty of thinking that they have a religion just like Muslims have a religion, but that is not how we should think. Instead, we must realize we are the people of God. We are the only people of God, and we are members of the kingdom of God with a mission and message from the King! Everything else is secondary to that. I have brothers and sisters—fellow members of the same kingdom—strategically located throughout the entire globe. They are not my enemies because they are in China. On the contrary, if they are part of the kingdom of God, they are my brothers in Christ—citizens of the same kingdom.

If you can’t see this, you are not born again. Jesus said very plainly and with emphasis designed to get a religious Jew’s attention “truly, truly, I say unto you except a man (or woman) be born again he (or she) can’t see the kingdom of God”. They can’t see it and they can’t enter it. Jesus said:
  • For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).
  • Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 7:21).
  • And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).
  • And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24).  
Paul understands this in the same way; he repeatedly addresses the kingdom of God. Jesus made it clear that man cannot serve two masters. He will love the one and hate the other. And then as though he was talking to American Christianity, he speaks very directly about loving God or money (Matthew 6:24).

In the same sermon, he tells us (members of the kingdom) to seek the kingdom first. “But seek you first the kingdom of God” is what he says. I am to make seeking the kingdom of God my first priority. I need to want the rule and reign of Christ to expand globally by the conversion of one disciple at a time through the power of the gospel.

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