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Insight #226 — Kingdom of God: Already; Not Yet

Is the Kingdom of God present today, or is it something yet to be established in the future? Both! Will the Kingdom of God survive for a thousand years, two thousand years, or for ever? For ever!

Daniel 2:44 predicted that God’s Kingdom would be set up during “the days of these kings,” speaking of the fourth empire, which history shows was Rome. Jesus came during the Roman Empire, preaching: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). Later, Jesus told His disciples: “There be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1). It all points to God’s Kingdom being established in the first century.

Later in the first century, Paul told the Christians that the Father “has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13). They were already in the kingdom. John, in Rev. 1:9 confirmed it, saying: “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom.” Any interpretation of the book of Revelation must take into account that John and the other Christians were already in tribulation and in the kingdom.

Many who read these Insights have long understood this truth: namely, that the Kingdom of God is here now, and that Jesus’ church is the Kingdom of God. Even Tim LaHaye, the staunch futurist and co-author of the Left Behind series, says of Jesus: “He came the first time to establish a spiritual kingdom, to which one gains entrance by being born again” (“Revelation Unveiled,” pg. 265). Amen!

However, some of us are so convinced of this truth that we miss the Scriptures which speak of the Kingdom as something yet in the future. The account of the judgment of the sheep and goats is an example: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). The account ends with these words: “These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (25:46). This text deals with the final judgment and eternity. “Life eternal” is called “the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

In the great resurrection chapter, Paul told the Corinthians: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50). Obviously, this is speaking of the kingdom as something in the future, after the resurrection. In Acts 14:22, Paul told Christian brethren: “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Later, Paul told Timothy: “The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18). Also, 2 Peter 1:11 says: “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Such texts clearly speak of the kingdom as something future. The future kingdom is referred to as both heavenly and eternal (neither earthly nor millennial). These texts thus agree with the prophecy of Daniel: “the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed:.. it shall stand for ever” (2:44). The angel Gabriel told Mary the same thing: “of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:33).

If we take just some texts, we can prove that the kingdom is here now. If we take a limited number of other texts we can prove that the kingdom is in the future. But if we deal with the subject correctly, by considering all that Scripture has to say on the matter, we have to conclude that the kingdom is now here in one sense and yet future in another sense. Call it “two phases” of the same kingdom, or however you want to describe or explain it, both truths must be accepted. The Kingdom of God has already been established; but we await a future far more glorious phase of the Kingdom. That’s how I see it. How about you?