Some well-meaning teachers have declared (in opposition to the “Kingdom Now” or “Dominion Theology” views) that the Kingdom of God does not presently exist and will not exist until Jesus returns to establish it.
If you are not familiar with Kingdom Now (or the similar Dominion Theology) adherents, they believe that we can usher in the Kingdom of God by political action and changes in law, or that it can “believed” or “prayed” into existence. They hold that Christians will transform society on on world-wide scale, with sin and sickness decreasing, and that Heaven-like conditions will exist on earth prior to the return of Christ.
But is it entirely one or the other? The world will become an earthly paradise before Jesus returns OR that the Kingdom of God is entirely future? What does scripture say? We find that Jesus indeed speaks of the Kingdom of God in the present tense, for example:
Matthew 12:28, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.“
Mark 1:15, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
We certainly ARE in the Kingdom of God if we belong to Him by faith. We are His hands and feet, we bring His kingdom to our lost world wherever we go, as we walk in His Spirit. This is what God has always been after–even Israel was to be YHWH’s representative on earth. Jesus was stern with the Jews and national Israel when He said:
Matthew 21:43, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.”
Jesus told Peter that he should forgive not just seven times but seventy times seven, which is too much of a coincidence for Jesus not to be recalling the Daniel 9 prophecy that it would be 70 “weeks” (literally “sevens”), or 490 years, until the coming of Messiah and the ultimate fulfillment of the temple sacrifices, after which desolation would be brought on the Jerusalem temple. I believe the verse above complements the view that the 490 years represent the extent of God’s tolerance with national Israel for repentance. The Kingdom of God is a present reality, on some level, whose fruit needs to be produced. The Jewish nation after corporately rejecting Christ would no longer be the means of executing its authority and prerogatives–this was being transferred to a primarily, but of course not exclusively, Gentile ekklesia (translated “church” in English).
But that’s somewhat of a bunny trail–returning to our present discussion, Jesus shows that the Kingdom of God existed presently during His day and would continue to exist going forward. Particularly deadly to the view that the Kingdom of God is exclusively future beginning with the millennial reign of Jesus, is the following:
Luke 17:20, 21,“Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
If its not coming with “signs to be observed”, i.e., the sun and moon darkened, then we do not have to wait until after the tribulation for it to appear. It is wherever Jesus’ followers are.
On the other hand, Jesus also makes clear that the Kingdom’s full reality is not yet here:
Luke 21:31, “So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.”
Luke 22:16, “for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Luke 22:18,“for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.”
Jesus doesn’t promise a Utopia–He said “in this world you have tribulation”. Thankfully He added “but take courage; I have overcome the world.” This world will not gradually become “Christianized.” Unfortunately we have to be content with the understanding that we are in the Kingdom of God and that we bring the Kingdom of God near to whoever we engage (I suppose if we are walking in the Spirit; if in the flesh, not so much), but that its full reality will not appear until “YHWH Saves” stands personally on the earth.