When does the kingdom come?
I understand the kingdom to be God’s activity in the world, and so I think God’s kingdom came with creation. God reigns as king over all (Ps 97:1). However God’s kingship was rejected in the fall and the ongoing sinfulness of humanity ever since. God re-established his kingship with the people of Israel (Is 43:15) and installed human kings (or ‘regents’) to act as leaders of God’s kingdom on God’s behalf (1 Samuel 10:1). However God always had a better kingship planned. Daniel (7:13-14) looks forward to a better eternal kingdom with a king reigning with all power and authority. It is Jesus’ incarnation that inaugurates this full and final kingdom period – which we might distinguish as the kingdom of Jesus. Matthew ch1 shows Jesus arriving on the scene as the Christ king from the line of David. Jesus himself announces in Mark 1:15 that the Kingdom of God is now near, in time and space, in Jesus’ physical presence, and in his death and resurrection, as historical events in the world. As Blomberg puts it, the kingdom that comes with Jesus is “the in-breaking of God into history to realize his redemptive purposes”. Jesus appears to have come more completely into his kingdom after his death (Luke 23:42-43). So the kingdom came in the past in creation, but was re-inaugurated in the incarnation of Christ, and will be completely established in the future (the kingdom is clearly still growing i.e. Matt 13), in new creation (Rev 21-22) – from one garden (Gen 2) to another (Rev 22:1-5). The kingdom is progressively coming through all of human history.
Where is the kingdom?
God’s kingdom is both a reign (subjective experience) and a realm (objective reality). It is an objective reality now in the heavenly realms where God has and always will reign, and will be most objectively real for us in the future when Christ returns, brining his inaugurated reign that he started in his incarnation to completion in the new creation. It is also a subjective experience of God’s reign though as it is entered into through each persons repentance and belief (Mark 1:15). It is manifested through the normal experience and expression of Christian life (Rom 14:17, 1 Cor 4:20). Every believer by virtue of being a follower of Jesus is an outpost or local expression of the kingdom of Jesus. The kingdom has a real place now in this creation then as God’s will is done (Matt 6:10), both subjectively and objectively. The kingdom is corporately embodied in the physical manifestation of the community of believers as the church. More than that, the kingdom of God is the possession of believers (Luke 12:32) and believers proclaim and extend the kingdom through preaching and witnessing to Christ in this world (Acts 1:6-8, 28:30-31).
- Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, 448–452
- Wenham & Walton, Exploring the NT, 170–180
- Graeme Goldsworthy, ‘Kingdom of God’, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 615–620
- Joel Green, ‘Kingdom of God/Heaven’, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (2nd ed.), 468–481