The Kingdom Presence: New Testament (3)
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4.17
Undoubtedly Jesus had the clearest vision of the Kingdom of God of all the Kingdom visionaries we’ve seen or will see. With Him—both in His teaching and His life—the rule of God for righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit is more present than at any previous period of Scripture. We have already observed that Jesus regarded the Kingdom as of the highest priority for His followers. We are to seek first the Kingdom, not as the first in a series, but the first in everything we do.
It is clear, this is what Jesus did. It is also clear, this is what Jesus taught. What Jesus accomplished during His earthly sojourn—in His life and by His words—was but a foretaste of what He would do following His resurrection and, ultimately, His return in glory.
The full and final unfolding of the Kingdom of God awaits the day of Christ’s return. That stage of the Kingdom begins with the gathering of all God’s elect—those who are asleep and those who yet remain (Matt. 24.29-31; 13.36-43). Then, together with Him, His chosen people will return to overthrow the last remaining enemies of God and, passing through the judgment of the Lord, enter everlasting glory and bliss with Him. Then, in a new heavens and new earth, they will dwell with Him in the fullness of His Kingdom forever (Rev. 19.6-21; 1 Thess. 4.13-17).
In the Kingdom which is coming, Jesus’ followers will reside with Him in His Father’s house, in dwellings specially prepared for them by Jesus (Jn. 14.1-3). There they will share in the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, for they will see Jesus as He is and will be like Him (Jn. 17.20-24; 1 Jn. 3.2).
The Kingdom which is “there and then” will be without sorrow, pain, mourning, or sin (Rev. 21.3, 4). He Who is making all things new will abundantly provide for His citizens then—living water without payment (Rev. 21.6) and the indescribable joy and pleasure of being in the Presence of God without obstruction or interruption (Rev. 21.7; cf. Ps. 16.11). The saints of God will feast eternally with their King and rule with Him in perfect righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Lk. 22.28, 29).
In the new heavens and new earth, the citizens of Christ’s coming Kingdom will realize their full potential and God’s original design in a world of perfect but ever-increasing beauty, goodness, and truth.
This is the Kingdom and City to come, to which all are journeying who have been redeemed by the Lord (Ps. 84). It is a place of infinite and indescribable beauty, bounty, and brilliance (Rev. 21, 22), and it is the hope of all who follow Jesus in this life.
Jesus saw this hope spread out before Him throughout the course of His earthly ministry. By focusing on it and never losing sight of the Kingdom to come, Jesus was able to run His race, despising the cross and the shame, to sit down at the right hand of the Majesty on High (Heb. 12.1, 2; Ps. 22).
This is the same hope toward which we press as His followers.
But the Kingdom of God, as Jesus envisioned it, was not simply for then and there. Jesus announced a Kingdom that had come. His preaching and teaching lead us to understand that the Kingdom is very much a “here and now” presence, that which is to be sought above, within, and through everything else in our lives.
We see this in the way Jesus declared the Kingdom of God to be “at hand” or “near” or even “within you” or “in your midst.” Jesus made it clear that the long-awaited reign of God had come to earth in the Person of its Heir- apparent—“Him Whose It Is” (Shiloh, Gen. 49.8-10). In His preaching and miracles, Jesus heralded the new day which the prophets had foreseen. And He did so from the very outset of His ministry: “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.’
Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’” (Lk. 4.16-21). He declared that the promised blessings had begun to fall. Jesus called on all who heard Him to make themselves ready through repentance and new birth to enter this new reality which had come to earth with Him.
By casting out demons Jesus particularly showed that the centuries-long reign of the father of lies had come to an end. He had come to bind the strong man, and now, with the bringing near of His own reign, Jesus began to plunder the devil’s holdings to fill up His own Kingdom according to the wisdom and power of God (Matt. 12.22-29). Jesus insisted that some of those who listened to His preaching would not taste death before they had seen the Kingdom of God coming among them (Lk. 9.27). The idea that the Kingdom of God is merely a “there and then” phenomenon, something postponed for after His return, is not consistent with what Jesus taught or the expectations He held out for His followers concerning their own lifetimes.
So, while we look forward to a full and glorious manifestation of the Kingdom, and of our place in it, in the new heavens and new earth, now, in the present, we must seek to lay hold on that Kingdom as our highest priority in life. For as Jesus made clear, the Kingdom is both “here and now” and “there and then.”
For reflection or discussion
1. What should be your approach to the “there and then” aspect of the Kingdom of God?
2. How about the “here and now”?
3. Jesus said the Kingdom of God was Good News. Why? What makes it so good?
Next steps—Preparation: How much does the “there and then” aspect of the Kingdom inform the way you live in the “here and now”? What does your “here and now” seeking of the Kingdom say about its “there and then” promise?
T. M. Moore
A companion book to this study of “The Kingdom Presence” is available at our bookstore. Listen to an excerpt from The Kingdom Turn, by clicking here. Then order your free copy.
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study.