The Presence of the Kingdom: The New Testament (12)
And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1.22, 23
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:
“When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) Ephesians 4.7-10
For the apostles, the Kingdom was centered “above,” where Christ is seated in the heavenly places in glory. At the same time, He has given His Kingdom to His saints to enter, seek, and advance. The Kingdom exists beyond our present and within us at the same time. The “beyondness” of the Kingdom of God consists of two aspects, according to the apostles.
First is the fact that the Kingdom is unfolding from within a spiritual realm which lies beyond the reach of our physical senses. If we would understand the protocols and promise of the Kingdom and draw on its resources and power for daily living, we must learn to “see” the rule of King Jesus with the eyes of the heart, by faith, and not by sight (Eph. 1.15-23). We must develop the ability to live in the then and there, here and now. This is entirely a matter of grace.
Our duty is to search the Scriptures to gather and assemble the many images and teachings about the unseen realm and how we must “view” it. We seek the Kingdom of God as we set our minds on these things and conduct all our daily work with a view to serving as ambassadors of the risen Christ (Col. 3.1-3; 2 Cor. 5.17-21). We do not see Jesus now, at least, not with the eyes of the flesh; nevertheless, we love and adore Him because we “see” Him by faith, as He reveals Himself to us in His Word, and we live from within the framework of what we thus see and know to be true (1 Pet. 1.8, 9).
We know that, beyond this present material world, we are surrounded by a cloud of faithful witnesses, whose lives we emulate and whose hope we share, and thus we desire to be like them—faithful servants in the Kingdom. They have gone before us into the “beyondness” of the Kingdom, and we now have entered that same “beyondness” as sons and daughters and heirs (Heb. 12.1, 2; Lk. 12.41-48).
Second, the Kingdom is “beyond” us because it is still to come, increasing daily on earth and in its perfection and full glory when Jesus returns to consummate His work of redemption (Rev. 19-22). There is more to the Kingdom and our salvation than we will ever be able to realize in this life. Yet we strive for more of whatever Kingdom presence we may know.
We understand that this world is not our permanent place of abode and that we are on a journey culminating in a new heavens and new earth (2 Pet. 3.8-14). This being so, we live toward the coming of the unseen Kingdom, daily striving, through God’s Word and Spirit, to become transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, Whom we shall one day see face to face (2 Cor. 3.12-18; 1 Jn. 3.1-3), and to realize more of the presence, promise, and power of His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6.10).
The Kingdom of God exists beyond us—ontologically and temporally—and it is our calling to seek that Kingdom, both as it presently exists in the unseen realm and as it shall come to be increasingly on earth and finally upon the Lord’s return in glory. The “beyondness” of the Kingdom makes of our lives a perpetual seeking to enter the Kingdom in greater fullness, beginning within our own lives.
The Kingdom within
The apostles understood, as Jesus declared, that the Kingdom of God is within us, and we exist within it. It is a realm of true and transforming spiritual power (1 Cor. 4.20) where Jesus Christ is making new all those who come to Him in faith and follow in His holy and righteous and good way, according to the Law of God (Matt. 5.17-19).
The Kingdom is within us, and, by the Spirit and Word of God, the Lord brings forth in us the fruit of righteousness, peace, and joy, which honors God and brings abundant benefit to men (Rom. 4.17-19). We expect to see more evidence of the Kingdom in us—the fruit of the Spirit, the tokens of love, the virtues of holiness, and a soul increasingly devoted entirely to Christ—and to demonstrate more of the Kingdom’s power by our witness to Christ in the world (Acts 1.8).
Thus the apostles repeatedly urge and remind us, acknowledging that such a way of living is a struggle against spiritual forces determined to destroy us (2 Pet. 3.1-7; Eph. 6.10-20) and wicked men who seek only their own interests rather the glory of God (Rom. 1.18-32; 1 Pet. 4.1-19; 2 Tim. 3.1-13). Entering ever more fully into this Kingdom involves trials and tribulation, leading to perseverance, character, and hope. We can reach more truly into the beyondness of the Kingdom and thus realize more of its withinness as we do. As we are transformed into the likeness of Christ and our churches increase in unity and maturity in Christ, the world will know more of the true Kingdom presence simply because what now is true beyond our world and time is increasing within our world and time.
In short, Jesus is filling the world with Himself.
Living within the Kingdom, we are called to grow as disciples, becoming equipped for the work of ministry so that we might help to grow our churches in unity and maturity unto the Lord (Eph. 4.11-16). The Church is the sign, outpost, and agent of the Kingdom of God, and it is important that she strive always to heed the Word of her King and be faithful in all her Kingdom duties until He returns (Rev. 2, 3).
The apostles do not speak as frequently about the Kingdom as Jesus did, or even as much of the Old Testament does. But it was always there, in their lives and ministries. What patriarchs and prophets only foresaw, and what Jesus anticipated, embodied, and proclaimed, the apostles—and we as their spiritual offspring—now realize day by day as we meditate on, seek, and live in the power of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, which is coming on earth as it is in heaven.
We work and expect, therefore, more of the majestic fullness of the Kingdom beyond to become increasingly the daily reality within us and within our times as Jesus continues to fill us and the world.
For reflection or discussion
1. In what senses does the Kingdom of God exist “beyond” us?
2. What do we mean by saying the Kingdom presence is “within” us?
3. What is Jesus working to do through the presence of His Kingdom?
Next steps—Transformation: How would you describe your vision of the Kingdom of God at this time? In what ways is this vision affecting your daily walk with and work for the Lord? What can you do to realize more of the “beyondness” of the Kingdom of God?
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. To learn more about the work of Jesus as He sits exalted in glory, order a free copy of our book, What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth? by clicking here.
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