What Jesus accomplished during His earthly sojourn 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 into everlasting glory and bliss. Then, in a new heavens and new earth, they will dwell with Him in 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 “then and there” 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 of the Lord (Ps. 84). It is a place of unutterable 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” reality, that which is to be sought above, within, and through everything else in our lives.
We see this in the way that Jesus declared the Kingdom of God to be “at hand” or “near” or even “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. He declared that the promised latter rains had begun to fall, and the storm of judgment was at hand. 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 in order 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 “then and there” 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 the Kingdom is both “here and now” as well as “then and there.”
How much does the “then and there” aspect of the Kingdom inform the way you live in the here and now? Talk with some Christian friends about this question.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.