Thursday, June 20, 2013

Citizens of the Kindom

When is the Kingdom of God? And does it matter? Some see it as being primarily in the present time; others see it as being primarily in the future (frequently connecting it with the millennium). Those who see it as being primarily now can end up emphasizing building a Christian society in the present time. Those who see it as being primarily future can end up seeing the present time as something we need to withdraw from and escape. But what do the Scriptures say?

What I find interesting is that people on both sides end up making some concessions to the other view. Those who hold the kingdom is yet future find it hard not to interpret some passages as referring to the present day, commonly calling it the kingdom in mystery form (Matthew 13:24-46; Luke 17:20,21; 1 Corinthians 4:19,20). Those who hold that the kingdom is here and now are forced to admit there is a greater realization coming in the future (Matthew 8:11,12. Acts 1:6,7; 2 Timothy 4:18). But then both attempt to interpret as many passages as possible to fit their viewpoint, even if it not the obvious way to understand them. But if we see the kingdom as starting to break in at the first coming, but nonetheless only being fully realized at the second coming, it fits all the data.

We can then interpret the passages involved in their most natural meaning, because both timings for the kingdom are true in their own way. We do not have to come up with complicated ways to get around the obvious meaning of the passages that say the kingdom is at hand (Matthew 4:17; 10:7; Luke 11:20). Nor will we be forced to somehow totally reinterpret the Old Testament promises of peace and prosperity to apply to the present day (Isaiah 11:6-10; 65:17-25; Amos 9:11-15). Further, full credit is given to the fact that the kingdom is not just the present time or just the millennium, but forever, with war never being learned again. (Daniel 7:27; Isaiah 2:1-4; Luke 1:33). Now one of the chief things said about the millennium is that it ends in a war (Revelation 20:1-10).  I do believe in a millennium, because it seems the most straightforward way to interpret this passage. But I do not believe the kingdom of God can be confined to that period.

What I would conclude is that there is a sense in which we should work to build God's kingdom in the present day. But it is also true we will never be fully successful until Christ Himself intervenes to bring about His kingdom in full measure. We should neither be totally withdrawn from this present world nor set our hopes in it. It is only the actual intervention of God that will set things right. But we are called to do what we can to make this earth reflect the one that is to come.

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