The Kingdom of God: Already and Not Yet
The story of humanity unfolds over this backdrop: God created the cosmos and everything in it, and it was all good. He created humans and they were in fact very good. Then, sin marred it and introduced what Jesus called “This Age”, illustrated below as the Kingdom of Darkness (more properly termed, the “Domain of Darkness”, because the Kingdom of Darkness has no king. It has a prince). 1
A “kingdom”, by the way, means the rule and reign of a sovereign, not a bordered territory. The Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, then, means the rule and reign of God, not another dimension (i.e., God rules and reigns perfectly in heaven).
The promise given by the Prophets after Sin marred everything is that in “The Age to Come” everything would be good again: no sin, no sickness, no death, no problems… Paradise! This is the Kingdom of God, where everything that happens is God’s will, and since God is good and light, it’ll all be perfect. We might call it “heaven on earth.”
In the meantime, the creation and humans’ interaction with it and each other will be a mess.
With Jesus’s first advent, Jesus declared “The Kingdom of God is near;” and then, “The Kingdom of God is here” and “the Kingdom of God is coming.” Sound confusing? Don’t you want to ask Jesus, “Can’t you make up your mind? Which is it? Near? Here? Or future?”
Jesus declared in many ways clearly understood by his audience, both the commoners and the religious elite, that he was God in human form. Not just a good moral teacher. Not just a miracle man. But the God of created everything. He stated God is good, and God is light, and in him there is nothing bad, no evil, no darkness. His moral code was radically different than what even the Jews believed, based on their sacred scriptures, the Hebrew Bible.
The author of the Book of Hebrews explained that in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament), God spoke through many prophets and in many ways, but what emerged was not a clear picture of God. In Jesus, however, a perfect imprint of God’s nature was revealed, and it revealed that God is good. Jesus shockingly declared that bad things come from either the devil or the working of sin (what he called the “thief”), and good things come from God.
With the onset of his ministry, Jesus announced that the Age to Come was breaking into the present, from the future. It was here now, but not fully here yet. The now and the not yet.
The Kingdom didn’t come like the Jews expected – their worldview was marred by the imperfect picture of God they received in the Old Testament. Jesus’ first command was to “change your worldview, change your perspective on reality” (i.e., repent), because the Kingdom of God was in fact here now! And then Jesus proved the Kingdom had come by healing and saving people, casting out demons, ending injustice, and generally overturning the works of sin and the domain of darkness everywhere he went.
Jesus declared the rule and reign of God was there, and he proved it with his works.
Except the Kingdom wasn’t and isn’t fully here yet, and won’t be until Jesus comes again, as he promised he would.
Until then, we live in the overlapping ages, the tension of the kingdoms, a war zone. When we pray for people for the healing of their sickness, and someone gets healed, the future kingdom has broken into the present: their future bodies are manifesting in the present. (Notice how healing prayer isn’t a function of faith, but of kingdom warfare).
Jesus proved that it is always God’s will to heal. And it’s by his stripes that we are healed, the stripes from the whip that he endured during his execution process. That healing doesn’t always manifest is a function of kingdom warfare.
When we pray for people and they don’t get healed yet, the future did not break in. It’s by Jesus’ stripes that we are healed, but in the case when healing doesn’t happen in the present, they’re already healed in their future state.
Sometimes when people come to Jesus and they’re saved, they’re saved not just from hell in the future after they die but also from their addictions and hurts and bad behaviors right away: you can tell by the radical transformation of their lives. Their future state in the Kingdom has manifested more fully in their lives. Other people get saved, but their lives don’t show such a dramatic change. They show a gradual change over time. They are “working out their salvation” in the present life, although their future life, they are saved. The future hasn’t fully manifested in their present lives yet.
This Kingdom conflict provides the backdrop, the worldview of every spiritual and physical battle that goes on.
From the days of the last prophets in the Old Covenant, “from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” The domain of darkness has the world in its sway, and the Kingdom of God is invading, one person saved/healed, fed, and clothed at a time, slowly expanding, becoming salt on the meat of the planet to preserve and change it, shining as light in the darkness, exposing evil, and overturning the works of evil.
The agents of change are those in the Jesus’ church. Jesus mentioned his church just twice in all four Gospel accounts. In both situations, it was in the context of binding and loosing on earth and in heaven, to bind up evil and loose heaven’s resources: to pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it in in heaven.” The verb tense that Jesus used in those verses indicates that sometimes the binding and loosing comes from heaven first and Jesus’ church cooperates with it. Other times, its the church doing the binding and loosing, according to God’s purposes. The job of Christians is to participate in the binding and loosing, either in initiating it or responding to when God initiates it: to pray God’s Kingdom come, God’s will be done. Amen and amen!
Jesus declared that all authority has been given to him, and then he instructed his followers to go into the world and do what he did. He has authority, and we go, acting as his extensions of who he is, and as such his authority is implemented through us. Not everything has been brought under his subjection yet, but ultimately, it will be when he comes again, ending this Present Age and ushering in fully the Age to Come.
Jesus modeled healing and deliverance, and he rarely did things the same way each time. The power isn’t in the practice but the presence. The healing isn’t in the formula but in the Father, who wills for everyone to be healed and saved. Jesus only what he saw the Father doing, and through the Holy Spirit, he empowers his followers to do the same thing with love and power.
Changing Your Worldview to Match Reality
Many people who are “saved” do not experience the proof that the Kingdom has broken into the present. They don’t experience healing when they pray.
Some prophets and even politicians announce the God will judge America for its sins. These declarations reflect an outdated view of God, a view of God revealed by certain Old Testament prophets, but not of God as revealed in Jesus.
So God Changed?
Am I saying God changed? That the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New? No. What changed is how God related to humanity. God relates to humanity through sacred agreements called “covenants.” In most of the Old Testament, God related through His people through a works-based agreement made between the humans and God. The agreement mandated that God had to bless the humans in a particular nation (Israel) if they did certain things and that God had to curse those same humans if they did certain other things. God admitted this wasn’t a good covenant and he desired a new one.
So Jesus, being both God and Man, fulfilled the requirements of the Old Covenant, and then volunteered to pay the penalty for all who failed or would fail to uphold that agreement, and then he initiated a New Covenant in 30 AD. (God then poured out his wrath on the Old Covenant in 70 AD).
In this new agreement, when people believe in the Lord Jesus by faith, they are sealed in the agreement between Jesus (God the Son, who was also fully Man) and God (the Father). God therefore relates to people in the new agreement differently: through blessing. In this covenant, God forgives all sins, relates to people individually (not through a special priests) and gives people new hearts with his law written on them (instead of trying to follow laws written on stones). This is all done by faith. He doesn’t particularly relate to folks outside the agreement at all, although their sins are forgiven, except in trying to draw people to him. God’s desire is for everyone to accept the forgiveness and be in relationship with him by faith, and in doing so, he makes them new creatures.
God’s is for Love. The Enemy’s for Judgement.
Once, two of Jesus’ disciples were rejected by a town, and they asked Jesus if they should judge that town by calling down fire from heaven, a.k.a. Sodom and Gomorrah.
Jesus rebuked them, and declared they were acting out of a spirit that was not from God. 2 In fact, God did punish that town for their sin, but Jesus volunteered to take that punishment on himself. Jesus paid the penalty that town – and all towns and in fact the whole world- incurred on the Cross. God no longer holds the sins of the world against it. 3
But My Experience Says…
Your experience should not shape your theology or your thinking of what God has promised and declared through scripture. So many people have not experienced the miracles declared in the Bible, so they believe those things aren’t for today. Or they thing God is mad at them (scripture says he isn’t). Or that God’s wrath will be poured out on them (that’s already happened).
Others have seen abuses and errors and hypocrisy and sinful behavior by Christians, and think therefore the Message of God is flawed. No. Messengers are flawed, but the Message is true. Gifts can be abused. That doesn’t devalue the gift, but exposes the errant use.
The biblical account is not meant to limit, but to unleash the power of God against the enemy.
Repeat after me the words of Jesus: The thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy. But I came that they may have life and have it abundantly!
Meditate on that. Think on it until it gets into your brain and renews your mind.
What we experience around us is a perpetual battle that rages between the two kingdoms. Someday, the King will return and permanently end the battle. Until then, we are to occupy and go, sharing the Good News that the Kingdom has come and God no longer is angry at us.
- Sometimes when Jesus talked about ‘This Present Age’, he meant Israel under the Mosaic Covenant, what Christians call the “Old Covenant.” Jesus came to establish a “New Covenant“, and the old one lingered until 70 AD, when Jerusalem, the Temple, the priests and all the records established to maintain the old covenant were destroyed. Literally, the temple elements melted with the heat of the fires, although the New Covenant remains. See this page to read about there terms of the New Covenant between God and humans. ↩
- Luke 9:53-54 ↩
- Colossians 1:20, 2 Corinthians 5:19 ↩