As should be apparent by now to those who follow this blog, I am fascinated with questions about the kingdom of God. Recently, in a sermon preached at Cornerstone, I attempted to narrow the discussion down to five central questions about the kingdom of God. Here they are in summary:
1. What is the coming of the kingdom?
It is the restoration of the mediated rule of God over all creation through man as the image of God. It is the restoration of the dominion blessing first given to Adam but lost through sin. The dominion blessing was later promised to Abraham as a blessing for all nations through his children. Then, the dominion blessing was secured by the crowning of Christ as King of kings through His resurrection and ascension as a glorified man to the throne of God. Finally, the dominion blessing is mediated by the Holy Spirit through the church into all nations culminating in the resurrection as the universal reign of God through Christ and the church in all creation.
2. Where is the kingdom coming?
It is coming in this physical heaven and earth renewed by fire in the resurrection as the new heaven and new earth. It is coming in the real world, in the world where we all live. It will affect every realm of present life as the advance sign of the eternal reign of Christ over the renewed creation. “Thy kingdom come…on earth as it is in heaven.” The gospel of the kingdom is preached in all the cosmos, the entire created order. There is no realm of life, politics, culture and society, that shall not come under the rule of Christ. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord in all creation.
3. How shall the kingdom come?
The kingdom shall come through the slow advance of the rule of God through the mediatorial ministry of Christ in the church through the Holy Spirit. The church is the means of Christ’s advancing rule in the world through its preaching, prayer and praise. The kingdom shall come as the church is salt and light in the world. The kingdom comes through love and not violence. The kingdom comes into the world through conversion and new birth, not through social action and political will, though we do not deny that the church shall affect society and politics. The kingdom shall come through the subduing of Christ’s enemies in every nation, the Powers that strive frantically to prevent the salvation of God’s elect, and it shall arrive in its fullness through the return of Jesus to consummate His victory over the Powers.
4. When shall the kingdom come?
The kingdom shall come in its fullness when the discipling of God’s elect in all nations is complete; when the enemies of Christ have been sufficiently subdued under His feet and the church has been built as the holy temple of God; and when all this culminates in the resurrection of all creation at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Yet, we must be clear that the kingdom that is coming has already started coming in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Jesus rules as King of all the kings of the earth now in this present age just as He will in fullness in the age to come. This present age is the age of kingdom conquest; the age to come is the age of kingdom peace.
5. Why is the kingdom coming?
So that God may share His glory with us. We were created to rule over all creation as the image of God, to be crowned with glory and honor. The coming of the kingdom is not about God regaining His dominion, for He never lost it. But it is about Him regaining His partnership of dominion with us as man is restored to his destined rule over all creation.
No doubt there are a thousand questions that must be addressed in all the details summarized above. But it helps to narrow down the basic questions: what, where, how, when and why? And all of this is more than theoretical theology. How we view the coming of the kingdom affects how we live here and now.
The simple reason why I keep harping on kingdom issues is that we must break free of the suffocating idea that the kingdom will not come until the Second Coming, or that the kingdom is only “spiritual” until the Second Coming and has no present effect on the “physical” world. (This “spiritual/physical” dichotomy is a fundamental misunderstanding of New Testament teaching on the kingdom that we must discuss another day.) It is true that kingdom will not come in its fullness–in its total victory over all nations–until the return of Christ, but the kingdom has already broken in upon the world in the resurrection of Jesus.
This is why the resurrection started with Jesus as the first fruits of the dead in the middle of history and not at the end of history as everyone expected. It happened so that His resurrection could sow the kingdom of God like a mustard seed in the ground that it might grow to great size in the earth. It happened so that the resurrection of Jesus could hide the leaven, which is inarguably the kingdom of heaven, in the three measures of meal (which I think are the three realms of creation, heaven, earth and hell) until the whole earth is leavened (permeated with the gospel). If we miss the present role of the kingdom in human history, we miss the point of the middle-of-history resurrection of Jesus. And if we miss that we have missed the point of the gospel, for the gospel is “the gospel of the kingdom,” the kingdom that is coming but has already come.
As you might imagine, we shall talk about this more later on.