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Christians act as if they are living as “strangers in a strange land.” As a result, when they learn about a new law that will define what a pastor can preach from the pulpit concerning homosexuality, they will chalk it up to the work of “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). They will argue that this world is rightfully the devil’s domain until Jesus comes again. If God’s kingdom is yet to be, then God has little or nothing to say about the way men and women should conduct their affairs in the here and now. This means that while Jesus might be King of heaven where He rules over the angels and the invisible world, the present earthly rulers are the rightful kings of the earth. This is damnable heresy that needs to be expunged from the church. If you are in a church that espouses this view of the kingdom, it is time to pack your bags.
To espouse the belief that God’s kingdom should be described as solely future means that we are living in a purely secular kingdom with purely secular laws cut off from the governance of heaven. This is the worldview of deism! If this is the view of any part of the church, then the secularists are right in condemning the mixing of any of God’s laws with those of the State. How can God as a future King have any say in the affairs of a present kingdom under the rule of another king? This would be like a future presidential candidate telling the current president how to run his affairs. A future president has no legal standing to make such a demand.
If the kingdom is defined in political terms, where Jesus personally and physically rules from Jerusalem in the midst of a rebuilt temple, a renewed sacrificial system, and the reestablishment of the Old Testament theocratic government, then God’s kingdom has not yet come. On the other hand, if the kingdom is defined as a spiritual manifestation of the work of Christ in this world that comes through the transforming and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of sinners with Jesus enthroned at His Father’s right hand, where presently He rules as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:15), then it can be said that the kingdom has come.
An objection often arises, however. Some maintain that only the kingdom fully realized attests to its inauguration. But does an inauguration of something have to be mature before it is that thing? For example, a tree that is four feet tall is still a tree. It will always be called a tree until it ceases to exist. A business that starts this year with only two employees may not realize a profit for three years, but it remains a business until it goes out of business. Fledgling as such operations may be at the beginning, it is still a business along with such conglomerates as IBM, General Motors, and Microsoft.
Before we move into a study of the details of this view, it might prove profitable to deal with an important passage of Scripture that can shed a great deal of light on the subject of the present reality of God’s kingdom. In the Parable of the Landowner, Jesus indicts the chief priests and Pharisees for their rejection of His Messiahship. He predicts that as the Heir of the Landowner, He will be cast out of the vineyard and be killed (Matt. 21:38). Jesus relates this to the kingdom in several ways. First, Israel had the kingdom, an extension of the Old Covenant kingdom, therefore, it was a present reality: “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it” (21:43). Jesus could not take away what they did not have. Second, there is no mention of a postponement or a parenthesis. Jesus does not say, “The coming of the kingdom will be delayed for another time.” Third, the kingdom will “be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.” The “deed” to the kingdom is transferred to a new “nation.” Fourth, it is obvious from the apostles’ question in Acts 1:6 that they believed the kingdom had been taken from Israel, because they ask, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”
Where and when is the kingdom if it was taken from the unfaithful Jews of Jesus’ day? According to Matthew 21:43, it resides with “a nation producing the fruit of it.” And what is that nation? “But you [believers in Christ] are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:10–11). As any student of Scripture will recognize, Peter’s source for these descriptions is the Old Testament (Deut. 10:15; Isa. 43:20–21; 61:6; 66:21; Ex. 19:6; Deut. 7:6). These passages describe God’s relationship with the nation of Israel. But with the coming of the Messiah, and the rejection of God’s Heir by the unfaithful of that nation, the kingdom has been taken away and given to “a nation producing the fruit of it”—a reconstituted Israel, a people made up of believing Jews (Acts 2:5, 9–11, 37–42; 3:11–4:1–4) and Gentiles (10:34–45): “For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10). And what follows? Peter exhorts them to produce the fruit commensurate with being “a holy nation”: “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11–12). When will the kingdom be restored to Israel? It was restored to the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16) in its earthly manifestation soon after Pentecost.