Kingdom Now (last update to this study was made on 04/28/2003; original article found in ARISE Journal - 04/1996)
God's Kingdom - Is It Now?
What is the kingdom of God? This can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that the kingdom of God is one of sonship. It is a life that belongs to one having God as Father. It is a life which is in obedience to the will of God. It is a life that has not been conformed to this age but rather another. It is a life that is independent of every earthly system, tradition and practice. The kingdom of God is a life that is from a source other than our own, it is a life far above any other, it is a life from above.
Jesus demonstrated clearly that his life belonged to another realm, another sphere, another plane of existence than that of other men. It was a life that belonged to the kingdom, the kingdom of his Father, the kingdom of our God. "And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee..." (John 2:1). Cana, in Hebrew, means: to acquire, attain, erect, to procure, possess, provoke to jealousy, purchase, recover, redeem, etc. Although the Lord came to possess the Spirit without measure at the time when he was baptized by John the Baptist in the river Jordan, it was at Cana that he also came "to acquire" something. The scriptures state that it was at Cana that our Lord "manifested forth his glory" and that at Cana "this beginning of miracles did Jesus." Therefore, in the place properly named, Jesus erected his ministry. It was here that Christ demonstrated that he was the true vine which would produce the true wine which is able to make the heart exceedingly glad and joyful.
Although I think the religious person normally cannot see beyond the miracle of this story, beyond the sign in which an evil generation seeketh after, it is the spiritual person who will be "provoked to jealousy" of that glory which Jesus openly declared. Likewise, we also learn from the story that the disciples came "to acquire" something as well at this place named Cana, for it reads "...and his disciples believed on him." An interesting thought: was it the water having been turned into wine which caused the disciples to believe or were they provoked because of what Christ actually possessed behind the miracle. Hopefully it is not the miracle which provokes us.
Paramount to our subject are the words of Jesus, "...seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.." (Matt. 6:33). The kingdom of God is a realm which we are to seek first and foremost. To seek something FIRST is to put it at the very front or beginning, before all else. I am sure everyone reading this article understands the meaning of the word 'first'. In fact, most have probably spent time during their education process at a grade level called 'first'. Some may have spent more time at this level than others, nevertheless, it was the very beginning of their formal schooling.
So what did Jesus say that we are to put at our very front? What should be our main focus, our primary center of attention? What should be first and not second, third, fourth, or last? FIRST...... THE KINGDOM OF GOD! I opened with the question, "What is the kingdom of God?" It is living in a Kingdom of another. It is not the kingdom of this world but the kingdom of God. It is His domain over His subjects. Jesus is the King of this kingdom and He reigns over His kingdom. He has rule over His people and they belong to Him and are part of His kingdom.
Indeed, the kingdom is also one of sonship, one of a 'father-to-son' relationship, one of a life that belongs to another, one of a life born from above. I am reminded here of that ever so common yet misunderstood story of Nicodemus. In chapter 3 of John, we find that this teacher of the Jews was impressed with the work of the Lord and enquired, "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." This Pharisee, unspiritual as his sect was, had made a keen observation, he saw that God was with Jesus, he recognized the authority of the realm of God at work, he was able to see the kingdom of God! Thus, the next statement, "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." In other words, Nicodemus was already a man that was born again, a man that had a divine intervention from a life higher than his own, a life birthed from above. This explains the response Jesus had given him. It was a rather simple response given to the statement presented to him.
Like many of his day, Nicodemus was expecting a physical kingdom to be established for the nation of Israel. At this point, he takes literally what was intended to be figurative. His response was, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?" Little did he remember the words of the priest and prophet Ezekiel that Israel could not enter the kingdom unless they receive a new heart and spirit. (ref. Ez. 36:22:32). "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Clearly, a spiritual renewing or regeneration is imperative to both see and enter the kingdom. Christ stated, "except a man be born...of the Spirit". If seeing and entering the kingdom of God requires an act of Spirit, a life higher than our own, it would only be reasonable to conclude that it must necessitate the intervention of Spirit, of God's Spirit. This idea is aligned with the words of John, "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (Jhn 1:13). Therefore regarding the kingdom of God, we must first come to learn that men are utterly helpless in their spiritual regeneration just as they can do no more to accomplish their physical generation. It is the sovereign work of God's Spirit.
In consideration of the latter part of the verse, "seek ye first the kingdom of God, AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS", my thoughts immediately are of Jesus when seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain and his disciples came to him and he taught them what is commonly called the "Beatitudes". In particular, he said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." (Matt. 5:6). Today, it is common to find many who have latched to the words of Jesus when he spoke to Nicodemus that ye must be "born again", making it merely a doctrine and a present day fancy. Yet, how many have honestly sought God's kingdom and righteousness? How many hunger and thirst after righteousness? Lie, steal, cheat, yet "born again". Nonsense. Nay, we submit ourselves with a broken spirit and contrite heart, desiring to be filled with HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS.
The question at hand is, God's kingdom - is it now? Several have debated over whether the kingdom is present or future while others contemplate with the idea of a "kingdom now but not yet" theology, warning that too much emphasis on the present without recognition of the future is dangerous. The notion that our knowledge regarding the kingdom of God at best has to remain incomplete and partially flawed is not entirely correct. If God permit, we can know the things of the kingdom for "God hath revealed unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (I Cor. 2:10).
First, let's look at the kingdom as a PRESENT reality. The apostle Paul said that God, our Father "hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13). There is really no need to debate the point any further, nor should we be required to write a thousand page treatise to solidify our position. Simply put, God HATH delivered us from the power of darkness and HATH translated us into the KINGDOM. By nature, we were the children of wrath, subject to the spirit of the world, walking according to the age of this world. This was our nature, our being, our self, our true identity at that time. As the thought life from our unregenerate spirit controlled our minds, so we were. "For as he thinketh in his heart (original word is 'soul'), so is he..." (Prov. 23:7).
Alas, God by his gracious love chose to deliver us from the power of darkness, to reconcile us from the wickedness that was dominating our mind and HATH TRANSLATED us INTO THE KINGDOM of his dear Son. Paul before King Agrippa said that he was to be made a minister and witness for the Gentiles "to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." (Acts 26:18). Everyone, before receiving God's grace, is in darkness and under the power and dominion of a kingdom other than that of his Son. However, after the grace awakening, the authority and dominion of another kingdom begins to rule our hearts and another King begins to reign in our spirit!
The kingdom of his Son is best understood by the life which Jesus lived while on earth. The inspired George Hawtin writes, "The life which Jesus lived on earth was the greatest parable ever known. It was a parable of the kingdom of God. He fully demonstrated by His divine life and power all the blessings that were to follow in His kingdom. The evil things which we have learned to live with and accept as part of our very existence He conquered, putting them beneath His feet. He delivered those who believe from every sickness known to man! The word of His mouth makes the lame man to leap as an hart. Hear Him as He commands deaf ears to be unstopped and blind eyes to see. Listen as His wisdom puts all His enemies to silence, causing them to say, "never man spake like this man!" Stand in awe beside the tomb of the dead while He who is the resurrection and the life calls, "Lazarus, come forth!" Weep with the forgiven woman to whom He said, "Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more." Feast as He feeds the hungry multitude with enough and to spare. Rejoice as He preaches, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." Stand in awe as He stills the raging storm even as He stilled the fevered brow. Weep with His friends as He died. Rejoice that He liveth again soon to return on the clouds of glory to reign, no more in humility and rejection in tiny Palestine, but in power and wonderful glory over all the earth." - endquote.
Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ does rule and reign as a King today. He was born a King, and remains King, eternal. He is King today! This thought is agreed to even by many of our Pentecostal brethren. In fact, some have embraced a 'Kingdom Now Theology' acknowledging the Lord's reigning as King today. The problem, however, is they insist that the 'kingdom is soon coming'. This is a clear contradiction to the meaning of kingship. A king is a king because of his reign, his authority, his dominion. His dominion is his kingdom. He rules in his kingdom. His subjects are part of his kingdom. You can not have a king without a kingdom. Jesus is either a King now or he is not. And if he is king now, he must also have a kingdom now. There is either a kingdom or there is not. Scripture either states that God HATH TRANSLATED us into the kingdom of his Son, or He hath not. Clearly, He HATH translated us.
Jesus preached, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 4:17). He did not say it was soon coming, perhaps in two thousand years. In Matthew, chapter 24, he spoke of things that were to be fulfilled, things that are often used by theologians to support their "pre-millenialism" eschatology. They often toil and labor over their sequence of events regarding the time of a "so-called" rapture, a great tribulation, a marriage supper in heaven, a final battle of Armageddon, the setting up of a millennial kingdom, the losing of Satan, a final creation of a new heaven and earth. etc. Yet Christ clearly taught the disciples regarding several of these things, making this statement, "Verily, I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till these things be fulfilled." (v34). It is not my intention here to write concerning the signs of the time and end of an age. Suffice it to say that the verse is worthy of consideration as I leave the idea with you for the Holy Spirit to guide into all truth.
The Pharisees demanded of Jesus when the kingdom of God should come and he answered them, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20-21). While many Christians chase present day ministries who exploit supernatural signs, unaware that a majority of it is after the working of Satan "with all power and signs and lying wonders", the Lord gave us some invaluable insight regarding the kingdom of God here. First, it does not come with observation, causing us to say it is here or it is there. Second, it is in your midst.
Jesus said regarding the THEY that would know of the coming of the kingdom, that their answer would neither be "Lo, it is here! or Lo, it is there!" It is not localized, either in a single person or place. There is no reason to get an airline ticket for the next charismatic healing crusade or so-called "holy laughter" campaign, for behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Granted, the assembling of the saints is uplifting and should be exercised as God sees fit, this I both practice and encourage. But to run here and there as if there is something in somebody somewhere that isn't already at your disposal, I say regarding such teachings, beware! Likewise, we ought not find ourselves trying to get to a place having a physical throne located somewhere in the city of Jerusalem,...... "Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there!" We also are not looking for the kingdom to be established abruptly by a sudden explosion of power through the return of Christ to this planet...... "Neither will it come by observation." Timothy warned us of such fables.
Obviously, I support the notion and teach that the kingdom of God is present, is now, is at hand! Neither you nor I need to die in order to go somewhere to experience the kingdom of God. "for, behold the kingdom of God is within you." Certainly, we teach such wonderful and precious truths of God, yet I am compelled to remind each reader that we ought first and foremost to thirst and hunger after His kingdom and righteousness. Let us always be prayerful not only to teach the kingdom but first we ought to DO for it is said of Jesus concerning the kingdom that he began both "TO DO and teach" (Acts 1:1).
The kingdom was evident in the lives of the apostles. They laid hands on people to receive the Holy Ghost, they prayed for those that slept and saw them raised from the dead, they prayed for the sick and saw them healed, they prophesied the word of God and foretold of things to come, and they spoke mysteries in a tongue known but unto God. They moved and lived in a realm apart from others. But as with the miracle Jesus performed in Cana, likewise all such miracles should never be the primary objective or center of attention. There is much abuse in this area today; many false claims bearing no evidence. There are supposed healings that never occur, prophecies that remain incomplete, and outbursts of laughter pretending to be holy when it is only a spirit of mockery. The church has become a house for every fowl and unclean spirit to lodge and take their abode. I say this to the shame of the ministry. Yet, even with all of this, there is still the authentic, the genuine. I disagree with a dispensational approach that the supernatural, along with apostles and prophets had their end with the apostolic church of yesteryear. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever." (Heb. 13:8). If Jesus healed yesterday, if Christ raised from the dead yesterday, if the Lord manifested his glory yesterday, then also today and forever!
Yet the evidence of the kingdom is much more than the supernatural. In fact, many have been given gifts and have no reality whatsoever of the kingdom in their life. Paul wrote, "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Rms 14:17). The evidence of the kingdom is that of righteousness, that of peace and that of joy. How can we know if others are in the kingdom? In fact, how ought we to know if we are living in the kingdom of God? The best answer I can give is, "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit..." (Matt 7:17). If the fruit is evil, then it comes from a corrupt tree, which will be cast down into the fire and "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; BUT HE THAT DOETH THE WILL OF MY FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN." The kingdom is that of RIGHTEOUSNESS, of PEACE, of JOY....all in a Spirit that is HOLY!
The kingdom of God is within you. Once enlightened by the Holy Spirit of truth and empowered from On High, the kingdom is ignited in your heart. The Spirit that indwells the individual believer empowers him to now have a kingdom life-style. Permit me to say that if you haven't lived the kingdom life-style every step along the way, I would not necessarily say that you haven't experienced His kingdom. Unfortunately, our fundamental brethren would answer that you were never really saved. (I question how King David, a man after God's own heart, fits their dogma). In fact, even in your short falling, "thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee..." (Jer. 2:19). However, this is not the path one should entertain, for scripture also says, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Gal. 6:7).
Now let's look at the kingdom of God as a FUTURE event. I certainly recognize the future aspect of the kingdom of God. It is a kingdom without end, it is a kingdom in which the saints of the Most High will possess, it is an everlasting kingdom of our Lord, and it is an ever increasing government of peace. (ref. Luke 1:33, Dan 7:22, II Pet. 2:11, Isa 9:7). It is the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Yet John wrote, "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ..." (Rev 1:9). He was a man who suffered tribulation in the present and a man who experienced the patience of Christ now. Likewise, the verse also speaks of the kingdom of Jesus Christ without projecting it out into the future.
I agree that the kingdom must await its full manifestation for God's appointed time. I also know that we cannot add one cubit to our stature by excercising our efforts and thoughts to manifest it fully now. Yet it is significant to understand that the kingdom of God is an ever expanding kingdom. There is only one kingdom. There are not two different kingdoms, one present and another yet to come. The kingdom of the future is an extension of the kingdom of the present. The kingdom of tomorrow is rooted and grounded in the kingdom of today. The kingdom of the future is an outgrowth of the kingdom that is now!
The still small voice in the old testament becomes a loud voice
from heaven in the new. And that voice is saying "Now is come salvation,
and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ"
Has Christ provoked you to jealousy concerning the kingdom of God? Has the glory of our Lord gained your attention long enough to cause you to run after him? Thirst after the Lord and his righteousness. For it shall be the sons of God who will order and govern the world in the kingdom age. Every son will be empowered with the Spirit from above to its fullest degree and from this holy realm of Spirit the law and government of the Lord will flow forth with a harmony that will encompass the earth with perfect peace and fill it with the knowledge of the Lord