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Kingdom of God – Is It For Now or Later???

February 14, 2013

Kingdom of God – Is It For Now or Later????
Kingdom of God – Is It For Now or Later?????
One of my favorite bits of wisdom from C.S. Lewis goes something like, “Satan sends us evil in pairs of opposites so that fleeing one we run eagerly into the arms of the other.” Since I first read that, I have been amazed at just how often this profound truth applies. Sometimes it is not a question of either alternative being evil in and of itself, but when one or the other is emphasized to the dismissal of the other it can become an evil. I believe that this latter situation aptly describes the attitudes of too many people who consider themselves followers of Jesus in our world today.
Jesus spoke a great deal of the Kingdom of God. There are some today who tend to resist even the idea of “kingdom” because it conflicts with their egalitarian democratic ideals. To any who might hold that perspective, I simply say that when it comes to the rule of Almighty God, get over it. But, then it still leaves a primary question that begs an answer that has caused and continues to cause substantial disagreement. Is the Kingdom of God for now or for later? Some have asserted that the Kingdom of God will only be experienced when Christ returns and establishes, depending upon their eschatology, His millennial reign on earth or we are taken off to heaven. One the other extreme are those who have minimized the eschatological and argue that we are to experience the Kingdom of God during our lifetimes on this planet and to live out and experience the Kingdom here and now. I argue that both are to be true and that when we emphasize one to the neglect of the other we create an evil from two goods.
It is my firm belief that we will only experience the Kingdom of God in all of its fullness after we complete our time on this planet. Only then will all of the influence of sin be removed from the picture. Only then will we be capable of seeing clearly instead of through a glass darkly. So, I in no way want to diminish the importance of the future dimension of the Kingdom. I look forward to it. But, I believe that when we relegate our thinking about Kingdom to the future, we miss out on what is intended to be a big part of our life on this planet. When people commit themselves to be followers of Jesus they immediately become citizens of that Kingdom. It is God’s intention that the Body of His followers, that is The Church, are to be the people of His Kingdom on this planet, here and now. That People is made up of people with a multitude of different earthly citizenships, denominational ties, and races. If the Church takes seriously the importance of Kingdom living it accomplishes two major functions. It provides a context in which individual and corporate growth can take place. See Ephesians 4. And, it serves as a witness to those on the outside who need to see Jesus in the flesh in the world in which they live.
What does it mean to live as citizens of the Kingdom on planet earth? It means that we adopt the values of the Kingdom rather than the values of the culture in which we find ourselves. Values are what determine behavior. There is no culture on earth that completely mirrors the values of the Kingdom, those some may come closer than others. As an American living in the 21st century, I would suggest that some of the values of our culture that may conflict with Kingdom values are materialism/laissez faire capitalism, strident individualism, and national chauvinism. Others may disagree or add to that list. The specifics are not as important as recognizing that conflicts do exist. We can only know the values of the Kingdom by serious study of God’s special revelation in Scripture.
We live the Kingdom when we really demonstrate agape love for our fellow Kingdom citizens. Agape love is not an emotion. It is a rational choice to do what is in the best interest of the other. Agape love lives itself out in koinonia fellowship that is not simply the social getting together. It is living the common life that addresses real needs that may be spiritual, emotional, or physical. It is what is described in the Church life in the book of Acts. Jesus said that all men would know that we are His disciples by the love that we have for one another. For that to happen there must be something visible in the way that we relate to one another.
When we corporately live Kingdom, we provide an environment into which those who come into the Kingdom can be welcomed. Within it that can be taught, encouraged, and ministered to. In addition to the earlier referenced Ephesians 4, Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12 describe the Kingdom as a Body. It is a Body in which all individuals contribute what are their gifts, abilities, and talents to the mutual well-being. The Body/Kingdom will only operate as it is intended as all participate. While we may come into the Kingdom as individuals, it has never been intended that we grow as individuals.
We should certainly look forward to that future eschatological perfect Kingdom, but to ignore the present Kingdom is to fail to live the life that is intended for us in the here and now.

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