The Old Testament looked forward to a golden age of peace and prosperity on Earth when the Kingdom of Israel and Israel’s king would rule over the whole earth. When God Incarnate came to visit His people he proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). Jesus ministry was centrally focused on teaching about the Kingdom of God.
George Ladd writes:
This theme of the coming of the Kingdom of God was central in His mission. His teaching was designed to show men how they might enter the Kingdom of God (Matt. 5:20; 7:21). His mighty works were intended to prove that the Kingdom of God had come upon them (Matt. 12:28). His parables illustrated to His disciples the truth about the Kingdom of God (Matt. 13:11). And when He taught His followers to pray, at the heart of their petition were the words, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). On the eve of His death, He assured His disciples that He would yet share with them the happiness and the fellowship of the Kingdom (Luke 22:22-30). And He promised that He would appear again. on the earth in glory to bring the blessedness of the Kingdom to those for whom it was prepared (Matt. 25:31,34).
The Kingdom is Today AND Tomorrow
So, does the Kingdom of God exist today? Are we in it now or do we wait for it in the future? Ladd writes:
The Word of God does say that the Kingdom of God is a present spiritual reality. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Righteousness and peace and joy are fruits of the Spirit which God bestows now upon those who yield their lives to the rule of the Spirit. They have to do with the deepest springs of the spiritual life, and this, says the inspired apostle, is the Kingdom of God.
…Another facet of Kingdom truth reflects the fact that the Kingdom is a realm into which the followers of Jesus Christ have entered. Paul writes that God has “delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). This verse makes it very clear that the redeemed are already in the Kingdom of Christ. …Furthermore, our Lord describes those who received His message and mission as those who now enter into the Kingdom of God (Luke 16:16).
So, the Kingdom of God exists on earth today in its fullest and final form right? Wrong! Ladd goes on to say…
At the same time, the Kingdom is an inheritance which God will bestow upon His people when Christ comes in glory. “Then the King will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, 0 blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”‘ (Matt. 25:34). How can the Kingdom of God be a present spiritual reality and yet be an inheritance bestowed upon God’s people at the Second Coming of Christ?
…the Kingdom of God is [also] a future realm which we must enter when Christ returns. Peter looks to a future day when there “will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 1:2). Our Lord Himself frequently referred to this future event. “Many will come from the east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:11). …Jesus told of the day when the angels “will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:41,43).
So, the Kingdom of God is both now AND future. It is a ‘yes’ and an ‘almost’. It is an ‘already’ and a ‘not yet’. Well, then, ‘when’ is the kingdom of God then? In writing about the diversity of teaching about the Kingdom in the New Testament, Ladd writes:
The Kingdom is a present reality (Matt. 12:28), and yet it is a future blessing (I Cor. 15:50). It is an inner spiritual redemptive blessing (Rom. 14:17) which can be experienced only by way of the new birth (John 3:3), and yet it will have to do with the government of the nations of the world (Rev. 11:15). The Kingdom is a realm into which men enter now (Matt. 21:31), and yet it is a realm into which they will enter tomorrow (Matt. 8:11). It is at the same time a gift of God which will be bestowed by God in the future (Luke 12:32) and yet which must be received in the present (Mark 10:15). Obviously no simple explanation can do justice to such a rich but diverse variety of teaching.