“The righteousness of God’s Kingdom is the product of God’s reign in the human heart. God must reign in our lives now if we are to enter the Kingdom tomorrow.” – George Eldon Ladd
The Kingdom of God, also referred to as the Kingdom of heaven, was one of the topics that Jesus emphasized most in His ministry. When discussing the Kingdom, Jesus revealed that no one can see or enter it unless they are born again unto eternal life (John 3:3,5,16). Likewise, Jesus taught that His Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). In fact, Jesus encouraged His followers to pray to their Father in heaven and to ask for His Kingdom to come to the earth (Luke 11:2). Additionally, Paul believed in a future Kingdom to come (1 Corinthians 15:50). Thus, the Bible clearly teaches of a future Kingdom that is available to born-again believers and would one day come to the earth.
However, Scripture also seems to indicate that the Kingdom is presently here. When John the Baptist was preparing the way for Christ, he was boldly preaching in the wilderness saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). John’s proclamation emphasized the nearness of the Kingdom. Likewise, when Jesus began His ministry, He preached the same message of repentance and the Kingdom that John had. This not only links the two ministries, but it also reaffirmed the closeness of God’s Kingdom to the earth. Additionally, when Jesus taught in parables later in His ministry, He revealed a lot about the Kingdom of heaven. In the parable of the wheat and tares, Jesus explains that His Kingdom currently consists of both the sons of the Kingdom (believers) and the sons of the wicked one (unbelievers), but at the end of the age, the wicked will be gathered out of the Kingdom and cast into the furnace of fire (Matthew 13:36-43). And in the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price, Jesus explains that the Kingdom is a priceless possession that is capable of being found and obtained. Therefore, Scripture seems to imply that the Kingdom is a current reality that can be obtained.
So then, how does one reconcile the Scriptures teaching that the Kingdom is in the future, while others affirming its present existence? I believe Jesus explained this when He compared the Kingdom of heaven to that of a mustard seed and leaven (Matthew 13:31-33). Like a mustard seed, the Kingdom will have a small (humble) beginning but will continue to grow into something extraordinarily significant. And like leaven in dough, once the Kingdom is introduced into the world nothing can stop its expansion. Thus, I find Jesus to be teaching that the Kingdom is already, but not yet. The Kingdom is here, but there is yet to be a future consummation. This paradigm was developed in the early 20th century by the Princeton theologian, Gerhardus Vos. Vos, and later George Eldon Ladd explained that the Kingdom of God is the reign or kingly rule of God. The Kingdom is both a spiritual reality where Christ reigns with all authority (Matthew 28:18) and a future promise that is yet to be fulfilled. Meaning, Christians can experience the Kingdom of God now and expect the fullness of its glory to come.
How do we do that? We must first seek the Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). We must submit our lives to the Lordship of Christ Jesus. When Christ is reigning in our hearts and minds, our priorities begin to reflect the priorities of God. Only then can we access the Kingdom and live within it. Thus, Kingdom living is when we obey Christ’s commandments and pursue righteous living. The question is, whose kingdom are you living in? Are you living for Christ and proclaiming His rule and reign or are you forsaking His commandments and building an earthly kingdom for yourself? Many kings and kingdoms have risen throughout history, but there is only One that will last forever – the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Let us all seek first the Kingdom of God, embrace Kingdom living, and look forward to its future consummation!