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In Anticipation, Part 1

  

Ever since Jesus Christ’s first coming, the period of anticipation and preparation for the Kingdom has been in effect. While the Kingdom has not begun yet, it is “present” in the sense that the New Covenant has been ratified, the good news and the promises of the Kingdom are proclaimed, and the power and authority of the Kingdom are seen in a foretaste.

There are a few verses which are often taken to mean that the Kingdom had indeed arrived, but in a different form than foretold by the Prophets. Perhaps no verse is more frequently used this way than Luke 17:21. It is often thought that the idea of an earthly kingdom was carnal and spiritually immature, and that Jesus was correcting that wrong thinking when he said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” But let’s look at where he said that.

Luke 17:
20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

First of all, the wording in the KJV is an unfortunately poor translation. The words for “within you” can also be translated “among you” or “in your midst” and are rendered as such in several other English versions of the Bible. In this passage Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees who were constantly against everything he was doing, and whom he called children of the Devil. If he meant to say “the kingdom is within you,” he would certainly not have said it to the Pharisees. He was actually referring to the fact that the spirit and power of the Kingdom were among them for all to see. He couldn’t have been suddenly changing the definition of the Kingdom, as it would contradict the many Scriptures that clearly present the Kingdom as a literal, future one, including the verses immediately following this passage. Consider this wording, from the NASB.

Luke 17:
20 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;
21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
22 And He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.
23 “They will say to you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go away, and do not run after them.
24 “For just like the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day.
25 “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”
26 “And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:
27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.
28 “It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building;
29 but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.
30 “It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.
31 “On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back.
32 “Remember Lot’s wife.
33 “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

Jesus spoke of the coming of the Son of Man in his day to judge the world, in the very same context in which he said the Kingdom of God is among them. Therefore, he could not have been redefining the Kingdom as a “kingdom of the heart” instead of a literal future kingdom, as many have suggested.

Jesus had instructed his disciples to heal the sick, and to say to them, “the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” (Luke 10:8-11). He had told them to say that the kingdom was near, as he had declared at the beginning of his ministry. This proclamation of the Kingdom and demonstration of its power by Jesus and his disciples are what he referred to when he said, “the Kingdom of God is in your midst.” Though the Pharisees didn’t believe it, the King was in their midst and the Kingdom’s power was observed.

Another verse that is used to support the idea of a non-literal kingdom having arrived is John 18:36. Jesus tells Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” As seen in What Is the Gospel? the fact that the Kingdom is called “heavenly” refers to its origin, not its location. Similarly, the Kingdom being “not of this world” refers to the fact that its origin is not this world but God. For that reason it will not come to pass by his servants fighting for it. But that does not mean that it will not be a kingdom on earth. Far from redefining the kingdom, He admitted to being a king, and said that to that end he was born. But it would not come to pass by worldly means. “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:7).

In one instance only, when Christ himself cast out demons, he said the Kingdom “is come.” The people recognized his power and said, “Is not this the Son of David?” (Matthew 12:23). The Pharisees, on the other hand, thought he did it by the power of the prince of demons (the word “devils” in the KJV is daimonion, or demons). Jesus declared, “…if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you” (Matthew 12:22-28).

We saw in The New Covenant that while the promised outpouring of God’s Spirit would occur at the return of Christ, in the meantime individuals could experience a foretaste. In this instance, an individual experienced the defeat of Satan’s power, as a foretaste of Kingdom power. The people rightly associated Jesus’ power with that of the promised King (the son of David). When John the Baptist sent messengers to ask Jesus if he was the one that was to come, Jesus’ response was, “Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached” (Luke 7:20-22).

This was a quote from Isaiah 35:5-6 and 61:1. The miraculous power, and the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom to the poor, were the signs Jesus referred to as proof that he was the Messiah. But nobody thought the Kingdom had “come” in the sense of Messiah beginning to reign. John had not asked, “Has the Kingdom come?” He asked, “Are you the one that is to come?” The power of the kingdom was being demonstrated, as proof of who Jesus was, and as a preview of the Kingdom. The King had come, but not the Kingdom yet.

In his article, The Kingdom of God: Present or Future, Anthony Buzzard writes:

The references to the Kingdom as in some sense present in the ministry of Christ must be treated as special cases, and not be allowed to obscure the far greater emphasis on the Kingdom as future. A parallel may be seen in the non-literal resurrection referred to by Paul (Eph. 2:6). This has already happened in the life of the believer at conversion, but it must never be allowed to overshadow or replace the future objective resurrection of the dead in Christ (see II Tim. 2:18). That future resurrection is for all the biblical writers the great historical event marking the end of the present age, and ushering in the Age of Messiah.

Firstly, on a single occasion, Christ is quoted as saying that the Kingdom of God has come upon those from whom a demon is exorcised (Matt. 12:28, Luke 11:20). The Kingdom of Satan had then been defeated in respect of each individual who was thus freed from the shackles of the demonic influence. This is very different in its scope from the universal victory of the Kingdom at the end of the age, though it is certainly, of course, an anticipation of the final triumph. It should be noted, however, that the same phrase “come upon” is found in I Thess. 2:16, where it appears to mean that those on whom the wrath “has come” are destined for the future wrath of God. They are candidates for the future vengeance of God, what Paul in the same letter calls “the wrath to come” (I Thess. 1:10). Similarly, to say that the Kingdom has “come upon” an individual may simply mean that when the demon is removed from him he becomes a candidate for the future Kingdom.

Confirmation that this is the right understanding is provided by Moulton and Milligan in their Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 331. Evidence from the papyri proves that the parallel statement in I Cor. 10:11, “upon whom the ends of the ages are come” means “who are heirs of the revenues of the ages.” To say that the Kingdom of God has “come upon” someone may thus indicate that he is heir to the future Kingdom.

To Be Continued…

4 Responses to “In Anticipation, Part 1”

  1. on 19 Oct 2009 at 3:56 pmKen

    What a wonderful sharing about the anticipatory kingdom reality foretaste in dynamic juxtaposition with the promised future!
    Among other Scriptures, I think of Romans 14. We should not judge/condemn one another for different practices because we shall all stand before God’s judgement seat (v. 10, 11.)
    In this same context, an interesting comment is made about our present behavior, in anticipation of that future day:
    For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (v. 17.)

  2. on 19 Oct 2009 at 7:36 pmXavier

    RE: The oft-mentioned statement “do not judge”, according to the Bible THE PEOPLE OF GOD will participate with Christ in the final day of judgment:

    “The SAINTS of the Most High shall RECEIVE THE KINGDOM and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever…UNTIL the Ancient of Days came, AND JUDGMENT WAS GIVEN TO THE SAINTS of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.” Dan. 7:18, 22

    “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom THE AUTHORITY TO JUDGE [Gk. plural, thronos] WAS COMMITTED. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and REIGNED WITH CHRIST [Gk. basileuo, rule, be king, administer] for a thousand years.” Rev. 20.4

    “Or do you not know that THE SAINTS WILL JUDGE THE WORLD? And if THE WORLD IS TO BE JUDGED BY YOU, ARE YOU INCOMPETENT TO TRY TRIVIAL CASES? Do you not know that WE ARE TO JUDGE [EVEN] ANGELS? HOW MUCH MORE THEN, MATTERS PERTAINING TO THIS LIFE!” 1Cor 6.2-4 [cp. Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30]

    Am I wrong?

  3. on 20 Oct 2009 at 10:57 amKen

    As Xavier has commented about Biblical “judging;” it is certainly interesting to consider the specific contexts of “not judging” (Matthew 7: 1-5, Romans 14 and other Scriptures) and “judging” (I Corinthians 5: 12, 13 and the verses Xavier shared in comment #2.)
    For example, Matthew 7 gives a strong “judge not, that you be not judged” message with the illustration about not being focussed on the speck in another’s eye when one has a log in his/her own eye. There are situations in which we are totally unqualified to “judge” others. We cannot even help others with “specks” if we are not honest about sin in our own lives. Right after this solemn warning about “not judging;” Jesus goes on to state that we should be careful not to throw pearls to the pigs (v. 6); to do this would require “judgement” in the sense of spiritual discernment regarding which people have no heart to receive spiritual treasures. I believe what is required is a real balance of walking with God and asking Him to show us how certain verses would apply in certain situations. In many situations, we need to patiently continue to pray for more understanding, because making a hasty judgement would be presumptuous. In other cases (like I Corinthians 5 (when evidence is clear), we must make decisive judgements to protect the body of Christ from harmful influences. Even when we must rebuke a person like this (“Remove the evil person from among you”), we would need to be careful NOT to have a lack of forgiveness and a willingness to accept one who repents. II Corinthians 2: 5-11 speaks of the willingness to forgive, something in which it is important not to allow Satan to take advantage of us.

  4. on 20 Oct 2009 at 12:22 pmRay

    The kingdom of God began for all of us when we received Jesus.
    Where two or more are gathered together in his name, he is there
    and we by him can experience part of his kingdom in some measure. Sometimes it can be a great experience. Sometimes there can be great deliverance and great healings.

    Presently, Jesus is building his Church and it’s being built here on earth in the heavenly realm.

  

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