Study 5: The Kingdom of God
Defining The Kingdom | The Kingdom Is Not Now Established | The Kingdom Of God In The Past | The Kingdom Of God In The Future | The Millennium | Digressions (The Literality of the Kingdom, Summary of the History of Israel) | Questions

5.2 The Kingdom Is Not Now Established

There is a widely held notion that God's Kingdom is now fully in existence, being comprised of present believers - 'the church'. Whilst in prospect the true believers have been 'saved' and given potential places in the Kingdom, there can be no doubt that we cannot now be fully in the Kingdom, seeing that Christ has not yet returned to establish it.

It should be obvious from what we have studied so far "that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 15:50). We are "heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him" (James 2:5), seeing that baptism makes us heirs of the promises to Abraham - which promises comprise the basic Gospel of the Kingdom (Matt. 4:23; Gal. 3:8,27-29). It is therefore common to come across promises of inheriting the kingdom at Christ's return, when the promises to Abraham will be fulfilled (Matt. 25:34; 1 Cor. 6:9,10; 15:50; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5). The very use of this language of future inheritance shows that the kingdom is not the believer's present possession.

Jesus told a parable to correct those who thought "that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a Kingdom, and to return". In the meantime he left his servants with certain responsibilities. "When he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him", and judged them (Luke 19:11-27).

The nobleman represents Christ going away into the "far country" of heaven to receive the kingdom, with which he returns at the time of judgment, i.e. the second coming. It is therefore impossible that the "servants" should possess the kingdom now, during the time of their Lord's absence.

The following provide further proof of this:

"My kingdom is not of this world (age)", Jesus plainly stated (John 18:36). However, even at that time He could say, "I am a king" (John 18:37), showing that Christ's present 'kingship' does not mean that His Kingdom is now established. Even the faithful in the first century are described as WAITING "for the kingdom of God" (Mk.15:43).

Christ told his disciples that he would never again drink wine "until I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26:29). This clearly implies that the kingdom was to be in the future, which is how people understood Christ's preaching of "the glad tidings (i.e. advanced proclamation) of the kingdom of God" (Luke 8:1). "Blessed is he that shall (in the future) eat bread in the kingdom of God", was their comment (Luke 14:15).

Luke 22:29,30 continues this theme: "I appoint unto you a kingdom. that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom".

Jesus explained signs which would herald his second coming, and concluded with the comment, "When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh" (Luke 21:31). This is nonsense if the kingdom is now in existence before the second coming.

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). No wonder every suffering believer earnestly prays for the kingdom to come (Matt. 6:10).

God has "called you unto his kingdom" (1 Thess. 2:12); in response, we must seek entrance to that kingdom through a spiritual life now (Matt. 6:33).

The Kingdom Of God Is Within You?

Despite all this sizeable emphasis, many orthodox 'Christians' choose to base their belief that the kingdom now exists in the hearts of believers, on one single passage: "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). This is more correctly translated "the kingdom of God is among you" (see A.V. mg.). The context shows that Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees (v.20); the "you" therefore refers to them. They were certainly not Christian believers - the kingdom of God was not established in their hearts.

The Jews were making a great public show of their zeal in looking for Messiah. In this passage, "the kingdom of God" seems to be a title of Messiah, seeing he is to be the king of the kingdom. Thus when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people shouted, "Blessed is he (Messiah) that cometh in the name of the Lord: blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Mark 11:9,10). This parallels Messiah and "the kingdom". Thus John the baptist preached that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he (Jesus) that was (prophesied)" (Matt. 3:2,3). In our passage in Luke 17:20-24, Jesus answered their question about "when the kingdom of God should come", by speaking about the coming of "the son of man".

Christ's point was that the Jews were making so much show of being on the look out for Messiah's coming, expecting him to be suddenly revealed in power, that they failed to realize that Messiah - "the kingdom of God" - was already among them in the humble person of Jesus. Thus he warned them: "The kingdom of God (Messiah) cometh not with outward show...behold, the kingdom of God is among you" (Luke 17:20,21).