In our last post we answered the question “What is the Kingdom?” but this raises another question: “When is the Kingdom?”
Many passages in the New Testament lead us to believe that the Kingdom is here already. A large part of Christ’s ministry was the announcement of the coming of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17, 10:7; 24:14; Luke 4:43).
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. Matthew 4:23
At the same time, other New Testament references lead us to believe that the Kingdom is not yet. The apostle John in his vision heard of a time when “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15) and a time when the hosts of darkness face crushing defeat (Revelation 19:11-21). Paul announced a time when every knee will bow to Jesus and every tongue confess Him as Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). Other passages speak of believers inheriting the Kingdom at the end, which would indicate that the Kingdom of God will arrive at the end of this present age (Matthew 25:34; Colossians 1:12; James 2:5).
We reconcile the apparent contradiction by acknowledging that Christians today live in the tension of the already, not yet. The Kingdom of God has already been established here on earth through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; but it has not yet been consummated. The consummation will happen at the end of this present age when Jesus Christ physically returns to bring both peace and judgment and to usher in the New Heaven and New Earth. A collection of lectures that build on this idea can be found here.
Oscar Cullman, a twentieth-century theologian compared the coming of the Kingdom to World War II between the Allied Powers and Germany in his book Christ and Time. For all intents and purposes, World War II in Europe was over on D-Day, when Allied troops established a beachhead in Normandy, France. Everyone, even the Germans, knew that Victory in Europe (V-E) Day was inevitable, when the war would end with Germany’s defeat. All that remained was for the Allies to liberate Europe. Yet between D-Day and V-E Day came the Battle of the Bulge, a desperate counterattack by the German army, fought during one of the worst winters in European history. For six weeks the battle raged back and forth. It was the deadliest battle for American forces during the war; over 19,000 Americans were killed.
When Christ died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected on the third day, He struck a death blow to sin, death, and Satan and established the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom will be consummated when Christ returns at His second coming. Yet Christians today live our lives between D-Day and V-E Day, in the Battle of the Bulge. We are all Christian soldiers. The outcome of the conflict is certain and our victory is sure, but the enemy is throwing everything at the army of God in the fiercest battle of the war. This makes the need to understand what we do in our daily work and its importance to God and His Kingdom all the more critical.
Question: Does knowing that Christ’s day of victory is coming, encourage you in your life at home and at work? Leave a comment here.