Bible Basics (5th edition): A study manual revealing the joy and peace of true Christianity

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5:2 The Kingdom Of God 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). Our inheritance is our salvation which will be revealed “in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:4,5). We are "heirs of the kingdom which he has 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", 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 you 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 you see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is near" (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 comes in the name of the Lord:  blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that comes 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) comes not with outward show... behold, the kingdom of God is among you" (Luke 17:20,21).

A well known theologian, Joachim Jeremias, has come to the same conclusion: “The meaning ‘indwelling in’ can certainly be excluded. Neither in Judaism nor elsewhere in the New Testament do we find the idea that the reign of God is something indwelling in men, to be found, say, in the heart; such a spiritualistic understanding is ruled out both for Jesus and for the early Christian tradition” (Joachim Jeremias, New Testament Theology (London: SCM, 1972) p. 101).

He goes on to draw out the parallel between Lk. 17:21 and Lk. 17:23,24:

“Neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you…And they shall say to you, Lo, there! Lo, here! go not away, nor follow after them: for as the lightning, when it flashes out of the one part under the heaven, shines unto the other part under heaven; so shall the Son of man be in his day”.

The parallel is between the Kingdom of God coming at the return of Christ at the last day- and the Kingdom being ‘within’ or ‘among’ you. Jeremias suggests on this basis that “the Kingdom of God is within / among you” means ‘The Kingdom of God will come among you suddenly and visibly, at the last day- so it’s no good expecting it right at this moment now’.

Bible Basics: Contents

Part 1: "The things concerning the Kingdom of God" Study 1: God 1.1  The Existence Of God || 1.2  The Personality Of God || Belief In Practice 1: Knowing God || 1.3  God's Name And Character || Belief In Practice 2: Grace (John Parkes) || Belief In Practice 3: The All Seeing God || Belief In Practice 4: God Is Omnipotent || Belief In Practice 5: Responding To The One God || 1.4     The Angels || Belief In Practice 6: God As Creator || Digression 1: God Manifestation || Digression 2:  Why The Trinity Was Accepted || Study 1: Questions Study 2: The Spirit Of God 2.1  Definition || 2.2  Inspiration || 2.3  Gifts Of The Holy Spirit || 2.4  The Withdrawal Of The Gifts || 2.5  The Bible The Only Authority || Digression 3: Is The Holy Spirit A Person? || Digression 4: The Principle Of Personification || Belief In Practice 7: The Implications Of Inspiration || Study 2: Questions Study 3: The Promises Of God 3.1  Introduction || 3.2  The Promise In Eden || 3.3  The Promise To Noah || 3.4  The Promise To Abraham || 3.5  The Promise To David || Belief In Practice 8: Covenant Relationship With God || Study 3: Questions Study 4: God And Death 4.1  The Nature Of Man || 4.2  The Soul || 4.3  The Spirit || 4.4  Death Is Unconsciousness || 4.5  The Resurrection || 4.6  The Judgment || Belief In Practice 9: Judgment Now || 4.7  The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?|| 4.8  Responsibility To God || 4.9  Hell || Digression 5: Purgatory || Digression 6: Ghosts And Reincarnation || Digression 7: The 'Rapture' || Belief In Practice 10: The Motivational Power Of Understanding Death || Study 4: Questions Study 5: The Kingdom Of God 5.1  Defining The Kingdom || 5.2  The Kingdom Is Not Now Established || 5.3  The Kingdom Of God In The Past || 5.4  The Kingdom Of God In The Future || 5.5  The Millennium || Digression 8: The Kingdom Of God Now (Graham Bacon) || Belief In Practice 11: What The Kingdom Of God Means Today || Study 5: QuestionsStudy 6: God And Evil 6.1  God And Evil || 6.2  The Devil And Satan || 6.3  Demons || Digression 9: The Implications And Origin Of The Belief In A Personal Satan || Digression 10: Witchcraft || Digression 11: What Happened In Eden? || Digression 12: Lucifer || Belief In Practice 12: Battle For The Mind || Study 6: Questions

Part 2: "The things concerning...the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12) Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus. 7.1  Old Testament Prophecies Of Jesus || 7.2  The Virgin Birth || 7.3  Christ's Place In God's Plan || 7.4  "In the beginning was the word" || Digression 13: Jesus The Son Of God (Michael Gates) || Digression 14: Did Jesus Create The Earth? || Belief In Practice 13: Jesus Didn’t Pre-exist: And So What? || Study 7: Questions Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus 8.1  Introduction || 8.2  Differences Between God And Jesus || 8.3  The Nature Of Jesus || 8.4  The Humanity Of Jesus || 8.5  The Relationship Of God With Jesus || Belief In Practice 14: The Real Christ || Digression 15: How The Real Christ Was Lost || Digression 16: The Divine Side Of Jesus || Study 8: Questions Study 9: The Work Of Jesus 9.1  The Victory Of Jesus || 9.2  The Blood Of Jesus || 9.3  Jesus As Our Representative || 9.4  Jesus And The Law Of Moses || 9.5  The Sabbath || Digression 17 The Crucifix || Digression 18: Was Jesus Born On Dec. 25th? || Belief In Practice 15: The Meaning Of Christ’s Resurrection For Us || Belief In Practice 16: Christ Died For Me- So What Should I Do? || Belief In Practice 17: The Real Cross || Belief In Practice 18: The Inspiration Of The Cross || Study 9: Questions || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus 10.1  The Vital Importance Of Baptism || 10.2  How Should We Be Baptized? || 10.3  The Meaning Of Baptism || 10.4  Baptism And Salvation || Digression 19: Re-baptism || Digression 20 The Thief On The Cross || Belief In Practice 19: The Certainty Of Salvation || Study 10: Questions Study 11: Life In Christ 11.1  Introduction || 11.2  Holiness || 11.2.1  The Use Of Force || 11.2.2  Politics || 11.2.3  Worldly Pleasures || 11.3  Practical Christian Life || 11.3.1  Bible Study || 11.3.2  Prayer || 11.3.3  Preaching || 11.3.4  Ecclesial Life || 11.3.5  The Breaking Of Bread || 11.4  Marriage || 11.5  Fellowship || Study 11: Questions ||