the Kingdom is ironically published in the March 2017, online digital
both a present and a Encourage magazine on pages 4 & 5. Visit future reality. www.iphc. This article will be a blessing to you.
Jesus came to declare the good news of the Kingdom of God, and He gave an invincible promise to establish His Church. If the Church and the Kingdom were so important to Jesus, it is worth asking about the relationship between them. What is the connection between the Church and the Kingdom of God?
Jesus only used the word “Church” three times in the Gospel accounts of His teachings. Our understanding of the word is somewhat diminished because it has come to be associated with a building or with a denomination. Yet, as Jesus used the term, it meant neither of those things.
The word we translate as “Church” is the Greek word ekklesia. This is where we get our English word “ecclesiology,” which refers to the study of the nature and structure of the Church. Ekklesia literally means “called out ones.”
When Jesus said He would build His Church, He was referring to a community of people called by God to a holy expression of His character and His love. The Kingdom of God—or its synonym, “the Kingdom of Heaven”— primarily refers to the sovereign reign and rule of God.
The Jewish people of Jesus’ day understood God’s redemptive reign to require an immediate political manifestation. Jesus’ own understanding was different. For Him, the Kingdom wasn’t limited to a particular geographical location, nor was it confined to a specific ethnic group.
Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God was the fulfillment of God’s saving purposes for the entire world. Entrance into the Kingdom was obtained by faith, and the community of believers would be the people through whom the righteous reign of God would be demonstrated.
In the New Testament, the Kingdom is ironically both a present and a future reality. There is clear New Testament teaching that the Kingdom is a future hope. There would be a future resurrection, a final judgment and even physical changes to the universe (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 13:40- 43; Mark 13:24-25). The Difference Between the CHURCH and the KINGDOM In the New Testament, the kingdom is ironically both a present and a future reality.
The book of Revelation envisages a glorious future of a renewed world recreated without pain and suffering where God dwells among His people in splendor and majesty. At the same time, there is also an indication in the New Testament that the Kingdom has already come.
Jesus taught that His authority to exorcise demons was proof that “the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28, ESV). He understood His own ministry to be the invasion of the future reality of God’s new creation into the chaotic and compromised present.
What was confusing about this was that it didn’t happen in the way it was expected to take place. The Messianic hope of a conquering warrior to defeat Israel’s enemies was left hanging. Sickness, sin, and death were quite obviously still operative in the world. The powers of darkness had clearly not been fully subdued.
It is easy to see how the people of Jesus’ time may have missed what was beginning to happen right before their eyes. Even John the Baptist wasn’t fully convinced!
John baptized a lot of people, but there was one baptism that stood out among all the others. When Jesus showed up at John’s evangelistic crusade, John dropped his microphone and invited Jesus to the front. He said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”(John 1:29, 36).
Then something unusual happened, unusual even for John, who wore camel skin suits and ate honey straight from the hive! When Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened. The Spirit of God descended on Him in the form of a dove; and a voice from heaven declared, “You are My beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22, ESV). This was not the usual baptismal announcement.
Yet, despite such an auspicious introduction, the end-time events that John expected with the coming of the Messiah did not happen, and John found himself in Herod’s prison. He had to know if he had been mistaken about Jesus. So, he sent some of his followers to go find out what was going on and to report back to him.
Finding Jesus, they asked Him the question that burned on John’s mind, “Are you the One Who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus’ response was not in the form of a theological lecture or a sermon.
Jesus immediately began to heal diseases and set free those who were demonically oppressed. And, He instructed John’s disciples to go tell John what they had seen and heard (Luke 7:18-23). Jesus was demonstrating that the Kingdom of God, which John longed to see, had begun to arrive because the King had come and was plundering the darkness.
So, the Kingdom of God is both something that will happen in the future and something that is already here. Theologians call this inaugurated (or, now-and-not-yet) eschatology. There are aspects of the Kingdom that await future fulfillment (not yet), but the New Testament also speaks about the presence of those future realities in our current experience (now).
The most powerful evidence for this is the gift of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached that the coming of the Spirit was the fulfillment of Joel’s end-time prophecy. Therefore, the Last Days had already begun to arrive since God was pouring out His Spirit upon his people.
This reality explains what Paul means when he talks about the Spirit being a deposit or firstfruit of our inheritance. The Holy Spirit deposits the life-giving breath of eternity (not yet) into our present experience (now).
The church is not the Kingdom of God, but it is part of it. Jesus never said, “The Church is among you.” Nor did He ever say, “The Church is at hand.” Nevertheless, the Church is the community of people in which the saving purposes of God have begun to be fulfilled. It is therefore the community in which the future restoration (the not yet) has already (the now) begun to appear.
The old age has been dealt a decisive blow in the victory of the cross, and the new age has begun. Yet, there are aspects of the old age that still linger; and there are elements of the new age that we don’t see in fullness.
We have to deal with sin, sickness and death. These are all characteristics of the old age. Yet, we can have victory over sin. We have access to healing, and Jesus gives us life—even though we must still await the perfection of the future.
Getting the now and the not yet out of balance always leads to trouble for the Church. Too much emphasis on the now means that we are disrupted or disappointed when the old age makes an inconvenient appearance. Too much emphasis on the not yet means that we are closed to the present miraculous working of the Spirit. Holding them together means that the Church is an outpost community on the frontier of God’s end-time renewal of the entire cosmos.
The Church is a subversive, countercultural society that demonstrates the righteous, lifegiving reign of Jesus in the face of this world’s powers. The Church unmasks the pretenses of the worldly authorities, and it declares that Jesus Christ is Lord, not Caesar! The Kingdom of God has begun in and through His eschatological community—the Church—and it will be ultimately consummated when He returns in power and glory.
[The Dr. Ryan Jackson holds a Bachelors of Religion degree from Emmanuel College, a Masters of Divinity degree from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and both a Masters of Philosophy degree and a Ph.D. degree from Cambridge University. Throughout these academic pursuits, he has been actively involved in serving the church locally and globally. He currently serves senior pastor of The Capital Church near Raleigh, North Carolina. He lives with his wife, Emily, and their three daughters.]
[Editor's comment. I met Dr. Ryan Jackson on our trip to Hong Kong in May of 2015. We flew on Delta from Seattle to Hong Kong, and from Hong Kong to Seattle. Then, we flew to Atlanta near where we reside in Winder, Georgia, near Athens and the University of Georgia. In editing this excellent article, I capitalized the words Church and Kingdom to make it clear that the Church and the Kingdom are God's creations. Whenever Scripture. Biblical, or pronouns that refer to God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit are used I will put them in upper case. What I learned in English literature at Furman University from Dr. Robert Bass I have never forgotten. It is out of great respect for God, His Kingdom, the Church, and the Bible that I am compelled internally to do it this way. I hope it makes sense to you. This is my value system that guides me as a Christian journalist. I often fail to live up to these standards. I haven't arrived. God is still working on me at 84. I ask that you grant me your patience. Marty Airhart, a gifted musican wrote a song about me entitled, "Be Patient, Dr. Morgan."
I am greatly impressed with Dr. Ryan Jackson's skill in writing. He uses short paragraphs and his explanations are powerful and easy to understand. He is balanced in his Biblical theology. The IPHC is blessed to have a Biblical scholar in our denomination like him. May God give us more men of this intellectual and spiritual ability.]