What is the Kingdom of God? (Part 2)

In my previous post, I talked about what Moore (and earlier Ladd) called the “already but not yet” view of God’s kingdom. In his chapter on the kingdom of God (in Onward), Moore attempts to navigate between two extreme view of God’s kingdom: 1) God’s kingdom is only ‘here and now,’ and 2) That God’s kingdom is only future.

We must avoid taking a strict “The kingdom is here and now” view because it is not in keeping with God’s stated plan. Only God can establish His kingdom on earth, and He said He would do so, in the future and in His timing. It is not, in a sense, ours to establish. At the same time, we must avoid taking a strict “The kingdom of God is future” view because this, too, is contrary to Jesus’s own commands. For example, we are told by Jesus to “seek first His kingdom.” So what does this mean? Among other things, it means that we are to live our lives, not as if this life is the end, but rather in light of God’s coming future kingdom. This is one reason that we do not “conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2), because “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20).  We experience and seek the kingdom of God here and now by living lives that display the future reality of God’s rule and reign over all things. We live within the tension of the kingdom of God being Already-But-Not-Yet. Moore explains:

We find our life and mission in Jesus’ own rather than fitting him into the kingdom we design for ourselves. We pour ourselves into loving, serving, and working because these things are seeds of the tasks God has for us in the next phase…My life’s meaning isn’t found in the brief interval from birth to grave – in an enviable marriage, a satisfying job, or the kind of “success” my in-laws would recognize at the Thanksgiving table. [1]

According to Moore, then, the kingdom of God should shape my priorities. The fact that this life is not the end of my existence, and that I have a future in God’s kingdom, should shape my morals, values, and duties; those things I deem of greatest importance.

But the Already-but-not-yet vision of the kingdom should also shape the way in which I put my values into practice (within culture):

…we dare not assume the power of the state for the purposes of the church, and we dare not subordinate the ministries of the church to the authority of the state. [2]

In other words, we mustn’t attempt to bring about God’s purposes through political power, nor should we roll over and allow the government to tell us when and how we can speak about our Lord. The point is that we are to live holy lives, not as separatists nor as political zealots. But in the course of everyday life, we are to be as a lamp “on its stand” and as “a city on a hill,” with our good deeds visible to unbelievers (Matthew 5:14-16).

We recognize that God is at work here and now for the salvation of the lost and the needs of the oppressed (kingdom now), but also that a day of judgment is coming in which the wheat will separated from the chaff (kingdom future). We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (kingdom now), but also warn our neighbors of the life that is to come apart from faith in Jesus (kingdom future). As followers of Christ we must live within the tension of God’s kingdom, both at present in the daily grind, and future, when God will reconcile all things and consummate His eternal kingdom.

 

[1] Russell Moore, Onward (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2015) pg.64

[2] Ibid., 65


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