When will the kingdom of God come?
The Pharisees asked Jesus this same question and his response was, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘there it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
There is a common notion among many Christians that the kingdom of God is only to be experienced after death. Yes, if we abide in God and seek to do his will, there is a heaven that awaits us upon our passing from this life, a resurrection that follows, and an eternal life with the Father in a new creation.
But so much of what Jesus said to his disciples and the people of his day exhorted them to do something with this life in order to advance the creation that God had inaugurated and Jesus had redeemed.
Jesus gave us a model prayer that has as its first petition a request for the kingdom of God to come on this earth here and now, as it is in heaven – “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt. 6:10)
Jesus says when we are “born again” (accept Jesus as the Son of God)…and “born of water and spirit” (baptized), we enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:3, 5) Most of Jesus’ parables illustrating the kingdom of God instruct us how to live now, not after we get to heaven.
- The kingdom is like a mustard seed that grows from the smallest seed into the largest of plants.
- The Kingdom is like the leaven of yeast, a small amount impacts the larger dough of the world.
- The kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field, leading us to give all to buy the field.
Jesus says if we love him and obey his teaching, the Father will love us and both the Father and Jesus will make their home with us. (John 14:23) Through their residence in us, we have the opportunity to experience the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23), and share that fruit with others.
Not long ago I learned that a particular friend had lost his wife to cancer. While speaking to someone who has just lost a loved one can be awkward, I felt like the Holy Spirit was nudging me to go see him. When he came to the door, I said, “I came to give you a hug.” He appeared to be all alone and invited me in. For the next hour, I listened to him talk about the last few months of his wife’s suffering, the last few hours of her life, and of all the support he had received from friends, his pastor and medical personnel. I listened as he reminisced about their life together.
My time with him, as well as the subsequent funeral celebrating her life, was an example of the reality of the kingdom of God here and now.