We are living in eternity right now. We just don’t see it yet, because the kingdom of God is not fully manifested—for now.
In Part One, I (and many others) defined the kingdom of God as the reign and sovereignty and power and authority of God in our lives. When we pray that his kingdom would come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10), we are praying in his rule and reign to come into our hearts and in society.
The kingdom of God entered the world in a fresh and powerful way when Jesus was incarnated. We can experience the kingdom of God right now and right here. That is his first coming. But then there will be a Second Coming. His kingdom will be fully manifested.
This post describes the kingdom in the future, while the rest of them will look at the kingdom now.
It is a clear teaching of Scripture that This Age is going on right now, while the Age to Come will happen in the future, by definition. The Greek noun aiōn (pronounced I-own and where we get our word aeon), can, yes, be translated as “eternity,” particularly when it is used in its adjective form and describes God. God is eternal (Rom. 16:26). But more often it means (1) “a very long time,” “earliest times, ages long past” (Luke 1:70) and (2) “age” or “era” “this present (evil) age before the Parousia” (Second Coming or Second Arrival) (Matt. 12:32; 13:22; Luke 16:8; 2 Cor. 4:4; Gal. 1:4). “the (happy) age to come after the Parousia” (Mark 10:30; Eph. 1:2) (Shorter Lexicon).
In Luke 20:34-36 Jesus said that the sons and daughters of this age marry, but those counted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. So two ages are announced. In this age, marriage is important. In that age, marriage is not. An important comment about those verses: we enter the Age to Come by the resurrection from the dead. Yes, we go to heaven when we die and shuck off this body (Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:6-8). But the kingdom that descends to the earth happens at the Second Coming and the resurrection that takes place at that time is the moment when we are reunited with our bodies. That’s when we enter it in its full manifestation.
Some have written that we need to be careful about praying down God’s kingdom and will as it happens in heaven. Why? Because evangelism doesn’t happen in heaven, so do we want to pray down nonevangelism? Of course not. The same goes for marriage or even death. However, this criticism fails to distinguish between the already and not yet. Soon the kingdom of God will be fully manifested, and those wonderful things will not be needed. Right now, however, they are.
Bottom line about aiōn (so far): the Greek noun, in many contexts, speaks of an age or era or aeon. This is important because we need to distinguish between This Age and the Next Age.
So George Eldon Ladd produces this picture:
—————-This Age —–Parousia —-___Age to Come
Creation ⸻⸻⸻X ⸻⸻⸻⸻>
———————————-——Resurrection of the Dead
The kingdom of God will come in its full manifestation, when death, the last enemy to be defeated, will have been destroyed and our weak earthling bodies will be transformed, starting at the Parousia and the Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:50-58). Some will object that we need also a new millennium, but Ladd is keeping things simple for now to get one central point across: the differences between This Age and the Age to Come.
Renewal Theologian J. Rodman Williams pictures it like this:
———– Preparation— Establishment ——-Completion
Creation ⸻⸻ Jesus ⸻⸻ Consummation →
Note how the completion of the kingdom and the consummation of the present world order overlap, so its completion awaits fulfillment. Note the arrow after the consummation. God’s kingdom never ends, since it is defined as his rule, reign, power, authority, and sovereignty. (Williams does not have this arrow, however.)
See Part Five for more explanation of Williams’ sequential diagram: 5 The Kingdom of God: Already Here, But Not Yet Fully
Let’s now return to Ladd’s diagram and look at the contrast between This Age and the Age to Come. We will never be able to sort out how God is sovereign over This Age, yet Satan also has his power and authority over it. But at least we can attempt to describe the differences nondogmatically.
Gal. 1:4 says that Jesus gave himself for our sins, to rescue us from this present evil age. Our sins conform to this present evil age, but Jesus can empower us not to give into a particular sin that easily ensnares, hinders and entangles us (Heb. 12:1). Sin does not have to dominate us any longer (Rom. 6:6-7, 12, 14). How? We offer ourselves to righteousness (Rom. 6:13). We make it our prayer, each day. “Lord, I offer myself to righteousness and no longer offer any part of me to the easily entangling sin. Give me the inner strength and grace to stand in Christ.” And gradually that old habit will drop off. The kingdom of God—his sovereign power and reign—can rule in your heart, right now. the Kingdom Age can invade your space right now, powerfully and authoritatively enough to help you live for the Kingdom Age, though not enough to eradicate the presence of sin in your life. Yes, the Kingdom Age by the indwelling of the Spirit takes away the power of sin, but sin is so ingrained in our nature, that sin’s presence cannot be abolished until we receive our new bodies.
Eph. 2:1-2 says that we used to follow the age (aiōn) of this world when we walked (lived) in our trespasses and sins. The prince of the power of the air is the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. This evil ruler has lots of sway and power in the age of this world system or order. If we keep living or walking by the present evil age, we will end up on the losing side and be judged because we did not live righteously and because we did not surrender to the kingdom—his sovereignty and authority and power and rule and reign. We become the sovereign of our own lives, overlooking that Satan rules This Age (in part), and we are his subjects until we surrender to God’s kingdom.
The New Testament places the Kingdom Age (the Age to Come) in opposition to This Present Evil Age. The Kingdom of God belongs to the Age to Come, as the perfect manifestation of God’s rule and reign, when redemption will be complete.
In Mark 10:30 the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew’s term that = Kingdom of God), Salvation, Eternal Life, and the Age to Come all belong together. Yes, we can experience all of them now, but not yet fully. We will experience them completely in the Fully Manifested Kingdom Age.
In Cor. 15:50 Paul says flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, so our bodies of flesh and blood need to be transformed so they no longer are bogged down by flesh and blood. We will have brand-new spiritual bodies in the Kingdom Age.
In the Parable of the Tares (grass that looks like wheat), the good man sows wheat and goes his way. At night the Evil One (Satan) sows tares in the wheat field. So now This Age has sons of God and son of evil mixed in together. Only God can sort them out at the end of This Present Evil Age. The sons of the kingdom will come in or enter when the Kingdom Age breaks in fully, and the sons of the Present Evil Age will be thrown into the furnace.
So the kingdom of God is in the future.
How does this post help me grow in the knowledge of God and his kingdom?
Yes, the kingdom of God will be manifested fully and completely at the Parousia or Second Coming. Yes, it is in the future. However, we can experience the kingdom now, but not yet fully or completely.
Let’s make this biblical truth personal.
This partial inbreaking of the kingdom explains why prayers for healing do not always get answered. Our bodies just wear out, and sometimes they wear out prematurely, as we currently measure life expectancy or life spans. Only when the Kingdom Age comes, when we experience a transformation of our bodies, will we experience complete healing—at that time, not in This Present Evil Age.
More specifically, why didn’t God heal your Aunt Agatha, your favorite aunt, even though you prayed in faith and you both confessed all possible bitterness and unforgiveness and any other sins you could think of, got powerful men and women of faith to pray for her, stood in prayer lines, and received prayer at a small group? We will never be able to figure out the details in this Age, but the overarching reason is that the Kingdom Age has not been fully manifested—yet.
However, ponder this. When you die or the Kingdom Age breaks in at the Second Coming, you will see your aunt again, and the reunion will be great. Don’t get so bitter against God that you drift from him and possibly lose out on the Kingdom Age and miss the reunion with her. Just trust God that he has her in his hands and you will meet again.
ARTICLES IN THE SERIES
3 The Kingdom Is in the Future
At that link, look for Ladd, though I don’t agree with his complicated diagrams on pp. 38 and 42. The rest of his Chapter II is superb. Also see Williams, vol. 3, p. 290 for his diagram.