The kingdom of God can appear contradictory. It has come, but it is still coming. It is here, but it’s still on the way. It is now, but it’s also not yet, at least not totally.
Jesus repeatedly declared that He had brought the kingdom of God among mankind. But He also told us that He would come again to fully establish His kingdom. It’s here now, but not completely. There is still more to come.
Because of this seeming ambiguity, it’s understandable why there is controversy about exactly where we as Christians should stand on the continuum between “now” and “not yet.” Let’s, for illustration purposes, say that there is a 100-mile road between “not yet” and “fully now.”
There are Christians who would confidently declare that we should be living at mile marker ninety-nine, almost all the way to the fullness of “now.” There should be almost nothing of the “not yet” left. Jesus’ undoing of the curse through His death and resurrection means it’s all done but the mop up.
At the same time, there are others who would say that we have barely left the driveway at the “not yet” end. We’re a very long way from fully achieving “now.” There is still an awful lot that is “not yet.” Given the sheer volume of sin that still exists – not to mention issues like death, poverty, and sickness – there are gigantic pieces of the puzzle that Jesus needs to put into place. Clearly much will change when He returns again.
Now, but not yet.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, apparently struggled with this. She was exuberant when, newly pregnant, she went to visit her relative, Elizabeth. Mary declared, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:46-50)
She was clearly excited that Almighty God had blessed her. “From now on all generations will call me blessed.” We could say that Mary recognized that the kingdom of God had come upon her in a major way, right?
But it was only a short time later that she and Joseph had to take their newborn Baby and flee to Egypt. The risk was too great to stay. Herod was killing all the babies in the area. It was imperative that they leave. They didn’t want Jesus to die prematurely. So they fled to a faraway place. Had the kingdom of God departed from them at that point?
Later, it is obvious that Mary had learned to trust Jesus implicitly. At the Canaan wedding, she told the servants there, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5) There is not a hint of hesitation on her part. She knew the kingdom had come. Yet it was only a few years later, Mary stood and watched Jesus die in agony on a Roman cross.
The kingdom of God is here, but not fully. It has come, but we are still waiting for the completeness of it.
We will see great victories here and now. But, I don’t expect there will be an unbroken string of victories. Even Jesus struggled at times. When Jesus was in Nazareth, Mark said, “And he could do no mighty work there…” (Mark 6:5) That lack of miracles apparently had to do with the unbelief of the people. Yet, it seems obvious that their unbelief affected Jesus’ ability to minister.
The kingdom is here, but not totally. It has come, but the fullness of it is still on the way.
We will see miracles. There will be signs and wonders. But there will still be sickness. There will be – until Jesus returns again in all His glory – people dying.
Yet we know we have the final, ultimate victory. No matter what happens, we’re just pilgrims here. “Our citizenship is in heaven.” (Philippians 3:20) Here and now, we are just passing through. This world is only temporary. But heaven is ours because of what Christ has done!