Some folks have associated Jesus’ statement that some of those present would “see the Kingdom come in power” (Mt.16:28, Mk.9:1, Lk.9:27) with the immediately following experience of the Transfiguration. Others chalk it up to a supposed “misunderstanding” (?!?) of the time lapse before the “Second Coming”. I am more inclined to go with those who relate it to Pentecost, and the powerful activity of the Holy Spirit in the early church.
Surprisingly, there are only 27 uses of the word “kingdom” in Acts and the epistles. Describing the period between Jesus’ resurrection and the ascension, Luke notes (Ac.1:3) that “the Kingdom of God” was the content of the “graduate course” that Jesus conducted for his disciples during that time. Even so, they still had the wrong idea (1:6), clinging to the notion that a political coup for the nation was in store. Jesus’ reply (1:7-8) is one that much of his church has yet to grasp. He bluntly asserts that any such concerns are none of our business! The Kingdom of which he has been speaking will be established as the power of the Holy Spirit enables his people to spread out through all the known world as his “witnesses” (see W.S.#18) to his reign!
It took a while, but eventually the faithful disciples began to understand. “The Kingdom of God,” along with the news of his definitive defeat of death, became the core of their message. In Ac.8:12, we learn that in Samaria, “Philip was preaching about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ”. Early on, the realization became vivid, that the message was not a glory-trip, nor one of personal aggrandizement. Paul, in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (Ac.14:22), after himself having been stoned, beaten, and run out of town, is found “strengthening the morale of the disciples, encouraging them to remain faithful, and (warning them) that it is necessary for us to enter the Kingdom of God through many hassles”! See also Ac.19:8, 20:25, 28:23 and 28:31.
With all its ubiquity, however, it is hard to find a concise “definition” of the Kingdom, beyond the certainty that the King is in charge! There is a sense in which every description of the New Testament church is actually an account of the Kingdom in action. Here again, I would refer you to Citizens of the Kingdom for fuller exploration. Paul asserts (Col.1:13) “He (God) has rescued us from the power [authority] of darkness and transported us into the Kingdom of the Son of his Love!” Everything else grows out of that triumphant truth! His redeemed, rescued people are expected to live out the present reality of that rescue! Both “rescued” and “transported” are aorist tenses: they have already happened!
Gal.5:19-24, I Cor.6:9-11, and Eph.4:17-5:20 all detail “before and after” descriptions of the life of “rescued” people. Note especially the “BUT” in I Cor.6:11! A radical change of lifestyle was expected of Kingdom citizens, not just a slightly sanitized substitute for the sordid situation of their surrounding society.
Paul admonishes the young Thessalonian church (I Thess.2:12)…”you all should live in a manner worthy of God, who is calling you into his own Kingdom and glory!”
Notice, however, that nobody is instituting a new legalism. Everybody knew that hadn’t worked. Paul reminded the Roman brotherhood (Rom.14:17), “The Kingdom of God is not food and drink, but justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit!”
Neither does it require complex doctrinal reasonings and formulas, as he reminded the folks in Corinth (I Cor.4:20), “The Kingdom of God does not consist of talk, but of power!” – the present-tense experience of the power of the Holy Spirit!
As committed disciples interact, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by their faithful life to the Resurrection of their King, onlookers can begin to glimpse the beauty of his Kingdom.
Of course, we all recognize that our best, most earnest efforts, our most careful faithfulness, still falls far short of the promised Kingdom. But not to worry! After all, one of the reasons Jesus said he came in the first place was to “take away our shortcomings!” (See W.S. #7). That’s one of his specialties!
Although they comprise only a small minority among the references to the Kingdom, there are also passages that speak of a future dimension – a consummated Kingdom – far beyond anything we can imagine, let alone experience, in this present world.
As an old man, imprisoned for his faithfulness, and possibly soon to face execution, Paul reminded Timothy (II Tim.4:1) of the much-anticipated prospect of the “appearance and kingly reign” of Jesus, at which time he will “judge” [sort out] (see W.S.#9 and 10) the living and the dead, and (v.18) of the rescue and vindication that he expects at that time.
Peter also encourages his readers (II Pet.1:11) to remain faithful as they await “entrance into the eternal Kingdom” of Jesus.
The writer to the Hebrews (12:28), while using a perfect tense (“we have received”), nevertheless offers the assurance that when everything else is shaken apart, this Kingdom will stand.
During the Revelation, John was privileged to glimpse the time when “the kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our God, and of his Christ (Anointed One)” (Rev.11:15), and he literally runs out of words in his effort to describe that glory.
Clearly, there is “more in store” for those who choose ways of faithfulness. The future is not irrelevant. It holds indescribable promise.
BUT, “until then”, we already have a King to honor and obey, and fellow-citizens of his Kingdom with whom to learn to reflect his glorious graciousness.
Let’s start practicing now – and put some shoe-leather under the earnest prayer of our hearts,
Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done – ON EARTH as surely as it is in heaven!