We do not desire to be on either side of this debate, but rather, we desire to see the truth that Jesus teaches in these verses concerning the true nature of the Kingdom. This is not an easy task. The answers that we uncover lead to more questions, but as we shall see, these questions are sufficiently answered in this text.
First, the Kingdom is already here. Second, it is not here yet. Jesus tells the Pharisees, "The Kingdom is in your midst!", speaking of it's present reality. But He also tells the disciples, "The days are coming when you will desire to see one the days of the Son of Man, but you will not," speaking of it's future fulfillment. So we come to this text, recognizing that there is both a present reign of Christ from Heaven, and a future reign of Christ on the earth. This Kingdom of God has always been in power, but it has not always been obeyed. So it is in this sense that the Kingdom has already come, and yet is coming to reclaim it's place on the earth.
This raises some very interesting questions, doesn't it? When we affirm that the Kingdom is present and yet future, we might ask, "When did the Kingdom come?", "Where is the Kingdom?", and "When will the fulfillment of the Kingdom take place?"
These are some of the questions that Christ answers for us in our text.
I. When Did The Kingdom Come? In the Old Testament the Kingdom is seen as constantly coming, yet never arriving. Or put better, the Kingdom of God arrives with creation, then again with the formation of Adam, then with the calling of Abraham, with the Exodus from Egypt, with the giving of the law, with the possession of the land, with the deliverance by the judges, with the reign of David, with Solomon, and with the return from captivity. Yet in all these 'arrivals', there is a sense of anticipation for the arrival of the Kingdom in the person of the Messiah. This arrival is anticipated because of the rebellion of mankind on the earth. We have rebelled against the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is here, but it is coming to exert it's rule over us. As we read back into history, the specific place that we see the Kingdom of God arriving in judgment is in the Person of Christ.
A. The Kingdom arrives with the Christ. The Messiah is prophesied to be the Son of David. In both Luke's and Matthew's gospels, Jesus' genealogy is traced through the line of King David, pointing to Jesus as the rightful heir to the throne of the Kingdom. While Jesus is still in the womb, an angel appears to Joseph telling him that Jesus would save 'His people', pointing to the fact that this baby would have subjects. An angel tells Mary that Jesus would sit on the throne of David and that His Kingdom would be without end. After His birth the wise men came looking for the one who had been born 'King of the Jews'. Before Jesus was revealed in His public ministry John the Baptist, who was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah, was preaching "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" Jesus Himself begins His public ministry by announcing that "the Kingdom is at hand."
In our text Jesus tells the Pharisees who come to Him mockingly asking when He would set up His Kingdom, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." (20-21 ESV) Jesus tells the Pharisees, "Do you want to see the Kingdom? Here I am. I am standing among you now." In a very real sense, Jesus is the Kingdom. Without Him there is no Kingdom. He is the Kingdom personified. Where Christ is, there is the Kingdom.
B. We also see in this text that the Kingdom does not come until Christ is crucified. (verse 25) When Christ begins to tell His disciples about the coming Kingdom, He prefaces it by saying that first "He must suffer...and be rejected by this generation." When John the Baptist and Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God was near, they preached it as a reason to repent. In fact their messages involved little more at times it seems than the command to repent. This repentance was necessary because of the judgment that must take place at the coming of the Kingdom. So when Christ tells His disciples that He (the King) must suffer and be rejected, we are to understand that He is referring to the judgment that comes before the Kingdom arrives. Jesus takes this judgment at the cross! In an unprecedented move, Jesus inaugurates His kingdom on this earth by taking the judgment that sinners deserved in His own body, removing the need for judgment upon those who formerly had rebelled against the Kingdom reign but now have subjected themselves to Christ's authority through repentance and faith!
C. This present Kingdom manifested itself in power on the day of Pentecost. The promised Spirit descended and filled the Apostles, who preached the Gospel of the Kingdom from Psalm 16, a prophecy from King David. Acts 2:25-36
D. The Kingdom will arrive in full at Christ's return. There is yet a day when the Kingdom will come with all of it's glory and power, the day when the Son of Man is revealed. this coming of Christ will be accompanied by judgment upon all those who did not press into His kingdom through faith and repentance. This is a secret day, when men and women are busy living their lives with no thought of a day of reckoning. Up until the day that the rains began, in spite of the preaching of Noah, everyone continued in their own ways. And Sodom and Gomorrah did not know that judgment was coming until it had fallen upon them. Even so in the days when the coming Kingdom is revealed with the appearing of Christ in the skies, people will be ill-prepared. They do not look for judgment because they have not believed the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom. they have not pressed into the Kingdom and so they are excluded from it as rebels and traitors to their rightful King.
II. Where is the Kingdom?, and, When will it's fulfillment take place? Properly speaking, the Kingdom of God is everywhere. More specifically, it is where Christ the King is.
A. Regarding it's present status on earth, it is in the midst of the Church as John sees the risen Christ walking in the midst of the candlesticks. Rev 1:13, 20 Daniel prophesied of the Kingdom that would come and expand on the earth until finally one day the whole earth would be filled with it's glory. This is the location of the Kingdom today. And as the Church is in the midst of the world, Christ said that the "Kingdom is in the midst of you." The Kingdom is now close by, and ready to accept those who surrender their own petty kingdoms built by hand. The Kingdom is where the Christ is, in Heaven, in the Church, and among believers. It is present now, waging battle against all those who do not believe the truth. It is seen when judgment falls on sinners. It is seen when sinners repent and believe the Gospel.
B. The fulfillment of the Kingdom is yet future. It takes place at a time we do not know. There are signs that accompany the coming of the Kingdom. These signs are economic, political, and geographical upheaval. These are always taking place, making it difficult to discern when the Kingdom will come. Some continually see these signs over and over and wrongly say that the Kingdom is not coming...that it is a myth. But we do have the assurance that it will come. Christ has promised that He will return. Retail stores sell there greatest inventory around Christmastime. When Christmas draws near they will put up a sign that says, "Only 100 more shopping days till Christmas!" This is not how Christ has revealed His return. HE has not sent an angel every day, week, month, or year to announce how much time is left before His return. Instead, he has told us here that His return and the coming of His Kingdom is sudden. When we do not expect it, He will return. When he returns judgment follows Him, but after judgment, everlasting peace. We will reign with Him as kings and priests on the earth. We are given the counsel to be ready through the examples of the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. We are to watch for it, not continually gazing at the sky, or fitting pieces of the newspaper into our eschatological timetable, but living every moment in the light of Christ's promise to establish His kingdom on the earth.
We also see that Christ's return is universal. He tells His disciples, "Don't follow those who would say they know the timing and place of the my return. Just like when lightning flashes across the skies and you can see it from far off, everyone will see me at my return." We must be prepared for this moment in history. He will not return in phases giving ample time for warning of His arrival. When He arrives, He is here. No second chances. "Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy." Rev 22:11Conclusion: The twin truths of God's present Kingdom and the Kingdom to come must motivate us to Kingdom living now, so that we will be identified as true citizens then. How is it that we should live?
The Kingdom is present, so live under the laws of the kingdom and under the Kingship of Christ.
The Kingdom is coming, so watch for it and be found faithful to the King.
The Kingdom is present, so live in the light of the Kingdom.
The Kingdom is coming, so let your light shine in this present evil, dark age.
The Kingdom is present, so live as in the presence of the reigning King.
The Kingdom is coming, so hope in the fact that you will see the face of the King.
The Kingdom is present, so live rejoicing in your inheritance.
The Kingdom is coming, so prepare to possess your inheritance.
The Kingdom is present, so worship the King.
The Kingdom is coming, so prepare to worship the King in complete Holiness.
The Kingdom is present, so partake of the Lord's Supper. Matt 26:26-29
The Kingdom is coming, so prepare for the feast of the Lamb.
The Kingdom is present, so be sanctified.
The Kingdom is coming, so prepare for glorification.
The Kingdom is present, so repent and believe the Gospel.
The Kingdom is coming, so prepare to meet your God.