The “already and not yet” is still a valid and wise statement about God’s kingdom, which unfolds in three stages. This post also answers why healings do not happen 100% of the time right now.
Let’s first define the kingdom of God.
In the first post, we said that the kingdom of God means his rule or reign, his kingship, his sovereignty. It encompasses both his realm over which he exercises his rule and his authority and power by which he exerts his kingship. He is the monarch—the sole ruler—with absolute power.
His kingdom is universal and everlasting. “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations” (Ps. 145:13, NIV). By his mighty acts (already here), his kingdom is proved to be glorious and splendid (Ps. 145:9-12). “The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103:19, NIV).
And yet the kingdom is not yet here in its visible and full display, for all to experience and submit to. Jesus prayed, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10, NIV). The kingdom of God is in process and in progress.
Some critics have rebuked teachers for saying that they can call down the good things of heaven down to earth, like healing and peace in the soul. The critics say that evangelism, salvation of souls, demon expulsion, death, sex and marriage are not in heaven, so do we call them down too? This criticism, however, fails to understand the already-and-not-yet aspect on the kingdom. We are permitted to call down those things we need the most, like harmony in marriage and evangelism and salvation and healing and demon expulsion, through the power of the Spirit. We have plenty of Scriptures to support those things, besides one verse (Matt. 6:10). Eventually, at the Second Coming, there will no longer be the need for evangelism, salvation, demon expulsion, healing, and sex and marriage, and so on. Death will be defeated. But that time is not yet here. Therefore at this time in the history of God’s world–the Church Age–we need the kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
All of this sums up the already-and-not-yet-fully aspect to the kingdom.
So theologians see three stages of the kingdom of God: (1) Preparation, (2) Establishment, and (3) Completion. We can call it the Grand Kingdom Narrative in three acts.
Sequential Diagram of the Kingdom of God
Here are the three stages in a diagram in relation to God’s timeline from Genesis to Revelation:
Preparation Establishment Completion
Creation ——————–——Jesus ——————– Consummation
Jesus inaugurated the kingdom during his ministry at his first coming, but it will finally arrive in its fullness when he comes back the second time. Its completion awaits fulfillment. In the between time, we have only its partial glory and power, and when God wills to manifest the kingdom, like a genuine healing or salvation of the soul.
Preparation of the Kingdom
The phrase “kingdom of God” is not used in exactly those three words in the OT. However, the people of Israel were supposed to live under God’s direct rule. Deut. 33:5 says that the LORD became the king in Jeshurun (the “upright one” or Israel), when all the heads of the tribes and the tribes themselves were gathered. Is. 43:15 says that the LORD is the Holy One, the Creator of Israel, their King. So Israel was a theocratic nation under the eternal monarch.
Israel was called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation—to be the kingdom of God in a sense (Exod. 19:5-6). But his call to be the embodiment of his kingdom was conditional. Would they obey the king’s laws, which flowed out of consecration or holiness or devotion to him and to avoid the profaneness of the surrounding kingdoms? Or would they take on board too many of their worldly ways, including worshiping false gods? Throughout Israel’s existence, the people chose the second path; they chose to forsake God’s ways.
So now God promised a Messiah, the Anointed One, who would lead his people towards righteousness and everlasting peace. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders …. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on forever” (Is. 9:6-7, NIV).
A New Covenant was promised: “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the LORD. I will put my law in their minds and write it in their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jer. 31:33, NIV).
The Old Testament was a time of preparation. The kingdom had not come in the mode or way it was supposed or intended to come because people are much too flawed to obey the laws of the kingdom. It could only come more fully when a radical change happened in human nature. The change would come with the Messiah, and he would establish his kingdom by transforming people.
See the post: 2 Kingdom and Kingship in the Old Testament
Establishment of the Kingdom
This part of the Grand Kingdom Narrative begins with the birth of a baby. Gabriel declared to Mary:
“You shall conceive in your womb and birth a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He shall be great and called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give him the throne of David, his ancestor. 33 And he shall rule over the house of Jacob forever, and there shall be no end to his kingdom (Luke 1:31-33, my translation).
The kingdom of the Messiah and the Son—one person—shall never end. It subsumes the older ideas spelled out in the Old Testament.
In addition, the Messiah was also to become the Savior, for that is what the name Jesus means: the LORD saves. An angel announced to shepherds near Bethlehem, the birthplace: “And the angel said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid! For look! I announce to you the good news of great joy, which shall be for all the people, 11 because today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, was born’” (Luke 2:10-11, my translation).
In v. 11, Jesus is also the Lord. Though this title is not identical to king, it still reveals that he rules over the kingdom of God. He is Lord over all he surveys, over his dominion.
Jesus himself announced the fulfillment of the preparation period: “The time has been fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the gospel!” (Mark 1:15, my translation). Those who surrender to the Lordship and Kingship of the kingdom can enjoy the reality of the kingdom in their lives. Now we are in the beginning of the establishment period.
Now let’s move to the ministry of Jesus.
For the basic statistics on how many times the words “kingdom” and “kingdom of God” (etc.) appear in the NT, please click on this link and see point no. 1:
The only way to enter the kingdom is to be born again and born anew (John 3:3, 5, 7). So radical rebirth is the threshold we must cross as we enter it.
As I noted in another post in summarizing some Scriptures:
Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom, which God’s right to rule over people’s lives and crush Satan under the Messiah’s feet and which brings restoration and reparations of the damage that humankind and Satan has wreaked on his earth (Matt. 4:23).
Parables describe how God controls it and causes its growth, which implies that we cannot cause its growth, other than just preach it (Matt. 13:11-52).
Jesus’s miracles proved he had kingly authority over diseases, which are outward signs of something that has gone wrong and needs repair (Luke 7:18-22).
Driving out demons proved he was shrinking Satan’s kingdom, and this will continue until God sweeps it aside forever (Luke 11:20).
Through Jesus the kingdom of God is present, which means he launches and sustains it to this very day (Luke 17:20-21).
Toward the beginning of the Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), he startled his listeners: if your righteousness does not exceed that of the Pharisees, the people would never enter his kingdom (Matt. 5:20). So what could this mean, since Pharisees were expert at law-keeping?
Even Paul said that before his conversion to the Messiah Jesus, he was faultless in his righteousness based on the law (Phil. 3:6). It can only mean internal righteousness, and Paul argued that believers can be filled with the “fruit of righteousness” (Phil. 1:11). After his conversion he realized that righteousness comes not by working hard for it, but by putting believers putting their faith in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:9). This idea of faith-based righteousness may leap ahead of the Sermon on the Mount, but Matthew is writing a story, and by the end of it, Jesus will commission them to baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (28:19). The Spirit will have his place in the plan of salvation.
However, the Jewish nation–the Jerusalem establishment, representing the people–rejected their true Messiah, so Jesus announced that the kingdom of God will be taken from them and given to a people who will produce fruit—the Gentiles (Matt. 21:43). At his trial he said the kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). It comes from above, but this does not mean it is other-worldly, but a totally new order as it gradually invaded and is invading the realm of humanity. It relates to ordinary human affairs.
The Jerusalem establishment, representing the entire nation, crucified their True Messiah in an act of startling self-deception and shortsightedness.
The kingdom shone and came through the death of Jesus, which means he disarmed ruling spirits through the cross (Luke 23:42-43; Col. 2:15). It shone and came through the resurrection of Jesus, which will inevitably conquer the final enemy: death (1 Cor. 15:20-25).
And so the kingdom that Jesus established belongs to the sons of the kingdom—those who surrender to Jesus’s Lordship and Kingship (Matt. 13:38). In fact through Christ we have been made a kingdom (Heb. 12:28). He has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father (Rev. 1:6). Christ is presently reigning over his people. We have received the free gift of righteousness; therefore we shall reign in this life through Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:17). Satan no longer reigns in each individual believer’s life, but has been disarmed (Col. 2:15).
“He rescued us from the authority of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14, my translation). Satan embodies darkness, and his kingdom is the opposite is the kingdom of the beloved Son. We live in his kingdom now.
Completion of the Kingdom
This is the third act of the long story. It still wait for future fulfillment.
Let’s look at some basic biblical data. Some parables describe it as in the future (Matt. 25:1-34). It comes at the return of Jesus (2 Tim. 4:1). We will inherit it (future tense) (Matt. 25:34; 1 Cor. 15:50; Jas. 2:5). It is heavenly (2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 12:26-28). We will receive the kingdom (2 Pet. 1:11). It will soon come in complete power and glory. We inherit it now, but it will be revealed in its fullness and glory and power and dominion at the return of Christ.
Now what about the present condition of the kingdom?
The kingdoms of this world still exist, right alongside the kingdom of God. Satan is still called the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). These kingdoms—which we can bundle together as one kingdom—still have not submitted to the kingdom of God. Therefore it is imperative that the kingdom continue to grow from its original establishment. It starts out as a mustard seed but grows up to be a big shrub (Matt. 13:31-32). It is compared to a little yeast that can cause a large lump of dough to expand (Matt. 13:33).
Therefore the kingdom does not reveal itself to the outward eye. The kingdom cannot be pointed to, as if it is visible. Jesus said no one can say, “There it is! Here it is!” The kingdom is within you (Luke 17:20-21). As the first step, the kingdom is an inner, spiritual reality (Luke 17:21).
Next, the kingdom is mixed with the unregenerated (those who have not been born again) and the regenerated (those who have been born again). Jesus told the Parable of the Wheat and Tares—grass that looks like wheat (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43). The devil sowed the tares in the field with the wheat. Only God, not us, can sort them out at the end of the age. In the Parable of the Net, the same thesis is announced. Experienced fishermen caught many fish, and they threw out the bad and kept the good ones (these fishermen represent angels). So it will be at the end of the age. God will have to sort out the intermixture. We can’t do that right now.
It will finally and fully be manifest and revealed at the Second Coming. God will subject everything under Christ, who will be subjected to the Father. Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 15:24-28 sums it up best:
24 then the end comes, when he hands over the kingdom to God and the Father, when he has destroyed all rulership, and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he puts every enemy under his feet. 26 Death is the last enemy to be destroyed. 27 For “he has subjected everything under his feet” [Ps. 8:6]. But when it says that “everything has been subjected,” it is clear that except the one [God] subjecting everything to him [Christ]. 28 And when everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself shall be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God will be all and in all. (1 Cor. 15:24-28, my tentative translation)
The last tool of Satan is death, and Jesus conquered it in his own life, so he is the firstfruits (the leader of the resurrection for us too), and now we too will have ultimate victory over it after our death—we will never die again. God’s kingdom will then have unrivaled and exclusive rule.
How does this post help me grow in Christ?
Christ’s death on the cross—the atonement—provides for physical and other kinds of healings. But why don’t healings happen all of the time, 100% of the time, in everyone who prays for it?
For a more developed answer, please see this post:
Now for the bigger picture.
The kingdom of God is his work; it is not the product of human cleverness or architecture or central planning. Jesus is working it out currently through the church. The kingdom is not the church, and the church is not the kingdom. Rather, the kingdom created and is sustaining the church. Now the church is supposed to proclaim the kingdom. Nowadays, however, to tell people the kingdom is here might get an interesting reaction—it might work better in the United Kingdom. But in America, the message has been blunted. We usually just proclaim the Lordship of Jesus and later teach about the kingdom. But never lose sight of the fact that the kingdom has intersected into your heart and is running right through it. It empowers you through the Spirit to minister it in people’s lives, like the message of the gospel.
ARTICLES IN THE SERIES
5 The Kingdom of God: Already Here, But Not Yet Fully
Also see Williams, vol. 3, p. 290 for his diagram.