The Kingdom of God: Now or Later or Both?

3. “Now but not yet” – Is this the best unifying concept to sum up the life of God’s people in the present age?

This exam response will discuss whether the phrase “Now, but not yet” is the best concept to sum up the age in which Christian’s live in. As Christians there is no doubt there are expectations of the future and the full unveiling of the Kingdom of God is not yet completed. This response will show a) that through his life, death and resurrection Jesus established a Kingdom that is incomplete on Earth. It will discuss b) a biblical perspective of the future completion of the Kingdom of God and conclude that there is an overlap in the ages, which means Christians both live in the Kingdom of God and are waiting for the completion of that Kingdom in accordance with the scriptures.

Through the life of Jesus Christ we can see the inauguration of the Kingdom of God ‘now’. Jesus was the kingdom in person. He was the temple of God on Earth. (Jn 2:19-21) The kingdom that was promised in the Old Testament comes to actuality in the person of Jesus, but He didn’t stay on earth for long. Christ was raised in glory to be with the Father and continue his reign. Thus He sent the Holy Spirit while Christians wait for his return.[1] The ascension of Jesus, and the sending of the Holy Spirit marks the overlap of the ages.[2]

Christians are victorious now by being re-born in Christ’s victory on the Cross and also His resurrection. Christians have been raised with God in this age. God is working within us now, changing and conforming Christians into His image and likeness. Christians have access to the father now because Christ is reigning King today.

These present and earthly expressions of the kingdom are imperfect and incomplete.[3] The human experience is defined with suffering (Rom 18:19), Christians continually displease God (Gal 5:17), Christians haven’t yet reached glory as God intends (Eph 4:15). There is a day where God’s future will be fully realised and perfected.

So then, Christians are compelled to think of the Kingdom also in terms of the ‘not yet’. It will be consummated on Christ’s return. Jesus will judge the living and the dead. At this point the kingdom reign and kingdom realm will become one. ‘Both-And’[4]

The bible uses certain passages to describe what the Kingdom of God will look like in the future. There is a Old Testament theme of ‘prophecy and fulfilment’ as the scriptures are a linear historical progression. The theme is best described as ‘a movement from creation to new creation’. We find in the Old Testament a prophetic eschatology, as in Isaiah 2:4.[5] This passage, along with others, is focused around the themes of God the King,  the new temple of Jerusalem, a new people with a new heart of flesh, a new land and a perfect union with the King where obedience is also central. Prophetic eschatology is understood by looking back to the garden of Eden in order to show what the future Kingdom of God will look like.

The New Testament has a different eschatological approach but draws identical conclusions. Goldsworthy surmises the New Testament eschatology by saying that the emphasis of the kingdom is no longer on the temple, but on the person of Jesus. Wherever He is, the Kingdom is.[6] Although the emphasis is switched, the theme of God as King is still present.  Phrases such as Kingdom of God’s beloved Son,[7] Kingdom of God,[8] Kingdom of Glory,[9] Kingdom of Christ,[10] show that the Kingdom is described less with land and more with emphasis on Jesus.

Further to this in the gospels Jesus shows that the kingdom of is both near and hear. This is done through his miracles, reign over nature and demons and the forgiveness of sins.

In conclusion through both the New and Old Testaments Christians can visualize what the Kingdom of God will look like. From our human experiences of this world it is clear that the fullness of God’s Kingdom is not upon us. Although we have already experienced Christ’s saving grace and justifying forgiveness; and although we have the Holy Spirit as our present counsel, Christians still look forward to a time where the fullness and completion of God’s Kingdom will be a present reality.


[1] G. Goldsworthy, According to Plan, (InterVarsity Press, 2002) p.212

[2] G. Goldsworthy, Kingdom of God, p.620

[3] G. Goldsworthy, Kingdom of God, p.620

[4] G. Goldsworthy, Kingdom of God, p.620

[5]  see also: Ezek 34, 11:19; Is 65; Jer 31; Joel 2:28-32

[6]  G. Goldsworthy, According to Plan, p.213

[7] Col 1:13

[8] Col 4:11; Rom 14:17; 1Cor 4:20

[9] 1Thes 2:12

[10] Eph 5:5; 2Pet 1:1; Rev 11:15