We’ve been studying Matthew for some time now… probably too long. It’s impossible to read Matthew without recognizing a focus on the Kingdom of God (Kingdom of Heaven). In fact, Jesus told his disciples to ask, “Your kingdom come…” What does this mean?
Concerning “The coming of the kingdom in the NT,” Goldsworthy writes:
Against the background of the OT expectations of the coming rule of God, the NT declares that Jesus of Nazareth is the bringer of the kingdom. While the proclamation of Jesus concerning the kingdom if not novel and is based firmly on OT antecedents, there are nevertheless some surprises. The prophets consistently present the ‘day of the Lord’ in terms of one coming. The gospel presents the Lord’s coming in at least three distinct but related ways.
1) The kingdom has come in Jesus. The meek servanthood of Jesus which leads eventually to his suffering and death, despite being liberally punctuated with demonstrations of power, prevented many from perceiving the nature of the kingdom’s coming…. Jesus was the kingdom in person.
2) The kingdom is coming to the people of God…. The reign/realm contrast is most obvious in this period because the subjects of the kingdom are not confined to any particular place. Even though they are gathered in fellowship as a church, the true, visible locus of the kingdom is at best ambiguous…
3) The kingdom will be consummated at Christ’s return. The third way in which the kingdom comes in the NT is the future or eschatological consummation.
Thus, the one coming of the Lord in the OT is shown to involve the coming of the end (the kingdom of God), in three ways: representatively for God’s people in Jesus of Nazareth; in them through the gospel and the Spirit; and finally with them at the consummation of the kingdom with the return of Jesus in glory to judge the living and the dead. (G. Goldsworthy, “Kingdom of God,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner; Downers Grove: IVP, 2000), p. 617-18)
I realize that this is a long quote, but I wanted to include all three ways that the NT focuses on the coming of the kingdom of God so that I could focus on one aspect – that is, the second aspect in which we’re living now.
As Goldsworthy writes, the kingdom of God is present now in an ambiguous way. Yes, the kingdom is represented/demonstrated when we gather together as a church, but our church meetings are not the extent of the coming of the kingdom today.
So, what part of our lives does the kingdom touch today? Every part. The “kingdom comes” at any point in our lives when we give up the reign (control) of our lives and submit to the reign of God through his Spirit.
Thus, his kingdom comes (or can come) when we gather together as a church, but also when we’re working, when we’re shopping, when we’re at home, when we’re talking or playing with our neighbors, when we’re at school… at any and every point in our lives.
Seeing his kingdom come begins with asking how we can best demonstrate God’s reign in our own lives in each situation that we find ourselves in… especially in contexts in which a kingdom response would not be a natural response… i.e., demonstrating love when we’ve been hurt or rejected, being patient when others are losing their cool, giving when we have nothing left, responding to harsh treatment/words with gentleness.
In other words, the kingdom comes when we allow the Spirit to produce his fruit in us, especially when the natural response would be different.
Of course, it can be beneficial to remember that Jesus introduced the kingdom and provided a way into the kingdom through his death, burial, and resurrection. It can also be beneficial to look forward to an eschatological (end) time when the kingdom response will be our natural response.
But, today, the kingdom comes when we allow God to reign in our lives in the many ambiguous events that happen every day. This is not about more rules or principles or anything like that. It’s about living eternal life today – living in the presence of Jesus – walking in the Spirit – abiding in Christ – or any of the other metaphors. It’s about recognizing the death of our natural inclinations and allowing the Spirit to live a true life through us.