Section 9B .. The Future

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The Kingdom…When?

Carol Brooks

Also See What Was the Message of Jesus?

For more on the patterns of prophecy in Scripture, See Prophecy and Typology.

The Problem
The New Testament records several statements made by Jesus that have not been at all easy to understand. One of His more puzzling statements is found in Matthew 16:27-28 and the parallel passages in Mark 9:1 and Luke 9:23-27. In them we hear Jesus saying that some who were present there with Him would not die until they saw the coming of the kingdom.

    "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." (Matthew 16:27-28 NASB)

For all practical purposes all three accounts have exactly the same lead in -  Our Lord's promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church, a brief prediction of His suffering and death, Peter's protest, Jesus' reprimand, and the necessity and benefits of taking up ones cross and following Him. The verse

These verses have caused quite a few Bible students to scratch their heads because, as they understand it, Jesus did not return to set up His kingdom in the disciple's lifetime.

It has rightly been pointed out that if verses 27 and 28 in Matthew 16 refer to the same event (they do and they don't), then the pre-millennial doctrine cannot possibly be true because verse 28 unequivocally puts the kingdom in the lifetime of Jesus' audience. (The Millennium refers to the 1,000 years of peace and security that takes place after Christ binds Satan and establish His reign.)

Several theories have been advanced none of which stand up to scrutiny. For example,

    Jesus Has Already Returned: Preterists believe that most Biblical prophecies were fulfilled in or around 70 A.D. at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. And since Jesus clearly said that He would return before some of His disciples died He came in His kingdom at that time. Apart from all the other problems with Preterism, this view completely disregards what Paul told the Romans ie. at His second coming Jesus would "repay every man according to his deeds" (Romans 2:6)

    Fulfillment at The Transfiguration: Many believe that the transfiguration was the fulfillment of verse 28. The transfiguration refers to the time when Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain to pray and while He was praying He was transfigured in front of their eyes. His clothes became dazzling white and He was seen talking to Elijah and Moses. See Matthew 17.

    While the entire incident undoubtedly gave the disciples (who had only known Jesus in His human body) a greater realization of His deity and showed them how He would one day appear, the event fell very short of "the Son of man coming in his kingdom".

    Additionally, Jesus' statement that some disciples would be alive indicates that others would not be. This seems a little odd because the Transfiguration took place just a few days later and none of the disciples died in the week after He spoke. Even Judas the first to die was alive until some time later.

    Fulfillment at Pentecost: Quite simply Jesus did not judge and repay all men according to what they had done at Pentecost.

    There are those who split up the two verses claiming that verse 27 speaks of the end times but verse 28 about some of the disciples being alive to see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom' referred to the establishment of the kingdom on Pentecost.

    There is no question that all the apostles except Judas were present on Pentecost and that Pentecost rapidly snowballed a small and feeble bunch of believers to being an established force in a large part of the known world.

    However, the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, not the Son of Man.

All of which leaves us no closer to understanding what Jesus meant. However, the first fact to consider is the tenses used by the three authors.

The Tenses
A very relevant but little known fact is that in the original Greek all three of the authors used different tenses for the word translated 'come' or 'coming'. This important detail was not carried over into the English Translations all of which use exactly the same tense in all three accounts. But, as pointed out by Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament,

Matthew says "see the Son of man coming" (erchomenon, present participle, a process).

    "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming (Gk. erchomenon) in His kingdom (Gk. basileia). (Matthew 16:28 NASB)

Mark says "see the kingdom of God come" (eleluthuian, perfect active participle, already come). Mark adds "with power." 

    And Jesus was saying to them, "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom (Gk. basileia) of God after it has come (Gk. elelythuian) with power." (Mark 9:1 NASB)

Luke only says "see the kingdom of God,"

    "But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death they shall have seen (Gk.  idosin) the kingdom (Gk. basileia) of God. (Luke 9: 27 NASB)

Although the Greek grammar in this case might be immensely complicated, the fact remains that Matthew, Mark and Luke used different tenses for which there has to be a reason.

In order to understand how the grammar helps understand what Jesus means, we need to begin with ...

Jesus' Primary Message (It Wasn't About 'Love')
All too many people picking out a random phrase or two think Jesus' core message was about 'love'. They couldn't be more wrong. While it is true that love figured prominently in the Savior's message it was not the core of his proclamation and it certainly wasn't what got Him crucified. (Neither the Roman nor the Jewish authorities would have been particularly bothered by a Jewish prophet who ran around telling people to love God and love people).

The Gospel of Mark summarized Jesus' ministry,

    Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God (Gk. Basileia tou Theou) is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15 NASB)

In fact, the Greek phrase "kingdom of God" appears over 50 times in the New Testament gospels, almost always on the lips of Jesus. In fact, He never stopped talking about this coming kingdom that was at the heart of many of His parables. He not only likened the Kingdom to a mustard seed, a pearl of great price, a banquet given by a king, etc. He even said that the proclamation of the Kingdom was the reason He was sent to earth.

    But He said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose." (Luke 4:43 NASB)

The Savior also sent the disciples out to preach the Gospel or good news of the Kingdom.

    And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God (Gk. Basileia tou Theou) and to perform healing. (Luke 9:2 NASB)

    But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God (Gk. Basileia tou Theou) and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. (Acts 8:12 NASB)

    but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom (Gk. Basileia) of heaven (Gk. ouranos) is at hand.' (Matthew 10:6-7 NASB)

NOTE: Matthew usually spoke of the "kingdom of Heaven" rather than "the kingdom of God" possibly because the Jews held the name of God in the highest respect and Matthew, whose Gospel was directed at them, would have refrained from using the word "God" too often. In fact he only used "kingdom of God" when warning or rebuking his fellow Jews. See More in The Message of Jesus

Of course Jesus' announcement of God's reign didn't come in a vacuum but was both consistent with and a fulfillment of a central theme in the Hebrew prophets." 

The promise of the kingdom was a major source of hope for the Jews and consequently never very far from Jewish thought. While it is true that there were differences of belief as to how the reign of God would come back to the earth, the one common factor between all the possible scenarios was the expulsion of the Gentiles who ruled over Judea. But, in no case was the kingdom expected to be anything but an earthly one, which belief stemmed from the fact that God promised to give Abraham an entire country for an everlasting possession.

 See What And Where is “Heaven”? Part II... The Location and Nature of Heaven HERE
Scroll Down to Get To The Promises Made to Abraham

And, over and over again, the prophets prophesied of this coming kingdom. In fact, the idea of a restored and peaceful land inherited by the righteous was a recurring theme in Isaiah's prophecies...

Most people would probably assume that when Jesus used the phrase "the kingdom of God" He was strictly referring to the age to come - the Heaven that Christians anticipate. While there is no question that the end of this age (which occurs when the Seventh Trumpet sounds) will signify the dawning of the Millennium Kingdom followed by an eternity of God's rule, there were plenty of indications that this kingdom had already begun in Jesus' day.

As an aside, please note that Jesus was very careful to distinguish between "heaven" and the "kingdom of God/heaven" - with very good reason. See The Word "Heaven" in The Bible and "Heaven" vs. The "Kingdom of Heaven" about halfway down THIS page.

The Kingdom of God - Strictly A Future Event?
The problem is that some of what Jesus said about when the Kingdom would come about also seemed to be confusing. For example, both Jesus and John the Baptist proclaimed the kingdom was at hand (imminent - close in time) or in the near future. And it was - the VERY near future.

     John the Baptist *came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:2 NASB)

    Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15 NASB)

The "at hand" message was preached by John The Baptist and then very briefly picked up by Jesus at the beginning of His ministry - as the following passage in Mark shows .

    Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15 NASB)

However, Jesus went on to alter the message slightly, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was already there.

    But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:28 NASB)

    Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst." (Luke 17:20-21 NASB)

Directed at the ritual bound, rather hypocritical Pharisees who's hearts were far from clean, Jesus was unlikely to be referring to the kingdom being within them in any way, but to the fact that the Kingdom was already present among them...

So how could the kingdom be "at hand" and already in their midst.

Although most people including most Christians assume that when Jesus used the phrase "the kingdom of God" He was strictly referring to the age to come. He was not. The arrival of the kingdom isn't a one time event but comes to earth in stages - It is already here and is yet to come.

This is easier to understand if we take a closer look at the words Jesus used and when He said them.

Defining The Concept of "Kingdom"
When Jesus told the Pharisees "the kingdom of God is in your midst" (Matthew's Greek says he basileia tou Theou entos hymon estin) He was not referring to real estate, but authority. The word basileia means kingship, sovereignty, authority, rule, and is especially applicable to God. In Scripture it can also refer to Christ's sovereignty  in believers' hearts.

    Note: It is likely that Jesus used the Aramaic phrase malkuta dishmaya. Malkuta (kingdom) had a completely different significance to people of ages past than it does to the 21st century westerner. Only in isolated instances in the Old Testament does malkut mean real estate, instead it almost always denotes the government, authority and power of a king.

This meaning of basileia is well illustrated by Jesus' parable of the nobleman who

    "... went to a distant country to receive a kingdom (Gk. basileia) for himself, and then return. (Luke 19:12 NASB).

The fact that the nobleman returned to the same place he was before means that the he didn't go to get a new region over which to rule, but rather to be appointed sovereign over the place he lived. (In a sense, he wasn't king until he was officially crowned).

    The New Revised Standard Version (updated edition) reads "to receive royal power for himself and then return."

    The NIV reads "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return". Young's Literal translation uses the word "reign" rather than "kingdom" in all three accounts mentioned in the beginning of this article.

As said by Bible commentator Albert Barnes, the expression "to receive a kingdom",

    ...is derived from the state of things in Judea in the time of the Saviour. Judea was subject to the Romans, having been conquered by Pompey about sixty years before Christ. It was, however, governed by "Jews," who held the government 'under' the Romans. It was necessary that the prince or king should receive a recognition of his right to the kingdom by the Roman emperor and, in order to this, that he should go to Rome; or, as it is said here, that he might receive to himself a kingdom.

    This actually occurred several times. Archelaus, a son of Herod the Great, about the time of the birth of Jesus, went to Rome to obtain a confirmation of the title which his father had left him, and succeeded in doing it. Herod the Great, his father, had done the same thing before to secure the aid and countenance of Antony. Agrippa the younger, grandson of Herod the Great, went to Rome also to obtain the favor of Tiberius, and to be confirmed in his government.

    Such instances, having frequently occurred, would make this parable perfectly intelligible to those to whom it was addressed.

The Three Stage Emergence of the Kingdom
Stage One: There were plenty of indications that the kingdom had already begun in Jesus' day. 

When Jesus reiterated the message preached by John The Baptist, proclaiming that the kingdom was "at hand" (Matthew 3:2 and 4:17), He was saying just that. This also explains a rather perplexing statement made by Jesus in Matthew 11:11.

    Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." See Footnote

A short time later the many miracles Jesus wrought demonstrated that its King had entered the world verifying who He was by fulfilling prophecy and mighty deeds. God's kingdom in terms of His reign, authority and power was now in this world. As He said,

    But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:28 NASB)

Jesus then proceeded to make disciples because there is no kingdom earthly or otherwise without subjects.

Stage Two: Even after Jesus physically left earth His kingdom consisted of a handful of discouraged followers However, it took a gigantic step forward at Pentecost. With the arrival of the Holy Spirit it literally exploded onto public consciousness with a rapid multiplication of believers.

However, this was but the beginning. The mission to the Gentiles followed Pentecost by a very few years...

    Philip visited Samaria (Acts 8:5-25) whose inhabitants were not of pure Jewish blood. In fact the spread of the Gospel in Samaria was so rapid that Peter and John went down to assist Philip. Philip also preached the gospel to an Ethiopian eunuch (apparently a high official in the Ethiopian government.

    Some unnamed disciples from Cyprus and Cyrene began the first mission to the Gentiles that we know of. It was so successful that the Jerusalem church sent Barnabas to help. He in turn found Paul and brought him to Antioch where they taught for an entire year during which time the followers of the church were called "Christians" for the first time. (Acts 11:19-26) In fact, the church grew large enough to send relief to the Jewish churches facing famine (Acts 11:26-30).

    Paul is said to have traveled more than 10,000 miles and established at least 14 churches. At least Paul's first and third missionary journeys began in Antioch (Acts 13:1. 18:22-23) The first saw him travel through Cyprus, Lycia, and Galatia. On His second missionary journey he visited Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia. His third tour did not cover any new territory but he revisited many of the places he had been before. had a long and successful ministry in Ephesus.

The gospel was on its way to the "uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts 1:8)

  See Luke's Historical And Geographical Accuracy
As he described Paul's three missionary journeys Luke included some very precise details about the places they visited such as the titles of various local authorities, the language spoken by the people there, the religious beliefs, customs and structures in those cities etc.

Stage Three: Most often the Kingdom of God or heaven is spoken of as a future blessing because it will only be fully realized when Jesus physically returns, destroys His enemies, and takes over the earth ruling from Jerusalem. The dead will come in Christ to life, the wrongs that affect us so badly will be done away, and all the powers hostile to God will be vanquished: 

This has always been the ultimate goal. 

    In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom (Heb. malkū) which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom (Hebrew malkū) will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms (Heb. malkū), but it will itself endure forever. "Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy." (Daniel 2:44-45 NASB)

See What And Where is 'Heaven'? Part II... The Location and Nature of Heaven

Parable of the Mustard Seed
The gradual growth of the Kingdom was also illustrated in the parable of the mustard seed, which clearly shows that the Kingdom has past, present, and future dimensions. The oak begins as a small and insignificant mustard seed but gradually grows into a huge tree that shelters the birds of the air.

    And He said, "How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? "It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade." (Mark 4:30-32 NASB)

The Kingdom has grown considerably since our Lord said this, but has nowhere near attained its full size.

This parable usually brings up the question of why Jesus said the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, when it is so obviously not. [SEE]

Jesus' Kingdom... Not 'Of' This World
The many miracles Jesus wrought demonstrated that God's kingdom in terms of His reign, authority and power was now in this world

    But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:28 NASB)

But, as He told Pilate, His kingdom not of this world.

    Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of (Gk. ek) this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." (John 18:36 NASB)

Jesus' words did not mean that His kingdom was not here on earth but up in heaven. In the sentence above the Greek word translated of is "a primary preposition denoting origin (the point whence motion or action proceeds)". (Strong's Hebrew and Greek lexicon). The Greek literally reads, "My kingdom is not of the world" [01]

In other words, Jesus was telling Pilate that while his (Pilate's) authority came from Caesar. Jesus' authority came from God. In the second part of the verse He reiterated that His kingdom is not of this realm. The verse literally reads "my kingdom is not from here" (ouk estin enteuthen) [01]. The authority of Jesus' kingdom did not and does not stem from secular sources.

See Interlinear Bible. John 18:36. http://biblehub.com/interlinear/john/18-36.htm

The Kingdom of God defined as God's authority and rule arrived with Jesus' preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom. It established itself within the disciples who were the initial subjects of the kingdom. It made huge strides among the Jewish community at Pentecost, then spread throughout the known world.

Although there is no question that God's kingdom exists wherever there are true followers of Christ, it will only be fully realized when Jesus makes His glorious return to establish His physical rule on earth (And that event is around the corner).

We do not need to pin down Jesus' words to a particular event. The apostles apparently did not, ...

    Luke has only "see the kingdom of God," while Matthew has "see the Son of man coming" (erchomenon, present participle, a process). Mark has "see the kingdom of God come" (eleluthuian, perfect active participle, already come) and adds "with power." (Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. All Emphasis Added)

They certainly all saw the beginnings of the Kingdom in the form of its King who both preached and demonstrated its arrival. All the disciples except Judas lived to see the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost that empowered and enabled the disciples to boldly begin preaching the Gospel first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles.

Footnote I - Matthew 11:11
One other perplexing statement made by Jesus is in Matthew 11:11.

    Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."

Jesus was certainly not suggesting that John was not a believer. Rather He was making the point that John was the last of the Old Testament saints standing as did on the threshold of the dawning of God's kingdom on earth. Quite obviously this indicates that the kingdom had not yet arrived at the time of John's public ministry".

However, there is more. Not only was John a prophet but, as Jesus reminded His listeners in verse 10, John himself was foretold in the book of Malachi,

    "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:1 NASB)

John was great because he was the one who specifically pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. But now every born again believer has greater opportunity than John the Baptist had in his lifetime. Perhaps this may be better understood by something I read in Adam Clarke's commentary - "Even the servant maid that passed through the Red Sea, saw what neither Ezekiel nor any other of the prophets had seen. {PLACE IN TEXT}


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