Given Tuesday night’s message at the Salem Baptist Association annual meeting, it’s ironic that I had already prepared to post what I’m about to share with you. Bear with me a moment so that I can set up what I’m about to say from the context of the book of Daniel, which I am currently preaching through on Sunday mornings…
In the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar had a night vision of an enormous statue. We find out in Daniel 2:31-33 that the statue in his dream had a head of gold, a breast and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of bronze, and legs of iron with feet of iron and clay. It looked something like this picture to the right.
But then in Daniel 2:34-35, we read that in the vision this impressive statue is pulverized into dust by a stone cut without human hands. The stone then grew into a mountain that eventually filled the entire earth.
When we read further, Daniel begins to tell Nebuchadnezzar the meaning of the dream. We find out that four metals of the statue and the stone represent the five successive nations that would dominate the known civilized world, including the Promised Land, between the fall of Judah to the first coming of the Messiah. So, while the content of the vision was in the future for Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel, it is in the past for us. Therefore, world history will be a helpful ally in helping us fully understanding the meaning of the dream. The gold, as the text tells us, is the Babylonian Empire (Daniel 2:36-38). The silver, as we learn from history, represents the Medo-Persian Empire (Daniel 2:39). The bronze, as history tells us, must represent the Grecian Empire (Daniel 2:39. The iron symbolizes the Roman Empire, as indicated by world history (Daniel 2:40-43). Finally, the stone, as the text tells us, symbolizes the kingdom of God, which will destroy all other nations and eventually dominate the whole earth.
In other words, the Lord revealed through Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel that Babylon, who had conquered Judah, would be defeated by Medo-Persia, Medo-Persia would be defeated by Greece, Greece would be defeated by Rome, and finally Rome and all other nations would be defeated by the kingdom of God.
So, here’s the all important question that I’ll take up in this article: has the rock already struck the statue, or is that solely a future event? In other words, has the kingdom of God already arrived, or are we still waiting for it?
Some will say that the kingdom of God is a future event we’re waiting for. Their timeline might be illustrated in this way:
However, my answer according to the Scripture is: the kingdom of God has already been inaugurated but has not yet been consummated. It’s already here but not yet completely here. This is what is called Inaugurated Eschatology. My timeline would be illustrated this way:
Notice how the present age and the age to come overlap in my timeline. The kingdom of God was inaugurated by the first coming of the Messiah Christ and will be consummated or completed at the second coming of Jesus Christ.
What is the biblical evidence to support my position?
The Kingdom of God is a constant theme throughout the Scripture. Clearly, the messianic kingdom of God was a future promise in Old Testament times. We could look at several prophesies, but I’ll limit us to these two:
- Isaiah 9:2-7, The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; they will be glad in Your presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.
- Jeremiah 23:5-8, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.’ Therefore behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when they will no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up and led back the descendants of the household of Israel from the north land and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ Then they will live on their own soil.”
Plainly, the messianic kingdom of God was a future event from the Old Testament perspective, but the New Testament is a different story. In the New Testament, it is a present and future promise. With the first coming of the Messiah came the kingdom of God.
John the Baptist, who was the forerunner of Jesus telling the people that the kingdom was coming, tells us in Matthew 3:1-3:
- Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'”
While John was Jesus’ forerunner, He didn’t really understand that the kingdom of God would come in two stages. Surely he hought it was a simply one stage deal, evidenced by his doubting that Jesus was the Messiah Christ recorded in Matthew 11:2-3:
- Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to [Jesus], “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
Jesus was certainly the Messiah Christ. In fact, He emphatically answered John’s question of doubt in Matthew 11:4-5:
- Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.”
In other words, “Don’t look for another because I am the Anointed One, the Messiah, who is bringing in the kingdom of God.” What’s more, Jesus publically proclaimed that the kingdom of God had been brought with Him, as recorded in the following Scripture passages:
- Mark 1:14-15, 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.”
- Luke 4:14-21, And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all. And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.” And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
You see, the kingdom of God is eternally linked to the person of Jesus Christ. If you don’t have Jesus, you don’t have the Father, and if you don’t have the Father, you certainly don’t have the kingdom of God. That’s why Jesus cried out in John 12:44-45, He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. That’s why Jesus told the unbelieving Jews in Luke 20:9-18 the parable of the vineyard, which concludes in this way:
- “What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” When [Jewish religious leaders] heard it, they said, “May it never be!” But Jesus looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
If you don’t have Jesus, you don’t have the kingdom because the kingdom of God is eternally linked to the person of Jesus, the Messiah Christ. Jews and Gentiles alike without Jesus are not part of God’s kingdom. Only those who are with Jesus are.
So, what then is the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is the reign of God in human history through Jesus Christ for the purpose of saving people from sin and demonic powers and establishing the New Heaven and New Earth. Currently, Jesus’ reign is a spiritual reign from Heaven over the church. The coronation of Jesus on His heavenly throne is found in Hebrews 1:8-9,13:
- But of the Son He says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”…But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET”?
But even here during His first ministry on earth, Jesus provided signs that He had inaugurated the kingdom of God. Here are six signs of the presence of the kingdom of God:
1. Casting out demons
- Matthew 12:22-29, Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.” And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.
2. The Fall of Satan
- Luke 10:17-20, The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
3. The Binding of Satan
- Matthew 12:28-29, But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.
Jesus is stating that He’s binding Satan so that He can plunder Satan’s kingdom by saving sinners.
4. The Defeat of Satan
- John 12:27-33, “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.
Jesus is linking His sacrificial death with the defeat of Satan.
5. The Preaching of the Gospel
- Matthew 11:2-5, Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.
6. The Bestowal of Forgiveness of Sins
This reality was predicted to be a sign of the messianic kingdom of God in the Old Testament, particularly in Isaiah 33:24, Jeremiah 31:34, Micah 7:18-20, and Zechariah 13:1. Jesus surely manifested this sign as evidenced by Mark 2:1-12:
- When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, *said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He *said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”
Undoubtedly, the kingdom of God was inaugurated by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The kingdom is already here. The stone in Daniel has already struck the statue and is currently pulverizing the statue and growing until it fills the entire earth. However, the kingdom is not yet fully here. There are still greater things to come when Jesus’ current spiritual reign will be replaced with His eternal physical reign here on the New Earth. I don’t know about you, but I sure am ready for that. Come back quickly, King Jesus! Until then, we’ll live in the tension of “already, but not yet.”