On September 6 one of my seminary professors, Dr. Stan Toussaint, died. I have many fond memories of him. About five years ago he spoke at our annual conference. His big idea was this: “The kingdom is not now and the kingdom is not now.” He said that multiple times. He specifically was rejecting the oft made claim that “the kingdom is already here and the kingdom is not yet here.”
I agree with Dr. Toussaint. The kingdom is not now. It is not already here. The kingdom will come when our Lord, Savior, Judge, and King comes.
A friend sent me a blog from a Logos contributor. It is entitled, “Why the Apostles Rarely Mention the Kingdom.” Dr. Todd Scacewater does a good job of discussing the uses of basilea (kingdom) in the NT. He shows that it occurs mostly in the Synoptic Gospels (103 of 135 which refer to the kingdom of God). There are five uses in John, eight in Acts, fourteen in Paul (an average of one per epistle), twice in Revelation, and once each in Hebrews, James, and 2 Peter.
Scacewater does not attempt to interpret any of the 135 uses. Nor does he discuss the many places in which the apostles are discussing kingdom truths (like His coming, His appearing, ruling with Christ, having His approval, being watchful).
His aim is to answer the question he raises in his title, why do the apostles rarely mention the kingdom?
He gives three reasons: 1) The apostles do not explain the kingdom or discuss it since their readers already know what it is, 2) “The apostles knew they were living in the kingdom and needed to hammer out the ethical implications of such living,” and 3) “Biblical theology is more needed than ever.”
I have no problem with his first or third point (though his third point is not an answer as to why the apostles rarely mention the kingdom). But I have a major problem with his second point.
The apostles specifically and repeatedly indicate that they are not living in the kingdom, but that they are awaiting its arrival. “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Peter said that if we add to our faith the character qualities which please God then “an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11). “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom…” (2 Tim 4:1).
The apostles spoke of Christ’s appearing, His coming, of a possible future inheritance of the kingdom, of ruling with Christ, of having His approval, of coming future judgment. All of these things are future, not present.
Scacewater would have been correct if he had written The apostles knew that the kingdom was imminent and they needed to explain to their readers how to live in light of the coming kingdom so that they might gain Christ’s approval and might be chosen to rule with Christ forever.
“We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). We do not see the kingdom of God here today. But we know that it is coming. The Lord promised to return and to establish His kingdom (2 Pet 3:1-9). We should be ever watchful for His return (Matt 24:42-44; 1 Thess 5:6; 1 Pet 4:7).
The penultimate verse in the Bible summarizes this truth nicely: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20).