The "coming" of the kingdom
The kingdom (reign) of God has always been an existing reality—how could it not be? There’s no need to quote reams of texts when a couple will do to bring into focus what the Bible everywhere takes for granted even when it doesn’t spend a lot of time spelling it out.
Some believers engage in this silly talk about God not reigning over the world because there’s so much trouble and sorrow and injustice going on in it. That’s how more than one person has put it to me, "How can God be reigning over the world when it’s in such a mess?" That makes sense in the mouth of a non-believer. If I were a non-believer it’s one of the issues I’d keep harping on and it’s what non-believers have harped on for centuries. But when you hear a believer with a Bible in his hand agreeing with the non-believer it’s hard to take him seriously. Especially when he urges us to pray for God to do something to change the world.
If the argument were worth anything it would mean that God hasn’t been reigning since the rebellion in the Garden. But that won’t work. He has always reigned and cannot cease to reign.
In 1 Chronicles 29:9 king David praised God in the presence of assembled Israel. "Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O Lord is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name." David knew he was king but he knew who was King.
The Gentile king, Nebuchadnezzar was recognised as the ruler of the world (Daniel 2:37; 4:22-23,24) but the prophet assures him that if his arrogance and unrighteousness continued he would be deprived of royal dominion. This temporary deprivation would be "until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes...your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that heaven rules" (4:25-27).
The song of Moses in Exodus 15:1-18 should be read in its entirety and the last verse noted. Psalms 24 and 148 have the same tone that numerous other psalms have and Isaiah 37:16-16 has king Hezekiah declaring Israel’s faith in the face of Assyrian threat. "O Lord Almighty, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth...Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God."
That’ll do! The beginning or the end of a human kingdom in no way undermines the truth that universal and everlasting sovereignty is the Lord’s. God ruled Babylon through Nebuchadnezzar and God ruled Egypt through the Pharaohs and Israel through the Davidic line.
The royal line of David began somewhere around 1,000 BC but it was only a particular manifestation of the everlasting sovereignty of God. In Daniel 2:44 God said he would set up a kingdom that would never be destroyed (the Messianic kingdom). This was not the beginning of God’s reign; it wasn’t even the beginning of the reign of the house of David. It was the restoration of the house of David, in keeping with Psalm 89. The reign of the Messiah (Jesus) is an expression of the reign of God that has always existed. Jesus is the "last Adam" and the "second man" (1 Corinthians 15). God by the exercise of his overarching sovereignty has given all authority to Jesus Christ.
The royal reign of Jesus Christ began no later than the Acts 2 Pentecost. But the royal reign of Jesus Christ was not the beginning of the royal reign of God. It was a peculiar expression of God’s reign (note 1 Corinthians 15:27). It’s foolishness to think otherwise.
The redeeming work in and through Jesus Christ was a public demonstration of the already existing kingdom of God. And just as surely as that is true, this is true, the judgement on Israel in AD 70 was a public demonstration of the already exalted and glorified Christ. And just as surely as that is true Christ’s judgement on the Roman Empire was the public declaration of his already existing royal power.
Luke 21:20-32 speaks of events that occur after Jesus was made Lord over all, without qualification (Ephesians 1:19-20 and Philippians 2:5-10 would illustrate). And yet it says that in light of those events the disciples would know (21:32) "that the kingdom of God is near." How can it be that the reign of God is near when Christ is already reigning as Lord of all? One could say he was not really Lord prior to those events but that would be to ignore plain statements of numerous texts as well as the drift of scripture (see, for example, Acts 2:36 and 17:7, 1 Peter 2:21-22 and the like). No, that makes no sense. The truth is that in these judgements (or blessings) the already established reign of Jesus Christ is made public in public events. The physical judgement on the Jewish nation and the destruction of the temple was public proof of the reigning Christ (as was the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost as mentioned in Acts 2:33). Israel had rejected Jesus, saying, "we have no king but Caesar." John 19:15. The destruction of the temple was the public proof that the one they had rejected as king was truly king! Luke 21:32 isn’t the beginning of the reign of God in Christ—it is a public vindication of it. We find the same truth set forth in Revelation 11:15 and 12:10. God is known as the King of the Ages (15:3) and yet we hear his worshipers, at the outpouring of the seven bowls of wrath against the Roman Empire, say of the Lord God Almighty "you have taken your great power and have begun to reign." (NIV and others.) The Greek text uses an aorist in the indicative indicating that in that act (complete judgement, signified in the outpouring of seven bowls) God reigned. But God had never ceased to reign and his Christ is already the ruler of the kings of the earth (1:5 and the King of Kings before we goes to the battle of Armageddon in 19:16, see also 17:14). How then can it be said that he "reigned" in that act? It means that God’s royal power and that of his Christ’s revealed itself in so acting.
If another power claimed world dominion and moved against the people of the Christ, at the appropriate time he would "take his great power and reign." He would express his reign in an historical and public setting. He would not gain reigning power by the act as if he didn’t already reign. The act would be an act of royal power. So it was in events like Egypt’s destruction (Exodus 15:18). Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation (Daniel 4), Jerusalem’s destruction, Rome's defeat (Revelation 11 & 12) and in his future coming (2 Timothy 4:1) to judge the world and set everything in a final order that the already existing kingdom of God and Christ are revealed.
(You might be interested in my little thing called: The Reign of God. In the USA, toll free, 877-792-6408)