Kingdom of God Now or in the Future?

by Carlos Xavier

Despite the overwhelming biblical evidence that “the Kingdom of God” primarily means the future restoration of the world when Jesus will rule from Jerusalem, some continue to teach otherwise. This article will explain some of the NT texts popularly used to teach “Kingdom now” and Dominion theology.

1. What is “Kingdom Now”?

Many teach a so-called tension between present and future statements about the Kingdom of God. For example, the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels rightly notes that “during Jesus’ ministry the Kingdom of God is spoken of always as a future event. It is expected, prayed for and hoped for…It is never said explicitly to have arrived, not even at the Last Supper.” “But,” they add, “because the agent of the Kingdom is present and active through his teaching and mighty works, the Kingdom of God may also be said to be potentially present.” [1]

This teaching can lead to what some call “already, not yet.” In other words, some say that the Kingdom is already here, but not yet “consummated” or fully realized. They claim that when the Bible says the Kingdom is “at hand” or “near,” it means that it’s present now but not yet fully realized.

The noted German scholar Hans Küng, in his book The Church (1968), sums up the history of this view well:

“With Irenaeus, who placed the kingdom of God in the context of salvation-history, and Clement of Alexandria, with his markedly spiritualistic and ethical conception of the kingdom of God, as his forerunners, Origen took the kingdom of God as meaning above all the ‘kingdom of God within us,’ as referring to the autobasileia [‘self-Kingdom’] of Christ in the soul of each individual, and saw the Church platonically as the earthly image of a heavenly kingdom of God.

“Not until the historical turning-point in the reign of Constantine did the ‘Christian’ religio-political idea of an empire emerge, as developed by the Byzantine court theologians (Eusebius of Caesarea) under the slogan: ‘one God, one Logos, one Emperor, one Empire.’ In this view the Christian imperium [empire] is the fulfillment of the messianic time of salvation.

As a result the Church became a State Church, subordinate to the imperium” (p. 90).

2. The Kingdom According to Jesus

The word “Kingdom” appears around 113 times throughout the Gospels:

c. 50 times in Matthew;

c. 40 times in Luke;

c. 20 times in Mark;

3 times in John

When we read these verses we find that Jesus’ overwhelming emphasis is on a future Kingdom that will one day be established on earth. Here are some examples:

Jesus promised his Apostles, “when the world is reborn and the Son of Man will sit on his throne of glory, you too will sit on twelve thrones, governing the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).

Jesus also promised that he would not drink the communion cup with them “until the Kingdom of God comes” (Luke 22:18).

The well-instructed Apostles (Acts 1:3) ask the resurrected Jesus, “Is this the time when you are going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

When you see these things happening, then you will know that the Kingdom of God is near” (Luke 21:31).

“Many will come from the east and the west and sit down at the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom” (Matthew 8:11)

Joseph of Arimathea “was waiting for the Kingdom of God” (Mark 15:43; Luke 23:51).

There are only a few exceptions where Jesus describes the Kingdom as in a different sense already present during his life and ministry.

First we again need to stress that according to the biblical prophecies, the future establishment of the kingdom will be a worldwide, geo-political, visible and cataclysmic event (Daniel 2, 7). The Kingdom is never described as a slow, invisible or gradual process “breaking into” the life of the believer. [2]

For example, the coming of the Kingdom will be:

like a fast-falling rock, crushing all other wicked kingdoms (Daniel 2:35, 44)

like a fast-moving fire that will consume and bring to a sudden end all evil on earth (Zephaniah 1:18)

like the fast flash of lightning across the sky, (Luke 17:23-24)

like the rush of the flood waters of Noah’s day (Luke 17:20–28)

like the sudden fire and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:29-33)

As a result, unbelievers will be caught off guard and the wicked speedily judged, because the Kingdom will be the Lord’s (Obadiah 1:21; 1 Thessalonians 5:3).

Matthew 12:28

The previous verses outline the biblical glasses we need to wear in order to understand Jesus saying to his enemies, the Pharisees, “the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28; cp. Luke 11:20).

Here, Jesus is using Kingdom language as a foreshadowing and forewarning of the coming judgment.

Paul uses similar language in 1 Thessalonians 2:16 when he says “the wrath of God has come” upon the enemies of the Gospel (cp. 1 Corinthians 10:11: “us on whom the ends of the ages have come”). Some refer to this type of biblical language as prophetic past tense.

Luke 17:21

Another so-called “Kingdom now” proof text is Luke 17:21: “Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is’ or ‘There it is,’ because the Kingdom of God is in your midst,” KJV: “within you.”

The saying about the Kingdom being “here” or “over there” is explained by the verses just after, describing the future arrival of the Son of Man.

v. 22: “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.”

v. 23: People will say to you, ‘Look, there he is!’ or ‘Look, here he is!’ but do not go running off or follow them.”

  v. 24: “For just as the lightning flashes from one side of the sky to the other, so will be the Son of Man in his day.”

v. 26: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man.”

v. 30: “It will be just the same on the day the Son of Man will be revealed.”

In other words, Jesus is saying that when the Kingdom comes, it will be all over, worldwide, and not just a local event. As a result, you will not have to “look here or look there” because the Kingdom will be all over. [3]

 3. The Kingdom According to John

Unlike the Synoptics, the writings of John generally refer to the Kingdom as “eternal life,” properly translated “the life of the age to come.” And John sometimes describes the “born again” person as in a sense already having that Kingdom life of the age to come even now.

John 5:24

“I am telling you the truth: whoever hears my word [Gospel] and believes Him who sent me has the life of the coming age and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life.”

The Canadian Baptist minister and theologian George Ladd noted, “It is noteworthy that in John eternal life is first mentioned after the only references in the Gospel to the Kingdom of God (3:15).”[4]

John 3:3, 36

 3  “I am telling you the truth: unless someone is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

36 “The person who believes in the Son has the life of the age to come.”

John is using a biblical way of speaking of already having something promised for the future. For example, in John 17:5 Jesus asks the Father to “glorify me at your side with the glory I had with you before the world existed.”

Yet, later in the same chapter Jesus says: “I have given them the glory you have given me” (v. 22). Note that when Jesus says, “I have given them the glory,” he meant not only his Apostles but all Christians across all the ages, i.e., past, present and future!

We find that elsewhere in the gospels the word “glory” is another term for “Kingdom.” In Mark 10:37 James and John petition Jesus: “Grant that one of us may sit at your right and one on your left in your glory.” In Matthew’s telling of the same story the mother of James and John asks Jesus, “Declare that these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom” (Matthew 20:21). In Matthew 6:1, Jesus uses the idea of having something which is promised. He says that if we do good things only to be noticed by people, “you have no reward with your Father in heaven.”

The point is that the things which God has purposed and promised, even before the foundation of the world, are as good as done (fait accompli). Paul speaks of God’s “purpose and grace which was given to us in Messiah Jesus before the ages of time” (2 Timothy 1:9).

God “speaks of things which are not as though they already are” (Romans 4:17).

And elsewhere Paul describes the salvation of the elect and the Gospel message itself as predestined, preordained events:

“Those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also made right; and those he made right, he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).

“He chose us in Messiah before the foundation of the world, to be holy and unblemished before Him. In love, He marked us out beforehand to be His sons and daughters through Jesus Messiah, according to the good purpose of His will…In him we were also made heirs, having been marked out beforehand according to the plan of the One who accomplishes all things according to the purpose of His will” (Ephesians 1:4-11).

“We speak God’s wisdom [i.e. the Gospel message] in a now-revealed secret, the wisdom which had been hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7).

Similarly, according to John, if you believe that Gospel of Jesus you already have the life of the age to come/Kingdom in promise.

4. The Kingdom According to Paul

In Colossians 1:13 Paul says that God “rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of the Son whom He loves.”

As in the Gospels, the point here is that Christians have in a sense been removed from this present evil age by choosing the Kingdom lifestyle now. Paul alludes to this fact throughout Colossians 1:

“And so, since the day we heard this, we have not stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Lord…You were once alienated and hostile in your minds, participating in evil activities. But He has now reconciled you through the death of His Son, to present you before Him holy, faultless, and blameless.”

And once again note the emphasis on the future: “We heard about your faith in Messiah Jesus and your love for all the saints. This faith and love are based on the hope stored up for you in heaven. You heard about this hope in the word of the truth, that is, the Gospel…[You must] remain in the faith, grounded and steadfast, without shifting away from the hope promised in the Gospel which you heard” (Colossians 1:4-5, 23).

And let us also keep in mind that Paul said that humans as we are presently constituted, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50).

So we cannot be in the Kingdom now!

Romans 14:17 “For the Kingdom of God does not consist of food and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in holy spirit.”

This verse is also about living a Kingdom lifestyle now. The context is about putting up with the weaker brethren among us in church. This requires strong Kingdom principles based on the fruits of the spirit, i.e., “righteousness, peace, and joy in holy spirit.” We could add that that Kingdom law is the “royal law” mentioned by James 2:8. That royal law is required of all of us now, if we hope to enter the future Kingdom when Jesus returns.

5. Conclusion

The Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels is right to say: “The Kingdom is not present in any sense not reconcilable with the fact that it is also and mainly future. Jesus did not dissociate Himself from the traditional view that the end would come in the form of a catastrophic transformation, culminating in the Advent of Messiah Himself, who would come from heaven. [This final] destruction and reconstruction…would be the perfect establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.”

So it is highly misleading to ignore a mass of texts and focus on a few verses in support of a so-called “presence” of the Kingdom. It is systematically wrong to suggest that the Church is the Kingdom, or that Christians are in the process of “building” the Kingdom of God!

As Hans Kung warned: “There can be no question of identity (Church = kingdom of God), for the reign [Kingdom] of God according to the New Testament is the universal, final and definitive Kingdom (basileia). There can be no question of continuity (‘the Kingdom of God emerges from the Church’), for the reign of God is not the product of an organic development, of a process of maturation or interpenetration, but of a wholly new and unprepared action of God…So far from stressing identity, we should be concerned to stress the basic difference between the Church and the reign of God.” [5]  


[1] Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, IVP, 1992, “Kingdom of God,” p. 425.

[2] In the parable of the mustard seed, the preaching of the Kingdom is represented as a growing, spreading mustard seed (Matthew 13.31-32). Clearly the preaching of the Kingdom is not the same as the Kingdom itself.

[3] See Dr. Richard Hiers, “The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you,” Focus on the Kingdom, Dec. 2021 at

[4] A Theology of the New Testament, p. 295.

[5] Hans Küng, The Church, 1968, p. 92.

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