God’s Future Reign
Zechariah prophesied that the Lord would one day be King over all the earth (Zech. 14:9). The coming of the kingdom is a recurring theme in Scripture. Although the kingdom was present in the ministry of Jesus, He also spoke of it being future and told His disciples to pray for its coming (Matthew 6:10), and to be ready when it comes (Matthew 25:1-13). When Jesus said a number of times that it was coming soon (Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1), He was referring to the age yet to come (Mark 10:30). The future kingdom was associated with the second coming of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead and the setting up of an eternal peace in His presence. It is described as a banquet or wedding feast (Matthew 8:11f).
If the presence of the kingdom is closely associated with Jesus then its future coming is associated with His Second Coming. The two events form a single future hope. Even though the future kingdom is imminent for us, Jesus indicated an interval between His death and its arrival. During this time the disciples were given the keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16:19) and were instructed to preach the gospel to all the nations (Matthew 24:14). The Church age was a mystery, which means that its existence had not been previously revealed. The purpose of the Church is given in Ephesians 3:8-11: “This grace was given me to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery [the Church], which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In the above passage, the rulers and authorities are in the spiritual realm (i.e. the heavenlies), not the natural realm. The church triumphs over the kingdom of darkness when the children of God live righteous lives and speak the truth in love. They can do it, because Jesus is the head of the church. “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:22-23).
We don’t know when the Lord will come again. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:10-12). We should make plans to live a long productive life on planet earth, but live righteously as though Jesus were coming tomorrow.
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