By Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry Jr
Despite dispensationalism’s claims of a postponed kingdom and a Church Age gap, the New Testament frequently proclaims the “kingdom of God” as present.1 In Acts 3:15 Peter preaches Christ as the “prince of life.” In Acts 5:31 he asserts his obligation to disobey civil authority when it demands that he cease preaching Christ. His rationale is important: “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior.” The word “prince” here may literally be translated “leader, ruler, prince” (BAGD Lexicon 138). He is exalted as prince or ruler.
In Acts 17:7 we learn of the civil turmoil the early Christians cause. The charge that the Thessalonians bring against them is most interesting and must be based in reality, even if largely misunderstood by the unbelieving populace. Just as the Jews accuse Jesus of claiming to be a king,2 so we read of the charge against his followers: “These all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.” Just as Jesus declares himself a king (though in a non-political sense, Jn 18:36–37) so his followers do the same.
According to Paul God “put all things under his feet” (Eph 1:22; 1Co 15:27). God gave him a title/name higher than any that is named (Php 2:9). In each of these places Paul employs aorist tense verbs, which speak of a point in past time, i.e., at his resurrection-ascension-enthronement. Hence, the scores of references to him as “Lord” throughout the New Testament. In fact, “Christ is Lord” evidently becomes a creedal statement of sorts in the apostolic era (Ro 10:9; 1Co 12:3; Php 2:11).
Paul speaks to the Colossians in a way quite agreeable to this view of the coming of the kingdom: “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col 1:12, 13). Inarguably, he is speaking of Christ’s kingdom for he calls it “the kingdom of his dear Son.” Just as clearly he considers this transferring to the kingdom as a past act (nearly 2,000 years ago now), not a future prospect. Paul uses aorist tense verbs when he speaks of their being “delivered” and “transferred”; he does the same in 1 Thessalonians 2:12. He even speaks of his ministry “for the kingdom of God” (Col 4:11).
John follows suit in Revelation 1:6 and 9: “And [Christ] hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father. . . . I, John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” In these verses John speaks of first century Christians (Rev 1:4, 11; 2–3) as already “made” (aorist tense) to be “a kingdom” (literally). In fact, John is already a fellow with them in the “kingdom” (Rev 1:9).
1. See: Ac 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31; Ro 14:17; 1Co 4:20; 6:9–10; 15:50; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:5; Col 1:13; 4:11; 1Th 2:12; 2Th 1:5; 2Ti 4:1; 4:18; Heb 1:8; 12:28; Jas 2:5; 2Pe 1:11.
2. See: Mt 27:29, 37; Mk 15:12, 26; Lk 23:3; Jn 18:33; 19:12, 15, 21.