By Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry Jr
In the preaching of John the Baptist and of Christ, we hear the refrain: ”the time” is “fulfilled” and the “kingdom of God” is “at hand.” Because of this, we should expect the kingdom’s appearing in the gospel record — or the Lord’s presenting a chart showing its gap (much like he drew a picture for the crowd in John 8:6). God determines the “times” (Da 2:21; Ac 1:7), and the time has come. Clear and compelling evidence persuades us that the kingdom does in fact come in Christ’s ministry. Perhaps one of the clearest gospel proofs for the presence of the kingdom of heaven1 is Matthew 12:28: “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” The truth is, Jesus does cast out demons by the Spirit of God. The protasis of this “if/then” statement being true, then the apodosis follows: “the kingdom of God is come.” The very fact that Christ invades Satan’s kingdom and takes away possessions (demoniacs) (Mt 12:25–29) proves that the kingdom comes in his ministry.
In Luke 17:20–21 we read: “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, “See here! or “See there!” For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.’” Notice that Christ answers the Pharisees’ question regarding “when” the kingdom should come by speaking in the present tense: the kingdom is [Gk., estin] present. It is not awaiting a future, Armageddon-introduced manifestation; it exists now and among them. Hence, even in Christ’s ministry men are pressing into it (Lk 16:16).
The Triumphal Entry of Christ is interesting in this regard: “The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!’ Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt’” (Jn 12:12–15). Here the crowds not only declare Christ as “king,” but he accepts this public affirmation, despite Pharisaic rebukes (Mt 21:15–16). He does so because he is fulfilling prophecy (Zec 9:9). And once again, this prophecy promises victory: “He will speak peace to the nations; / And His dominion will be from sea to sea, / And from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zec 9:10).
During his trial and at the inquiry of Pilate, Christ directly affirms his kingship and the presence of his kingdom: “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth’” (Jn 18:36–37a; cf. Mt 27:11; Mk 15:2; Lk 23:3).
Although he defines his kingdom as something other-worldly, rather than essentially political (as was Caesar’s kingdom),2 he nevertheless indicates his kingdom is present: He speaks of “my kingdom” (v 36a). He claims to have his own “servants” (even though they do not fight with sword to defend Him, v 36b). He clearly states “I am king” (v 37a). And, as we might expect, given our previous study of Mark 1:14–15, he states that he comes into the world to be king (v 37b).