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Kingdom Texts in the Epistles

Posted by Matt Postiff August 1, 2017 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Kingdom of God 

Here is today's question, responding to the belief that the kingdom of God is future to the church age:

How we do explain Colossians 1:13, Romans 14:17, 1 Corinthians 4:20, 1 Thessalonians 2:12, etc?

Colossians 1:13 indicates that our citizenship has been transferred from the domain/kingdom of darkness to the domain/kingdom of Christ. We are therefore citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). So, our citizenship has changed, but our location has not changed. We still live in this earth, and Jesus is absent from this earth. His kingdom will come with Him when he returns. Remember--we are strangers/foreigners/pilgrims in this life.

Romans 14:17 teaches that because our citizenship has changed, our conduct should match the conduct of a good kingdom citizen, even as we live here in this place while we wait for the kingdom. In other words, our future living arrangements and our present change of citizenship must affect our present conduct.

1 Corinthians 4:20. Earlier in the chapter, v. 8, Paul criticized the Corinthians for their attitude. They acted as if they were "kings already." They were not, because they were not in the kingdom. If the Corinthians were in fact reigning in the kingdom at that time, Paul would not be suffering the hunger and persecution that he was suffering! Their boastful attitude consisted of words. But Paul, who was an apostolic representative of the King, had "kingdom power" that was more than mere words.

1 Thessalonians 2:12 has the same idea as Col. 1:13 and Romans 14:17. God calls (present tense) us into His kingdom. Therefore we should walk as good citizens.

A good source to read on this question is Alva McClain, Greatness of the Kingdom, chapter 25, p. 431-441. He points out that many times in the epistles, the kingdom is spoken of as coming in the future. For example, "If we endure, we shall also reign (future) with him" (2 Timothy 2:12).

In summary, the future kingdom has important effects on present church life, but church life is not equal to kingdom life. God is using the church in the present age to call and prepare citizens of His future kingdom.

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