Dr. Randy White
As Christians, our understanding of the Kingdom of God shapes our perspective on various aspects of our faith, from our view of the church to our understanding of eschatology. However, there is a popular belief among evangelicals that the Kingdom of God has a dual nature, both present and spiritual and future and physical. I contend that this dual-nature view is not biblical and needs to be abandoned. Rather, we should embrace an exclusively future reality of the Kingdom of God, as portrayed in the Bible.
The Dual-Nature View and Its Origins
The present and spiritual aspect of the dual-nature view emphasizes the mystical presence of Christ on earth today, in the believer’s heart. This present kingdom expands when the church expands, and is often defined as “anywhere God rules and reigns.”
The future and physical aspect of the dual-nature view affirms the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the establishment of His reign on earth, the resurrection of the dead, and the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel and all believers. This aspect emphasizes a concrete and physical reality of the Kingdom of God on earth.
I believe that this dual-nature view is not biblical and has its roots in various movements, from New Age spirituality to medieval mysticism and Catholicism. Such movements emphasize a spiritual or mystical reality of the Kingdom of God, rather than a physical one.
The Importance of Kingdom Theology
Kingdom theology is essential to many of the vital doctrines within the church, including ecclesiology, pneumatology, eschatology, and our present-day worldview. A flawed or misguided understanding of the Kingdom of God can have a ripple effect on the core aspects of Christian life and biblical interpretation. Therefore, it is crucial for believers to carefully study and examine the biblical teachings on the Kingdom of God. When we mess-up in Kingdom theology, we mess up theology as a whole.
Challenging the Popular Belief
I see at least four problems with the popular dual-nature belief. First, the Bible portrays the Kingdom of God as a future, physical reality, rather than a present, spiritual one. Rejecting the plain sense of Scripture leads many to adopt an allegoristic or spiritualizing view.
Second, the popular belief fails to distinguish between the church and the individual spiritual life and the Kingdom of God. The present and spiritual aspect tends to emphasize an individual’s transformation rather than the external, physical reality of the Kingdom on earth.
Third, the popular belief requires that kingdom-realities be experienced in the present-day, which leads to everything from rejecting the sufficiency of the Word of God to dominionistic theology.
Finally, the view leads to ecumenical and social justice movements that may not be helpful for the spread of the Gospel nor the strength of the local church.
Practical Implications of an Exclusively Future Kingdom
Embracing an exclusively future view of the Kingdom leads to a greater anticipation for the final works of Christ on earth, from the rapture and beyond, as the ultimate hope for fixing the problems of this world. It leads to a literal understanding of prophecy, which helps the Scripture make more sense. It also leads to an enhanced fervor for missions and evangelism, seeing a relationship with Christ as the only hope for the individual. Let’s reject the dual-nature view of the Kingdom of God and embrace an exclusively future reality, as portrayed in the Bible. By doing so, we can have a more accurate understanding of our faith and a greater anticipation for the future