Is There a Future Kingdom?
As Paul concluded his first missionary journey, Luke informs us that he revisited some of the infant churches, exhorting those saints to continue in the faith. He also cautioned them that “through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). That is a curious statement in view of the fact that these Christians had entered the kingdom of God at the point of the “new birth” (Jn. 3:3-5).
What does this passage mean? Some, like the millennialists, allege that it suggests that the kingdom of Christ had not yet come in the first century.
It must be understood, however, that words sometimes have different meanings depending upon the context in which they are found. Such is true with reference to the word “kingdom.” The term “kingdom” is not always equivalent to “church.”
Sometimes “kingdom” is a reference to the final phase of the triumphant reign of Christ, i.e., it refers to heaven itself. In his final words of encouragement to Timothy, Paul wrote:
“The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18).
Earlier, in a similar vein, the apostle had declared: “If we endure, we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12).
Compare this with Christ’s promise that if we “overcome” we will be able to sit down with the Lord in His throne (Rev. 3:21). In one of his epistles Peter announced: “…for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:11).
These passages speak of a “kingdom” or “reign” that is “eternal” and “heavenly” in nature. Moreover, they suggest a state that is yet future. They are, in fact, references to a regal existence in heaven. But they do not negate the New Testament teaching concerning the present phase of the kingdom.
Make appropriate notes in the margin of your Bible, cross-referencing these verses. Such notations will serve you well in teaching others.
Scripture references: Acts 14:22; John 3:3-5; 2 Timothy 4:18; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 3:21; 2 Peter 1:11