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Already, Not-Yet

Sarah Arthur

The kingdom of God can be confusing. Christians pray The Lord’s Prayer, saying, “Thy kingdom come . . . on earth as it is in heaven,” as if the kingdom were not here yet. Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21, NRSV). So which is it—already or not yet?

It’s both. But how is that possible? Listen to a story:

Once upon a time, a just and merciful king gave his subjects the freedom to choose. Being inherently selfish, they chose their own way, thinking they would enjoy ruling themselves. They didn’t realize, until it was too late, that their selfishness would turn the land into a war zone, pitting families and clans against one another. False kings arose. Children suffered. Death became the greatest enemy. Some people longed for the return of the true king.

The situation was so bad that the king could not appear in all his glory. He arrived in the guise of a poor man with mysterious healing powers. Rumors began to spread: The true kingdom was near, just around the corner; false rulers would soon be overthrown. The poor healer reminded the people that the battle was not political but personal: The true king wanted to reign in their hearts first; then one day the king would return to reclaim his throne. In the meantime, the king’s true followers were to live as if the kingdom had already come. They were to live as citizens of the already, not-yet kingdom.

The man was killed by the opposition, but people began to believe that death was not the end for him. If death were conquered, in time the rest of their enemies would fall. The true king was on his way! People determined to live as citizens of the kingdom, spreading the healing, righteousness, and peace of their king even as they waited for his return.

Early one morning, they heard a trumpet and their hearts gave a leap. The king was coming! All the days of waiting, battling false kings, and working to spread the good news were finally over. The kingdom was no longer “not yet”; it was finally and forever here.

 

Clouds n Sun FTR TSP 101166175The story helps us to understand how God’s kingdom is both already here and yet to come. We have heard the rumors. We have been called to live as citizens of the true king. But we are waiting for that final moment when God’s kingdom comes in all its glory. The kingdom of God is spiritual and heavenly as well as physical and earthly. But the kingdom is not yet obvious and all-pervasive in human hearts or in political systems. As Christians, we pray for the strength to live as citizens of the true king, knowing that someday the kingdom of God will reign on earth as it does in heaven.

 

DIG DEEPER

The story goes that when unarmed Christian civil rights activists faced off with police officers, the activists called, “Come on over to the winning side.” They knew that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” (Martin Luther King, Jr., quoting a nineteenth-century abolitionist). Even when all seems dark in front of you, and you feel pressure to give in to the evil systems of this world—whether racism, consumerism, or substance abuse—know that the kingdom of God is greater. Which of your friends do you need to call over to the winning side?

Sarah Arthur , of Lansing, Michigan, is a fun-loving speaker and the author of several books for youth, including the award-winning Walking with Bilbo: A Devotional Adventure through The Hobbit. Check out her blog at www.saraharthur.com.

—from devozine (March/April 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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