If we say that the Kingdom of God is the active reign of God, in what way is God active?
Matthew 12:28, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you,” points to the fact that where Jesus embodied the Kingdom of God within His very person. Jesus demonstrated the reign of God by casting out demons and through His authoritative Word.
Casting out Demons
Jesus ministry was marked by his conquest over demonic forces which, as we have already noted, is evidence of the Kingdom of God. Ladd puts it well when he says “… before the eschatological conquest of God’s Kingdom over evil and the destruction of Satan, the Kingdom of God has invaded the realm of Satan to deal him a preliminary but decisive win” (Ladd, 151).
Another piece of evidence that the active reign of God was present in the person of Jesus was His authoritative word. This seems perhaps less obvious since it is hard to think of a “word” as an active thing but, biblically speaking, the very words of God carry with them the omnipotent power of God (see Creation). Since Jesus speaks the very words of God, his words carry the same weight, a reality Jesus himself perceived.
Note first Jesus’ proclamation that He fulfilled the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19):
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
The authority of Jesus’ words are demonstrated again when he curses the fig tree. His words are not only authoritative (causing the tree to whither) but enduring: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mark 13: 31).
Indeed, Jesus spoke with such authority that he amazed those who listened to him: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28-29).
Do we experience the Active Reign of God today?
I will address this in more detail in a later post but it’s worth taking a break to ask this question now.
It is clear that Jesus embodied the presence of the Kingdom of God and the reign of God on earth. It is also obvious that we will once again experience the reign of God, this time in its fullness, when Jesus returns. But, what about in this intervening time? Do we experience the Kingdom of God between Jesus’ ascension and his return?
One preliminary way of answering this question is to ask the question, “Do Jesus’ actions while on earth continue to have an effect for us today?” If we think briefly about the categories above, the defeat of demonic powers and the authoritative word of God, then we will begin to approach the answer.
The defeat of demonic powers (today)
Jesus’ ministry was marked by casting out demons and, as Ladd says, his work on earth dealt Satan a “preliminary but decisive blow.” In fact, Jesus’ defeat of Satan culminated not in casting demons out of individual people, but (surprisingly) by his death on the cross. Note Hebrews 2:14-15 “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” We experience the Kingdom today when we are freed from the power of Satan by approaching God through faith in Jesus. We experience God’s active reign when we are freed from the fear of death, from judgment, and from a guilty conscience.
The authoritative word of God today
Hebrews also gives a nice framework for understanding the active nature of the word of God. God’s word is alive and active. It pierces to our very souls. It brings us before the judgment seat of God where we must give an account. It forces us to submit to God, either now voluntarily, or involuntarily at the judgment. So, we experience the reign of God, the Kingdom of God when we experience the active word of God.
How is the Kingdom of God present? That’s the topic of another (later) discussion.