With President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration behind him a dilemma faces those who marched on Trump Tower waving signs that declared “NOT MY PRESIDENT.” They can either submit to the reality ushered in by the inauguration day—that Donald Trump is now POTUS—or they can ignore reality and keep protesting.
If they remain at Trump Tower they will look rather pathetic since their target has now moved to his new, blanched digs. If they do show up at the White House it will prove that in some begrudging respect those who aver that he is not their president tacitly concur that he is in fact the president of their country.
At least they have the security blanket of term limits for consolation.
This cognitive dissonance will thrive in the afterglow of the Oxford Dictionary’s party to unveil its word-of-the-year: “post-truth” (which is actually two words, but ignoring that fact is the epitome of post-truth, which makes the choice even edgier).
The same existential crisis loomed heavy over the Jews of Jesus’ day. Here was a man who claimed to be the King of the Jews, the fulfillment of the prophecies that he would rule in power and justice and liberate his people. But he was submissive to authority, happy to pay taxes to Caesar, not looking for any trouble with the Roman oppressors, and generally not very regal in his behavior. He might be their king, but he was not yet the king of their country. Some Jews rejected him outright as “not my king” and others were devoted followers, acknowledging him as their king, and eagerly awaiting the day his kingdom arrived.
So did the kingdom of God come when Jesus came?
Jesus told his followers to pray that God’s kingdom would come, reinforcing that it hadn’t. He expressly told Pilate that his kingdom was “not of this world.” He told several parables about what the kingdom was like (see Matt 13), and even hinted that it would start small like, say, a mustard seed, and be constantly expanding until it was a global empire like a mustard tree housing birds from all over. When his disciples saw that he was about to leave for Heaven without establishing the kingdom they probed about the apparent oversight: “Lord, is it now that you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Jesus didn’t disabuse them of the notion that the kingdom wasn’t a literal, earthly establishment; he just said the timing was none of their business. It’s understandable that there is confusion around this topic.
Clarity comes from the concept that authority can be inaugurated without being recognized by those under that authority. Bluntly, an unbeliever could say “Jesus might be the king, but he’s not my king.” A believer would say he is the King and he is my King and that question will one day no longer be disputed.
Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So in a real sense the kingdom is already here. It has a King who is in charge, it has subjects who submit to him, and it has an agenda to expand. Already, the kingdom is expanding in the hearts and souls of people who are being added as citizens. The kingdom’s “culture” (in the sense of a way of thinking and living) is already being adopted by swaths of the global population. There are way more Christians today than there were people alive on the planet in Jesus’ day.
The kingdom is here and it is here to stay…already.
The kingdom of God is not yet here in its final and consummated form.
The advent of the spiritual dimension of the kingdom does not obviate the promises of Scripture that there will be physical ruling and reigning of the King from his throne in Jerusalem. The promises of spiritual peace that already are a mark of citizenship do not stop there also being a political peace among all nations (Micah 4:1-5) that is not yet present. The eternal life that we already gain spiritually from being in God’s kingdom now, does not mean there won’t also be an environmental reversal of the curse seen in the animals and plants and planetary rejuvenation and renewal (Is 65:17-25) that is not yet part of our experience.
All that to say: the kingdom of God has been inaugurated already, but it has not yet been realized. Jesus is already the King, but to some he is not yet their King. At some point all protesters will need to lay down their placards and face facts: Jesus is the Lord of all. And his reign has no term limits!