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Kingdom theology

Kingdom theology is a system of Christian thought based on the various teachings on the kingdom of God found throughout the New Testament, which speak of the coming of the kingdom of God as a future event in some places, but in other places as an ongoing or even a completed event. It is often associated with the Vineyard movement. Its emphasis is that the purpose of both individual Christians and the church as a whole is to manifest the kingdom of God on the earth, incorporating personal evangelism, social action, and foreign missions.

Eschatological framework

Kingdom theology divides spiritual history into two great ages:

  • This present evil age, brought about by the Fall of Man and lasting until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This present evil age is governed by Satan's "kingdom of darkness", and through the influence of Satan and sin, has become characterized by death, disease, godlessness, war, poverty, and evil and suffering of all kinds.
  • The age to come, inaugurated in the ministry of Jesus Christ, and lasting into the eternal future. The age to come is governed by the kingdom of God, and is characterized by eternal life, freedom from sickness and suffering, humanity's intimate knowledge of God, universal peace on earth, and God's absolute reign over all creation.

In the kingdom theology framework, the present day is caught between these two ages: Jesus Christ has established the kingdom of God on earth, but will not abolish this present evil and age and its kingdom of darkness until he returns.

The "already" and the "not yet"

This present-day tension is often expressed in phrases such as the kingdom of God is "already, but also not yet," or "here, but not yet fully here."

Because the kingdom of God is already here, believers in the kingdom theology expect to see God actively working, sometimes even miraculously, in the present day. Most of them testify they have seen this expectance being fulfilled. In a kingdom theology framework, present-day manifestations of the kingdom of God include the presence of the Holy Spirit within every Christian, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, successful evangelism and missionary activity, as well as divine healing and other miracles. Additionally, the role of individual Christians and of the Church as a whole is to represent the kingdom of God to the world, through evangelism, missions, and social action.

Because the kingdom of God is not yet here in its full expression, the works of this present evil age continue though not as unlimited as it would have without the presence of the Kingdom of God. Although Christians have eternal life, they still sicken and die. Although they have been freed from sin, temptation to sin, and sin itself, continue to plague their lives. Although God dwells within them, their knowledge of God at times seems quite limited. War, poverty, sickness, godlessness, and death continue, and kingdom theology teaches that they will continue until the end of the age. Though these things will be caused to go into retreat by the advancement of the gospel.

This teaching about the "already" and "not yet" was first proposed by Princeton theologian Gerhardus Vos. Since 1948 and the Latter Rain Revival these thoughts have entered Pentecostal teachings.

Today this teaching about the "already" and "not yet" has been accepted by many Christians, both pre-, a- and postmillennialists.

History and influence

Kingdom theology was originally enunciated in the 1950s by George Eldon Ladd, then a professor of biblical theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. Its more recent proponents include Gordon Fee and Dallas Willard. It has been influential among the more Charismatic elements of evangelical Christianity, for whom it provides a theological framework for believing in the present-day activity of the Holy Spirit. It is officially embraced by the Vineyard Churches, and underpins many of the teachings of that movement.

See also:
Kingdom Now theology
Kingdom Driven Church/Good News of God's Kingdom

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