Jesus’ ministry began the manifestation of the kingdom (“The time has come. The kingdom of God is near.” Mark 1:15). In one sense, the kingdom is present and is seen breaking in as the Spirit is at work in the church. Yet, the kingdom is not fully realized or consummated. It is this consummation that we await, when Jesus will put everything to rights (“We wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:13.) Therefore, something has started, but it will be Jesus, the Coming King, who will finish it.

 

Core to Alliance teaching is placing the expectation of the consummation of the kingdom on Christ’s return. This is a chief differentiation between post-millennialism or amillennialism. Premillennialism teaches it is the King who will bring the kingdom, not the church. In this present age, the onus is on the church to fulfill Christ’s mandate, which is to evangelize the nations. G.E. Ladd wrote,

 

How are we to know when the mission is completed? How close are we to the accomplishment of the task? Which countries have been evangelized and which have not? How close are we to the end? Does this not lead to date-setting? I answer, I do not know. God alone knows the definition of terms. I cannot precisely define who “all the nations” are. Only God knows exactly the meaning of “evangelize.” He alone, who has told us that “this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations”, will know when that objective has been accomplished. But I do not need to know. I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned; therefore the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. Our responsibility is not to insist on defining the terms of our task; our responsibility is to complete it. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.[1]

 

The mandate of the church is to make disciples of all ethnes, not bring the kingdom. Therefore, we are very comfortable in The Alliance to stand in an eschatological camp that keeps us focused on that mission.

 

The Alliance’s eschatological position is theologically generous and missiologically satisfying. It maintains an inaugurated kingdom that will be consummated by the Coming King. Most importantly, it keeps the church centered on Christ’s mandate to bring a gospel witness to all people. The establishment of the kingdom and the reign upon the throne, we leave to Jesus.

 

Sometimes I wonder if we should talk about the future more. It is tempting to want to pin people’s hope to God straightening things out here and now. The blessed hope, as it says in Titus, is awaiting the manifestation of Jesus. I think deep down, people see through the advertisements that offer the good life now by way of great teeth, great sex, and great food. If we could really explain how good “the manifestation of the glory or our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” is going to be, people might even get excited about waiting for it.

 

 [1] George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1959), ch. 9, “When Will the Kingdom Come?”

 

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