I’ve spent a lot of time revamping my understanding of the kingdom of God in recent years. Dallas Willard blew my socks off in The Divine Conspiracy as he stated that the kingdom of God is not a place called heaven that we long for after we die. It is present. It is now. I’ve spent a lot of time wrestling with that notion, but perhaps the best understanding of it came through an illustration by Lee Camp in Mere Discipleship which I will paraphrase.
D-Day and V-Day are defining moments in the face of the European portion of World War II. D-Day was the beginning of the end. It was the invasion of the Allied Forces as they began to push the Axis forces out of the lands they were occupying. V-Day was the final day of victory, the day of surrender when the war was officially over.
In hindsight, after D-Day, the end of the war was imminent. In many ways, the war was decided that day, though it was not yet over — bloody battles such as the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Market Garden were still to come. Ultimately, however, the allies were victorious as the ‘V’ in V-Day indicates.
Camp likens this to the coming of the Kingdom of God. Prior to the ministry of Jesus, this world was a corrupt and fallen place. However, Jesus established the foothold of the kingdom. His life was the landing on the beach. The complete victory over the corruption is imminent, but certainly not complete. We live in era where the kingdom and the corrupt overlap. The kingdom of God forcefully advances as God’s will is enacted through our deeds of faith. So yes, we can embrace and live within the kingdom of God now — that is in fact central to the message of Jesus.
Even as much as this analogy helps my understanding, it still raises questions which can push this dialogue further:
- At what point was the kingdom officially established on earth? Was it when Jesus began his ministry? Was it limited to Jesus’ physical proximity, and then fully realized for the rest of humanity with the coming of the Spirit?
- Is the kingdom of God advancing even when God’s will is enacted through someone who does not claim to be a follower of Jesus?
- What does the reality of the kingdom look like when the overlap is no more, and there is only kingdom? What that is in this world as we know it will survive to that era?