I do not believe that, as a general rule, we live into the phrase “‘the kingdom of God, as Jesus proclaimed. I do not believe we understand the gravity and power of its implication; because of the limitations inherent in our humanity, I believe we limit God.
Let me step back and lay some groundwork for my assertion. What does it mean to say “the kingdom of God”? What is it? When is it? And where?
R.T. France in A Theology of the New Testament notes that within our definition and awareness of a “kingdom,” we perceive it as a geographical region. I would also say that our definition would encompass a sense of authority as in a ruler/servant or leader/disciple relationship. France continues by including the Jewish heritage of the idea bringing it to “an eschatalogical dimension.” France references Norman Perrin in that the kingdom of God is a symbol, and it seems that notion does have some merit in that the phrase itself represents a concept and reality so much more vast than we can fathom. (I am thinking of Julian of Norwich in that her Revelations of Divine Love speaks of the hazelnut…all that is resides within the smallness of such a thing.) France continues to state that “in the teaching of Jesus the kingdom of God is both present and future.” He ends by saying that it “is the subject of an active verb — it is in itself a dynamic agent.”
Looking at the Synoptic texts, John proclaims the coming of the Christ in Matthew 3:2 and referenced the prophecy from Isaiah. Further in the Gospel, Jesus echoes John, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). We also see this in Mark’s Gospel in 1:15. Jesus exhorts the twelve in their mission to go to the reviled and proclaim the kingdom of God (Matt. 10:7).
It seems to me that the kingdom of God is not exclusively a place as we finite humans would like to believe. It also seems that the ding don is not exclusively a time period such as the reign of God as what we read in Revelation. Based on Scripture and John’s proclamation before the arrival of Jesus, the kingdom of God is the person of Jesus. It is the was, is, and not yet.
But to speak to my initial assertion regarding man’s not living into the kingdom of God… The apostles performed wonders and miracles and exorcisms that we do not. Jesus stated in John 14:12, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” If the kingdom of God is Jesus, and Jesus gave us at Pentecost the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is of the Trinity, then we have the ability (read: “works”) to do what the apostles did. This awareness should transform our understanding of the church, our mission to the world, and our ethics. However, I am uncertain that we understand the full implication of what the “kingdom” means for us and within us. And because we do not fully grasp its power, we unintentionally limit that power within our mission and ethics.