The Kingdom of God and the Dangers of an Over-Realized Eschatology

There’s a lot of talk these days about the Kingdom of God. Kingdom this. Tangible kingdom that. Along with “missional” it’s one of the hot buzzwords in emerging evangelicalism. Books and videos and DVDs on Kingdom living abound.  Everybody wants a piece of the Kingdom.  Take, for instance, this search on Amazon. (By the way, I just purchased a new DVD series called The Kingdom Way of Life. I’ll try to write a review of it later).

For the most part this rediscovery or renewed Kingdom emphasis is welcomed because it’s correcting an overly internalized and spiritualized understanding of the Kingdom of God (God reigns only within) or a tendency to think of the Kingdom as a future only event with no bearing on the present.  But herein lies the danger.  In so emphasizing the now-ness, the present-ness, and the social and cultural implications of the Kingdom of God, for the sake of wanting to see people on mission with Jesus, we run the risk of an over-realized eschatology that bears a striking resemblance to the theology of C.H. Dodd or the ‘liberal’ view of von Harnack.  In other words, if people manifest the Kingdom through social action but have not experienced the Kingdom of God within, we’ve become missional, but at what expense?

So let the Kingdom come, now, on earth as it is in heaven, in all it’s glory. I’m all for that.  Let’s lead people to see and to experience God’s kingly rule through social action extending to to the institutions and culture around them.  But let’s not swing the pendulum so far in the direction of a realized eschatology that we neglect the inward aspects of God’s Kingly rule and end up looking like the liberalism of the early 20th century. Can I get an Amen?

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