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Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of GodIn recent years, the phrase “Already/Not Yet” as a description of our understanding of the kingdom of God in its present and future state has become very familiar. I took it for granted that this understanding had long been the dominant one in evangelicalism.

It was not until recently that I discovered the gridlock that existed between Dispensationalist and Covenant theologians in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Scholars and pastors within the evangelical world had a difficult time coming to an agreement on what the kingdom is, much less the timing of its arrival. 

The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God by George Eldon Ladd (Wm. B. Eerdmans) was first released back in 1959 and is still in print today. In this short book, Ladd leads us through the relevant Bible passages about the kingdom in order to bring scholars and teachers to a consensus.

The Gospel of the Kingdom is a ground-breaking work. Ladd is able to take truths from both the Dispensationalist side and the Covenant side and fit them together in a way that makes the best sense of the biblical picture.

First, Ladd explains what the kingdom of God is. It is a rule, not a realm. The kingdom can be defined as the “reign of God.”

After defining the kingdom as “God’s reign,” Ladd then explains the timing of the kingdom of God. Specifically, he shows how the kingdom of God can be both present and future. The kingdom has been inaugurated, but not yet consummated.

Also helpful is Ladd’s description of the role of the church: 

“Love is that gift of the spirit, above all others, which will characterize our perfected fellowship in the age to come. This love we now enjoy, and the church on earth will be a colony of heaven, enjoying in advance the life of the age to come.” (74)

The Gospel of the Kingdom is illuminating, clarifying and (thankfully) brief. It is amazing that Ladd manages to fit all of this great theological teaching into 140 pages.

There is a reason this book is still in print. It is unmatched in its clarification of what the kingdom of God is, and how the kingdom of God can be already present but not yet here in its fullness.

written by Trevin Wax  © 2009 Kingdom People blog


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22 thoughts on “Kingdom Now and Not Yet”

  1. Mason says:

    I agree Trevin, Ladd’s “The Gospel of the Kingdom” is a great read and a watershed work in the discussion of the kingdom. I think there have been some helpful clarifications and additions to his proposal from R.T. France, N.T. Wright, and a few others, but all in all the already/not yet framework is very helpful and seems to have stood up well over the years.

    You said in your post “It was not until recently that I discovered the gridlock that existed between Dispensationalist and Covenant theologians in the 1950’s and 1960’s.”. Actually, depending on your theological tradition and the school you are attending this gridlock is still going just as strong as the 60’s, with the same disagreements and arguments on both sides.
    Ladd may have shown a way forward for many, but there are still segments of both groups who have too much vested interest in their positions to follow that path.

  2. Dr. Paul W. Foltz says:

    The Phrase Gospel of the kingdom”as used in the bible refers to the kingdom of heaven, or Christ’s visible, physical reign on the earth for 1,000 years, promised to regenerated Israel.

  3. pastor jim sharp says:

    after more than 40 years of biblical -theological study my least developed and less convinced area of understanding is eschatology.

    i was weaned in dispensationalism and have been moving toward an amill position ever since.

    still on the journey.

    now…to solve the question of israel!!

  4. Craig Ervin says:

    This is a great book. The Kingdom is understood the same as the King. He is Fully man and fully God at the same time. The kingdom is already here and yet to come at the same time. The fullness of the kingdom is available now through prayer, which is why Jesus told us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come…”

  5. Dr. Paul W. Foltz says:

    THOSE WHO DEPART FROM THE LITERAL INTERPRETATION OF GOD’S WORD MUST SPIRITUALIZE THE WORD AND TRY TO REPLACE ISRAEL WITH THE CHURCH. THIS DOCTRINE PERMEATED THE CHURCHES UNTIL WWII, WHEN ANTISEMITICISM WAS DRIVEN OOUT OF AMERICA’S CHURCHES, NOW IT IS COMING BACK IN.

    WHY BELIEVE ANYTHING BUT THE WORD OF GOD/

  6. It was not until the already/not yet concept became a staple element among progressive dispensationalists in the latter 1980s that I began to give serious thought to writing the book that eventuated in The Race Set Before Us. Why? It is because the biblical concept of the kingdom/salvation already inaugurated but not yet consummated is essential to acquiring anything remotely close to an adequate understanding of the function of the gospel’s warnings and admonitions. Hence, chapter 1 of The Race Set Before Us is entirely devoted to the biblical concept of already/not yet.

    Thanks to Ladd’s early ground-breaking work, progressive dispensationalists find significant common ground with covenant theologians.

  7. Brian says:

    Coincidentally, today’s entry in Pastor Jason Stellman’s blog reads, “I really appreciate Chesterton’s point about the core doctrine of Christianity, the hypostatic union, involving two seemingly antithetical ideas (the human- and divine natures of Christ) perfectly united in one Person. Jesus wasn’t an elf (a non-man) or a centaur (a half-man), but he was at the same time truly Man and truly God. Taking this and applying it more broadly, Chesterton argues that when the prophecy that the lion will lie with the lamb is fulfilled, it will not be due to the lion’s becoming lamb-like (which would be brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb). Rather, the lion will retain its ferocity while choosing not to give expression to it at that moment. What does this all have to do with the sacred and the secular? Well, allowing one to swallow the other is easy, but it’s also a kind of cultural Eutycheanism (which, when done in Christology, is heretical). Rather, we ought to be true lovers of the world and true haters of it, affirming that “This is My Father’s World” and that “This World is Not My Home” (which, when you think about it, sort of necessitates two kingdoms).” Stellman takes awhile to get to “kingdoms,” but he sees that Christ’s nature would permeate God’s kingdom. Dr.Foltz: In view of this, can’t you see how the Church – the Body of Christ – replaces (or more aptly) is a fulfillment of Israel’s role as God’s chosen people?

  8. gary wearne says:

    Yes, Ladd did give us some helpful notions but I am still a little suspect of the notion that the Kingdom of God is rule, not realm.
    Firstly this does not distinguish how it is different from God’s sovereign rule. No matter what you come to say about the Kingdom of God, you must deal with the issue that God is always sovereign and His authority and Rule continues in the face of sin and rebellion and a fallen creation.
    Second, what sense does it take to say one rules but not over a realm?

    come on let’s reason together and work this through. Don’t just accept something because it sounds good.

    In Christ,
    Gary

  9. Mark@DR says:

    Gary,

    I haven’t yet read Ladd and don’t have a full answer for you, but in partial answer to your second question, maybe in the sense that Christ meant it in Luke 17:21, where he addresses both the When and the Where of the kingdom.

    Blessings,
    Mark@DR

  10. gary wearne says:

    Thanks Mark,
    luke 17:21 is extremely important about the Kingdom isn’t it. I take it we understand the “within you” is to be taken as not “inside” the pharisees, who were in the main disobedient to God but rather in their midst, in the presence of the King, Jesus. This tells us that Jesus is the ruler, but my point is the problem of divorcing rule from realm as so many do.
    Does realm mean merely a group of people, or is it over a land as well?

    Secondly, is luke 17:21 telling us the when and where of the Kingdom? Jesus is again confronting the pharisees with their hardened hearts towards God with the reality that here in their midst is the expected Messiah, the King of the Kingdom. Their rejection of this Kingdom, by rejecting the King meant that the nation Israel would have to wait for a later time for their King.The previous story of the 10 healed of leprosy but only a foreigner a samaritan gives thanks to God, shows the importance of faith and is an indictment upon the pharisees. It’s all about responding to the Messiah, the King of the Kingdom which they don’t do. And soon the King will leave, and suffer.. vs 22-25.

    In Christ
    Gary

  11. Michael says:

    The book is available via Google scholar see http://books.google.co.za/books?id=_8afkLJ1WLoC

  12. Steve D. says:

    Ladd’s writings on the Kingdom helped me get over some faulty thinking that stemmed from my Dispensational roots. Ridderbos’ book on the Kingdom was also helpful. However, regarding realm and rule, he made a helpful distinction, at least for me: “The Old Testament speaks of a general and a particular kind of kingship of the Lord. The former concerns the universal power and dominion of God over the whole world and all the nations, and is founded in the creation of heaven and earth. The latter denotes the special relations between the Lord and Israel.” page 4 of The Coming of the Kingdom

    I take the universal power and dominion of God over the whole world and all the nations to be referring to the Kingdom in terms of realm. Of course, both have to do with rule, so it may be an unnecessary distinction. I am still working through all of this, but I find it difficult to say the kingdom is rule but not realm in any sense at all.

  13. gary says:

    Hi Steve,
    I see you are grappling with the issue here. I cetainly think that it’s a false distinction to speak of Kingdom as rule but Not realm as Ladd suggested as I think it does not come to grips with the Bibles teaching on this matter. God is Sovereign of all. A god who is not so Sovereign is not the God of the Bible. Yet that Sovereignty is not merely rule but realm as well – because of Whom God is – Then we must ask what is the coming of the Kingdom, the preaching of the Kingdom, the news of the Kingdom that Jesus preached and John the Baptist preached as His forrunner?

    I agree it has to do with that realm promised to Israel, and since gentiles can now through the cross be properly related to Jesus they can enter that kingdom by the king!

    One thing we need to do is more homework and not settle for sound bites. Graham Goldsworthy’s definition of kingdom as God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule, is perhaps a helpful reminder but that needs solid “fleshing out”. We also can’t settle only for some spiritual kingdom when it’s clear from Jesus’ teaching etc that it has to do with the earth.

    in Christ,
    Gary

  14. dave says:

    Well there certainly are soem interesting comments and ideas here. Just to add some to the mix I recomend Bill Johnson’s book when heaven invades earth… a great read on the subject of the Kingdom.

  15. Doug says:

    Great post Trevin. I read this book for the first time a couple years ago and it blew my mind. As strange as it may seem I had never understood the reality of already/not yet in as clear a fashion as after reading this book. I agree with your assessment.

  16. Trevin Wax says:

    Yes, Doug. Ladd’s book excels at being thorough and also very accessible.

  17. Doctor Foltz: I am surprised at this perspective concerning hermeneutics. Should one then see interpreting parables as “spiritualizing” the word, especially in Mat 13:34 as we are told that Jesus described “The Kingdom” in that usual manner? Not that I would necessarily disagree with the perspective about Israel, but the dogmatic “CAPS” seem rather academically arrogant. (ref: 2 yrs old but issues here even more relevant.)

  18. RevK says:

    The number one topic of teaching from Jesus and we can’t agree on it? Some rule! Shouldn’t John 3:3 solve it?

  19. John says:

    Are any of Ladd’s books available in other languages, such as Japanese?

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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