In 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.