The following is an excerpt from chapter eleven of Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church by Scot McKnight.
Kingdom begins with a story, and a good story has characters and a plot that creates a problem or some tension, and the plot seeks resolution for that tension. Kingdom story has a resolution. Someday the inaugurated kingdom will be a consummated kingdom. Someday the education will lead to the vocation.
The future is the magnet pulling the past and the present toward it. As Christian Wiman said it, “Remove futurity from experience and you leach meaning from it just as surely as if you cut out a man’s past.” Just a glimpse of that future, which is the subject of this chapter, is, to use Wiman’s words again, “that spirit cleansing whiff of the ultimate.” As a man with a death-dealing cancer, Wiman knows that whiff.
When many Christians hear the word “kingdom” they think of “heaven,” and that means where they go when they die. Most seem to think life in heaven will be a spirit-kind of existence rather than a body-kind of existence. We’ll be able to ﬂit around like angels and pass through walls.
This kingdom-heaven equation leads to further hopes and expectations like being with our loved ones and meeting people like Abraham and David and Isaiah and, for me at least, Hosea. Then we add into that mixture Peter and Paul and Mary and John and Priscilla and Junia, for whom I have a couple questions.
There’s more: we have to add those early Christian saints like Perpetua and Irenaeus and Athanasius, and we can march right through church history, ignoring the multitudes we don’t know and mentioning our favorites like Anselm and Luther and John Wesley and Rebecca Protten and William Wilberforce and Mary Bethune Cookman and John Stott.
You get the idea. Heaven is a glorious and gloriﬁed reunion of spiritual, disembodied saints.
But what does Jesus say about the future kingdom? The kingdom is both now and not yet, so we ask, what is the “not yet” like?
There are at least four themes at work in the New Testament’s vision of the future kingdom of God, themes that can animate our hope and redirect our mission. The future kingdom
• will be a ﬂourishing fellowship or society,
• will begin with a climactic judgment,
• will be a perfected community, and
• will be uninhibited joy and happiness.
All we can do is sketch each one.