The Kingdom — Now or Later?

By Royce Frederick

The apostle Paul says Christians are in the kingdom NOW: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). Paul wrote those words from prison about A.D. 64. He is clearly talking about something which had already happened. God “has delivered us” and “conveyed us” into the kingdom. He and the Christians were in the kingdom of Christ when Paul wrote the letter.

The apostle Peter says faithful Christians will enter the kingdom LATER: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11). Peter wrote those words about A. D. 66. He is clearly talking about something which will happen in the future. He told “brethren” — Christians — that they must be diligent and grow spiritually (verses 5-9). If they do that, an abundant entrance “will be supplied” to them into the everlasting kingdom of Christ.

Who is right, Paul or Peter? Are Christians in the kingdom now, or will they enter it later?

Both are right! Paul is talking about the people of the kingdom — citizenship in the kingdom. Peter is talking about the eternal place of the kingdom.

In the Bible, and in our languages today, one name can refer to certain people OR the place where they live. For example, someone says, “I plan to go to India.” It means he plans to travel to the geographical place called India. Someone else says, “India voted.” The rivers, mountains, and fields did not vote. It means the people of India voted.

In the Bible, “Jerusalem” sometimes means the place: houses, shops, and streets. But it sometimes means the people of that city. For example: “...wise men from the East came to Jerusalem [the place], saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem [the people] with him” (Matt. 2:1-3).

Also, a person can be a citizen of a country without being inside its territory. A citizen of Nigeria who is visiting Australia is still a citizen of Nigeria.

When we obey the gospel, we become Christians, children in God’s family, members of the church of Christ, and citizens of the kingdom of Christ. Paul wrote, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). We are subjects of the King, Jesus. But we are not yet in the eternal city. We are still in the field, where there is much work to do before we go home.

All who obey the gospel are kingdom people. And all who remain faithful will enter the kingdom place after this life is over.