George Eldon Ladd was an outstanding biblical theologian of the latter half of the 20th century. In his landmark work, A Theology of the New Testament, he brilliantly articulated a comprehensive theology of the Kingdom of God.
Simply stated, the Kingdom of God in the Bible is the reign and rule of God over all, which includes both the natural and the supernatural realms. Jesus himself came proclaiming the “gospel of the Kingdom” and demonstrated in every aspect of his life and ministry the in-breaking of that Kingdom particularly as it relates to the universe in which we live. The primary message of Jesus was the Kingdom had come, he was King of the Kingdom, and that his rule had broken afresh and authoritatively into human history. It’s a message that is reaffirmed throughout the New Testament as Hebrews 6:5 describes those who “have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come.”
At the same time there is a clear dimension to the Kingdom that will be realized more perfectly in the future. There is therefore a both/and to the Kingdom of God: It is here and now and yet unrealized. The Kingdom is both in this age and the age to come. Both these facts about the Kingdom—that it is present and that it is future—are clear and articulated repeatedly through the New Testament. We cannot deny either.
There are profound implications about this in how we view supernatural reality.
First, Thomas Jefferson’s view of supernatural reality was completely wrong. The Kingdom of God has broken into the natural world, most vividly in the person of Jesus and through the present reality of the Holy Spirit. This in-breaking is much more than most of us (particularly with Western worldviews) have believed or dreamed could be. It’s huge.
Secondly however, the presence of the Kingdom is not total. While significant, it is not complete and will not be until sin and Satan are banished and Jesus’s reign is established in its fullness. We still live in a fallen universe where we grapple with the world, the flesh, and the devil, all of which are yet to be completely placed under the feet of Jesus, the King of the Kingdom. Hence, Jesus’s prayer that “your Kingdom come, your will be done.”
Therefore, both the present presence of the Kingdom and the Kingdom yet to come are true. We cannot ignore either if we want to be true to the Bible. If we live solely in light of one or the other, we run the risk of either of the two extremes described earlier—practical Jeffersonian deism or goofy otherworldliness that’s out of touch with the realities of our present fallen world.
A practical example is the issue of physical healing. Jesus healed. It was front and center in his earthly ministry, and there is really no indication that he ever failed to make sick people well. It happened all the time and completely.
If we are to be obedient to his commands, John 12:24 means that we will, in his name, do likewise. And the scope in which we do it will be even greater according to the passage. There is really no way around such exegesis if we want to have any biblical integrity.
This means that healing is available. Jesus wants to heal. He wants to come against death and disease, which are all a result of the fall. This means that healing—both emotionally and physically—should probably happen a lot more frequently than many of us who have been captured by Western naturalism have been led to believe. It’s a sign of the Kingdom’s presence. God longs to manifest his healing presence and his power, and he has given us incredible authority to exercise such healing in his name—an authority that most of us, as followers of Jesus, fail to access.
Jesus’s prayer was clear when he continues, “on earth as it is in heaven.” If Jesus asks us to pray for the in-breaking of the Kingdom—for it to be on earth as it is in heaven—then we should expect that is what he wants us to do. In heaven, there is no sickness or disease, no heartbreak, no evil, no fear, no death. How is God going to accomplish what he tells us to pray for? Through us.
Here’s how I practically apply this. When I encounter a situation with someone who is in need of healing—be it physical or emotional—the first things I ask are: What is God doing here? Am I supposed to have a part? What role am I to play?
Next I ask, If the Kingdom has not broken into this situation, why? What is there of the world, the flesh, or the devil that is preventing what Jesus wants to do from happening? If we believe Jesus wants to heal and it’s not happening, then most likely there is a reason.
That reason could be the context around us. It could be my inability or lack of skill in knowing how to pray and how to exercise the authority that God’s delegated to us. It could be because of sin, disbelief, or incomplete obedience on my part or on the part of the person being prayed for. There could be issues of unforgiveness that must be addressed before God’s healing power is free to flow. There may generational issues that are impediments, and of course, there could be demonic influence or interference. Lots of issues could get in the way of the in-breaking of the Kingdom. And ultimately, there could be the question of God’s timing and whether his purposes are best accomplished in this life or reserved for the life to come. In the case of Paul, God’s sovereign choice for Paul’s welfare (II Corinthians 12) took precedence over the relief from what was “a messenger of Satan.”
So healing may not come. We all have had that experience, sometimes accompanied by intense disappointment, wondering where is God and why does he not answer. It’s really an issue of the Kingdom not yet being fully present. Hence we don’t see healing, or other signs of the Kingdom, manifest 100% of the time because the rule of the King is not 100% realized. The world, the flesh, and the devil mess it up.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t continue to work and pray to improve the percentage of Kingdom in-breaking. That’s another way of looking at what sanctification is all about. Sanctification is upping the odds that the in-breaking of the Kingdom occurs with more frequency and effectiveness in my own life and through me to others.
Just grasping this one basic but crucial understanding about the Kingdom and the extent to which the supernatural overlaps and has broken into the natural world changes everything. It gives me a framework to understand what is and what is not, why God is sometimes powerfully present and at other times, strangely silent. My view of the Kingdom of God directly affects my understanding and practice of supernatural reality.
This is an excerpt from Sam Metcalf’s booklet, Engaging the Supernatural: Experiencing the Reality of God’s Presence and Power. You can request a free PDF version of the booklet on our website.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Metcalf has served as the president of CRM-US since 1985. His passion for leadership development, discipleship, and the spread of the good news of Jesus around the world has led CRM into over 85 countries and a variety of innovative ministry models contributing to contemporary movements of the gospel. He and his wife, Patty, are based in Fullerton, CA. They have two adult children and four grandchildren.