D.A. Carson on The Kingdom of God

The following is an excellent clip from D.A. Carson answering a question on the Kingdom:

For those who prefer or require, a transcript follows:

…In both an over-realized and under-realized eschatology, you can have an inadequate anticipation of the glory that is still to come. If you work through all the of the Kingdom…and even some of the gospel of the Kingdom ones, a very high percentage of them have in mind a consummated Kingdom. And this is not a generation, by and large, that is really homesick for heaven.

I’ve been in parts of the world where people are homesick for heaven. I know pastors…who take an average of seven funerals a weekend from AIDS. And some of them are homesick for heaven.

But most of us are so materially well-off that most of us don’t have that side of things right… So there’s a part of me that wants to get that side of things right before I start arguing about exactly what’s meant by the gospel of the Kingdom.

Now, that’s not a rebuke, it’s just…when I hear the discussions all around-that’s far more central. Where are the generations saying, “Yes, even so, come Lord Jesus!”

The notion of the Kingdom is astonishingly plastic, astonishingly diverse. In one sense, you’re in the kingdom whether you like it or not… it’s equivalent to God’s sovereignty. You’re in that kingdom whether you like it or not.

In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the kingdom is likened to [“a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” Matt 13:24-25]

In that sense the kingdom has dawned, it’s already here, but there’s wheat and tares in the kingdom. You don’t want to be part of the tares, but the kingdom’s already here. In that sense, the kingdom has dawned in some sense, but the only question then is are you part of the wheat or the tares?

But in John 3, unless you’re born again, you don’t see or enter the kingdom. So in that sense, you’re not in the kingdomunless you’re born again. You start working through passage after passage and discover that the locus of who is in the kingdom varies from parable to parable. There is a sense in which in a lot of parables the Kingdom is the King’s dominion. That is, it’s God’s sovereign reign. In one sense, God’s sovereign reign is over everything and everyone’s in it whether you like it or not; but then there’s this subset of God’s sovereign reign under which there’s lifeand you may or may not be in that Kingdom.

So in some of the passages that are talking about the building up of the Kingdom, or living in the Kingdom, or living in light of the Sermon on the mount… it seems to me that question gets tied very quickly to how you put together ecclesiology. It’s not just a Kingdom question. It’s the relationship between Kingdom and church.

And in some of those passages, the transformation of life that you expect, is precisely the transformation you expect under that subset of God’s kingdom in which there’s born-again, regenerating life—that is, in the confessional church!

So in that sense, we are certainly to create a new society, a new relationship… it’s a new creation. Of course, it is. But that’s not talking about the transformation of the broader culture

It’s talking about ecclesiology.

One of the doctrines that is, in my view, vastly under appreciated is ecclesiology, and how that ties into the notion of the Kingdom.

Carson’s answers are thoughtful and insightful. I greatly appreciate scholars who are passionate about not just study and intellectual pursuits, but are equally passionate about people and the church (in every sense of the word).

It’s truly a rare combination.

RT: John Ploughman

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books including the Big Truths Bible Storybook, Epic Devotions, Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation, and the End of Poverty, and Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World. His next book, published by Lexham Press, will release in Spring 2023.