Having been inaugurated through Christ, God’s already-active kingdom will be fully established when Jesus returns.
As a teenager, I began to read the Bible consistently using a reading plan. Eventually, I made my way to the prophetic books, but I found them quite confusing. Here and there, I saw obvious prophecies of Jesus coming as the Messiah, but beyond that, I didn’t know how to read these books. It wasn’t until various faithful Bible teachers began to show me the layered complexity of Old Testament prophecies that I began to see their richness.
Today’s reading from Isaiah 11 is such a passage, rich with imagery of the coming Messiah from the line of David. That much is fairly clear. But when it begins to speak of judgment, of equity for the poor and meek, of renewal and making peace, and of the nations seeking out this ruler, it seems clear something more is at hand than just the birth of Jesus. This is a promise of Jesus coming as man to save and coming back as King to purify and reign forever. God is telling us, through Isaiah, of His whole vision and plan to save sinners, judge evil, and establish the new heavens and the new earth.
Jesus echoed this prophetic depth throughout His ministry. In Luke 21, He spoke of wars and natural disasters as signs of coming judgment, and He was clear about His own return to fully establish His kingdom: “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27). But Jesus also told His listeners that their redemption was “near” and that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place” (Mark 13:29–30).
We know Jesus has not returned yet. The generation to whom He was speaking passed away centuries ago. So, what did He mean? He was speaking of multiple spiritual realities at once. First, that of His kingdom being established and His followers representing Him in it. Second, that of His return to fully establish His kingdom for eternity. Third, that God’s timing is not like ours, so “near” must be understood according to God’s perfect plan. There is even more to it than this, but those three realities frame how we understand Jesus’s words.
In Romans 8, the apostle Paul helps us understand what this means for us. He says that “we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies,” and “if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:23, 25). In 2 Timothy, Paul offers more encouragement on Christ’s return, saying, “For if we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:11–12).
We live between Jesus inaugurating His kingdom and finally establishing it in full. We live in the time of suffering, tragedy, and even persecution that Jesus told us about. But we do so with patience and hope because we are part of Christ’s kingdom that is spreading and being established. We are His kingdom representatives as we wait. We’re not merely biding our time. We live for Jesus, we look ahead eagerly to His return, and we must be patient in God’s timing.