Question: "What is kingdom theology?"
Answer: At its most basic definition, kingdom theology is simply the area of theology that studies the Kingdom of God. In that sense kingdom theology is a legitimate and beneficial part of theology as a whole. But there are also whole theological movements labeled as “kingdom theology,” so one must be careful to understand how the term is being used.
Basically, kingdom theology divides human history into two broad periods of time: the “present evil age” and the “age to come.” The first started with the fall of man and will last until the Second Coming of Christ. The “present evil age” is marked by sin, sickness, death, disease, war, and poverty. In it Satan is seen as the ruler of the world (Ephesians 2:2 and 6:12), although his rule is limited. The “age to come” is when the Kingdom of God rules, providing eternal life and freedom from sin, sickness, and suffering. It is a time of universal peace on earth and God’s sovereign reign over all of creation.
One type of kingdom theology is what is sometimes referred to as the “already but not yet” view of the Kingdom of God. This view, popular among Charismatics, teaches that the “end times” began with the ascension of Christ into heaven. It is also called “inaugurated eschatology” because the life, death, and resurrection of Christ are seen as inaugurating, or ushering in, the beginning of the last days. Those who hold this view believe that the Kingdom of God is already here but has not yet been fully consummated.
Kingdom theology teaches that, ever since the time of Christ, both ages are in play. So, while the Kingdom of God is already begun (inaugurated by Christ) and Christ is already ruling from heaven, the full benefits of the Kingdom have not yet been realized, and we still suffer the effects of the fall. Because the Kingdom of God is still “not yet” here in all of its glory and power, Christians still suffer sickness and death. Until Christ returns physically, we will not experience the fullness of the Kingdom of God. Among the adherents of kingdom theology, there is a debate about the degree to which the power of the Kingdom is manifest today. One of the more extreme positions is that God has already rid the world of sickness and death, if we would only have enough faith to believe it.
Kingdom theology became a popular teaching in the Vineyard movement and was embraced by Charismatic leaders such as John Wimber. A distortion of kingdom theology has influenced the Latter Rain Movement and other aberrant theological systems. Some groups do not see a distinction between the two ages and assume the full benefits of the Kingdom are available right now. This leads to many outlandish and unbiblical claims concerning miracles, a Christian’s ability to live totally free from sickness and disease, and other errors.
Taking the biblical concept of kingdom theology to unbiblical extremes, some claim that the miracles performed by modern-day “prophets and apostles” are greater than anything done by the original apostles. This erroneous teaching has spawned a whole movement of unbiblical and sometimes heretical teachings such as Kingdom Now Theology and Dominion Theology. The teaching is also popular among “Word of Faith” teachers.
The basic premise of kingdom theology—that the Kingdom of God is in effect now—is true. God is the sovereign ruler over all things, and we know from Scripture that Jesus Christ is “at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Jesus is “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Where some proponents of kingdom theology go wrong is in their belief that all the Old and New Testament promises of the Kingdom of God directly apply to Christians today.
The teaching that salvation brings a total healing of all diseases and problems right now does not come from Scripture. Jesus said that His kingdom is “not of this world” right now (John 18:36), and He taught His disciples to pray, “May your Kingdom come soon” (Luke 11:2, NLT). The promises of the Kingdom await a future and more complete fulfillment at Christ’s Second Coming.
Extreme forms of kingdom theology, such as the Kingdom Now doctrine, have many problems. First of all, such teachings diminish the need for Jesus to return. After all, if the fully realized Kingdom of God is in effect for Christians today, why does Christ need to return at all? Second, Kingdom Now theology makes God dependent on man and his faith; in order for God to accomplish His will, we must have faith and claim the promises (usually taken out of context). God’s rule is diminished and His sovereignty attacked by many Kingdom Now teachers. Man controls his own destiny through his words and the power of his faith.
Starting with the false teaching that God “lost control” of the earth when Adam and Eve sinned, exponents of extreme kingdom theology believe that God has been looking for a “covenant people” who will take back control of the earth from Satan. Through the power of their faith and by following “last-days apostles and prophets,” the church will regain dominion over the kingdoms of this world—including the “kingdoms” of sickness, disease, and financial problems. Those who embrace this teaching are looking forward to, as God’s covenant people, taking control of the government, education, science, and every other aspect of the world. They believe this will be achieved as believers use the miraculous gifts of the Spirit before the return of Christ.
Kingdom theology, when correctly understood, is certainly compatible with true, biblical Christianity. The danger comes from those who distort the theological construct into an unbiblical doctrine. Proponents of kingdom theology can run the gamut from sound Bible teachers, to outright heretics. We should be careful to avoid broad-brushing the entire movement and instead judge each teacher or church by comparing what they are teaching to Scripture.