I celebrated another birthday this week, stepping closer and closer to adulthood (whatever that means) year by year. There has been much fascination with the life stage of adolescents over the past century. It’s this stage in life where we are not quite adults but not quite children either. At times there are signs of adulthood – heightened responsibility, peach-fuzz moustaches, body odor, growth spurts, lowered voices, and even receding hairlines. At other times, childhood is most prevalent – apathy towards responsibility, mischief, playful, and a dependence on mom and dad. Adolescents are adults but not in their fullness; and they are children, but not completely. They are almost-but-not-yet adults.
I think that is what the kingdom is – almost but not yet. The kingdom is here but not in it’s fullness. From time to time we catch glimpses of the kingdom of heaven (i.e., the new heavens, the new earth, the new Jerusalem) whether that be the work of Mother Teresa, working for clean water in Africa, or living among the poor in Philadelphia. And yet, we still see signs of the kingdom of earth – war, poverty, hurt, pain, tears.
The kingdom of God as we are now experiencing it is an adolescent – a tweener, balancing between what was and what is to come while not being fully one or the other. Maybe this is why Jesus could say that the kingdom of heaven is here and yet be pointing to something in the future. And maybe this is why Jesus deflated the belief that the end times would be distinguishable. It’s difficult to pin down an exact time that an adolescent transitions into adulthood. And maybe it will be the same with the kingdom of heaven.