The first statement we can make about the Kingdom of God is that it is a present fact, here and now.
The change in tense in the writings of the New Testament from the Old Testament give us this clue. Such statements as “behold the days are coming” change in the New Testament to such statements as “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” The question of the miracles is a sore one, for many people do not wish to accept them as unexplained facts. Nevertheless, to the New Testament faith, they were not incidental or accidental, but were an integral part of Jesus. These miracles were not performed in order to show off with signs and wonders. Indeed, Jesus refused to perform miracles for this purpose, but the power of the Kingdom of God was present in these miracles, and they showed that the new age was even then intruding on the old age. The Kingdom of God is a power already released in the world. It was released in a tiny way, through an obscure beginning, but like yeast, it continues to grow and leaven a very large quantity of dough.
We can also say that if the Kingdom of God has entered the world, then men are called to the service of that Kingdom. The kingdom is not an empty domain with geographical boundaries. The mission of Jesus was not to instruct men in a better and more ethical life, or to show men how to be better men. These things He did do, but they were incidental. Christ came to call men to His kingdom. His call was one of tremendous urgency. The Kingdom is at hand, He said. It stands at the door and knocks. Who will open and let it in? Over and over again in the Gospels comes the urgency of its call. It transcends all earthly concerns. Matthew says it is a pearl of great value, you sell everything you have to get it. Luke says you leave father and mother and family as if you hated them in order to answer its call. This is no call to be trifled with, like putting the hand to the plow and then turning back.
It is in the light of this call to the Kingdom that New Testament ethics are to be understood.
Christ did not present his ethical teachings as a program which he expected the secular order of His day or our day to carry out. Christ did not set out to reform society, but to do far more. He summoned men out of that society into the Kingdom of God. As members of this Kingdom, His ethical teachings become incumbent upon each member. It is an error to think of the Christian Gospel as a program of reform for society. The Liberal faction not only in the Presbyterian church, but in the National Council of Churches leans toward this error. The ethics of Jesus are the ethics of the Kingdom of God, and it is an error to think that they can be made the ethics of the kingdoms of this earth. The men of this world, the Communists for example, cannot see any sense in Jesus ethics.