Q & R: Kingdom … could it have been received?

Here’s the Q:

I have read The Secret Message of Christ twice now and it has been one of the most challenging books I have ever read. It has allowed me to understand the message of Jesus better and see Him more clearly for who He really is. My question is this. If the people that Jesus was teaching the message of the kingdom of God to, would have understood it and embraced it, would the Kingdom of God have been established on the earth at that time? And what about different parts of the world at that time that had not yet heard the teachings of Jesus, would the Kingdom of God have been on the whole earth at the same time or in a more gradual way?

R: I’m so glad you’ve found the book helpful … Thanks for this question.
Let me tell you what I like about your question: It assumes that the coming of the Kingdom is important and at the heart of Jesus’ message, and it assumes it was intended to transform the world. That assumption, sadly, isn’t held as widely as one might think after nearly 2000 years of having the Gospels available.
But your question also makes an assumption that we should test – that the kingdom wasn’t established through Jesus. I think Jesus was right when he said the kingdom of God was among (or within) those who heard him.
Many of us were taught to think of the kingdom of God in an all-or-nothing way. (My more recent book explores the Greek philosophical reasons for this, if you’re interested at some point.) And we fused the stream of apocalyptic thinking found in the NT with the idea of the kingdom – so it has only “been established” once there is some kind of apocalypse.
But I think we need to question those ways of thinking. Let me put it in “what if” terms:
1. What if the kingdom of God is always emerging, and will always be emerging? What if there is no perfection point at which we say, “Perfection has arrived. From now on, nothing can ever change again, because the only change possible is for the worse”?* What if the kingdom of God is a story, not a state – a process, not a stasis? (You point in this direction when you say – “in a more gradual way.” I’m suggesting that God’s kingdom can only come and God’s will can only be done “in a more gradual way” since it doesn’t come by force and violence – it always requires the slow, gradual process of people seeing it, believing it, choosing it – without coercion by threat or sword.)
2. What if the apocalyptic dimensions of the NT were largely or completely fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem … i.e. “the world as we knew it” (centered in priesthood, sacrifice, temple, holy city, ethnic group) ended, and a new world began – where the Spirit is uncontained by temples, is poured out on all flesh, is blowing everywhere like the wind, is gushing up within hearts all over the place as living water? So – the sudden part indeed happened, leaving the gradual part to unfold, just as it has been doing and is doing at this very moment.
3. What if every generation in a real sense is faced with the same choice that those in Jesus’ generation faced: do we accept the call to repentance and faith to believe in, practice, live, proclaim, and manifest God’s dream in our day, in the middle of our crises and opportunities?
If we take that last question seriously, it would prompt us to ask, “What are the key crises and opportunities today which Jesus’ message leads us to address?” That question, of course, led me to write the sequel to SMJ … which you also might be interested in at some point. But it sounds like you’re still savoring and grappling with SMJ, so I hope you won’t be in a rush.
*Someone might quote 1 Cor 13 – “when that which is perfect is come” – but I think that “perfect” in this context means “mature” or “fully formed” as opposed to “Greek philosophical perfection/eternal stasis” etc.