"the kingdom of God is among you"

Here's an essay I just sent in to Jesus Manifesto, inspired by some of the recent conversations there...

"The kingdom of God is among you"
Four misconceptions about the kingdom Jesus announced

How Does the Kingdom [of God] Come? Its creation is a co-operative task involving both God and man. The pattern of a redeemed society is the thought of God. Its achievement is through the spiritual energy imparted by His spirit in human hearts, but its final consummation comes slowly through the joint efforts of God and man, working side by side, in the struggle to create a new and divine order and to make His will be done on earth as it is in heaven...
This statement appeared in Beliefs That Count, a book published in 1961 by Georgia Harkness, a prominent theologian in the Methodist church. It was used for adult Christian education. That was a while ago, but I find its description of the coming of God's kingdom quite contemporary, using images that I've noticed again and again while talking with Christians from a variety of backgrounds, Presbyterian, Catholic, Mennonite, and others. This statement also clearly illustrates two common misconceptions about the kingdom that Jesus announced.

1. The kingdom of God is coming slowly, gradually. I´m not quite sure where this idea originated. It may have been influenced by the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a popular Catholic theologian and paleontologist in the mid-1900s, whose theology was heavily influenced by the scientific evidence and theories about evolution. The idea also fits well with the ongoing work for social progress, which has had great success achieving scientific, technological, political, and economic improvements in small steps, over a long period of time.

But Jesus seemed to speak of the kingdom of God in a more immediate way, announcing that the long-awaited time of God's kingdom had arrived:
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand." (Mk 1.15)

"If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Mt 12.28)

"The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Lo, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst." (Lk 17.20-21)
This was (and is) startling good news, almost unbelievably good news. But Jesus´ amazing life demonstrated that something incredible was actually happening, that the kingdom of God was real and present. And he was inviting all of us into it, if we would only follow him. The life of the kingdom, the life that was seen in Jesus, could be ours—now. This announcement makes any ideas about a kingdom coming slowly and gradually seem like nothing in comparison, much less than the reality that Jesus demonstrated and offered us.

And if "slowly and gradually" refers to the fulfillment of the kingdom of God at Jesus' second coming, why say "slowly" when Jesus said "like lightning" (Mt 24.27) and "suddenly like a snare," with "the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (Lk 21.27-35)?