Thanks so much for your thoughts, Ed. I think you’ve clearly articulated a real issue with Adventist apocalyptic mania.
However, I would say that the Adventist problem with realizing the present reality of the kingdom is not just the focus on future apocalyptic events. It’s also rooted in a gospel that has little to do with the idea of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, and everything to do with “the plan of salvation” for individuals after death.
This is the gospel often heard in Adventist and evangelical churches: that Jesus as my personal savior died on the cross to pay the price for my sins, and now I can have a personal relationship with a personal savior who will give me assurance of salvation, some vague idea of personal and spiritual growth, and bring me to heaven when he returns. While some of this is part of the gospel, this is simply not the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus, the apostles, and the early church proclaimed. It is more of a semi gnostic escape from the world, and/or a psychologizing of the gospel.
The gospel of the kingdom of God was the announcement that the king had arrived and was revealing to Israel and to the world what it looks like when God becomes king… what it looks like when God takes charge. Jesus revealed this through his life, what he taught and did, and through his death and resurrection. When God takes charge the outsiders are welcomed and brought inside, the poor, the weak and the sick are cared for and healed, sins are forgiven, abuses of power and authority are confronted, and power under to serve is held up as the highest value and as the clearest picture of God and his purposes for human beings, rather than the power of the sword over humans to enforce the will of the powerful.
This is the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus’s death and resurrection shows that God vindicated Jesus and his faithfulness to his divine calling of bringing the presence of God and his restorative new creation to this world, and has appointed him as the true lord and ruler of the world. God’s rule/new creation has now broken into this present creation, and we are all beckoned by his Spirit to now follow king Jesus in the restorative work and purposes of his kingdom… in this present age. Faith is aligning ourselves with Jesus in his present kingdom project.
And, that partnering with him now is what points forward to the age to come, when he will reveal the fullness of the restoration that he is inspiring his followers to bring into the world now. That means that what we do now, also counts with God for the future. As Paul said in light of the promise of resurrection, “Always abound in the work of the lord, because your labor in the lord is never in vain.”
As one prominent theologian put it, “ Jesus is coming, so plant a tree!” I like that!