Exactly what is the relation of the church to God’s kingdom? Are they the same thing? Are they distinct? Abraham Kuyper responds to these questions in the following quote, taken from his address to the Free Church in Amsterdam, now translated in the volume Rooted and Grounded: The Church as Organism and Institution (Christian’s Library Press, 2013):
Finally, if someone asks whether the building known as the visible church would be the completion of the spiritual temple building, such that the visible church on earth should be identified with the kingdom of God, I would counter with this question: does the prolonged tragedy of the church on earth tolerate for a moment the fueling of this delusion?
No, my friends, it is an entirely different bond that binds together church and kingdom of God. I prefer to indicate this for you in terms of an analogy. You know that in our cities we often see a stack of wood on an open lot. Bricks are piled up, joists are brought in, people walk around with measuring tools and plumbs; on that lot a wooden frame is raised, tied together with poles and boards and cross-beams, looking more misshapen than elegant. That scaffolding, as people call it, appears to be constantly rising higher, its dimensions constantly corresponding to the outline of the building. But that wooden frame is not the actual enclosure, that scaffolding lashed together is not the wall of the house. For look, when after many days the cornice is brought in and the anchors are gabled in place, then that scaffolding is torn down, that frame is dismantled, and the house that was skillfully constructed out of sight now sparkles in the grandeur of its lines and shimmers in the beauty of its form before the eyes of everyone.
By now you understand what I am saying, my friends! That scaffolding is the church on earth—as she appears at present to the eye: defective and misshapen. It must remain for a time, for who can build without scaffolding? But one day, when that cornice is brought in and the last stone is set, then that scaffolding will be removed, then that church on earth will fall away, and then that glorious temple will shimmer in its eternal beauty—a temple that hitherto had not existed, but. that the builders had been building while supported by that church. (Accessed on Kindle location 506-533.)