Tom: Thanks, Gary. Well, this is part two of our conversation. The topic is the coming kingdom, and I’ve been talking to Andy Woods who’s a pastor and an author. His latest book is titled The Coming Kingdom: What Is the Kingdom and How Is the Kingdom Now Theology Changing the Focus of the Church? Andy has two degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary and a law degree from Whittier Law School in Southern California.
Andy, welcome back to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Andy: It’s great to be here. I appreciate the opportunity. Thank you.
Tom: You know, Andy, as we’ve mentioned and we’ve talked, this is really important stuff. We—as you mentioned last week, and we see it over and over again, young people are drawn to the false idea, the false teaching of setting up the kingdom. They want to be part of the kingdom and they want it set up now. And as we mentioned last week, there are a lot of issues that make that very, very problematic. One might be that there’s going to be worldwide revival. You can’t promote this idea of setting up the kingdom if there isn’t revival. So is that what the Scripture teaches? There are other aspects of it that Christians are going to take over the world. Well, there’s a heady idea! Let’s say a young person loves the Lord and they say, “Hey, wait a minute, we pray, ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.’” So there are many things that lead to a misunderstanding of setting up the kingdom. So, Andy, could you just give us a recap of, in your perspective, the reason you wrote the book and what your concerns are?”
Andy: Well, my concerns are young people that get under a system that sounds—the Book of Colossians, for example, tells us not to be easily seduced by philosophy. I see so many young people getting seduced by somebody that sounds articulate, somebody with a Ph.D. after their name, somebody that has a lot of books that they’ve written, and they’re sort of overwhelmed by the scholarship and the erudition, and they just sort of get pulled in this direction of kingdom-now theology because it all sounds so good. And I noticed that from our side we don’t have a lot written in terms of countervailing or opposing that, and so that was really my motive. I just wanted to produce something that’d help people look at the whole Bible and show them really what the Scripture says about the kingdom, that, you know, we are not in the kingdom. In fact, if you want to know the prophecies about our current age, they’re more related to what Paul writes in 2 Timothy about “evil men and imposters waxing worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Quite the opposite of being in the kingdom, we’re in an age of apostasy.
Andy: And if we don’t understand that, it’s going to confuse us and cause us to pursue wrong priorities in the present. I mean, our call is to be faithful today in the midst of much opposition. You read through 2 Timothy, Paul’s last epistle, and that’s what he gets to over and over again. But if you believe we’re in the kingdom, it leads to a misunderstanding of that and really a false optimism and wrong priorities.
Tom: You know, Andy, we go back through church history, and there has been a mentality of sort of utopianism. I think Calvin tried to set that up in Geneva; that would be one example. But the whole idea with regard to the kingdom that it’s coming, and we need to do what we can to help set it up. As I mentioned last week, you know, even those who will quote you from what’s called the Lord’s Prayer—which is really a general way of going about praying. It’s not a specific thing—but it says, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” But that has to be put in the context of what do the Scriptures teach? You mentioned last week (it’s so important) the kingdom will not be set up until the King arrives! Man can’t do it. There’s no instruction for him to do it. We live according to kingdom principles in the sense of doing what’s right by the Holy Spirit, being encouraged in righteousness, holiness, and so on, yes. But to think that we can set up a kingdom is—it’s not just false; it leads to really serious problems.
Andy: Yeah, it gets us involved in projects that God never called us to do. It gets us away from the idea that we are sons of the kingdom, or what I like to call—or what actually Paul calls ambassadors of the kingdom. What is an ambassador? Paul uses that illustration of an ambassador. An ambassador—if I’m America’s ambassador to Iran, I represent American values on Iranian soil. And so at very best that’s what we’re doing. We’re trying to represent what the kingdom could be like one day. That’s what I’d call being salt and light to a fallen world, because we’re representing kingdom values in Satan’s turf, on Satan’s world, but we are not in the process of establishing the kingdom. That’s only something the King can do. And I appreciate the fact that you brought up Calvin and Calvin’s social experiment that went awry there in Geneva. And of course Dave Hunt’s book on Calvinism, What Love Is This?, you know, he has several chapters talking about this. Talk about an experiment that went awry, where John Calvin actually put to death people like Servetus and others that opposed his theology. That’s the type of craziness we get ourselves into when we think that we’re trying to set up the kingdom of God through political force and we’re taking Israel’s promises and prophecies and sort of indiscriminately transferring them to the church age.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Andy, we talked about dispensationalism last week, and the important thing is that certain things are going to take place. And the reason I’m bringing that up is because if we believe, whether it be through programs like Rick Warren and his Global PEACE Plan, that they’re going to solve all the issues of the world—I mean, that’s what he lays out; and pushing it to the envelope of working with all different religions to help deal with social justice, spiritual emptiness (I don’t know how that works!)… But anyway, what I’m getting at here is that if we get involved in a program that is not consistent with what the Scriptures teach about what is going to take place next…now, help me here: from my understanding of Scripture, very simply, the next kingdom to come is the kingdom of the Antichrist! Now, am I pushing the envelope on that?
Andy: No, I think you’re exactly right, because what we’re told is subsequent to the church age after the Rapture, the Antichrist kingdom comes forward in full force. As I understand the Bible, he has that kingdom for at least three and a half years.
So sort of all this talk about unity and ecumenism and solving the world’s problems is sort of preparatory for what the Antichrist is going to do, and wouldn’t it be a tragic thing as evangelical Christians at the close of the church age instead of reaching and teaching, evangelizing and discipling, winning people for Christ’s coming kingdom, we got involved in projects at the exclusion of preaching the gospel, and we actually found out that we were helping set up the wrong kingdom? So if I’m involved in kingdom work and building the kingdom, and the next kingdom on the horizon is the Antichrist’s kingdom, I’m actually working for the wrong kingdom as I understand it. And, you know, Satan is a great deceiver. Let’s not put it past him that he could deceive the church on that level.
Tom: And, folks, what we’re saying here is that it’s unwitting. If you’re not going according to what the Scriptures teach, nobody’s saying that you’re jumping aboard with the Antichrist to build his kingdom, that you’re wittingly doing that. But that’s the problem: it’s an error. That’s why Jesus in Matthew:24:4 said, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” He was characterizing the last days prior to His return.
But, Andy, I want to get to something else that’s in your book that I thought was really terrific the way you laid it out, and that is God’s covenantal promises. There’s so much confusion about this, and you give the examples of a conditional promise versus an unconditional promise. Now, explain that to our listeners.
Andy: Well, I…probably the easiest tool that I know of to explain it is the difference between ownership and actual possession or enjoyment. For example, I could own a house in the Hamptons (I guarantee I don’t own that, but I wish I did!). But let’s pretend I own that beach house, but I’m so busy working to pay for the house, you know, I don’t really have time to actually go in the house and possess the house and enjoy the house. So we all can recognize that it’s the difference between ownership and possession or enjoyment, and that’s really the best way I’ve ever heard to understand God’s covenants with Israel. The Abrahamic covenant (really starting in Genesis 15 is where the word “covenant” is used) gives to the nation of Israel ownership over her blessings. Basically she has land, seed, and blessing, and those are developed as you continue on through the Old Testament in more specificity. So the nation of Israel will always own those blessings. That’s why you can never push Israel out of God’s purposes. That’s why God in Jeremiah:31:35-37 says, “As long as there’s sun and moon and stars, the nation of Israel will always exist before Me.”
But you see, the Mosaic covenant comes along and it gives to Israel a condition: Exodus:19:5 is “If then” language. So the Mosaic covenant basically gives the nation of Israel not ownership—they have that already in the Abrahamic covenant—but it gives them possession or enjoyment. In other words, there’s a condition that has to be met before the nation can enjoy what she owns, and to make a long story short, she needs to enthrone the King, and people will see that in Deuteronomy:17:15. And until that happens, the kingdom will be in a state of postponement. Israel will be the owner, but not the possessor, and that’s where we are today: Israel owns those blessings, but she does not yet possess them because she hasn’t yet enthroned the King. Once she does that following the Rapture, and that’s what the events of the Tribulation are designed to produce, Israel will always be the owner, but not the possessor. But once she becomes the owner and the possessor, the kingdom will come. So hopefully that takes a complicated idea and explains it where folks can kind of wrap their arms around it.
Tom: No, it does, because the things that you often hear: “Well, wait a minute: come on. Israel is there—the Jews are there in unbelief, so God couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it.” And then without belaboring it, but we could talk about replacement theology and all these things that have come in that are so contrary to what you’ve just explained from the Scriptures, Andy.
Andy: Yeah, as one man said, guess what you have to be before you can be a believer? You have to be an unbeliever. And yes, Israel today has been regathered in unbelief, but you see, just like God was at work in your life and my life through conviction of the ministry of the Holy Spirit before we got saved, God today is at work in the life of the nation of Israel bringing them to a place where they will go through a time of discipline, and yet through that time of discipline will actually end up trusting in their very Messiah, and He’s setting the stage for it now. So you can see the hand of God in the modern state of Israel, although what Israel has today and is today is not the finished product. And people, they get very impatient with God, you know? He hasn’t fulfilled His Word yet, and so we have a tendency to take Israel’s promises, which read in their literal sense apply only to Israel and not the church, and they transfer those over to the church by following a method of interpretation called allegory, or spiritualization. And it’s sort of interesting—when they do this, they leave the curses behind for the Jewish people…
Tom: Convenient! Right.
Andy: …but they take all the blessings. And so all of these strange beliefs—amillennialism, replacement theology, not understanding that God is at work in the nation of Israel today while she’s in unbelief—these all flow from not really understanding the basics of God’s covenant program.
Tom: Right. Andy, as I was going through your book, which is The Coming Kingdom (Andrew Woods is the author), a smile went across my face. Now, this may sound a little odd, but you know me, Andy. I am a little odd. But the smile went across my face because I kept thinking about the history and the plight of the Jewish nation, the people, and what’s in store for them. We talk about the great Tribulation which doesn’t just deal with the Jews. God is pouring His wrath on the earth, so it’ll be Gentiles and Jews. But according to the prophets, despite all the world’s animosity toward them, Jews, the Jewish…well, let me say it this way: Jews will rule the world. Now, you go, “How can you say that?” A nation the size of New Jersey, is it, is going to rule the world, and these Jewish people are going to rule the world? Jesus, Yeshua, the King, is Jewish, okay? So I just find that a wonderful grand irony, and it should be an encouragement to the Jewish people. They need to accept their Messiah in order for them to benefit it, but isn’t that an irony?
Andy: Yeah, it is an irony that the very people that are so hated…and of course one of Christendom’s black eyes is we have sadly in our history been involved in some of the Jew hatred and anti-Semitism. Martin Luther, who made great contributions to the historic Christian faith as we all acknowledge, wrote a horrible tract against the Jewish people. I speak publicly, you speak publicly, anybody can misspeak. I’ve done that quite a few times. But when you write something, you’re putting deliberate reflection into your words, and this was not a misstatement. This tract goes on for 80 pages, and people can find it easily on the internet if they’re interested and download it to your Kindle or whatever. But he goes on and on and on with one terrible statement after another against the Jewish people. And so it is ironic, like you say, that the very people that are so reviled by the secular world and even by Christendom itself are actually going to be given a place of not just participation, but preeminence in the millennial kingdom, and the Word of God is going to go forth from Jerusalem, from Zion, Isaiah:2:2,3. So it is a tremendous irony.
Tom: Andy, what comes to mind I think about the movie Fiddler on the Roof where the main character says, “Why don’t you choose somebody else?” Okay? Something to that effect. Not exactly, but here’s my point: the Jewish people have never been—historically, they’ve never been imperialistic. They’ve never tried to take over the world, these kinds of things that we’ve seen other nations do, and so on. So to say it again, the irony is that small nation will rule and reign. Obviously Christ the Messiah will rule and reign from Jerusalem. So I just find that should be an encouragement, especially for Jewish believers to encourage their—to help win their friends, their kinsmen to Christ.
Andy: Yeah, and you know, you watch the media today—and I call it the transforming David into Goliath syndrome, where you would get the idea that Israel is some kind of imperialistic power: she’s the one that’s causing trouble all over the world; she took land that didn’t belong to her. But if you just look at a map, it’s astonishing how small Israel is—about less than one percent of territory in comparison to the Islamic theocracies and dictatorships that surround her. Israel, as you mentioned earlier, is about the size of maybe Vermont, maybe New Jersey, and yet that little nation that’s so misunderstood and so hated is actually going to be elevated to a place of preeminence and blessing in this coming kingdom.
Tom: Mm-hmm. And this is not your idea, it’s not my idea. We believe it because this is what the Scriptures teach. So, folks, if you’ve got a problem with that, well, let’s be Bereans. Let’s search the Scriptures for those things.
The other thing that, as we started talking about earlier, in last week’s program, for sure, and this one, young people: here we have the idea of Christians enthusiastically attempting to take over the world, or believe that they can to set up the kingdom, and it’s very popular among Christian adults, young Christian adults who are drawn to the teachings of people like Mike Bickle at the International House of Prayer, Bill Johnson, Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, and there are many others, and within Bethel we have their music group Jesus Culture, which that’s in their lyrics, folks. If you think I’m pushing the envelope here, no. You just have to listen to the lyrics. This is the kingdom theology, kingdom now—these are ideas that people are jumping aboard, and they, as we mentioned earlier, if they’re wrong, and check out the Scriptures, if they are wrong, then they are actually unwittingly setting up, helping to set up the kingdom of the Antichrist.
Now, those that see themselves as facilitators of the coming kingdom, Andy, in your view is there any basis for that? Do they have a scriptural leg to stand on?
Andy: In my opinion they don’t, because many, many verses we could quote, but the Book of James tells us that we are heirs of the coming kingdom, James:2:5. Jesus in what sometimes is called the Lord’s Prayer, maybe better said the disciples’ prayer that you mentioned earlier, tells us very clearly that we are to pray “Thy kingdom come,” which makes virtually no sense if we’re in the kingdom now. I mean, why would you pray for a kingdom to come if you’re now in it and helping set it up? But I think you bring up a really good point about the literature and the music. We could mention the emergent church, we’ve mentioned some of the things that Rick Warren is involved in, his so called PEACE Plan, and all of this stems from just…and even if we can bring this up, I know you and I, Tom, have talked about this, but the song Majesty, kingdom authority. We sing that song quite frequently in evangelicalism, but are we stopping and actually looking at the actual words? And sadly, we’re singing songs ad reading literature that really don’t conform to what God’s program is concerning the coming kingdom.
Tom: Right. Andy, we’ve just got what, about three or four minutes left. In you book The Coming Kingdom, you cover a great deal more than obviously we’ve had time to discuss, but I think we’ve alerted our listeners to some of the very real problems. But what is your recommendation that you believe will help our listeners on a consistent basis to discern what the prevalent kingdom errors are, and how to keep themselves from being deceived by them? And as we’ve been talking about, especially young adults who are enthusiastic about this and wrongly so.
Andy: Well, probably the biggest exhortation I could give people is to put on that belt of truth as Ephesians 6 talks about and to get back into the Scripture. One of the great tragedies is in your average church today, you go to a midweek Bible study or even a sermon, and they’re really not studying the Bible, they’re studying a book by a Christian author, which, of course, I wrote a book, so books—and you’ve written books, and books have their place, but they’re not to be our authority. Our ultimate authority is the Word of God, and there really is no substitute from starting in Genesis and going all the way through Revelation and letting God speak, letting Him say what He wants to say: not coming up with a bunch of excuses as to why the text doesn’t mean that, not getting involved in some theology which says the New Testament has rewritten the Old Testament or something to that effect, but just let the Bible speak. And a systematic movement through the Bible, letting the Bible say what it wants to say, I believe, is the greatest bulwark or defense you could ever give someone to protecting their mind not just from kingdom-now theology, but almost any error that’s out there. The prophet Hosea said, “My people perish…” God through Hosea said, “My people perish for lack of knowledge,” and that’s really what I see happening today in massive forms. We’re so ignorant of the Scriptures that we fall prey to so many aberrant theologies on the horizon.
Tom: That’s always disheartening to me, Andy, when I meet some people, you know, wherever I might be--in South Africa, Albania, Mongolia…and I find a group of Christians and I say, “Oh, you’re having a Bible study! Yeah, great! Which book are you in?” And more often than not, you know, it’s by Rick Warren or something like that. Wait a minute, what book of the Bible did Rick Warren write? I don’t remember him in the writers of Scripture. I mean, I’m laughing, but I’m crying on the inside, because when Jesus warns us about and He characterizes the last days apostasy, folks, and I know many of our listeners I’m repeating things they’ve heard over and over again, but we’ve got to be Bereans. We’ve got to check these things out according to the Scriptures, and what’s interesting, and I’ve mentioned this more often than not, is that the Bereans were not Christians! They were Jews, and they searched the Scriptures. So they’re commended for that, so we should do likewise, because we have the Holy Spirit, we have the Word of God, and you know, we have a greater opportunity for understanding.
So my guest has been Andy Woods. His book is The Coming Kingdom, which I recommend, and, Andy, it’s been absolutely informative, a delight having this discussion with you. So thanks, brother.
Andy: Hey, I really appreciate the opportunity. Thank you very much.