Let’s open our Bibles to the Book of Acts, chapter 17, verse 11. We’re continuing on with our study on the Kingdom. We’re kind of at a transition point, as you’re going to see tonight, in the study. We’re in chapter 15 of the book that I wrote and then chapter 16. And remember the book I wrote is just supplemental, the important book is the Bible. Right, Amen to that!
The whole first part of this study (which we’ve completed this part of it, believe it or not) what does the Bible say about the kingdom. And we’ve carefully gone through how the kingdom program starts in Eden, that’s where the kingdom was lost. And then the goal of history is how it gets restored to the earth. And God gradually unfolds His plan through the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant and the Kingdom program continues to be unfolded through the divide kingdom, the times of the Gentiles, and hopefully all of this is review to you. If not we have all this archived, Old Testament prophets, post-exile, right up to the life of Christ where the kingdom is offered to Israel on a silver platter in the first century. And then as you know Israel rejected that kingdom offer in Matthew 12.
And that ushers us into a time period called the interim age, what is the plan and program of God while the kingdom is in postponement? And under that we studied the kingdom ministries of Matthew 13, the church which is what we’re in now, church age, and one of these days the church age will be over, the translation of the church will occur and God is not forgetful of His promises to bring the kingdom to the earth through Israel. So there you see, number 13, Israel’s discipline and restoration, the offer of the kingdom is re-extended to Israel in the tribulation period, and it’s at that time in history that the kingdom is now transferred back to the earth where it belongs as the world is taken out of Satan’s grasp.
And finally, number 16, the kingdom is established on the earth for a thousand years. And then that time period gives way to the eternal state which is in Revelation 21 and 22, which is what we finished studying last time, so we’ve looked at the eternal state. And since we’re in Revelation 22 there’s nowhere else to go in the Bible, right? I mean, there’s no Revelation 23 unless you come up with your own Bible version. So my point is we basically exhausted what the Bible says about the kingdom. And I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride thus far.
But I’ve also included on this number 18, the testimony of early church history because what we’re trying to say is that the kingdom currently is future and not in a state of cancellation but postponement. That’s basically what we’ve tried to argue all the way through. And if we’re right on this then that viewpoint ought to show up in the earliest church fathers. The church fathers and church history and church tradition is not inspired revelation like the Bible is; it’s not inspired. BUT, it does represent sort of a check, if you will, on your interpretation. So if I’m holding some view that no one in church history has ever held before then that should cause me maybe to question, not the Bible, but my interpretation of it. And what I’ve tried to say through this study is the kingdom is completely future; we’re not in the kingdom.
The whole kingdom program revolves around Israel’s response to her King. And if I have this view and no one in church history has ever held to it maybe I should rethink the way I’m interpreting the Bible. So that’s why number 18 sort of becomes important. You can use it, not to place at the same level as the Bible, but you can use the church fathers to sort of check our interpretation of how we’re interpreting the Bible. Does that make any sense?
So it’s very interesting, the earliest church fathers agreed completely with what we’re saying here. Isn’t that interesting? They looked to the kingdom as something future. And someone sent me this quote from Josephus; you all know who Josephus was? He was a very early historian who lived just a little bit after the time of Christ and he talks about Jesus actually in his writings, because a lot of people will say Jesus is not found in any other books outside the Bible and that’s just not true. Josephus does make a reference to Jesus and he even makes a reference to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and he even makes a reference the group that Jesus started called the Christians. And this is coming at us from secular history.
He was a Jew who basically went to work for Rome and he wrote several books, one of them is called Antiquities, another one is called Wars of the Jews, written towards the end of the first century, early second century maybe, probably early first century would be better to say it that way. And he is a secular historian. And notice what he records here; he records something very interesting. He records a Syrian philosophe who wrote, “What advantage came to the Jews by the murder of their Wise King, seeing that from that very time their kingdom was driven away from them?’” [Mara Bar-Serapion, a Syrian philosopher, wrote in Josephus, Antiquities 18.3.3 § 63-64]
So here we’ve been trying to argue that the kingdom is offered and rejected and postponed because of the Jewish rejection of their own king and lo and behold we find this quote in Josephus where a philosopher of the time period says the same thing. This philosopher is saying the kingdom is in postponement and driven away because the Jews did not acknowledge Jesus Christ as their king. And so it’s interesting that this concept of a postponed kingdom even shows up in the writings of Josephus.
And then we have Justin Martyr, who wrote very early on in church history, and notice what Justin Martyr says in his dialogue with Trypho, a very early church father. “But I and every other completely orthodox Christian feel certain” so notice he’s not saying maybe this is going to happen, he’s saying this is certain, “that there will be a resurrection of the flesh, followed by a thousand years in the rebuilt, embellished, and enlarged city of Jerusalem as was announced by the prophets Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the others.” [Dialogue with Trypho, 80]
So after the apostles leave the scene here comes Justin Martyr saying you know what? We all believe there’s a future resurrection, we all believe there’s a future kingdom, we all believe that there’s a future temple. And in fact, we’re certain of this. We all believe that the center of the earth one day is going to be the city of Jerusalem; we’re certain of this! And then he says if you don’t believe this we don’t even consider you… if you’re not certain of this we don’t even acknowledge you as an orthodox Christian. And I find that very interesting because so many times when I try to advance the view that I’m trying to argue for here, a futuristic kingdom, I get this sort of lecture from people telling me well you can’t make this view a test or orthodoxy. You can’t say that people that don’t agree with your view are not orthodox Christians. And in fact, I really have never said that but people want to make sure that I know that.
But it’s very interesting to me that Justin Martyr said everyone to a man believes there’s a future kingdom, and this would be late first century, probably early second century is when he made this statement. And he actually uses the word orthodox to describe the future kingdom. He says if you don’t believe this, if you don’t believe in a future Jerusalem, future enlarged city of Jerusalem, future temple, future, resurrection of the flesh, future thousand years, he says you’re not even an orthodox Christian. So the viewpoint that I’m representing here was the, at least the futuristic kingdom part of it, was the reigning sentiment in the church for its first two centuries.
Here is a statement by Philip Schaff, a well-known church historian, he wrote a two volume set or actually more than two volumes, multivolume set call History of the Christian Church. Schaff, of course, was not a church father but he’s a church historian summing up what the early church believed on this topic. He says, “The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age (A.D. 100–325) is the prominent chiliasm,” does anybody remember what chilia means? It means a thousand, It’s the Greek word a thousand used six times in Revelation 20. So the early church fathers that believed in a future thousand year kingdom didn’t call themselves premillennialists that’s a name we use today, they called themselves chiliasts. And Schaff says, “he most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm or millenarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment.” In other words, before the final resurrection of unbelievers at what’s called the Great White Throne Judgment, there will exist this long kingdom period.
And then Schaff goes on and he says, “It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as” and he names a bunch of these early, the earliest church fathers, this would be the generation that followed the apostles, people such as “Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr,” who I just quoted a moment ago, “Irenaeus…” When you think of Irenaeus you want to think of the Old E.F. Hutton commercial, “When E.F. Hutton speaks,” what’s the rest of it, “people listen.” So when Irenaeus speaks we should all listen because there is only one generation removed from Irenaeus and John, the guy who received what we call The Book of Revelation. So John discipled Polycarp, Polycarp discipled Irenaeus, so if Irenaeus. So if Irenaeus believes the way we believe then we’re pretty safe in believing that what we believe is consistent with what John, the apostle, believed. So Schaff talks about distinguished teachers, such as “Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius,” not the founder of the Methodist denomination, that would come much later with the Wesley brothers, “and Lactantius.” [History of the Christian Church, vol. 2 , p. 61, Philip Schaff]
And it’s interesting what Schaff says, he says you know, this view of the future kingdom was so common that they didn’t even bother to put it in a creed because what people today demand is if it’s not in the Nicaean Creed, or it’s not in the Apostles Creed or it’s not in this creed or if it’s not in that creed then I don’t believe it’s true.
In fact, we went to a church in the Dallas area when we were living there and we asked them for a doctrinal statement and they had non, and they said well, our doctrinal statement is the Nicene Creed. That was their doctrinal statement. And you see, they’re totally misunderstanding why creeds came into existence. Creeds did not come into existence in this ancient time period to put together a doctrinal statement of what Christians believe. That’s the way most churches operate, we put together a doctrinal statement and say here’s what we believe on a macro scale. That’s not the way creeds came into existence in this time period, the first couple of centuries of the church. Creeds came into existence to combat heresy.
So there was a heretic running around (around this time period) named Arius, and he developed a doctrine called Arianism. Arianism is exactly what the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach, not if they come to your door but when they come to your door they will try to tell you that Jesus is a created being. In other words, Jesus did not eternally exist. And all of that is, is recycled Arianism. Arius actually developed a song, I don’t know how to sing it exactly because there’s not any recoding labels back then, but it was a song that went something like this: You know there was a time when He was not (speaking of Jesus). And Arius was so popular with this heresy that he almost won the day and very few people were standing up to him.
If I remember what my church history right the guy that stood up to him was a guy named Athanasius, and everybody criticized Athanasius for standing up to Arius and the statement goes something like this: Athanasius, don’t you know that the world is against you. And Athanasius says it’s not the world that’s against Athanasius, it’s Athanasius against the world. Arianism almost took over Christianity. Christianity almost succumbed to the idea that Jesus was a created being, had it not been for Athanasius and a creed was developed out of that called the Creed of Nicea, that has a clause in it, you might recognize it. When I was an Episcopalian we, in the form of responsive reading and things like this, chanted this creed all the time; it’s just at the time I was a very young person, I had no idea what it meant, but now in hindsight I do know what it means. And it’s a very valuable creed, it says “Jesus is begotten but not…” anybody know the rest of it? “… begotten but not made.” So what is that? That is a decree of Nicea which is a reaction against Arius. So the creed of Nicea was not designed to be a sum total of what all Christians believe. See that? It was designed to respond to a particular heresy.
So therefore early on in church history they didn’t develop a doctrinal statement related to the kingdom because it was just a reigning sentiment; they only developed creeds to respond to heretics. And so that’s why this argument that unless I find this in a creed I’m not going to believe it… well, that’s not why they created creeds in those days. That’s what you would call an anachronistic understanding. Anachronism is outside of time, taking what’s normal today and reading it back into the first couple of centuries of the church. I mean, what’s normal today is we develop doctrinal statements that are very comprehensive. That’s not what they did back then; they only put creeds into existence to refute heretics. So this idea that I don’t find premillennialism in a creed therefore I won’t believe it, people that say that don’t even understand why the creeds were formulated. And this is what Schaff is saying. Schaff is saying premillennialism, the belief in a future kingdom, was so common, in fact Justin Martyr said it was a sign of orthodoxy that you didn’t even need to have it in a doctrinal statement, everybody believed it. And you don’t start having creeds until heretics, like Arius, arose. Does that name any sense.
Here’s another statement by Edward Gibbon, and you might recognize that name. Anybody know what Edward Gibbon wrote, other famous book? [Someone answers] Yeah, I think he wrote The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. I think he wrote that around that around the time of America’s founding, if I remember right. So he’s a pretty respected historian, he documents how Rome rose and fell and he also wrote something The History of Christianity. And this is what he says of the early church.
He says, “The ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium” that’s what we’ve been studying and teaching, “was intimately connected with the second coming of Christ. As the works of the creation had been finished in six days, their duration in their present state, according to a tradition which was attributed to the prophet Elijah, was fixed to six thousand years. By the same analogy it was inferred, that this long period of labor and contention, which was now almost elapsed, would be succeeded by a joyful Sabbath of a thousand years; and that Christ, with the triumphant band of the saints and the elect who had escaped death, or who had been miraculously revived, would reign” where? “upon earth till the time appointed for the last and general resurrection… The assurance of such a Millennium was carefully inculcated by……a succession of fathers” and he mentions some of the people we’ve already talked about, “from Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus,” that’s our E. F. Hutton guy, “Irenaeus who conversed with the immediate disciples of the apostles, down to Lactantius, who was preceptor to the son of Constantine.”
So what he’s saying is the earliest church fathers that were taught by the apostles all had this understanding of a future kingdom. I mean, it wouldn’t be the kind of thing you have to stand up in front of these guys and convince them of premillennialism, they were all premillennialists, they just didn’t use the name “premillennial.” They just used the name chiliast. And here’s the key phrase in the Edward Gibbon’s quote here. He says, “Though it might not be universally received, it appears to have been the reigning sentiment of the orthodox believers;” look at that. So if you didn’t believe in what we call premillennialism your orthodoxy as a Christian was challenged. “… and it seems so well adapted to the desires and apprehensions of mankind, that it must have contributed in a very considerable degree to the progress of the Christian faith.” [History of the Christian Church, vol. 2 , p. 614]
So the earliest church believed in this 6,000 year idea, there’s going to be 6,000 years of history and that’s a view I don’t necessarily embrace because I don’t necessarily find that in the Bible. But many in this time period, the first couple centuries of the church believed that, according to Edward Gibbon and they got that, probably, from the Peter verse which is quoting Psalm 90, “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years,” and the Lord created the world in six days so there’s going to be 6,000 years of history. That’s a view that I don’t necessarily embrace but it is interesting that the final thousand they believe is the earthly kingdom of Christ. So they all believed in this earthly millennium that we’ve been talking about over these various lessons. [2 Peter 3:8, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. Psalm 90:4, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.”]
Here is another quote from another historian named Jesse Forrest Silver. “Silver says of the apostolic fathers” that’s the generation that immediately followed the apostles, that ‘they expected the return of the Lord in their day…” Wow, what is that? That’s imminency, that’s the idea that Jesus can come back at any minute. That kind of sounds like what? the rapture. They weren’t looking for the antichrist, they were looking for Jesus Christ. So ‘“they expected the return of the Lord in their day. They believed the time was imminent because the Lord had taught them to live in a watchful attitude.’ Concerning the ante Nicene fathers, he” that’s Forrest says: “by tradition they knew the faith of the apostles.” And watch this, “They taught the doctrine of the imminent and pre-millennial return of the Lord.” [The Lord’s Return: Seen in History and in Scripture as Premillennial and Imminent (NY: Revell, 1914), 62-64.]
So what did the early church believe? They believed a couple of things; number 1, there’s going to be this earthly thousand year kingdom. They believed it was going to be in the city of Jerusalem. They believed it was going to correlate with the rebuilding of the millennial temple. They believed that Jerusalem would be the centerpiece of the world. They believed that all of these things were tangible, earthly and real exactly like we have been explaining them. But they also believed before Jesus comes back and sets that time period up, called chiliasm, or what we today call premillennialism, they also believed Jesus, in a separate coming, can come back at any moment.
Now, did they have well developed prophecy charts like we have today? No, probably because it’s hard to sit around and air conditioned building like we have the luxury to do and develop prophecy charts with nice pictures on them and graphics and all that stuff. It’s kind of hard to do that when Nero, Domitian, and others are trying to cut your head off. They didn’t have the luxury that we have today to develop systematic theology like we have the ability to do today. But prophecy charts notwithstanding they seemed to hold to a general concept that we hold to today, an any moment appearing of Christ. Now did they call that the rapture? Not necessarily but they believed that. They believed Jesus could come back at any minute and they also believed that following that time period through a time of distress and the conversion of Israel would be this thousand year millennial kingdom.
I find this very interesting because it nobody in church history ever held to the views that we hold to here I would maybe question whether we’re on the right track. I mean, is our interpretation correct? But since those closest to the apostles did not in any way, shape or form reject what we’re teaching here, they didn’t have the details finally tuned like we do. They certainly didn’t reject it and they’re closer to the apostles and Jesus than we are, since they seemed to accept the ideas that we’re teaching here, embrace the ideas we’re teaching here, I think our interpretation is correct on this. So I just kind of hold that out as church history, at least the first two centuries of the church seem to be on our side in a lot of these things.
But, if you followed along with our Protestant Reformation series what we learned is in the third century and the fourth century everything changes. And what you start seeing happening down in Alexandria, Egypt, which is that circle down south, they started to do what with the Scripture? Spiritualize it, allegorize it, in fact the little book I wrote, which we gave away on Easter, which we’ll have more of them back there next week, Ever Reforming is the name of the book, it’s a fast read, only 160 pages or so, one guy emailed me and said I read it in one sitting. So I said praise God, that’s why I wrote it, I didn’t want to write a book so thick no one would read it, except maybe my mom. And maybe she wouldn’t even read it, I don’t know, but she did request that I send her my books for her birthday, and mom is going to be 82 April 9th. Anyway, that’s more information than what you’re looking for.
So what happened is down in Alexandria, Egypt, they started to allegorize the Scripture, symbolize the Scripture away, there’s a lot of forces that led to that. And that’s where amillennialism comes from, the rejection of an earthly kingdom. And once Augustine comes on the scene and writes his book, The City of God, which is the first formal treatment of amillennialism in church history, then the church is cast under an amillennial spell. And if you ever get asked on a test, I tell this to my students, what is the most influential theological book in church history the answer is Augustine’s The City of God. And I don’t use the word “influential” in the positive sense, I use the word “influential” in the negative sense. That particular book eclipsed the first two centuries of the church in terms of its beliefs in a future kingdom. And it led to this idea that all of these prophecies that we’ve been studying are not literal, they’re not earthly, they’re allegorical. And the church has been crawling out from under that shadow from the fourth century right up to the Protestant Reformation, which happened in the sixteenth century.
And even the Protestant Reformers themselves, as I’ve tried to teach in the study on the Protestant Reformation and in my book Ever Reforming brought with them a lot of Augustinian ideas into the Reformed faith. And it really is not until the 1800’s that we, as dispensationalist, took the Reformers hermeneutic and began to apply it not just to the solas, Sola Fide, Sola Christus, Sola Deo, Gloria, Sola Scriptura, and Sola Gratia, and those all stand for what? Faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, the Scripture alone, the glory of God alone. The Reformers used a literal method of interpretation to restore those doctrines. That happened in the sixteenth century.
And what we, as dispensationalists did and said, let’s take that same method and apply it to the whole Bible. And guess what comes roaring back into the light when you do that? Chiliasm, which the church believed in in the first two centuries. And I would argue the eminent return of the Lord in the rapture which the church apparently believed in in its first two centuries. We just have different names for it. Today we call it premillennialism and pretribulationalism. But you can’t believe those things until you get committed to a literal method of interpretation. And fi that method of interpretation was sufficient to restore the solas in the sixteenth century, thank you Protestant Reformers, then let’s just do it to the whole Bible. And once you use that method in the whole Bible what you discover is chiliasm and imminency start to come back to the surface.
So all of that to say when you look at the earliest church fathers, not what the majority of Christians have believed in church history, that’s the wrong way of looking at it because the majority of what most Christians have believed in church history has been corrupted by Augustinian hermeneutics and mentality. If you look, not at what the majority of Christians have believed historically over the last two thousand years but you look at what the church believed in its first two centuries after its inception, after the apostles left the scene, what you discover is they were extremely open to our beliefs. In fact, the earliest chiliasts came from the circle up north called Antioch. Those are the two schools of Christian thought that developed right out of the gate, Antioch up north, they were the literalists, they were the chiliasts, they were the ones that believed in a future earthly kingdom and all of that got eclipsed by the circle down south, Alexandria, Egypt, where they taught the allegorical method of interpretation.
Now one fast point before I leave this is: is there apostolic succession back to Antioch. Can you trace the apostles back to the school at Antioch? The answer is yes! I mean, Paul, the apostle was there, wasn’t he? Isn’t that where Paul launched his three missionary journeys from—Antioch? So Antioch has apostles, like Paul, connected to it. How many apostles can you trace to Alexandria, Egypt? Zero! So our view, although it’s not the most dominant view in church history was the earliest view. And our view, although it’s not the most dominant view in church history has the most apostolic succession because our view is rooted in Antioch. The amillennialism view is rooted in Alexandria, Egypt.
So I think that’s sort of helpful; I don’t know if you found it interesting or not but I think it’s sort of helpful, isn’t it, to understand that we’ve been going through this lengthy study on the kingdom, and I think we’re on lesson 40 or something like that… I mean, it’s kind of nice to know that the Bible study perspective that we’ve come up with is very consistent with what the early church believed for its first two centuries. And if that wasn’t the case maybe we’d better rethink the whole thing. Amen. So that’s why I brought all that up. So that finishes the first part of this study, what does the Bible say about the kingdom.
And now we’re moving on to number two. And you say oh my gosh, if number one took forty lessons how long is he going to take on number two? Well, be encouraged, I think I can do number two, I can either finish it tonight or next week, so this study will start to pick up steam a little bit.
So now we’re no number two: what is the main problem with Kingdom Now interpretations? Because what everybody today is arguing is that we are now in the Kingdom. As you go around and you look at pastors and churches and leaders and vision statements and mission statements, they all mention the word kingdom all of the time. They’re doing kingdom work, we’re bringing in the kingdom, one TV broadcast is called The Kingdom Connection. One gentleman wrote a book called The Kingdom Man, what does the kingdom man look like. And people are throwing around this buzzword all of the time, kingdom, kingdom, kingdom, kingdom, giving you the impression that we’re actually in the Kingdom Now or bringing in the kingdom.
Now based on what we’ve studied so far that’s not what we’re teaching here. We’re teaching that the kingdom is not in a state of cancellation but postponement revolving around Israel’s response to their King, which they haven’t responded yet to their King. So in the interim God is doing a new work through the church but it’s not the kingdom. But the way people use this word “kingdom” all of the time you would think that this ancient heresy, coming from Alexandria, Egypt, is coming right back into the forefront.
So here on number two I’m trying to ask what are the main problems with Kingdom Now interpretations. And I ran into this quote from Dallas Willard, he’s passed on now, but he’s a very popular writer, a lot of churches jump on the bandwagon with his writings and he wrote a book called The Divine Conspiracy, and on page 30 I just found this excerpt very interesting because he’s very clearly arguing that we’re in the Kingdom Now.
Look at what he says: “Sometimes the places where God’s effective or actual rule is not yet carried out, and His will is not yet done, lie within the lives and little kingdoms of those who truly have been invaded by the eternal kind of life itself‒those who really do belong to Christ because His life is already present and growing within them.” So he’s talking about Christ within us, growing within us, so far so good, I believe Christ is present in us and the Holy Spirit, and growing in us but you see, he’s linking that to the kingdom. He goes on and he says, “The “interior castle” of the human soul, as Teresa of Avila called it,” now let me just stop right now; this is very common amongst these kind of writers, they’re always connecting to these sort of Catholic mystics of the past. For whatever reason they want to get to a time period that I like to call the Dark Ages, before the Protestant Reformation happened.
So it was a time period of mysticism and people trying to get very spiritual and you see that kind of thing today in the emergent church where they set up a maize in a church, sometimes it’s on a carpet in a church called the labyrinth and you kind of walk through this thing to get kind of a spiritual feeling, a liver quiver, or you darken the sanctuary or you to back to Ash Wednesday. And I was in a Bible church where they were going back to Ash Wednesday and I thought I can’t believe this is happening, this is Episcopalianism that I got saved out of. And now here’s a Bible church going back to that. And they want to get into the icons and the statues and they want to do the holy water and all of these kind of things because they think that there’s some mystic experience that we’re somehow missing that the Protestant Reformers did away with. And this is called the new emergent spirituality.
So Dallas Willard wants to go back to the writings of this and he says, “The “interior castle” of the human soul, as Teresa of Avila called it, has many rooms, and they are slowly occupied by God, allowing us time and room to grow. That is a crucial aspect of the conspiracy.” Remember the title of his book, The Divine Conspiracy. “But even this does not detract from the reality of the” ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, what does it say there? “‘kingdom among us.’” So as we get back to these sort of Roman Catholic experiences we’re going to start experiencing God more and as we experience God more there’s going to be a manifestation of the kingdom within us. And he says, “Nor does it destroy the choice that all have to accept it and bring their life increasingly into it.” [Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, pg. 30]
So this is very common in literature today, so called Christian literature. You can find things like this in any Christian bookstore. You can find things like this in the Christian section at any major Barnes and Noble; it’s kind of this new spirituality and what they’re doing here is they’re saying we’ve got to have these mystical experiences and as we have these mystical experiences then the kingdom is manifested among us. So that’s yet another example of Kingdom Now theology.
And what I’m trying to do here in chapter 16 is explain the two problems with that kind of interpretation. I mean why would it be wrong to call a present spiritual experience the kingdom? How would that contradict everything we’ve studied for 39 or 40 lessons? And I have two major problems with this. Numbers one, the kingdom, as we’ve studied it is always portrayed as earthly and it’s always portrayed as only becoming manifest once Israel repents. You’ll see this in Genesis 15:18-21, the earthly dimensions of the kingdom, and you’ll see the repentant Israel in Ezekiel 36 and 37. [Genesis 15:18-21, “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:  the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite  and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim  and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”]
Until those two things become a reality earthly and a repentant Israel, neither of which we have today, right? We don’t have a repentant Israel, do we? Israel has been regathered but she continues on as an unbelieving nation. And we certainly don’t have an earthly kingdom, not the way the prophets describe it, about they’ll beat their swords into plowshares and all that kind of stuff. Until that becomes a reality you cannot say the kingdom has come. And see what we’re doing here is we’re defining the doctrine of the kingdom biblically. What does the Bible say about the kingdom? And that is not where the mindset is today amongst most churches. What they want to do is they want to grab this word “kingdom” and pour into it whatever definition they like. If you’re a communist, for example, communists love to use the word kingdom because to them kingdom is the redistribution of the wealth. If you’re into another political philosophy, whatever it is, you just grab this word kingdom and you pour your own sociological definition into that word.
And see, this is what’s happening with people like Dallas Willard, as they want to move us into some kind of mysticism, they want to say that’s the manifestation of the kingdom. And my point is very simple, you can’t do that if you care about what the biblical text says. And as we’ve documented very carefully the Bible is very clear as to what the kingdom actually is. It has to involve a terrestrial element and it has to involve a repentant Israel.
Notice this quote here from Renald Showers, who is one of the good guys (as far as I’m concerned) Friends of Israel, and he says this, quote: Several items of Scripture reveal that no form of the future Kingdom of God foretold in the Old Testament will be established before the Second Coming of Christ. . . .” Where does he get that from? He gets it from the study of the Bible. “No Old Testament revelation concerning the future Kingdom of God indicated that the Kingdom would consist of two forms, one spiritual and the other political, established at two different points of time in the future.” [Renald Showers, “Critique of Progressive Dispensationalism,” Friends of Israel National Conference (June 2003), 5.]
So a lot of people want to divest the word “kingdom” of its terrestrial element and just grab the spiritual stuff and pretend like the spiritual stuff is happening now. In fact, at my Alma Mater, Dallas Seminary, it just grieves me, it grieved me when I was there, it grieves me now as I read and study what they’re teaching; they teach the doctrine of the kingdom, not all, but many, in what’s called progressive dispensationalism and they teach what they call already not yet. And you say well, what do you mean by already not yet? Well they say the kingdom is here in spiritual form but don’t worry, we still believe in a future millennium.
Notice what Renald Showers says, you don’t have that concept in the Old Testament. No Old Testament revelation concerning the future Kingdom of God indicated that the Kingdom would consist of two forms, one spiritual and the other political, established at two different points of time in the future.” What he’s saying is the Kingdom, as we understand it, which will be a blessing to the whole world, will not come into existence until the terrestrial element is satisfied, it’s got to be earthly, and the whole program revolves around whether Israel is going to repent or not. As long as Israel is not in repentance then the kingdom is not cancelled but it’s what? Postponed, and therefore what’s happening today is a great work of God in the church, praise God for it, but it’s not the kingdom. This is the biblical definition of the kingdom and this is what’s being discarded.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum, you all know Arnold Fruchtenbaum don’t you? Notice that he agrees with me, or maybe I should better say I agree with him, or something like that. He says: “It is incorrect to say that the Old Testament should be interpreted by the New Testament because if that is the case, the Old Testament had no meaning and seemed to be irrelevant to the ones to whom it was spoken. On the contrary, the validity of the New Testament is seen by how it conforms to what was already revealed in the Old Testament. The Book of Mormon and other books by cultic groups fail to stand because they contradict the New Testament. By the same token, if the New Testament contradicts the Old Testament, it cannot stand. It is one thing to see fulfillment in the New Testament, but it is quite another to see the New Testament so totally reinterpret the Old Testament that what the Old Testament says carries no meaning at all.” [Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, “Israel’s Right to the Promised Land,” 17–18, accessed March 9, 2013, http://www.pre-trib.org.com.]
And you see, what Dallas Willard, backing up to this quote here, that” the kingdom is among us,” what these people are saying is Jesus brought in a spiritual form of the kingdom. Jesus brought in this kind of spiritual community, spiritual kingdom, Jesus is reigning on David’s throne right now, all of these kinds of things. That’s where everybody is going, that’s what everybody is teaching. What’s the problem with that? The problem with that is it contradicts every single thing we know about the kingdom from the Old Testament. As we’ve gone through forty lessons we’ve seen that the kingdom has to have two things; a terrestrial element and a repentant Israel. Neither of those things exist, neither of those things existed in the life of Christ and what everybody is saying is well Jesus just reinterpreted the Old Testament. Jesus changed the Old Testament. And what Fruchtenbaum is saying is you can’t have that. God can’t say something on Monday and completely contradict Himself on Tuesday. That’s an impossibility.
So if you’re coming up with an interpretation of the New Testament that completely rewrites the Old Testament then guess what? You need to rethink your interpretation. You don’t interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament—you interpret the New Testament by the what? The Old Testament! And that’s really the whole debate here. Kingdom Now people are saying the New Testament rewrites the Old Testament. And we’re saying no, the New Testament needs to be interpreted in a way which is consistent with the Old Testament, not in contradiction to it.
By the way, isn’t that the same reason we reject Mormonism? Don’t Mormons come along with their new revelation. What do they have? The Pearl of Great Price, The Doctrine of Covenants, The Book of Mormon, and in those books allegedly given when? 1600’s-1800’s, somewhere in there, they totally contradict what the Bible says. They contradict the nature of God, salvation by faith, and we can go on and on talking about contradiction. So why would I reject Mormonism? Because Mormonism comes up with interpretations that contradict divine revelation.
In the same way if someone is coming up with a Kingdom Now interpretation that completely discards everything given in the Old Testament you reject Kingdom Now on the same logical basis that you would reject a cult like Mormonism. And that is a major, major problem with Kingdom Now theology.
Let me give you some examples of how Kingdom Now people do this. Colin Chapman wrote a book called Whose Promised Land? About Israel; it’s an anti-Israel book. To him Israel means nothing because we’re in the kingdom now and the church is the new Israel. So Colin Chapman writes, “When the New Testament writers like John had seen the significance of the land and the nation in the context of the kingdom of God which had come into being in Jesus of Nazareth, they ceased to look forward to a literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies of a return to the land and a restoration of a Jewish state. The one and only fulfillment of all promises and prophecies was already there before their eyes in the person of Jesus.” Watch this now. “The way they interpreted the Old Testament should be the norm for the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament today.” [Whose Promised Land? The Continuing Conflict over Israel and Palestine (Oxford, England: Lion, 2015), 262.]
In other words, in his mind Jesus and the apostles came along and said all that Old Testament stuff, don’t worry about that, we’re repackaging it. It’s all repackaged in the form of a new spiritual form of the kingdom. Don’t worry about Israel, don’t worry about the return of the Jews to the land, don’t worry about the millennial temple, don’t worry about the Dead Sea coming back to life, all cancelled, all null and void. Why? Because Jesus and the apostles reinterpreted it. So what has he just done? He has used his interpretation of the New Testament to cancel the Old Testament, that in essence is what he’s done. But this is so common in the literature.
Here is Naim Ateek, who’s really big in a movement called A Christian Palestinianism where it’s basically replacement theology, and notice how he interprets the Old Testament. He said, “The use of this “new” hermeneutic” now you all know what a hermeneutic is, right? A method of interpretation. That’s what these guys are promoting, a method of interpretation which changes all of the promises about the kingdom in the Old Testament. “The use of this new hermeneutic is accessible to all Christians, even to the simple of faith. . . . The constant application of this hermeneutic, therefore, is the best key for Christians to interpreting and understanding the biblical message. Furthermore, this theological understanding can determine the validity and authority of the Scriptures for the life of the Christian.” Did you know that, that as a Christian you have the ability now to look at the Bible and determine which Scriptures are valid and which ones are authoritative? I didn’t know we had that kind of power. I’m being a little facetious of course, just to get the point across.
He says, “It is grounded in the knowledge and love of God” doesn’t that sound good, I mean, that gives you like the liver quiver of the day doesn’t it; I mean, all that syrupy language about the love of God; I mean, who can be against that. “It is grounded in the knowledge and love of God as revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The revelation of God, God’s nature, purpose, and will as revealed in Christ,” watch this very carefully, “becomes the criterion by which Christians can measure the validity and authority of the biblical message for their life. When confronted with a difficult passage in the Bible” Are there things in the Old Testament that bother you. Guess what, you’ve got an escape clause now, you’ve got an escape clause by which you can take white out and eliminate those passages from being valid or authoritative in your thinking as a Christian. How are we going to do that exactly? “When confronted with a difficult passage in the Bible,” what is a difficult passage, that’s a passage I don’t like. That’s a passage that I don’t want to be authoritative over my life. What do I do when I hit those kinds of passages? According to Naim Ateek , “When confronted with a difficult passage in the Bible . . . . one needs to ask such simple questions as: Is the way I am hearing this the way I have come to know God in Christ? Does this fit the picture I have of God that Jesus has revealed to me? Does it match the character of God whom I have come to know through Christ? If it does, then that passage is valid and authoritative. If not, then I cannot accept its validity or authority.” [Naim Ateek, Justice, and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation (Maryknoll, NY: Ortis, 1990), 81–82.]
See how subjective that is. I mean, you’re reading in the Old Testament how Joshua went in and slaughtered the Canaanites and you say to yourself well, that doesn’t look very Christ like, that doesn’t fit my contemporary understanding of Jesus who I’ve sort of converted into a spiritual marshmallow because I have a red letter edition of the Bible that just highlights the nice things He did. This stuff about overturning the moneychangers in the temple and things, you know, I don’t really like that part so I’ve constructed this sort of marshmallow idea of who Jesus is so I’m reading in the Old Testament how Joshua went in and slaughtered the Canaanites and I way well, that doesn’t really sound like my understanding of Jesus, so guess what I have the power to do? I just pull out my liquid paper and just sort of cross that out and say that story has no authority or no validity.
And this is how these guys are selling a generation of Christians on the idea that we’re in the kingdom currently because all of that stuff about Israel in the land, Jerusalem as the head of the nations, the Dead Sea is going to come back to life, there’s going to be a rebuilding of Ezekiel’s temple with animal sacrifices, all of these things that are clearly taught in the Bible, the Christians for the first two centuries believed in, those don’t fit my subject interpretation of who Jesus is; I’m going to cross all that out and reinterpret it the way I want to, in the Dallas Willard way as a spiritual kingdom.
And what I have and I’ve run out of time is three problems with this approach. And I’ll just describe the approach and next time we get together I’ll go through the three problems with this approach. I mean, why can’t you just use the New Testament to rewrite the Old Testament and in the process redefine the kingdom, which is the direction people are going in. Why can’t you do that? Because there’s three basic problems with it and we’ll pick that up next time.