Let’s open our Bibles and open them to the Book of Jeremiah, chapter 30 and verse 7. We’re sort of at a transitional point, if you will, in our study of the kingdom. But in the book that I wrote we’re in chapter 15, and the book that I wrote is not the important book; the Bible is the important book but my book is sort of topically organizes biblical material.
The first major part of this study is what does the Bible say about the kingdom? We started in Genesis 1 and travelled all the way through Revelation 22 and saw progressively the doctrine of the kingdom unfolded. So currently we’re living in a time period called the church age where the kingdom is not cancelled but postponed. It took us several lessons to get through all of that material but I hope you enjoyed the ride because it really is just going through the Scripture. And we’re at a section now, which I think we can finish pretty rapidly; it’s part 2, the main problem with kingdom now New Testament interpretations, because that is sort of the direction that folks are moving in today theologically.
The big argument that’s being made today is that we are in a spiritual form of the kingdom now. I’ve shared with you several quotes that demonstrate that. You might recall this quote from Dallas Willard which I won’t reread to you. We read it twice I think the last couple of weeks. But towards the end of it it says, “But even this does not detract from the reality of the ‘kingdom among us.’” And the last sentence 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, p. 30] I’m not trying to pick on Dallas Willard but I thought his quote here pretty much epitomized the way most people today think about the kingdom. It’s Jesus in our hearts, those sorts of things; a lot of people think their church is the kingdom.
And what I was sharing with you are basically two major problems with that. The first problem is based on our study that we’ve done in the Bible the kingdom is not something you can just define any way you want to define it. The kingdom basically every time it’s portrayed in the Old Testament is always earthly; it’s not something happening in our hearts. I’m not denying that God is doing things in our hearts but that doesn’t represent the kingdom. The kingdom is always earthly and it always, the way it’s pictured it only cam come into existence over planet earth after Israel is in faith. So God has attached His whole kingdom program to His covenanted nation and as we all know the nation of Israel today is in unbelief. So if they are in unbelief how can the kingdom be here?
So if that is true, and if that is a fair representation of what the Old Testament teaches what the kingdom now theologian always wants you to believe is that somehow the New Testament has changed the Old Testament. So it’s hard to listen to or talk to a kingdom now theologian without them introducing the word change. I gave you this quote last time from Colin Chapman. Real quickly it says, “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. The way they interpreted the Old Testament should be the norm for the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament today.” [Colin Chapman, Whose Promised Land? The Continuing Conflict over Israel and Palestine (Oxford, England: Lion, 2015), 262.]
And what he’s basically saying is Jesus came and brought in the kingdom spiritually and in the process reinterpreted the Old Testament, or changed it. And what I was sharing with you are basically three problems with that. This is a little bit of a review from last week, but the first problem with that is it turns God basically into a liar. I don’t how else nice to say it. I mean, if the kingdom is always earthly and it always is portrayed as governing planet earth through a repentant Israel then suddenly for Jesus to introduce a spiritual kingdom, which is not earthly, but it’s Jesus reigning in our hearts, without even Israel in faith yet nationally, is… I don’t know how to say it nicely other than to say that that makes all of the promises of the Old Testament lies, does it not?
And whenever someone comes along and says the New Testament changes the Old Testament that automatically warning flags should go up in your mind because the Bible very clearly tells us that there are certain things God can’t do and one of the things He cannot do is lie; it’s an impossibility. So there’s at least three verses in the Bible that teach this, maybe more. Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18. [Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Titus 1:2, “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago.” Hebrews 6:18, “so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”] God cannot lie! And aren’t you glad that that’s true because if that weren’t true you would doubt every single promise He’s ever made to you, including promises of your own salvation.
The second problem with this idea that we are now in this spiritual form of the kingdom is that it contradicts a basic biblical principle that truth is always determined by conformity to prior Scripture. In order to determine if an interpretation of the Bible is correct that interpretation must conform to what God has already revealed. If it contradicts what God has already revealed, if it changes what God has already revealed then it can’t be true. And we went through several passages last time, beginning with Deuteronomy 13:1-5, all the way through Revelation 2:2 demonstrating that. And that’s probably a second major problem with this spiritual form of the kingdom idea. It doesn’t conform to what God has already said concerning the kingdom.
And we were dealing with, if I remember right, last time number three, the third major problem with this spiritual form of the kingdom idea, and that’s this: The Greek word for kingdom in the Scripture is basileia. Now that’s a New Testament word, and practically every time you see that word ever used it’s always going to portray the kingdom as something not happening now but future. And that is the overwhelming number of usages of the word “kingdom” in the New Testament. So in my book, I think it’s on pages 192-193 I give you every single reference to the word “kingdom” in the New Testament, just to show that when the word basileia is used, kingdom, it typically refers to something future.
Let me show you, if I could, a few of those verses. I hope you have your Bible handy. Notice, you might want to just keep your place there in Jeremiah but let’s quickly to a quick Scripture survey on the word kingdom. Notice Matthew 6:10. This is the so called Lord’s prayer which we’re going to be dealing with in detail, maybe next week, but part of that prayer we are to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” [Matthew 6:10, “’Thy kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.”] So if you’re supposed to be praying “Thy Kingdom come” how can the kingdom be here now. The prayer wouldn’t make any sense; the prayer wouldn’t even be needed would it? So you’ll notice that “kingdom” translated basilea, is future.
Turn over to Matthew 20:20-21, these are the sons of… the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John and she was looking out for her kids because she said to the Lord, verse 20, “Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him.  And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” And then down in verse 22 it says, “But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to Him, ‘“We are able.”’  He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”
So it’s interesting that she (this is very late in Christ’s ministry) still believed in a future kingdom on the earth. She just said Lord, when you set this thing up finally can my sons have prominent seats in Your kingdom. And you’ll notice that Jesus never corrected her, and said oh, you silly woman, don’t you know that the kingdom is spiritual and I’m reigning in your hearts now? The only thing he corrected them on is you can’t have the crown until you first have the cross. The cross precedes the crown. But He never corrected her on this idea of a future kingdom on the earth yet future. See that?
And they had been with Christ a long time; I mean, this is very late in Christ’s ministry. It’s just hard to believe that they would have… if they were wrong on this, that there is no future kingdom, that we’re in a spiritual form of the kingdom now, it’s amazing to me if Jesus had taught that that she would still have this false idea in her mind. So she still had that expectation and so did Jesus because He never said there’s no such thing as a future kingdom. But you’ll notice there the word “kingdom” is used and it’s put into the future. This is the normal use of the word.
Take a look, if you could, at Luke 23. This is the famous thief on the cross story. Luke 23:42, this is the penitent thief, or the repentant thief, “And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.’” Excuse me, that’s verse 42, verse 43 says, “And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’” So he’s hanging there on the cross with Christ and he says to Christ when you finally set up Your kingdom remember me so I can be admitted into it. And Jesus didn’t say well, as we’re hanging here on the cross isn’t it great we’re in the kingdom now. I mean, that wouldn’t make any sense, would it?
There’s one, and I did not put it in my notes here maybe some of you could help me find where it is; it’s in Mark 15, and it’s concerning the burial of Jesus Christ. It says in Mark 15:42, “When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath,  Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the” what? “the kingdom of God….” So Joseph of Arimathea didn’t think they were in the kingdom that Jesus set up, they were waiting for it yet future. And the penitent thief on the cross didn’t believe they were in the kingdom. They thought it was yet future. And these are the strange things for people to believe if Jesus had taught we’re in the kingdom now because that’s the doctrine that people believed; Jesus set up the kingdom in His first coming.
Take a look over at 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. You start looking at these passages and to me the data becomes almost overwhelming that the kingdom is future. 1 Corinthians 6, notice verses 9-11, Paul says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the” what? “the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,  Nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.  Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” And basically he’s putting the kingdom there in the future also; he’s basically saying we shouldn’t act like the pagans or unbelievers because when the kingdom is set up they’re not going to get into it. And in the process he puts the concept of the kingdom in the future.
Take a look if you could at 1 Corinthians 15, just a few chapters to the right, and verse 24. This is talking about the final resurrection and it says, “then comes the end, when He hands over the” what? “the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.” So you notice that the kingdom here is connected with the final resurrection; this is the resurrection chapter.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 15:50, “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the” what? “kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” So Paul is saying our bodies have to be changed so we can fully participate in the kingdom. So Paul puts the changing of our bodies, resurrection, in the future, where we can enter the kingdom yet future. See, all of these passages are not teaching we’re in the kingdom now, they’re putting the kingdom in the future.
Notice, if you will, the Book of Galatians, chapter 5 and verse 20, this is the same kind of thing that Paul said to the Corinthians. He says, Galatians 5:19-21, he tells us to avoid “the deeds of the flesh” like what? [19, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,]  envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the” what? “ kingdom of God.” Again he’s saying don’t act like unbelievers because unbelievers aren’t going to inherit or enter the kingdom which is yet future.
Notice, if you will, the Book of Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 5, sorry to drown you in Bible verses but I just want you to get a sense or a flavor of how this concept of the kingdom is portrayed over and over again in the New Testament. Ephesians 5:5 says, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” So it’s the same exhortation, don’t live like unbelievers because unbelievers are not going to inherit or enter the kingdom yet future.
Notice, if you will, 2 Thessalonians 1:5, Paul says, “This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.” So you’re suffering now but you’re being counted as worthy for the future kingdom. Again it’s putting it into the future.
Notice 2 Timothy 4:1, Paul says to young Timothy, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His” what? “kingdom:” now where does Paul put the kingdom here? He puts it in connection with the appearance of Jesus Christ and the final judgment. I mean, these are all concepts that are yet future. And if that wasn’t clear enough, same chapter, look down at verse 18, “The LORD will rescue me from every evil deed” Paul says, “and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” [2 Timothy 4:18] So Paul says I’m being rescued by God, I’m being protected by God, and God is going to bring me safely into His kingdom one day. So again the basilea, or the kingdom, is future.
Just a few more, I know your hands are getting tired. Flip over to the Book of James for a moment if you could, James 2:5. I mean, this is the overwhelming presentation of Scripture on the subject of the kingdom in the New Testament. James 2:5 says, “Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and” to be what of the kingdom? “… heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” What is an heir? An heir basically is someone that has a legal right to something but they’re not yet experiencing or enjoying what’s coming to them. That’s what heirship means. And you’ll notice that in several of these passages we’ve looked at, including this one here in James 2:5, we’re called “heirs of the kingdom,” which is a very strange way of talking if we’re already in it. You can’t be in it and an heir simultaneously. Those are two different concepts.
Notice 2 Peter 1:11, Peter says, “for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be” see the future there, “will be abundantly supplied to you.” So Peter exhorts his audience to not just enter the kingdom but to enter the kingdom “abundantly supplied.” I would understand that as being fully rewarded because you spent your life “in Christ.” But when he puts it in the future tense he puts our entrance into the kingdom yet future.
And then one more, the Book of Revelation, notice Revelation 5:10, I think this is speaking here of the church universal, and it says, “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they” what’s the next word, “will reign” what tense is that? Future, “they will reign” where, up in the clouds somewhere? “upon the earth.” So we’re not reigning right now. How do we know that? Look at how Christians are treated around the world as we speak. Look at the martyrdoms. Look at the persecutions. So obviously we’re not yet reigning in the kingdom but the promise is we will reign in the kingdom in the future. So again there’s the word basilea put into the future.
And I think I shared with you last time this citation from Acts 14:22, you can look at that if you want, in the Bible. This was Paul sort of retracing his steps on missionary journey one in southern Galatia; he kind of recycled back through the areas that he had… the various churches that he had planted. And he said this: “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations” does that describe anybody tonight? Anybody going through “many tribulations”? “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” So what’s normative Paul says, and he says as he’s encouraging these brand new Christians is you’re going through tribulations and what’s normative is you go through many tribulations before you enter the kingdom of God. Here very clearly the “kingdom of God” is yet future.
So Thomas Ice, quoting that verse says, “”If they were in the kingdom, this statement would make no sense.” [Thomas Ice, “Amillennialism,” in The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2004), 20.]
So what, then, is the basic problem with this idea that we are in a spiritual form of the kingdom now? Number one, it makes God a liar because that’s not how the Old Testament portrays the kingdom. Number two, it can’t be true because you determine truth by how it conforms to prior revelation. You can’t contradict what God has already said because that would violate God’s nature. And number three, the vast overwhelming number of passages, and we’ve just gone through most of them in the last 15 or 20 minutes don’t portray the kingdom as something that we’re in now. They portray it as something that’s the future experience of the believer.
So of the two major problems with kingdom now theology, the first of which is the kingdom is always earthly over a repentant Israel, and always future. So an interpretation that says we’re in it now in a spiritual non-earthly form, before Israel is even converted, that can’t be a correct doctrine because it contradicts everything that the Old Testament says.
The second major problem with kingdom now theology is that the Old Testament is very clear, and that’s why I had you originally open to Jeremiah 30:7, so I guess we could go back there, hopefully you kept your finger there. Jeremiah 30:7. The Old Testament is very clear that the kingdom will not come into existence until after or subsequent a time of great worldwide tribulation. There has to be the tribulation period on the earth before the kingdom can come. So if we’re in the kingdom now what happened to the tribulation period that’s supposed to precede the kingdom. And many, many verses teach this. Probably one of the most prominent is Jeremiah 30:7. It says, “Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress,” now who is Jacob? Israel, “Jacob’s distress,” it’s talking about a time of unparalleled distress coming upon Jacob and the whole world for that matter, “But he” that’s Jacob “will be saved from it.”
So the kingdom program revolves around Israel’s conversion as we’ve studied and the Scripture is very clear that you’re not going to have Israel’s conversion until the time of great distress. So for someone to say we’re in the kingdom now is basically to ignore all of these Old Testament passages that indicate you can’t have the kingdom or a converted Israel, which is necessary for the kingdom, until a time of great tribulation.
Probably the section of the Bible that most prominently describes the time of distress before the kingdom can some is the seventy weeks prophecy, which if you’ve been tracking with us on Sunday mornings you already know a little bit about this. Basically what it is, it’s a 490 clock is what it is, given to the nation of Israel; 483 years are past, a final 7 years is yet future; 490 years total but you can’t have the kingdom until that 490 year clock runs its entire course. So Daniel 9:24 says: “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.” These are six clauses here and these six clauses which describe the kingdom can’t come into existence until the 490 years is over, the final seven years of which is the great tribulation.
So what is being described in verse 24 is the kingdom; it’s a time period when Israel’s transgression against God will be over; there will be a complete end of sin because Christ then will truly be reigning in the hearts of the Jewish people. They will have received the atoning work of Christ on their behalf. And notice number four; what’s going to be brought in? Everlasting righteousness. You say what’s “everlasting righteousness”? That’s just another way of describing the kingdom. That’s exactly how the prophet Isaiah 9:6-7 describes the kingdom. “For to us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall rest upon his shoulders.” And then verse 6 and 7 talks about how righteous and peace will be forever. That’s the kingdom.
[Isaiah 9: 6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”]
There will be a sealing up of vision and prophecy meaning that all of God’s promises concerning the kingdom will come to pass and there will be an anointing of the Most Holy Place, which I understand as the functioning millennial temple. So you take those six clauses and you put them together and they’re just another way of describing the kingdom. And Daniel is very clear that those six clauses can’t come into existence until the 490 year clock, including the final seven years runs its course.
Daniel 9:27, which is yet future, has to run its course in order for these six clauses to manifest themselves. [Daniel 9:27, “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”] So before the kingdom comes there has to be the seven year tribulation period. Before the kingdom comes there has to be the events of the Book of Revelation in terms of seal judgments, trumpet judgments, and bowl judgments which is just an amplification of that final seven year period in greater clarity and detail. And that’s why the kingdom is not portrayed as never coming to the earth, until chapter 20, verses 1-10, after this seven year period and these judgments have run their course. Do you see that?
So for someone to say we’re in the kingdom now you have to completely contradict everything the Scripture has revealed, that you’re not going to have the kingdom until the time of great distress overtakes Jacob and the whole world.
So my professor, Stanley Toussaint, who I think probably understood the doctrine of the kingdom better than any person alive, he’s with the Lord now, but I think he really had it down when it comes to the doctrine of the kingdom. And in his Matthew Commentary he says this: “If the kingdom began in the ministry of Christ, where is the prophesied judgment in the Gospels?” I mean, that’s a fair question, isn’t it? “Were the Old Testament prophets and John” now he’s talking there about John the Baptist, “incorrect in their message?” Because John the Baptist talked about this too, about the winnowing fork and the fire and all of these kinds of things. And John the Baptist is just reflecting what the Old Testament says, you have to have a time of distress before the kingdom comes. So for people to show up and say well, we’re in the kingdom now, Jesus set up the kingdom at His first advent, well how come there was no seven year period, tribulation period preceding that when the Old Testament demands you have to have that before the kingdom can materialize?
So these really, to my mind, become the two major problems with kingdom now theology. The first thing is they’re coming up with a definition of the kingdom that contradicts everything the Old Testament says, indicating that the kingdom is earthly over a repentant Israel. And the second thing they’re not really paying attention to when people just throw this word kingdom around is they’re not paying attention to the chronology that the Old Testament painstakingly details and develops, that the kingdom can only come after the period of distress of seven years.
So what people want you to do is they want you to basically sever your New Testament from the Old Testament. They want you to pretend like the Old Testament is not even there. And that’s what they do when they come up with these definitions that we’re in the kingdom, we’re building the kingdom and all of these things. They don’t have the foggiest understanding of what the Old Testament carefully develops.
So that really takes us out of number 2, the main problems with kingdom now interpretations from the New Testament.
Now we move into number three and number 3 begins with chapter 16 of my book and goes all the way through, I think chapter 21 if I’m not mistaken. So this one I can’t handle in a soundbite, it’ll take a few weeks and I think May 24th is going to be our last Wednesday for the summer so we may not even finish this by the time we get to May 24, so we’ll just pick it up in the fall.
But number three, why do some people believe that we’re in the kingdom now? For those of you that followed with me in my soteriology study, that I do on Sunday mornings here, I spent many, many weeks, I’m afraid to look at how many weeks it was, on the doctrine of eternal security. And I could have cut that study, probably into a third of what it was lengthwise if I had just shown you the verses in the Bible that say you are eternally secure. But I didn’t want to do that because there’s a debate that’s been going on for the last… I don’t know, multiple centuries, on are we really saved. So for a debate to persist that long there must be other verses in the Bible that contradict, at least at first glance, the doctrine of eternal security. And I wanted to show you what the other side was saying from the Bible and I wanted to show you how to handle those other verses that seemingly contradict the doctrine of eternal security because if I can talk you into something somebody else can come along and talk you out of it. Right? I mean, it’s very easy to sit up here and just give you the verses that support my position and say case closed, thus saith the Lord, let’s go enjoy the fellowship lunch, because that’s not going to sustain you when someone else comes along with a verse that your pastor never covered. So I felt it was my obligation as a Bible teacher not just to give you the verses that support eternal security but to show you the verses that people use to contradict it. So the study went a little longer (not a little longer but a lot longer).
And that’s sort of my same philosophy with the doctrine of the kingdom. It would be a very easy thing for me to just show you the verses that say the kingdom is yet future, but there’s an awful lot of people running around today saying we’re in the kingdom now. In fact, they’ve been saying it all the way back, probably to the fourth century, at least, A.D. What are the verses they use? Because at first glance, just like the doctrine of eternal security there’s some verses that look like we’re in the kingdom. How would I, as a future kingdom person, handle those verses. And that’s sort of the direction we’re moving now at this point.
So what we’re doing is the response to kingdom now problem passages, passages that people use to promote the doctrine of the kingdom now. I would say this: there’s about a handful of passages, isolated passages, that are used over and over and over and over again by people to explain the fact that we’re in the kingdom. So we’ll be looking at passages that people use from Christ’s ministry, passages from the Book of Acts that people use, passages from the writings of the Apostle Paul, passages from the general letters. What are the general letters? They are the non-Pauline epistles, so it would be James, Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude and I’m not sure, 1, 2 and 3 John. I’ll be showing you passages people use from the Book of Revelation. And there’s a lot of arguments people make that really aren’t based in the Bible at all. I call those miscellaneous argument, philosophical arguments, so we’ll be interacting with those. Are you all comfortable with the direction we’re headed in?
We only have about fifteen or twenty minutes left but we can at least start with passages from Christ’s ministry. If Jesus established a spiritual form of the kingdom at His first coming then there must be passage from his ministry that people us to promote this idea. And in fact, there are quite a few passages, passages Jesus indicating the kingdom is at hand, theirs is the kingdom, or passages where He told us to pray “thy kingdom come” or “seek first the kingdom,” or “the kingdom suffers violence until now.” O what do you do with that passage in Luke 10 where Jesus says I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. My professor, Darrell Bock, who I don’t agree with on this, uses that to argue that we’re in the kingdom now. What do you do with that passage. What do you do with Matthew 12:28 where Jesus says “the kingdom has come upon you.”
Now here’s the clincher, this is the toughie, Luke 17:21, what do you do with a passage that says the kingdom is in your midst, in Christ’s teachings. [Luke 17:21, “nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.’”]
What do you do with his dialogue with Nicodemus when he said you’ve got to be born again to enter the kingdom? [John 3:3, “Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”]
What do you do with Matthew 16:28 where Jesus says there will be no death… these folks hear aren’t going to die until the kingdom comes. [Matthew 16:28, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”] He’s talking about an imminent death.
What do you do with Matthew 21:43, where Jesus says to Israel the kingdom will be taken away from you and given to a people producing the fruit thereof, because people use that to say the kingdom is taken away from Israel and given to the church. [Mathew 21:43, “”Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.”]
If the kingdom is coming to the earth one day what to you do with Christ’s statement in John 18:36 where He says My kingdom is not of this world. [John 18:36, “Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”]
What do you do with what He says in the Great Commission, at the very end, when He says all power and authority has been given to me, go and make disciples of all nations. [Matthew 28:28, And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’”] I mean, when he says all power and authority has been given to Me isn’t that Christ reigning in kingdom form?
So these are all verses that we have to sort of interact with. So let’s take a look at the first one on the list here, notice, if you will, Matthew 3:2, remember the offer of the kingdom, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” That was taught by John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, the twelve apostles and the seventy. Remember what was said? Matthew 3:1-2, “Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying,  Repent, for the kingdom of God is” what? “at hand.” You know how people interpret that? They say that doesn’t mean it was near, it means it was here. There it is right there in your Bible, Jesus set up a spiritual form of the kingdom. And the verb there, “at hand” is engizo which will be very important in just a second.
Jesus taught the same message, Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ People say it’s not near, it’s here. And then Jesus sent out the twelve to reach the lost sheep of the house of Israel and He said, [Matthew 10:7] “And as you go preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Engizo, not near but here.
So with all of these passages I’m going to give you what I think is a response. How would I respond to the kingdom now theologians use of Matthew 3:2 and related passages? Well, the first response is the verb engizo, when Jesus says it’s at hand it’s engizo. And if you’re a Greek student the verb is the third person singular perfect active indicative. Why is that important? That’s important because the same verb is used in John 5:8, same parsing. [John 5:8, “Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.’” What is it again? Third person singular, perfect active indicative, engizo, same parsing in James 5:8, which says, “You too be patient, strengthening your hearts for the coming of the Lord is near,” engizo. Same verb used in Matthew 3:2, Matthew 4:7, Matthew 10:7, the exact same parsing.
[Matthew 3:2, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:7, “Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’” Matthew 10:7, “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”]
Now there’s not a person on planet earth, there’s not a Bible interpreter on planet earth that would interpret James 5:8 as indicating that the second coming is happening now. When it says here “”the coming of the Lord is near” nobody is going to say He’s here, this is a second coming passage. What it’s saying is His entrance into this world is right at the door, in fact, in verse 9 it uses that expression, right at the door. It’s not here, it’s near, it’s imminent, meaning it could happen at any moment. And since engizo, same parsing, is used in Matthew 3:2 and related passages, that’s all Jesus is saying. He’s saying to the nation of Israel the kingdom is near, it’s right at the door, it’s at an any moment entrance and to receive it all you, Israel, have to do is enthrone Me as your king and it will come.
What is Jesus saying in all these passages? He’s not saying it’s here; He’s saying it’s near. Now the kingdom now theologian doesn’t want you to read your Bible that way; they want it to say it’s here but they don’t interpret James 5:8, same verb, same parsing that way.
Stanley Toussaint writes, concerning Matthew 3:2, “…that the kingdom had drawn near and was then in a condition of nearness.”
William Lane, in his Mark Commentary says, to the verb engizo and its use in “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand,” he says, “The linguistic objections to the proposed rendering ‘has come’ are weighty, and it is better to translate it ‘has come near.’” So if you want to translate it as “the kingdom of God is here” rather than “near” there’s, what William Lane is saying, some linguistic objections to that; that’s not the best translation. Jesus is not saying the kingdom is here; He’s saying it’s near, it’s imminent.
Beyond that, continuing with the response to the kingdom now theologians use of Matthew 3:2 you’ll notice that in all of these passages the kingdom was never defined. Did you notice that? Did you notice when John the Baptist said “the kingdom of God is at hand” and Jesus said “the kingdom of God” or “heaven is at hand” and the disciples said the same thing and the seventy said the same thing, did you notice that not a single one of them defined what the kingdom was? They just threw the term out there.
So let me ask you a question. Since they left the term undefined how do you think they knew as a Bible reader should define that term? Where should you go? You go into the Old Testament. You say well, do you have any information on that? Yeah, it’s called about forty lessons of teaching or so on this. I mean, did we not go through all of everything that the Old Testament says about the kingdom? So when the New Testament leaves it undefined the expectation of God is that we would fill the term, not with any meaning we want, and see this is what Dallas Willard and all these people are doing about Jesus reigning in your hearts, they’re just coming to the word “kingdom,” they’re seeing it there and they’re just filling the word with whatever meaning they want to fill it with. And that’s not how God expects His Word to be read. God expects us to pour everything we understand about the Old Testament into that word because it’s defined by its prior treatment in the Old Testament.
And here’s something very, very important to understand; you do not interpret the Old Testament according to the New Testament! Did you hear me on that, because this is a big deal. You do not interpret the Old Testament according to the New Testament, rather you interpret the New Testament according to the Old Testament, because I’m not going to interpret the New Testament according to the Old Testament, then I just made God a what? A liar. When terms are not defined for us, and by the way, there’s an awful lot of terms like that in the New Testament. How about the term redemption? I mean, how would you ever understand what that means if you didn’t have in the back of your mind the Exodus story. The Exodus story fills out the meaning of redemption. See that? When Paul says we have redemption in Christ how are we supposed to know what that means?
So when you see the word “kingdom” and there’s no definition of it we have to go back into the Old Testament, develop a meaning, which is what we spent 40 lessons doing, and pour that meaning into the New Testament term. And that’s not what people are doing. People have a very sort of shallow understanding of the Scripture. They come to the New Testament, they see these terms and buzzwords and they just pour into it whatever is right in their own eyes. That’s NOT how to read the Bible. Why is that? Because we believe in a doctrine called progressive revelation. You say what does that mean? It means God begins to reveal things very early on in the Bible going all the way back to Genesis and the rest of Scripture may clarify things, it may add more details, watch this very carefully, it never changes the original promise. Clarification yeah, no problem; an outright change, no way Jose (that’s the Spanish translation of the Bible, no way Jose). Because you do that you make God out to be a liar. The doctrine of progressive revelation is really important to understand and if you don’t hear anything else this evening hear this much: you do not interpret the Old Testament according to the New Testament; rather you interpret the New Testament according to the Old Testament. And that’s how it is with the word kingdom.
So the problem is the kingdom is undefined there in Matthew 3:2. I can’t just come at this word “kingdom” with a spiritualized kingdom understanding that Jesus is reigning in our hearts because I’d be interpreting the word “kingdom” differently than how the Old Testament develops it.
Beyond that, if Jesus established the kingdom in His first advent the statements He makes late in His ministry would not make any sense. Did we not already share Matthew 20:20-23 where the mother of the sons of Zebedee said, Lord, when you enter your kingdom grant my two sons positions on your right and your left. Now notice that very late in His ministry, which was when this event occurred, they still believed in a future earthly kingdom. Jesus never corrected them on that point. The only thing He corrected them on is the cross comes before the crown. That’s the only point of correction. It’s not there’s not going to be a kingdom in the future on the earth with real thrones.
You remember Acts 1:6-7, this is the forty day period after Christ’s resurrection but before His ascension. It says, “So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” See, they still believed in a future kingdom for Israel. Now they had been with Christ all this time, wouldn’t that idea have disappeared from their minds if Christ had taught against that idea? But the idea is still on their minds because Christ never taught against that idea, He never cancelled ever what the Old Testament reveals concerning the kingdom. “So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is at this time You are going to restore the kingdom to Israel?  He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;” the only thing He challenged them on is not the reality of a future earthly kingdom through Israel, the only thing He corrected them on is the timing of it.
See the difference? They didn’t understand the age of the church is going to precede that kingdom; they thought it was going to happen right then and there. Jesus never said oh, get rid of this idea of a future earthly kingdom. What He corrected them on is the timing. That’s what Jesus is doing with the mother of the sons of Zebedee, same idea, not correcting her on the issue of the kingdom but on another issue that the cross comes before the crown.
One more point and with this we’re finished here. The last response to the kingdom now theologians use of Matthew 3:2, what did Jesus mean when He said “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”? What He meant is I am here and all you (Israel) have to do to experience the kingdom in its glory according to your own covenants, is to do what? Enthrone Me! That’s why it was near. As long as He was on the earth it was near because they had an opportunity, if they had chosen to take it, which they didn’t, to enthrone Christ. If they had done that the kingdom would have materialized.
That’s why He keeps saying it’s near, it’s near, it’s imminent, but guess what folks? He’s left the earth now, is it near any more? It’s not near right now because we know there has to be a seven year tribulation period to convert Israel, to get her to a place where she will enthrone Christ. So when we go out and share the gospel we don’t go out to people and say “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” because it’s not at hand right now. Why is it not at hand? He’s not here.
It was at hand in the first century because He was right there in front of them performing miracles, fulfilling prophecy, fulfilling genealogies, and they could have had the whole thing if they had enthroned Christ. All they have to do, Israel has to do, is to fulfill Deuteronomy 17:15 and the kingdom comes, which says, going all the way back to the days of Moses, the obligations of Israel, “you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses,” you get that one right Israel and you’ve got the kingdom. The problem is Israel hasn’t gotten that one right, has she? She didn’t get that one right in the first century, she hasn’t gotten that one right for the last two thousand years, she won’t get that one right until the events of the tribulation period and then the millennial kingdom will come.
That’s all Christ meant when He said “the kingdom of God is at hand,” an imminent, any moment expectation and opportunity of multiple generations to have the kingdom. The kingdom “is at hand,” He’s saying it’s near in the first century. He’s not saying it’s here. Does that make any sense?
So we’ll stop at that point and we’ll look at more of these so-called problem passages next time.