Open your Bible to Galatians 1:4 and let’s recap what we have been talking about on the series on the Kingdom. This is Lesson 76, and we have been dealing with the revival of an ancient heresy. If you look at the map (per slide and map) and look north to the nation of Israel, and there is a place called Antioch that is circled. From Antioch came the chiliasts, ‘chilia’ is the Greek word for ‘thousand,’, are those who believed in a future Kingdom, chiliasts, and they came from Antioch. Today, we would call them pre-millennialists; they didn’t believe that they were in the Kingdom but did believe that Jesus would come back one day to set up the Kingdom. That sentiment reigned in the church for two centuries.
Then down south (on the map) circled — Alexandria, Egypt; is where a rival system developed. These from Alexandria, Egypt, North Africa, really, began to argue about another center of thought, which were among the two major centers of thought in early Christianity following the death of the apostles. Down in Alexandria, they began to argue that we are in the Kingdom now, and they adopted a very allegorical method of interpretation, whereas the chiliasts in Antioch were very literal in their interpretation. Sadly, what happened beginning with Augustine, and he sealed the deal. I used to call him St. Augustine, but no longer because I believe that he did a lot of damage. Augustine, coming from and influenced by Alexandria, who by the way, knew Greek, but he didn’t really know Hebrew.
Around the fourth century, Augustine wrote a book, The City of God, and he became, at that point, the most influential theologian in church history, and he remains, by far, the most influential theologian in church history. I am not talking about the influence for good but for bad because he took Kingdom Now Theology and codified it into a book called The City of God, written in the fourth century, convincing the entire church that the kingdom had started.
There are a lot of factors that went into that belief system, one of which was the rise of a Roman Emperor named Constantine. Constantine basically took the Church which had been persecuted by Rome, and he suddenly switched the policy. In the fourth century, he made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. So, understand that Christians went from being heavily persecuted for 300 years by Rome to sudden elevation in Rome. If that happened, wouldn’t you think that the kingdom had come? Augustine writes his book around that general time period convincing the Church that they were in the kingdom. We would call his book, The City of God, the first formal exposition of amillennialism or Kingdom Now Theology or Replacement Theology in church history. The moment that book became available is the moment that the Church went under the spell of Alexandria Egypt. The folks at Antioch became a minority opinion.
Thus, the story of church history is how Alexandria eclipsed Antioch for 1,000 years. We really did not start crawling out from under that amillennial spell until after the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant reformers gave us the literal method of interpretation to rescue the Church in certain areas, the five solas. It wasn’t until after the Protestant Reformation that the Church took the literal method of interpretation given by the reformers and started to apply it to Bible Prophecy. As they applied the literal method of interpretation, amillennialism became less of an attractive view than did pre-millennialism, and the Antioch mindset returned after being eclipsed by Alexandria for that long period of time.
That is a kind of overview of church history and where we are, so Augustine wrote this book, The City of God, Kingdom Now Theology, in the fourth century, and it became the dominant opinion of the Church through the Middle Ages. This opinion was absorbed the Protestant Reformers, and it wasn’t until latter generations after the Protestant Reformers came and went that the problem began to be corrected. One of the things that gave Augustine’s book so much influence in church history other than the elevation of Constantine is that the Jews were no longer in the land (see map). The Jews were thrown out of the land in AD 70, and there were still some stragglers in the land of Israel as late as AD 135. As long as the Jews were in the land with a functioning Temple, it is hard to believe that all of Israel’s promises had been cancelled. So, the Jews were thrown out of the land in AD 70, Hadrian came to power and named the land of Israel, Palestine, with the purpose of mocking the Jewish people. It was essentially named after the ancient enemies of Israel, the Philistines. Hamian was trying to de-Judaize the land, pretending that the Jews were never there.
Putting all those factors together — the Temple gone, the nation of Israel kicked out, it seemed unrealistic to take the Old Testament prophecies of Israel’s restoration literally because the only thing over there was a non-Jewish territory. These all played a role into the ascendency of Augustine’s book, The City of God. No more Jews in the land, so those prophecies can’t be taken literally as those in Antioch had done, and beyond that, Constantine is now on the throne and with that, Rome is no longer persecuting Christianity but promoting it, thus it looked like the kingdom had come. All of this played into his book and its influential effect on the Church called The City of God. In his book, Augustine, wrote, “…the saints reign with Christ during the same thousand years, understood in the same way, that is, of the time of His first coming” and “Therefore the Church even now is the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven. Accordingly, even now His saints reign with Him.”
We have gone from being persecuted to being promoted in the Roman Empire; the kingdom must have come; we must be reigning now. He began to allegorize as those down in Alexandria typically did with Bible prophecy. The folks in Antioch never allegorized like those in Alexandria did. Augustine developed this idea of amillennialism, Replacement Theology, Kingdom Now Theology. There are a lot of historical factors that gave rise to that belief system. Thus, this became the dominant view in the Church all the way through the Middle Ages for over 1,000 years, and it probably wasn’t even challenged by anyone in a real sense for about 1,200 -1400 years. Fortunately, the Protestant reformers in the 16th century gave us a literal method of interpretation. Some after the Protestant Reformation began taking the method of literal interpretation and applying it to Bible prophecy, and chiliasm or premillennialism made a comeback.
What is happening in our time is an ancient heresy is being brought back to life, Kingdom Now Theology. The church, even in our time, is now flirting with the idea of what Augustine originally espoused, and they’re arguing that we are currently in the Kingdom.
Some of the quotes that I gave you in Lesson 1 (76 lessons ago) help to explain and remind you why we are doing this study and why I wrote the 400-page book, The Coming Kingdom; it is to counter the church’s apparent movement back to Augustine.
Doug Pagitt, a modern writer says, “The Kingdom of God is a central conversation in emerging communities…And let me tell you ‘Kingdom of God’ language is really big in the emerging church (italics added).” He is recycling, channeling Augustine.
Brian McLaren, in A Generous Orthodoxy, talks about how the purpose of Christ’s ministry in His First Coming was to establish a spiritual form of the kingdom on earth, which is what Augustine taught coming out of Alexandria, Egypt. Brian McLaren says of Jesus, “He selected 12 and trained them in a new way of life. He sent them to teach everyone this new way of life…Even if only a few would practice this new way, many would benefit. Oppressed people would be free. Poor people would be liberated from poverty. Minorities would be treated with respect. Sinners would be loved, not resented. Industrialists… [Notice the leftist slant, which is why Kingdom Now Theology is popular today, as it is an amorphous concept that people can read their own political ideology into, right or left. There are those on the right who say we are in the kingdom and those on the left saying the same, because everyone is trying to use the Bible to promote their own political view, social justice mindset on the left or dominionism and things of that nature on the right]. …Industrialists [McLaren thinks that capitalists are the enemies] …would realize that God cares for sparrows and wildflowers-so their industries should respect, not rape, the environment. The homeless would be invited in for a hot meal. [His punchline is…] The Kingdom of God would come… [this is what he thinks Jesus did in the first century; He ushered in the spiritual kingdom] — … not everywhere at once, not suddenly but gradually like a seed growing in a field, like yeast spreading in a lump of bread dough… [the author is likely not interpreting the yeast in Matt 13 as we interpret it with the yeast as something negative, the growth of apostasy in the church age; he thinks the yeast is positive] ,… like light spreading across the sky at dawn.”
This is basically the view of Kingdom Now Theology that Jesus came into the world to give us this spiritual kingdom in His First Coming, and as that kingdom grows, society will be altered or changed. Anything negative about society will disappear. If I believed this, at some point, I would be very discouraged, because it certainly doesn’t look like the world is getting better and better. Amen? Things are deteriorating, but Kingdom Now Theology is exactly the opposite.
Elsewhere, McLaren says “If Revelation were a blueprint of the distant future, it would have been unintelligible to its original readers [so don’t teach the book of Revelation like they do at Sugarland Bible Church; it isn’t a futuristic prophecy; it is something that was fulfilled primarily in the first century. Obviously to believe that, one must radically rewrite the Book to make it fit] …In light of this, Revelation becomes a powerful book about the kingdom of God here and now, available to all.” That is a recycling of the ancient heresy taught by Augustine in his book, The City of God.
Russell Moore, very leftist and influential President of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and I love the southern Baptists, but we must understand that the southern Baptists, in their convention, are taking a major left-wing turn. They’re venturing into a social justice mindset, obviously a big part of that is their promotion amongst some of their leaders that the kingdom is now. The Southern Baptist Convention is very different than the old days when Adrian Rogers and Charles Stanley and others like them, were in positions of leadership. Page Patterson, there is now a younger set of leaders who are essentially going in a very leftist direction. One of the things this younger generation of leaders is using to promote this leftist turn is Kingdom Now Theology.
Russell Moore, one of the leaders of that movement, says, “The locus of the kingdom of God in this age is within the church, where Jesus rules as king. As we live our lives together, we see the transforming power of the gospel and the in breaking of the future kingdom.” Very common language used today.
Rick Warren makes the following statement, saying, “I stand before you confidently right now and say to you … [speaking to an audience] … that God is going to use you to change the world…I’m looking at a stadium full of people right now who are telling God that they will do whatever it takes to establish God’s Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.” What will happen if the followers of Jesus say to Him, “We are yours?” What kind of spiritual awakening will occur?”
The kingdom, according to Rick Warren, is not something that God brings. We have taught in depth in this class that the kingdom in Daniel 2 and other passages, is something that God Himself brings to the earth at the end of the Tribulation period. What Rick Warren and others are doing is to shift that responsibility of bringing in the kingdom onto the shoulders of the Church.
With all of that being said, we are now moving into the final part of our study of my book, The Coming Kingdom, chapters 22-26. We are now at a transitional point in our study. By way of review, we started off in Part 1 with what the Bible teaches about the Kingdom? We have taught that from Genesis to Revelation, and we have clearly seen that the Kingdom is not cancelled but is in a state of postponement.
In number 2, we looked at what the main problems are with Kingdom Now Theology interpretations. The basic problem is that they changed what the Old Testament says, so to argue that we are in the kingdom now requires adaptation of a method of interpretation that the New Testament somehow changes the Old Testament. That is a problem because that would make God a liar.
Then, we moved into number 3, why do some people believe and teach that we are currently in the Kingdom? They must have passages that they use, and there are a lot of them. We started in the first book of the New Testament, Matthew, going all the way through the book of Revelation, looking at every single passage that Kingdom Now theologians use, and we have shown that none of the passages that they rely on teach what it is that they think they teach. All those passages can be understood in light of a futuristic kingdom.
Now, we are at a transitional part of the study because we are no longer looking specifically at the biblical text. We are now at number 4, Why does it matter? Who cares? If a church believes that they’re in, building or ushering in the Kingdom, or if you go to a conference called Kingdom Builders, what is the harm in that? So, we bring Augustine’s belief from the fourth century back into the life of the Church. So, what if we put Kingdom in our vision and mission statements. Why is that a problem? I would like to communicate as we enter this final part of the study, chapters 22-26 of my book, The Coming Kingdom, is that theology is a lot like dominoes in a row. If you knock over one domino, the rest of them will crumble, and this is what people don’t think about when they come up with different theological interpretations. They don’t understand that what you do in one area, affects another area. So, what you do in eschatology [the study of the end] is going to have an effect on ecclesiology [the doctrine of the church] and what you do in ecclesiology will have an impact on soteriology [the doctrine of salvation]. Thus, when you start tampering with eschatology, then ecclesiology suffers as does soteriology; this is basically what I am going to try to demonstrate in this final section of this course of the coming Kingdom. That is why in the book I wrote, The Coming Kingdom, is the title, but the subtitle is What is the Kingdom and How is Kingdom Theology Changing the Focus of the Church?
I didn’t just write a book on eschatology just because no one had ever dealt with this before. I wanted to show that this recycling of Augustine has profound, and I mean profound ecclesiological ramifications. As we have studied, the church has basically three purposes:
That is why the church exists, and you can’t really succeed in God until you understand why you exist. If your business is struggling, and you hire a business consultant to help you, the very first question a consultant will ask, if they’re worth their salt, is why does this business exist? What is the specific purpose of this business? What need, want or desire is filled with your product or service that you can’t really get anywhere else. If you can’t answer that, then you have no business being in business, and there is probably a reason why you are going out of business.
Today, if you ask your typical Christian what the purpose of the Church is, none can give you a straight answer. Ask your typical pastor, elder, deacon, or Sunday school teacher the same question and none of them can give you a straight answer. So, if you can’t give them a straight answer, then how do you do church, which activities to get involved or not get involved in?
What is happening with the Southern Baptist Convention and a group called the Gospel Coalition is that they’re getting involved in a lot of social justice issues, white privilege, structural racism. The ministry that was very helpful for me, Campus Crusade for Christ, now called Cru, want to get Crusade out of the title, thus they changed the title since Crusade is politically incorrect.
If you go to Trevor Lowden’s Facebook page, he has all these recordings of their latest national or regional meetings. The speakers are all talking about white privilege and institutional racism and structural bias, etc, but you aren’t hearing the things I used to hear when I was in Campus Crusade. At my college campus in the mid to late 1980s, the emphasis was on evangelism; about sharing the gospel with the unsaved but based on some of the recordings of their latest meetings, it is almost more like a social justice rally. So, why are these ministries moving into these areas? They have gotten away from their purpose. If you think that we are currently in the kingdom, then you get away from this very simple purpose; you get distracted by all kinds of diversions.
Wouldn’t that be something that satan would do in the last days? Would he distract us from our reason for existing and get us involved in all types of other things that we are not called upon to focus on? We spend our waning moments on earth on the eve of the rapture wasting our time trying to do something around social justice that only Jesus Himself can do when He sets up His kingdom. This study is, I hope you understand, one of the most relevant studies that you could ever give yourself to; it is very practical. We have dealt with a lot of exegetical issues, etc, but I hope you don’t lose the practical nature of what I’ve been trying to communicate.
Alva J McClain wrote a book called The Greatness of the Kingdom in 1959, and I think it is one of the greatest books that has ever been written on the kingdom. Towards the end of the book he said, “Theological confusion, especially in matters which have to do with the church, will inevitably produce consequences which are of grave practical concern. The identification of the Kingdom with the church has led to historically to ecclesiastical policies and programs which, even when not positively evil, have been far removed from the original simplicity of the New Testament ekklēsia…” [see how easy our job description is there? But if you think we are the kingdom, that simplicity becomes obscured very quickly. Remember what Paul said concerning the serpent in 2 Cor 11, that the serpent was trying to beguile the Corinthians and move them away from the simplicity of Christ. Christianity is not all that complicated; our doctrine of salvation, of the church, is not complicated, but satan always wants to take what is simple and ‘over-convolute’ it for the purpose of distraction and corruption].
“…It is easy to claim that in the ‘present kingdom of grace’ that the rule of the saints is wholly ‘spiritual,’ exerted only through moral principles and influence. But practically once the church becomes the Kingdom in any realistic theological sense, it is impossible to draw any clear line between principles and their implementation through political and social devices. For the logical implications of a present ecclesiastical kingdom [in other words, the practical ramifications of seeing the church as the Kingdom] are unmistakable, and historically have always led in one direction, i.e., political control of the state by the church.” [This is why so many today are promoting this Kingdom Now Theology because they want to grasp the reins of political power].
“The distances traveled down this road by various religious movements, and the forms of control which were developed, have been widely different. The difference is very great between the Roman Catholic system and modern Protestant efforts to control the state; also between the ecclesiastical rule of Calvin in Geneva and the fanaticism of Münster and the English ‘fifth-monarchy.’ But the basic assumption is always the same: The church in some sense is the kingdom, and therefore has a divine right to rule; or it is the business of the church to ‘establish’ fully the Kingdom of God among men. Thus the church loses its pilgrim character [what is the church? It is a peculiar people that is passing through satan’s current domain; we are passing through as pilgrims, meaning that our home is not here on earth, amen? Does not Paul say in Phil 3:20 that our citizenship is in heaven, and that we are waiting for us the Lord Jesus to come and rescue us from this present evil age. The business of establishing the Kingdom is something that He is going to, but if you start to view the present age as the Kingdom of God, then the church loses its pilgrim character] … and the sharp edge of its divinely commissioned ‘witness’ is blunted. It becomes an ekklēsia which is not only in the world, but also of the world. It forgets that just as in the regeneration of the soul only God can effect the miracle, even so the ‘regeneration’ of the world can only be wrought by the intrusion of regal power form on high (Matt 19:28).” Notice that he uses the word, ‘regeneration.’ The Greek word is ‘palingenesia,’ which literally means Paling, compound word, ‘genesia,’ book of Genesis, where we get the word, ‘beginning.’ Regeneration means beginning again. Regeneration, to both my mind and knowledge is used only twice in the New Testament, once in relation to personal salvation in Titus 3:5 and once in relationship to the regeneration of the earth in the Millennial Kingdom. What do both instances have in common? They both involve the intervention of Jesus first and then comes the regeneration. In salvation, Jesus comes first, then the human soul changes, not the other way around. God never says to the human soul, ‘Get your act together so that Jesus can come into your life and change you.’ That is basic soteriology, and since the same word is used of the Kingdom in Matt 19:28, it is saying that the regeneration of the world, of society, will not take place until Jesus comes back to the earth. Just as Jesus must come into a person’s life before they are changed, such is true of the Kingdom. Jesus returns first at the end of the Tribulation period, then He establishes His kingdom, and then social justice and a fix of institutional racism and white privilege, economic inequities, etc; none of that will get fixed until Jesus returns.
To tell the church that they must fix society before He comes back is like saying to the lost sinner, ‘Get your act together first, and then come to Jesus.’ In both instances, you are telling people to morally reform when they don’t have the power to do it. That is McLain’s point. Due to confusion on this basic issue, what has happened is that, historically, the church has become very confused and has gotten into projects that they should never have become involved with at all. One of these projects is Calvin’s Geneva; McLain mentions this. Today we are upset about Sharia Law coming to the United States; Calvin’s Geneva was a Christian form of Sharia Law where you were not allowed to criticize pastors or you would be thrown into jail. If you disagreed with Calvin, you were put on trial and killed; sometimes tortured. Michael Servetus is one such individual. Your life was illegalized; church attendance was mandatory in Calvin’s Geneva, a sort of Christian form of Sharia Law, — why did he go this direction? Although he may have done some good things in other areas, he never distinguished between the church and the Kingdom. To him, they were one and the same. Thus, he was taking passages that relate to the future Kingdom and applying them to his government in Geneva.
What I am trying to say is that virtually every false doctrine that I can think of that has come into the church that we are currently wrestling with now in the 21st century has come into the church because of Kingdom Now Theology. So often we are shooting at the symptom without understanding the foundation. If you want to get rid of these false doctrines in Christianity, you must deal with the foundation. The foundation is Kingdom Now Theology.
What I have for us in this final section of our study are nine false doctrines (See slide on 9 Ways Kingdom Now Theology Impacts the Church) that are directly attributable to Kingdom Now Theology.
So, what we will do in the final part of the series, though not all of it tonight as this is an introduction to the final section, is to walk through these nine issues. I have about 15 mins left, so let’s try to tackle number 1: Loss of “pilgrim” status. What is the first theological problem with Kingdom Now Theology? The church, and this was hinted at, in the Alva J McLain quote from earlier — loses its “pilgrim” status. Lewis Sperry Chafer says this correctly, “So, the church was fully warned from the beginning about the nature of this age, and taught concerning her pilgrim character while here and her holy calling and separateness from the ‘evil age.” That is who we are. We aren’t here to bring in the Kingdom; we are waiting for Jesus to set up His Kingdom; in the present, we are living as ambassadors in satan’s world. If I am america’s ambassador to China, Iran, etc, I am representing American values on foreign soil. That is why Paul calls us ambassadors in 2 Cor 5:20; we are salt and light in the devil’s world. Consequently, we are a peculiar people who really don’t fit in with this world, and we won’t fit in and reign here until Jesus returns and sets everything up properly. In the process of passing through this present evil age, the Bible gives us specific instructions on how to live during this evil age we are presently in. Do you agree with me that this is an evil age?
Notice Gal 1:4, Paul is very clear that we are living in an evil age, “…who gave Himself for our sins [Jesus] so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” So here I am, and here you are living in the devil’s world and consequently, we are called per James 1:1, “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad (diaspora): Greetings.” Who we are is the diaspora; we are dispersed abroad living in the devil’s world.
Notice 1 Peter 1:1 and 2:11, 1:1“To those who reside as aliens (paraepidēmois), scattered throughout (diaspora) are chosen… 2:11Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers (paraepidēmois) to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.”
You can follow along with your own Bible if you want or relax and look at the screen, I prefer that you follow in your Bible, because if you don’t follow along in your own Bible, you never learn the books of the Bible. Amen. That is one way that technology has handicapped us; we are so used to it, and I am as guilty as anyone because I have all this stuff flashing around, but I am concerned that we aren’t opening our bibles ourselves. In the old days the Pastor would say for us to turn to ‘X’ and you could hear the entire congregation ruffling their pages. I thought that was a beautiful sound; today we are staring at screens and looking at bulletins; not really looking at the Bible. So, try not to let technology usurp basic sword drill because unless you are opening your Bibles and turning to the right part of it, you won’t learn where different passages are. End of rant.
In 1 Peter 1:1, Peter says, 1To those who reside as aliens, [look at that, in fact, the Greek word for aliens (paraepidēmois) — that is three words made into one word. ‘Para’ means away in Greek; ‘epi’ means one, and in the last part of the Greek word that begins with the letter ‘d’ in English, transliterated there as dēmois, see the English equivalent of ‘domestic;’ ‘democracy’? The third part of that word basically means ‘home;’ so that word ‘aliens,’ paraepidēmois, literally means ‘away from home.’ That is our identity; we are away from home because our citizenship is in heaven. That is what is meant by ‘aliens.’ “1To those who reside as aliens (paraepidēmois scattered throughout [diaspora, dispersed] … Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen…2:11 [Peter says the exact same thing]: Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers (paraepidēmois) to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.”
So, this is our identity — scattered; dispersed; pilgrims; aliens; away from home. If you call someone an alien today, you are saying that you are from Mars; you don’t belong here; or there is the legal vs illegal immigration debate, ie, if someone has the status of an alien, it means they’re actual residency or citizenship is not here in this country, but somewhere else. That is basically our spiritual designation. Absolutely nothing here about us bringing in the Kingdom. If we were in the Kingdom, folks, we wouldn’t be away from home, so we are mere pilgrims passing through a barren wasteland on the way to a promised land.
Hebrews 11:13 gives us the same designation; it is the Hall of Faith, 13All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles (paraepidēmois) on the earth.” So, we are strangers and exiles on the earth; that is why in the Chafer quote, he says, “So, the church was fully warned from the beginning about the nature of this age…” [Now where was the church warned about this? In the upper room discourse in John 13-17, Jesus was very clear that He was sending us out into a hostile, evil world controlled by satan…] … and taught concerning her pilgrim character while here and her holy calling and separateness from the evil age.” So, what should we do living in satan’s world? We are to maintain practical purity. How? Two ways: orthodoxy, correct belief and orthopraxy, correct practice. The word ortho — have you gone to the orthodontist and had your mouth corrected? Ortho = correct. Orthodoxy is correct belief; orthopraxy is correct practice. The challenge of the Christian living in the devil’s world is to maintain both. Much like a woman spoken for while her fiancée is away — after all, He is the groom, and we are the Bride, so what is that woman spoken for supposed to do? She is already set aside for Him, so she is obviously not to be on all the dating websites, etc; she is a woman spoken for. That is how the church is supposed to be acting, like a woman spoken for by maintaining orthodoxy and orthopraxy. When we stand before the Lord at the Bema Seat Judgment following the rapture and either given or not given rewards, it largely has to do with whether we maintained orthodoxy and orthopraxy while living in satan’s world.
The Bema Seat Judgment is not a judgment of salvation; that issue was determined the moment we trusted Christ; it is a judgment of rewards, and when the woman walks down the aisle, there is a reason she is in white: it is an outward symbol of her purity; that is our job, why we are given all these instructions in the epistles on how to live. We are to maintain orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
We are doing this because we are currently separated from Christ; He is coming back for us at an unknown time; thus, we are pilgrims passing through. If you think that the church is the Kingdom or that it is establishing the Kingdom, then the pilgrim mindset is lost. There is no way that I could see myself as a pilgrim in this world if I believed we were in the Kingdom; I wouldn’t see myself as away from home but at home in the world. Look at the church today, at all of her buildings and budgets and satellite campuses — there is a big church in the Dallas area and we actually used their facilities when I graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary. The building, to me, looks like a stadium that a professional team would play in — there is a McDonald’s inside, fitness classes, Starbucks, a bowling alley. Looking around at this monstrosity, you might think that these really don’t look like pilgrims who are thinking about leaving. To me, these look like people who look like they are at home in the world and who will be here for a long time.
What I am trying to explain is a manifestation of Kingdom Now Theology. That is a manifestation of the Church in its leadership not being clear on the distinction between the Kingdom and the church. Enough said about this.
One other quick thing, the second false doctrine that comes into the church is the social gospel.
The social gospel is this idea that we will bring in Kingdom-now realities: social and economic justice, fixing the alleged hole in the ozone layer and climate change, universal healthcare, whatever it is that people want to do—we will bring in all of these Kingdom realities now when the fact is that only Jesus will fix these things. I am not against the church having a say on the various issues; I think we should vote in every election cycle, but please understand that the central calling of the church is not to fix the structures of the society; it is not a job that God gave to the church.
What happens is that the Great Commission, the job that He actually gave to the church, becomes the ‘Great Omission.’ So, we hear more and more sermons about social, economic, racial justice — whatever the cause of the day is, and less and less teaching about salvation of souls and individual discipleship which is the job that Christ actually gave to the Church in the devil’s world.
Social gospel is like handing out water bottles to people as they’re on their way to hell. It is humanitarian work. Is it wrong to get involved in humanitarian work as a church; no, it isn’t necessarily wrong in and of itself, but all of that should be used as a platform to preach the Gospel! What good does it do to feed someone’s stomach for 24 hours if they’re never given the Gospel and their soul goes into an eternal hell?
I just returned from a Bible conference and in the particular church where I was, there is a big rift between that church and its young people. Its young people all want to move into the social justice direction which is typical of young people; I was once young; we want to change the world, right? So, we want to drag Christianity into all these various social causes not investigating the Scripture, what our identity is, and what causes God has and has not given us so we will stay away from things that God has not caused us to do. We can’t have much effect on them anyway so there is a lot of talk today about changing the structures of society — structural or institutional cures, the fancy name for this is holistic gospel. I recommend memorizing this term because if you aren’t facing this head on, the young people are getting hit with this all the time. The holistic gospel is the idea that you are changing the collective salvation of nations rather than the individual salvation of souls. That is social gospel.
Robert Schuler was one of the first to articulate this about how God has a great plan to redeem society. He is talking about the collective salvation of nations, not about the individual salvation of souls. That is how the sheep and the goat judgment in Matt 25:31-46 is being mistaught everywhere — under the name of social justice. The goal of the church is to collectively change the salvation of nations, and the spotlight is being taken off the individual salvation of souls. That is what is meant by social gospel.
We will stop here in the middle of social gospel where we will pick up next time.