The Coming Kingdom - Part 38
� 2015 Andy Woods
We began scrutinizing New Testament texts that
"kingdom now" theologians employ in an attempt to argue that the
kingdom is a present reality in order to show that none of these passages teach
a present form of the kingdom. We have examined the typical texts from the
Gospels, Acts, Paul's letters, the general epistles, and Revelation that are
typically used by "kingdom now" theologians. At this point, we largely
find ourselves in agreement with the following statement by Craven. Concerning
a present, spiritual establishment of the kingdom, Craven notes, "There is
no critically undisputed passage in the Scriptures which declares, or
necessarily implies, even a partial
establishment in New Testament times."
We then began to take a look at some other miscellaneous arguments used by
"kingdom now" theologians. In prior installments, we scrutinized how
"kingdom now" theologians often appeal to alleged New Testament
silence regarding a future earthly reign of Christ.
We then moved on to examining yet another miscellaneous
argument commonly emanating from the "kingdom now" camp: namely, that
if Christ is not now reigning from David's Throne in heaven, then He is doing
nothing at the present time. As we saw in the prior installment, nothing could
be further from the truth. Christ presently pursues an active session through
His ongoing roles as the Sustainer of the universe as well the church's head,
husband, bestower of spiritual gifts, and builder. His present activity is also
evidenced in that He continually intercedes for and advocates on behalf of the
believer. However, these activities comprise His "present session"
rather than His Davidic reign.�
Despite the many activities associated with Christ's
current ministry in His present session, these should not be confused with His
Davidic rule and future kingdom. As noted in prior installments, the activity
of God in and through the Church bears little resemblance to the conditions
that the Scripture anticipates regarding His future terrestrial rule.
Even the key event that began the Church Age, the pouring out of the Holy
Spirit upon the Church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), fails to precisely
harmonize with predictions regarding the Davidic Covenant. Charles Ryrie asks,
"If Christ inaugurated His Davidic reign at His ascension, does it not seem
incongruous that His first act as reigning Davidic king was the sending of the
Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33), something not included in
the promises of the Davidic Covenant?"
Furthermore, as noted by Chafer, Christ's present session
is not the kingdom:
Over and above all the stupendous present ministry of the
resurrected, exalted Savior already noted is the attitude which He is said to
maintain toward the day when, coming back to the earth, He will defeat all
enemies and take the throne to reign. Important, indeed, is the revelation
which discloses the fact that Christ is now in the attitude of expectation
toward the oncoming day when, returning on the clouds of heaven, He will
vanquish every foe...Hebrews 10:13 records His expectation, which reads:
"From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His
footstool."...As High Priest over the true tabernacle on high, the Lord
Jesus Christ has entered into heaven itself there to minister as priest in
behalf of those who are His own in the world (Heb. 8:1-2)...The fact that He
sat down on His Father's throne and not on His own thrown reveals the truth, so
constantly and consistently taught in the Scriptures, that He did not set up a
kingdom on the earth at His first advent into the world, but that He is now
"expecting" until the time when His kingdom shall come in the earth
and the divine will shall be done on earth as it is done in heaven. "The
kingdoms of this world" are yet to become "the kingdoms of our Lord,
and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever" (Rev. 11:15), and
the kingly Son will yet ask of His Father and He will give Him the nations for
His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession (Ps.
2:8). However, Scripture clearly indicates too that He is not now establishing
that kingdom rule in the earth (Matt. 25:31�46), but that rather He is calling
out from both the Jews and Gentiles a heavenly people who are related to Him as
His Body and Bride. After the present purpose is accomplished He will return
and "build again the tabernacle of David, which is falling down"
(Acts 15:13-18). Though He is a King-Priest according to the Melchizedek type
(Hebrews 5:10; 7:1�3), He is now serving as Priest and not as King.
Thus, the preceding discussion demonstrates that while the
present age is not the kingdom, this does not automatically lead to the
conclusion that Christ today is doing nothing. Rather, Christ, in His present
ministry at the Father's right hand, is quite active. However, such present
activities should not be confused with the anticipated kingdom.
This series has accomplished the following goals that were
established at the onset.
First, the biblical teaching on the
kingdom of God has been surveyed from Genesis to Revelation. Such an analysis
was necessary in order to allow us to capture God's mind on this important
subject. Second, this series has set
forth some general problems with a New Testament based "kingdom now"
interpretation. Third, this series
has examined the isolated New Testament texts and miscellaneous arguments that
"kingdom now" theologians typically use, and it has demonstrated how
each is insufficient to convey "kingdom now" theology.
We now move on to the final leg in our journey. Here, we
will note why this trend of equating God's present work in the church with the
Messianic kingdom is a matter believers should be concerned about, since this
theology not only radically alters God's design for the church but is also the
seedbed of many major false doctrines that have sadly entered Christ's church.
Our goal in this section is to demonstrate to the reader
that one's view concerning a present or future kingdom has real-world
implications in terms of how one works out one's theology in the life of the
local church and in the real world. In other words, ideas have consequences.
Theological studies can be likened to dominoes in a row. Knocking over just one
domino inevitably impacts the other dominoes. Similarly, when one area of
theology is altered it has an inevitable impact upon other areas of systematic
theology and biblical interpretation. In this final section, a brief
examination will be given regarding how "kingdom now" theology has an
inevitable impact upon other areas of biblical truth.
Why does it matter whether Christ's present work through
the church is equated with Christ's Messianic kingdom? The answer to this
question lies in the fact that "kingdom now" theology alters the
divine design for the church. Another way of saying this is one's eschatology
(his view of the future kingdom) affects his ecclesiology (doctrine of the
this series, we noted that the church, which began in Acts 2, exists for three specific, divinely-ordained reasons. First,
the church exists to glorify God (Eph. 3:21). Second, the
church exists to edify or build up its members. God has placed spiritual gifts
in the body of Christ for the purpose of being faithfully employed so that the
church members can be built up, become spiritually mature, and reach unity (Eph.
4:11-16). Third, the church exists for the purpose of accomplishing world
evangelism (Mark 16:15)
and to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).
However, McClain explains how these basic and
divinely-given ecclesiastical purposes rapidly become confused the moment that
the church begins to view itself as the kingdom:
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 historically to
ecclesiastical policies and programs which, even when not positively evil, have
been far removed from the original simplicity of the New Testament ekklēssia.
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 are unmistakable,
and historically have always led in one direction, i.e., political control of
the state by the Church. 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 M�nster 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 and the sharp edge of its divinely commissioned �witness� is
blunted. It becomes an ekklēssia 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 from on high (Matt. 19:28).
notes several problems when the church begins to see itself as the kingdom.
�(To Be Continued...)
E.R. Craven, "Excursus on the Basileia," in Revelation of John, ed. J. P. Lange (New York: Scribner, 1874), 95.
L.S. Chafer, Systematic Theology
(Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1993), 5:273-79.
See parts 9 and 10.
Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism
(Chicago: Moody, 1995), 169.
See part 1.
See part 9.
Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of
the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 438-39.