Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Kingdom of God: When is it?
Below is a little piece I wrote about eschatology (end times) some years back. I disagree with the current popular understanding dispensational premillennialism, which did not exist before the 1820’s. I believe that view of end times is in error. There are three other views of end times that, unlike dispensationalism, have ancient origins and defenders in the church. I hold to a postmillennial/optimistic amillennial perspective.

I don't defend that position so much in this letter. I do try to show that the kingdom as it is taught in Scripture doesn't fit into a premillennial mode.

I am, as always, interested in your thoughts on this matter.

Soli Deo Gloria,

I believe it can be shown that the "kingdom" began at the first advent of Jesus Christ. When Jesus came He ushered in the Kingdom then. Here are only some examples.

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matt.3:1, 2)

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt 4:17)

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people
. (Matt. 4:23)

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:10) (Note: This is from the Lord’s prayer. Jesus shows that we are to pray for the Kingdom)

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matt. 9:35)

But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. (Matt. 12:28) (Note: The Kingdom has come. It is here now, if this is so, then the Kingdom it is not what our dispensational brethren think it is.)

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: (Matt. 13:31) (Note: A mustered seed is very small, but over time it grows and becomes a great bush. )

Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Matt. 13:33) (Note: The same is true a little leaven in a loaf. It will, over time, expand and fill the whole loaf (again the kingdom starts small) and becomes great.

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt. 16:19) (Note: The Church has the keys of the Kingdom now.

Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matt. 16:28) (Note: All those folks that Jesus was speaking to are long since dead. Was Jesus wrong, are did they see him come into His kingdom? I think the He came into His kingdom way back then.)

To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: (Acts 1:3) (Note: After the resurrection Jesus is still teaching His disciples about the kingdom.)

And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. (Acts 20:25) (Note: This verse comes from period that takes place well into the New Testament era, and still the emphasis is on the Kingdom. In the quote above, Paul is speaking to the elders from the church at Ephesus. He is on his way to Jerusalem and may never see these men again. He stresses that he, Paul, preached the Kingdom.

And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. (Acts 28:23)
Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him. (Acts 28:30-31) (Note: Here we see that in the very last verse in the book of Acts Paul is still preaching the Kingdom.)

That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. (1 Thes. 2:12) (Note: Christians are now called to be in his kingdom.)

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 1:9) (Note: Notice, in the very first chapter of Revelation John, like those to whom he is writing, is already entered both the tribulation period and the kingdom.)

I quote all of the above (and this is only a fraction of what is written on the Kingdom in the New Covenant) to show that John the Baptist and Jesus both came preaching the nearness of the Kingdom. Some Christians today say that the Church Age is a parentheses and the Kingdom age has been pushed back, because Israel rejected her King. But there is a problem with this because the Kingdom is stressed throughout the New Covenant writings, and we are specifically told that we Christians are in the Kingdom even now, and the Church has in its possession the very keys of the Kingdom (those keys are the Gospel).

The kingdom is not future it is now. It started like a mustered seed, very small indeed, but is growing and will be great.

One more matter. When is the Judgement? It is on the last day, the end of history. Look at what Paul says to Timothy "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;" (2 Tim. 4:1) Christ will judge the living and the dead at His coming and not 1,000 years after he has come. His coming is the end of history and the consummation of His Kingdom.
With this said we have barely scratched the surface of this topic. I believe these things all point away from the premillennial position, but there are much more important items that come into play that we have yet to touch on. One of the most important has to do with how we are to understand the relationship of the church and Israel, but I have said enough for now.

Soli Deo Gloria,


gchrisw said...


I’m a former resident New Orleans and my father grew up in Port Sulfur, but I ended up taking the path that the reformers rejected. Your explanation falls well within accepted Catholic interpretations of the coming of the kingdom. We have an expression that captures the tension in the citation you published above, “already but not yet.” As we understand it the kingdom is our participation in the life of the Holy Trinity, done in part now through faith, and which we will participate in more fully in the “fullness” of the kingdom. It is also through our participation in the sacramental life of the Church, most prominently Baptism and Eucharist that we are incorporated into the body of the Church through which God administers his grace. So I’m in full accord with you, the kingdom is indeed here and now, but it is also yet to be realized fully by us.

This in-between-time was believed by the Church fathers, Augustine, Jerome, Gregory the Great, to be the time which God collect the chosen who will fill his kingdom. Once the number has been reached the end will be upon us. I believe that there is something to this, particularly if we believe that God has a plan in mind, and that human history isn’t merely an exercise in futility, but it is the time in which we make our choices. So there is an aspect of “becoming” about the kingdom as this is the explanation for the continuance of history.

This tension of the “already and not yet” also plays itself out in the lives of the faithful who exist and rejoice in the “already” and simultaneously must wait in patience for the “not yet.” It is also a tension in our ecclesiology as we perceive the Church to be both divine, i.e., witnessing to the manifestation of the kingdom here and now, and simultaneously recognizing that the Church is also, in part, human, and so must wait for its fulfillment and fullness in the “not yet.”

Thanks for your comments, I hope Katrina wasn’t too devastating for you.


Louise said...

Your good comments remind me of some items I found on Google including "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," and "Deceiving and Being Deceived" - all written by Dave MacPherson. Louise

gchrisw said...

Guess you S. Louisiana Cajuns don't have quite the pallate for spices that we city folk do.