Dispensational Distortions – Kingdom Prophesies and the Church

05Jan12

We previously saw that the Church and the Kingdom are inter-related and that the Kingdom is not postponed – as Dispensationalist may have it – to some future, literal earthly reign of Christ, but rather found in the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:29-31). That act may called the institutionary moment of the Kingdom though it’s coming literally is introduced at His birth, and find completion at His consumating coming when His enemies are made His footstool (Psalm 110:1). That leaves us with how to tangle with the mass of “Kingdom prophesies” found throughout the New testament, especially Jesus’ words in the Gospels.

With that in mind I would like to walk through three of the most popular “kingdom” prophesies in the New Testament. Many are found in the book of Matthew and usually begin, “…the Kingdom of Heaven (God) is like…”

The following three are found in Matthew 13 and say quite a bit about the kingdom, it’s presence, it’s growth and it’s reach. These are passages of expectation. These are not wishful thinking, positive confession, liberal theology passages. These are not only “expective” in nature they WILL be fulfilled because they are the words of God spoken by Jesus Christ. To minimalize and redeuce them to “spiritual” application only – as is the want of many amillennialist – does a disservice to the intention and context of the passages.

Matthew 13:31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”

This kingdom is one that starts incredibly small and grows enormous and – please don’t miss this application – usefull! How much smaller could the kingdom be in it’s earthly origination than 12 – actually 11 – despondent, scared and inadequate men. But through the work of the Holy Spirit and the word of God it grew and continues to grow today, despite the naysayers and humanist attacks.

Also important is the idea that the Church/Kingdom has a purpose. Here it is described as birds of the air finding a place to rest and nest. Some in the Dispensational camp have actually tried to argue that the birds in question are actually Satan’s workers that come and disrupt the kingdom. These are pesky intruders and show that the Kingdom/Church is in disarray and littered with the enemy.

Really?

Is that what the passage states? No! Again no! The passage simply states the growth of the kingdom is such that it will attract the birds of the air who are looking for rest and they will be able to perch upon it’s branches. It also shows the relative groth and strength of the Kingdom as it is able to provide for and give rest to those who need it!

This passage is directly followed by another quite similar passage. Where the first deals with the relative size and growth of the Kingdom physically, the second has a picture that deals more with the influence of the Kingdom.

Matthew 13:33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.“

Some, primarily Dispensationalist, have tried to argue that the leaven is evil and that this verse shows that the Kingdom/Church will be filled with evil and hypocrisy throughout it’s lifespan. This is because leaven in the OT is seen as representing evil (though not always). Again a horrible misrepresentation of the intent and context of the passage.

The passage does not state that the Kingdom of heaven has leaven in it…it states that the Kingdom of Heaven IS leaven! The Lord here is using a common metaphor to describe the nature of influence the Church will have throughout history. What does leaven do when it is introduced to dough? It CONSUMES the dough. Every molecule of dough is influenced and reacts to the leaven when it comes in contact with it. The leaven moves in and through the dough and CHANGES the dough and what the bread will look like.

So it is with the Church and the Kingdom of Heaven. Throughout history there may be ebbs and flows of influence seen on society by the Church, but it never loses it’s influence and never stops being leaven. When the Gospel comes in contact with a society, that society will change. This is not a picture of growth like the previous passage, but one of influence and change.

So, the first two passages argue that the Kingdom in history will grow in size and in influence. As stated earlier there are ebbs and flows of both in history, but the Church/Kingdom has been and will be on a positive upward journey. It is foolish to take one snap shot of time and make statement like we hear today of the soon coming collapse of the Church. What would those alive at the time Christians being fed to the lions, dying in the plague, tortured in the Inquisition or persecuted right before the Reformation think about the future of the Kingdom. It would appear bleak. Many proclaim the same today. We are not, I argue, living in a post-Christian era…we are living in a pre-Reformation one!

And remember, the promise given to the Church is a great one. It is also the final one for this blog…

Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

For all the doomsayer peddling a negative and pessimistic Gospel, with it’s horrific view of the Church I say…even you will not prevail against the Church! This is the single greatest promise regarding the Church. Not only will the Church not succumb to the outside pressures of evil, humanism, postmodernism, etc…the Church will win and those forces will not prevail against the onslught of the Church!

Jesus can promise a growing and influencing Church because He is the head of that Church and has guaranteed it’s victory! The first two promises are assured because the third promise given! Yea, even the gates of hell will not prevail!!!

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One Response to “Dispensational Distortions – Kingdom Prophesies and the Church”

  1. 1 Michael

    You bring up a good point on this one:

    “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”

    I guess I can see where folks could come up with the idea that the birds of the air are enemies of the church or something, but it seems to me that Jesus’ point in talking about the birds is merely to show how large the tree has become. I’ve got young trees out in the yard. When a bird makes a nest in one of these trees, we take it as a sign that the tree is becoming a “big tree” or a “real tree.” So Jesus is showing that here’s a small seed (how small: it’s the smallest of all seeds), that becomes large (how large: it’s the largest of the garden plants, a tree, large enough for birds to make their nests in it.

    I suppose if we really wanted to make anything out of the “birds of the air”…the angels make some sense…meaning that this humble seed of faith has now grown into a spiritual reality large enough to be of use to Heavenly hosts.


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