It’s the End of the World As We Know It – The Millennium and the Kingdom

13Jan12

Let Your Kingdom Come

I remember my 16th birthday quite vividly. Well, actually I don’t remember anything about my 16th birthday except the royal blue FIAT Spider 850 convertible sitting in our driveway. It was mine, or it was going to be, later that afternoon after I passed my driver’s test.

Three hours later she was mine, all mine. Except of course when the head gasket had it’s monthly blowing and when the tank reached empty. She was good for getting me to and from work, school and Church.

Ah, sweet freedom!

At that time I was also experiencing the freedom of making some choices regarding Church as well. I decided to use my new wheels to visit Youth Groups at other Churches in the area. It wasn’t that I had anything against the Youth group of the Church I was raised in, I just wanted to meet new people…(read girls!)

I knew all the girls at my Youth Group pretty well, and, unfortunately for me, they knew me as well! So being raised a Baptist I thought it might be a good time to look around and see what other churches had to offer. Assemblies of God. Calvary Chapel. Quaker. Four Square. I was an equal opportunity Church hopper.

I stumbled across a Presbyterian Church in my neighborhood and decided to visit a Church with a strong historical perspective and deeply entrenched theological underpinnings.

Ok…her name was Keri!

Anyway, since I was raised in a non-liturgical Church with no predetermined rituals or printed liturgy (we had a bulletin) I was quite surprised to experience a Church service where certain aspects of the service were done over and over, every week.

Along with the recitation of the Apostles Creed this Presbyterian Church also sang the Lord’s Prayer every week. I knew it by heart so there was no trouble that it wasn’t sung from a hymnal, projector orand printed insert in the bulletin. But one thing I did note was that the words from that passage of Scripture began to be ingrained in my heart and mind.

But they, in some way, did not make sense given my passion for Dispensational eschatology and the views that went along with that view. What in the world did Jesus mean when He prayed…

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…on Earth AS it is in HEAVEN”

                                                                                                  

As we launch into our discussion of the Millennial positions in more detail it is important to flesh out an idea that was introduced in a previous chapter. The concept in question is the interchangeable use of the term Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God and the Millennial Kingdom. Often the term is simplified as simply “the Kingdom.”

This interchangeable usage causes quite a bit confusion as when a particular speaker, author, theologian or prophecy expert uses the term, the Kingdom; the audience will quite often pour their own, preconceived definition into the usage. The presupposed definition will then cause more confusion than enlightenment.

Before directly discussing the controversy and differences among adherents of the different Millennial positions and their view on the “kingdom” it should be dealt with first the proposition made, primarily by Dispensationalist, that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are two different and distinct kingdoms.

Dispensationalists, primarily traditional Dispensationalist like CI Scofield and Lewis Sperry Chafer, argue that the Kingdom of God is the rule of God over everything in the universe and is a demonstration of His utter and complete sovereignty. The Kingdom of Heaven, on the other hand, is the institution of the Kingdom of God on earth through the initiation of the Kingdom through Israel of the Old Testament.

This Kingdom of Heaven (earthly rule of God through His administrators) was offered to Israel by John the Baptist (Matt 3:1,2) and Jesus (Matt 4:17) in the first century. This offer was rejected and, according to Dispensationalism, was postponed until the Millennium, or thousand year reign of Christ. This time is when the original Davidic Kingdom promise will be fulfilled.

Davidic Kingdom promise? Really? Can this be anymore confusing?

Well, in an attempt to simplify let’s consider the Davidic promise and how it relates to our discussion at hand. First let us consider the initial promise given to David that one would sit upon his throne.

Psalm 132:11 The Lord swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.

So here the patriarch David is given a promise that one who would come from his lineage would sit upon his throne. This appears to be more than simply stating that one of David’s actual, biological sons would be king of Israel. This has more of a prophetic tone and is confirmed later by the prophet Isaiah in the 9th Chapter of Isaiah.

Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Because this passage was not literally fulfilled in the way many modern prophetic experts expected that fulfillment to take place, we are taught by Dispensationalism that the Davidic Kingdom promise which would usher in and maintain the Kingdom of Heaven, is postponed until the Millennial Kingdom which, it is argued, will be a very “Jewish” kingdom, complete with a rebuilt temple, ceremonial sacrifices and a reinstitution of Old Testament theocratic law. This is when, we are told, Jesus will literally and physically reign on Earth as King, thus fulfilling the promise made to David. This means that the Kingdom of Heaven is a Jewish Kingdom that will find it’s fulfillment in the Millennium.

This leads to two areas that must be dealt with, at least on a cursory level, before we can continue our discussion on Millennial positions. This is to help the reader better understand the problems with the above position despite its apparent very logical explanation. The first is the use of the terms Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God and their usage within the Gospels. The second area that must be dealt with is how the New Testament writers view this David Kingdom promise.

Here I must state without equivocation that there are two rules for all interpretive difficulties that we must always follow. The first is the we must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture and second, that we must interpret the Old Testament through the brighter lens of the New Testament.

The first problem arises when the proponent attempts to argue that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are two different things. The Biblical case is simply lacking and is only presupposed and promoted to help alleviate other issues related to this view. If the proponent can show there are differences then they can make the claims appear more logical and Biblical.

But what is the Biblical usage of these two terms?

JUST THE FACTS MAAM!

The term, Kingdom of Heaven, is actually exclusive to the book of Matthew. Because of Matthew’s very “Jewish” nature it is assumed that the usage then must be related to this Jewish Kingdom where the Old Testament promises of a Kingdom find utter and complete fulfillment. The other Gospels use the term Kingdom of God which causes the same interpreters to assume it is referencing a different Kingdom. But let us consider the Biblical record.

First, it should be noted that Matthew also uses the term, Kingdom of God. Not only that, but within a single context Matthew uses BOTH terms and uses them interchangeably.

Matt 19:23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Note how Matthew easily uses both terms interchangeably with no confusion, no change and no clarification. There is no qualifying that these two identical terms mean something completely different.

And remember how the term Kingdom of Heaven is supposed to relate to the coming Jewish-like kingdom of the Millennium? This would mean that the Kingdom should exclusively be for the Jews and cannot and should not be transferable. It could be postponed as the Dispensationalist claim, but it should not be able to be seen as transferred to anyone else.

Conversely, if the above is not true, the Kingdom of Heaven itself is not postponed; it is not exclusively for the descendants of Abraham; and there is then no separation between the Church and Israel.

With the above in mind and taking into consideration that Matthew uses the terms interchangeably, let us consider another passage from Matthew’s gospel.

Matt 21: 33“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

 35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

 38“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

 40“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

 41“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

 42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
” ‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone[h];
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’[i]?

 43“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”[j]

 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them.

So, here we have the Kingdom of God as being related to the earthly kingdom that was promised to the Jews. Matthew does not use the term Kingdom of Heaven as he does in similar passages to describe that Kingdom, but rather the term Kingdom of God. Matthew then notes that Jesus told the Pharisees that this promised Kingdom (Heaven/God) was to be taken from the Jews and given to another people (the Church) who would complete the work.

And to confirm there was no confusion regarding how this was to be understood, Matthew then claims that the Pharisees themselves actually understood that Jesus was taking this promised Kingdom away from them and giving that Kingdom to another people.

To make the point even clearer let us consider a few parallel passages in which Matthew uses the term Kingdom of Heaven the other Gospel writers use the term Kingdom of God. This should undoubtedly show that Biblically speaking these terms are interchangeable.

Matt 11: 11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.

Luke 7: 28I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

Matt 13:  11He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.

Mark 4: 11He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables

Matt 13: 24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field

Mark 4:  26He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground.

There are many more instances like the ones shown above (compare Matthew 13:31 with Mark 4:30 and Luke 13:18; Matthew 13:33 with Luke 13:20; Matthew 18:3 with Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16; and Matthew 22:2 with Luke 13:29)  where the Gospel writers clearly have no problem interchanging the two terms. The reader then must follow the rule of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture and see that there is no need to separate the terms and that one cannot continue to claim that they reference two different ideas.

Now, in regards to how the New Testament writers view and interpret the Davidic Kingdom promises, it must be noted that there is no plain teaching in Scripture anywhere that denotes a postponing of the Kingdom promises on any account, whether the term in Heaven, God or Davidic Kingdom.

Let’s first consider how the Old Testament prophets taught when the Kingdom would be initiated. Again remember that Scripture does not allow for the postponing of the Kingdom and any attempt to infer and interject a postponement of sorts is based on the necessity of a particular system of interpretation, not based on any clear Biblical revelation.

First, let us consider the promise of the birth of Christ found in the pages of the book of Isaiah. This popular Christmas passage gives clear indication as to the initiating time of the Kingdom. You will also note that this same promise regarding the initiating of the Kingdom (timing) is also related to the Davidic Kingdom.

Isa 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, [b] Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 7 Of the increase 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.

Note how the prophecy states that this Kingdom begins at the birth of the Child. It doesn’t state that He will be born and then, when He comes again a second time, then the government related to David’s throne will be established. Also note the prophecy states that His government will have no end. Premillennialist, especially Dispensationalist, limit the reign of Christ to a one thousand year time limit. This passage cannot account for this idea as they argue for a limitless, or eternal kingdom with no end!

One other passage worth considering at this time would be the famous image of a statue found in Daniel 2. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream in which he saw a statue representing four different kingdoms in history. He is confused by this dream and Daniel, the Israelite, is the only one who can interpret this dream.

Dan 2:  31 “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

Those four kingdoms in question are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. Rome, though apparently strong, is actually quite weak because of its internal divisions that are found in the image of the toes. At the time of the fourth kingdom (Rome) a final kingdom represented by rock not cut with hands destroys the fourth kingdom, and with it all the kingdoms of the world.

What is this Kingdom called?

Dan 2: 44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever

It is the Kingdom of the God of Heaven.

Again, there is no Biblical warrant to create a postponement of this kingdom as it clearly shows it is a kingdom that is birthed at the time of the fourth kingdom, which is Rome.

Now that we see the Old Testament idea that the Kingdom is birthed at the first coming of Christ, what are we to do with the idea that it appears Jesus did not sit on the throne of David, thus not fulfilling that part of the Kingdom known as the Davidic promise.

Here the help of the New Testament writers will hopefully make this clear. In fact, the answer comes through the words of the first great sermon of the Church by the Apostle Peter in the second chapter of the book of Acts.

Acts 2:   29“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.

Peter here is referencing the previously discussed Davidic Kingdom promise that from his own body would come one who would sit on his throne as ruler of his kingdom. But what Peter says next should hopefully cause one to reconsider any possibility of awaiting a future Davidic Kingdom.

Acts 2:  31Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet
.”

Peter plainly argues that the promise given to David is found in the resurrection, ascension and enthronement of Jesus Christ at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Those points are in bold above and should be made clear. The throne by which Jesus rules and reigns as King and fulfills the Davidic Kingdom promise made by God to David is located in Heaven and He sits until all of His enemies are destroyed.

Daniel addresses this as well and Jesus confirms it in the Gospel. First, Daniel describes the ascension of Jesus UP into heaven after His death and resurrection and clearly points to the timing of when and where Jesus receives His kingdom.

Dan 7:  13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Note that Daniel states that Jesus received His kingdom at His ascension. At that point He received all authority, glory and power. And that same kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom (Isa 9 and Dan 2) that will never be destroyed. Also note that the “location” of His ruling and reigning is in Heaven at the right hand of the Father. He does need to return physically to earth to set up His kingdom!

It is this promise that Jesus reserves for Himself during His confrontation with the High Priest in Matthew 26.

Matt 26:  64“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Despite the fact that many readers assume Jesus is referencing the Second Coming of Christ, it is clear within the context that simply cannot be the case.

Several points here worthy of consideration. First is that Jesus states that the High Priest would see this event. This event is His enthronement at the right hand of the Father. His coming on the clouds is one of “ascending” not descending as Jesus here is quoting from the previously discussed passage in Daniel 7. We know this both by the use of the term Son of Man coming on the clouds of Heaven, which was an “ascending” movement and by the reaction of the High Priest himself.

At this point the High Priest rips his robe and declares that Jesus must die because He had declared Himself to be the Son of Man of Daniel 7 which the Jewish rulers knew was the Messiah and prophesied King of the Davidic promise.

So, this all to say the following:

  • There is no Biblical warrant for separating the terms Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven.
  • There is no Biblical warrant for inserting a postponement of the Kingdom as Scripture shows it was initiated at Jesus first coming with His coronation taking place at His ascension.
  • The Davidic Kingdom finds fulfillment in the first century death, resurrection and enthronement of Christ in the Heavenlies.

Ironically the Dispensationalist appears to make the exact same mistake that the first century Jews were accused of doing. They were awaiting a physical, military, warrior-like Messiah that would arrive and make His throne in the Holy City and rule over them. The Dispensationalist postpones that “type” of Kingdom into the future even though there is no Biblical case to be made for the view.

Also, there is a plethora of Scripture that point to the fact that the type of Kingdom expected by the Jews was not the kind of Kingdom the Lord had in mind. Jesus states the Kingdom is not of eating and drinking; not of military might; and not of this world.

So, what do we make of these Kingdom promises and in what way is the Kingdom a present reality if, in fact, it is not postponed to a literal Millennium in the near future?

It’s important to study and see how the New Testament writers and Jesus’ own words deal with this troubling and difficult topic. First we must note the “very soon” expectation of the Kingdom’s arrival.

Mark 1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.“

The mark passage above is not alone in announcing a very near arrival of the Kingdom during Jesus’ initial ministry.

  • ·  Matthew 3:2
    and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
  • ·  Matthew 4:17
    From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
  • ·  Matthew 10:7
    As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’
  • ·  Mark 1:15
    “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
  • ·  Luke 10:9
    Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is nearyou.’
  • ·  Luke 10:11
    ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.
  • ·  Luke 21:31
    Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

But the Scriptures do not stop with simply a proclamation of a near approaching Kingdom, but actually argue for the present reality of that Kingdom at the time when Jesus walked the earth in the first century. Note Jesus’ own words in Matthew’s gospel.

Matt 12:28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you…

Here Jesus had just cast out a demon. The Jewish leaders claimed He did so through the power of Satan. Jesus not only rebuked them for this claim but also claimed to have bound Satan in order to accomplish His work (v. 29). Jesus argues, then, that one proof of the Kingdom coming and literal presence would be the casting out of demons through the Spirit of God; an action He had just completed!

Not only that, but Jesus elsewhere argued that not only would the Kingdom appear, but that it would do so with great power and before the death of the Apostles. This is to show that it was not just a glimpse of the Kingdom, but the Kingdom arriving in power that took place in the first century.

Mark 9:1 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.

Jesus makes a bold proclamation here promising that there were those standing in His midst that would not die before the Kingdom arrived, and arrived in power! This present reality is both an earthly and heavenly reality. This is something members of the true Church currently participate in at salvation.

Col 1: 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son

Paul here is not arguing that one day Christ would receive a Kingdom and that one day He would allow us participate in that Kingdom. It was a present reality in Paul’s day for those believers just as much as it is for believers today! We are transferred into Jesus’ present Kingdom (Dan 7), not promised to be present in some future one.

The book of Revelation declares this present reality as well in chapter five within the vision of the seven sealed scroll. Jesus is presented the scroll of seven seals and the multitudes around Him worship Him and declare that those for whom He died were then present within His kingdom. That was and continues to be a present reality.

Rev 5: 9And they sang a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”

This present reality cannot and should not be overlooked. Even if one tries to futurize the Revelation passage above it should be noted that the events in question and referenced are well before the Premillennial Millennium is instituted and their reign neither is nor postponed as it states He has made them (past or present tense) a Kingdom.

Many of these issues will be addressed and re-addressed throughout the pages of this book as the theme of the present reign of Christ is unavoidable when studying the topic of eschatology.

This, though, should not disturb the reader, but rather should uplift and encourage the reader. This is a glorious reality that must not be overlooked. His Church – His Bride – is a wonderful present Kingdom reality! He reigns through His people in His kingdom and fulfills the promise of His own prayer…

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…on EARTH as it is in HEAVEN!”

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