I’ve made it no secret that I have issues with the way that both dispensationalists and covenant theologians approach the scriptures. My last post probably had CT scratching their heads wondering if I had even read the epistles which state that there is only one covenant people of God. There is only one people of God, but this doesn’t override the nature of the Messianic Kingdom. God has a plan to redeem this earth and it involves the establishment of a Messianic Kingdom here on earth which lasts for 1000 years, but will ultimately last forever and ever. The one people of God are all spiritual children of Abraham (not Israel) who was a pagan Gentile who lived by faith, Galatians 3:7-9. In Abraham’s seed, all nations will be blessed as Abraham has become the father of many nations, Romans 4:16-18. Do you see the need for multi-nationalism for that promise to be fulfilled? Abraham was not an Israelite, he was pre-Israel. The induction of Gentiles into the kingdom in the new testament did not negate the existence of nations, but affirmed our Creator’s love for all nations.
This post will probably run against the dispensationalist way of thinking. Dispensationalists tend to divide the scriptures into neat little categories. They believe that there are certain time periods which are of different dispensations. They tend to draw lines putting everything on one side of the line in one dispensation and everything on the other side in another dispensation. Reading things in context is a great way to study the Bible. But, the problem I have is that the Bible is one continuous story. So my lens that I’m looking through as I write this post is the lens of continuity which runs contrary to mainstream dispensationalism. I will say that Progressive Dispensationalism has reconciled many of the inconsistencies, so many PD will probably enjoy this post. To borrow a word from CT, this post will have the meta-narrative theme woven throughout.
There is continuity between the Messianic Kingdom as the psalms proclaim and the Kingdom of God as Jesus proclaimed.
When John the Baptist and then Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God as being at hand, this was not some new teaching just pulled out of thin air. They quoted OT principles which related to the Messianic Kingdom as proclaimed in the psalms. Jesus presented the example of what life in the Messianic Kingdom would be like, Matthew 10:7-8. Demons would be powerless. Sickness would be cured, (see Isaiah 35:5-6 which is in a Messianic Kingdom passage.) The dead would come to life. There would always be enough to eat. Enemies would begin to love each other. There would be unlimited forgiveness. Instead of not committing adultery, in the kingdom no one even looks at another with lust in their heart. What a kingdom!
When John the Baptist spoke of judgement, Matthew 3:1-12, Luke 3:3-20, he prophesied as the last OT prophet, Luke 16:16. He culminated the prophecies of all the law and prophets pronouncing the ultimate judgement upon anyone who rejected the One concerning whom he preached, Jesus. The axe at the root of the trees, the purging of the threshingfloor, and the fire unquenchable, these powerful metaphors served to prompt Israel to repent in light of the coming Messianic judgement. All this was embodied in the phrase, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
As Jesus appeared on the scene, He continued preaching the kingdom of God. When He sent out the twelve and seventy, He commanded them to preach that the kingdom of God had come near to whomever they preached, Luke 9:2, 10:9. The kingdom of God was present in the ministry of Jesus, Luke 11:20. The harlots were entering the kingdom of God by repentance, Matthew 21:28-32, and that before the religious of the day. These were repenting and entering the Messianic Kingdom by faith in advance of the judgement which would serve as its harbinger. So while the Messianic Kingdom was not established by the Messiah, the invitation to enter it by repenting in faith that it would come was preached through what we know as the gospel of the kingdom.
This believing remnant of Israelites continued through the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Messiah. When Messiah sent the Holy Spirit of Messiah, this remnant was bathed in the essence of the kingdom of heaven or the Messianic Kingdom, II Corinthians 2:14-17. They truly practiced the ways of the kingdom in Acts 2:42-47. There was no need for greed as they had all things in common. If any of their congregation had a need, another stepped forward to meet that need. Later as Gentiles entered into this fellowship, the sharing increased beyond the borders of other countries, Acts 11:27-30, 12:25, and Acts 24:17, Romans 15:25-27, I Corinthians 16:3, II Corinthians 8:13-15. Truly those in the assembly (the church) were living by the ways of the Messianic Kingdom in advance of its full coming. Those in the church are living proof that the kingdom is a reality. We as Messianic Gentiles should so accurately reflect life in the kingdom that those who view our lives should be able to see another kingdom as we live out its principles of kindness, forgiveness, and generosity. Yet as we live out these kingdom laws we preach that God commands all men everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30. The message of repentance in order to enter the kingdom has not changed.
There is continuity between the current kingdom work and the kingdom come.
The current work of the kingdom of God through the church is directly related to the Messianic Kingdom. Our faithfulness now will result in positions of authority in the Messianic Kingdom, or should I say, the Christian Kingdom. Basically, we are determining how much authority we are worthy of in that kingdom by our present conduct. Consider the following scriptures.
Rule over 10 cities. Luke 19:11-27 is a parable that Jesus told because many thought that the kingdom of God would immediately appear when Jesus arrived at Jerusalem. Instead of the kingdom of God (the Messianic Kingdom) immediately appearing, Jesus taught of an interim period. This period in time would be characterized by ten servants working for the kingdom in His absence before the kingdom is established. When the nobleman in the parable reappears having received the kingdom (that means He has now been proclaimed the King) he reckons with his ten servants. Each of the ten servants was given the same resources yet some labored more diligently than others. Those who labored more diligently were given more authority in the kingdom. He states that the servant had done well and would “have authority over ten cities”. The parable teaches that the servant received a position of authority within the Messianic Kingdom because of his faithfulness in the nobleman’s absence. This is contrasted with the laziness of the one who simply buried his mina in the ground. The application is simple. Our faithfulness in the absence of Messiah will determine our position of authority within the Messianic Kingdom. Note also the parallel that Jesus leaves this earth, comes back to this earth, and establishes His kingdom here on this earth with His servants in positions of authority.
To him that overcomes. The overcomers in Revelation 2-3 are promised certain rewards if they overcome the trials of this world. It behooves us to look at these rewards. In Revelation 2:7 we have the reward of being able to eat from the tree of life. This may seem heavenly at first because this tree is said to be located in the paradise of God, but at the end of Revelation we see a city descend from heaven to earth with the tree of life in the midst of that city, Revelation 21:2, 22:2. In Revelation 2:26-27 we have the reward of authority over the nations. It is mentioned in the same context of Jesus ruling over the nations with a rod of iron. That is here on earth and not in heaven. Revelation 3:12 mentions the temple of God, but it is in the same context as the New Jerusalem which is said to come down from heaven. So the reward will be given in the city here on earth where God’s presence is known since God’s presence is the temple, Revelation 21:22. Revelation 3:21 shows that those who overcome will share in the throne of Jesus. In each of these instances there is a reward in the Messianic Kingdom for those who overcome the trials of this world. Again, there is continuity between our current faithfulness in the midst of trials and our rewards in the Messianic Kingdom.
The saints will judge the world. I Corinthians 6:2-3 is the text. The context is that some in the church were going to the secular authorities for matters between believers. Paul admonishes them because they did not apprehend their authority for dealing with the matters themselves. Notice Paul does not give them the go ahead to take secular authority in their own hands, but with matters of correction, forgiveness, and reconciliation Paul pointed to their future positions as judges of this cosmos. Because they will be appointed to such lofty positions in the Messianic Kingdom, they had authority to do what God had already commanded them. Do you see the continuity between our authority as believers now and our authority to judge the cosmos and angels in the age to come? Paul saw it and proclaimed it.
We make a great error when we believe we cannot affect this world for the coming Messianic Kingdom because this world is slated for destruction. It is true that a judgement is coming and many things will not survive. Our kingdom work will survive the coming fire.
There is one point that I agree with Dispensationalists on. The nation of Israel will enter the Kingdom of God as a nation at some point in time in the future. The nation of Israel had the opportunity to enter the kingdom of God at the first advent, but failed because of her hardness of heart. The LORD foresaw this and ordained that through Israel’s rejection of her Messiah, Gentiles would be saved. This rejection of the Messiah is not permanent. There will come a day when the prophecies will be fulfilled just as they were written, Isaiah 49:5-7, Jeremiah 23:3-8, Ezekiel 36:22-38, Daniel 9:24-27, Hosea 3:4-5, Joel 3:15-17, Amos 9:14-15, Obadiah 20-21, Micah 4:1-8, Nahum 1:15, Zephaniah 3:14-20, Zechariah 8:20-23, Malachi 3:1-4. The voice of the prophets sings in unison that Israel is God’s chosen nation destined to be the center of the Messianic Kingdom. This does not mean Gentile exclusion but Gentile inclusion. The nation of Israel will be Christianized, and then other nations may follow. That’s the nature of the Messianic Kingdom.
Where I disagree is on a kingdom postponement theory. God’s plan was not postponed by the rejection of the Messiah, but confirmed and advanced. The cross was not the second option but the entire reason why Jesus came. Jesus came proclaiming His kingdom of forgiveness, healing, humility, community, and generosity. Most of the religious rejected these ideas thereby rejecting Messiah’s kingdom. But that didn’t stop the LORD and His disciples from advancing God’s kingdom plan to the next step. We still proclaim the message of the kingdom knowing that its fullness here on earth is inevitable.
More to come…
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman