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The Spiritual Nature of the Kingdom
From "House Divided : The Breakup of Dispensational Theology"
False Prophecies for Fun and Prophet | The "Transitional Verses" in Matthew 24 | Recent Developments in the Eschatological Debate | As Lightening Cometh From the East | The Spiritual Nature of the Kingdom | Apocalypse Then | Book Review: Revelation: Four Views | A Brief Theological Analysis of Full Preterism
Despite House and Ice’s confusion, the Scripture is quite clear regarding the spiritual nature of the kingdom. It is a distinctive of dispensationalism that asserts Christ offered to Israel a literal, political, earthly kingdom, but that the Jews rejected it, thus causing its postponement. This view of the kingdom is totally erroneous.
As a matter of fact, it was just that sort of kingdom that the first-century Jews wanted and that Christ refused: "When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone" (John 6:15).
The disciples themselves missed His point for the most part, while He was on earth. This is evidenced in the Emmaus Road en-counter after the crucifixion, where these disciples lament: "But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done" (Luke 24:21). We should note that Jesus rebuked them for such foolishness: "Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:25-27). They expected political deliverance and glory to come to Israel through this Messiah.c But Jesus spoke to them of the true meaning of the prophecies of the Old Testament, showing them that He must suffer and then enter His resurrected, heavenly glory.
In response to the Pharisees, Christ specifically declared that the kingdom does not come visibly and gloriously (as the dispensational construction would have it!): "And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20-21). Obviously a spiritual conception of the kingdom is here demanded, in contradiction to an Armageddon-introduced, earthly, political kingdom.
This is why Christ went about preaching what is termed the "gospel of the kingdom" (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mark 1:14-15). He proclaimed a redemptive, spiritual kingdom. Hence His being exalted to His throne leads to a spiritual effusion of grace, not the political establishment of an earthly government (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 2:30-35; 3:22-26; 8:12; Eph. 4:8-11).
A major accusation against Jesus was that He promoted a political kingdom in competition with Caesar’s empire. This explains why Jesus was concerned to discover the source of the accusation – He knew of the misconception of the Jews in this regard. His answer indicates that His is a spiritual kingdom:
Had He not presented His kingship in terms of meekness and lowliness and not of a conquering, political entity? "All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass" (Matt. 21:4-5). In illustration of the Emmaus Road confusion, John adds regarding this triumphal entry in fulfillment of prophecy that "these things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him" (John 12:15-16).
Paul picks upon and promotes the spiritual nature of the kingdom, when he writes that "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17). He disavows any carnal conception of the kingdom. Likewise does he speak of attaining an inheritance in the spiritual kingdom (the heavenly aspect of the kingdom) for those who are righteous (1 Cor. 6:9-10; 15:50; Gal. 5:21). He even says very plainly of the heavenly aspect of the kingdom: "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither cloth corruption inherit incorruption" (1 Cor. 15:50). How could it be that an earthly, political kingdom would hold forth no inheritance for flesh and blood people? It is in salvation that we are "delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:12-13).
1. Ibid., pp. 173, 279. Cp. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Academie/Zondervan,  1964), pp. 456-66.
2. In another connection House and Ice admit this problem with the disciples: "But as was almost always the case, they were wrong" (House and Ice, Dominion Theology, p. 271).
3. Cp. their hope that He would "redeem Israel" with the Old Testament declaration that God "redeemed" Israel by delivering them from Egypt to become an independent nation (Deut. 7:8; 9:26; 13:5; 15:15; 24:18; 1 Chron. 17:21; Mic. 6:4).
4. Surely it cannot be denied that at the resurrection and ascension Christ "entered His glory; which was evidenced by Pentecost (John 7:39; 12:16; 12:23; Acts 3:13). He is now the Lord of glory (cf. James 2:1; 1 Peter l:ll; 2 Peter 3:18; Heb. 2:9).
What do YOU think ?
Date: 08 Oct 2012
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