Chapter 11: Realization

Kenneth L Gentry

Narrated By: Aidan McGuire
Book: He Shall Have Dominion
Topics: ,


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Chapter Text

After John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)

The Scriptures, being an infallible and unified revelation of God, continue the prophetic victory theme into the New Testament. This is despite the charges by some amillennialists that the postmillennial hope cannot be sustained in the New Testament: “Whatever support postmillennialism may draw from its own interpretation of the Old Testament, we question seriously whether the New Testament gives any valid encouragement to this theory.”[1] As I shall show, such charges are wholly without merit. There is ample witness to the postmillennial hope in the New Testament revelation. While dispensationalism’s Zionistic approach to the kingdom promises of the Old Testament runs into serious problems in the New Testament, such is not the case with postmillennialism.

On the one hand, it seems to be the case that premillennialism finds its greatest strength in the Old Testament, when divorced from the New. This is undeniably the situation with dispensational premillennialism. On the other hand, amillennialism garners its strongest arguments from the New Testament, when interpreted apart from the New Testament’s Old Testament foundations. Postmillennialism alone relates both the Old and New Testament revelation into one unified eschatological framework. To test my assertion, let us then turn our attention to the New Testament record.


The Birth of the King

In paradigmatic, biblico-theological fashion, Luke, in the first chapter of his gospel, draws upon and arranges the Old Covenant expectations that were uttered in response to the announcement of Christ’s birth. As he brings the Old Testament expectations over into the New Testament, he rephrases the prophecies in terms of their New Covenant fruition. Interestingly, most of these are in poetic-song format, indicating the joyousness of the expectations.

In the angelic annunciation to Mary of the nativity of her Son, Christ is promised the Davidic throne of rule, which will know no end: ” ‘He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end’ ” (Luke 1:32-33). This is surely an “echo of the sublime prediction” in Isaiah 9:6-7.[2] We should remember from our earlier study that Isaiah 9:6-7 ties kingdom dominion in with the birth of the king as historically successive realities. As I will show later, Daniel 7:13 equates Christ’s coronation with His historical ascension leading to His supra-historical session. Daniel 2 also speaks of His kingdom coming in the days of the fourth kingdom, Rome (Dan. 2:40-45). The pattern of the New Testament is: humiliation followed immediately by exaltation (John 7:39; Luke 24:26; 1 Pet. 1:11). Later I will show that He presently rules as Messianic king and that His rule will extend into eternity. But we must recognize that Christ did receive “David’s” throne ordained in prophetic imagery (Acts 2:29-36; 3:13-15; 5:29-31; Rev. 3:7).

The reference in Luke 1:33 to Christ’s ruling over “the house of Jacob” is significant. Jacob was the father of the “twelve tribes of Israel.” Thus, this reference should be understood as alluding to the totality of the “Israel of God,” which includes all of the redeemed, Jew and Gentile alike. Luke’s companion, Paul, makes this especially clear (Gal. 3:29; 6:16; Eph. 2:12-22).[3]

Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) reverberates with the victory theme. In verses 47 and 48, she exalts the Lord as Savior, recognizing God’s glorious blessing upon her: “From this time on all generations will count me blessed.” Why this universal homage? Because “the Mighty One” (v. 49) has begun to move in history in a powerful way, using Mary for His glory. The prognostication is guided by the prophetic victory theme, not by despair, lamentation, and expectation of perpetual suffering. She recognizes that in the soon-coming birth of Christ, God will do “mighty deeds with His arm,” He will “scatter the proud” (v. 51). He will “bring down rulers” and “exalt those who are humble” (v. 52). He will fill “the hungry with good things” (v. 53). He will do it through His people (v. 54) in keeping with the Abrahamic Covenant (v. 55). There is absolutely no intimation of defeat here. Victory is representative: through God’s people.

Zacharias’ prophecy continues the glad tidings. He sees Christ’s birth as bringing tidings of victory for God’s people over their enemies (Luke 1:68-71). This, again, is in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant (v. 73; cf. Rom. 15:8-12). Christ is the sunrise that will “shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death” (vv. 78-79). Elsewhere this refers to the Gentiles (Isa. 9:1,2; Matt. 4:16). This light is later seen as a positive force, dispelling darkness in the present age (Rom. 13:11-13; 1 John 2:8). Because Christ has come, He will bring “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14a). It is His birth at His first coming that insures the peace on earth, not His second coming (although in the consummative New Earth this peace will come to perfect, eternal realization[4]).

The Approach of the Kingdom

In sure expectation of the fulfillment of the Old Covenant expectations and nativity prophecies, Christ’s ministerial appearance on the scene of history is introduced with a pronouncement of the nearness of the kingdom.

John Baptist, Christ’s divinely commissioned forerunner, preached “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). In Mark 1:14-15, Jesus took up the same theme: “And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.’ ” This is a very important statement. Let us note three crucial aspects of this declaration.

First, Christ asserts “the time” is fulfilled. What is “the time” to which He refers here? The Greek term employed is kairos, which indicates “the ‘fateful and decisive point,’ with strong, though not always explicit, emphasis… on the fact that it is ordained by God.[5] This “time” surely refers to the prophetically anticipated time, the time of the coming of David’s greater Son to establish His kingdom, for He immediately adds, “the kingdom of God is at hand.” Christ was sent by the Father in “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10),[6] to initiate the “favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:16-21).[7] This time is “the accepted time”/”the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). It is the very day righteous men and angels desired to see.[8]

Second, Christ dearly asserts that the time “is fulfilled.” Actually, a better translation of the verb tense and voice here (the perfect passive) would be: “[T]he time has been fulfilled.” Luke 4:21 is similar to Mark 1:14-15 in regard to the time fulfillment: “And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing: ” The perfect tense (peplerotai, “has come to fulfillment”) and emphatic position of “today” strongly emphasize that fulfillment has begun.[9] That which has begun to be fulfilled is Isaiah 61:1ff, from which Christ quotes. The “acceptable year of the Lord” had come.

Apparently John Baptist is significant for Christ as a sort of line of demarcation separating the fading kingdom-expectation era from the kingdom-fulfillment era, which begins dawning with John’s demise. Earlier, John noted of Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Jesus observes of John: “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matt. 11:11-14; cf. Mark 2:18-19; Luke 16:16).

Third, at this historical juncture – the beginning of His ministry – Christ clearly and pointedly says the kingdom is “at hand.” The root term (eggus) literally means “at hand.” The word is derived from the compounding of en (in, at) and guion (limb, hand).[10]

The time here introduced by Christ as “at hand” is later called “the now time” (2 Cor. 6:2; cf. Rom. 3:21-26; Eph. 3:10; 2 Tim. 1:9-10). John and Jesus announced it, but Jerusalem did not recognize the coming of “the time” (Luke 19:44; cf. Matt. 23:37). This is a great tragedy, for their pronouncement “summarized all that had been the object of Old Testament prophecy and of Israel’s expectation of the future from the oldest times…. ‘The time,’ i.e., the great turning-point of history, promised by God himself for the full revelation of his kingly glory; the time for the liberation of his people and the punishment of his enemies.”[11]

The early New Covenant biblical revelation of the kingdom, then, is that of its nearness in time, not of its distance. Jesus promised that some of His disciples would live to see it acting in great power in history: “There are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste of death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (Mark 9:1). Here “come” is “not, as the English words may seem to mean, in the act of coming (till they see it come), but actually or already come, the only sense that can be put upon the perfect participle here employed.”[12] Thus, His disciples were to expect its exhibition in power. It was not powerfully to evidence itself immediately, for many of His disciples would die before it acted in power. Yet it was to be within the lifetimes of others, for “some” standing there would witness it. This seems clearly to refer to the A. D. 70 destruction of the temple and removal of the Old Testament means of worship (cf. Heb. 12:25-28; Rev. 1:1, 3, 9). This occurred as a direct result of Jesus’ prophecies (John 4:21-23; Matt. 21:33ff; 23:31-34:34).

Such data as these set the stage for a clear elucidation of the victory theme. The long-awaited kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament era was about to break forth in history. Would its effect be wholly internal, limited to small pockets of the faithful? Or would it exhibit itself in powerful victory, transforming the mass of men in salvation, whole cultures by righteousness, and national governments for justice? I take the latter view.

The Establishment of the Kingdom

Because “the time” was “fulfilled” and the “kingdom of God” was “at hand,” we should expect its appearance in the gospel record. God determines the “times” (Dan. 2:21; Acts 1:7); the time had come. Clear and compelling evidence exists that the kingdom did in fact come in Christ’s ministry. Perhaps one of the “clearest proofs” in the gospel for the presence of the kingdom of heaven[13] is Matthew 12:28: “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” The truth is, Jesus did cast out demons by the Spirit of God. The protasis of this “if/then” statement being true, then the apodosis follows: “the kingdom of God is come.” The very fact that Satan’s kingdom was being invaded and his possessions (demoniacs) are being carried off by Christ (Matt. 12:25-29) is proof that the kingdom had come.[14]

In Luke 17:20-21, we read: “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, “See here! or “See there!” For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.’ ” Notice that to the Pharisees’ question as to “when” the kingdom should come, Christ spoke in the present tense: the kingdom is present. It is not awaiting a future, Armageddon-introduced manifestation; it exists now and among them, says Christ. Hence, even in Christ’s ministry, men were pressing into it (Luke 16:16).

The Triumphal Entry of Christ is interesting in this regard: “The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!’ Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt’ ” (John 12:12-15). Here Christ is not only declared to be “king,” but He accepts the public lauding of Himself as king, despite Pharisaic rebukes (Matt. 21:15-16), for it was in fulfillment of prophecy (Zech. 9:9).

During His trial and at the inquiry of Pilate, Christ specifically admits His kingship and the presence of His kingdom: ‘Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’ Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth’ ” (John 18:36-37a; cf. Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3).

Although He defines His kingdom as something other-worldly, rather than essentially political (as was Caesar’s kingdom),[15] He nevertheless indicates His kingdom is present: He speaks of “my kingdom” (v. 36a). He claims to have His own “servants” (even though they do not fight with sword to defend Him, v. 36b). He clearly states “I am king” (v. 37a). And, as we might expect, given our previous study of Mark 1:14-15, He states that it was for that very purpose He was born into the world (v. 37b)!


The Coronation of the King

A frequent refrain in the New Testament is that of the glorious and powerful enthronement of Christ, which was anticipated in His nativity prophecies. In a number of passages, He is spoken of as having ascended into heaven and having been royally seated at the right hand of the throne of Almighty God, Creator of the heavens and the earth.

The anticipation of this enthronement is clearly evident in His post-resurrection, pre-ascension Great Commission.[16] In Matthew 28: 18-20, we read a statement much in contrast to His earlier reservation and humility. No longer do we hear the familiar, “I can do nothing of Myself” (John 5:19, 30; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10). Rather, we hear a resoundingly powerful: “All authority has been given Me in heaven and on earth.” A mighty transformation has taken place in the ministry of Christ as a direct result of His resurrection. Satan has been conquered;[17] Christ has overcome the world[18] to be “declared the Son of God with power” (Rom. 1:3, 4). The Great Commission is truly a postmillennial commission.

The “all” in “all authority” is here used in the distributive sense: it speaks of every form of authority as being at His command. He does not just have the authority of moral persuasion among individuals and in the inter-personal realm. He also has authority in the ecclesiastical and familial, as well as in the societal, political, economical, etc., realms. As Revelation 1:5 says of Him, in the days when John wrote, He is “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” As Philippians 2:10 and Romans 14:11 teach, He has a Name above every name, unto which all will bow.

Following upon this claim of universal authority, He delivers to His few followers the obligation and plan for universal conquest: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (vv. 19-20). The command of the resurrected Christ who possesses “all authority” is for His followers to bring all nations’ as nations to conversion and baptism. The word ethne is employed rather than basileia to show that His concern is not for earthly political power. The word anthropos is passed by in demonstration of His concern for the transformation of all of culture, rather than just individuals. This is precisely the expectation of so many of the Old Testament prophecies, which foresaw all nations flowing to Mount Zion (e.g., Isa. 2:1-4; Mic. 4:1-4), and which anticipated “no more shall any man teach his neighbor, ‘Know the Lord, for they shall all know the Lord’ ” aero 31:34; cf. Isa. 11:9).[19]

Not only does He command them on the basis of universal authority, but He closes with the promise that He will be with them to the completion of their task (Matt. 28:20). There is no inkling of failure for the Church or the obscurity of the faith here. If we let the Old Testament passages speak for themselves, this Great Commission harmonizes perfectly with them. The victory motif is enhanced and emphasized by this command of the exalted Christ.

The very first of the enthronement passages in the post-resurrection age is Acts 2:30ff. This passage associates Christ’s enthronement with His exaltation, which began with His resurrection and proceeds to His session at the right hand of God. Concerning David’s prophecy, anticipating his seed who will sit upon the Davidic throne, Peter proclaims:

Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption…. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:30, 31, 33-36)

Here we learn that David’s prophecy regarding One Who was to sit on his throne was a prophecy of the “resurrection.” Thus, Christ suffered ultimate humiliation on the cross and in the tomb. But then His resurrection initiated His exaltation in preparation for His ascension to the right hand of the throne of God, the place of universal rule and authority. There He was “crowned with glory” (Heb. 2:9) to begin His rule[20] by wielding “all authority and power” (Matt. 28:18).[21]

A mighty transformation took place in the ministry of Christ as a direct result of His resurrection. The pouring out of the Spirit (Acts 2:34-36) was a powerful exercise of regal authority. This was a celebration of His coronation by the distributing of gifts to His subjects, in the manner of a warrior-king returning triumphantly to his capital city upon his victory over the enemy (Acts 2:33; Eph. 4:7-12).[22] It promised His divinely royal assistance to His people (Rom. 8:34).

Christ’s enthronement is an accomplished fact ever since His ascension. The confident refrain relative to His coronation and enthronement is replete in the New Testament record. Today we are not awaiting a future kingship of Christ: He is now on His throne. Indeed, in the New Testament, the most quoted or alluded to Old Testament passages is Psalm 110. That passage records God the Father’s word to Christ the Son: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” In various forms it appears sixteen times in the New Testament.[23] The sitting at the “right hand” of God is a semantic equivalent to sitting on God’s throne, as is evident in Revelation 3:21: “I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Contrary to Walvoord,[24] Revelation 3:21 does not require a millennial throne for Christ, which is both entirely future and wholly separate from God the Father’s throne. It no more refers to two distinct themes than Jesus’ statement to Mary in John 20:17 requires two distinct persons, when He speaks of being referred to by “my Father and your Father.” The throne of God and of Christ is one throne (Rev. 22:1, 3).

The Proclamation of the Kingdom

This is why there is so much “kingdom of God” proclamation in the New Testament.[25] In Acts 3:15, Peter preaches Christ as the “prince of life.” In Acts 5:31a, he asserts his obligation to disobey civil authority when it demands that he cease preaching Christ. His rationale is important: “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior.” The word “prince” here may literally be translated “leader, ruler, prince.”[26] He was exalted to become Prince or Ruler.

In Acts 17:7, we learn of the civil turmoil the early Christians were causing. The charge against them is most interesting and must be based in reality, even if largely misunderstood by the unbelieving populace. Just as the Jews accused Jesus of claiming to be a king,[27] so we read of the charge against His followers: “These all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.” Just as Jesus did in fact teach that He was a king (though in a non-political sense, John 18:36-37), his followers did the same.

According to Paul, God “put all things under his feet” (Eph. 1:22). God gave Him a title/name higher than any that is named (Phil. 2:9). In both of these places, Paul employs aorist tense verbs, which speak of an action at a point in past time, i.e., at His resurrection-ascension-enthronement. Hence, the scores of references to Him as “Lord” throughout the New Testament. In fact, “Christ is Lord” evidently becomes a creedal statement of sorts in the apostolic era.[28]

Paul speaks to the Colossians in a way quite agreeable to this view of the coming of the kingdom. “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:12, 13). Inarguably, He is speaking of Christ’s kingdom, for He calls it “the kingdom of his dear Son.” Just as clear is the fact that the “translation” of those saints nearly 2,000 years ago was considered a past fact, not a future prospect. Paul uses aorist tense verbs when he speaks of their being “delivered” and “translated”; he does the same in 1 Thessalonians 2:12. He even speaks of those who were his helpers in the ministry “for the kingdom of God” (Col. 4:10).

John follows suit in Revelation 1:6 and 9: “And [Christ] hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father…. I, John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” In these verses, John speaks of the Christians of the Seven Churches of Asia (Rev. 1:4, 11; 2-3) as already “made” (aorist tense) to be “a kingdom” (literally). In fact, John is already a fellow with them in the “kingdom” (Rev. 1:9).

The Building of the Kingdom

In light of the above, Christians now rule and reign with Him in the world. Ephesians 1:3 declares we are blessed “in heavenly places.” Ephesians 2:6 specifically teaches: “And He hath raised us up together, and made us sit [aorist tense] together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” We are, in the eyes of God, seated with Christ in heavenly places (which, in essence, is the idea of Rev. 20:4-6), i.e., in regal position.

As an interesting aside, we should note that the epistle to the Ephesians is virtually an anti-dispensational polemic by the Apostle Paul! Notice the teaching in Ephesians regarding matters antithetical to dispensationalism: Christ is held as presently in His position as a kingly Lord (1:19-22) and, as just pointed out, we are presently seated with Him (1:3; 2:6). Paul applies the application of “the promises of the covenant” (literally) to Gentiles in the Church (2:10-12). He emphasizes the removal of the distinction of the Jew and the Gentile (2:12-19). He refers to the building up of the Church as being the building of the temple (2:20-22[29]). The New Testament phase of the Church is said to have been taught in the Old Testament, although not with the same fullness and clarity (3:1-6). Christ’s kingly enthronement is celebrated by the pouring out of gifts upon His Church/kingdom (4:8-11) with the expectation of the historical maturation of the Church (4:12-14). Paul mentions the kingdom in a way that indicates its spiritual, rather than political, nature (5:5).[30]

In 1 Corinthians 3:21-22, Christians are shown their noble status: “For all things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours.” Elsewhere, the present kingly status of Christians is evidenced (e.g., Rom. 5:17; Col. 3:3; 1 Tim. 2:11, 12).

Interestingly, the initial excitement at Christ’s first proclamation of the kingdom saw men and women crowding their way into it. “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of Heaven has been taken by storm and eager men are forcing their way into it” (Matt. 11:12, J. B. Phillips’ translation). Calvin understood this as saying “so many sought it with burning zeal.[31]

The Kingdom’s Spiritual Nature

Despite dispensationalism’s confusion, the Scripture is quite clear regarding the spiritual nature of the kingdom. It is a distinctive of dispensationalism that asserts that Christ offered to Israel a literal, political, earthly kingdom, but that the Jews rejected it, thus causing its postponement.[32] This view of the kingdom is totally erroneous. As a matter of fact, it was just this sort of kingdom that the first-century Jews wanted and which 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 encounter after the crucifixion, where these disciples lament: “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today 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, a 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.[33] 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.[34]

In response to the Pharisees, Christ specifically declared that the kingdom does not come visibly with temporal fanfare. “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, being exalted to His throne leads to a spiritual effusion of grace, not the political establishment of an earthly government.[35]

The Jews made a major accusation against Jesus by saying 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:

Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself on this, or did others tell you this about Me?” Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:33-37)

He presented His kingship in terms of meekness and lowliness and not as 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 up on 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, he speaks 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 doth 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). But Christ’s kingdom is not exclusively spiritual. It has cosmic implications.

The Kingdom’s Cosmic Advance

A distinctive feature of dispensationalism is that the millennial kingdom is said to be fundamentally Jewish in its character, even to the point of the rebuilding of the temple, setting up David’s tabernacle, re-instituting the Jewish sacrificial system, and exalting the Jews as God’s chosen people. “This is the point: once Israel is restored to the place of blessing and the tabernacle of David is rebuilt, then will follow the third phase in the plan of God. That period will be the time of the millennium, when the nations will indeed by converted and ruled over by Christ.”[36] This should not be regarded as the deviant opinion of a pair of unrepresentative dispensational authors. On the contrary, it is a representative statement of the dispensational system. Dispensationalism surprisingly teaches such things as those found in the following citations:

“God has two distinct purposes – one for Israel and one for the Church.”[37]

“Israel, regathered and turned to the Lord in salvation, will be exalted, blessed, and favored through this period.”[38]

“The Gentiles will be Israel’s servants during that age…. The nations which usurped authority over Israel in past ages find that downtrodden people exalted and themselves in subjection in their kingdom.” And these are not unsaved Gentiles: “The Gentiles that are in the millennium will have experienced conversion prior to admission.”[39]

“The redeemed living nation of Israel, regenerated and regathered to the land will be head over all the nations of the earth…. So he exalts them above the Gentile nations…. On the lowest level there are the saved, living, Gentile nations.”[40]

“The Gentiles will be Israel’s servants during that age…. The Gentiles that are in the millennium will have experienced conversion prior to admission.”[41]

“God will keep his original promises to the fathers and will one day convert and place Israel as the head of the nations.”[42]

“Israel will be a glorious nation, protected from her enemies, exalted above the Gentiles….” “In contrast to the present church age in which Jew and Gentile are on an equal plane of privilege, the millennium is clearly a period of time in which Israel is in prominence and blessing…. Israel as a nation will be exalted.”[43]

Yet in Scripture, Christ’s kingdom is distinctly represented as being pan-ethnic, rather than Jewish. While on earth, Christ dearly and forthrightly taught that God would soon set aside national Israel as a distinctive, favored people in the kingdom. In Matthew 8:11-12, in the context of the Gentile centurion’s faith, He expressly says that the “sons of the kingdom shall be cast out” while “many from the east and west” shall enjoy the Abrahamic blessings. In Matthew 21:43, He parabolically teaches the rejection of national Israel when He says: “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.” In Matthew 23-24, He prophesies the removal of the spiritual heart of Israel, the temple. He says it will be left “desolate” (Matt. 23:38) during the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21) when men should flee Judea (Matt. 24:16). He emphatically noted that “all these things shall come upon this generation” (Matt. 23:36; 24:34).

It is true that racial Jews in great mass will be saved later in the development of the kingdom in history (Rom. 11:11-25), per postmillennialism.[44] The hermeneutical rub comes with Jews’ being exalted over and distinguished from saved Gentiles, and the turning back of the redemptive progress to “the weak and beggarly elements” of the sacrificial system. As mentioned above, Isaiah 19:19-25 expressly alludes to pagan nations that will be brought into the kingdom on a basis of equality with righteous Jews: “In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth” (v. 23). Here the former enemies are seen receiving an equal share of God’s favor. In Zechariah 9:7, God speaks of His future favor upon other enemies of Israel. He refers to Ekron, one of the five chief cities of Philistia: “I will remove their blood from their mouth, and their detestable things from between their teeth. Then they also will be a remnant for our God, and be like a clan in Judah, and Ekron like a Jebusite.” This Philistine enemy is to become like “a clan in Judah.”

Israel’s demise from dominance is directly related to her ethical conduct. Israel crucified the Messiah. Jesus makes this the point of His Parable of the Householder mentioned above (Matt. 21:33ff). The constant apostolic indictment against the

Jews pertained to this gross, conclusive act of covenantal rebellion. Although it is true that the Romans were responsible for physically nailing Christ to the cross (John 18:30-31), nevertheless, when covenantally considered, the onus of the divine curse fell squarely upon those who instigated and demanded it: the Jews of that generation. The Biblical record is quite clear and emphatic: the Jews were the ones who sought His death (Matt. 26; 27; John 11:53; 18; 19). This most heinous sin of all time, committed by the Jewish nation, is a constant refrain in the New Testament

(Acts 2:22-23, 36; 3:13-15a; 5:30; 7:52; 1 Thess. 2:14-15).

The New Testament-era Church is not a distinct body of people for a time. Rather, it is a newly organized fulfillment of the old body for all time. This Church is one with the Jewish forefathers, being grafted into the Abrahamic root and partaking of its sap (Rom. 11:17-18). Because of the redemptive work of Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek… for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

In Ephesians, Paul is quite emphatic on this matter. Though in the past the Gentiles (Eph. 2:11) were “strangers to the covenants of promise” (2:12), Christ has brought them “near” (2:13) by breaking down the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile “through” redemption (2:14-15). This makes one people of two (2:16-17), who worship one God (2:18), making the Gentiles “fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (2:19), being built upon one foundation (2:20-22).


The New Testament portrait of Christ is that of a King who has come sovereignly to establish His kingdom. At His birth there was an outburst of hymnic joy at the coming of the long prophesied King. In the winding down of John Baptist’s ministry, we are presented the Christ who has come into Messianic fulfillment. Early in Christ’s ministry, He declared His kingdom’s approach, and then set out to establish it through preaching and teaching.

Upon His coronation, Christ began ruling judicially over the nations of the earth through spiritual means rather than by the sword. He rules representatively through His covenant people, just as Satan rules representatively through his people. Those who are redeemed are members of His kingdom. As they labor for Him, they rule by spiritual and ethical power. Their goal? To see all nations baptized in Christ. The essence of Christ’s kingdom is spiritual and ethical, not political and racial. (This does not deny that the kingdom has objective ethical and judicial implications; it does, in the same way that the conversion of a person’s soul has objective ethical and judicial implications.)

[1] George L. Murray, Millennial Studies: A Search for Truth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948), p. 86. See also: Richard B. Gaffin, “Theonomy and Eschatology: Reflections on Postmillennialism,” Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey, eds. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), p. 217.

[2] David Brown. “Matthew,” A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments, Robert Jamieson, A. R. Faussett, and David Brown, eds. (Hartford: S. S. Scranton, n.d.), 2:97.

[3] See my earlier discussion, above: pp. 164-172. Even the premillennialist admits that in their Millennium Christ rules over all people, not just the “house of Jacob” literally conceived.

[4] See below, pp. 299-304.

[5] Gerhard Delling, “kairos,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Kittel, ed., trans. Geoffrey Bromiley, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 3:459.

[6] Of the Eph. 1:10 reference Hodge comments: “This phrase does not indicate a protracted period – the times which remain – but the termination of times; the end of the preceding and commencement of the new dispensation.” Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, [1865] n.d.), p. 48. This was reprinted by the Banner of Truth in 1958 and later printings.

[7] For a related discussion of “the last days,” see pp. 324-328, below.

[8] Matt. 13:17; Luke 2:28-30; 10:24; John 8:56; Heb. 11:13, 39-40; 2 Pet. 1:10-11.

[9] See discussion in Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom (Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1962), p. 49.

[10] Joseph H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2nd ed.; New York: American Book Co., 1889), p. 164. For a fuller discussion of imminence terminology, see: Gentry, The Beast of Revelation (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), pp. 21-28.

[11] Ridderbos, Coming of the Kingdom, p. 13.

[12] J. A. Alexander, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids: Baker, [1858] 1980). p. 230.

[13] Ridderbos, Coming of the Kingdom, p. 13.

[14] See Chapter 12, below, for the application to Christians.

[15] On “The Nature of the Kingdom,” see below: pp. 225-227.

[16] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Greatness of the Great Commission: The Christian

Enterprise in a Fallen World (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990).

[17] Matt. 12:26-29; Luke 10:18; John 12:31; Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8; 4:3,4.

[18] John 16:33; Eph. 1:21-22; Rev. 1:5, 6.

[19] See Chapter 10, above.

[20] Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22; Rev. 3:21.

[21] Athanasius writes of Acts 2:36: “Therefore the Word Himself became flesh, and the Father called His Name Jesus, and so ‘made’ Him Lord and Christ, as much as to say, ‘He made Him to rule and to reign.’ ” Athanasius, Discourses Against the Arians 2:15:16. Of Peter’s Great Confession he writes: “He knew Him to be God’s Son, confessing, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God;’ but he meant His Kingdom and Lordship which was formed and came to be according to grace, and was relatively to us,” Ibid. 2:15:18.

[22] Cf. Gen. 14; 1 Sam. 30:26-31; Jdgs. 5:30. See: Isa. 53:12.

[23] Matt. 22:44; 26:64; Mark 12:36; 14:62; 16:19; Luke 20:42-43; 22:69; Acts 2:34-35; Rom. 8:34; 1 Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12.

[24] John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1966), pp. 98-100.

[25] See: Acts 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31; Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 4:20; 6:9-10; 15:50; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5; Col. 1:13; 4:11; 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 4:1; 4:18; Heb. 1:8; 12:28; Jms. 2:5; 2 Pet. 1:11.

[26] W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 112.

[27] See: Matt. 27:29, 37; Mark 15:12, 26; Luke 23:3; John 18:33; 19:12, 15, 21.

[28] Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11.

[29] Cf. 1 Pet. 2:4-5; 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Rev. 3:12. See discussion below: pp. 349-360.

[30] On this point, critics of the theonomist viewpoint have repeatedly misrepresented it. That theonomists speak of God’s kingdom as a civilization does not mean that they do not see this civilization as grounded in spiritual regeneration.

[31] John Calvin, Matthew, Mark, and Luke (1553), 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 2:7. See also: Ridderbos, Coming of the Kingdom. p. 54.

[32] Charles L. Feinberg. Millennialism: The Two Major Views (3rd ed.; Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), ch. 8.

[33] Cf. 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 Chr. 17:21; Mic. 6:4.

[34] 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. Jms. 2:1; 1 Pet. 1:11; 2 Pet. 3:18; Heb. 2:9.

[35] Luke 24:44-49; Acts 2:30-35; 3:22-26; 8:12; Eph. 4:8-11.

[36] H. Wayne House and Thomas D. Ice, Dominion Theology: Blessing or Curse? (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1988), p. 169.

[37] Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), p. 95.

[38] Charles C. Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux

Bros., 1953), p. 149.

[39] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Case Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958), p. 508.

[40] Herman Hoyt, “Dispensational Premillennialism,” The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views, Robert G. Clouse, ed. (Downer’s Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1977), p. 81.

[41] Pentecost, Things to Come, p. 508.

[42] House and Ice, Dominion Theology, p. 175.

[43] John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), pp. 136, 302-303.

[44] See Chapter 12, below.