Reflections on the Gospel of the Kingdom

As N. T. Wright observes, “kingdom of God has been a flag of convenience under which all sorts of ships have sailed.”1 These ships are social, political, nationalistic, and theological. Their corresponding agendas often have little to do with the arrival of the kingdom of God announced by Jesus. The kingdom as found and presented in the New Testament will not be pressed into a one-dimensional box. There are passages which indicate a present kingdom aspect (Luke 17:21) and others which indicate a future aspect (Matthew 25:34; Luke 21:17, 31). Multiple texts demonstrate that the gospel of the kingdom was the message of Jesus and the apostles (Luke 4:43; 9:1, 2). Jesus “instructed the seventy to proclaim, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’ ” (Luke 10:1, 9). In Acts we find Philip who “preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ….” (Acts 8:12). The Apostle Paul in Ephesus “entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8). Near the end of his ministry, Paul “expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God….” (Acts 28:23).

The opening of the gospel of Mark proclaims the “beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Jesus arrives on the scene, “preaching the gospel [of the kingdom, KJV] of God” (1:14). He announces that “the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe in the gospel” (v. 15). The phrase “is near” can be understood as referring to something still to happen. However, as France comments, “If Jesus is understood to have proclaimed as ‘near’ something which had still not arrived even at the time when Mark wrote his gospel (let alone 2,000 years later), this is hardly less of an embarrassment than if he had claimed that ‘it’ was already present.”2

Future, present or both?

In considering the gospel of the kingdom, interpreters begin with theological pre-commitments and then understand references to the gospel of the kingdom within a pre-established framework. This is true of dispensationalists as well as covenant theologians where adherence to a system and hermeneutic virtually predetermines the outcomes. A dispensational premillennialist who holds to a programmatic distinction between Israel and the Church most naturally sees the kingdom as mostly, if not entirely, future with a primary reference to the reestablishment of national Israel in the Promised Land during the Millennium. For some, the gospel of the kingdom is connected with the offer and rejection of the kingdom, also known as the postponement theory, a theory which has seen a sharp decline in defenders. A covenantalist who sees Israel replaced or relocated in the Church easily moves to an understanding of a kingdom with present fulfillment and/or in the new heavens and the new earth. The nuances of these positions are myriad and I offer only the briefest sketch for sake of argument. There are other positions than these and positions within the positions.

One reason for renewed interest in this subject is that the gospel of the kingdom has been associated with understandings of the mission of the church which go beyond a traditional focus on saving souls. To listen to some critics, the gospel of the kingdom has become an umbrella for societal concerns which are unrelated to the mission of the church. We are warned that since the Christian gospel is concerned with the spiritual salvation of those in a fallen world, concern for the poor, the betterment of communities, literacy campaigns, community prayer vigils and the like, while legitimate good works for individual Christian engagement, must not be confused with or even connected with the mission of the corporate church. The striking thing about a view which dispatches the gospel of the kingdom to another era and dichotomizes word and deed ministry is that the voices appear to come almost exclusively, at least from what I hear, from suburban or small town, middle-class experience and attractional, program-oriented churches that rarely see firsthand the depth of the ravages of sin witnessed in societal problems prevalent in cities. The church is the building which services Christians and where Christians find refuge. The homeless are seen from afar or briefly encountered with sporadic mercy missions forays into the city; poverty is kept at arm’s length with occasional endeavors to provide food for feeding the hungry; urban blight is seen on the news but never seen up close since those neighborhoods have been abandoned in the name of upper mobility and those people avoided; gang violence is something on the news not something around the corner; and high school drop-out rates of 50% are unknown in privileged communities. Is it possible that those who rail against community and cultural engagement as part of the mission of the church have never experienced racial discrimination, economic exploitation, or systemic injustice? Do they believe that the gospel which brings new creation to individuals does not bear firstfruits of the eschatological new creation through the authority of the One who is Lord of all creation? I remain suspicious of either a vision that relocates the kingdom exclusively to the future or a realized version that sees no future kingdom fulfillment on earth.

Kingdom and gospel

Many churches ministering in urban areas see social concerns as spiritual problems, problems to which the gospel speaks through the message of salvation bringing transformation, granting eternal life and offering new life in Christ here and now. In short, the gospel of the kingdom, the good news of God’s reign already inaugurated in the first coming of Christ, authenticated by his earthly ministry in confronting and defeating the forces of evil, visibly and divinely demonstrated in the death, burial, resurrection, and session of Christ at the right hand of the Father, and consummated at his return in glory—this is the gospel we preach! It is not only a gospel for the hereafter—which would be enough if that was God’s intention—it is also a gospel for life here and now. It is not all about not being “left behind” or getting to heaven. According to Burge, “for Jesus, God’s kingdom was fundamentally God’s reign over the lives of men and women.”3

Of course any initiation of a present aspect of the kingdom must be distinguished from the consummation of the future kingdom. According to Ladd, “the Kingdom of God involves two great moments: fulfillment within history, and consummation at the end of history.”4 The reality of future completion does not rule out present kingdom realties and there is no area of human life or culture which is not subject to Jesus’ authority, where the gospel does not speak with power. While there is certainly a greater fullness and understanding of the gospel following the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is there any valid reason, apart from the impositions of a theological system, to deny that there is both a present aspect of reign of God among his people and an eschatological consummation?

We are grateful to God that in our personal experience we are already redeemed by the blood of Christ with forgiveness of sins, while knowing that we are not yet completely free from sin and temptation. We have an inheritance promised to us in heaven and in the new creation but still living in a sin-troubled world waiting to be set free (Rom. 8:22). We are already saved not yet fully saved, not when we die and go to heaven in a disembodied state, but at the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23) and our entrance into the new creation in glorious bodies.

We already experience a taste of kingdom living among God’s people in the church but do not yet live in complete harmony. We have so much already in Christ and through the gospel but when we look at the world, at crime, violence, child prostitution, human trafficking, drug cartels, dictators, corruption, we see that Christ’s kingdom is not yet fully come. So we pray–”Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Not only do we pray, we endeavor by our deeds to confront evil as it manifests itself in brokenness and in the torn fabric of society. We confront homelessness, poverty, exploitation, injustice, crime-ridden streets, and gang violence as inimical to God’s already inaugurated, not-yet-consummated reign. His reign has arrived in the person of his Son Jesus Christ who in his earthly ministry invaded the territory of Satan and in his death dealt a decisive blow to the forces of evil. As Wright observes, “we must avoid the arrogance of triumphalism…imagining that we can build the kingdom by our own efforts” and “we must reject defeatism…which says there’s no point in even trying.”5

There are abuses committed and misguided agendas followed in the name of the kingdom of God. Yet as the gospel of God’s reign is proclaimed, and as men and women submit themselves to his authority, the already inaugurated, not yet consummated, kingdom of Christ is extended. When we preach the gospel of the kingdom as Jesus and the apostles did, we are not preaching something other than the gospel of God’s grace. We are warning and inviting sinners to repent and to submit to God’s reign in their lives and to experience spiritual transformation which touches on every area of life. We will not bring in the kingdom by our efforts but our efforts bear witness to and reflect the reality of God’s inaugurated reign and point to the greater and final fulfillment which only He can and will accomplish.

Notes

1 N. T. Wright, Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: Harper One, 2008) 203.

2 R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark in NIGTC, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002) 92.

3 Gary M. Burge, Whose Land? Whose Promise? (Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2003) 173.

4 George Elton Ladd, Presence of the Future: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996) 118.

5 Wright, 216.

[node:bio/steve-davis body]

6170 reads

There are 24 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks for another though provoking article.
I have several questions.

Quote:
In considering the gospel of the kingdom, interpreters begin with theological pre-commitments and then understand references to the gospel of the kingdom within a pre-established framework. ... adherence to a system and hermeneutic virtually predetermines the outcomes.

1. Do you mean to suggest here that we should try to consider the gospel of the kingdom without a pre-established framework? If so, how would that be possible?

Quote:
...poverty is kept at arm’s length with occasional endeavors to provide food for feeding the hungry; urban blight is seen on the news but never seen up close since those neighborhoods have been abandoned in the name of upper mobility and those people avoided; gang violence is something on the news not something around the corner; and high school drop-out rates of 50% are unknown in privileged communities. Is it possible that those who rail against community and cultural engagement as part of the mission of the church have never experienced racial discrimination, economic exploitation, or systemic injustice?

2. What role do you see these experiences having in correctly understand what Scripture teaches about the mission of the church? Would you say that a person cannot correctly interpret passages about the kingdom without living in the inner city? It's not clear to me how proximity to a particular type of suffering (vs. lots of other kinds or none at all) bears on the interpretive process. Can you help me see it?

Quote:
Do they believe that the gospel which brings new creation to individuals does not bear firstfruits of the eschatological new creation through the authority of the One who is Lord of all creation?

3. What does "bear firstfruits of the eschatological new creation through the authority of the One who is Lord of all creation" mean? Who denies that genuine belief in the gospel results in a new creation?

Quote:
Many churches ministering in urban areas see social concerns as spiritual problems, problems to which the gospel speaks through the message of salvation bringing transformation, granting eternal life and offering new life in Christ here and now.

4. Why not replace "many" with "all"? Who does not believe social problems have underlying spiritual causes or that salvation changes people? Perhaps a better question is, what does kingdom-now thinking contribute to these "social concerns" beyond what "walk no longer as the gentiles also walk in the futility of their minds" contributes?

Quote:
It is not only a gospel for the hereafter—which would be enough if that was God’s intention—it is also a gospel for life here and now. It is not all about not being “left behind” or getting to heaven. According to Burge, “for Jesus, God’s kingdom was fundamentally God’s reign over the lives of men and women.”

5. I'm getting repetitive but... who believes that the gospel is only for the hereafter or just getting to heaven? Is it your intent to say that the gospel is about transforming social institutions now (because of the inaug. kingdom) as opposed to transforming people now and transforming "society" in the future? Can any society really change until all/most of the people in it truly change?

Quote:
Not only do we pray, we endeavor by our deeds to confront evil as it manifests itself in brokenness and in the torn fabric of society. We confront homelessness, poverty, exploitation, injustice, crime-ridden streets, and gang violence as inimical to God’s already inaugurated, not-yet-consummated reign.

6. What does this mean? Can you help me visualize what this "confronting" looks like?

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Steve Davis's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Thanks for another though provoking article.
I have several questions.
Quote:
In considering the gospel of the kingdom, interpreters begin with theological pre-commitments and then understand references to the gospel of the kingdom within a pre-established framework. ... adherence to a system and hermeneutic virtually predetermines the outcomes.

1. Do you mean to suggest here that we should try to consider the gospel of the kingdom without a pre-established framework? If so, how would that be possible?

Quote:
...poverty is kept at arm’s length with occasional endeavors to provide food for feeding the hungry; urban blight is seen on the news but never seen up close since those neighborhoods have been abandoned in the name of upper mobility and those people avoided; gang violence is something on the news not something around the corner; and high school drop-out rates of 50% are unknown in privileged communities. Is it possible that those who rail against community and cultural engagement as part of the mission of the church have never experienced racial discrimination, economic exploitation, or systemic injustice?

2. What role do you see these experiences having in correctly understand what Scripture teaches about the mission of the church? Would you say that a person cannot correctly interpret passages about the kingdom without living in the inner city? It's not clear to me how proximity to a particular type of suffering (vs. lots of other kinds or none at all) bears on the interpretive process. Can you help me see it?

Quote:
Do they believe that the gospel which brings new creation to individuals does not bear firstfruits of the eschatological new creation through the authority of the One who is Lord of all creation?

3. What does "bear firstfruits of the eschatological new creation through the authority of the One who is Lord of all creation" mean? Who denies that genuine belief in the gospel results in a new creation?

Quote:
Many churches ministering in urban areas see social concerns as spiritual problems, problems to which the gospel speaks through the message of salvation bringing transformation, granting eternal life and offering new life in Christ here and now.

4. Why not replace "many" with "all"? Who does not believe social problems have underlying spiritual causes or that salvation changes people? Perhaps a better question is, what does kingdom-now thinking contribute to these "social concerns" beyond what "walk no longer as the gentiles also walk in the futility of their minds" contributes?

Quote:
It is not only a gospel for the hereafter—which would be enough if that was God’s intention—it is also a gospel for life here and now. It is not all about not being “left behind” or getting to heaven. According to Burge, “for Jesus, God’s kingdom was fundamentally God’s reign over the lives of men and women.”

5. I'm getting repetitive but... who believes that the gospel is only for the hereafter or just getting to heaven? Is it your intent to say that the gospel is about transforming social institutions now (because of the inaug. kingdom) as opposed to transforming people now and transforming "society" in the future? Can any society really change until all/most of the people in it truly change?

Quote:
Not only do we pray, we endeavor by our deeds to confront evil as it manifests itself in brokenness and in the torn fabric of society. We confront homelessness, poverty, exploitation, injustice, crime-ridden streets, and gang violence as inimical to God’s already inaugurated, not-yet-consummated reign.

6. What does this mean? Can you help me visualize what this "confronting" looks like?

Aaron:

You have several questions? I’ll say. And they are good ones which deserve a response and perhaps another article. My purpose in writing this is for discussion and mutual edification. However, I am leaving today for a few days and will not have constant Internet access. I am also looking forward to the DBTS conference on Church, Kingdom, and Missional Movement. I think it is great these issues are coming to the forefront.

1. We all come to the text with what we already know or think we know. Sometimes we don’t recognize that and everything becomes black and white. We come to the text with our presuppositions, training, etc. but always need to let the text inform and reform us.

2. Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:14) because He experienced life as we do. I do not think it necessary to live in the inner city to properly interpret Scripture. But to study the Bible about the poor without knowing any poor people, without being engaged in the lives of poor people, will lack some dimension in understanding and application of Scripture if we remain distant from any of that.

3. Bearing firstfruits” is simply (for now) the extension of Christ’s reign in all areas (which will not be complete this side of the new creation) in proclaiming boldly His claims through preaching the gospel.

4. “Many” or “all?” Could be all I suppose but some appear to believe that the gospel only addresses saving the soul and that people are poor because of irresponsibility, lack of discipline, laziness, (which may at times be true), etc. and fail to see other dimensions.

5. I would say that there is a great deal of teaching/preaching about getting people to heaven (which is good) or escaping the Great Tribulation but becomes so individualized that it has little salt or light in society. Any real transformation in society comes by gospel transformation in people’s lives.

6. This will take another article. But come to the city and join us on prayer vigils at murder sites, ride-along with the police in bleak neighborhoods, go door-to-door to install burglar alarms where there’s been a rash of burglaries (and use those times to present the gospel), pray with drug dealers on the corner or the prostitute on your office steps, feed the homeless at specially planned outreaches, and see the gospel at work in lives bringing forgiveness and new life.

That’s all for now. I'm out of here but you raised some great issues for follow-up.

Grace & Peace,

Steve

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate the responses. Steve's probably not going to be able to interact much more on this right away so I'll make some assertions rather than asking more questions.

SD wrote:
3. Bearing firstfruits” is simply (for now) the extension of Christ’s reign in all areas (which will not be complete this side of the new creation) in proclaiming boldly His claims through preaching the gospel.

Seems to me that the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the believer's life accomplishes all the same things this version of "reign" accomplishes. I actually do believe in an "already" sense of the kingdom, but I see that as having very minimal implications for what the mission of the church is. We have passages that speak very clearly and directly to what that mission is (such as Acts 1, Matt.19.28ff, Eph.4 down to v.16 or so) and do not need to rely in inferences from slippery concepts like "how much of the kingdom is already vs. how much is not yet."

SD wrote:
4. “Many” or “all?” Could be all I suppose but some appear to believe that the gospel only addresses saving the soul and that people are poor because of irresponsibility, lack of discipline, laziness, (which may at times be true), etc. and fail to see other dimensions.
Given the opportunities that exist here--as opposed to any other nation in history (probably)--we should expect to find that a majority of the poor have fallen into pits they dug themselves. This has been my experience. But we also need to keep in mind what kind of poverty we're talking about.
Much of the popular evangelical (and political) rhetoric on poverty makes no distinction between real poverty and relative poverty. J. W. Richards has some great stuff on this in Money, Greed and God p.87ff.
A sample (paraphrasing)

  • 76% of poor households in the US have air conditioning compared to only 36% of the entire US population 30 yrs ago.
  • Only 6% of US households are overcrowded and more than 2/3 have more than two rooms per person
  • The avg. "poor" American has more living space the average person (of all economic levels) living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens
  • 97% of poor households have TVs, a solid majority have more than one. A bit less than 75% own cars, and just under a third own two cars.

On it goes.
I'm not denying that there are some folks in truly dire straits (especially since 2007) through no fault of their own. But we need to be clear about the nature of the poverty problem in the US and respond thoughtfully to it. (By the way, Richards is pretty much a "kingdom now" guy too (p.28), but has views on the nature of poverty in the US--and its cure--that are pretty out of fashion in much of evangelicalism these days.

SD wrote:
5. I would say that there is a great deal of teaching/preaching about getting people to heaven (which is good) or escaping the Great Tribulation but becomes so individualized that it has little salt or light in society. Any real transformation in society comes by gospel transformation in people’s lives.

On the first part.. well, there should be. We call it "salvation" because deliverance from judgment is a key component. We shouldn't neglecting the other components (Eph.1 is crystal clear that the ultimate aim is the praise of the glory of His grace but that making us holy is the primary means. Deliverance from Hell is a means to the means.) But how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It is truly a means of escape.
There is mainly a difference of emphasis here. But I think almost nobody denies that society is transformed by the gospel transforming individuals that constitute it.

SD wrote:
6. This will take another article. But come to the city and join us on prayer vigils at murder sites, ride-along with the police in bleak neighborhoods, go door-to-door to install burglar alarms where there’s been a rash of burglaries (and use those times to present the gospel), pray with drug dealers on the corner or the prostitute on your office steps, feed the homeless at specially planned outreaches, and see the gospel at work in lives bringing forgiveness and new life.

I think each of the items you've mentioned here needs its own rationale. Even an expansive view of the inaugurated kingdom doesn't establish that one or the other of these efforts is the best course. Nor do any of them require a view of the gospel that sees it being brought to bear on social problems directly (vs. indirectly through transformed people). That is, other rationales (I think better ones) than a kingdom-now ecclesiology can support some of them.

In my recent article on being politically engaged, I'm really arguing that believers do have a responsibility to be good citizens, love their neighbors, etc. That responsibility + wise analysis of what will help alleviate the effects of bad policy and general human wickedness leads to a variety of ways folks can go after social problems without muddying the purpose of the church.
This does not circumvent the Lordship of Christ in believer's lives or truncate the gospel into a "future only" message. It simply applies the "reign" of Christ outside the scope of "the church as the church" and connects it instead to "the church as believing people living Christianly."

Given the tendency for every generation to have its own set of gospel distortions (and the history of these being connected to views of the kingdom is telling), I believe it's wiser to let passages about the mission of the church in the world be the defining ones rather than passages about other things that we apply (tenuously) to the church.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Forrest's picture

@ Aaron

Quote:
Given the opportunities that exist here--as opposed to any other nation in history (probably)--we should expect to find that a majority of the poor have fallen into pits they dug themselves. This has been my experience.

I would agree in part, but I would also strongly disagree. Upward mobility is perhaps the great American myth. With the few exceptions of the truly brilliant, upward mobility is limited to the lower middle classes and above. The reason for this is both opportunity and societal sin. (Which I define as the sins of individuals rampant in a community; this is easily seen in areas of intense crime. The community breeds crime, but the crimes are committed by individuals.)

For example, a new friend was just saved. He is 18. He lives in a foster home. As a child, he often went without food for a few days at a time. His foster mother adopted him and has since stolen from him on a few occasions. He moved out of the house. His dad was released from jail and needed a place to stay so he allowed his father to live with him. On his birthday, his dad stole all of his money (about 800 dollars) and ran off. Now he could not pay rent so he moved back into his adoptive mother's house. He recently got high on marijuana and was riding his bicycle home. On the way home, he careened down a hill and crashed at the bottom. He broke both of his elbows.

In this story you can make the case that his poverty is his own fault. You can look at his getting high and say, "Look, he is there because of his sin. If he didn't get high and kept control of his money he would be able to move up. I can't help him out because I would only be encouraging a drug addict."

On the other hand you can make the claim that his poverty is not his fault at all. You can say, "Look, his parents abandoned him. His adoptive mother stole from him. His fathered used him. We need to make life better for him."

But its both! It's his fault and the fault of his community. He had no opportunity to avoid his sin and the sin committed against him. To use Biblical language, he was a slave of sin. But now, the gospel has broken in and he is free from his sin. But he still needs help, the gospel is not finished with him.

From his example, you can see the principle of Numbers 14:18 playing out. Namely that God will visit the father's sins upon the third and fourth generation. Your sins have an effect on your own children. Sin begets sin. This is clearly demonstrated again and again. If you have an abusive father, you are something like 80% more likely to abuse your children. If you grow up in a an impoverished community, you are going to be poor unless you are in the 99th percentile of people as far brilliance or luck goes.

So is it the fault of the poor that they are poor. Yes, but only in the sense that they continue their families (and communities) sins.

This turned out to be much longer than I planned. But the question is then how do we react to this reality. We are told to pursue justice (Isa 1:17), and help individuals such as widows and orphans (James 1:27). The other reality is that if you do go to the poor. You try to plant a church or evangelize among the poor. If you do that, you will not be able to stay out of the "social gospel". Because poverty is a result of sin and if you are preaching the gospel you will be confronting sin and helping people who are steeped in drugs, hunger, sexual perversion, etc.

Forrest Berry

Forrest's picture

The first paragraph in my comment above is a quote from Aaron's comment and should be so marked.

Forrest Berry

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I edited your post to put my statement in quotes.

Actually, the idea that upward mobility is only for a few is the myth. The numbers just don't back it up, as even the small sample in my previous post shows. Though the "income gap" does continue to increase, those on the bottom of it are seeing their income increase as well (those in middle even more so). In recent decades, that increase has not been what it ought to be relative to the top tier, and lots of folks are trying to figure out why.

Of course, we can find exceptions easily enough and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of folks moving the other direction. But the anecdotes don't reflect the overall trend.

But I strongly agree with the multigenerational problem. This is why the teaching ministry of the church has so much potential to help the situation. As God redeems families, they can break that cycle by adopting a biblical lifestyle. This is far, far more powerful than community crime watches or soup kitchens though it is much slower and not very appealing in soundbytes or 3 min. youtube vids. But it truly represents the power of the gospel transforming society--by transforming families.

I do believe there are "social institutional" factors. But generally these are the opposite of what many passionate poverty fighters in evangelicalism seem to think (Ron Sider comes to mind). Our welfare system encourages multigenerational poverty as well as illegitmate birth rates and many other social ills. And we need to fix this, but it is not the mission of "the church acting as the church" to fix it.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jeff Brown's picture

No, really I don't see, Steve.

The spread of the Gospel as the spread of the Kingdom was never really prominent in evangelical circiles until some time after George Ladd introduced realized eschatology into the theological discussion of the Kingdom in 1964. So how ineffective really was their spread of the Gospel through the 150 years prior to George Ladd (the protestant missionary movement began in the US at that time)? If you say ineffective, then you will have to rewrite evangelical missionary history. That goes for the city missions and city churches that they started as well. The people involved in those works spoke little or not at all about God's kingdom being realized through their works (unless they meant "the Kingdom of God in the heart"). The traditional dispensationalists, who went out as missionaries by the thousands, did they fail to engage with the ugly effects of sin, and see transformations in the enviornments where they worked?

You tie realized eschatology very closely into the impact of the Gospel. You quote Jesus, "the Kingdom of God has come near you." (Luke 10:1) The city of Tarsus, the home of Paul the apostle, today does not have a single church. Last week the president of Germany protested this predicament to the government of Turkey (the situation is true in part because the Christian faith has been suppressed there). Write down this problem for the whole of Turkey, which once was a center of the Christian faith. In fact, in the whole of what is now Turkey, it was very strongly preached that the Kingdom of God was present (thus "realized"), until it was overrun by muslim invaders. Prague was once a city full of preachers with a burning zeal for the Gospel, and with a strong identification with the poor. But this has not been the story of Prague any more for at least three centuries. This is a true tale of hundreds of large cities in the world. So when did Jesus tell his disciples to say, "the Kingdom of God was realized in you for a time, but now it has departed from you"?* Jesus described the Kingdom of God like a tree that puts down roots and grows large. Because you tie realized eschatology so closely to the effectiveness of Gospel work, you describe the Kingdom like a traveling merchant, who puts down roots for a while, but then moves on to more agreeable venues.

*Note, if Jesus had ever meant this, it was not formulated in the command to the disciples to shake the dust off their feet. Those places in view never received Jesus as King.

Second post coming

Jeff Brown

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Looking forward to the second post. My suspicion is that those whose allegiance is to the arguments contained in the OP will fail to cede the weight and theological sobriety of the observations shared in this 1st post. Obviously it is not a treatise but its content pulls back the covering of the premise(s) in the OP to expose some immediately glaring problems.

Steve Davis's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
No, really I don't see, Steve.

Also looking forward to your second post (or better yet an article). I just can't tell from your posting what you are referring to, my article or someone else's. Anyway, God's at work in spite of our views on eschatology. But a postponed kingdom - no, I really don't see that if that's the alternative to an already/not yet eschatology.

Bob T.'s picture

What happened?

There was another post on here by Jeff Brown that appears to have disappeared. It was on the subject and regarding the combining of a particular eschatology with a lack of social concern.

WHERE DID THAT POST GO?

I hope it was not removed by the SI PC police. The post was appropriate and raised some very good questions.

This post by Jeff Brown raises some very good facts. It is also interesting that it raises the issue of George Ladd who was the leading influence in bringing the "Kingdom now" view into premillennialism. George Ladd was an incurable alcoholic who was disciplined by Fuller Seminary for his lifestyle and conduct but never fired. Two books, one by his son, confirm Ladd's problems. This is relevant in that some feel George Ladd's reaction against Dispensationalism had as much to do with his aversion to churches that advocated total abstinence and a more strict life accountability. His "kingdom now" was a sociological mess. I took two classes from him. Not an enjoyable experience. He did display some reasonable scholarship.

Bob T.'s picture

Steve Davis wrote:
Jeff Brown wrote:
No, really I don't see, Steve.

Also looking forward to your second post (or better yet an article). I just can't tell from your posting what you are referring to, my article or someone else's. Anyway, God's at work in spite of our views on eschatology. But a postponed kingdom - no, I really don't see that if that's the alternative to an already/not yet eschatology.

There better be a postponed kingdom. If this now is any aspect of God's kingdom with a new inaugurated reign then He becomes directly responsible for this world mess. And what a worsening mess it is! Pass out all the home alarms you can while you can. Perhaps they can protect them at the great white throne judgment.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Bob T. wrote:
I hope it was not removed by the SI PC police. The post was appropriate and raised some very good questions.

Paranoid, much, Bob? Biggrin
We really don't remove posts arbitrarily. Jeff asked that it be removed so he could do something more thoughtful on the point and I accommodated his request. (It helped that it was only there a little while and nobody had replied to it yet)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Bob T. wrote:
Steve Davis wrote:
Jeff Brown wrote:
No, really I don't see, Steve.

Also looking forward to your second post (or better yet an article). I just can't tell from your posting what you are referring to, my article or someone else's. Anyway, God's at work in spite of our views on eschatology. But a postponed kingdom - no, I really don't see that if that's the alternative to an already/not yet eschatology.

There better be a postponed kingdom. If this now is any aspect of God's kingdom with a new inaugurated reign then He becomes directly responsible for this world mess. And what a worsening mess it is! Pass out all the home alarms you can while you can. Perhaps they can protect them at the great white throne judgment.

Bob I am quite with you, here. An observation, however. I believe Steve injures himself, here, by erroneously treating, in his mind and subsequent arguments, arguments of those holding to a postponed kingdom. It appears he selects from the most unflattering assertions he has kept in his mind over time by some teachers of a postponed kingdom or modifications of such assertions and uses them as that against which he performs his theological punditry and makes his case that their impotence must be obvious to all. For example he makes this statement (and in quoting I am wondering who these critics are?)(bold mine):

Steve Davis wrote:

One reason for renewed interest in this subject is that the gospel of the kingdom has been associated with understandings of the mission of the church which go beyond a traditional focus on saving souls. To listen to some critics, the gospel of the kingdom has become an umbrella for societal concerns which are unrelated to the mission of the church. We are warned that since the Christian gospel is concerned with the spiritual salvation of those in a fallen world, concern for the poor, the betterment of communities, literacy campaigns, community prayer vigils and the like, while legitimate good works for individual Christian engagement, must not be confused with or even connected with the mission of the corporate church.
I rarely, if ever, have heard any significant number of postponed kingdom advocates state that good works must not be "even connected with the mission of the corporate church". And this is what I mean. In order to bolster the argument this unflattering and assertion without citation, simply injures him because he is arguing something that, if it exists, is quite the minority and somewhat eccentric. While dispensationalists do not view the church as a literal physical kingdom now, certainly they do not go, on average, as far as to say "not even connected".

As to the question by Steve:

Steve Davis wrote:
While there is certainly a greater fullness and understanding of the gospel following the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is there any valid reason, apart from the impositions of a theological system, to deny that there is both a present aspect of reign of God among his people and an eschatological consummation?
The word "aspect" appears to be a fire escape. It is rather imprecise particularly with respect to your "kingdom now" sources that would demand a much more full view than just "aspects". What is meant by aspect? A dispensationalist might qualify for this if by aspect we mean what he, the dispensationalist, has in view. My answer is that there is an "ecclesiastical consummation" being attended to right now as he places, brick by brick, all those being saved into the temple of his body..

Steve Davis's picture

Bob T. wrote:
There better be a postponed kingdom. If this now is any aspect of God's kingdom with a new inaugurated reign then He becomes directly responsible for this world mess. And what a worsening mess it is! Pass out all the home alarms you can while you can. Perhaps they can protect them at the great white throne judgment.

Thanks for joining the conversation Bob. You can usually be counted on to contribute in an interesting way. I am curious if making God "directly responsible for this world mess" (your words) applies to the mess at the end of the millennium when the nations rebel.

Your previous comments on Ladd are pretty outrageous: “This is relevant in that some feel George Ladd's reaction against Dispensationalism had as much to do with his aversion to churches that advocated total abstinence and a more strict life accountability.” Maybe Ladd was reading Isaiah’s kingdom reference to “well-aged wine” and “wine well refined” (25:6) and wasn’t thinking of grape juice. Seriously, is it really relevant or is it that you didn’t have a better argument?

Joel Shaffer's picture

Quote:
The spread of the Gospel as the spread of the Kingdom was never really prominent in evangelical circiles until some time after George Ladd introduced realized eschatology into the theological discussion of the Kingdom in 1964. So how ineffective really was their spread of the Gospel through the 150 years prior to George Ladd (the protestant missionary movement began in the US at that time)? If you say ineffective, then you will have to rewrite evangelical missionary history. That goes for the city missions and city churches that they started as well. The people involved in those works spoke little or not at all about God's kingdom being realized through their works (unless they meant "the Kingdom of God in the heart").

Um, actually post-millennial missionaries such as William Carey did speak of the the spread of the gospel as the spread of the kingdom. Kingdom theology as the spread of the gospel did influence the Calvinist Baptists a couple centuries ago. Of course it wasn't in Dr. Ladd's already/not yet form.

Quote:
You tie realized eschatology very closely into the impact of the Gospel. You quote Jesus, "the Kingdom of God has come near you." (Luke 10:1) The city of Tarsus, the home of Paul the apostle, today does not have a single church. Last week the president of Germany protested this predicament to the government of Turkey (the situation is true in part because the Christian faith has been suppressed there). Write down this problem for the whole of Turkey, which once was a center of the Christian faith. In fact, in the whole of what is now Turkey, it was very strongly preached that the Kingdom of God was present (thus "realized"), until it was overrun by muslim invaders. Prague was once a city full of preachers with a burning zeal for the Gospel, and with a strong identification with the poor. But this has not been the story of Prague any more for at least three centuries. This is a true tale of hundreds of large cities in the world. So when did Jesus tell his disciples to say, "the Kingdom of God was realized in you for a time, but now it has departed from you"?* Jesus described the Kingdom of God like a tree that puts down roots and grows large. Because you tie realized eschatology so closely to the effectiveness of Gospel work, you describe the Kingdom like a traveling merchant, who puts down roots for a while, but then moves on to more agreeable venues.

I have read this article several times and maybe I am misunderstanding it, but Steve using the already/not yet paradigm doesn't seem to be tying it to effectiveness of gospel work, but rather the scope of the gospel. That maybe the mission of the church includes more than just a truncated, escapism form of evangelism.

Sometimes I think that the Postponement dispys and the already/not yet crowd (especially the historical pre-mil and the progressive dispys) talk past each other. Now I have to admit, it is easy to fall into the trap that many evangelicals have throughout the past 40-50 years and stereotype the postponement theory dispys as only being concerned about soul-saving because of their view of the future. However, the last 4-5 years interacting with the more traditional/classical type of dispys on Sharper Iron has taught me not to assume that the postponement theory dispys don't care about the poor or don't care about the many problems in the world. Yet at the same time, I have used already/not yet language in my conversations with the more traditional dispys in my community and immediately I am stereotyped as one who is only concerned about the here and now because our urban ministry not only proclaims the gospel, but it also helps people get jobs, mentors them in their finances, and etc.... even when I talk about the present kingdom in terms such as "foretaste" or "preview." The assumption is that eventually I am on some slippery slope towards the social gospel or towards a more Kingdom of God realized rather than in the future.

It seems as if the point of difference between these two camps seem to be how to engage social problems, rather than should we engage the social problems in the world. Many traditional dispys believe that while individually we should get involved in these social problems, it is not part of the mission of the church, while most already/not yet say that it is an aspect of the church because of the present aspect of God's kingdom.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Steve Davis wrote:
I am curious if making God "directly responsible for this world mess" (your words) applies to the mess at the end of the millennium when the nations rebel.
Rev 20:7-10
Quote:
1And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. 7When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
No, the mess you are referring to occurs after the millennial reign of Christ (note it says when the thousand years are over) and clearly is the responsibility of Satan. If you, on the other hand, are suggesting the mess we have today represents the millennial reign of our Lord and where Paul and Peter cite Satan as being free to be about roaming, seeking whom he may devour and is the prince and ruler of this world is really a reference to him being not being able to do his work of deceiving, well have at it.

Steve Davis's picture

[quote=Alex Guggenheim, No, the mess you are referring to occurs after the millennial reign of Christ (note it says when the thousand years are over) and clearly is the responsibility of Satan. If you, on the other hand, are suggesting the mess we have today represents the millennial reign of our Lord and where Paul and Peter cite Satan as being free to be about roaming, seeking whom he may devour and is the prince and ruler of this world is really a reference to him being not being able to do his work of deceiving, well have at it.[/quote]

Good point. But after the millennium you need some time for all this to be brewing and come to a head and need a post-millennial period before the eternal state. There’s still a mess between the Millennium and the Eternal State. Will Jesus stop reigning during that messy time? Of course not, and that’s the point in answering Bob’s postponement theory that the world is in a mess today. There will be messes until the New Creation. That does not mean Jesus is not reigning today. And no I'm not suggesting we are in the millennium today but that Jesus has inaugurated His kingdom. We see the firstfruits and look for the eternal kingdom.

Jeff Brown's picture

Quote:

Also looking forward to your second post (or better yet an article). I just can't tell from your posting what you are referring to, my article or someone else's. Anyway, God's at work in spite of our views on eschatology. But a postponed kingdom - no, I really don't see that if that's the alternative to an already/not yet eschatology.

Steve, all I really was after was an agreement that God does great things through groups that differ from one's own eschatological views. Since we are agreed on that, I am satisfied. Your article gave me the strong impression that you felt groups that have my view of eschatology were not on the front lines for the Gospel. But obviously from this response, you do not believe that. So no second post needed. Keep up the good work of reaching people for Christ right where satan has his domain.

Right now I don't have time to put together any article myself on this subject. However, I do have one forming on eschatology that I think will surprise about every reader on this website. And no, sorry everyone, I have no date to set about future events Wink

||edit: added quote tag to first paragraph||

Jeff Brown

Steve Davis's picture

Bob T. wrote:
Pass out all the home alarms you can while you can. Perhaps they can protect them at the great white throne judgment.

This is one reason guys like you are a dying breed, hopefully. Sarcasm instead of susbtance. I'll pass out all the home alarms I can (even to you but maybe you don't need one) if it will open doors for the gospel in loving my neighbors. I don't know where you live but send me your address. I can use Google maps to see if you need one (or are you in a gated community?).

Steve

Steve Davis's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
Right now I don't have time to put together any article myself on this subject. However, I do have one forming on eschatology that I think will surprise about every reader on this website. And no, sorry everyone, I have no date to set about future events Wink

Ok. You have me in suspense, Jeff. Camping already beat you to the date thing, next May I think. Can't wait for your surprise. Don't postpone it too long Smile

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
This is one reason guys like you are a dying breed, hopefully. Sarcasm instead of susbtance. I'll pass out all the home alarms I can (even to you but maybe you don't need one) if it will open doors for the gospel in loving my neighbors. I don't know where you live but send me your address. I can use Google maps to see if you need one (or are you in a gated community?).

Steve, I think you're answer shows why this sort of activity is not really inherently kingdom related. If it is a method for opening doors for the gospel, isn't that a "do good as a means for gospel witness" argument rather than "do good as an expression of kingdom on earth" argument?

In the former case, this kind of activity is a means to an end judged by its effectiveness in achieving the end. In the second case, its an end in itself.
(Note, no sarcasm instead of substance here. Wink )

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jack Hampton's picture

Steve Davis wrote:
But after the millennium you need some time for all this to be brewing and come to a head and need a post-millennial period before the eternal state. There’s still a mess between the Millennium and the Eternal State. Will Jesus stop reigning during that messy time? Of course not, and that’s the point in answering Bob’s postponement theory that the world is in a mess today. There will be messes until the New Creation. That does not mean Jesus is not reigning today. And no I'm not suggesting we are in the millennium today but that Jesus has inaugurated His kingdom. We see the firstfruits and look for the eternal kingdom.

Steve, in response to what you are saying I would begin by showing what the Lord Jesus expected in regard to the kingdom. He told His disciples to pray in the following manner:

"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Mt.6:9-10).

I think that when He spoke of the Father's will being done on the earth as it is in heaven he is referring to a swift execution of judgment on everything that does not conform to His will. A good example of how the Father's will was done in heaven can be seen in regard to His action against Satan:

"How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!" (Isa.14:12).

I believe that that verse is describing what the lord Jesus said here:

"And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" (Lk.10:17-18).

I believe that in heaven judgment against sin was swift and immediate and I also believe that is the way that it will be when the Lord Jesus is reigning on the earth from the throne of David. And I also believe that the following verse is speaking about such a judgment:

"And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them" (Rev.20:9).

Now the will of God is not being done on the earth. As long as grace is reigning the sins of men are not being imputed to them:

"To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Cor.5:18-19).

Sir Robert Anderson wrote: "In this Christian dispensation God is not imputing their sins to men. Were it otherwise the silence of Heaven would give place to the thunders of His judgments. Every question of judgment was either settled for ever at the Cross, or has been postponed to the day that is still to come: God ‘knows how’ ‘to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished’ (2 Pet. ii. 9), and the day of judgment is not yet” (Anderson, The Silence of God [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1978 ], 141).

Since it is obvious that the Father's will is not now being done on the earth as it is in heaven then it becomes obvious that the kingdom has not yet come to the earth.

Steve Davis's picture

Jack Hampton wrote:
Since it is obvious that the Father's will is not now being done on the earth as it is in heaven then it becomes obvious that the kingdom has not yet come to the earth.

Think about it. The other petitions in the Lord's Prayer - daily bread, forgiveness of trespasses, not leading into temptation - all for today. What kind of hermeneutic isolates the accomplishment of God's will and makes it entirely future? Are you really praying for God's will to be accomplished come the millennium? Not me. I'm praying for His will to be accomplished today in whatever measure He planned awaiting the consummation when it will be accomplished in all its glorious fullness.

This kind of argument begins to look desperate in an attempt to make the kingdom entirely future. To me it seems similar to another argument I heard recently that, although the apostles and others (Phillip) spoke often of the kingdom and Luke closes the Book of Acts with Paul in prison teaching about the kingdom, all this was to prepare Christians for the future kingdom. I guess that when Jesus spoke for “forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” that He was also preparing them for the millennium. It looks like the triumph of a system over the text.

Jack Hampton's picture

Steve Davis wrote:
Think about it. The other petitions in the Lord's Prayer - daily bread, forgiveness of trespasses, not leading into temptation - all for today. What kind of hermeneutic isolates the accomplishment of God's will and makes it entirely future?

Steve, the subject is in regard to the promised kingdom that was to come to the earth, and when that kingdom comes to the earth God's will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That is not happening now.

The Lord Jesus said that the "kingdom" would only be "near at hand" by the time when He would be seen in a cloud:

"And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory…So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is near at hand" (Lk. 21:27,31).

The Lord Jesus will not sit upon His throne until He returns to earth:

"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory" (Mt.25:31).

Quote:
Are you really praying for God's will to be accomplished come the millennium? Not me. I'm praying for His will to be accomplished today in whatever measure He planned awaiting the consummation when it will be accomplished in all its glorious fullness.

I do not pray for the kingdom to come to earth because as a Christian I have already been translated into 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).

It is obvious that the kingdom is not on earth because if it were then there would be no need to "translate" the Christian to the kingdom. Here is how the Christian is partaking of the kingdom at the present time:

"Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph.2:5-6).

"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col.3:1-2).

We are to seeek those things which are above in the heavenly kingdom and to set our affections on things above, in the heavenly kingdom, and not on the earth.

Quote:
This kind of argument begins to look desperate in an attempt to make the kingdom entirely future.

Your argument seems to be the desperate one.
Quote:
To me it seems similar to another argument I heard recently that, although the apostles and others (Phillip) spoke often of the kingdom and Luke closes the Book of Acts with Paul in prison teaching about the kingdom, all this was to prepare Christians for the future kingdom. I guess that when Jesus spoke for “forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” that He was also preparing them for the millennium. It looks like the triumph of a system over the text.

Yes, Paul was preaching on the things in regard to the kingdom, and here is what he was preaching:

"Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col.1:12-13).

The bringing in of the kingdom was dependent on repentance on the part of corporate Israel and that has not yet happened. Peter told the nation:

"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets" (Acts 3:19-21).

And yes, the teaching of the Lord Jesus in regard to the kingdom was indeed in regard to the millennium kingdom. After hearing Him expound on the things concerning the kingdom His disciples asked:

"Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6).

The Lord Jesus did not tell them that they were in error in regard to their expectations but only told them that they were not to know the time.

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.