Kingdom of God

Review: “He Will Reign Forever” by Michael Vlach (Part 1)

Dispensationalists and open-minded amillennialists know that a book or article by Michael Vlach is going to be worth reading. His contributions are always well thought-out, and his style is usually analytical yet easy to follow. He has written several useful works, including Has the Church Replaced Israel? and a recent e-book, How Does the New Testament Use the Old Testament? This book, running for more than 600 pages, is his most ambitious yet.

He Shall Reign Forever is Dr. Vlach’s attempt to write a whole-Bible biblical theology — something that Dispensationalists, in whose company the author counts himself, have often shied away from, although, commendably, the author does not structure the volume around “dispensations.” What we get is a must-have piece of biblical theology.

Vlach has taken as his central idea the theme of God’s Kingdom. There is no argument here with the choice. It is perhaps the primary theme of the Bible (25-26). But the Kingdom of God has proven to be a very mutivalent concept in the hands of Bible scholars (e.g. 29-30, 32). Therefore, any writer who wants to put out a big book on the Kingdom has his work cut out for him. The question is, how to both persuade the reader of ones own take while showing why other views of the subject – e.g. the Kingdom is the Church, or the Kingdom is the inheritance of the Church – fail in their understanding of the Scriptures (e.g. 16).

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The King from the Far Country

Is Jesus’ kingdom here, now? Is it exclusively future? Has He been crowned as King already, and is He patiently waiting to exercise His authority? If only there were a clear passage we could turn to which would shed some definitive light on this subject …

Actually, there is one. Jesus knew His own disciples were confused on this point (and we would be, too), so He gave us all a parable to set the record straight. That parable is in Luke 19:11-27.

Background

Jesus has been headed to Jerusalem for a while now (Lk 9:51). He’s taken a wandering, meandering route through any number of towns and villages along the way, preaching the Gospel and proclaiming His coming Kingdom. Now, on the eve of the great event which all salvation history has been pointing towards, Christ prepares His disciples for what is coming; “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished!” (Lk 18:31).

The last days of Jesus’ journey are filled with irony.

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Revelation 19:15 & the Coming Reign of Jesus over the Nations

I often have been drawn to Revelation 19:15. This verse comes in the middle of Revelation 19:11–21, a dramatic section describing Jesus’ second coming from heaven to earth. Concerning Jesus the verse reads:

From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.

4 Messianic Passages & Revelation 19:15

Note that the wording of Revelation 19:15 is closely connected to four Old Testament messianic passages:

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How the Church Relates to God’s Kingdom Program

Below is a short excerpt concerning how the church relates to the kingdom of God from my book, He Will Reign Forever: A Biblical Theology of the Kingdom of God. Published by Lampion Press (LampionPress.com). This comes from a chapter called “How the Kingdom Relates to the Bible’s Main Characters,” pages 540-42.

The church is an important stage in the kingdom program. The kingdom itself is a broader category than the church and relates to God’s plan to exercise His sovereignty over every aspect of creation—material and immaterial; humans and angels; animals, trees, inanimate objects, etc. The kingdom encompasses other major themes of Scripture including covenants, law, salvation, people of God, etc. The church is a category within the people of God concept. The church is the New Covenant community of believing Jews and Gentiles as it exists in this age between the two comings of Jesus. The church has a worldwide mandate to spread the message of King Jesus in this age while Israel is experiencing a partial and temporary hardening because of unbelief.

The church is not the kingdom, but it relates to the kingdom program in several important ways. First, the church consists of those who have consciously trusted in Jesus the Messiah. The church experiences messianic salvation since its members are joined to the Messiah. By means of the Holy Spirit Jesus baptizes believers into His body, the church. Christ’s church, therefore, comes under the authority of Jesus.

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Thy Kingdom Come? The Kingdom, the Church, & Social Justice (Part 2)

This article first appeared in the Baptist Bulletin. © Regular Baptist Press, Arlington Heights, Illinois. Used by permission. Read Part 1.

Our participation in God’s work: missio Dei

The heart of the debate comes down to determining our role in God’s plan to reestablish the Mediatorial Kingdom. Do we have a job? Are we supposed to be helping God establish His kingdom? It would seem that most Christians believe this to some extent, simply judging by phrases like, “Helping God bring in the kingdom,” and “We need to reclaim culture for the kingdom.”

Where’s the truth in all of this? Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” If God has asked us to work for Him, and if God’s overall goal in world history is to reestablish His kingdom, then our work must contribute to this in some  way. But to what extent are we partners with God in this endeavor? Are we supposed to help God with everything He’s trying to accomplish?

There are three main views on the coming kingdom, and each view answers this question differently.

Premillennialism teaches that the kingdom has not come yet, and that it is going to come in the future in all of its glory, as predicted in Old Testament prophecy, with Jesus ruling and reigning this planet as the mediatorial, human (and divine) ruler.

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Thy Kingdom Come? The Kingdom, the Church, & Social Justice (Part 1)

This article first appeared in the Baptist Bulletin. © Regular Baptist Press, Arlington Heights, Illinois. Used by permission.

On a recent vacation, I took the opportunity to spy on another church. My family was visiting friends out of state who took us to their nondenominational, nonaffiliated church. My radar was tuned in. From the moment we stepped onto the property to the moment we left, I was analyzing everything.

In such settings, I play a game: see how quickly I can figure out the pastor’s theological perspective and his alma mater. As I was collecting evidence, I noticed several points of interest. A statement at the bottom of the bulletin made an impassioned plea for more people to help in various ministries. The motivational tagline at the end said, “Come join us as we build God’s kingdom.” Interesting. Using a theology of the kingdom to motivate ministry service.

I peered into the church library and spotted the Left Behind series prominently displayed. Interesting. At the end of the service, the pastor announced that they would soon begin a study of Daniel. At this point I was certain the pastor was most likely pre-millennial in theology.

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Graves, Landmarkism and the Kingdom of God (Part 5)

(Read the entire series.)

The clear implications of J.R. Graves’ ecclesiology was that local Baptist churches have been the sole repository of biblical faith and practice since the time of Jesus Christ.

On this account the Baptists may be considered the only Christian community which has stood since the apostles, and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrine of the gospel through all ages.1

Moreover, Graves believed that he could not, in good conscience, even recognize non-Baptists as Christian brethren. In July of 1851, one of the adopted “Cotton Grove Resolutions” asked, “Can we consistently address as brethren those professing Christianity, who not only have not the doctrine of Christ and walk not according to his commandments, but are arrayed in direct and bitter opposition to them?”2 Graves was pleased to record that the answer to this question, as well as the other four under consideration, was a resounding, “No!”

On Graves’ view, as we have seen:

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