Kingdom of God

Review: “He Will Reign Forever” by Michael Vlach (Part 3)

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Read Part 1 and Part 2.

This is the third part in what has become a four part review of this book. I think the work is important enough as a Dispensational Biblical Theology to merit a piece of this length. I hope you will agree.

As Vlach entered upon the New Testament, I was curious how much space he would devote to developing the message of Jesus in its pre-Pauline context. That is to say, I wanted to see if he would trace the teachings of Jesus from its grounding in the prophetic expectations in the Old Testament and its effect upon Jewish hearers in the first part of the first century A.D. I was not disappointed.

The author chooses the Gospel of Matthew as his frame of reference for understanding the kingdom aspect of Christ’s mission. This was a natural enough choice, although I am also a fan of the speeches in Luke-Acts for this purpose. Of course, the selection of Matthew in no way eliminates interaction with the other Gospels, and Vlach picks up on some of the main kingdom emphases in Luke, especially the crucial Parable of the Nobleman in Luke 19:11-27 (e.g. 357-360).

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The People of the God of Abraham

"Jerusalem," by Aryeh Weiss (2016)

At a time when the daily news trumpets the latest political scandal, our Facebook walls vomit forth more madness, our Twitter feeds grow ever darker, and the comment boxes on our favored websites grow more vile by the moment, a Christian ought to pause to consider the end-game. Christ will return, and there will be true peace on earth for all those with whom He’s favored. Then, on that day, there will be no more “fake news,” no more victimized gymnasts, no more predatory medical doctors — no more sin at all. Christ declared to the Apostle John, “Behold, I make all things new!” (Rev 21:5). This passage of Scripture (Psalm 47) gives us a brief glimpse of what this day of rejoicing will look like.

Clap your hands, all peoples!
    Shout to God with loud songs of joy! (Psalm 47:1)

This is clearly a psalm celebrating a momentous event. All the people are commanded to clap, and shout to God with riotous joy. Is the psalmist referring to the Israelites in the congregation, or to “all peoples” who belong to Yahweh, including Gentiles? This is interesting, but we’ll have to wait for more context before making a decision. For now, just consider — why should the people shout for joy, and clap with such glee?

For the LORD, the Most High, is terrible,
   a great king over all the earth (Psalm 47:2)

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Review: “He Will Reign Forever” by Michael Vlach (Part 2)

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Read Part 1.

As the author comes to the Prophets, he gives his reader a summary of the overall message of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel:

Israel was being judged and dispersed to the nations for covenant disobedience, but in the latter days Israel would be regathered and restored to her land and experience New Covenant blessings, both material and spiritual, under the leadership of the ultimate Son of David. As a result, the nations, who will be judged for a time, will also benefit from the reign of Messiah, and the restoration of Israel and become the people of God alongside Israel in an earthly kingdom. (He Will Reign Forever, 145)

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

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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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How the Church Relates to God’s Kingdom Program

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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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