Kingdom of God
Several basic premises still appear to be unknown to Bible students about the epistle to the Hebrews (such as author, place of origin, etc.; this scribe believes there may be an argument for Apollos' being the author as there is an argument for Paul), but this should not deter readers from seeing the encouragement and promises found in this letter. It is a "word of beseeching" (tou logou tees parakleeseoos) as in 13:22, and it surely did motivate those firstfruits then to show their faithfulness to the new and living way of Christ over Judaism. A "key" word as noted by many commentators is "better" (compare 8:6, kreittonos diatheekees), generally speaking, but there is a major part brought out in the writing concerning "good things" which were "about to come" in that first-century genea or generation (note 1:14; 2:5; 6:5; 9:11; 10:1; 10:27; 11:20; 13:14).
Scholarship in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries appeared to be so much more enamored with a supposed neo-Platonism between a "real world" and a "world of phenomena" that it did not see any room to speak for eschatology in this epistle as compared to the Alexandrian philosophical orientation scholars, who bent heavily on the emphasis of "last things" in the same. Thus, many scholars in looking into the Hebrews epistle either ignored the eschatology they saw or tried to explain it away somehow. But the early twentieth century saw a somewhat refreshing book come out in the Century Bible series in which the Hebrew epistle saw a commentator by the name of A. S. Peake begin his introductory material on the teaching of Hebrews, "the subject of the epistle is 'the world to come' [ii.5] (Edinburgh: T.C.& E.C. Jack, 1921, p. 16). Compare this to Westcott's commentary on same having to entry for "eschatology" and only two entries for "hope." We suggest that commentators may see only what they want to see in the Bible or in any specific writings therein, and this is something we must all guard against. But in recent times there has been more attention paid, rightly so, to the eschatology in Hebrews. There is much to learn about fulfillment, prophecy, promises, and the blessings of the new heaven and new earth if we do.
A brief overview is in order here, then later we shall get into a few particulars which show up in the epistle. Within the first two verses we see very early ep' eschatou toon heemeroon, "in last of the days," or "in the last days," referring to how God had communicated to the author and others through His Son Jesus Christ. We believe the reference here is not to the Christian age as to "last days." Indeed, if the Christian age is tantamount to the Kingdom of God and Christ and the latter was to be forever and ever, then it follows that the Christian age was and is to be forever and ever, and thus there could be no "last days" in something to be forever and ever. (Check Hebrews 1:8; Revelation 11:15; "and he (Christ) shall reign into the ages of the ages," aioonas toon aioonoon. If Christ was to reign, it would be in His kingdom; but if His kingdom had "last days," so would His reigning, but this would plainly contradict what the Bible says). Thus, we believe it is correct to interpret Hebrews 1:2a as referring to God speaking through Christ in the "last days" of the Judaic "world" or "age" (compare Hebrews 2:5; 6:5, e.g.). .
In chapter two, verse five, we have, "for not to angels subjected he the about to come inhabited (earth), about which we speak." Oikoumeneen is accusative singular of oikoumenee, "the habitable earth, world," which was about to come in the Hebrew epistle at the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. This "habitable world or earth" was the new earth which Jesus promised in His Beatitudes would be inherited by the meek (Matthew 5:5). By metonomy, however, the reference is to, we believe, the inherent blessings/rewards of that new earth, not the inheritance of the new earth itself (see how Jesus promised that the Father would give the "little flock" the kingdom, but really implied that the blessings of the kingdom would be theirs because the kingdom always would be God's and Christ's, Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 11:15; et al). There were two "habitable earths" during the first-century generation of transition at the time of the writing of the letters and epistles; one was about to come as in this Hebrews 2;5, and the other was the Jewish "habitable earth" which was about to experience an hour of trial (see the comparison in Revelation 3:9,10, between the words concerning the church in Philadelphia and words in reference to the synagogue of Satan or "the ones dwelling on the earth," 3:10b; all scripture references are translations by this writer from Nestle's 23rd Greek edition of the New Testament).
Concerning the "sabbath rest" in chapter four, the conclusion was that there was remaining (ara apoleipetai) a Sabbath rest for God's people, the "remaining" implying that another "temporary" rest that had been going on would no longer remain in the end time of Bible prophecy. Compare the prophecy in Hebrews 12 of the shaken things (toon saleiomenoon) being removed as contrasting the (literally) "not-being-shaken" things remaining (verse 27). Further, the recipients of the Hebrew epistle in their initial tasting, sharing, and enlightenment pointed toward the "about to come age" (mellontos aioonos, Hebrews 6:1-6). The "about to come" salvation of Hebrews 1:14 would be found in the "about to come" age or world, the new Jerusalem. They were to have full assurance "unto the end" (achri telous), i.e., the end of that first "body of this death" (Romans 7:24) or "evil age" (Galatians 1:4). Through faith and patience they would inherit (they were "inheriting" at the time of the writing of Hebrews as the participle shows in Hebrews 6 :11,12 — kleeronomountoon) the blessings of the new things, the good things (Hebrews 10:1; Revelation 21:7).
The priestly office in 62 AD was "being changed" according to 7:12 as we would consider the present passive participle metatithemenees . The present would indicate that the "change" or literally "transporting" of the priesthood was in process at about 62 AD. The high priests were still daily ministering and offering the same sacrifices at this same time, so Judaism had not ceased to exist — the fashion of the Jewish age was passing away in that generation, but at 62 AD had not passed away yet! (1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 John 2:17; compare Hebrews 12:28, "receiving a kingdom," not received!)
There is the promise of eternal inheritance in 9:15b (compare again 6:12) concerning heavenly things (antitypes) as compared to the types, the "figures of the true things" (antitupa toon aleethinoon, 9:23ff.). Death and judgment are set in 9:27, and since Christ, having been offered to bear the sins of many, lives, He would appear (ophtheesetai) a second [time] without sin to them who would be expecting Him (auton apekdechomenois) for salvation (9:28). The salvation they would inherit was connected with Christ's return. The saints were about to inherit salvation in 1:14. The law was a shadow of the about-to-come good things of 10:1 (mellontoon agathoon). Salvation was promised at the fall of Jerusalem (Luke 21:28-32). Thus, we have so far Christ's second revelation, salvation, judgment, inheritance, good things, a remaining sabbath rest, and we have barely touched the hem of the garment in Hebrews on these things! But notice: all these things were "about to be," there would be no long wait, but in a little while, Christ would come and He would not delay (Hebrews 10:37). They would not be of those who would withdraw into destruction (hupostolees eis apooleian, 10:39), but of faith to the possession of the soul (39b; compare Jesus' words in the context of the end of the Jewish age, "in your patience you will gain your souls," Luke 21:19).
The Old Testament faithful had not obtained the blessings of the promise God made to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), "God having forseen something better concerning us, in order that not without us they should be perfected" (Hebrews 11:39,40). God's whole "creation" would be complete, perfect, at the return of Christ from heaven (Romans 8:18-23, e.g.). They had then approached Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, had been enrolled in the heavens (apogegrammenoon en ouranois), and so they were not to refuse Him who warned them of the shaken things being removed so the not-shaken things would remain (12:22ff.). They were receiving an unshakable kingdom (basileian asaleutos), so in light of that fact, they were to have grace, through which they could serve God pleasingly, and this with devoutness and awe (eulabeias kai deous, 12:28, 29). They no longer had a continuing city, but they anticipated the about-to-come city they sought (13:14). John saw it come down out of heaven (Revelation 21:2). Paul said it was the mother of saints (Galatians 4:26). It was and is the "capital" of the Israel of God (Galatians 6:15,16). We have skipped some things in this great epistle; maybe another time we can go deeper into the great, good, eternal blessings revealed in promise from the book of Hebrews.
Self confidence born of personal study is rewarding. Each generation must discover truth for itself or the danger of traditionalism becomes very real. Arguments and doctrines passed down without critical examination tend to make us "at ease in Zion." The Restoration Plea demands constant re-evaluation, unrelenting investigation, honest inquiry into even the dearest and most confidently held positions. This article seeks to challenge the reader to rethink long held views of some familiar passages.
One prominent brother, attempting to refute Preterism, has presented what he calls "an airtight argument" to prove that the kingdom came in full power and glory on Pentecost. Since Preterists hold that the kingdom was born in infancy and immaturity on Pentecost and was not full grown until the completion of the scheme of Redemption and fall of the Old World, our brother believes if he can demonstrate the kingdom was fully established on Pentecost he has disproven realized eschatology.
Our brother argues: The kingdom was to come with power, Mark 9:1. Power was to come when the Holy Spirit came, Acts 1:8ff. The Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, Acts 2:4ff; therefore the kingdom came with power on Pentecost.
This little logically ordered argument sounds impressive; but is woefully lacking in depth, contextual consideration, and ignores specific statements of other passages.
I am not arguing that the kingdom was not established on Pentecost. I do aver it was established in infancy. On Pentecost the church did not have her full constitution, her full organization, her full glory and maturity. This has been correctly maintained in debates with Pentecostals in regard to miracles. See I Corinthians 13, Ephesians 4, etc.. It seems however that some would argue out of both sides of their mouths. When arguing against Charismatics it is insisted miracles were a necessary part of the infancy of the church; being incomplete, the church needed miraculous help to survive. Now, however, when arguing against realized eschatology, it is insisted the church was established in full maturity, power, and glory on the day of her birth. Consistency is sadly missing here.
When considering the argument cited above, one wonders why Mark 9:1 is isolated and emphasized. Take a closer look.
Why has Mark 9:l been divided from chapter 8:38? There is no justification for a chapter division. Further, the parallel passage, Matthew 16:27-28 (Luke 9:26-27 also) is enlightening, though challenging to traditional concepts. In that text, Jesus promised to return, with the angels, in glory, and judge every man. He further promised that some standing there would not die till they saw him coming.
The normal argument is to insist that verse 27 speaks of the end of time, while verse 28 is Pentecost. But where is the contextual justification for such? What words demand a distinction in subject matter between verses 27 and 28? It takes a very sharp pen-knife to separate these verses by 2000 years and counting. And we chide the premillenialist for his "gap theory."
What we have then, in Mark 9 and parallels, is the promise of Jesus to return in judgment, in the kingdom, in the lifetime of that generation. This can in no way be associated with Pentecost! Did Jesus come with the angels, on the clouds, and judge every man on Pentecost?
Could it be that Mark 9:1 has been isolated and emphasized in our discussions of the kingdom because of the unfortunate chapter division which (implicitly) indicates a delineation between his coming and the imminent time frame? Have we omitted reference to Luke and Matthew because we feel uncomfortable in dealing with matters we do not understand; or has traditionalism blinded our eyes so that we have refused to consider the comprehensive view?
Not only is the fact that Jesus promised to return in judgment in that generation fatal to the posit of fulfillment on Pentecost but application of Mark 9 and parallels to the coming of the Holy Spirit is fatal to that contention.
Note that in Matthew 16, Mark 9, and Luke 9 the subject is the coming of the Lord. The Son of Man would come on the clouds with the angels. These verses speak of the COMING of Jesus.
Now consider the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit. In John 16:7 Jesus said that he had to go away so that the Holy Spirit could come. The coming of the Spirit signified the absence of Jesus.
In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit was poured out, verses 1ff. In verses 32ff Peter said of Jesus "he poured out this which you now see and hear." Jesus was on the throne in heaven when the Holy Spirit was sent with power on Pentecost.
Mark 8:38-9:1 and parallels speak of the coming of Jesus. But the coming of the Holy Spirit, Acts 1:8, John 16:7, signified the absence of Jesus. Therefore, Acts 2, which is the coming of the Holy Spirit, cannot be speaking of the coming of Jesus mentioned in Mark 8:38-9:1.
Those who make the argument cited above are guilty of the "similar is identical" fallacy. They see the word "power" spoken of in Mark 9, in regard to the kingdom. They go to Acts 1 where the Spirit was predicted to come with power and assume that since power is mentioned in both texts that one must be the fulfillment of the other. The same "logic" could be used on Acts 4:29ff. After being beaten for preaching Jesus the apostles went back to a gathering of the disciples. They prayed and "the place where they were assembled was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit;" In verse 33 we are told that "with power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection." Here we have the Holy Spirit given and we have power. Why is this not as much applicable to the coming of the kingdom with power as when the Holy Spirit was given in Acts 2? Our point is that just because similar terms are used subject matter is not identical.
Four Great Needs
To successfully establish his position, our brother has four great needs to fulfill.
First, he must prove that Matthew 16:27-28 and Mark 8:38 - 9:1 are not parallel. This alone would not establish his case however.
Second, he must prove that Mark 8:38 (Matthew 16:27) is to be divided in subject matter and time from Mark 9:1 (Matthew 16:28). The difficulty here is that in Revelation 22:12 Jesus, obviously speaking after Pentecost, said "...behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me to reward every man according to his work." Since this is nothing less than a restatement of his words in Matthew 16:27 it proves two things. First, that Matthew 16:27 is not speaking of the end of time since Jesus said he was coming quickly to judge and reward. Second, that Matthew 16:27, being restated in Revelation 22:12, cannot refer to Pentecost since Revelation speaks of the very thing as Matthew 16:27 but is post Pentecost.
Third, number two failing, our brother would have to demonstrate that the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was the coming of Jesus, on the clouds, with angels, in judgment of every man. Is anyone ready to aver that Pentecost was the coming of Jesus on the clouds, with angels, in judgment of every man? If so, how can you then explain Revelation 22:12?
Fourth, our good brother would have to demonstrate that the coming of the Holy Spirit did not signify the absence of Jesus. But Jesus emphatically said unless he left and was absent the Holy Spirit could not come; and in Acts 2 the apostles make it a point to say Jesus had sent (He was on the throne in heaven, vs. 34-35) the Holy Spirit. Mark 9 (Matthew 16:27-28) speaks of the coming of the Lord. Acts 1:8 and Acts 2 speak of the coming of the Holy Spirit. But the coming of the Spirit was not the coming of the Lord; therefore Acts 1:8 and Acts 2 cannot be fulfillment of Mark 9 (Matthew 16:27-28). Significantly, even if one were to demonstrate that the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was a coming of Christ, it would not materially affect our contention as stated under numbers 2 and 3 above. The continuity of the text in Matthew-Mark-Luke and the correlation with the text in Revelation is alone sufficient to support our contention.
I believe it is impossible to prove any of the above.
I have demonstrated that to argue for a distinction of subject matter and time between Mark 8:38 (Matthew 16:27) and Mark 9:1 (Matthew 16:28) is untenable. I have shown that Jesus did not come in judgment of every man on Pentecost; but he was to do so in that generation, Revelation 22:12. We have shown that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was signal of the absence of Jesus; yet Mark 9 and parallels speak of the coming of Jesus.
I am convinced the only construct of Mark 8:38-9:1 and parallels which satisfies the chronological and contextual demands is to understand Jesus predicting his return in full glory to judge all men. He emphatically said that some then living would not die before it happened. Other passages confirm this posit, Matthew 23, 1 Peter 4:5, Revelation 11, etc.. This happened in 70 A.D. when he destroyed Jerusalem, Matthew 24:29-34.
What I have demonstrated is that it is not good interpretation to apply Mark 9:1 to the establishment of the kingdom in its infancy on Pentecost. I have shown that our brother's "air-tight argument" has sprung some very serious leaks. He has attempted to prove the establishment in full power, glory, and maturity of the kingdom on Pentecost by using verses which do not even speak of Pentecost. His argument, then, is not only somewhat less than "air tight" — it will not hold water, either.
The millennial doctrine is so full of self contradictions, logical fallacies, and violations of scripture that it is a confusing maze. Having studied millennialism extensively for almost 30 years, and engaged in numerous private and public debates on the issue has given me insights into this doctrine that deeply trouble me. Being aware of these fallacies often makes me wonder why sincere, God-fearing people could possibly believe in this paradigm. Yet, millions do. Thankfully, millennialism is in trouble, as more and more people awake to these fallacies.
The purpose of this article is to expose a few of the more glaring inconsistencies in the modern millennial doctrine as taught by some of its leading popular advocates. There are two separate and distinct, yet vitally important doctrines held by these leading teachers.
Those doctrines are:
- Determinism, i.e. predestination. The idea that God controls what happens, when it happens, etc.
- The idea that Jesus came to establish the Messianic kingdom, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, but could not do so because due to the Jewish unbelief. Let's take a brief look at each of these tenets from the millennial writings.
Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice say this about the world we live in: "God's plan for the future is definite, well planned and exciting. We do not live in a world of chance. Prophecy means that certain things will definitely happen, while other possibilities are eliminated. We live in God's world, under His control, heading down a path preordained by Him. We have a framework teaching us what to expect from the future." 1 He continues: "The Lord determines what will happen in history, and then brings it to pass." (11) Mark Hitchcock concurs, "One of the great comforts of studying Bible prophecy is that we see the mighty, sovereign hand of God in control of all things. He controls what happens, how it happens, when it happens, and where it happens." 2
From these two quotes, and more could be given, it is clear that the millennialists believe that God controls history. They believe that prophecy is history written before it happens, that prophecy, when it predicted certain things to happen, automatically eliminated the possibility of other things happening, and that God controls when things will happen. Now, let's take a look at another fundamental tenet of modern millennialism, and that is the doctrine of the postponement of the kingdom.
Ice said this in his written debate with Gentry: "I believe the scriptures teach that Israel could have obtained her much sought after messianic kingdom by recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. We all know the sad reality, the Jews rejected Jesus. As a result the kingdom is no longer near but postponed, awaiting Jewish belief, which will occur at the end of the Tribulation." 3 Spargimino says: "At his first advent, the Lord Jesus Christ came to offer Israel the Kingdom promised in the Old Testament. When Israel rejected her Messiah, the Old Testament Kingdom program was held in abeyance." 4 In his latest diatribe against preterism, Ice says: "The Lord made no error and clearly had 'the coming' for judgment in mind (in Matthew 10:22-23, DKP). However, the coming is contingent upon Israel's acceptance of its King. Because even after His resurrection, that nation refused Him, it became impossible to establish the kingdom (cf. Acts 3:18-26). Let's take a closer look.
Was the establishment of the kingdom a matter of prophecy? Undeniably. Okay, if the Old Testament prophets foretold the establishment of the kingdom, and they foretold when it was to be established, i.e. in the first century, then their predictions were "history written in advance." But if this is true, then, patently, if the kingdom was postponed from the time when the prophets said it would be established, then that "history" was altered and falsified.
Does Jehovah determine what will happen and then bring it to pass? Was God's plan for the future, as predicted by the Old Testament prophets, "definite, and well planned" by Jehovah? Did His predictions through the prophets eliminate the possibility of other things happening? Well, unfortunately, if the doctrine of the postponement is true, God's prophetic plan was not very well planned, not very definite, and most assuredly did not eliminate other things, i.e. the establishment of the church, from happening. If one accepts the doctrine of the postponement, he is forced to admit that God sent His Son at the time appointed and designated by the prophets, but that, unbeknownst to Jehovah and His Son, the Jews would not accept their overtures of the kingdom, and so, God had to bring His Son back home, establish the church as an emergency interim measure, and then make another plan to send His Son, again, at another later date.
How "well planned" does that strike you?
How "definite" was God's first century kingdom plan?
How much "in control" does that suggest of Jehovah?
Did God's "framework for the future" lead the Jews to expect the establishment of the church? Not if we are to believe the millennial view of things.
Just exactly what "other possibilities" were "eliminated" by the Old Testament prophecies of the establishment of the kingdom in the first century? Patently, the "other possibility" of the church was not eliminated by the kingdom prophecies! (You just have to understand how vital an issue this is. Had the kingdom been established, the church would never have existed! Jesus would never have had to die, had the Jews accepted him. He would have ruled on earth in peace and bliss. The fulfillment of the prophecies of the establishment of kingdom would have eliminated other things — the Atoning Death, the Age of Grace, and the blood bought body of Christ — from taking place! Per Ice, it was the "sad reality" of the rejection of Jesus that the prophecies of the kingdom were put on hold, and we have in its place, the Atoning work of Jesus, the Age of Grace, and the body of Christ! There is something that is sad, very sad indeed here, but it is not that which was established by the Cross work of Jesus Christ! It is the doctrine that impugns his Cross.
We are told that God determines "what will happen, and when it will happen." But this cannot be true if the Jewish unbelief made it "impossible to establish the kingdom." If the doctrine of determinism elucidated in the citations above is correct, should not just the opposite be true? If, "God determines what will happen and when it will happen," this should mean it would have been impossible for the Jewish rejection to prevent the establishment of the kingdom. On this thought read Psalms 2. In that great prophecy, Jehovah not only knew of the rejection of His Son, He foretold it, and said He would laugh at man's efforts to defeat Him. He said that in spite of man's unbelief, "Yet have I sat my king on My holy hill Zion!" Key in on that word "Yet," because it means that in spite of Jewish rebellion God would accomplish His purpose. God did not have to postpone the kingdom to fulfill His promises. That rebellion was part of God's determination to enthrone His Messiah.
Very clearly, there is a huge disparity between the two tenets of millennialism. It is totally inconsistent on the one hand to say that God is in control and determines what will happen and when it will happen, and that God determines what will happen and brings it to pass, and then to affirm that God determined when the kingdom would be established, but could not accomplish His task. Those are two different positions, 180 degrees opposite to one another. How does the millennialist respond to this problem? He comes up with another idea that contradicts his idea about Jesus' mission.
You will notice above that Ice says Jesus came to establish the kingdom, and that if the Jews would have accepted him, the kingdom would have been established. However, perhaps feeling the heat of a doctrine that impugns the wisdom, veracity, and reliability of God, Ice, and others, claim that, in reality, Jesus did not come to establish the kingdom after all.
Ice says the reason the Jews rejected Jesus is because he did not conquer the Romans. As a result, the Jews were disillusioned. They, "did not realize the prophecies related to his future kingdom would be fulfilled at his second coming, and not his first. He came instead to suffer for their sins, die on the cross, and rise again without which there would be no forgiveness of sins, or eternal life." (Charting, 26). On page 30 of the same work he says, "The purpose of his first coming was to announce the period of grace and salvation we are living in, not the time of judgment that is yet to come." Do you catch what he has done? Ice says that Jesus did not actually come to establish the kingdom at all. He actually came to die and announce the period of grace we are living in now." What does that mean, though?
Well, to grasp the significance of this little bit of information, you have to understand that the millennialists claim that not one Old Testament prophet ever foretold the establishment of the church. Spargimino (195) says the Old Testament prophets, "knew nothing about this phase" of God's plan. 5 They knew only of God's kingdom. Ice says that the church "was an unrevealed mystery in the Old Testament." 6
Okay, with this in mind consider what Ice said about Jesus "coming to announce the period of grace and salvation we are living in," and not to establish the kingdom. If Jesus came to announce the period of grace we are living in now (i.e. the church age), then Jesus came to establish the church! However, what did Jesus say in Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15? He said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" and Thomas Ice says that this was the kingdom foretold by the Old Testament prophets.
If Jesus came to die to establish the period of grace we are living in now, and the time of grace we are living in now is the church age, then patently, Jesus came to establish the Church. However, Jesus came to offer the kingdom! Thus, in coming to establish the Church, and by offering the kingdom, Jesus was offering to establish the Church as the kingdom.
The millennialists cannot have it both ways. Jesus either did come to establish the Messianic kingdom or he did not. They try to say that he did, but, then again, he didn't, not really. Which is it? If he came to die and establish the church, then he was wrong to offer the kingdom, and get Israel's hopes up about something he did not intend to do for 2000+ years. On the other hand, if he came to establish an earthly kingdom, then patently, his rejection and death were a horrible failure and defeat. The establishment of the church was in fact, a sad reality after all. The contradiction here is very real and very substantive. It cannot be lightly dismissed. So, how does the millennialist respond? He offers yet another contradiction.
To explain why Jesus could not establish the kingdom — but hey, did he really come to establish it anyway? — in the first century, we are told that the Second Coming — when the kingdom was to be established — was, or at least is now, a conditional promise. 7 Actually, Ice goes so far as to say that the Second Coming was supposed to happen in the first century but was postponed. 8 So, the kingdom was supposed to be established in the first century, but it was conditional, dependent on Jewish acceptance, and since they rejected it, it was postponed,
However, on page 24 of Charting, these same men say that the Second Coming is an unconditional promise: "Before our Lord left the world, he gave an unconditional promise to his followers; 'I will come again'" (John 14:3). Thus, out of the same keyboards comes the doctrine that the Second Coming is unconditional, and that it is conditional.
So, which is it? There are only so many choices in regard to whether the kingdom and Second Coming were conditional or not. Let's take a look at the choices and the implications.
Conditional then and now.
The establishment of the kingdom at the parousia was or could have been, conditional when promised in the Old Testament prophets, and could still be conditional now. However, if the kingdom and parousia was and is conditional, then if the Jewish rejection in the first century delayed the kingdom then, it can most assuredly postpone it in the future.
Further, if the kingdom was conditional then and now, then the millennial doctrine of determinism and God's sovereignty is seriously called into question. How can it be claimed that "God determines what will happen, and brings it to pass," or, "God controls what will happen and when it will happen" if in fact, the conditionality of the promise is dependent on man's obedience?
Unconditional then and now.
If it is affirmed that God's promise of the kingdom was an unconditional promise when made by the Old Testament prophets, and it is unconditional now as well, there is a major problem. That is, there is no need for the promise to be unconditional now, because if it was unconditional when given in the Old Testament, then it was going to be fulfilled in the first century just as the prophets foretold! There would be no need for a postponement, because God's unconditional promise would be fulfilled in spite of, and even because of, man's rebellion. See again Psalms 2. In other words, if the Second Coming was unconditional when the Old Testament prophets predicted it, then Israel's rejection of the kingdom could not affect God's promise. The moment a person suggests that the Old Covenant promises of the kingdom were unconditional, that is the death knell to dispensationalism, for if an unconditional promise failed, God failed, His Son failed, and the prophets were wrong.
Conditional then, unconditional now.
If it were to be suggested that God gave conditional Old Covenant promises of the kingdom, but since those promises were rejected, He has now made them unconditional (per LaHaye, on John 14), then this means that we should be able to find in the Old Testament prophecies a contingency clause. Where does the Old Testament ever hint that the establishment of the kingdom in the last days was conditional. Where do any of the prophets say that God would try to establish the kingdom in the days of Rome, but if that didn't work out He would try again later? The fact is, the Old Testament prophecies said Jesus would not fail in his mission (Isaiah 42:4), God would not alter His promises (Psalms 89:34), and He would laugh at man's efforts to defeat His kingdom purpose (Psalms 2).
If, of course, the Old Covenant prophecies were conditional, we are back to the problem of "prophecy is history written beforehand." What kind of history is conditional? If God does in fact control the world, and determines when a thing is to happen, and if His predictions of events eliminates other things from happening, then the contingency of the kingdom lies outside the parameters of that. God's Old Testament predictions of the kingdom being established in the first century, should have eliminated the possibility of its postponement. However, according to the millennial view of things, God allowed man to determine whether His promises would be fulfilled on time. Man eliminated the possibility of God fulfilling His Word. (There are conditional promises in scripture; see Jeremiah 18. The millennialists must demonstrate that the kingdom prophecies of the Old Testament fall into that category. In fact, the Old Testament promises were not conditional.) If in fact the promise of the kingdom was a conditional promise, this means that the world was "a world of chance" and all sorts of possibilities were not eliminated.
Unconditional then, conditional now.
This suggestion is entirely implausible. To suggest that the promise of the kingdom (at the parousia), was an unconditional prophecy in the Old Testament demands that those prophecies failed. In other words, Jesus came to fulfill the unconditional Old Testament predictions of the establishment of the kingdom. However, he could not fulfill those unconditional promises! Therefore, God altered the nature of the promise and said He would send His Son again, at some future time, if only Israel will repent. But, if the promise was unconditional the first time (i.e. in the Old Testament), and God could not fulfill that unconditional promise, then to make the promise conditional, dependent on Israel's faith in the future, is surely a tenuous thing. To reiterate the point just above, if the promise of the kingdom is now a conditional promise, this means that the world is in fact, "a world of chance." If Israel did not believe the first time, and this prevented the fulfillment of an unconditional prophecy, then most assuredly the chance exists for the kingdom to be postponed again, if Israel is not obedient this time around! If no chance exists for Israel to be disobedient and postpone the kingdom, again, then the promise is not now conditional.
Further, to affirm that the parousia is a conditional promise now, most assuredly does not eliminate the possibility of other things (i.e. Israel's continued rebellion), from happening. If the promise is conditional, then it is conditional, and allows, not eliminates, contingencies.
The bottom line is that if the Old Testament prophecies of the kingdom and parousia were unconditional, then there is no way that the Jewish unbelief would have had any affect on God's ability, intent, or success in establishing the kingdom. And, of course, this is precisely what Psalms 2 conveys. Man would attempt to thwart God's kingdom purpose, rejecting His Son. But God would laugh at them and enthrone His Messiah anyway.
Incidentally, Psalms 2 demands that the Messiah be enthroned over the objections of his subjects, not at the time when the subjects were hailing him as king. This is critical, for the millennialists insist that the Jews will turn in belief to Jesus when he descends physically and visibly. In other words, the millennial view of things demands that Israel be humble, submissive, and full of faith and acceptance for Jesus to be king. However, the vision of Psalms is that Israel would be in a state of denial, rebellion, and even violence. Yet, in spite of that condition the king would be enthroned, and as Psalms 110:1f says, he would "rule in the midst of thine enemies." But you see, according to the millennialists, Israel would no longer be the enemy. They are supposedly converted! This is a violation of the inspired text.
So, what have we seen? We have seen that the millennial paradigm is full of contradictions. On the one hand, they speak of God's sovereign control of what happens and when it happens. They tell us that God determines what will happen and brings it to pass. They tell us that prophecy is history is written in advance. They tell us that prophecy means certain things will definitely happen while other possibilities are eliminated.
On the other hand, they tell us that God sent His Son at what was supposed to be, and was predicted to be, the right time, to do what He had foretold. However, the Jews rebelled and made it "impossible" for God to fulfill the prophecies. God did not control what happened, and He did not control when it happened. The pre-written "history" was falsified, and God did not bring to pass what He said He would.
To cover up this glaring contradiction, the millennialists do a two-step and claim that Jesus did not actually come to establish the kingdom after all. He came to die, and establish the period of grace and mercy we now live in. However, this is a huge contradiction because Jesus said he came to be king and he offered to establish the kingdom. Further, Jesus came to confirm the promises made to the Old Testament fathers (Romans 15:8), and that means he came to fulfill the promises made to Israel. The problem for the millennialists is that they claim that the Old Testament never predicted, in any way whatsoever, the establishment of the current age of grace.
So, on the one hand the millennialists say Jesus did come to establish the kingdom, but then they claim he did not come to establish the kingdom. They say he came to die and establish the church. But, if Jesus came to die and establish the church, he did so in fulfillment of Old Testament promises to Israel. If Jesus came to establish the church in fulfillment of Old Testament promises made to Israel, one of the most critical foundations of millennialism crumbles.
To cover up that embarrassment, the millennialists then claim that the kingdom promise was, or is, a conditional promise, therefore Jewish rejection of that promise does not impugn God's sovereignty. However, this flies in the face of scripture testimony that God's kingdom promise was not conditional at all. Further, to suggest that the establishment of the kingdom was or is conditional demands that the possibility exists that it can be postponed again in the future. Of course, we have shown how the millennialists contradict each other, because in their own writings, they say that the Second Coming is both conditional and unconditional. Just exactly how the same event can be both conditional and unconditional we are never told. And of course we will not be told, because it is not possible.
The self-contradictions in millennialism are super-abundant and they are serious. The wonderful thing is that more and more Bible students are awakening to those contradictions and abandoning that doctrine. May God hasten the day that more and more will see the Truth!
- Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, Charting the End Times, (Eugene, Ore, Harvest House, 2001) 75
- Mark Hitchcock, The Second Coming of Babylon, (Sisters, Ore, Multnomah, 2003) 97
- Thomas Ice and Kenneth Gentry, The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1999) 115
- Larry Spargimino, The Anti-Prophets: The Challenge of Preterism, (Oklahoma City, Hearthstone Publishing, 2000) 194
- To say that the Old Testament prophets never foretold the church is an egregious error. Jesus came to die, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (cf. Isaiah 53). Yet, his death was for the purpose of purchasing the church (Acts 20:28). Therefore, the Old Testament, in predicting the death of Jesus, foretold the establishment of the church.
- Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, Fast Facts on Bible Prophecy, (Eugene, Ore, Harvest House, 1997) 43
- Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack, (Eugene, Or., 2003) 85
- In an article carried in the publication Midnight Call, in a series of articles entitled, “Prophetic Issues, The Age To Come,” ( p. 3), Ice actually says the Second Coming was postponed. The implications of saying the kingdom was postponed are astounding. In the millennial paradigm, the kingdom comes after the Rapture, the rebuilt Temple, the Apostasy, the Great Tribulation, the Man of Sin, the world wide preaching by the 144,000, the coming of the Two Witnesses, etc.. Well, if the kingdom was actually near when Jesus here on earth, then this all of these things were near or already present when he said “The Kingdom of heaven has drawn near!” So, if the kingdom was postponed, this means that those things which were present and near were postponed as well!
Jim Gunter is an excellent Bible student and one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. We are happy and honored that he has shared some of his thoughts with us.
Will Jesus Reign "Physically" in Jerusalem?
by Jim Gunter
It is the understanding on the part of many believers that the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus has not yet come, but that it is on the cusp of doing so at anytime now. As I understand this teaching, some believe that Jesus, when He came to earth in the 1st century, that itwas indeed one of the purposes for which He came.However, because He was rejected by most of the Jews, God put the Kingdom on hold, and established the church as a temporary "replacement," until a later time, which so far, is 2,000 years and counting! This is often referred to as "replacement theology." So, is this truly the case? Will Jesus, at some point in our future, actually come back to earth, "physically" and sit and reign on David’s physical throne in Jerusalem?
Please understand that I certainly cast no aspersion on those disciples who have this understanding. I know these dear folks are every bit as sincere as I am, and that they love The Master every bit as much as I do. However, when I consider what the scriptures have to say about Jesus and His Kingdom, I am drawn in an entirely different direction; a direction which suggests that this is not the case at all.
There is an Old Testament account, which from my perspective, strongly suggests that the "kingdom of The Lord Jesus Christ" did in fact come in the 1st century, and also that it is not an "earthly," "physical" kingdom. So, which of these views is the correct one? I believe we would all agree that since the two views are diametrically opposed to one another, then one of them must of necessity be incorrect!
That old testament account of which I speak is found in Jeremiah 22:28. This prophecy by God’s prophet, Jeremiah, speaks of one of the kings of Judah named "Coniah." First we learn that he was the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah. He was also a man who bears 3 names in the Scriptures:(1) Coniah--Jeremiah 22:28; Jeremiah 22:24. (2) Jehoiachin--2Kings 24:6; 2 Chronicles 36:8-9.
(3) Jeconiah--1 Chronicles 3:16; Jeremiah 24:1.
Coniah was the last of David’s lineage to be rightful king to reign in Judah. He was eighteen years old when he began to reign [2 Kings 24:8, 12-13], and was evil in the sight of the Lord, even as a lad. He reigned only 3 months and 10 days, after which he was taken captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. At this time Nebuchadnezzar removed Coniah from the throne and made Mattaniah (Coniah’s uncle) his vassal king [See 2Kings 24:17]. Moreover, Nebuchadnezzar changed Mattaniah’s name to "Zedekiah." Of course Zedekiah was not rightful heir to the throne in Judah; Nebuchadnezzar made him king; not God. Therefore, this would make Coniah the last of David’s lineage to reign in Judah. This fact, I believe, is of great import, and we’ll see the great significance of that momentarily.
Now please note carefully, what Jeremiah said about this man Coniah:
"Is this man Coniah a despised, shattered jar? Or is he an undesirable vessel? Why have he and his descendants been hurled out and cast into a land that they had not known? O land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord,\’Write this man down childless; a man who will not prosper in his days; For no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David, and ruling again in Judah [Jeremiah 22:28-30].’"
Dear friends, did you notice the awesome power of Jeremiah’s prophecy? In my humble opinion, this is really big! Huge! When first reading this passage, at first blush one might sense a seeming contradiction by Jeremiah, because he first speaks of Coniah as being, "childless," and then immediately follows that by speaking of "his descendants." So just how can we reconcile these two seemingly contradictory facts about the one man, Coniah? Well, really there actually is a very simple explanation for this. Biologically speaking, Coniah (Jeconiah) was not childless, for both he and his son, Shealtiel (Salathiel) are found in the genealogical record of Messiah Yahshua [See Matthew 1:12]. As a matter of fact, Coniah actually had at least seven sons [See 1Chronicles 3:17-18]!
"So how then could he be considered childless," someone might ask? Well Jeremiah, himself, explains that for us. Please notice that he prefaces his conclusion in Jeremiah 22:30b with the preposition, "For," which indicates that what is about to follow will explain his aforementioned declaration of Coniah’s "being written down childless." Here, once again, is that language that follows in verse 30b:
"(For) no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David, or ruling again in Judah."
Therefore, from this language, we learn exactly how "Coniah" would be considered "childless." He would be childless, not in the "literal sense," but in the sense of his relation to David’s throne in Jerusalem!
Jeremiah as a Prophet of God:
To me, it is truly remarkable what this passage reveals about the Kingdom of Christ! Let us look at those words of Jeremiah again and see if we can glean additional information from his prophecy.
"No man of his descendants will prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling again in Judah."
First of all, let us not forget that, Jesus was indeed of the royal lineage or bloodline of Coniah! Now juxtapose that with Jeremiah’s statement that, "no man of Coniah’s descendants would prosper sitting on the throne of David and ruling again in Judah (Jerusalem-jg)!" Please let us consider something for just a moment: If Jesus, who was a descendant of both David and Coniah, is someday going to come back to earth "physically" and reign on David’s throne in Jerusalem for a thousand years (as many disciples today understand), then wouldn’t that present a real problem here with Jeremiah’s prophecy? Surely no disciple of the Lord Jesus would dare to even think that Jeremiah was a false prophet? But folks, based on Jeremiah’s prophecy, it surely seems to me that if Jesus (is) actually going to come back and reign "physically" in Jerusalem, that this would completely nullify Jeremiah’s prophecy, and show him in a very bad light as a prophet! Surely, none of us is prepared to make such a charge so as to say that Jeremiah was a false prophet! So then just how can we reconcile "Christ being King," and yet not sully the character and reputation of Jeremiah as a true prophet of God?
The Nature of Christ’s Kingdom:
I would like to offer a view which I believe would in no way conflict with the inspired record nor Jeremiah’s prophecy. From the perspective which I view the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus, I see it somewhat different from the view we have been discussing. I personally understand His Kingdom to have already come in the 1st century! In addition to that, I also understand Christ’s Kingdom to be "spiritual" in its nature, and not "physical." And if the Kingdom of God, the throne of David, and the rule/reign of Jesus are all "spiritual" in nature, then there is no conflict whatsoever with Jeremiah’s prophecy. In fact, I see them as being in perfect harmony; and oh what beautiful harmony it is! Furthermore, it also clearly shows Jeremiah to be the true prophet of God that he is!
If you would be so kind, I would like to take just a moment and see just what the new covenant scriptures have to say about the kind of Kingdom over which our Lord would reign. I believe that when we resolve that matter, it will become clear as to the nature of His Kingdom, and thus remove any confusion one may have experienced.
In John 18:36, our Master had this to say when asked by Pilate in verse 33 if He was "the King of the Jews":
"My kingdom is not of this (world). If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is (not of this realm)" (KJV- not from hence).
In Strong’s Concordance, for the word, "world" (his # 2889), is from the Greek word, "kosmos," which he defines it as, "the earth, in contrast with Heaven."
Also, for the word "realm" (KJV- not from hence), is from the Greek word, "enteuthen," (his #1782), which he further says is from the Greek word, "enthade," (his #1759) which he defines as, "here."
Good folks, I just have to confess to you, that it seems to me that Jesus is clearly declaring that His kingdom is not from here, i.e. not of this earth. In other words, it is not of the earthly, or "physical" realm, but rather it is of the ethereal, heavenly, or "spiritual" realm! Yes, His throne in not in the old "earthly" Jerusalem, but in the "new" Jerusalem; the "heavenly" Jerusalem [See Hebrews 11:8-10, 16: Hebrews 12:22, 28; Galatians 4:21-26; Revelation 21:1-3].
Then there’s the account in Luke 12:32, where Jesus exhorts those Jews who believed in Him. He says,
·"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom."
I think it should be noted here, that these are words Jesus spoke to believing Jews in the 1st century; that they would be given the kingdom. This would also be the elect remnant of Matthew 24:22, 31; Mark 13:20, 27; Luke 21:28; Romans 9: 22; Romams 11:5. In other words, these would be those Jews who accepted their Messiah. I ask you, was Jesus really being honest with these faithful Jews of the 1st century? Are we to think that their Master and His Father would make such a marvelous promise to them, and then allow the wicked, unbelieving Jews to cause Him to go back on His promise to them? May it never be! Oh why can’t we just simply take our Master at His word, and when He says something…believe it?
I would like now to consider something prophesied in Daniel. In Daniel 7:13-14 he says:
"I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming. And He came up to the Ancient of Days (the Father-jg) and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom. That all the people, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His Kingdom is one which will not be destroyed."
I just don’t believe that there is anyone who would not agree that this prophecy describes our Master, who, upon His ascension into Heaven, appears before the Father, where He receives the Kingdom? Would anyone contend that this did not happen?
Now please consider this: We are all quite aware of the fact that Jesus, on many, many occasions spoke to the people in parables. His disciples asked Him why He spoke in parables. He said to them,
"To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but to them it has not been granted."
In Luke 19:11-27 we read one of those very important parables. When Jesus spoke this parable, it was on the occasion where He was about to enter Jerusalem, where His enemies, the unbelieving Jews (especially the rulers among the Jews; the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and chief priests) were all supposing that the kingdom of God was going to immediately appear. And so not only was this parable concerning His kingdom, but this brood of vipers were truly in the cross-hairs of this parable! Here’s what Jesus said of them beginning in verse 12,
·"A certain nobleman (Messiah Jesus-jg) went to a distant country (Heaven, to appear before the Father-jg) to receive a kingdom for Himself, and then return (His coming in 70 A.D.-jg). And He called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’ But His citizens (unbelieving Jews-jg) hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ And it came about that when He returned, after receiving the kingdom, He ordered that these slaves, to whom He had given the money, be called to Him in order that He might know what business they had done. And the first appeared, saying ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, be in authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Your mina, Master, has made five minas.’ And He said to him, also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ And another came saying, ‘Master, behold your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow,’ He said to him, ‘By your words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down, and reaping what I did not sow? Then why did you not put the money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’ And he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’ ‘I tell you, that to everyone who has shall more be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. But these enemies of mine (unbelieving Jews-jg), who did not want to me to reign over them (unbelieving Jews)-jg, bring them here and slay them in my presence (the judgment on Jerusalem, the temple, and Jewish nation in 70 A.D.-jg).’"
I believe it’s clear in this parable that it speaks of Jesus receiving His kingdom when He appeared before His Father in Heaven, just as Daniel had described. I believe it’s also very clear, that unlike the thinking on the part of many disciples, in this parable God does not put the kingdom on hold just because of the disbelief on the part of most of the Jews. Surely, we are not to think that the 1st century unbelieving Jews were so powerful as to thwart the very plans of our Father and His Son! I would ask you to please consider this also: If the Kingdom is not here because God "failed" in the 1st century, what is there to assure us that He wouldn’t fail in the future? Heaven forbid that we should even mention "God" and "failure" in the same breath! But no! God did not put the kingdom on hold. Jesus says very clearly in verse 15, "that He returned after receiving the Kingdom." And just what did He do upon His return? The record states very clearly, "He judged and destroyed them, the city, the temple and their nation!" Folks, could this King’s return, judgment, and destruction of those who clamored, "We do not want this man to reign over us," be any other than that of our Master when He judged Jerusalem and the Jewish nation in 70 A.D?
Please notice in this same chapter, in verses 41-44, what our Master says further concerning the city of Jerusalem, as He literally wept over it, and see just how well this comports with the parable we just read. Here Luke writes:
"And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."
I would like to close this little piece with the words of Peter on the Day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. In Acts 2:25-33, Peter quotes a prophecy by David from Psalm 16:8-11, and then immediately tells his 1st century Jewish audience what that prophecy meant. The prophecy reads,
·"For David says of Him, ‘I was always beholding the Lord in My presence; for He is at My right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore My heart was glad and My tongue exulted; moreover My flesh also will abide in Hope; because Thou wilt not abandon My soul to Hades, nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. Thou hast made known to Me the ways of life; Thou wilt make Me full of gladness with Thy presence.’ Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to Him with an oath, to seat one of His descendants upon his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore, having been exalted to the right hand of God and having received from the Father promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to My Lord, sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for they feet. Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ (anointed one)---this Jesus whom you crucified."
Surely, Peter is quite straight-forward in his assurance to these Jews, that it had been prophesied by David, that the Holy Sprit had promised him that one of His descendants would be raised up to "sit on His throne." And Peter says that this promise was a, "looking ahead to the resurrection of Christ"; that it was then that He (Jesus) ascended to the right hand of the Father as both Lord and Christ. I really don’t see where scripture could be more specific and clear, do you? Yes, Folks, the scriptures are quite clear that Jesus, upon His resurrection and ascension, was brought before the Father, and given a Kingdom. Peter in his discourse on Pentecost proves, with the use of a Psalm of David, that Jesus was then at the right hand of the Father, on David’s throne. Of course, it’s entirely up to us as to whether we want to believe it or not. He allows us to freely make that choice!
Please let me say that I truly appreciate your kindness and patience in considering these things with me. And I hope that you will give them careful thought in light of scriptures. Then judge for yourself if they are consistent with our Father’s word. May the Lord richly bless you all with His grace and peace.
Yours in Him,