THE GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM
Thursday, October 4, 2018
A Refutation of “The Unity of the Spirit – 2 Evangels?” Part Six
Note: For part one of this six-part rebuttal, click here: http://thathappyexpectation.blogspot.com/2018/10/a-refutation-of-unity-of-spirit-2.html
THE GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM
Again, this two gospel teaching claims it is important not to join the good news of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed, with Paul's evangel of the grace of God. Paul makes no indication of a difference. He preached the evangel of the grace of God and also heralded the kingdom.
As Anonymous goes on to acknowledge (see below), he or she is unsure concerning what, exactly, Christ had in view when he used the expression “kingdom of the heavens.” This frank acknowledgment by Anonymous should, I believe, raise a red flag for any reader of Anonymous’ article. This is especially the case given the fact that there is nothing complicated or mysterious about the kingdom that Christ heralded during his earthly ministry. Simply put, it’s the kingdom that is to be restored to Israel, and which is to be established on the earth at Christ’s return (for a more in-depth defense of this view, see part two of my study, "God's covenant people":http://thathappyexpectation.blogspot.com/2018/09/gods-covenant-people-why-most-believing_27.html).
To say that the kingdom of the heavens is different from the other kingdoms mentioned I don't know at this point for sure. I just know that Paul mentions many things like the kingdom and never indicates that it is any different in his later epistles.
On the contrary, we have good reason to believe that, when the expression “kingdom of God” appears in scripture, it can be referring to God’s reign in one of two different locations. It is the context by which we can determine which location may or may not be in view in any given verse or passage.
Jesus made some profound statements concerning His kingdom:
“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. John 18:36
“Now, being inquired of by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God is coming, He answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God is not coming with scrutiny (or observation). Neither shall they be declaring 'Lo! here!' or 'Lo! there!' for lo! the kingdom of God is inside of you'” Lk.17:20,21
How do these verses fit into the future kingdom on earth teaching? Regardless of what that future kingdom will be like? What benefit is it for our faith or spiritual growth to be making divisions for the word “kingdom”?
Both passages quoted above fit right in with what Anonymous referred to as “the future kingdom on earth teaching.” Here’s John 18:36 from the CLNT: Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My deputies, also, would have contended, lest I should be given up to the Jews. Yet now is My kingdom not hence.”
I’ve placed in bold the words that bring out the meaning of what Christ was declaring to Pilate. He was essentially saying that, as long as “this world” continued, the kingdom over which he will be ruling as king will not be present (hence the words, “Yet NOW is My kingdom not hence”). Why is Christ’s future kingdom not of “this world?” Because it belongs to the next world – i.e., the world that corresponds to the next eon! What Christ referred to as “this world” is the world that corresponds to what Paul referred to as “the present wicked eon” (Gal. 1:4), whose god is Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). In Eph. 2:2 we read the following: “…your offenses and sins, in which once you walked, in accord with the eon of this world, in accord with the chief of the jurisdiction of the air…” So it’s no surprise that Christ would say his kingdom is not “of this world.” But it would be fallacious to infer (as Anonymous seems to be doing) that the kingdom to which Christ was referring in John 18:36 is neither future nor a kingdom that will be on the earth. For when Christ returns and brings the present wicked eon to an end, the “kingdom of this world” will become “our Lord’s and His Christ’s, and He shall be reigning for the eons of the eons! Amen” (Rev. 11:15)!
As far as Luke 17:20-21, the future kingdom on earth is just as much in view here as it is in John 18:36. The context in which these verses are found is clearly that of Christ’s return to earth to set up the kingdom (Luke 17:22-37; cf. Matt. 24:26-31; 25:1, etc.). The words, “The kingdom of God is not coming with scrutiny” mean that the coming of the kingdom will be obvious to all, and that “scrutiny” will not be required to detect its coming or presence (see Luke 17:24; cf. 21:28, 31). The words, “the kingdom of God is inside of you” emphasize the fact that the human heart is to be the domain in which God rules as king, and when the future kingdom does come, it will be present in the renewed hearts of God’s covenant people (for God has promised to give Israel “a new heart and a new spirit” in order to keep his statutes and ordinances; see Ezekiel 36:24-31).
It seems that preoccupation with what may be coming on earth for Israel has overshadowed what ought to preoccupy us now. How is this inspiring us to be standing firm in one spirit, one soul, competing together in the faith of the evangel ?
Notice the author’s words, “…what may be coming on earth for Israel…” I’m not sure what exactly to make of the word “may” here. Surely Anonymous isn’t in doubt as to whether or not God will actually bring to pass what he promised concerning Israel and her eonian destiny. Perhaps Anonymous was just trying to convey the idea that he or she doesn’t actually know what is “coming on earth for Israel.” If that’s the case, then Anonymous’ lack of knowledge on the subject cannot be attributed to a lack of information provided in scripture, for there is an abundance of information on this subject found throughout scripture (and lest one be inclined to think that we who are in the body of Christ need not concern ourselves with those parts of scripture that have to do with Israel’s expectation, Paul himself told Timothy, “All scripture is inspired by God, and is beneficial for teaching, for exposure, for correction, for discipline in righteousness, that the man of God may be equipped, fitted out for every good act”).
Since Israel rejected the Messiah, the kingdom is put on hold for them, but does it mean that the kingdom is on hold for those chosen in grace? “Callousness on Israel has come in part... for there is in the current era a remnant according to the choice of grace...What Israel is seeking for, this she did not encounter, yet the chosen encountered it.” Rom.11:5,7,25
As I’ve argued elsewhere, the “remnant according to the choice of grace” was not constituted by members of the body of Christ. Rather, the remnant was constituted by believing Jews in Paul’s day (such as the “tens of thousands” of believing, law-keeping Jews in Jerusalem referred to by James in Acts 21:20) who shared in Israel’s covenant-based obligation and expectation.
Therefore, to be placing so much emphasis on what God will be doing to and for Israel in the future, which certainly will be marvelous fulfillment of scripture, but not acknowledge what Paul said concerning Israel now in this administration is not ideal, to say the least:
“For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants (seed), but: 'THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS (SEED) WILL BE NAMED.' That is, it is not the children of the flesh, who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants (seed). Rom.9:6-8
Anonymous misunderstands Paul here. Paul was not, in Romans 9:6-8, broadening the term “Israel” to include believing Gentiles (such as the ones to whom Paul was writing); rather, Paul was narrowing the term to include only those members of God’s covenant people who – like the twelve apostles – had come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and who will be part of the “all Israel” that is to be saved when the new covenant goes into effect (Romans 11:25-28). In other words, Paul was here referring to the chosen “remnant” within Israel “according to the flesh.”
SEPARATED OR JOINED?
It's rather troubling to read a well known and respected scholar when writing about The Gospel of the Kingdom, state that, “we must not confuse or join together things which God has separated”. Where is that written? What has God separated? What?! What was once separated because of fleshly distinctions God has now joined together in Christ. However, what is confusing, is to say we must not join together what God has separated, when He actually says that He has joined them!
Anonymous’ article ends in the same question-begging way that it begins (and with which it continues). Anonymous takes what is true for those in the body of Christ (i.e., the truth that Jews and Gentiles/circumcised and uncircumcised have been unified in one body, as revealed in Paul’s letters alone) and then simply assumes that every believing Jew during the Acts era was a member of this company of saints (which, it should be emphasized, came into existence after the company of saints to which most believing Jews belonged during the early “Acts era”). Rather than proving that most believing Israelites were members of the body of Christ, Anonymous simply assumes that they were, and then argues from this assumption-based premise.
Anonymous’ complaint is that some are “separating what God has joined together.” However, if – as I’ve argued in greater depth elsewhere - the body of Christ is (and always has been) distinct from Israel, and most Jewish believers during the Acts era belonged to the un-calloused remnant among God’s covenant people, then it’s Anonymous who is guilty of promoting confusion among the saints by attempting to blur the lines between that which God himself has made a distinction between, and wills to keep distinct until the consummation of the eons.