Sunday, July 6, 2014
Does Jesus' Kingdom Now Exist?
Premillennialism claims that the kingdom of Jesus Christ does not yet exist. The premillennial view is that Jesus came to earth to establish His kingdom but could not because the Jews rejected Him. So they say, when He comes again, the Messiah must establish and rule 1000 years on the throne of David over an earthly, civil kingdom. Does the kingdom now exist or will Jesus reign for a thousand years on earth (the millennium) when He returns?
Many people deny that Jesus' kingdom now exists.
"David's son, the Lord Jesus Christ, must return to the earth, bodily and literally, in order to reign over David's covenanted kingdom. The allegation that Christ is seated on the Father's throne reigning over a spiritual kingdom, the church, simply does not fulfill the promises of the covenant ... A literal earthly kingdom must be constituted over which the returned Messiah reigns" - Pentecost, Things to Come, pp. 114,115 (via Miller, p. 98).
"...the kingdom announced by John (and afterward by the Lord Jesus himself, Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:14,15) could have been none other than that of Old Testament prophecy ... that kingdom, though announced as 'at hand,' has never yet appeared..." - R.H. Boll, Kingdom of God, p. 34 (via Wallace, God's Prophetic Word, pp. 176f).
People who hold the premillennial view deny that the kingdom of Christ now exists. They say it will be established at his second coming. Many say He intended to establish His kingdom when He came to earth, but could not because the Jews rejected Him, so He postponed it till His second coming.
The consequences of this doctrine is that Jesus is not now King. When pressed by the passages that Jesus is King and His kingdom does exist, they claim this is a kingdom in a different sense than meant in Old Testament prophecies and different than meant originally by Jesus and John (see quote above).
The purpose of this study is to examine passages regarding Jesus' kingdom to see whether or not it exists today.
Many New Testament passages claim Jesus is King now, just as prophesied in the Old Testament (see the links at the end for an article about Jesus as King). If so, then His kingdom must now exist as predicted in the Old Testament.
In this study we will examine passages specifically about Jesus' kingdom to show that it does exist. This will have the additional effect of proving that He is now King.
Note: This study is part of a series of studies relating to the premillennial view of the kingdom. Frequently this study will refer to other of the studies in the series. To understand the whole picture, and especially to see the other articles that we refer to from time to time, please go to www.gospelway.com/god-man/premillennialism.htm.
I. The Importance of the Kingdom
Does it matter whether or not we believe the kingdom exists? How important should the kingdom be in gospel preaching?
A. During Jesus' Lifetime.
Matthew 3:2 - John the Baptist preached the kingdom.
Matthew 4:23 - Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom [cf. 9:35; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:11; Mark 1:14,15]
Matthew 13:19 - The message preached was the word of the kingdom.
Luke 9:2,60 - The disciples were instructed to preach the kingdom [10:9,11; Matthew 10:7].
In addition, many of Jesus' parables taught about the kingdom.
[Matthew 6:10,33; Luke 16:16; John 3:3,5; note that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Christ are the same - Eph. 5:5]
B. During the Early Church
Acts 8:12 - Philip preached the gospel of the kingdom.
Acts 20:25; 28:23,31 - Paul preached and testified regarding the kingdom [19:8]
Were these men preaching about a kingdom different from the one Jesus and the disciples preached before Pentecost, or were they preaching about the same kingdom?
Preaching the kingdom is a fundamental part of gospel preaching, even to those who are not yet disciples [cf. Acts 2:30-36]. Any one who preaches a different gospel is accursed (Galatians 1:8,9). If the apostles preached that the kingdom is in existence, but men today preach that it is not in existence, what is their condition?
II. Predictions Concerning the Kingdom
A. Old Testament Predictions
Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had a dream but forgot what it was about. He required wise men to tell him the dream, then he would know they could interpret it. Only Daniel could do so.
The dream and its meaning
The king saw an image that represented four kingdoms:
* The head of gold = Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, Babylon (v37).
* The breast and arms of silver = another inferior kingdom after Babylon (v39). This is Persia.
* The belly and thighs of brass = another third kingdom ruling all the earth (v39). This is Greece.
* The legs and feet of iron mixed with clay = a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, but divided (vv 40,41). This is Rome.
A stone cut without hands smote the image on the feet and destroyed it. The stone became a mountain and filled the whole earth. This meant that, in the days of those kings (Rome), God would set up a kingdom that would consume the others but would itself never be destroyed (v44).
The kingdom of Christ must be set up during the Roman Empire. Premillennialists agree this is the meaning of the dream. Since the Roman Empire has come and gone, we conclude Jesus' kingdom has already been set up.
But since no earthly kingdom began, premillennialists say the Roman Empire must be restored before Jesus' second coming. They argue the feet of iron mixed with clay had ten toes which represent ten kingdoms that will unite to form a revived Roman Empire. Some see the recent union of European states as the formation of this new empire.
However, Wallace notes that the whole image represents a period of about 600 years. Yet according to the millennial theory, the toes alone have been waiting 2000 years to form! Further, the Roman Empire ceased to exist centuries ago, so the toes are detached from the body by nearly 2000 years! What is there in the dream or image that represents this time period?
Further, Daniel 2 said nothing about ten kingdoms. The toes are never said to represent kingdoms, and the number ten is never even mentioned let alone given any significance. The passage counts the kingdoms involved and there are exactly four, no more (vv 37-40).
Since the fourth empire was the Roman Empire and since Jesus came during that Empire, either the kingdom began as a result of Jesus' first coming or else Daniel is a false prophet! Millennial concepts undermine the inspiration of Scripture.
Here is another vision of the same four kingdoms represented as four beasts (vv 3-7): a lion (Babylon), a bear (Persia), a leopard (Greece), and a fourth beast different from the others (Rome). Again people agree about the meaning of these beasts (vv 15-23).
Vv 13,14 - One like a son of man came with clouds to the Ancient of Days and was given glory, dominion, and a kingdom, everlasting dominion, a kingdom never to be destroyed. This is very similar to the vision in Daniel 2.
Note that the kingdom was given when the Son of Man came to God, not when He left God to return to earth!
[Note: The ten horns are part of the fourth beast (v8). They are ten kings in the fourth kingdom (vv 23,24). They are not ten kingdoms that originate later as millennialists claim. They are kings that reigned while Rome still existed, not 2000 years after it had been destroyed.]
B. Predictions during Jesus' Lifetime
Matthew 3:2 - John the Baptist preached the Kingdom of Heaven was "at hand." Note that John preached during the reign of Tiberius Caesar - the Roman Empire (Luke 3:1). ["At hand" means "to draw near or come near, to approach" - Thayer.]
Mark 1:14,15 - Jesus preached: "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand." This shows that "at hand," as used here, means the time was fulfilled.
Premillennialists agree this meant John and Jesus expected the prophesied kingdom would begin at Jesus' first coming, but they say it did not happen because Jews rejected Jesus (see opening quotes). Hence, John and Jesus are false prophets!
Matthew 10:7 - Jesus sent the twelve to preach the "kingdom is at hand."
Matthew 16:19 - Jesus promised to give Peter the keys of the kingdom. But today Peter has long been dead. Why would Jesus give Peter the keys and then wait till he had been dead over 1900 years before the door of the kingdom was opened?
Luke 10:9,11 - He sent seventy others to preach the "kingdom has come near to you." Hence, if the kingdom did not begin till 2000 years later, then the apostles and disciples were also false prophets! [Matthew 12:25-28; Luke 11:17-20]
Mark 9:1 - The kingdom would come with power. Some standing before Jesus would not die till they saw it come. If that kingdom still has not come, some 2000 years later, there are some very old people around! [Matthew 16:28; Luke 9:27]
Luke 22:18,29,30 - Jesus would not drink of the fruit of the vine till the kingdom comes. The disciples would eat and drink at His table in His kingdom.
Acts 1:3-8 - After His resurrection but before His ascension (vv 9-11) Jesus was still speaking about the kingdom, just like He had been at the beginning of His ministry (v3). What evidence is there that His meaning has changed and He is here speaking of a different kingdom?
The kingdom had not yet come, and Jesus would not say exactly when it would come (vv 6,7). But the power (and the kingdom, cf. Mark 9:1) would come when the Holy Spirit would come and the apostles would be witnesses. This would happen in Jerusalem, not many days from them (vv 8,4,5).
[See on Luke 1:32,33; Matthew 16:19; Mark 11:10; Luke 19:11-27; Matthew 20:20,21 cf. Mark 10:37 and Zech. 6:12,13; Matthew 23:13; 4:17,23; Luke 16:16; 12:31,32; 21;29-33; Mark 15:43; 1 Thessalonians 2:12]
III. The Kingdom and the Day of Pentecost
Note how the events on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 fulfill all these prophecies regarding the kingdom.
Jesus had ASCENDED to the Father
Acts 1:9-11 - He ascended in the clouds.
2:33-35 - He is on the right hand of the Father.
Events in Acts 2 occurred in JERUSALEM (vv 5,14) on Pentecost (v1).
This was during the Roman Empire (Matthew 22:17,21; Acts 25:11). [John 11:48]
It was about three years after Jesus said the kingdom was "at hand."
It was "not many days" after Jesus' promise (Pentecost was 50 days after Jesus' died at the Passover).
The apostles were gathered together (v1).
Hence, some to whom Jesus had spoken were still living. In fact, many in the crowd had seen Jesus do miracles (v22).
The HOLY SPIRIT came with POWER on the apostles (vv 2-4,17,33).
The Holy Spirit gave the twelve power to speak in tongues (vv 4-13).
The apostles acted as witnesses of Jesus' resurrection (v32).
The coming of the Holy Spirit proved Jesus was at the right hand of God (v33).
The kingdom would come when the power came, and the power would come when the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to be witnesses. This began on Pentecost, hence the kingdom was then in existence.
Those who were baptized ate at the Lord's TABLE (v42).
They continued steadfastly in the breaking of bread, which is called the Lord's Table (1 Corinthians 10:16,21).
Jesus said they would eat and drink at His table in the kingdom. They did so beginning at Pentecost, so they must have entered the kingdom at Pentecost.
1 Corinthians 11:26 - We will not have the Lord's Supper (table) after Jesus returns. Hence the kingdom that Jesus prophesied must be in existence now; it cannot come after He returns.
The CONCLUSION is stated in vv 30-36.
Jesus is now reigning as Lord and Christ on the throne of David at God's right hand. Hence, He is King (see the link below to the article on Jesus as King). All prophecies regarding Jesus' kingdom were fulfilled at Pentecost. Therefore, His kingdom must exist and people began to enter it at Pentecost.
Premillennialism says the kingdom does not exist now but will begin at Jesus' second coming. This does not fit a single one of these prophecies, but contradicts every one! (Review the predictions listed above if necessary to see this point.)
[Jesus was then in His glory. Cf. Matthew 20:20,21 and Mark 10:37 and Zech. 6:12,13 to Acts 2:33-35; Luke 24:26; 1 Peter 1:21; John 17:5.]
IV. The Kingdom after Pentecost
After Pentecost several passages confirm that the kingdom did exist.
Paul and the Colossian Christians were in the kingdom. That could not be unless the kingdom was in existence.
When one is redeemed and forgiven (v14), he leaves the power of darkness and enters the kingdom (v13). Since redemption and forgiveness are offered to all, then all can now be in the kingdom.
All people are either in the kingdom or in the power of darkness. If people admit they are not in the kingdom, where does that leave them?!
God's voice shook the earth (v26) when He gave the law at Sinai (vv 18-21).
Haggai 2:6 promised that He would shake the earth one more time (v26), referring to the removal of that old covenant and the replacement of it with the new covenant which would remain (vv 27,24). This occurred when Jesus died.
So people in the first century were receiving a kingdom (v28). Therefore, it must have existed then.
That kingdom cannot be shaken (v28) - it cannot be removed and replaced as the old law was. But if it is to be replaced by yet another kingdom on earth, then it will be shaken again!
If we refuse this kingdom, we cannot escape (v25); yet refusing it is exactly what premillennial folks do!
John and the Christians he addressed were companions (partakers - ASV) in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. They could not be companions in it (partake of it) if it did not exist. Yet both John and the Christians in the seven churches of Asia (v4) were in it. [Revelation 1:5,6; 5:10]
1 Corinthians 15:22-28
Vv 22,23 - The passage teaches that the righteous dead will be raised at Jesus' return. Premillennialism says that is when Jesus' kingdom will begin. [Note that the Bible says the wicked and righteous will all be raised at the same time - John 5:28,29]
V24 - But when the dead are raised, then comes the end, not the beginning. Jesus will then deliver the kingdom to the Father. This is the opposite of premillennial teaching. They say the Father will deliver the kingdom to the Son at His second coming!
Vv 25,26 - Jesus is now reigning (all things are being made subject to Him - v28). He will continue to reign until he defeats the last enemy, which is death (cf. Psalm 110:1,2). Death will be defeated by the resurrection when Jesus returns.
Note: Jesus reigns while death is still an enemy, not after it has been defeated. It is an enemy now, but will be defeated by the resurrection at His return. Therefore, Jesus must reign now until He returns. He will not begin to reign when He returns.
So the kingdom must exist now because Jesus is now reigning. He will not begin to reign when He returns, but He will reign till then. Then He will give the kingdom over to the Father. We will then become spirit beings, not physical (vv 42-50). Sin and human weakness will be removed.
The kingdom of Christ now exists. It fulfills the prophecies, so it must be the kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament and throughout Jesus' lifetime. Premillennial teaching contradicts these prophecies.
Preaching the kingdom is part of preaching the gospel. One who denies the kingdom now exists is preaching a different gospel (Galatians 1:8,9). People who want to follow Jesus' gospel must honor Him as King and become part of His kingdom by obedience to His gospel.