The ReForum 2014: What is it about the Westminster Standard that can bring people together?

 

A panel discussion on the topic of “Confessing Christianity: Yesterday’s Reformation for Today’s Public Life,” at Reformed Theological Seminary’s 3rd annual Re Forum in Washington, D.C. Moderated by Dr. Howard Griffith, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Academic Dean.

Panelists (left to right):
Dr. Peter Lee, Associate Professor of Old Testament
Mr. Geoff Sackett, Dean of Students
Dr. Chad B. Van Dixhoorn, Associate Professor of Church History

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One in seven young people at risk of homelessness

teenage female on the floor in the street homelessUp to one in seven young people could be at risk of homelessness, pointing to the need for more early intervention services to address their issues before they become homeless.

Mission Australia’s Home & Away: Child and Youth Homelessness report used data collected as part of the 2015 Youth Survey to look at a number of factors which may make a young person vulnerable to homelessness, including any time spent away from the family home due to feeling unable to return, family’s ability to get along and frequency of moving residence.

The report surveyed a diverse cross section of young people from all states and territories and from all walks of life, through independent and government schools, online respondents as well as Mission Australia youth services. The report found that of the 19,000 15-19 year olds surveyed, 13.5% or 1 in 7 young people spent time away from home in the last three years because they felt they couldn’t go back.

Of these young people, around 85% spent time away from home on more than one occasion, with around a quarter having spent time away from home more than 10 times. 8% of these young people were away from home for longer than six months.

The results also show that over half (52%) of the young people who had to spend time away from home reported either a poor or fair relationship with their family, compared to 13.8% of those who’d never had to spend time away from home.

Mission Australia CEO Catherine Yeomans said, “These results indicate that a disturbing number of our young people are at risk of homelessness. Having to leave the family home because they felt they couldn’t go back – with some young people having to leave on multiple occasions and for months at a time – coupled with a background of poor family relationships means that these young people are very vulnerable to homelessness.

“It is unacceptable in 21st century Australia, there are more than 44,000 children and young people homeless on any given night, and our report shows that the tide is not slowing. Last year we called on the Federal Government to commit to halving youth homelessness by 2020 (hyperlink). This report once again highlights the need for immediate action.

“We know from our experience that the long term prospects for young people who become homeless are not good – a disjointed education, lack of support network, risky drug and alcohol use and mental illness. It makes sense to intervene early to address the risk factors rather than waiting until a young person is already homeless.

“We believe early intervention models should be expanded, especially family engagement services like Reconnect which work with young people and their families by providing counselling, mediation and practical support. The funding runs out for this program in June 2017 and we have no clear idea of its future beyond that date.”

The data also looked at other risk factors to homelessness including perceived safety within their neighbourhood, level of comfort in inviting friends over and frequency of moving residence. The frequency and causes of young people moving house provides a good understanding of the home, school and local environment which has role to play in homelessness. Children who move house frequently have been found to have poorer education outcomes, and frequent moving may weaken or strain family bonds, which can put young people at risk of homelessness. This data showed:

  • The young people who had to spend time away from home were much more likely to be concerned about family conflict, depression, coping with stress and suicide than those who did not have to leave home
  • Over a third of young people reported having to move house in the last three years, with one in five having moved more than once. When asked why, the reasons young people commonly reported were: family breakdown or conflict.
  • Around one fifth of those who cited ‘family breakdown or conflict’ as a reason for moving said they had moved four or more times during the past three years
  • In more optimistic news, the majority of young people felt safe in their neighbourhoods (90.8%) and were comfortable inviting friends over to spend time in their home (89.1%)

“These findings paint a picture of a group of young people who move house frequently, often as a result of family breakdown or conflict, including domestic and family violence. In these situations, not only would the young person be trying to cope with the stress of family conflict, they would also be dealing with the stress of changing location, starting a new school, separation from friends and support network, making them vulnerable to homelessness.

“This further indicates the need for early intervention approaches for young people in these situations, to ensure that their vulnerability does not lead to entrenched homelessness. We need an approach which includes government, communities, schools and service providers to work together on preventative strategies to stop young people falling into a cycle of homelessness.” Ms Yeomans said.

The full report and recommendations can be found here

Revelations of Safe-Schools directing kids to age-inappropriate websites warrants program’s immediate suspension

­­MEDIA RELEASE

 

26 February 2016

The Australia Christian Lobby said news that extreme erotic material has been promoted by websites linked to by the Government-funded Safe Schools Coalition were disturbing and warranted the immediate suspension of the program in Australian schools.

ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said the revelations in parliament yesterday by LNP QLD MP George Christensen that Safe Schools was directing children toward pornographic content, sex shops, sex clubs and adult communities through other websites would be of concern to the overwhelming majority of parents.

“The welfare of children must come first. To have a government-sponsored website instructing children to click through to age-inappropriate websites is a failure of the government’s duty of care.  Commonwealth and State governments must immediately suspend the Safe Schools Coalition Program pending the review by Education Minister Simon Birmingham,” Mr Shelton said.

“The ACL commends Mr Christensen for bringing this to the attention of parliament and so many concerned parents.”

Mr Christensen tabled a document in parliament detailing how the Safe Schools Coalition website directs students to the Minus 18 website which has links to The Tool Shed sex shop, a teen sex advice site called Scarleteen and Melbourne gay bar the GH Hotel.

Overnight The Tool Shed link had been removed from the Minus 18 website.

“It is disturbing enough that Safe-Schools advocates allowing boys to use the girls’ toilets and gives instruction in chest-binding for girls and penis tucking for boys.

“That the Safe Schools-promoted Minus 18 website has been providing links to adult content is alarming.”

In his speech, Mr Christensen said: “If parents knew this was the type of material their children were being exposed to they would probably not let them go to school.’’

Mr Shelton said: “It is disappointing that Labor child safety spokeswoman Terri Butler is calling for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to condemn Mr Christensen.

“As Labor’s child safety spokeswoman Ms Butler should be focusing her attention on the material that the Safe Schools Coalition is promoting, including through the Minus 18 website.

“People need to calm down in this debate and actually look at this material rather than attacking those who are bringing its content to the attention of parents.

“The Safe Schools Coalition purports to be an anti-bullying program but instead is providing links to adult-only sites.

“Safe Schools tells children they must have access to the Minus 18 website which instructs girls in chest binding so their breasts are flattened and penis tucking for boys.”

Since marriage was redefined in countries like Ireland and Canada, programs like Safe Schools had become mandatory.

The Victorian Government plans to make Safe Schools mandatory from 2018.

“Many people are asking questions about where rainbow ideology is taking our politics.

“The Government should immediately pay out its contract with the program providers,” Mr Shelton said.

ENDS

Link to the speech by MP George Christensen on 25/2/16 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xH0V-AnnnRw&sns=em

Link to the Hansard speech by MP George Christensen: http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansardr%2F115c3603-d1aa-4e7e-8ec1-5ec3e40edc8a%2F0160%22

gary.kleyn@acl.org.au

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A King and His Kingdom

A King and His Kingdom by Roy Blackwood
PART ONE
Defining the Kingdom
“For the Kingdom is the Lord’s”
(Psalm 22:28a)

What is this Kingdom? Three questions must be answered.
1. What is the source and origin? Why did Jesus Christ “need”
to be King and to have this Kingdom? What is THE PURPOSE?
2. What kind of Kingdom is it, the nature of it?
3. What is the extent of Christ’s Kingdom? When did it begin?
When will it end? Where is it? Who all and what all are
included in Christ’s Kingdom? And where will this Kingdom
be?

As God, the second person of the Godhead did not “need”
anything. And so it is not an absolute legal necessity that
mandates that Christ be a King and have a Kingdom. But it is a
relative moral necessity rising out of Christ’s work of atonement
that makes it “necessary” for Christ to have a Kingdom and to be
a King. The doctrine of the Kingship and Kingdom of Christ
must always be understood as the sequel to the doctrine of
atonement. If God had never made the decision to save a
number of souls, then there never would have been any “need”
for Christ to die on the Cross, and no need for Christ to be a
King with a Kingdom. But once God, motivated by a love, at
once wondrous and divine, made that sovereign decision to save
a number of the human race, then it became “necessary” for the
second person of the Godhead to leave Heaven to become man,
and to die on the Cross in order to make man to be at one with
God and God to be at one with those souls.

That is also why it was a relative moral necessity for Christ to be
a real king with a kingdom. Without the power and authority of
a King with a Kingdom, everything Christ had done on the
Cross would have been in vain. If He had simply returned to
Heaven and “retired” from active duty, not one soul would have
been saved. His blood would have been wasted. He “needed” the
power and authority of a king with a kingdom to apply the
benefits which He had purchased for us on the Cross. It is in this
sense that He “needed” the power and authority that the Father
appointed to Him and that He willingly accepted and
proclaimed in that remarkable appointment statement which His
dialogue stated so vividly in Psalm 2:6=9; John 17:1=3; and
Hebrews 5:5. Armed with all power and authority, Christ, as
“the lamb slain before the foundation of the world,” created His
world as a platform in space to carry out His work ofredemption.
After the fall of man, the destructive influences of
Satan and sin would have destroyed His world, but now Christ
stepped forward to grasp the very pillars of the universe to hold
these awful destructive influences in abeyance until those souls
for whom He “ever liveth to make intercession”, shall have had
time to repent and turn to Him.

In a more personal subjective sense, Christ the Messiah “needed”
the power and authority of a King with a Kingdom to subdue
your own will and then to apply the benefits He had purchased
for you on the Cross in order to receive you to Himself; to make
you able to trust in Him; to put His kind of life into your heart;
and then to nourish and build you up into the accomplishments
of His life’s purpose for you in His Kingdom today, and then on
into those purposes which He has planned for you in eternity.
All this is accomplished while defeating all His and your
enemies. So it was for this purpose, to meet this need, that the
Father appointed Him to this Kingship and Kingdom. The
purpose of His kingdom can all be summarized by the one
word–REDEMPTIVE.

But what is the NATURE of Christ’s Kingdom? What kind of
Kingship and Kingdom does Christ have today? When Pilate,
representing Caesar, asked Jesus about His Kingdom, Jesus
answered guardedly, “My Kingdom is not of this world, else
would my servants fight that I should not be delivered, but now
is my Kingdom not from here”. When Pilate pursued his own
question further by asking, “Art thou a King then?” Jesus
answered more fully, “Thou sayest that I am a King. To this end
was I born and for this cause came I into the world. . .” This may
have been why Pilate later insisted on putting the inscription on
His cross, “Christ, the King of the Jews”.

Christ’s Kingdom is a spiritual kingdom and a series of
comparisons or contrasts with civil=political kings and kingdoms
may help to explain and define what it means for a kingdom and
kingship to be spiritual.

1. Christ was appointed to this Kingship and Kingdom by
the Father, not just “born” into it through a royal family or
elected to it by a willing people, nor did He conquer His
way into it by spilling the blood of other people. The
Father appointed Christ to be a real King with a real
Kingdom and that Kingship and kingdom is here with us
now. Of the four ways by which kings come to be kings; 1)
taking it by force, 2) being born into it, 3) being chosen or
elected, 4) being appointed; Christ Himself made it very
clear when He said to us in Luke 22:29, “I appoint unto you
a kingdom as My Father hath appointed unto Me”. That is
what the prophecies had promised (i.e. Psalm 2:6=7). And
this was true from all eternity. When the Council of the
Trinity appointed Him the second person of the Godhead
to this particular responsibility, it meant there never was a
time when He was not King. But the announcement of that
appointment came at His baptism and then His official
investiture or actual induction came at the time of His
Ascension.

2. The grand purpose of Christ’s spiritual Kingship and
Kingdom is to save souls, and not just to administer public
justice, preserve peace, develop the morals of men and
establish social order.

3. The means of administration in Christ’s spiritual Kingdom
includes the teaching of the Bible, the proclamation of the
Cross, and the example (the tupos or definitive example) of
the King who came to wrestle with the very consciences of
men. All these means are in contrast to the other means
used exclusively by other kings and kingdoms (i.e. fire,
sword and physical violence).

4. The principles of operation in Christ’s Kingdom and
Kingship are scriptural and righteous as well as ethical and
legal.

5. Almost everything related to Christ’s Kingdom is spiritual.
Its King is from Heaven and its citizens are “born=again”,
“spiritual” people. Its homage is of the soul and its service is
according to the will of God.

These comparisons between the Kingdom of Christ, the regnum
Christi, and the kingdoms of the world, the regna mundi, help to
define the essentially “spiritual” nature of Christ’s Kingdom.
They (as we shall see later) provide a base for the development
of church=civil government relationships. These distinctions or
differences do not necessitate separation. If some could misread
these comparisons to mean “keep them separate because they
are different”, then this doctrine of Christ’s Kingdom and
Kingship would say “bring them together because they are
different”. Christ’s spiritual Kingdom can and does include
things that are physical and mundane. For example, when God
converts a soul so that he becomes a spiritual person, He does
not cease to have a physical body. So long as God maintains a
visible, witnessing Church on earth, as one form of the Kingdom
of Christ, it will involve the physical being part of the spiritual
kingdom. Since Christ has told us He has “all power” and has
been made head over “all things”, then we can know that in His
(spiritual) Kingdom, there will be those things that are, in and
of themselves, physical.

Even money, “dedicated” to the Lord becomes an important
factor in Christ’s development of His spiritual kingdom.
Anything which can, or can be made to have, a spiritual purpose
can be seen to be part of Christ’s spiritual Kingdom. When
Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world”, He had no more
thought of excluding physical things and political and social=
family relationships than when He said to His disciples “ye are
not of this world” (the Greek phrase is identical).

When we ask on behalf of the Christian businessman or the man
in civil government or the father in a family, “but how can these
physical things which occupy so much of my time ever be part
of Christ’s spiritual Kingdom?”, we must know the question is
caused by the statements in Scripture and so God will answer it.
The answer is to be found in the fact that whatever is connected
with Christ’s Kingdom is connected in some way to Christ’s
spiritual objectives–objectives that live beyond the time and
space restraints in our world. It is the ultimate objective which
determines the nature of a thing. When the businessman or man
in government can see a direct relationship between his daily
work and Jesus’ reason for dying for him on the Cross, then he
will see how his physical job is part of Christ’s Spiritual
Kingdom.

Reason for a moment about how things natural are subordinate
to things moral and things moral to things gracious (i.e. things
having to do with Christ and His Grace, His work on the
Cross). Those things which are gracious necessarily suppose the
subordination both of those things which are natural and those
that are moral. So it is that the natural and moral classes are also
under Him officially as the appointed King. The result of all this
then is that the essential dominion of Christ (i.e. what He
owned and controlled as God Creator) and the mediatorial
dominion of Christ (i.e. what He was appointed to as a direct
result of His work on the Cross) are never subversive of one
another but are always supportive of each other and perfectly
harmonious and yet never so blended as to destroy the
distinctive character of either one.

So anything physical in the regna mundi which can or can be
made to have a spiritual purpose or to make a contribution to
Christ’s spiritual Kingdom will be part of His spiritual Kingdom.
This is why Christ was appointed to be “head over all things” to
the Church. That includes His being head over such physical
things as family and civil government. It is as though the Father
has said to the Son as the direct result of His work on the Cross,
“Thou hast established thy right to rule that rebel world. Go
through it now subduing sin and Satan and all other kings and
kingdoms, building up your own individuals, families, civil
government and church to accomplish your own purposes in
time and on into eternity.”

The nature of His Kingdom can all be summarized by the one
word—SPIRITUAL.Having established the redemptive purpose and the spiritual
nature for Christ’s Kingdom and Kingship, let’s move on to the
EXTENT of Christ’s Kingship and Kingdom. In many ways it is the
most important because His Kingdom is unlimited.
-In Matt. 11:27, Jesus said to us “All things (ta ponta) are
delivered unto Me of My Father”.
-In Matt. 28:18, He said “All power (exousia) has been given
to me”.
-In Acts 10:36, Peter said, after living with Jesus for five years
He is Lord of All”.
-In Eph. 1:22, Paul said, “And (He) hath put all things under
His feet and made Him to be head over all things to the Church”.
-In Col. 2:10, Paul said, (I believe with special reference to
angel powers) “And ye are complete in Him
which is head of all principality and power”. He
is the King of all angels.
-In I Cor. 15:17, Paul specifies the one exception which surely
does “prove” the rule, “For He hath put all
things under His feet. But…it is manifest that
He (the Father) is excepted which did put all
things under Him.
-In Heb. 2:6=8, Jesus quotes the words from Psalm 8,“…Thou
hast put all things in subjection under His feet.
For in that He put all in subjection under Him,
He left nothing that is not put under Him,” as
does Augustine, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin.
Christ is God=Creator, (John 1:3). As such, He had certain
essential power and authority over all He had created. This was
His Essential Kingdom and His power and authority in it could
not be said to have been given unto Him. You cannot give to a
person something which he already has. And yet, in every one
of the references above, the power and authority is said to have
been “given or “delivered” or “put upon” or “put under” Him. It is
this distinction that causes us to know whether a reference in
Scripture is referring to the inherent Essential Kingdom which is
Christ’s by virtue of the fact that He is God=Creator or whether
it is a reference referring to that Mediatorial Kingdom which
was bestowed upon Him as the direct result of His work on the
Cross. (Using this method, you may wish to find other
references which describe Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom). [It is]
true that Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is as unlimited as is His
Essential Kingdom. All that was included in His Essential
Kingdom is now included in His Mediatorial Kingdom. The
difference lies in the fact that the powers and things which He
formerly used and ruled by inherent and original right as
Creator He now uses and rules as Mediator for a new purpose,
namely the salvation of souls and the best interests of all His
people, the Christians or the church. very thing which He had
formerly created and controlled as God=Creator, he now rules
and uses for His redemptive purposes as God=Savior. Everything
is—or must be made to—contribute to the salvation of souls.
These things include:
1. Inanimate and irrational things such as sun, moon, stars,
animals, fish and birds–anything which can be shown in
Scripture to be made to serve Christ’s redemptive
purposes. Throughout the Gospels, we see Christ
controlling all these things to accomplish His redemptive
purposes.
2. Angels, both Holy angels and fallen angels (even
including Satan himself) are made to serve Christ’s
redemptive purposes.
3. Men, “all flesh”, elect and non=elect, alive or dead–in their
official and their private capacities–are under Christ’s
Dominion.
4. Associations of people of every kind: family, civil or
political, church, and business, because individuals by
forming themselves into organizations or corporations, or
societies may not get out from under Christ’s Lordship
and Kingdom.
5. The very “wheels of Providence” are directed and
controlled by Christ to serve His redemptive purpose.
So everything that exists, except the Father, has been put under
Christ’s Dominion. Had it not been for that, the world never
would have been able to survive the curse. With this unlimited
power, he steps forward and grasps the very pillars of the
universe to hold off the destructive forces of sin and Satan, until
His redemptive purposes are accomplished. The extent of
Christ’s kingdom can all be summarized by the one word—
UNLIMITED.

Christ’s Kingdom then is:
• Redemptive in origin and purpose
• Spiritual in nature and
• Unlimited in extent

PART TWO
The Application of the Mediatorial Kingdom
“And He rules over the nations.” (Psalm 22:28b)
From Part II forward, the Kingdom discussed is the
mediatorial Kingdom as defined in Part 1.

How does this Doctrine of the Mediatorial Kingship and
Kingdom of Christ apply to:
The Individual (chosen of God)
The Family (basic unit of the Church)
The Church
The Church—Civil Government Relationship
The Business and Life Walk
The Mediatorial Kingdom and The Individual

When we begin with the Kingdom in the life of the
Individual, we find that this is the plan and program that
Christ builds down into the mind and life purpose of every soul
who comes to know Him as Savior and Lord. It is this way of
thinking that is that outline of Christian life which He can look
forward to growing up into. When Christ saves a soul, He builds
His particular life purpose down into that person’s life—His
particular reason for dying on the Cross for that particular
person. And that soul begins growing up into that purpose,
through the three stages of kingdom development, that Christ
described in Mark 5; 1) the blade stage, 2) the green ear stage,
and finally 3) the full corn in the ear stage. He can grow up to
realize that he’s been called by the King who is now His Lord
and that he’s not been saved just to get his own soul out of Hell
and into Heaven, but to be Christ’s witness on Christ’s earth so
long as Christ chooses to leave him there. He has been saved to
be a witness to others who do not yet know Christ as King and
then to help them to grow up into spiritual maturity just as Jesus
taught His disciples to “think” Kingdom and grow up into it. In
the same way, the Apostle Paul taught Timothy not to be
satisfied with just becoming a Christian, or even leading
someone else to Christ, but to work and plan and pray two
spiritual generations, beyond that to see a “faithful man”
reaching “others also”. That is “kingdom=thinking” and an
essential factor in Jesus’ long=range Kingdom plan for the
evangelization of His world. That is true “apostolic succession”
and an essential factor in glorifying God and enjoying Him
forever.

The Mediatorial Kingdom and The Family
When we begin with the kingdom in the family, we find
that Christ has also built this kingdom plan down into
the “mind” or purpose of the Family. So that the man and
woman, bridegroom and bride, who are thinking with the mind
of Christ will know that their marriage and family are not just
for the purpose of developing a new level of romantic “love” nor
just for the purpose of the propagation of the family name, but
that they would be a two=person demonstration of the salvation
relationship that exists between any soul who comes to know
Christ as Savior and Lord and the Savior Himself. So that, as the
world sees the way He, as the bridegroom, lays down his life for
his bride=wife, they would begin to understand what was
involved in Christ (as the bridegroom and King) laying down
His life for His Bride (i.e. the church whose every soul comes to
know Him as Savior and King). And as the world sees how she
submits her whole life to her husband and puts herself into his
hands without reservation, the world begins to understand what
would be involved in surrendering without reservation to Christ,
as Savior and Lord. The two of them will be a two=person
demonstration of the salvation relationship. When this kind of
kingdom=thinking or “mind” is the foundation and long=range
plan for the family, then that family will grow up into spiritual
maturity. “Father” will be more than just the oldest male member
in the family. He will represent the Father in Heaven and he will
pray for his family the way Job prayed for his children. Mother
will “remind” them all of the place called Heaven and of what
Christ wants His Church to be. The children will understand
“grace” because they see and receive the grace and acceptance
and purposefulness that is being demonstrated by both father
and mother on a horizontal level and they will understand
confession and forgiveness because they see it being
demonstrated in the day to day relationships and conversations
between a father and mother who begin with the Kingdom and
Kingship of Jesus Christ. And Paul’s prayers for the family of
Philemon, Apphia and Archippus will apply (i.e. “that the
communication of your faith may become effectual in every
good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus,” (Philemon, verse 6).
Other believers will say, ‘every time I think of you and your
home, I just thank God’, and the extent of that family ministry
will carry on beyond the four generations described by Paul to
Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:2, from grandparents to parents to
children and grandchildren to the end of time—wherever they
may travel throughout His world.

The Mediatorial Kingdom and the Church
When we begin with the Kingdom, in our thinking and
planning for the church, there have been those who, by
accident, oversight, or by design, would limit the doctrine of the
Kingdom to the church, saying that the Kingdom is the church
or the church is the Kingdom. The Kingdom includes, as we
have seen, far more than the church. But Christ intends that the
(redemptive) origin and purpose of His Kingdom, rising as it
does out of His work of atonement on the Cross, will determine
the origin and purpose and message of His Church. The
(spiritual) nature of His Kingdom will provide the standard of
spirituality for His Church in all her “services,” especially her
worship services, and that the (unlimited) extent of His
Kingdom will be the “mission vision” for His Church. It is not
that the Church defines and determines what the Kingdom is,
but rather that the Kingdom determines and defines what the
Church is, and what she will become. The Kingdom is that
overarching dome, of which the Church is a reflection. Just as it
is never the blue of the lake that determines the blue of the sky,
but always the blue of the sky that determines the blue of the
lake; so then it is the pattern of the Kingdom that determines
the origin and redemptive purpose of every church; and the
spiritual nature of the Kingdom that determines the standards of
spirituality in all the “services” of the church; and the (unlimited)
extent of Christ’s kingdom that determines the mission vision of
each church.

I Will Build My Church
When Jesus, the Christ, made that remarkable promise, “I
will build my Church”, over 2000 years ago, He had in
mind a clearly=defined plan, a plan that He continues to
implement throughout His world today. In Exodus 25:40, He
had commanded Moses to build the Tabernacle according to
“the pattern” which He had shown to him on the Mount.
Throughout the Old Testament years, He led Israel and “the
church in the wilderness” into the promised land. Now in the
four gospels, He explains His Kingdom and His Plan for His
Church in more detail and shows the relationship between His
Kingdom and His church.

It is important to see how Christ begins in Matthew 6 with the
command to “seek first the kingdom”, and then ten chapters later
in Matthew 16:18 makes that remarkable promise “I will build
My Church”. In Matthew 16:16=17, Christ first praises Peter
with the highest commendation for making the kind of
confession “thou art the Christ, the son of the Living God”,
which is the rock of confession in every generation, upon which
Christ’s promise to build His church is founded. When Christ
proceeds to tell us about how He must be crucified in order to
do this church building, and Peter begins to rebuke Him; saying
in effect that he will find some easier way to do Christ’s work,
Christ rebukes Peter with his sternest condemnation, calling
Him Satan and saying the same thing to Peter that He had said
to Satan on the Mount of Temptation. In effect, Christ is saying
here to Peter and to all of us: Your responsibility is to “seek the
kingdom”. I will build My church and when I do it My way then
the very gates of Hell will not be able to hold out against it. You
must learn to do My work , My way.The Very Purpose of His Kingdom
has been built down into His Church by the Lord Himself.

When we begin with the Kingdom, then the origin and
purpose of the Kingdom become the origin and purpose
of the Church. Both Kingdom and Church have arisen out of
God’s sovereign will and redemptive purpose which is motivated
by love to save souls. Once that decision had been made, then
Christ was appointed and “became obedient unto death, even
the death on the Cross, wherefore God also highly exalted Him”
and gave Him the Kingdom (Philippians 2:5=11). Now He, in
turn, builds His Church as a very important part of His
Kingdom. Just as it was the primary and ultimate purpose of His
Kingdom to glorify God, honor Christ Himself, and make it
possible for Him to apply the benefits of redemption to His
people and also meet their continuing needs for growing up into
spiritual maturity, so now, these become the primary and
ultimate purpose of His Church. Both Kingdom and Church are
controlled and empowered by Christ and both are primarily
concerned with the application of that redemption which He
has worked out on the Cross. The Kingdom is not limited to the
Church, but in these respects, they are the same.
There is a great difference between this and the idea that the
Church originated in the minds of people as a voluntary
spontaneous association who call themselves together in order
to meet their own spiritual and social needs. This is Christ
calling together His people, and ultimately it is not so much for
man’s benefit as it is for God’s glory.

When we look at the Church beginning with the Kingdom,
then there is a functional mission purpose that becomes very
important. The Church becomes less “ours” and more “His”—
not so much the place to which we come to add to our numbers
and preserve ourselves, as it is the place to which He brings us,
equips us, and sends us on to multiply into more congregations
to evangelize His world.

On the one hand, there is a difference between the purpose
Christ has built into an individual and a family and the purpose
He has built down into His Church. Even a casual review of the
works (erga) that Christ was reviewing in each of the seven
churches in Revelation 2 and 3, will show that He has assigned a
particular ministry to a particular congregation. On the other
hand, all churches have certain things in common and when we
review them, beginning with the Kingdom, there is less
emphasis on drawing distinctions and more emphasis on
ultimate purpose and mission. Beginning with the Kingdom
brings less emphasis on what one church “has”, that another
“does not have” and more emphasis on what Christ has designed
and called all of us to do to the Glory of God.
The spiritual nature of His Church also has been “built” down
into her by her Lord.

Christ has also “built” the spiritual nature of His Kingdom
down into His Church in such a way that the spirituality of
the Kingdom provides a basis or standard for evaluating the
spirituality of a particular congregation. Some churches are
almost more dead than alive. They sing dead and pray dead and
give and think dead. Others are “alive” in Christ and their
services on earth can be seen as a kind of choir rehearsal for
Heaven. That spirituality is also one practical basis for the
Church’s independence of the power or control of all other
organizations such as the civil government. Because she is a
spiritual organization, she is not dependent on the State for her
establishment or continuing existence. Her foundation is Christ
alone. And because Christ has built her to be a spiritual
organization, she is subject to Him alone. He is her only head
and she is subject to Him as God has said, just as any person’s
physical body is subject to the head. So the spiritual nature of
Christ’s Kingdom built downward into His Church, provides the
basis for 1) the spirituality of a church and especially the
standard of spirituality for her worship services; 2) her
independence to all other organizations and influences; and 3)
her subjection to Christ alone. Also, as we shall see in a later
section, this spiritual nature provides one basis for a healthy
working relationship between Church and civil government.
The spiritual nature of the Church not only provides protection
for Christ’s Church against the attacks of other organizations,
like the civil government, from outside the Church but it also
protects her against the attacks of the organizations from within
the Church herself. It is clear in the records of history that the
Church has been seduced or raped as often by those “legitimate”
church boards (colleges, cardinals, assemblies, synods) that
operate from within as she has been seduced and raped by
emperors, kings, judges and other legislative bodies working
from without. Whether it be hierarchical, congregational or
Presbyterian form of church government, Christ has prescribed
a form of church government simply because edification requires
order and order requires government. The moment men begin
to forget that their authority within His Church is not legislative
but solely ministerial (the administration of the Word He has
legislated), then they are usurping Christ’s authority within His
Church. He never has permitted that and He never will.
Whatever form of church government causes us to know that
the Church is more “his” and less “ours” is what He was
demanding and promising when He said that day to Peter, and
to all the rest of us, “I will build My Church”.

When Christ built the unlimitedness of His Kingdom downward
into His Church, He was establishing her unity, her universality,
and her perpetuity. Today, we tend to think of unlimitedness in
terms of the dimension of space but when we apply
unlimitedness to the dimension of time, it means there never was
a time when Christ was not a King with a Kingdom and there
never will be. In the dimensions of space it means there is no
“place” on the face of Christ’s world (or in outer space either, if
we ever find souls in outer space), where we should not expect
to find Him building His Church and using believers to do it.
We catch a glimpse of the unity, universality, and perpetuity of
His Church in that Passover=communion table stretching clear
back into the Garden of Eden where we see Abel, the first man
into Heaven, and then moving forward to include Job and
Abraham and Isaac and Moses and the Prophets, all of them,
looking forward through the Passover to the coming of the
Messiah; and then, in the very center of that long table, Jesus
the Messiah and His disciples; and then, Luther and Calvin and
all the rest of the saints since then sitting at that same table
looking back to the same Messiah/Christ to whom the Old
Testaments saints looked forward. There never has been
salvation in any other and never will be. All over His world! And
universe from the beginning of time! His Kingdom will continue
to grow and extend to the end of time and then on into eternity!
And so will His church!

By building the specifications of His Kingdom downward into
His Church, He provides his standards for:
1. Her purpose
2. Her spirituality
3. Her independence of all outward control
4. Her subjection to Himself alone
5. Her unity
6. Her universality
7. Her perpetuity

All this then translates into the order and program of His
Church as she makes progress through time toward bringing His
world into conformity to the regnum Christi totum. This doctrine of
the unlimitedness of Christ’s Kingdom projected downward into
the mission vision of His Church promises to develop a strongly
united, universally expanding, perpetually existing Church
which will one day confront the State in such a way as to require
their working together. But what is the relationship between
Christ’s Kingdom=Kingship and the civil government?

The Mediatorial Kingdom and The Civil Government
Everything Christ has been teaching us about His Kingdom
provides reasons which imply that He is also Lord of civil
government:
• His being invested with the mediatorial dominion in no way
supposes His abrogation of any of His Rights of Dominion
as God.
• His moral qualifications to rule over all things and
especially “all flesh” would imply that such a vastly
important thing as civil government would not be
exempted from his mediatorial rule.
• And without such power over nations, Christ would be
seriously handicapped in overruling the rebellions of men in
order to bring about that time when “the kingdoms of this
world shall become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His
Christ” (Revelation 11:15).
This doctrine of the unlimitedness of Christ’s Dominion gives us
every reason to believe that Jesus Christ is now King and Lord
over all nations’ civil governments as well as Lord of the
individual, the family, and the church.
But more important than reasons and implications such as these
are the specific statements from the following Scripture. The
commands of Scripture, e.g. Psalm 2, as quoted in Acts 4:25,
13:33, Hebrews 1:4, 5:5 and Revelation 2:27. The Prophecies of
Scripture; e.g. Psalm 47:2, 3, 8, 9; Psalm 72; Isaiah 49:22=23;
60:11, 12, 16; Ezekiel 45:17; Daniel 7:13=14; Revelation 11:15;
21:24,26: And such designations in Scripture wherein the
Mediator is addressed as “Governor among the nations” (Psalm
22:28); “higher than the Kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:27); “King
of nations” (Jeremiah 10:6=7); “King of Kings” (Revelation 17:14;
19:16). All of these assert Christ’s actual Lordship over civil
government. To ascribe such titles to Him if they were not true,
would be to mock Him.

We may summarize Christ’s Lordship over civil government
under 8 topics, the eight things Christ does for civil
government. These are followed up by 4 responses civil
government can make to Christ’s Lordship:
1. The very origin of civil government is in the Hands of
Christ. Of the Church, He has said “I will build my
Church”. There is, however, a difference between the
origin of the Church and the origin of civil government
because He says—“civil government is an ordinance of
man” and “the powers that be are ordained of (by) God”.
This means that the God of nature has put the desire into
man for a voluntary social compact. Civil government
originated with God morally not less than providentially.
God not only permitted it, He caused it and since, as we
have seen earlier, the matters of Providence have also
been put into the hands of Christ, then He is, as
Mediator, the one who instituted and constituted civil
government. It can never be the ordinance of man in any
sense in which it is not ordained by God.
2. It is Christ who continues to oversee the affairs of civil
government. Throughout the history of the Old and New
Testaments, we see him influencing the counsels of
statesmen and the prowess of armies to set some up and
The King and His Kingdom 25
take others down, in order to accomplish His redemptive
purposes.
3. Christ issues those commands through His Word which
direct civil rulers in promoting the public good,
restraining evil, administering laws with justice,
promoting and protecting His Church and doing all this
in such a way that it will promote the plans and holy
name of the Mediator.
4. It is Christ who overrules the rebellions of those who
oppose Him.
5. It is Christ who executes the judgments of God on those
rulers and people who refuse to be guided by His moral
law.
6. It is Christ who also works through civil government to
disseminate the Gospel throughout His world. As King of
Kings, He authorizes those whom He has commissioned
to enter and evangelize any nation on earth. So it is not
only what He does for them and to them, it is also what
He does through them that proves His Lordship over
nations. He is Lord of “common” grace.
7. Christ works through civil government in such a way as to
gather together and protect and promote His Church.
Because of the character of nations as they now are, there
could be no hope for the Church if it were not for the fact
that Christ is Lord of the civil government as well as Lord
of the Church.
8. Christ promises to bring about an entire change
(reformation) in the character and constitution of the
nations of the world and in Isaiah 9, He adds this promise,
“the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform it”.

In all these eight ways, Christ, as King, asserts His Lordship
over His civil government, working through them to carry out
the purposes of His Kingdom Plan. Conversely, at each of these
points, civil government is thrust more and more up into the
light and plan of Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom. One practical
result of all this is that men are thus confronted in civil
government, as well as in church with the mediatorial authority
and plan of Christ. This is something more than Theocratic, it is
Christocratic. Christ’s authority in the civil government becomes
as absolute as it is in the Church. Everything here points to civil
government being an ordinance of God—a moral ordinance, a
divine institution. This is a very high doctrine of civil
government.

Now what response can a nation make to Christ and His
Lordship in civil government? There are at least four responses
civil government can make to Christ’s Lordship:
1. The Glory of Christ, her King, can and will be the chief end
or highest purpose of the State. It is just not enough to be
satisfied with the promotion of domestic tranquility, peace,
social order, happiness among men or the patriotic good of
our own community. Everything the civil government does,
every constitution and law and treaty she writes, every
home and foreign policy she makes, every appointment she
makes, must be reviewed with an eye to the excellency of
her Lord. Even indifference or neglect of this can be seen as
an insult, dishonoring to the King. This tends to equate
civil government with what is commonly known as moral
government. It means that the best interests of God,
government, and men are one. Government is intended to
do more than guard, defend, and protect the civil rights
and properties of her citizens, it is also intended to hold
together moral and political truth.
2. The Law of Christ can and will be the rule of conduct.
Since God has commanded His people in Old Testament
times to use His Laws and Precepts as the basis for their
governing and civil government, then less could not be
expected of those of us in New Testament times who have
access to the whole of God’s Revelation in Scripture. This
means then that the State, by virtue of being an instrument
of Christ, a moral ordinance, is not just limited to such
grounds as common consent, protection of property, or
physical needs as a basis for her laws. But she can, and
therefore should, go on directly to God’s moral law in the
Scriptures as the best basis for all her laws. Those who
break those laws would be, disciplined not only because
of what they have done against man, but also because of
what they have done against God. In both legislation and
the restraint of irreligion, the most important thing would
be, what is most honoring for Christ as the Lord of Civil
Government.
3. The standards that Christ demonstrated in His own
character as King will be the base for evaluating or electing
men for office in civil government. Using Christ’s character
as the basis for our evaluation of the character of those
seeking our vote, we would want to see in their lives:
• His kind of dignity or respectability
• His kind of “near relationship” to us
• His kind of knowledge and wisdom
• His kind of power—ability to get things done
• His kind of moral purity
• His kind of compassion
• His kind of authority

Throughout both the Old Testament and the New
Testament, God has defined and described these character
qualities as essential prerequisites for one who will be both
“a terror to evil” and “a minister of God for good”. And
because of Christ’s Lordship over Civil Government,
Christians, in voting, are bound to rule out choice based on
passion, prejudice or party and subject their choice to the
character standards and policies found in God’s Word. Yes,
the franchise is a civil right, but it is to be exercised to the
will and honor of Christ. This does not mean that non=
Christians will ipso facto cease to be magistrates but it does
mean that in a nation that has received God’s revealed will,
it is unfitting, even dishonoring to Christ to elect to office
those who have rejected Him. At the same time, Christians
who are elected to office need to remember that they are
not just the servants of their constituencies, but are “the
ministers of God” and regulate both their public and private
conduct accordingly.
4. The authority of magistrates and the submission of
Christian citizens in any nation which has access to the
Gospel is dependent on these standards. Power and
obedience in this nation does not arise out of either slavish
fear of “my constituency” or from selfish motives but from
love and respect for the Redeemer=King. It will include a
respectful kind of fear, well doing, paying of taxes and
customs, and giving of honor, as described in Romans 13.
Disobedience become disobedience to Christ.
At this point, it becomes necessary to make a distinction
between “power” and “authority”. God has invested people with
democratic power in political matters and those people have the
right to exercise that power. This is moral power as
distinguished from physical=strength kind of power. It is the
power to organize their own social relationships, agree on
constitutions and laws, and to elect and invest certain individuals
to rule over them. This is just the basis for the secular state. But
we are going beyond this when we make a distinction between
this kind of power, and the kind of authority which Christ as
King has given to a Christian magistrate. Both moral power and
moral authority come from God. But the moral power comes
immediately from God as a natural thing. The moral authority
comes mediately as an added thing. And there are two essential
prerequisites for a person’s getting the right or title to this moral
authority:
1. A moral capacity, i.e. he must have some age of maturity
and a sound mind; and
2. A moral ability, which is not necessary for him to have
moral power, but is necessary for him to have moral
authority. For example, a man who is of age and a sound
mind may have demonstrated his moral inability to rule
his own children. And yet his (terrible) moral power over
those children cannot be denied. Such a man cannot be
said to have moral authority. And since God has not given
such a man any such authority, then Christian citizens
who desire to honor Christ as Lord of civil government
should not attempt to give him any such moral authority
by electing or appointing him to rule over them. It may
not be the responsibility of a Christian citizen to
investigate the moral authority of the man who makes his
shoes, but before electing a man to rule over him, he must
examine carefully his natural, moral, and spiritual
qualifications by evaluating his qualifications against the
very character of Christ the King of all civil governments.
Beginning with the Kingdom lays a foundation for the
development of Christian influences in civil government and the
purpose, nature, and extent of civil government. It provides a
Kingdom=based initiative for the further study of church and
civil government relationships, that would be honoring to the
King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The Kingdom and the Business and Life Walk
When we begin with the Kingdom in Christian Life, then
we can see how surely some men are “called” into
business just as directly as others are “called” to be pastors or
missionaries. Those men will see a relationship between
whatever they do or produce or build, and Jesus’ reason for
dying for them on the Cross. The purpose or reason for their
business will be directly related to the purpose of Christ’s
Kingdom. The spirituality of Christ’s Kingdom will permeate the
very character of their personnel and corporation and the
honesty, integrity and dependability of their services and
products. They will be as successful as was Job and Abraham and
Joseph and Solomon and Lydia. The unlimitedness of the extent
of Christ’s Kingdom will unlock the entreprenurial creativity and
initiative of owners and employees. Their attitude toward the
wealth of the world and their control of that portion of it which
the King entrusts to their stewardship will be directly related to
the fact that in one sense they do not “own” anything.
Everything they “have” belongs to the King Himself and is to be
managed by them as stewards of the Lord in such a way as is
useful to Him in His building of His Kingdom.

Christ’s promise is the promise of the King Himself and these
men who have been “called” into business have learned that
when they seek first the Kingdom of God in their business, then
all these other things will be added unto them. No man who has
learned to do that has ever been known to “fail”.

PART THREE
The Conclusion of the Matter
“Therefore since we are receiving a Kingdom
which cannot be shaken, let us have grace,
by which we may serve God acceptably with
reverence and godly fear.” (Hebrews 12
:18)

Beginning with the King and His Mediatorial Kingdom does
make a difference in the Christian walk. The Individual Soul
who comes to know God in the person of
Jesus Christ discovers that the One who gave His life for him on
the Cross is the King with all this Kingdom. Lordship takes on
new reality. He has been “saved” or called, not just to get out of
Hell, but to be a witness to this King so long as the Lord
chooses to leave him on His earth, and then on into eternity.
Something of the mind and purpose of Christ begins to “renew”
his mind so that he thinks with the mind of Christ (Romans
12:1=2). He becomes a “spiritual” man with a sense of
responsibility (vision) for what Christ, His King, is doing all
over his world. He becomes a friend of Christ, not just a servant
in His Family. He will have a redemptive purpose for living, a
spiritual nature, and a world vision. He will see a relationship
between his occupation or work and Jesus’ reason for dying for
him on the cross.

The Family who learns to begin with the Kingdom will know
and rejoice in the fact that their family relationships are not a
do=it=yourself work. But “unless the Lord builds the house, they
labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1a) and that, as a matter
of fact, the Lord is building their family and that the King who
formed the first family in the Garden of Eden has also formed
them into His family. He designed the father to be the
demonstration or illustration of Christ’s kind of self=sacrificing
love and the mother to be the demonstration of the submission
of any soul to Christ as Savior, and all the family to demonstrate
the spirituality of Christ’s Kingdom and the children, from
generation to generation, to demonstrate the unendingness of
Christ’s Kingdom. So Christ the King designs and directs the
family to explain and demonstrate the redemptive purpose, the
spiritual nature and the unending extent of His eternal
Kingdom. It will keep on multiplying to the end of time.

The Church who learns to begin with the Kingdom will be a
family of families. She will recognize that Christ is not only Her
only King and Lord, but that He is Her beloved Bridegroom and
She will be very jealous for all His Crown Rights and Royal
Prerogatives. She will want His purposes and plan to be the
purpose and plan for everything She does. Since He is a
reaching God who is always reaching out to evangelize, She will
want to be a reaching church. Since He is an equipping and
sending God, She will want to be an equipping and sending
Church. She will reflect the nature of His Kingdom by the way
she worships Him and the way she maintains her independence
of all other controls and Her submission to Him alone as Her
only King and Head. Her very unity, universality and perpetuity
will be reflections of the spiritual nature of His Kingdom. Her
growth and multiplication will be a reflection of the
unlimitedness of the Kingdom and of Her King.

The Civil Government who would learn to begin with the
Kingdom would find a God=given basis for working and for
working together with the church. This would be more than a
faith=based initiative, it would be a Kingdom=based initiative.
W. E. Gladstone (Prime Minister of England) had made a careful
study of Church=State relationships in the light of Christ’s
Kingdom and published a book titled The State in Its
Relationship to the Church. His opponents condemned him for
making a political blunder that almost cost him his political life
(his election). They condemned him for believing that the State
revolved around the Church. They insisted that churches came
and went–revolving around the State.

They might have said the same thing about any one of the social
units we have been looking at. Some individuals, dictators or
emperors or even church leaders, have thought that everything
and everyone else revolved around them. Some others have
insisted that everything and everyone else; church, state, and
individual must revolve around the family. Others have insisted
that everything else, including the family must be sacrificed for
the church. Pastors have sacrificed their children and family life
“for” the church and some have chosen celibacy instead of
family life.

The doctrine of the Kingship and Mediatorial Kingdom of Jesus
Christ provides God’s answer to all this imbalance. The proper
relationship between church and civil government and all these
other social units rests on three foundations.
1. This doctrine of the Kingdom and Kingship of Jesus Christ
“beginning with the Kingdom” provides ample basis for Church=
State relationship. The spirituality of Christ’s mediatorial
dominion has been built down into the very nature of the
Church in such a way as to provide a basis for resolving Church=
civil government conflicts and the continuing close cooperation
of the two. It is also the basis for the assurance that the Church
will continue to remain independent of the control of the civil
government and subject to Christ alone as her only King and
Head and it will prohibit the Church from ever dominating the
civil government. The unlimitedness or universality of Christ’s
mediatorial dominion has also been built down into the very
nature of the Church in such a way that the powerful principles
of a multiplying ministry of the Gospel of Jesus are sending a
closely unified, universally expanding, perpetually existing
Church, moving throughout the world. It will, one day, require a
coming to terms between Church and civil government.
In all this, the basic essential difference between Church and
civil government will continue to be preserved. They are
different insofar as their immediate origin, their immediate ends
and their forms of administration are concerned. They are
particularly different in their means of operation, their attitude
toward their subject citizens or members, and the character or
results of their work. But having said all this, the fact is that the
origin of both is in the hands of Christ. His Word is the ultimate
rule and standard for both. His Glory is the ultimate objective
for both. Both are subject to Him, whether they know and want
it or not. Both are subject to Him as King and distinction does
not mandate hostility. Things can be diverse without being
adverse. The Church=civil government relationship can be a
practical working out of the spirituality of Christ’s Mediatorial
Kingdom. It is a reflection of the relationship between the regnum
Christi and the regna mundi. There is a clear, sharp distinction, but
that does not mandate a further separation of the two. In fact, it
is the distinction which makes the “separation” of Church and
civil government unnecessary. It is actually because of their
differences as well as their similarities that the two are designed
to work together to the glory of Christ and the establishment of
His Kingdom. The fact which is seen so clearly in history that
“help” given by the State to the Church has been misused, does
not mean that it must always necessarily be misused to
“secularize” and corrupt the Church, or otherwise blend and
confuse Church and civil government anymore than it means
that civil governments, by virtue of having suffered in history,
especially the medieval years, from the encroachments of the
Church, no longer have need for the Church. Both Church and
civil government are ordinances of God and the fact that Christ
has been made Lord of both, guarantees that the necessary
distinctions can/will be preserved when they form a right
Church=civil government relationship. It is the overarching
dome of Christ’s unlimited Kingdom and in particular His moral
Lordship over nations that provides the grand basis for the
alliance of Church and civil government, as well as the motive
for bringing these two historically unruly persons together.
They are two different moral provinces but they are under the
same King as separate departments of one vast moral empire.
Ptolemy may have initiated the idea of the overarching dome of
the kingdom, but he found it in the Scriptures.
2. The second foundation for this Church=civil government
alliance is to be found in the Scriptures. God’s Word authorizes
these kinds of working relationships. In the New Testament,
God defines the magistrate as the “minister of God” who is a
“terror to evil”, so he must necessarily be concerned with the
suppression of irreligion and the discouragement of offenses
against religion. And as the minister of God for good, he must
necessarily be concerned with the promotion of the true
religion. The important thing is that God put no restriction on
either of the two words “evil” or “good”. That is God’s New
Testament definition of a magistrate, and the Old Testament
provides three kinds of God=approved examples of this
principle.
A.) In the pre=Jewish patriarchal economy, Melchisidek
demonstrated a combination of sacred and civil things which
were pleasing to God.
B.) During the Mosaic economy, the Jewish kings
demonstrated a combination of things civil and sacred which
were pleasing to God.
C.) The Gentile princes, such as Cyrus, Darius and
Artaxerxes, who made contributions to the work of the Church
helped to destroy the idea that such civil government support
was purely Jewish, and therefore without God’s approval for any
other dispensation.
Scripture, when not limited to either Old or New Testaments,
authorizes an alliance that produces a good working
relationship between Church and civil government.
3. The third foundation for a good Church=civil government
relationship is just to review again what the civil government
can do for the Church (faith) and what the Church (faith) can
do for the civil government. The civil government, on the one
hand, can do more than just restrain irreligion and protect the
work of Christ and His Church. She can carry out Her own part
in that work by making Her own profession of faith in Christ
and pledging Her loyalty to Him. She can demonstrate His
standards of character and conduct in her magistrates and laws.
She can contribute to the extension of the special work of His
Kingdom through the exercise of Her official or diplomatic
influences.

On the other hand, true faith, as taught by the Church is a very
important factor in the establishment of that kind of a sound
political economy which is most honoring to Christ and most
conducive to the progress of His Kingdom and the welfare of
her citizens. She teaches magistrates that they are “vice=regents”
of Christ with real authority from Him and directly responsible
to Christ as well as to men, for putting down all selfish
temptations to dominate or tolerate, legislate, administrate, or
judge in any way that will run counter to His revealed law. She
teaches the citizens the value of true liberty and the real source
of it—which results from their knowledge of the true faith. The
Church teaches the citizens of the State to restrain natural
tendencies toward anarchical licentiousness and indifference
which are dishonoring to the Lord of the State and detrimental
to the efficiency of civil government. The Church, as the
teacher of true faith is also directly concerned with the natural
wealth of the nation and, to some extent, responsible for
securing new industry through the development of habits of
honesty, industry, creativity and thrift without at the same time
actually becoming involved in that industry or acquiring that
wealth for herself. She is involved in the prevention of
indulgence, waste, and poverty, and the establishment of the real
“moral” prosperity of the nation. History and current events
show that when this is neglected whole civilizations and nations
have collapsed. The Church can use the means peculiar to her
own nature to reach (far beyond where the State can go) into
the very hearts and consciences of men to promote the cause of
peace and go to the very sources of lawlessness, profligacy, and
impiety, to points that lie far beyond the scope of civil law and
its physical means. Beginning with the Kingdom does make a
difference.
4. But what does Christ mean when he directs us to “think
Kingdom”? In Philippians 2:5=11, God says it this way, “Let this
mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” and in Romans
12:1=2, he calls it being “transformed by the renewing of your
mind”. In Philippians 2, God continues to give us a detailed
outline of the steps of incarnation, the thought processes of the
Messiah in leaving Heaven to come to earth to that last step
when “He became obedient unto death even the death of the
Cross, wherefore God also hath mightily exalted Him and given
Him a name which is above every name. That at the name of
Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father”. That is the
description of the Father’s appointment of the Son to His
Mediatorial Kingdom and His statement of the extent of it.
Now He says, in effect, I want you to think with the mind of
Christ—the way He thought (and still does think) about leaving
Heaven to come to earth to face death and then to receive this
Mediatorial Kingdom. I want you to have that kind of love. To
think Kingdom is a process. In Romans 12:1=2, God said, “Be not
conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing
of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and
acceptable and perfect will of God”.

From the time of conversion, perhaps before that, God begins
breathing through His inspired Word, His Kingdom Plan for
each particular soul that He redeems—not only the general
redemptive purpose and spiritual nature and unlimited mission
vision of His Kingdom, but also the particular application of it
all for that particular soul—His particular reason and life
purpose for dying for that particular soul on the Cross. And the
obedient soul will grow up into every day of that Life Plan.
That can be called “thinking Kingdom”. Understanding the
redemptive purpose, the spiritual origin and the unlimited extent
of Christ’s Kingdom can sometimes help us to recognize where
Christ will be leading us next—his next “development” in our
life. Then seeking His Kingdom may mean that we will begin
praying; asking him to show us more about his atonement; about
greater spiritual maturity in working with others; and for more
mission vision and understanding of what He is doing in other
parts of His world. It was that kind of prayer and desire that He
put into our hearts as a family that sent us to drive around the
whole world in 1974=1975. That mission was directly related to
this doctrine of the unlimited extent of Christ’s Kingdom. We
came back with a new sense of responsibility for what He is
doing all over His world.

What does God mean when He promises
to “give you the Kingdom”. (Luke 12:32)?
He means what He had kept explaining privately over and
over again to his disciples—His long=range Kingdom
plans for His world and how they will keep on working after He
leaves them; what He was saying in John 15:15, “hereforth, I call
you not servants (slaves) but friends, for the servant knoweth not
what his Lord doeth, but I have called you friends for all things
that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you.”
This Kingdom will be yours—it is yours now.

PART FOUR
The Author’s Personal testimony
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace which
is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard from me
among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men
who will be able to teach others also.”
2 Timothy (2:1=2)

Allow me to step back for a moment to personalize all of this
in the form of a personal testimony that the King might use
to make someone reading it to be sure of his/her own
relationship to the King. Let me be the “individual” that the
King is bringing into His Kingdom and building down into my
own life something of the redemptive purpose, the spiritual
nature and the unlimited extent of His Kingdom.

I realize now that He is the King who loved me in a manner
wondrous and divine, who caused me to be born in 1925. He
took my Mother to be with Himself when I was just three years
old. He put it into the heart of my Father to give me away to his
sister, a maiden lady and schoolteacher who loved me and
taught me to memorize God’s Word (especially Psalm 19,
wherein God speaks so precisely about how the “line” of the sun,
the moon and the stars speak without words, in every language
all over the world). As King, He had put me into the U.S. Navy
(1942=1946) and made me the Acting Navigator on board that
aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Petrof Bay, where those stars and their
timing made the difference between life and death. He kept me
alive and then brought me to the point of knowing that things
were not “right” between Himself and myself. I did not think or
talk or live the way He did. There were big differences between
us, and there was nothing I could do to make things right
between us. At that juncture, He caused me to remember and to
know what I had learned as a boy, that He Himself had come
down to earth in the form of Jesus Christ and deliberately given
His life on that Cross at the other end of the Mediterranean Sea
in order to make things “right” between us—if I would but trust
in Him. He put it into my heart to trust in Him and I did.
It was 1948. He began “breathing” the facts about His Kingdom
down into my heart/life through the study of His Word. He sent
me through three years of seminary, and then directly on to
graduate school to begin study of the doctrine of His Kingdom
(1948=1953).

In 1953, He brought me back to the United States and called,
ordained and installed me to be Pastor of the Reformed
Presbyterian Church in Bloomington Indiana, home of Indiana
University (40,000 students and 40,000 citizens), where He sent
two friends who began to show me how to apply and
communicate what He had been teaching me about His
Kingdom—how to do His work His way. He then called me
back to University (1960=1963) to study more of His Kingdom
and then brought me to Indianapolis where He wanted to use
me in His building of Second Reformed Presbyterian Church.
In the last 40 years, He has allowed me to be involved in the
lives of a dozen or more other pastors who can do everything I
can do, but better than I can do it. He lets me be close enough
to His Church “building” to see Him build six other churches
(and three or more developing) and twelve more men working
to become pastors.
Readers:

In Philippians 2:8=11 (NKJ), “. . . and being found in appearance
as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point
of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has
highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above
every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of
those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth,
and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God, the Father.” Since this is the will of the
Father for the Son, then why not join Him in that express
purpose for your own life, that is the exalting of Jesus in all that
you are, know, and do, in a prayer of personal commitment.

Father, whatever it was You committed Yourself to by highly exalting Your
son Jesus, a name above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee
should bow in Heaven and of those below the earth, and every tongue confess
that Jesus is Lord. To Your glory, Dear Father, I hereby now commit myself to
full obedience of this command and make this the ultimate purpose of my life in
Your Kingdom. Amen.

 

In 1948, after a four year stint (1942=1946) in the U.S. Navy as
Navigator and Division Officer in the South Pacific and Atlantic
theatres, Dr. Roy Blackwood obtained his Bachelors degree in
Chemistry from Geneva College in Ohio. Also in 1948, he
married his wife Margie with whom he has three children. Roy
obtained a graduate degree from RP Seminary in 1953 and
became Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in
Bloomington Indiana. In 1961, Roy and his family moved to
Scotland where he received a Doctorate in The History of
Theology from New College, University of Edinburgh. Dr.
Blackwood became Senior Pastor of the Second Reformed
Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana in 1966 where he
serves to this day.

 

This article was originally published (c) Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals Inc, 600 Eden Rd, Lancaster PA 17601 USA.  The Alliance calls the twenty-first century church to a modern reformation by broadcasting, events, and publishing.  This article and additional biblical resources can be found at AllianceNet.org.
All rights reserved.  Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, (c) 2005

The Kingdom of God

Prof. David J. Engelsma

 

Contents:

 

The Kingdom of God’s Dear Son

“Who … hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13)

The kingdom of God is not as well known among us as are the covenant of God and the church of God. It does not receive as much attention in the teaching as do the covenant and the church. This is a weakness, for the kingdom is of central importance in the revelation of Holy Scripture.

If the kingdom of God is seen, not as something different from the covenant but as the distinct form of the covenant, the Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Ridderbos was right when he said that the kingdom of God is “the central theme of the whole New Testament revelation of God” (The Coming of the Kingdom). Mark tells us that Jesus began His ministry “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). Everyone knows that Jesus’ favourite form of preaching was the parable, and the parables set forth the kingdom of God. In explanation of this form of teaching, Jesus Himself described the content of the parables as “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11). Usually, the parable is introduced by the words, “The kingdom is like unto …” In Luke 4:43, Jesus said that preaching “the kingdom of God” was the very purpose of His ministry. This was His mission: “Therefore am I sent.”

The importance of the kingdom of God, especially in these last days, is plain from the book of Revelation. The theme of the book is the victory of the kingdom of God and its king in the great war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the dragon.

As Jesus indicated in Mark 1 when He said that the coming of the kingdom fulfilled the time, the kingdom of God was also central in the Old Testament. At the heart of the Old Testament was the history of Israel, which was the kingdom of God. At the very centre of that heart was the coming of Messiah the king.

The biblical truth of the kingdom of God is also of great interest to us because of the controversies that swirl about it. The Roman Catholic Church identifies the kingdom of God with its own papal organization. Liberal Protestantism makes the kingdom of God the peaceful, prosperous condition of society that results from carrying out Jesus’ teaching on love and brotherhood. The World Council of Churches and similar agencies are striving for the kingdom of God, which for them is a world of united nations; the absence of war, poverty, disease, and discrimination; and the enjoyment of earthly well-being.

For many fundamentalists and evangelicals all over the world, the kingdom of God is a future Jewish nation in Palestine that will be ruled by Jesus and that will continue for 1000 years. These are the premillennial dispensationalists. This view of the kingdom is very influential among religious people. Today it makes inroads into the secular world, at least in the United States. The last few months books in a series called “Left Behind” are high on the New York Times bestseller list. These books are the fictionalised and popularised presentation of the doctrinal notion that the kingdom of God is to be a restored nation of Israel.

Closer to home, certain Reformed and Presbyterian theologians teach the kingdom of God as mainly a worldwide earthly rule of all nations by the church in the future before the second coming of Christ.

We may not overlook that the kingdom of God has practical significance for us. We are citizens of the kingdom of God according to the apostle in Colossians 1:13. Implied are our blessedness and our calling.

By the kingdom of God in this and following editorials we have in mind God’s reign by Jesus Christ in distinction from God’s rule over all things by His almighty power. The kingdom of God that is central in the gospel of the Scriptures is God’s reign of grace by the Spirit and Word of the incarnate, crucified, and risen Son of God. This is proved from Jesus’ announcement at the beginning of His ministry, “The kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). The kingdom was then near to be established. God’s sovereign rule of all as Creator, of course, was always a reality.

That the kingdom of God is God’s reign of grace in Christ is also proved by the second petition of the model prayer: “Thy kingdom come.” The coming of the kingdom implies a progressive realization of the kingdom of God. One day in the future, as the Heidelberg Catechism explains in Lord’s Day 48, “the full perfection of [God’s] kingdom [will] take place.” This cannot be said of God’s almighty rule over all by His power. God’s rule of power does not come, but is. But it is true of God’s gracious reign in Jesus Christ that it comes.

The kingdom of God is the same as the kingdom of Christ. Sometimes the New Testament speaks of the kingdom of God; at other times it speaks of the kingdom of Christ. One and the same kingdom is in view. Kingdom of God emphasizes that the triune God conceived and established this kingdom and that the kingdom exists for His sake. Kingdom of Christ brings out that God conceived and established this kingdom in Jesus Christ and that Christ governs this kingdom on God’s behalf, as the servant of God.

Since some deny that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Christ are identical, explaining them as two different kingdoms, and since this results in serious error about the kingdom of God, the identity should be demonstrated. In Colossians 1:13 the apostle tells us that we have been translated into “the kingdom of God’s dear Son,” that is, the kingdom of Christ. In I Thessalonians 2:12 the same apostle tells us that God has called us unto “his kingdom,” that is, the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God’s dear Son and the kingdom of God are one and the same. Ephesians 5:5 calls the kingdom by both names: “the kingdom of Christ and of God.”

The kingdom of God, therefore, is the Messianic kingdom of salvation and glory. In his commentary on the second petition of the model prayer, Herman Hoeksema describes it as “the commonwealth in which God is King, in which He is known and acknowledged, loved and freely obeyed, by willing subjects as the only Sovereign of all, whose Word is law, written in the hearts of all the citizens of the kingdom” (The Triple Knowledge, vol. 3, p. 518). It is the kingdom typified and prophesied in the Old Testament by the nation of Israel, especially in connection with the kingships of David and Solomon. It is the kingdom established as a reality in the world by the incarnation and ministry of Jesus Christ and extended throughout the world by the preaching of the gospel, first by the apostles and then by a church faithful to the great commission.

The kingdom of God brings deliverance from the tyranny and death of sin and bestows righteousness and eternal life. To be in the kingdom is to enjoy God, whereas to be outside the kingdom is to perish under His wrath. According to Colossians 1:12-13, when God translated, or transferred, us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, He blessed us in two wonderful ways. He rescued us from the power of darkness, and He made us partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.

Revelation 22:15 represents the final state of the damned as exclusion from the city, which is the “full perfection of the kingdom of God” spoken of by the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 48. Outside the kingdom will be dogs, sorcerers, whoremongers, murderers, idolaters, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.

The kingdom of God will be the kingdom of Jesus Christ forever. It is a mistake to suppose that the kingdom of Christ will end with the second coming of the Lord Jesus, when He has perfected the kingdom of God His Father. Some make this mistake on the basis of a faulty understanding of I Corinthians 15:24-28. Verse 25 teaches that Christ must reign “till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” Verse 24 teaches that when Christ has finally put all enemies under His feet, He will deliver up the kingdom to God the Father. Some explain the passage as teaching that this will be the end of the Messianic kingdom. Christ will no longer be king. Kingship over the perfected kingdom of God in the entire renewed creation will be exercised directly by the triune God.

But the Bible elsewhere clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is an everlasting king and that the kingdom of Christ—the Messianic kingdom—is everlasting. According to Daniel 7:14, the kingdom that is given to the Son of Man by the Ancient of Days is “an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Revelation 22:1, 3, which pictures the kingdom of God which Jesus Christ has established, defended, and perfected, unmistakably speaks of the “throne of God and of the Lamb.” Correctly, Lord’s Day 12 of the Heidelberg Catechism calls Jesus “our eternal king.”

In I Corinthians 15, the apostle does not teach that Christ will one day cease being the king of the kingdom of God under God His Father. But he teaches that the goal of Christ’s reign is the subduing of all His enemies. When He accomplishes this at His second coming and when at the same time He perfects the kingdom in all the new world, He will, in a solemn ceremony, present the kingdom to God as the accomplishment of the work that God gave Him to do. Under God and on behalf of God, Christ will continue to reign over the kingdom forever.

This honours Christ and delights us, as William Symington states at the end of his fine defence of the everlasting kingship of Christ against the mistaken interpretation of I Corinthians 15:24-28:

It cannot but be honouring to Christ to regard him as reigning for ever and ever; and it cannot but be pleasing, beyond all description, to his saints to think that they are never to lose sight of him as their King, never to cease to be his subjects, never but to yield him their grateful heartfelt homage. It cannot but rejoice them to know that they are to be ever under his rule, and that, even after they are taken to glory, they shall continue to behold him as the Lamb in the midst of the throne for ever and ever. What a prospect! How should it excite us to prepare for its being realized! Happy they who, having submitted themselves to him in time as King of saints, shall be eternally under his sway as King of glory! (Messiah the Prince, p. 348).

 

The Kingdom of the Rule of God

“Who … hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13)

The basic idea of the kingdom is the rule of God—the living, actual, liberating, saving, blessed rule of God in Jesus Christ. We may think of it this way. The whole world lies enslaved to the reign of Satan. Into this world breaks the reign of God, freeing many from the misery, terror, sin, death, and hell of the dark lord, translating them into the knowledge, righteousness, peace, and life of His reign. This is what Jesus proclaimed at the beginning of His ministry: The rule of God is at hand! This is the explanation, why the gospel is called the gospel of the kingdom: the content is the rule of God in Christ.

It is a mistake to understand the kingdom exclusively, or even mainly, in terms of a realm, or in terms of citizens. The kingdom of God is certainly a realm, a territory, just as the United States is a certain land-mass with clearly defined boundaries. Jesus spoke in John 3:5 of entering the kingdom. The church has the keys of the kingdom, giving entrance into the realm to some and barring others from it. This realm is the church, including the godly lives of her members in every sphere of earthly life.

The kingdom of God has citizens, just as every earthly nation has citizens. These are the elect out of all earthly nations and races. In the day of the final judgment, the Son of Man on His throne will say to the sheep on His right hand, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). These persons show themselves citizens by obeying God the king: They believe the gospel, and submit to the laws of the kingdom.

The citizens of the kingdom include the children—the infant children—of elect believers. It is a grievous error on the part of Reformed ministers and churches to minimize the seriousness of the Baptist heresy. Indeed, this error will prove fatal to the Reformed faith in these churches. Reformed ministers are guilty of this error. They cooperate freely with Baptists in public religious activities. They refuse sharply to condemn the Baptist exclusion from the covenant and church of God of many for whom Christ died and to whom the Spirit of Christ is promised (see Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 74). In flat contradiction of their own creed, which declares that the Reformed faith detests the error of the Baptists, they write openly that the issue of infant baptism is not of fundamental importance (see Belgic Confession 34).

The inclusion of the children of believers in the kingdom of God, by infant baptism, is an essential truth of the kingdom. It is a truth that must be vigorously defended and promoted wherever the Reformed faith makes its distinctive witness. It is a truth that is fundamental to the oneness of the kingdom of God in the Old and New Testaments. It is a truth that is fundamental to the rejection of the miserable corruption of the kingdom by dispensationalism.

Concerning infant children (and this is what they were according to the Greek word that is used in the passage), Jesus said, “of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:17). As regards its citizens, the kingdom of God is made up of such infant children. Mark 10:14 tells us that Jesus was indignant with His disciples for attempting to exclude the infant children from Jesus’ kingdom. What earthly king would not be irate at the attempt by some underling to strip a substantial number of his people of their citizenship and banish them from his realm?

In addition to being a realm and having citizens, the kingdom of God provides benefits. The kingdom can be identified with these benefits, just as one might have said in the early days of World War II, that England was liberty in the midst of the tyranny of a Europe overrun by Nazi Germany. Paul identifies the kingdom of God with its wonderful blessings in Romans 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

Important as realm, citizens, and benefits are as aspects of the kingdom, they are not the main thing. The main thing is the rule of God. First and central in the kingdom of God is the king. The kingdom of God is simply God the king and His kingship.

We modern Westerners have a hard time grasping this, familiar as we are with democracy and unfamiliar as we are with real monarchs. An Englishman during the reign of King Henry VIII would have had no problem understanding. Recent history, however, has shown us something of the primacy and centrality of the “leader” in his kingdom. The mighty kingdom of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s was the creation of Adolf Hitler—the extension of his powerful will. Hitler dominated that kingdom. It existed for him. That was certainly true of the great empires of Old Testament times. Babylon was simply Nebuchadnezzar enlarged. This will be the case also with the coming kingdom of Antichrist.

What is true of earthly kingdoms—the centrality of the ruler—is originally and supremely true of the kingdom of God in Christ. It is the kingdom of God because God establishes, maintains, and perfects the kingdom. He conceived and planned it in His decree. He founded it in the cross of the incarnate Son. He builds it by the preaching of the gospel in all the world in the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. He brings every one who is a citizen according to eternal election into the kingdom by the sovereign wonder of regeneration: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Having regenerated, He sanctifies every citizen to live the life of the kingdom and preserves him to the glory of the perfection of the kingdom. He will perfect the kingdom in the Day of Christ, raising the dead and renewing the entire creation of heaven and earth.

God, God only, is the creator, the origin, of the kingdom. The kingdom comes from Him, not from man. The kingdom, therefore, depends upon God—upon God only.

In part, this is the meaning of the description of the kingdom as the “kingdom of heaven.” When Jesus said to Pilate in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world … my kingdom [is] not from hence,” He was saying something about the origin of His kingdom. His kingdom—the kingdom of God—is not from this world; it does not have its origin in this world. Implied, positively, is that Jesus’ kingdom originates in heaven; it comes from God.

The kingdom is the kingdom of God also because it is for God, has its ultimate goal in His glory, and is about Him. The kingdom of God is God-centred. How Christ and the apostles proclaim this! We think at once of the conclusion of the model prayer in Matthew 6: “For thine is the kingdom.” The Heidelberg Catechism explains: “… and all this we pray for, that thereby not we, but Thy holy name may be glorified forever” (Q.& A. 128). Describing the perfection of the kingdom, when Christ shall have put all enemies under His feet, the apostle declares that then God will be all in all (I Cor. 15:28).

The kingdom is for the sake of God in these respects. First, the message, or gospel, of the kingdom is all about God, is a God-centred message. This is the content of the gospel in Scripture. This was the content of the gospel preached by the Reformation. This is still the content of the gospel proclaimed by the true church. How much is this true in the preaching and teaching of evangelical and even Reformed churches today?

Second, in the kingdom God’s will governs the life and behaviour of the citizens. God’s law governs our personal lives: regarding church membership; regarding dating and marriage; regarding life in the family; regarding business and labour; regarding civil government; regarding eating and drinking.

God’s law also governs the life of the instituted church: regarding worship; regarding doctrine; regarding discipline; regarding offices; regarding denominational connections.

Third, in the kingdom our will, pleasures, friendships, families, and very lives are so subject to the king, that we are called to sacrifice them to God’s glory when this may be necessary. The kingdom is the kingdom of God. The king does not exist for the citizens, but we citizens exist for the king. When professing Christians, facing some personal suffering or loss, whine, “Christ would never require such hardship and pain of me,” they show that they do not know the kingdom as the kingdom of God.

What all this truth about the kingdom of God comes down to is the grand testimony of the Reformed faith, that salvation is by sovereign grace alone to the glory of God only. The message of the kingdom of God is nothing other than the gospel of sovereign grace. God saves His elect by regenerating grace, apart from any worth of theirs, any faith or decision of theirs, any acceptance of an offer that distinguishes them from others whom He is supposed to love also. God preserves His elect, regenerated people. God so rules His own by the sanctifying Spirit that they yield to His lordship, obeying His law in every sphere of life and gladly suffering the loss of all for His sake. God builds His church.

That God is God in Jesus Christ is not some queer, parochial, and even sectarian message of a small Reformed denomination in North America, but the very gospel that Jesus came preaching and that He Himself still preaches by a faithful church and her ministry.

By this criterion must every proposed “kingdom of God” be tested. Is God central in the kingdom? Is He all in all?

Where now is this kingdom of God, this rule of God in Jesus Christ?

It is in heaven, according to Philippians 3:20, where Christ the king is, at God’s right hand.

It is also in the world. It is wherever Christ the king is. Since Christ Jesus is present in the preaching of the gospel and in the administration of the sacraments, wherever the gospel is preached and the sacraments administered, there is the kingdom of God—the blessed, saving, God-glorifying rule of God. We ought to press into it, as Jesus taught in Luke 16:16. We do this by believing in Him, the king.

By the gospel and the sacraments the rule of God, which liberates sinners, is established in the heart and life of every one who has been born again by the Spirit.

The institutional form of the kingdom is the church. The relation of the kingdom and the church will be the subject of following editorials.

Are we in the kingdom? Has God translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son?

He has, if we see it, if we live its life, if we find in ourselves some zeal for glorifying God the king.

What a privilege! Let us be thankful.

What a blessing! It is salvation.

What a calling! Our life must be our seeking the kingdom first.

What a hope! We will reign with Christ forever in the new world.

 

The Kingdom Is Not Carnal

“Who … hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13)

In the two previous articles articles, I introduced the great subject of the kingdom of God. The first article established that “the kingdom of God that is central in the gospel of the Scriptures is God’s reign of grace by the Spirit and Word of the incarnate, crucified, and risen Son of God.” It is “God’s reign of grace in Christ,” in distinction from God’s rule over all things by His almighty power.

The second article contended that “the basic idea of the kingdom is the rule of God—the living, actual, liberating, saving, blessed rule of God in Jesus Christ.” Although the kingdom includes a realm, has citizens (including the children of believers), and provides benefits, it is the rule of God in Christ. The kingdom of God is simply God the king and His kingship. This article concluded by promising a study of the relation of the kingdom of God and the church. The present editorial begins to fulfil this promise.

I state the fundamental truth concerning the relation of the kingdom and the church as clearly, sharply, and succinctly as possible: The kingdom of God in our present, New Testament age is the church.

Some may disagree, but no one can fail to understand.

This simple, basic truth about the kingdom is, first, the teaching of the Bible. Second, it is the historical and confessional position of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches, indeed, of the Reformation churches generally.

It is also a truth that needs to be taught and defended everywhere in the world. The reason is that this truth is widely challenged. Under the pressure of teachings that make the kingdom of God something different from the church, professing Christians are doubtful about the identification of the kingdom and the church. One practical (and fatal) result is disparagement, if not contempt, for the church, including lively membership in the true church.

We must be clear as to our terms. By “kingdom of God,” we mean the rule of God in Christ. This rule forms a realm within which Christ’s reign on God’s behalf holds sway. In closest connection with this realm is the populace, the citizenry, and then not as so many regenerated individuals but as a united, well-ordered “commonwealth,” or nation. Within the realm, the citizens enjoy the blessings of the kingdom of God.

By the church, every Reformed Christian will understand the universal body of Jesus Christ made up of all the elect out of all nations and manifesting itself in the true, local, instituted congregation. Recalling Jesus’ teaching that at His first coming the kingdom was “nigh,” we shall have in mind the New Testament, fulfilled, mature form of the church. Old Testament Israel was the church all right, but as Paul teaches in Galatians 4:1ff. only in an immature, undeveloped form.

The kingdom of God is the church. The living reign of God in Christ by the Word and Spirit is the church. The realm is the sphere of the church. The citizens are the members of the church. The blessings of the kingdom are poured out on and enjoyed in the church.

There is a truth about the kingdom of God that is basic to the confession that the kingdom of God is the church. This is the truth that the kingdom of God is spiritual. Spirituality is an essential quality of the kingdom of God. Knowledge of the spiritual nature of the kingdom is essential to the right belief about the kingdom. The great errors about the kingdom that are afoot today have this in common, that they view the kingdom as earthly, as political, as carnal. This is the gross, wicked error of dispensationalism, that makes the kingdom of God an earthly Jewish world-power. This is the gross, wicked error of the liberals, that makes the kingdom an earthly, one-world government, which will satisfy all the fleshly desires of godless mankind: plenty to eat and drink; the gratification of every perverse sexual lust; the elimination of all inconvenient persons—unborn babies, old people, sick people, and, eventually, orthodox Christians; and the eradication of war and social strife.

Viewing the kingdom as carnal is also the error of those who suppose that the most important realization of the kingdom of God will be an earthly, political, visibly glorious Christian empire that Christ will rear up in the world before His second coming. Yes, they will agree, somewhat impatiently, the church is a manifestation of the kingdom at present. But the superior manifestation of the kingdom of God, the Messianic kingdom in its best and fullest form, the kingdom that finally fulfils the prophecy of the Old Testament in Psalm 72 and similar passages will be that future, earthly world-power that will have Christianised all nations.

Against these errors and on behalf of the right understanding of the kingdom of God, we must believe and confess that the kingdom of God is spiritual.

In his book, Thy Kingdom Come, Rousas J. Rushdoony, father of the Christian Reconstruction movement, says this: “The reduction of the kingdom of God to a spiritual realm is in effect a denial of the kingdom” (p. 178). I appreciate that Rushdoony sees the fundamental issue concerning the kingdom and states this issue bluntly. But in flat contradiction to this statement, I maintain that Scripture teaches that the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ is essentially and entirely a spiritual realm. I maintain further that every denial of the spirituality of the kingdom is a denial of the kingdom of God.

It is significant that Rushdoony utters this denial, that the kingdom is spiritual, in the context of his denial that the church is to be identified with the kingdom: “The church … is not to be identified as the kingdom of God, but simply as a part of the kingdom” (p. 178). Mr. Rushdoony practiced what he preached. Writing in 1991, fellow Christian Reconstructionist Gary North informed the world that “Rushdoony does not belong to a local church, nor has he taken communion in two decades, except when he is on the road, speaking at a church that has a policy of open communion or is unaware of his non-member status” (Westminster’s Confession, p. 80).

In explanation of the spirituality of the kingdom of God, negatively, the kingdom is not earthly in nature. It does not consist of dominion by physical force—the sword and its terror. It does not promise or provide earthly blessings and goods—earthly peace and material prosperity. It does not claim any earthly country for its territory—Palestine, North America, Scotland, or the Netherlands. It does not possess or display any earthly glory—power, weapons, numbers, size, or impressive leader (the Christ of the biblical gospel of the cross is not impressive to the natural man). Indeed, its citizens are not citizens by virtue of any earthly characteristic, whether race, sex, nationality, status, or achievement.

In keeping with its unearthly nature, the kingdom of God cannot be known by man’s physical senses. This is literally what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:3: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Christ taught the same thing in Luke 17:20 when, in response to the Pharisees’ question, when the kingdom of God should come, He said, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation.” The kingdom comes without “observation” in that the manner of its coming is invisible.

The kingdom of God, therefore, is unlike every other (human) kingdom. It is radically unlike all other kingdoms. It is unlike all other kingdoms in quality, in its essential nature. It is another kind of kingdom from that of Babylon, Rome, the British Empire, Germany, modern Israel or the United States.

 

The Kingdom Is Spiritual

“Who … hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13)

The kingdom of God is spiritual. It is spiritual rule, or government. It affords spiritual benefits. It creates and occupies a spiritual territory. It reflects a spiritual glory. It creates a spiritual citizenry.

It is not fantastic, imaginary, and ghostly, like C. S. Lewis’ Narnia, or J. R. R. Tolkien’s middle earth, or J. K. Rowling’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is a real kingdom. It is present in the world, exercising its tremendous power, creating and empowering its citizens, advancing and enlarging with invincible force, destroying the weapons and defences of its enemies. So real is the kingdom of God to us who have been translated into it by being begotten from above, so that we now have the spiritual sight of faith to see it, that the kingdom of God is the solid, substantial reality, whereas all earthly kingdoms are frail, fleeting shadows.

Oh yes, the kingdom of God is reality, but it is spiritual reality. Spiritual does not mean unreal. Spiritual means unreal only to the unspiritual—the materialist, the natural man (I Cor. 2:9-16). Spiritual describes the kind of reality. There is a physical reality, for example, the United States of America. There is a spiritual reality, namely, the kingdom of God.

We do not doubt spiritual reality, do we? We do not esteem spiritual reality less than the physical and earthly, do we? We have not become crass Darwinian materialists, have we? Why, as Christians, our ultimate hope is a spiritual body in a perfectly, exclusively spiritual world, according to I Corinthians 15:44-49:

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

The Spirituality of the Kingdom

As spiritual, the kingdom of God is the creation of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Nebuchadnezzar created Babylon; Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, and others created the United States; Hitler created Nazi Germany. The Spirit of Christ created the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is spiritual, in the second place, in that its life and power are the life and power of the risen, exalted Jesus Christ. In His resurrection, Jesus has passed into a new life and has received hitherto unknown power, the highest life and greatest power that man can possess and wield: immortal, eternal life! life-giving, death-overcoming, irresistible power!

This is the teaching of the apostle in I Corinthians 15:42ff. There is a spiritual body: the body of the risen Jesus Christ. The last Adam—Jesus Christ—was made a “quickening spirit.” Jesus Christ and everything about Him is spiritual. Now the kingdom of God in the world is simply the life and power of the risen Jesus Christ in history. Since Jesus is spiritual, so is, and must be (and cannot but be), His kingdom. In the language of I Corinthians 15, the kingdom is not “natural,” is not “earthy.”

So much is it true that the kingdom of God is not earthy, that the Bible describes it as heavenly. This is its nature, its quality. This is the kind of kingdom it is. The kingdom of God is the heavenly life and power of Jesus Christ breaking into our world. There is first a beachhead in Palestine. Then, over the years the kingdom expands throughout the whole world, until finally in the Day of Christ, by the wonder of the second coming, the life and power of Christ renew the entire creation as the kingdom of God.

There is something mysterious about the kingdom of God, therefore. Of course, there is. We are familiar with earthly kingdoms: the will to earthly, political power; the lust for earthly glory; earthly force terrifying or enthralling the citizens; the enjoyment of earthly peace and prosperity. But this spiritual kingdom is new and different.

Nevertheless, Scripture reveals something of the spiritual kingdom, and we who have been translated into it experience the beginnings of its life and power. The kingdom is characterized by truth, and the truth is the Word of God—the gospel of inspired Scripture, including the law. The kingdom is characterized by righteousness, and righteousness is the justification of the sinner by faith alone, followed by a life of obedience to the law of God. The kingdom is characterized by peace, and peace is a tranquil, harmonious relation with God by the pardon of sins and in the way of walking with Him in holiness. The kingdom is characterized by service, and the service is confessing the Lordship of Jesus Christ and doing His will. The kingdom is characterized by prosperity, and the prosperity is the riches of salvation.

Scripture on the Spirituality of the Kingdom

Scripture teaches that the kingdom is spiritual. Writing to the saints at Colosse in the middle of the first century A.D., when there certainly was no earthly, visible, political Christian kingdom, the apostle declared that every one who is born again and believes the gospel has thereby been transferred into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love, that is, into the Messianic kingdom of God (Col. 1:13). On the one hand, this demolishes the notion that the kingdom of Christ is a future, millennial, Jewish state and world-power. On the other hand, it likewise demolishes all earthly conceptions of the kingdom. If we who believe the gospel are now in the kingdom (and Colossians 1:13 assures us that we are), the kingdom is present and spiritual. If Paul and the Colossian Christians were already in the kingdom of Christ (and Colossians 1:13 says that they were), the kingdom of Christ broke into the world on the day of Pentecost as a spiritual kingdom.

Then, there is Jesus’ word to Pilate in John 18:36, a word that is absolutely crucial to the right understanding of the kingdom: “My kingdom is not of this world.” To be sure, Jesus described the origin of His kingdom. He is king. Make no mistake about it. He has a kingdom: “My kingdom.” This kingdom, however, does not originate in this world. It originates from heaven. But the origin determines its nature. It is not this-worldly, but other-worldly. It is heavenly.

The proof is plain and abundant. First, it stands in the nature of the case. That which comes from heaven, specifically, from God through the crucified and risen Christ in the Spirit of Christ, must be as heavenly as its source.

Second, the heavenly nature of the kingdom is indicated by the implication that Jesus drew from the heavenly origin of His kingdom: His servants do not fight. The servants do not fight to defend their king from death. They do not fight to promote the kingdom. They do not use physical force, or the threat of it, to extend or maintain the kingdom. Jesus referred to the prohibition against physical force that He had given to Peter in the garden: “Put up thy sword into the sheath” (John 18:10-11). This is a law concerning the defence and promotion of the kingdom until the end of this age. Unmistakably, it describes the kingdom as spiritual. Being spiritual, the kingdom of God can only be promoted and defended by spiritual means. This spiritual means is the Word of God (II Cor. 10:3-5).

Third, that Jesus’ description of the origin of His kingdom was also the description of its heavenly nature is proved from Jesus’ statement in John 18:37 that He establishes and promotes His kingdom by bearing witness to the truth. The kingdom of God is the oddest kingdom that ever there was. Winston Churchill once remarked about all earthly kingdoms in wartime that “the first casualty of war is truth.” Although the kingdom of God is always at war in history, it employs only the truth for its defence and advancement. This is clear testimony by Christ that His kingdom is heavenly.

Fourth, there is proof of the heavenly nature of the kingdom of God in the conclusion that Pilate came to on the basis of Jesus’ word in verse 36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Pilate concluded that the kingdom of Jesus was no threat to Rome as the Jewish leaders had made it out to be—a threat by plots of sedition, by physical force, by revolution. “I find in him no fault” was the verdict of the representative of Rome, who had an eagle-eye for rival kings and kingdoms (John 18:38).

The heavenly origin of the kingdom of God, taught by Jesus in John 18:33-40, determines its heavenly nature. This was the understanding of the Scottish Presbyterian, James Bannerman.

Christ seeks to disabuse the mind of Pilate, in regard to the nature of His Church, of the idea that it might be like any of the powers of this world, established or upheld by force; He tells him that it is spiritual in its nature and authority, and therefore not liable to become an object of jealousy to the state, as trenching upon its authority or jurisdiction (The Church of Christ [Edinburgh, 1974], vol. 2, p. 163).

The virtual definition of the kingdom of God in Romans 14:17 proves the kingdom to be spiritual, not physical: “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” These spiritual realities are what the kingdom essentially is. The kingdom of God is not anything earthly whatever.

The spirituality of the kingdom of God is offensive to multitudes today. That many stumble over the spiritual nature of the kingdom of God grieves us. But it does not surprise us. Exactly this was the offence of the kingship and kingdom of the Messiah to the Jews of Jesus’ own day. (For a fuller defence of the spirituality of the Messianic kingdom of God, especially against the carnal kingdom of Christian Reconstruction, see David Engelsma, Christ’s Spiritual Kingdom: A Defence of Reformed Amillennialism [Redlands, CA: The Reformed Witness, 2001]—available from the CPRC Bookstore).

 

The Kingdom Is the Church

“Who … hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13)

The spirituality of the kingdom of God is offensive to multitudes today. That many stumble over the spiritual nature of the kingdom of God grieves us. But it does not surprise us. Exactly this was the offence of the kingship and kingdom of the Messiah to the Jews of Jesus’ own day.

According to John 6, the Jews had their hearts set on a carnal, political kingdom with earthly power, prosperity, and peace. This was how they understood the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messianic kingdom, e.g., Psalm 2, Psalm 72, Isaiah 2, Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65. The Jews stumbled over the spirituality of the kingdom of God in the Messiah. This was the rock of offence that dashed them to pieces both nationally and personally. Nationally, they repudiated the king who rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, dies on a cross, and exercises sovereign power by the preaching of Christ crucified. And nationally they perish in the judgment of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The kingdom is taken from them and given to the believing, largely Gentile church (Matt. 21:43). Personally, the Jews who want to place an earthly crown on Jesus’ head “went back and walked no more with him” (John 6:66).

To His closest disciples, Jesus then put a question that concerned the kind of king and kingdom they desired: “Will ye also go away?” (John 6:67) He puts the same question to us today.

To Reformed and Presbyterian Christians today, the warning is necessary: Beware, lest at this late hour in history you also stumble over the spiritual kingdom of Christ Jesus!

Where now, we must ask, is this spiritual kingdom of God? Where does God rule by the Word and Spirit of Jesus Christ? Where are righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost? Where is truth? Where are the people who bow willingly to God in Christ by believing the gospel and obeying the law—obeying the law truly, with love in their hearts? Where on earth is there at least the small beginning of God’s being all in all?

Where in the past 2000 years or so of New Testament history, since Jesus was exalted as king at God’s right hand in the ascension, have there always been these realities? Where alone have these things been found?

The answer to these questions will be the identification of the kingdom of God.

The answer is: the church. The church is the kingdom of God.

This is the confession of the Reformed faith both among the Reformed churches and among the Presbyterians. The Heidelberg Catechism identifies the keys of the kingdom of heaven as the preaching of the gospel and Christian discipline by which believers are accepted of God in the fellowship of the congregation and by which unbelievers are excluded from the fellowship of God and excommunicated from the church. Thus this creed identifies the church as the kingdom. Thus also, the Catechism teaches that the kingdom is spiritual (L.D. 31). The same Reformed confession explains the second petition of the model prayer, about the coming of the kingdom, this way: “preserve and increase Thy church” (L.D. 48).

The Belgic Confession establishes the identification of the church as the kingdom as Reformed orthodoxy when it declares Christ to be the king of the church: “This church hath been from the beginning of the world, and will be to the end thereof; which is evident from this, that Christ is an eternal King, which, without subjects, cannot be” (Art. 32).

The Westminster Confession of Faith is explicit: “The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel … is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ” (25:2). Significantly, the Confession immediately adds, “the house and family of God.” The phrase that is added is significant because it shows that the Confession has its eye on I Timothy 3, where the phrase is found. And I Timothy 3 is describing and prescribing the life of the instituted church, the church with bishops and deacons. Westminster teaches that the local congregation that displays the marks of the true church is the kingdom of Jesus Christ in the world. Recent hesitation on the part of Reformed and Presbyterian people bluntly to confess, “The church is the kingdom of God,” is strange and ominous departure from the Reformed confessions. Much more reprehensible is the open criticism of this confession by Reformed and Presbyterian office-bearers, who have vowed to uphold the confessions.

This recent hesitancy and opposition are also notable departure from the doctrine of Luther and Calvin. Calvin’s commentary on Amos 9:13 expressed the Reformer’s position on the matter of the church and the kingdom.

“The Spirit under these figurative expressions declares, that the kingdom of Christ shall in every way be happy and blessed, or that the Church of God, which means the same thing, shall be blessed, when Christ shall begin to reign” (emphasis added).

His commentary on Amos 9 is especially telling because the passage prophesies the coming kingdom of the Messiah and describes this kingdom in the typical language of earthly power, prosperity, and peace that both kinds of millennialists love to take literally.

Louis Berkhof accurately described the view of the Reformers:

The Reformers did not formulate a doctrine of the Kingdom as clear-cut and elaborate as that of the Middle Ages, nor could they point to such a concrete embodiment of the earthly reign of Christ as the Church of Rome. They agreed in identifying it with the invisible Church, the community of the elect, or of the saints of God. For them it was first of all a religious concept, the reign of God in the hearts of believers, the regnum Christi spirituale or internum. At the same time they did not overlook its ethical implications, as Ritschl often contends. One and all they opposed the fanatical attempts of the Anabaptists and their kin, to set up in the world an external Kingdom of God; and recognized the legitimacy of the authority of civil governments, though their relation to the Church was a matter of dispute among them. They did not expect the external visible form of the Kingdom of God until the glorious appearance of Jesus Christ (The Kingdom of God [Eerdmans, 1951], p. 24).

In identifying the church as the kingdom, the Reformed confessions are biblical. The issue is virtually decided by Scripture’s teaching that the kingdom is not earthly, or carnal, but heavenly and spiritual. Some of these passages, I have brought up and explained in previous articles.

One outstanding text is that which appears as the heading of each of the articles in this series: “Who … hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13). When Paul wrote the Colossians that they and all believers had been translated by the gospel into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, what did those Colossians understand by “the kingdom of God’s dear Son”? What did they understand this kingdom to be when the apostle declared that the main blessing to be enjoyed in this kingdom is “redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (v. 14)? Does anyone suppose that the Colossians understood the kingdom to be some earthly rule that dominated culture and “Christianized” society? Does anyone question that the Colossians understood the kingdom to be Christ’s church?

In addition to the texts that teach that God’s kingdom is spiritual, the following passages of Scripture are among those that plainly teach that the church is the kingdom of God. There is the well-known word of Jesus Christ to Peter after the disciple confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt. 16:18-19).

The passage explicitly mentions the church: “I will build my church.” To the church is given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” These keys are the spiritual power to bind in sin or loose from sin and thus admit into or exclude from the kingdom of heaven. Only the kingdom itself exercises its keys. The church, therefore, is the kingdom of heaven. This is confirmed by the Lord’s teaching that the church fights the gates of hell. The church fights the gates of hell inasmuch as she is the kingdom of heaven fighting the kingdom of the devil, sin, and death.

The beatitudes in Matthew 5 and indeed the entire “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5-7 identify the church as the kingdom. This sermon by the king of the kingdom Himself describes the law and life of the kingdom of heaven. And this law and life are the law and life of the church.

Likewise, all the parables of Jesus prove that the church is the kingdom. The parables teach various aspects of the kingdom of heaven: “The kingdom is like unto ….” And the realm thus described, the realm where these aspects of the kingdom are reality, is the church. To take one example, where is it that the king forgives his servants ten thousand talents so that the servants are called to forgive each other, as is taught in the parable in Matthew 18:21-35? Christ Himself gives the answer in Matthew 18:20: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name” and where Christ is “in the midst of them.” This realm—the kingdom of heaven—is emphatically not a legendary godly Scotland, or a mythical Christian America, or a “Christianized” world, or a fantastic Jewish state in Palestine. It is the church. It was the church in Jesus’ day, no matter how numerically small, physically powerless, and culturally insignificant by the standards of man. It is the church today. And it will be the church until the day that Christ returns.

Once more, by the church is meant the universal body of Jesus Christ made up of all the elect who believe the gospel and obey the law as this body manifests herself in the local congregation of believers and their children.

 

The Church as Kingdom

“Who … hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13)

Identifying the church as the kingdom of God adds something to our understanding of the church. Knowing herself as the Messianic kingdom of God, the church will conduct herself accordingly. Viewing the church of which they are members as Christ’s kingdom, believers and their children will think of themselves as citizens and will behave themselves in a way that befits this kingdom.

The church is not only the body of Christ, living from its head and growing up into its head.

The church is not only the bride of Christ, knowing the love of her husband, giving herself to Him, and submitting to His will.

The church is also a kingdom in the world. The church is the kingdom of God. The church is the Messianic kingdom of God, the fulfilment of Old Testament Israel, the realization of Psalm 72, Amos 9, and all the other Old Testament prophecies of the coming glorious, powerful, prosperous, and peaceful reign of God in the Messiah.

Kingly Government

What light this sheds on ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church), how this affects the church’s own life and work, and how this forms the life of each member of the church are subjects that need development among us. This is not to say that nothing has been done by the Reformed churches to work out the implications of the truth that the church is the kingdom. Especially in the area of church government, the Presbyterian and Reformed churches have applied the reality of kingdom to the life of the church. The church takes form as an organization. This organization has a government. The church does not simply function as a living body by the secret workings of the indwelling Spirit. She does not simply live by the ardent love that a bride feels for her beloved husband. Christ is king of the church. He rules the church by His Word. His Word is law for the church. He exercises His kingship through a body of elders, whom He calls into holy office. These men are rulers in the church. They administer the Word of the king.

King Jesus also governs the necessary federated (covenant) life and shared work of the congregations in a denomination. He rules through the stated assemblies (classis and synod, or presbytery and general assembly), which are bound to an adopted church order—a kind of “constitution” of the kingdom (and, therefore, not to be tinkered with continually, or changed every few decades!)—that regulates the life and work of the denomination according to Holy Scripture. Christ is king of the denomination of faithful churches. The Messianic kingdom extends to the denomination of faithful churches.

Presbyterian and Reformed churches have taken the kingship of Christ in the matter of church government with utmost seriousness. They have been convinced that at stake in controversies over right church government is the kingdom of God. The Reformed conviction that, as regards church government, the church is the kingdom of God has produced martyrs. At the time of the Reformation, scores of thousands of Reformed Christians died at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church and its political allies, in the Netherlands, France, and other countries, for refusing to submit to the hierarchical authority of the pope. In the seventeenth century, many Scottish Presbyterians died because they would not allow the king of England and his archbishop to intrude upon the presbyterial government of the Presbyterian church in Scotland.

The issue for these saints was, as the Scottish Presbyterians put it, the “crown rights of king Jesus.” The issue was the crown rights of king Jesus in the church. The issue was the church as the kingdom of God.

The importance that church government has as an aspect of the kingdom of God in the thinking of Reformed churches is apparent in Article 28 of the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC). Although the article recognizes that the consistory may claim the protection of the authorities for the possession of their property and the peace and order of their meetings, it warns that the consistory “may never suffer the royal government of Christ over His church to be in the least infringed upon.”

This warning is timely. Antichristian, totalitarian states regard the church as the last and most dangerous threat to their absolute power. They try to bring the church to heel, and thus absorb her into the kingdom of Satan, by tempting or terrorizing her to subject herself to the lordly will of the state rather than to the will of the Lord Jesus. The day is not far off in the nominally Christian West that civil government will demand that the church give “equal rights” to women by decreeing their ordination to special office and that the church cease her “hate crime” of condemning homosexuality and disciplining impenitent homosexuals. The penalty, as Article 28 of the Church Order of the PRC indicates, will be the seizure of the church’s property and the disruption of the peace and order of the church’s meetings.

The issue will be the kingdom of God.

The church is a nation, or kingdom (I Pet. 2:9). She is a sovereign nation. She permits no meddling in her government by any other kingdom, or nation. For a consistory or a synod to allow the authority of some earthly prince to override the authority of Christ in the congregation or denomination is treason. The German churches were guilty of this in the 1930s and 1940s when they cravenly permitted Hitler to rule in the churches. They lowered the banner of the kingdom of God and ran up the flag of the Third Reich. The churches in the World Council of Churches similarly capitulated to the Communist tyrannies.

Viewing the Church as Kingdom

But the truth that the church is the kingdom of God has application to far more than only the government of the church. The whole doctrine of the church can and must be seen in light of the kingdom of God. That the church is the kingdom has implications for every aspect of the life and work of the church. To my mind, this has not been sufficiently developed among us. We have developed the doctrine of the church as the body and bride of Christ. We have developed the truth of the covenant and its relation to the church. But as regards the kingdom of God, particularly the relation of the kingdom and the church, we are lacking.

Reformed theologians have proved that the church is the fulfilment—the New Testament reality—of Old Testament Israel. The work by O. T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church, comes immediately to mind. Thus, the theologians have proved that the church is the kingdom. And Reformed people understand this. They are not dreaming the “Jewish dream” of a future carnal kingdom of converted Jews in Palestine (premillennial dispensationalism), or of a future earthly kingdom of Presbyterians holding and wielding absolute political power in North America and even over all the world (postmillennial Christian Reconstruction).

But Reformed theologians have not thoroughly worked out, in light of Holy Scripture, what the church looks like as the millennial kingdom of God. They have not shined the light of the kingdom upon every aspect of the church’s existence and every detail of her activity and work. The result is that to some extent the church itself does not live in the consciousness that it is the kingdom of God—the glorious, powerful, prosperous, peaceful kingdom of God in Jesus Christ, the kingdom of Psalm 72. To some extent, the church itself does not work in the lively consciousness that its work is the aggressive maintenance and extension of itself in the world by the kingdom of the Father of Jesus Christ—the coming of the kingdom of the second petition of the model prayer. To some extent, the church does not fight its battles in the consciousness that it is the host of God Almighty, “terrible as an army with banners” (Song 6:4)—the reality of David’s army with its mighty men.

Our ministers should make such a study of the church as the kingdom. One way to do this is to preach the Heidelberg Catechism from the viewpoint of the kingdom of God with special emphasis on the kingdom-nature of the church.

It may well be that the popularity of the millennial errors that have been troubling Protestant churches for the past 200 years is due in part to the weakness of the church on the doctrine of the kingdom. Both forms of millennialism, postmillennialism as well as premillennialism, are not so much a false teaching of the last things as they are a false teaching of the Messianic kingdom of God. Often, the arising of doctrinal error in the church is indicative of the church’s failure to grasp or do justice to the truth that is at issue.

Whatever may be the cause of the popular millennial errors, God’s purpose with them as serious doctrinal errors—false doctrines—is that they cause His church to examine more thoroughly, develop more fully, and confess more clearly the truth that these errors subvert, that is, the truth of the kingdom.

Aspects of the Church as Kingdom

Without trying to be exhaustive, I suggest that conceiving and presenting the church as the kingdom will be fruitful in teachings that are both grand in themselves and urgently needed by the Reformed churches today. If the church is the kingdom, Jesus Christ is the absolute sovereign of the church. The head of the church is king. As sovereign, He alone establishes, maintains, and perfects the kingdom. As sovereign, He alone makes and preserves the citizens. As sovereign, He alone determines the life and behaviour of both the church and the individual member. In a good, old-fashioned monarchy, the life of the realm and the life of each citizen are simply a matter of being ruled. What the realm might like and what the citizen might want are irrelevant. The will of the king is all. And the king of the church is eternal God in the flesh. “Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?” (Ecc. 8:4).

If the church is the kingdom, there is and must be discipline. The flagrantly and impenitently rebellious and disobedient must be excommunicated. There is no place in the kingdom for them. To let them remain would be to jeopardize the kingdom. But there must also be order; prescribed, right worship; one faith; a definite way of life for all the citizens; co-operation among the citizens; regard for the customs and traditions; and the training of the young to revere the king, love the kingdom, and live the life of the kingdom.

What a disorderly business is the life of many churches today. Gross, public sinners are leading citizens. The members believe and do as they please. Many do not even regularly and diligently attend the services of worship on the Lord’s Day. And the church tolerates it! Some kingdom! Churches resemble Israel in the time of the judges, when everyone did what was right in his own eyes, because there was no king in Israel.

If the church is the kingdom, the church must be driven with the urge to expand the territory, to press the claims of the king still more widely, indeed to raise the banners of the kingdom of God over all the nations. This is missions and all the witness of the church, but it is kingdom-missions. This makes a difference. For one thing, it keeps missions from being a sentimental effort to save souls for Jesus, which invariably corrupts the message in the interests of more souls and thus results in no souls at all. A church that knows itself as the kingdom of God will be motivated to glorify God in missions. This church will not water down the message of the gospel of the glory of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, much less concoct a new message that is more to the liking of the time and culture.

For another thing, kingdom-missions will not overlook that aspect of the Great Commission that is widely ignored today: “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). Entrance into the kingdom must be followed by a life in the kingdom of obeying all of Christ’s commands.

If the church is the kingdom, the church must know itself as a fighting force, an army that confronts enemies, demolishes fortresses, and even destroys people. Kingdoms are at war in history. As much as in the Old Testament, the kingdom of Christ in the time of the new covenant is commissioned by God to do battle against the hordes of devils, the apostate churches, and the world of reprobate, ungodly men and women. “The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries” (Ps. 110:5-6).

How this is deplored and rejected in most of the churches today! How this is in danger of being lost today even in the most faithful of churches! Love, tolerance, friendliness, sweetness, and niceness are the only attributes of the church! The result is that the kingdom of darkness—”the gates of hell”—is rolling over these defenceless churches with a spiritual blitzkrieg.

But what if the church is the kingdom of God, really the New Testament reality of David’s warring kingdom, the kingdom whose king is the king of kings of Revelation 19:11ff.? How will this make a difference in the pulpit, in the decisions of the consistory and the synod, in the lectures and writing of the professors of theology, and in the witness of the members?

 

The Kingdom in the Lives of the Citizens

“Who … hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13)

No one should fear identifying the church as the kingdom because he supposes that this limits the extent of the kingdom in the world. This is the fear of some. They think that the kingdom would be shut up in the narrow confines of the instituted church. In fact, one of the main charges made by postmillennial Christian Reconstruction against the identification of the church as the kingdom is that “this equation of the Church with the kingdom of Christ evades the issue of Christendom: the wider influence of the gospel in history” (Gary North, Crossed Fingers [Tyler, Texas, 1996], p. 59).

The mistaken notion of “Christendom” aside, this fear is groundless.

The truth that the church is the kingdom does full justice to the fullest extension of the kingdom in all the world, among all nations, and in every sphere of human life. Since the kingdom is the reign of God in Jesus Christ, the reign of God in Jesus Christ extends over all the world.

The Extension of the Kingdom in the Gathering of the Church

For one thing, the church is the servant that God uses to translate those for whom the kingdom has been eternally prepared out of the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of the Son of His love. This translation is accomplished by the church’s preaching of the gospel, whether among the children of believers or on the mission field. In connection with this saving work of God, churches are established at home and abroad.

Thus the kingdom is extended.

Having called men, women, boys, and girls to the kingdom, the church continues to instruct and discipline these citizens in the life of the kingdom (Matt. 28:20).

The history of the church in the present age is proof that identification of the church as the kingdom does not result in restricting the kingdom, but rather in extending it over all the world. By the preaching, first, of the apostles and, then, of faithful ministers and missionaries, the kingdom spread from Jerusalem throughout the world in the form of true churches of Jesus Christ in all nations.

This spread of the kingdom in the form of true churches in all nations is the discipling of the nations that Christ mandated in Matthew 28:19: “Teach [Greek: ‘disciple’] all the nations.” In the conversion, salvation, and sanctification of the elect in all nations, regardless that they are and always have been a minority, and in the gathering of them as a church, the nations become disciples of Christ.

Not only is the church instrumental in the extension of the kingdom worldwide, it is also the agent by which the kingdom is maintained. The church defends the kingdom of God. The church defends the kingdom of God by defending the gospel of the kingdom. The Messianic kingdom of God is always under attack, as the history of Israel in the Old Testament and the book of Revelation make plain. Only where a true church proclaims the gospel of sovereign grace and teaches an authoritative law of God as the rule of the life of the saints is the kingdom to be found.

Identification of the church as the kingdom in no way hinders, but in every way promotes the extension of the kingdom.

The Extension of the Kingdom in the Lives of the Citizens

For another thing, by the same royal Word by which people are naturalized as citizens of the kingdom of God, the church teaches and disciplines these people to live the life of the kingdom in every sphere of human life and in every ordinance of creation.

The kingdom of God—the reign of God in Christ—is extended in the life of every genuine member of the church. And the life of the member of the church is to be lived in the world. In the world, he lives the life of the kingdom as a citizen of this kingdom. This is a life of obedience to Jesus Christ as lord and king. In the life of the member of the church is, and is shown, the reign of God in Christ by the Spirit.

This is the teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 48. In explanation of the second petition of the model prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” the Catechism begins with the life of the individual citizen of the heavenly kingdom: “Rule us so by Thy Word and Spirit, that we may submit ourselves more and more to Thee.”

The rule of God in the life of the believer begins with his own very personal, spiritual life and experience. The kingdom comes more and more in him when he abhors himself as a sinner, trusts alone in the cross of Christ, loves his king, seeks the glory of God and the good of the neighbour rather than himself, and makes some progress in his fight against doubt, envy, bitterness, discontent, drunkenness, illicit sexual desire or whatever may be his own besetting demon.

That demon, by the way, promotes the kingdom of Satan in the believer’s life. The two kingdoms clash most violently and with the highest stakes, not out there in society in the culture wars. That clash is mere child’s play in comparison with the war of the two kingdoms in the soul of every Christian.

To the noisy champions of a grand, showy, outward kingdom that is one day to Christianise the world, this personal spiritual extension of the kingdom is of little account. But to God, Scripture, and the Heidelberg Catechism—as to the battling believer—it is first and basic. The apostle of Christ virtually defines the kingdom in terms of its experience by the individual church member: “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17). That the kingdom comes in the life of an elect sinner is a wonder of the almighty, life-giving, gracious power of the Holy Spirit.

The kingdom comes first and importantly in the soul and experience of the child of God. But then it necessarily advances into the active life of the Christian in the world in every sphere and ordinance, with body and soul and with all his gifts.

As a citizen of the kingdom, he is a member with his family of the church, indeed of the purest manifestation of the church; is diligent in church attendance; submits to Christ’s authority in the elders; uses his gifts for the good of the congregation and denomination; and lives in peace with the other members as much as possible.

As a citizen of the kingdom, the Reformed man marries in the Lord, loves his wife, honours marriage as a lifelong bond, rears his children in the truth, and rules his household well.

As a citizen of the kingdom, the Reformed woman marries in the Lord, submits to her husband with due obedience, honours marriage as a lifelong bond, is a “keeper at home,” brings up her children in the faith, and cooperates with her husband’s rule.

As citizens of the kingdom, the parents establish good Christian schools, to carry out the godly instruction of the children of the kingdom that they themselves cannot give.

As a citizen of the kingdom, the man labours faithfully in his job, whatever it is, high-powered or menial, as to the Lord, to provide for his own needs and for those of the kingdom. This includes that he recognizes and submits to the authority of his employer. If he is the employer, he treats his workers justly and pays them well.

As a citizen of the kingdom, the believer honours civil government as God’s servant, submits to the authority of the state and its functionaries, obeys all laws that do not require him to disobey God, and pays the taxes that the state decrees. If he is the ruler, which is perfectly proper, although quite rare, he keeps order in society, legislates in accordance with the law of God for national life, punishes those who disturb the common order, and protects those who are outwardly law-abiding.

As a citizen of the kingdom, the member of the church is honest and kind in his dealings with his neighbours, whether believing or unbelieving, and helpful to the needy as he has opportunity. As much as possible, he lives in peace with all men.

As a citizen of the kingdom, the Christian freely uses and enjoys the good creation of God his king, always in service of the kingdom and to the glory of the king of the kingdom. This creation, freely used and enjoyed, includes his own natural gifts of music, or art, or scientific study, or poetry, or gardening, or athletics, and much more besides.

Thus, in the active life of the member of the church the kingdom extends into all areas of human life in all the world.

None of the extension is divorced from the church. All of it proceeds from and is empowered by the church as the kingdom of God.

This all-comprehensive, all-invading, all-dominating kingdom-life is also the Reformed “world-and-life-view.” It may not be the kingdom-life that Abraham Kuyper grandiosely sketched in his Lectures on Calvinism, or the triumphalist “world-and-life-view” of the Christian Reconstructionists. But it is the humble, down-to-earth, realistic kingdom-life and “world-and-life-view” of Ephesians 5:21-6:9; I Peter 2:11-5:14; the book of Titus; Romans 13; I Timothy 4:1-8; and the New Testament generally.

This aspect of the kingdom of God, namely, the extension of the kingdom in the lives of the citizens, is fundamental.

Where is it found today?

Where is it found even as regards those who are clamouring the loudest for a world-and-life-view”? Where is it found among those who are constantly criticizing the Protestant Reformed Churches for their alleged lack of a broad, victorious kingdom-vision?

Fact is, we Protestant Reformed Christians are sharply critical of many of these “culture-transformers” and “kingdom-builders” exactly for their woeful shortcomings as regards the biblical, Reformed Worldview. For all their talk about building and advancing the kingdom, the sin of many Reformed, Presbyterian, and evangelical people today is that they do not teach and live the life of the kingdom of Christ.

Many of them do not even belong to sound Reformed churches. They retain their membership in churches that do not preach the pure doctrine of the gospel, churches that corrupt the sacraments, and churches that neglect the discipline of public, impenitent sinners. They permit their children to be raised in such churches. All further kingdom-life is impossible where membership in a true church is lacking.

Many do not attend worship services twice every Lord’s Day. They use the Lord’s Day for their own work or pleasure, usually pleasure. Especially in the summer, these enthusiastic transformers of culture spend their Sundays in their boats, or on the beach, or at their cottages, or on the road to and from their vacations. Meanwhile their churches hold services with a handful of old people. It is common knowledge that a popular preacher of the “Reformed world-and-life-view” and the “full-orbed kingdom-life” runs out of the morning service on the Lord’s Day to play golf the rest of the day.

Our day is seeing the murder of Sabbath observance by those who profess to be Reformed and Presbyterian. And the murder of Sabbath observance is the end of the kingdom of God among them. Voltaire, atheist philosopher that he was, could teach these Sabbath-desecrating advocates of a “Reformed world-and-life-view” the essential importance of Sabbath observance for the kingdom of God. “If you want to kill Christianity,” that shrewd foe of Christ advised the French Revolution, “you must abolish Sunday.”

Despite the fact that marriage and the family are basic to the kingdom, many of the churches and theologians crying up a future, grand, outward, political, carnal kingdom of Christ tolerate, or even approve, divorce on other grounds than fornication (the only biblical ground for divorce) and the remarriage of divorced persons, with all the accompanying disaster for children, grandchildren, the wider family, the church, and society at large. Christian Reconstruction, for example, approves remarriage after divorce for all—innocent parties, guilty parties, parties who are simply bored—except for someone who might have AIDS (see R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, pp. 401-415 and Ray Sutton, Second Chance: Biblical Principles of Divorce and Remarriage [Fort Worth, TX, 1988]).

To refer to no other corruption of true kingdom-life as prescribed by the Lord in Holy Scripture, in the vital creation ordinance of labour many of those who are vehement for the transforming of culture approve the subversion of the ordinance of labour by labour unionism. Either they themselves are members of a labour union, or they approve membership in the unions on the part of those with whom they regularly celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Every labour union stands before God and men with blood dripping from its hands. In enforcing their strikes, they have wounded and killed innumerable men and women who have opposed them, especially the “scabs.” And the strike itself, the heart and soul of the union, is sheer, obvious rebellion by the workers against the God-given authority of the employer. By membership in a labour union, one makes himself responsible for the violence of the “brotherhood” and becomes party to the rebellion of labour against what Scripture calls the “master.”

Against all this conformity to the culture of the ungodly, we Protestant Reformed churches and people vigorously promote, insist on, and, by the grace of God, begin to live the kingdom-life and practice a Reformed Worldview.

Not apart from the church!

The church is the kingdom.

The natural eye cannot see it, for by earthly reckoning the church is small, powerless, and even shameful.

But to the eye of faith, which sees Christ the king in the church, the church is great, invincible, and glorious.

“Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge … Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye will her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following” (Ps. 48:1-3, 12-13).

And out of the church is our spiritual, our kingdom, life: “All my springs are in thee” (Ps. 87:7).

Kingdom

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What is the kingdom of God? The answer cannot be reduced to a word study of the term kingdom. That would be a helpful exercise, but the Bible describes the kingdom even when the word is not used.

Any kingdom will consist of a king, his realm, its citizens, and the law that regulates their lives. This is true of God’s kingdom as well. What follows is a short overview of the Bible’s presentation of God’s rule over God’s people in God’s place according to God’s law.

God’s Rule

Adam is not called a king, but God gives him dominion (Gen. 1:26–28). From the garden forward, God exercises His authority through human rulers, whom He calls to act as His vice-regents. Satan sought to usurp God’s throne, and Adam betrayed the Ruler of the world (3:1–7). God spoke judgment on the Serpent, however, and in the word of judgment came also a promise of redemption (v. 15).

This pattern seen in the garden was repeated once Israel entered the Land of Promise. Just as God had given Adam dominion, so Israel inherited the land, God’s authority being exercised by the Word He spoke to them. Adam rebelled. Israel and her kings followed in his footsteps. God spoke judgment through the prophets, and as Adam was exiled from God’s presence in Eden, Israel was exiled from the land. Here, too, though, promises of redemption permeated the words of judgment, the prophets pointing to a glorious latterday restoration.

After the exile, Israel was restored to the land. Though promises were partially realized, the people continued to wait for the desert to bloom. Then the long-time-coming Messiah, the King of Israel, Jesus, arrived.

Jesus exercised God’s authority in word and deed, commanding unclean spirits and elements, rolling back disease and death. In the plot twist of the eons, Jesus conquered by being killed, gave life by being put to death. Being judged, He brought promised judgment on the Serpent, overcoming the treachery of Adam and Israel’s kings, casting out the usurper and laying claim to God’s kingdom by passing through death to resurrection.

Christ the King then gave gifts to His church, appointing men as Apostles, prophets, and evangelists, and giving pastors and teachers to shepherd His people until His return (Eph. 4:8–11). The undershepherds of the High King mediate His rule through the ministry of the Word. He will return, exercise everlasting dominion, and wear many crowns (Dan. 7:14; Rev. 19:12).

God’s Place

First, Eden was God’s place; after our exile therefrom, God met with Abraham and his sons at particular places. He then met Israel at Sinai, the mountain of God, before leading them into the new Eden, the Land of Promise. At Sinai, God gave Israel the tabernacle, which was later replaced by the temple. Then Jesus came and replaced the temple: in Him God was present, and He became the place where forgiveness of sins was made possible. Jesus gave His followers the indwelling Spirit and authority to forgive and constrain sin, making the church the new temple. Jesus will return and cause the glory of God to cover the dry lands as the waters cover the seas, and then, in the new heaven and earth, the new Jerusalem will be what the Holy of Holies was in the temple: the throne room of God and the Lamb.

God’s People

God speaks of the seed of the Serpent and the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15. In this context, He speaks the words cursed are youonly to the Serpent (Gen. 3:14). When these words are later spoken to Cain (Gen. 4:11), echoing over Canaan son of Ham (9:25), we see that those who continue in unrepentant opposition to the Lord and His people descend from their father the Devil (see also John 8:44; 1 John 3:8–15). By contrast, the seed of the woman are those who repent of their sin, believe the promises of God, embrace God’s authoritative Word, and keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 12:17).

God’s Law

When God made Adam His vice-regent, God’s Word regulated and empowered him, giving both permissions and prohibitions. We see this dynamic again in Israel, as her kings were to enforce God’s law, being subject to it themselves. Jesus came as the living Word. He was the embodiment of God’s teaching, and He fulfilled the law. God continues to exercise His authority through His Word in the current expression of His kingdom, the church. With the new covenant inaugurated, God’s law is written on our hearts (Jer. 31:33; 1 John 2:20–27), and when Jesus returns, “we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

God’s kingdom consists of God’s rule over God’s people in God’s place. God has established His King, Jesus, and by His Spirit He gives life to His people through His Word. God’s people are now sojourners and exiles, making their way through the wilderness to God’s place — the Land of Promise, the city with foundations, the new Jerusalem, the new heaven and the new earth. The kingdom belongs to the Lord, and He will rule over His people in His place according to His Word.

James M. Hamilton, Jr.

Dr. James M. Hamilton, Jr. is associate professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastor of preaching at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

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