What About the Kingdom? 2

We’ve discussed the Kingdom before. Let’s do another quick look:

And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed ~Daniel 7:14

And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them ~Daniel 7:27

Jesus expresses this same idea to Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world, (John 18:36); He told the Pharisees the same thing in Luke 17:20-21:

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

Why Christianity is True 4

One of the major cornerstones of Christianity is God Himself.

The big question we must answer is, How do you view God?

Michael Reeves writes,

I want readers to know God and grow in their enjoyment of him. God is triune, and so pressing into the Trinity is not an eccentric sport for Christians with too much time on their hands: it is the very epicentre of the Christian life. This is what we have been saved for! Jesus said, ‘this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’ (John 17:3).

On top of that is my fear that many Christians are too often functionally Muslim in that the God they believe in looks like a single-person God. Now belief drives behaviour, and so if a Christian believes like a Muslim, their Christian experience and life must look Islamic. At root that will mean that instead of a heartfelt love for the Lord their God they can only know that external ‘submission’. Such a Christianity must be joyless – and must be unattractive for the watching world. I’d love to see some readers liberated from all that, for them to have their minds relieved and their hearts won by the truth of a God who, being Trinity, is unutterably beautiful and good.

Read the rest of this great interview with Michael Reeves. It is a great interview (and book !! Check it out, too)

No Salvation Outside Christ

The fact that we must try harder after we’ve failed the first time demonstrates how desperately we need salvation. If we could save ourselves, we wouldn’t need to do something a second time.

We must understand salvation only happens by grace, not by works of the law:

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law (our doing and trying harder), although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation (appeasing and satisfying God’s wrath on our behalf) by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. ~Romans 3:20-26

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Hebrews 9:22

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Romans 10:4

“For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” Romans 2:13

“For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” Romans 2:14-15

“Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” Romans 3:27-28

“Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Romans 3:31

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.” Romans 4:13-14

“That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,” Romans 4:16

““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” “and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.” “and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” “And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” ” the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,” Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:21; Matthew 20:19; Luke 9:22; Luke 18:33; Luke 24:7; Luke 24:46

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” Romans 5:20

And this is what makes Christianity unique and True: Jesus came to save all those who believe in Him by fulfilling the law for us and in our place. And it is by grace we are saved through faith in Jesus. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~Ephesians 2:8-10

What other religion can offer you salvation that does not require you to do anything but believe in Jesus?

Hermeneutical Factors

Dispensationalists have certain hermeneutic foundations that establish their unique viewpoint.

  • Hard distinction between Israel and the Church
  • Old Testament priority over the New Testament
  • Essentially woodenly literal approach to reading Scripture

Personally, I do not see the hard distinction between Israel and the Church. I do not see Israel as strictly ethnic, although, I see it as national (Old Covenant); and the continuity is Israel, made of both gentile and ethnic Israelites together, is brought into a New Man in Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22). Not to mention the father of the Israelites, Abraham, was gentile (Genesis 15).

Secondly, I see the New Testament taking priority over the Old Testament because of the Person and Work of Jesus. Dispensationalists claim their position is the position that places God’s glory most on display. I disagree because a Christocentric interpretation places God’s glory on display most because God’s glory is seen most clearly in the face of Jesus– the Mediator between God and man and the Word of God made flesh to whom the written Word of God points.

Thirdly, the biblical Authors did not use language in a woodenly literal fashion. Because of this, Dispensationalists must break their own rule of interpretation in order to keep their hermeneutic approach in tact.

These reasons, at least to me, demonstrate their hermeneutical foundations flow from a preconceived notion rather than Scripture itself.

To deny how Scripture interprets Itself on any point is to reject Scriptural objective literalism, which in turn, is a rejection of the authority of Scripture Itself.

When Scripture itself interprets Scripture “literally” then we go with the literal interpretation; but when Scripture interprets Scripture non-literally, we go with the non-literal interpretation. Interpreting Scripture literally because Scripture interprets Scripture literally 75 or 80% of the time is not a good rule of thumb. It is taking hermeneutical cues from a preconceived philosophical construct rather than Scripture.

Interpret Scripture literally when Scripture Itself interprets Scripture literally and non-literally when Scripture interprets Scripture non-literally.

What about Acts 15:13-19?

My friend Nathan White writes concerning this passage:

The rapture, millennium, etc. can be discussed all day without making progress, but I think this passage really gets to the heart of the disagreement here. I say this because the passage speaks of the rebuilding of Israel, and the manner in which James interprets it is pertinent to the ‘literal or figurative’ discussion as well.

So, here it’s clear that James is using the OT prophecy to describe what was presently taking place and why they should not prohibit Gentiles from turning to God. He both interprets the prophecy figuratively (according to some, though I’m sure we define that term differently), and he claims that the restoration of Israel had already taken place. Both of these claims, IMO, strike at the core of Dispensational error.

From a dispensational standpoint, they are relegated to saying that James is quoting a still-future prophecy that will be fulfilled during the millennium, and that he quotes the prophecy to argue that ‘since Gentiles will be accepted then, we should accept them now too’.

But it seems to me that taking a literal fulfillment of this prophecy, and/or pushing it’s fulfillment to the future, completely undermines James’ point. The whole reason he quotes the passage is to say ‘this is happening right now!’, and it loses its thrust and application when delegated to the future.

So – we are to let scripture be our guide in determining when and how prophecy is fulfilled, we are to recognize that this is often not ‘literal’ as we like to define things, and that if we see what scripture has already said on the issue, Gentiles are part of the same body, same tree, and indeed make up with the Jews the true Israel of God.

The Hypocrisy of Christians?

In an attempt to discredit Chick-fil-A, one website writes this post to wit,

This is the problem with every single right-wing Christian in America. You cannot claim that one part of the Bible is absolute and ignore the others you don’t like. If you’re going to use your religion to deny an entire group of people their rights as citizens of the United States, you had better be ready to follow every stricture in the Scripture.

But this is only a piece of the issue. This poster neglects the New Testament passages which, in essence, supercede various Old Testament passages.

Matthew 5:17, Romans 10:4 and Acts 11 speak to this:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes

Jesus is the one who fulfills the law; meaning, He has fulfilled and completed everything the law requires of us– who believe in Him.

Jesus fulfills the passages like Leviticus 11:8, thereby, Acts 11 is applicable to Christians today.

This is why we can go eat at Chick-fil-A guilt free. And love it.

Wow, I’m hungry for a chicken biscuit now.

Observations in Scripture 1 – Genesis 1

Creation is foundational to Christianity.

But what are we to understand from Genesis 1?

  • God made all things — v.1
  • God created all things out of nothing (i.e. ex nihilo1 — v.1
  • God established order and time — vv. 5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31
  • Each species had progeny after its own kind; No cross species progeny — vv. 11, 12, 21, 24, 25, 26
  • Mankind was made in God’s image (i.e. imago dei) — vv. 26-27
  • Creation was called very good — vv. 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31
  • God made everything with its own purpose
  • God’s Word creates life
  • God establishes hierarchy — vv. 16, 26
  • All life has freedom within established parameters — vv. 20-21

Genesis 1

1:1 In the beginning, Elohim (God) created the heavens and the earth.
1:2 The earth became chaotic and vacant and darkness was upon the surface of the chaotic deep, and the Spirit of Elohim (God) was hovering over the surface of the waters.
1:3 And Elohim (God) said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
1:4 And Elohim (God) saw the light was good, and Elohim (God) separated the light from the darkness.
1:5 And Elohim (God) called the Light, “day” and the darkness, “night”, and it became evening and it became morning, day one.
1:6 And Elohim (God) said, “Let there be atmosphere in the midst of the waters,” and He separated the waters from the waters.
1:7 And Elohim (God) made the atmosphere and separated the waters under the atmosphere from the waters above the atmosphere and it was so.
1:8 And Elohim (God) called the atmosphere, “sky”, and it became evening and it became morning, day two.
1:9 And Elohim (God) said, “Let the waters flow together under the sky in one place and let the dry land appear,” and it was so.
1:10 And Elohim (God) called the dry (area), “land” and the confluence of the waters, “seas”; and Elohim (God) saw that it was good.
1:11 And Elohim (God) said, “Let the land be verdant of abundant herbage yielding seed after its own kind, and the fruit tree making fruit of its own species whose seed is in itself upon the land,” and it was so.
1:12 And the land brought forth herbage and foliage yielding seed after its own kind and the tree making fruit after its own kind whose seed was in itself; and Elohim (God) saw it was good.
1:13 And it became evening and it became morning, the third day.
1:14 And Elohim (God) said, “Let the luminaries in the atmosphere of the heavens separate the day from the night that they may be signs for seasons, appointments, days and years.
1:15 And they become luminaries in the sky of the heavens to give light on the earth and it was so.
1:16 And Elohim (God) made two great luminaries, the greater luminary for ruling the day and the lesser light for ruling the night along with the stars also.
1:17 And Elohim (God) set them in the sky of the heavens to give light upon the earth,
1:18 And to rule in the day and in the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and Elohim (God) saw that it was good.
1:19 And it became evening and it became morning, the fourth day.
1:20 And Elohim (God) said, “Let the living creatures roam the waters and the birds fly over the face of the earth in the atmosphere of the heavens.”
1:21 And Elohim (God) created great monsters and all living creatures that move which roam the waters after its own kind and all birds after their kind. And Elohim (God) saw that it was good.
1:22 And Elohim (God) blessed them and said, “Be fruitful, increase (in number), and fill the waters of the seas and let the birds increase (in number) in the earth.”
1:23 And it became evening and it became morning, the fifth day.
1:24 And Elohim (God) said, “Let the earth bring forth living beasts after its kind, living and moving animals of the land after its kind,” and it was so.
1:25 And Elohim (God) made the animals of the land of its kind, the beasts and moving animals on the ground after its kind, and Elohim (God) saw that it was good.
1:26 And Elohim (God) said, “We shall make humans in our image, after our likeness, and they shall have sway over the fish of the sea, birds of the heavens, and beasts over all the earth and the moving animals on the land.
1:27 And Elohim (God) created the human in His image in the image of Elohim (God) created him; male and female he created them.
1:28 And Elohim (God) blessed them, and Elohim (God) said to them, “Be fruitful! Increase! Fill the earth, subdue it, and have sway over the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, and all the living and moving animals on the land.”
1:29 And Elohim (God) said, “Behold! I give to you all herb bearing seed which is on the surface of the earth and every tree and its fruit of the tree yielding seed, for you it shall be for food.”
1:30 “And for all of life on the land, and all of the birds of the heavens, and for every moving animal on the land wherein has life, herb for food.” And it was so.
1:31 And Elohim (God) saw all of which he made and behold it was very good. And it became evening and it became morning, the sixth day.

Notes
1Genesis 1:1, Psalms 33:6, Psalms 148:5, John 1:3, Colossians 1:16, and Hebrews 11:3 gives a more complete picture of how God created the world. Viewing the entire biblical account provides the conclusion that God created ex nihilo.

What About the Kingdom?

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. ~1 Corinthians 15:20-28

The Kingdom

  • John the Baptist first announces that the kingdom is at hand ~Matthew 3:2
  • Jesus takes over this message as he begins his ministry ~Matthew 4:17
  • Paul ends his ministry preaching this same message ~Acts 28:31
  • The Kingdom of God was a late-Jewish apocalyptic expectation
  • The hope was for God to restore Israel to prominence and liberate them from Gentile control by the Messiah
  • The hope for the Kingdom of God is closely tied with the restoration of David’s throne
  • Divine Judgement is a key element in the preaching of the Kingdom ~Matthew 3:10; Matthew 13:41, etc…

The Kingdom is a Present Reality

  • Jesus proclaimed the kingdom as already present in His person and ministry – “…if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” ~Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20
  • The casting out of demons shows that Jesus has entered into Satan’s domain and plundered it ~Matthew 12:29; Luke 10:18
  • The Kingdom is also evidenced by Jesus healing the sick, forgiving sin, and raising the dead ~see Matthew 11:2; Luke 7:18
  • Justification and the forgiveness of sin are the key witnesses to the present reality of the kingdom
  • Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” ~John 18:36

    How can the OT say Christ’s kingdom is physical when Christ Himself says His kingdom is not of this world (aka non-physical)?

Herman Ridderbos explains,

…salvation is announced and offered as a gift already available…So too the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed, not merely as a future reality to be accomplished in heaven, nor merely as a present possibility, but as …offered today… through Jesus…

These things testify clearly that Jesus is the promised King now, not only in the future

Peter proclaims Jesus is sitting on David’s throne by virtue of His resurrection.

Jesus is reigning in His kingdom now

What Dispensationalists fail to recognize is Jesus is physically ruling and reigning on David’s throne now but in Heaven. Christ’s bodily resurrection also means, He is in Heaven with a glorified body. Being present on Earth, physically, is not required.

Why Christianity is True 3

A man cannot look upon the love of God and of Christ in the gospel, but it will change him to be like God and Christ. ~Richard Sibbes

Because of sin and because Jesus is the payment for sin (to all those who believe in Him), Jesus demands our devotion and love.

No other religion provides this kind of grace and mercy

  • Only God in Jesus provides pure grace and mercy by obtaining salvation for us
  • Only God in Christ makes us pure
  • Only God in Jesus cleanses us from all sin, guilt and wrong doing
  • Only God in Jesus forgives us completely
  • Only God in Christ can accept us into His family (as sons), fully and lovingly accepted

The best all other religions can do is give you advice on obtaining God’s favor.

And it is sin that prevents us from completely following the advice.

Only Christianity provides Good News that we have God’s favor in Jesus

Jesus obtained God’s favor for us and in our place.

And this is why Christianity is True. Jesus’ resurrection proves He’s fulfilled everything and God is pleased.

Why Christianity is True 2

Scripture is replete of one theme: a huge number of diverse people will come together in unity around Jesus.

Further, I have written about sin and sin’s punishment a few times before.

Sin demands a payment

It is Jesus Who pays the penalty of the sin of all who believe in Him (John 3:16; Romans 6:23).

Because of sin, particularly in the Old Testament, God allowed lambs to be sacrificed so that the people’s sin was covered even though the lamb’s blood could never take away the sin (Hebrews 10:4).

Nothing and No one else could pay sin’s penalty except Jesus

The Apostle Paul tells us,

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” ~1 Timothy 2:5.

The writer to the Hebrews explains, “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” And the writer says, ” to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Jesus is the Great Mediator Between God and Man

This means, in large part, Jesus is the only way to forgiveness of sins and the great salvation which sets us free unto freedom– Freedom from sin and guilt.

Continued…