PMT 2015-110 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In my previous article I began a brief study considering some of the leading errors in classic (populist) dispensationalism. I opened with a presentation of the Christological distortions inherent in the system — which is significant in that Christ lies at the very center of Christianity. I will continue my concern with those Christological distortions in this article.
One of the difficulties dispensationalists have in understanding the Messianic kingdom promised by the prophets is with regard to its fundamental nature. Several major misconceptions lead them astray in this regard. We highlight but three: they assert of the Messianic kingdom that it will (1) be a future, earthly, Armageddon-introduced, political system, (2) require the physical presence of Christ on earth, and (3) be fundamentally Jewish in purpose and character.
For instance, House and Ice (Dominion Theology, 10) write “that Christ will soon rapture his Bride, the church, and that we will return with him in victory to rule and exercise dominion with him for a thousand years upon the earth.” Emphatically this kingdom will not be “until Christ rules physically from Jerusalem” (160). A proper understanding of the Messianic kingdom requires “a consistent distinction between the Bible’s use of Israel and the church” that leads “dispensationalism to distinguish God’s program for Israel from his program for the church” [p. 419] hence the Jewishness of the Messianic kingdom.
The Spiritual Kingdom
Despite House and Ice’s confusion, the Scripture is quite clear regarding the spiritual nature of the kingdom. It is a distinctive of dispensationalism that asserts Christ offered to Israel a literal, political, earthly kingdom, but that the Jews rejected it, thus causing its postponement (Dominion Theology, 173; 279; Pentecost, Things to Come, 456–66). This view of the kingdom is totally erroneous. As a matter of fact, it was just that sort of kingdom that the first century Jews wanted and that Christ refused: “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone” (John 6:15).
Four Views on the Book of Revelation
(ed. by Marvin Pate)
Helpful presentation of four approaches to Revelation. Ken Gentry writes the chapter on the preterist approach to Revelation.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
The disciples themselves missed His point for the most part, while He was on earth. This is evidenced in the Emaus Road encounter after the crucifixion, where these disciples lament: “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done” (Luke 24:21). We should note that Jesus rebuked them for such foolishness: “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27). They expected political deliverance and glory to come to Israel through this Messiah. But Jesus spoke to them of the true meaning of the prophecies of the Old Testament, showing them that He must suffer and then enter His resurrected, heavenly glory.
In response to the Pharisees, Christ specifically declared that the kingdom does not come visibly and gloriously (as the dispensational construction would have it!): “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). Obviously a spiritual conception of the kingdom is here demanded, in contradiction to an Armageddon-introduced, earthly, political kingdom.
The Redemptive Kingdom
This is why Christ went about preaching what is termed the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mark 1:14-15). He proclaimed a redemptive, spiritual kingdom. Hence His being exalted to His throne, leads to a spiritual effusion of grace, not the political establishment of an earthly government (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 2:30-35; 3:22-26; 8:12; Eph. 4:8-11).
A major accusation against Jesus was that He promoted a political kingdom in competition with Caesar’s empire. This explains why Jesus was concerned to discover the source of the accusation — He knew of the misconception of the Jews in this regard. His answer indicates that His is a spiritual kingdom:
Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. (John 18:33-37)
Had He not presented His kingship in terms of meekness and lowliness and not of a conquering, political entity? “All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass” (Matt. 21:4,5). In illustration of the Emaus Road confusion, John adds regarding this triumphal entry in fulfillment of prophecy that “these things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him” (John 12:15-16).
The Glory of Christ (book by R. C. Sproul)
From the angels’ revelation of Jesus’ glory to the shepherds outside Bethlehem, to Jesus’ life-changing revelation of His glory to Paul on the Damascus road, Sproul guides us to a deeper understanding of Christ’s glory.
For more study materials: www.KennethGentry.com
Paul picks up on and promotes the spiritual nature of the kingdom, when he writes that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17). He disavows any carnal conception of the kingdom. Likewise does he speak of attaining an inheritance in the spiritual kingdom (the heavenly aspect of the kingdom) for those who are righteous (1 Cor. 6:9-10; 15:50; Gal. 5:21). He even says very plainly of the heavenly aspect of the kingdom: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:50). How could it be that an earthly, political kingdom would hold forth no inheritance for flesh and blood people? It is in salvation that we are “delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:12,13).