The Coming Kingdom
4-10-19 Acts 28:31 Lesson 65
Let’s open our Bibles if we could to Acts, chapter 1 verse 3. As you know we’re continuing on in our study of the kingdom, really dealing with passages that people use frequently to say that we are in the kingdom now. Our perspective is that we’re not in the kingdom now, we’re in the church age now. As my friend Tommy Ice likes to say, if this is the kingdom I must be living in the ghetto section of town. And we’ve been looking at passages in the Book of Acts, particularly Acts 2 and Acts 15, to argue that we’re currently in the kingdom. Those are the passages that people typically go to in addition to the teachings from the life of Christ which we’ve already looked at. And I know you guys probably won’t believe me when I say this but I think the heavy lifting is over because we spent a lot of time in Acts because that’s really where the battle is fought, Acts 2, and then last week a little bit in Acts 15. So after we get out of the Book of Acts we’ll look at the passages in Paul, the general letters and Revelation. And I think we’ll start to see things go a little faster, at least that’s what I’m hoping for.
But before we leave the Book of Acts you’ll notice there at the top of the screen there are eight references to the kingdom in the Book of Acts. [Acts 1:3, 6; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31] And so what I want to do, I just want to talk you through those passages real fast, then I want to show you how to handle them. And Kingdom Now theologians use these eight passages constantly. These are eight times where the Greek word basileia or kingdom is found in the Book of Acts. So let’s go through these fast.
Notice Acts 1:3, “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” So Jesus is ministering between His resurrection and ascension, a forty day period, and He’s talking to the disciples about things concerning the kingdom of God and people say aha, there it is, we must be in the kingdom. Jesus was teaching that we’re in the kingdom now. And so they’ll use a verse like that to argue the point.
Jump down to Acts 1:6, “So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”’ And so people use that to say see, the apostles anticipated a spiritual kingdom between the two advents of Christ so we must be in the kingdom now.
Go over to Acts 8:12, here’s your third reference to kingdom or the Greek word basileia, in the Book of Acts, Acts 8:12, “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news” look at what it says here, “about the kingdom of God….” This is Philip, the deacon, and the whole story of the conversion of the Samaritans and it says, “But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.” So people say there it is folks, just like Christ early on is preaching the kingdom of God so we must be in it.
Go over if you could to Acts 14:22, I just call these generic references to the kingdom in the Book of Acts. Acts 14:22 and notice what it says there, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’” Now there I think it’s hard to argue that that’s speaking of the present kingdom because it says “we” that would be Paul’s converts there in Southern Galatia on the first missionary journey. It says, “we” must go “through many tribulations,” “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’” Now to me you go through the tribulation first then you enter the kingdom of God later so I think that’s a clear reference to a future kingdom. But people still use that to say we’re currently in the kingdom.
And take a look if you could over in Acts 19 and notice verse 8, “And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.” So I believe this is, if I’m not mistaken isn’t the ministry of Apollos here in Ephesus. And he’s speaking boldly about the kingdom of God and so people say well, all these New Testament writers believe we’re in the kingdom now, in the church age.
But go one chapter to the right, to Acts 20:25, “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.” So here’s another example of, I believe this was Paul preaching the kingdom. So you can again see how people think that means if he’s preaching the kingdom we must be in the kingdom.
Go to Acts 28 if you could, there are two references to kingdom or basileia in the last chapter of the Book of Acts, and notice verse 23 , “When they had set a day” now this is Paul at the end of the Book of Acts he’s basically been two years confined in Rome, about A.D. 60-62 where he’s going to write the prison letters, which would be Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians. It says, Acts 28:23, “When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he” that’s Paul, “was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.” There’s Paul at the end of his ministry he’s recording the Book of Acts, boldly preaching the kingdom so people say we must be in the kingdom.
And then you go to the very end of the chapter, very end of the book, and how does the Book of Acts end. Paul, in prison in Rome, and it says, “Preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness unhindered. “ [Acts 28:31]
So I just took you through the eight references to the kingdom in the Book of Acts and people think all of these mean we must be in a spiritual form of the kingdom now. I have three responses to how I think people are misusing these generic references to the kingdom in the Book of Acts but let me read to you this quote from Alva J. McLain because he deals with this issue.
Alva J. McLain, I think correctly, says, “The term ‘kingdom’ (in the Greek it’s basileia) occurs eight times in Acts” we just went through the passages, “as referring to the divine rule. . . . In the Book of Acts this ‘kingdom of God’ appears as something future, the term being used, as James Orr has observed, ‘in an almost exclusively eschatological sense.’ The Old Testament prophecies of the Messianic Kingdom, occasionally quoted by the apostles (cf. Acts 2:25–36; 3:22–36; 13:22–39) are used to show the regal rights of Jesus the Messiah. But nowhere do they ever assert that the Kingdom has been established.” See, it’s one thing to preach about the kingdom of God, it’s another thing to say that the kingdom of God has been established. Part of Christian teaching involves teaching about the future, right? What area of theology do we call that? Anybody know the name. It starts with an e — eschatology. So if someone stands up like myself, I’m teaching the Book of Revelation on Sunday and I teach you about eschatology, I teach you about the Book of Revelation, am I saying automatically that the Book of Revelation is happening now? I’m not saying that at all. So Paul could make all kinds of statements and these apostles could make all kinds of statements about the kingdom and it doesn’t mean we’re in the kingdom.
So “The Old Testament prophecies … are used to show the regal rights of Jesus the Messiah. But nowhere do they ever assert that the Kingdom has been established. In passages about which there can be no dispute, this is a matter which belongs to the future when the King returns from heaven (cf. 1:6–11; 3:19–21; 15:13–16).”
“The passage in 14:22,” I had you look at that a few minutes ago, “‘we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God,’ is sometimes used to prove a present Messianic Kingdom established on earth in the church. But such a use would prove too much…. But in the Old Testament prophetic picture of the coming Messianic Kingdom, as every intelligent Jew understood, a period of terrible tribulation always precedes its establishment on earth. . . . Therefore the passage in 14:22 is in complete harmony with the historical situation and the progress of revelation…..” The argument advanced by some, that since the apostles throughout the Acts period preached ‘the things concerning the kingdom of God’ (19:8), therefore the kingdom must have already been established, is not very good logic. Most of us preach and teach many things in the Christian faith which are not yet realized in experience. No sensible person would argue that because the apostles continually preached the resurrection of the dead, therefore, it must have already taken place.” [Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God as Set Forth in the Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 424-26.]
So we talk about a resurrection, right, as Christians, as our hope. I don’t think we’re saying by teaching that that we’re in resurrected bodies now because you guys really don’t look like you’re in resurrected bodies from where I stand, and I doubt I look like I’m in a resurrected body either.
So just kind of by way of summary let me just give you three points about these sort of generic references to the kingdom in the Book of Acts. You’ll notice that in not one single passage was the kingdom ever defined. So therefore if the word “kingdom” is not defined in any of these references how do you think we should fill in the meaning of that word? The Old Testament. And we’ve carefully developed in this class, haven’t we, what the Old Testament reveals about the kingdom.
Remember we went through Isaiah 2:1-4, Isaiah 11:6-9, Isaiah 65:17-25, among many, many other passages and there we learned that the kingdom is a time period when Jerusalem is the spiritual center of both spiritual and political authority. It’s a time period of perfect justice. It’s a time period of world peace. It’s a time period when even the animals are getting along with each other, wolf and lamb are dwelling together. And animals are actually getting along with people to such an extent that a child will be able to put his or her hand into the cobra’s nest and not be harmed. And it’s a time period that we have universal spiritual knowledge of God spread all over the planet. That’s what the kingdom is. So when I run into these references in the Boo of Acts that says Paul went around preaching the kingdom I’m not really free as a Bible reader to just dump into the expression “kingdom” any meaning I choose to do. You see, that’s what people do, they grab some passage that’s not defined because the Bible is expecting the reader to interpret it from what’s already been revealed in the Old Testament and they’re just pouring their kingdom now theology into the passage and they try to develop this idea that we’re in a spiritual from of the kingdom now and Jesus is reigning in our hearts and that’s what the kingdom is.
And you see you would never do that with any other doctrine of the Bible would you? For example in the New Testament when you see the word “redemption” and that word redemption is not defined how in the world do you figure out what it means? Well, I think with redemption you’ve got to go back into the Old Testament and I’m thinking of one specific part of the Old Testament that defines redemption beautifully. Anybody know what I might be thinking of? It involves ten plagues and a Passover lamb. The Book of Exodus, that’s where redemption is defined, where God releases His people from bondage through a spotless Passover lamb. So when you run into the word “redemption” as applied to Christ that’s what you ought to be thinking of because God, when we interpret His Word expects us to interpret it according to things that He’s already previously set up, defined, and established.
So the better you know the Old Testament the better you’ll understand the New Testament and the better you know the New Testament the better you’ll understand what the Old Testament is about. The Bible is meant to be read that way; we can’t just come into concepts undefined and dump into those concepts any meaning our preconceptions determine. We’ve got to define it according to what prior revelation says. And that’s not what’s happening as people are using these kingdom now passages. I mean, the only way you could get a kingdom now theology out of those eight passages is to basically drive a wedge between the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The second general point that I’ll make about these generic references to the kingdom in the Book of Acts, these eight references, is teaching (and I’ve already made this point a little earlier, and Alva J. McLain in the quote I read to you made the same point also). “…teaching things unrealized does not make them realized now.” In other words, just because you teach the kingdom doesn’t mean we’re in the kingdom any more than just because you teach the resurrection of the believer means that we’re in resurrected bodies now. Part of Christian doctrine is teaching about things past and things future. Things future is what we call eschatology but that doesn’t mean that the eschaton has just started because you’re teaching about it. And that’s the mistake people are making with these kingdom now interpretations in Acts.
So again Alva J. McLain said, “The argument advanced by some, that since the apostles throughout the Acts period preached ‘the things concerning the kingdom of God’ (19:8), therefore the kingdom must have already been established, is not very good logic.” In fact, I think he’s being very nice when he says that. I think he should say it’s very poor logic and it shouldn’t even constitute proper Bible study. “Most of us preach and teach many things in the Christian faith which are not yet realized in experience. No sensible person would argue that because the apostles continually preached the resurrection of the dead, therefore, it must have already taken place.” [Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God as Set Forth in the Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 424-26.]
And one other quick point I’ll make about these eight references in the Book of Acts is this: the word kingdom, or basileia is used eight times in the Book of Acts. Not that may seem like a lot but it’s quite small in comparison to the number of times the word “kingdom” appears in the prequel to the Book of Acts, which is the Gospel of Luke. So if you go back just for a minute to Acts 1:1, you have to remember that Luke and Acts really is one volume; our Bibles break it up into a prequel and a sequel but both of them were put together by Luke, written to Theophilus about Jesus. Luke basically demonstrating what Jesus did in His earthly ministry to reach out to everybody, including the Gentiles. And then that saga continues as Jesus continues the same ministry of reaching out to the Gentiles but this time through the church as Jesus is where? At the right hand of God the Father.
So Acts is what Jesus did through the church; Luke is what Jesus did in His earthly ministry in His incarnation. But other than that basic division the Book of Luke and the Book of Acts are meant to be understood in harmony with each other. And you see that very clearly in Acts 1:1 where Dr. Luke says to Theophilus, the one he’s writing to, “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,  until the day when He was taken up to heaven,” etc.
So he’s talking about his first account and what would his first account be? The Gospel of Luke, the prequel, The Book of Acts being the sequel. So when you look at both books together, and that’s very important to do because they’re meant to be understood as a unit, what you discover is the word “kingdom,” basileia, is used eight times in the Book of Acts. It seems like a lot until you figure out how many times it’s used in Luke’s Gospel, it’s used actually forty-five times in Luke’s Gospel. So it’s used in Luke’s Gospel more than five times as much as you’ll find it in the Book of Acts.
So the big question is why is the word basileia so frequently used in Luke’s Gospel and then you get into his sequel in the Book of Acts and the word is used just eight times? And the answer to that is we have taught a concept here called The Offer of the kingdom, right? You guys remember the offer of the kingdom idea? That Jesus, when He was on the earth said “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17] And first century Israel had an opportunity while He was here offering them this to take Him and enthrone Him on His terms and if they had done that the kingdom would have materialized. I mean, people say well hypothetically could that have happened? I believe it could have happened; I believe it was a sincere bona fide offer.
But you see, when you get to Matthew 12 there’s a whole shift that takes place because it’s very clear that they’re going to reject the offer. Once the offer is rejected the kingdom is no longer the focus anymore, it’s now the coming church. And so that’s why the number of references to kingdom starts to dramatically get curtailed at that point, to the point where it’s only mentioned eight times in the Book of Acts and no longer in the Book of Acts does it say the kingdom is at hand. Paul is just making some general statements about the kingdom yet future. And to understand why there’s such a steep decline between 45 references in Luke and 8 references in the Book of Acts you really can’t understand that unless you understand this offer of the kingdom framework that we’ve been presenting.
So Dr. Toussaint I think has it right on this and he says, “It’s difficult to explain why Luke does not use the term if the kingdom is being inaugurated. He employs it forty-five times in the gospel. . . . One would expect Luke to use the word if such a startling thing as the inauguration of the kingdom had taken place.” And here’s the main thing I wanted us to see. “The fact that Luke uses kingdom only eight times in Acts after such heavy usage in his gospel implies that the kingdom had not begun but was in fact, “postponed.” [“Israel and the Church of a Traditional Dispensationalist,” in Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism, ed. Herbert W. Bateman (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 242] What’s his last word there? “postponed” which is the model we’ve been teaching.
So when people throw these eight verses at you from the Book of Acts and try to make you think we’re in the kingdom now because of those eight verses it’s very helpful to remind yourself that eight is a very small number compared to forty-five. And you’ll notice that in Acts it never says it’s at hand; Paul’s just making some generic statements about the future, much like we would mention the future resurrection today without arguing that we are in the future resurrection.
So I like this offer of the kingdom approach because it answers so many questions. The kingdom is offered by John the Baptist, Matthew 3:2, Jesus, Matthew 4:17, the twelve apostles, Matthew 10:5-7 and they keep saying “repent for the kingdom is at hand. It’s offered by the 70, Luke 10:1 and verse 9, and you’ll see that offer being consistently extended to first century Israel until you get to Matthew 12:24. Once you hit Matthew 12:24 it’s a pivot and there are certain books of the Bible where a massive pivot occurs and you want to be sensitive to where the pivot is.
For example, there’s a massive pivot in Numbers 13 and 14. In fact, if you have Numbers 13 and 14 in your study Bible you should write on the top pivot with three exclamation points after it because if you didn’t have Numbers 13 and 14 in your Bible you couldn’t even explain what’s happening in the rest of that particular book because that’s the switch between the generations. You remember how God’s hand was on that first generation that came out of Egypt and all the miracles God did for them and how He sustained them in the wilderness and how He parted the Red Sea and how He gave the manna from heaven and they saw the ten plagues and this, by the way, demonstrates that miracles don’t always produce faith. This is the same crowd that got to the southern border of the land of Israel to a place called Kadesh-Barnea, they look into the land and what do they see in the land? Giants, and they fall into fear and it’s at that point God says He’s not working with that generation anymore. And He puts His hand now on the next generation that will come because that generation, other than Joshua and Caleb, was filled with basically people that wouldn’t trust the Lord.
So that explains why in the Book of Numbers you have two census. Why do we call it the Book of Numbers? Because there’s a lot of numbers in it; you’ve got a census of the generation coming out of Egypt, chapter 1 and then you have another census, chapter 25, of the next generation that’s going to enter Canaan and you say to yourself, why do you have two census’s here? And the answer is the pivot in Numbers 13 and 14. You see that?
Another example of a pivot would be the Book of Second Samuel, you go through Second Samuel, I don’t know, 1-10, and David is winning, winning, winning, winning, winning. He even brings Jerusalem Israeli control. And then you get to numbers 13 and he’s losing, losing, losing, he’s under divine discipline, he loses his throne, a number of things are happening. So why the change? Well, there’s a pivot right there in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. What happened there? The whole Bathsheba incident which involved first adultery, then murder. So if you didn’t have chapters 11 and 12 as the pivot chapters you wouldn’t understand why he’s winning early in the book and under discipline in the second part of the book. So there are certain places in the Bible where there’s a massive pivot and I can’t think of a bigger pivot than Matthew 12.
If you don’t understand Matthew 12 you have no understanding as to why the kingdom is offered, offered, offered, offered faithfully to first century Israel and then you get beyond Matthew 12 and the offer “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” is never even mentioned and why all of a sudden there’s references to a coming church. I mean, why the distinctions between the who halves of the book? The answer is Matthew 12, and if you want a verse, if you don’t want a chapter give me a verse where the pivot happens, in verse 24 where they (the religious leaders attribute Christ’s miracles to who? Basically to Satan. It says this, “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.’” Once they do that the offer is withdrawn and now we see hints of a coming interadvent age and we hints of a coming church age etc.
So the reason why the kingdom is mentioned forty-five times in Luke but is mentioned 8 times in the Book of Acts is because of this pivot. And most people when they, I don’t know, quote verses to support their theology will just toss a verse at you but they won’t give you the big synthetic picture that we’re talking about here and they won’t tell you that there’s a massive pivot that’s happened. That’s why there’s only eight references to the kingdom in Acts 45 in Luke’s Gospel.
So Matthew, you remember, is kind of organized chiastically. What does that mean? The things in chapters 1 and 2, the themes anyway, are repeated in chapter 28. Similarly the themes in chapters 3 and 4 are sort of repeated in chapters 26 and 27. And that’s kind of a common way the Bible organizes material and when you get into the middle that’s the pivot. So the pivot in Matthew’s Gospel is Matthew 11 and 12 dealing with first century Israel’s rejection of their King. And that shifts (we’ve already gone through this so I won’t belabor it) but that shifts Christ’s whole ministry from a public ministry to Israel to a private ministry to the disciples. And why does that happen? Because of that pivot that takes place in Matthew chapter 12. So what am I trying to say here about these eight generic references to the kingdom in the Book of Acts? I’m trying to say three things as to why these don’t teach a present manifestation of the kingdom.
Number one, they never define what the kingdom is, which means we have to define them by how the phrase or concept is used in the Old Testament and the more you go that direction the more you see that the kingdom has to be a future reality rather than a present one.
Number two, all of these statements, the only thing they’re really saying is, in other words teaching about the kingdom is not the same thing as saying we’re in the kingdom. So B, teaching about the unrealized does not necessarily make it realized in the present.
And number three, you have to factor in the fact that the word “kingdom” is used forty-five times in Luke’s prequel but only eight times in Luke’s sequel because of a massive pivot that happens in the ministry of Christ in Matthew 12. So having said all that these eight references that I have at the top of the screen do not teach in any way, shape or form that we are presently in the kingdom. [Generic References to the Kingdom in Acts: Acts 1:3, 6; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31]
So guess what folks? We’re leaving the Book of Acts. Can you believe it? And we’re moving on to some passages that are used in the writings of Paul to teach that we’re in the kingdom and there’s the passages we’re going to look at. Don’t worry, we’re not going to look at all of them tonight, we’re just going to look at two of them, “walk worthy of the kingdom,” 1 Thessalonians 2:12 and number two, Paul’s statement about kingdom power, 1 Corinthians 4:20.
So let’s go over if we could to 1 Thessalonians 2:12, what does it say there: Paul writes to the Thessalonian Christians and he says, “so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” So you can see what kingdom now theologians do with that, we’ve got to walk worthy of the kingdom. So in their minds that means the kingdom is what? Some kind of present reality. However, don’t just focus on the word “kingdom” or basileia, focus on the word “glory” which is the Greek word doxa. The last word I believe helps interpret the first word; “glory” helps interpret “kingdom.”
Now as we mentioned before, are we currently gloried. No we’re not. Our glorification in the Bible is always presented as a future reality. So therefore don’t you think I ought to interpret the word “kingdom” by that vein? If kingdom and glory go together because it looks like they do in this passage, and “glory” is future then what else must be future… “kingdom.” And Im comfortable with that because the interpretation there is consistent not only within the verse but it’s consistent with everything we’ve presented in this class going back 64 weeks, that the kingdom is a future reality. This is where people are getting very fuzzy in their thinking and they’re coming up with interpretations of this and other things that are out of harmony with the rest of Scripture. If you’ve got an interpretation of the kingdom or any other subject for that matter, that contradicts everything else the Bible has to say on that subject it’s kind of time to get on your knees before the Lord and be humble and say well Lord, I may have this wrong, because God’s Word internally will never contradict itself because God can’t lie!
So if I’m seeing something in the Bible like contradiction the problem isn’t with God, the problem is probably with my interpretation of it. And that’s something you can use to kind of rein in your private Bible study because you may come up with some wild ideas about all kinds of things and you want to not just look at one verse on the subject, you want to explore what every verse of the Bible has to say on the subject. And if your interpretation is right all the verses have to harmonize at the end of the day.
So you’ll notice that I’m interpreting the word “kingdom” consistently with what we’ve presented thus far and I’m also interpreting kingdom consistently with the word “glory” which in Scripture is always portrayed as a future reality. If glory is future then the kingdom must be future as well. So I like to put up a few quotes, I’ll try to cut them back, my wife has been telling me “don’t put up those long quotes, everybody falls asleep” which may be true. I don’t fall asleep, I’m really excited by this stuff. And one of the mistakes you make as a teacher is you think everybody is excited about the things you’re teaching because you are.
But this is just two sentences. Where’s my wife, is she in here? There she is, so this passes the censorship test right here, even though it’s an 1870 quote. And the reason I give you these quotes is I don’t want you guys to think I’m just stark raving mad and making things up. I’m trying to show you that this view that we’re presenting of the future kingdom is consistent with a large body of Bible interpreters.
- R. Craven writes, ““The preposition in the Greek is εἰς.” Now what preposition is he talking about, “so that you would walk in a manner worthy of God who called you into,” that’s eis, “into His kingdom.” Craves says: ““The preposition in the Greek is εἰς. but since believers on earth are not yet in glory,” see, he’s not just looking at the word “kingdom” he’s looking at the word “glory” at the end of the verse, “the whole expression is manifestly proleptical, “ now this is why I praise the Lord for Dr. Jim McGowan because he looks over my slides and he actually added at the bottom a definition for proleptical because not everybody would understand that definition, would they? Do you guys use the word proleptical a lot at your dinnertime conversations?
So he writes, “proleptical, the presentation of something in the future as if it already existed or had occurred.” So you can present something and it’s a future reality but you’re absolutely certain it’s going to happen even though it’s a future reality, that’s proleptical. So that’s how the word “glory” is used there and that’s how the word “kingdom is used there.” So the preposition in Greek is eis but since believers on earth are not yet in glory the whole expression is manifestly proleptical. And then Craven quotes an English I think that’s what the “E.V.” stands for, a Bible translation. Whatever it is it gives the translation of eis as not into but unto. See that. “So that you would walk in a manner worthy of the glorify of God who calls you unto His kingdom and His glory.”
So rather than teaching that we’re in the kingdom now, as now many theologians use that passage, what it’s saying is walk worthy of the kingdom that you’ll enter into one day. That’s why we’re called salt and light. Why are we called salt and light? Because we’re representing kingdom values in whose world? The devil’s world. That’s why we’re called in the New Testament “a peculiar people,” we’re called “a peculiar people” because we’re walking not consistently with the values of this world, we’re working consistently with the values of the next world. That’s why we are called, 2 Corinthians 5:20 “ambassadors of the kingdom. [2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
What’s an ambassador? If I’m America’s ambassador to Iran I’m representing American values on Iranian soil. And that’s who we are. So just because I’m an ambassador and representing kingdom values now does that mean we’re in the kingdom? No it doesn’t! So that’s how to understand 1 Thessalonians 2:12, we’re to walk in a manner worthy of the coming kingdom. In other words as you live your life on this earth in the devil’s world you want to represent God’s values and sort of give the world a foretaste of what’s coming without saying that that means we are currently in the kingdom. Because if we’re in the kingdom there’s no more need for ambassadors, is there. The job of an ambassador is done at that point.
So what 1 Thessalonians 2:12 is doing is it’s teaching that a knowledge of the future, watch this now, a knowledge of the future shapes one’s behavior in the present. See, a lot of people will tell you eschatology has no value to the Christian. I couldn’t more strongly disagree with that sentiment. Eschatology, things yet unrealized, have a tremendous value to the Christian because they show you what priorities matter to God. Once I see what priorities matter to God as revealed in His plan of the future I can organize my life accordingly.
Notice 2 Peter 3:10-11, tell me if this is not an eschatological statement here. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” People say well do you believe in global warming? Yes I do, in this sense, this whole world is going to be burned by fire God says. And you know, it’s sort of interesting, evolution says the exact opposite, doesn’t it? Everything started off with a big bang, right? And now everything’s sort of cooling off. The poor evolutionist, because he doesn’t read the Bible, has it 100% wrong. What the Bible says is everything started off with no light, no sun, “the Spirit of God was moving on the waters,” Genesis 1:2. [Genesis 1:2, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”]
Things started off cold and how are things all going to end up? Hot! So it’s interesting to me that man’s philosophies occur in God’s word almost at every place, including how things started and how things will end.
But we know that God is going to take this whole world and burn it by fire and you’ll notice Peter doesn’t just stop the sermon there. All right, church is dismissed, everybody can get out now and beat the Baptists to the cafeteria. NO! He gives an application, verse 11, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way,” what does it say? “what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,” [2 Peter 3:11]
Well, my goodness, look at that, my knowledge of the future, that God is going to take this whole world and destroy it by fire should change my priorities in the present, shouldn’t they? Because if I’m reading my Bible correctly there’s only two things that are going to survive this fire. What would those be? The Word of God because “the grass withers, the flower faces, but the Word of our Lord stands forever.” [Isaiah 4:8] Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away but My Word will never pass away.” [Mark 13:31]
So God’s Word will never be destroyed by fire, and what other thing won’t be destroyed by fire? The souls of men and woman because in Ecclesiastes 3:11 it talks about how God has set eternity into the hearts of men. [Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.”]
So everything is going to be destroyed, my lawn, which is so immaculate, is going to be destroyed. My home, we just had our cleaner come and meticulously clean all the dust off of everything, is going to be destroyed. The dishwasher and dishes that I… well, maybe I don’t do it completely, right Anne? That we or she faithfully loads and cleanses daily, that’s all going to be destroyed. So if all that’s true then why am I so wrapped up in these little things? I mean, I’m not saying go home and don’t empty your dishwasher, I’m saying the dishwasher, the lawn, the scratch on your car at the mall that you’re mad about because someone opened their door and put a dent in your new car, all these kind of things that we get to upset about, all that’s going to burn.
And by the way, everybody is looking for safe investments today. The truth is there’s only two save investments, the Bible and people. The more time you spend trying to understand this Book and more importantly even going beyond that trying to live according to this Book, trying to organize your life according to this Book, sacrificing a Wednesday night when you could be doing 10,000 other things. The more time you spend in this Book trying to understand it and apply is an eternal investment, do you understand that? It will survive the fire.
And then the more you pour yourself into a person, even a person that irritates you and ticks you off and rubs you the wrong way, the more you show respect to them, courtesy, turn the other cheek, you know, not be bitter all these kinds of things, the more you disciple somebody, the more you pray for somebody, that’s the investment that’s going to last.
Now how would I know that unless I understood eschatology? It’s only your knowledge of eschatology that tells you want’s important and what’s going to last. And I say to myself, wow Lord, those are two pretty important things and God says you’re right, now organize your life in the present according to the values that I’ve revealed about the future. Do you see that? And that’s how to understand 1 Thessalonians 2:12, which says to walk worthy of the kingdom. [2 Thessalonians 2:12, “so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.”] It’s not saying we’re in the kingdom, it says walk worthy of the kingdom values.
And then one more, look real quick at 1 Corinthians 4:20, and notice what this says, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.” So people use that to somehow argue that we’re presently in the kingdom. But what you’ve got to do with verse 20 is you’ve got to harmonize it with verse 5, same chapter, verse 8, same chapter. Don’t just grab a verse and rip it out of its context, look at the whole chapter. And if you go back to verse 5 tell me if this is talking about the present or the future, or both. [1 Corinthians 4:5] “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the LORD comes” is that the second coming? That’s future isn’t it? “…who will bring to light the things hidden in darkness and disclose the motive of men’s hearts and that each man’s praise will come from God.” It’s talking about a future return of Christ and a future judgment shaping our values in the present.
Then you have 1 Corinthians 4:8, Paul sarcastically says, “You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us…,” see, this is Corinth buying into Kingdom Now theology very early on in church history. And Paul is sort of sarcastically dealing with them. “…and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.” Now he’s being sarcastic but he’s talking about a future reign in comparison to their mis-guided idea that they were reigning currently.
Now verse 20 will start to make sense, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.” [1 Corinthians 4:20] So if it’s a future reality in verse 5, if it’s a future reality in verse 8, what do you suggest we do with the word “kingdom” in verse 20? Make it a what? A future reality.
Stanley Toussaint says: “There is no verb in the Greek text,” so you go through 1 Corinthians 4:20 in Greek and you won’t see a verb there, so therefore it’s up to the Bible translators to supply the verb which typically will be italicized in your English Bible. What do you do when you see italicized words in your English translation? You say to yourself, well that’s not a word found in the original Greek text so who put it in there to smooth over the translation? The translators did. So that’s what Dr. Toussaint is talking about. And generally the translators do a pretty good job; sometimes I think they royally mess things up as in Genesis 4:1, which we don’t have time to go into right now. [Genesis 4:1, “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.”]
Toussaint says “There is no verb in the Greek text so it must be supplied. That Paul is anticipating the future is seen in verse five and eight of the same chapter.”[ “Israel and the Church of a Traditional Dispensationalist,” in Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism, ed. Herbert W. Bateman (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 246.] There’s no verb so we’ll have to supply it in the translation and Toussaint says let’s put it in the future because verse 5 is a future reality and verse 8 is a future reality.
Alva J. McLain says, “To interpret 1 Corinthians 4:20 as a present kingdom of the saints would make Paul contradict what he had already written in verses five and eight.” [Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God as Set Forth in the Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 435.] So you come up with an interpretation that’s in harmony with the rest of the chapter. Do you see that?
Beyond that 1 Corinthians 4:20, I’m just trying to explain, as with all of these passages, why this passage does not teach kingdom now theology. “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power,” what’s the Greek word for power, dunamis, where we get the word dynamite, or dynamic power and that word in and of itself should tell you that that’s probably talking about something future because the word dunamis is used typically of a future reality. It says, for example in Hebrews 6:5, “and have tasted the good word of God and the powers” dunamis “of the age to come.” So you ought to be comfortable with interpreting “powers” 1 Corinthians 4:20 as something future because the word can mean that, as demonstrated by Hebrews 6:5.
Alva J. McLain writes: “The same Greek term is used to describe the great public miracles which, according to Hebrews 6:5, belong to ‘the age to come, i.e.,’ the Kingdom age.” [Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God as Set Forth in the Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959), 435] So I’m very comfortable with putting “kingdom” in the future because number one, the context of the whole chapter. Number two, the word dunamis or power can be used in that futuristic sense. And number three, and I hope you’re picking up as I’m going through this basic Bible study habits, because these principles that we’re going over don’t just apply to the Kingdom, they apply to anything you study in God’s Word. Number three, when you go through 1 Corinthians you’ll find that the word “kingdom” is always used in the future. It’s always used in the future elsewhere but it’s probably used in the future in chapter 4. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,” whoops, who put that in there, how did that get by the PC police,  “nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers,” you’ll notice that homosexuality is just like all these other sins, and I don’t want to start going off on that, but there’s a big move in our culture, as you know, to normalize homosexuality outside the church and now sadly within the church. “… nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” So you’ll notice that the kingdom there is future.
1 Corinthians 15:24, “then comes the end, when He hands over the” what? “kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.” We’ll be looking at that passage next week but there “kingdom” is a future reality.
1 Corinthians 15:50, “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom” so the kingdom is an inheritance. What is an inheritance? It’s something legally that’s yours that you’re not enjoying yet because it’s a future reality. “…inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”
So why am I interpreting 1 Corinthians 4:20 in a futuristic sense? Number 1, that’s how the whole book interprets the word “kingdom.” Number 2, that’s how this chapter interprets realities, as future realities. And number 3, the word “powers” or dunamis fits very well with a futuristic understanding of the kingdom.
So having said all of that what in the world is Paul talking about in 1 Corinthians 4:20? “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.” Basically what he’s saying is allow the power of the coming kingdom to influence your behavior in the present. Toussaint says, ““Paul’s ministry could demonstrate the authority of that future kingdom.” [“Israel and the Church of a Traditional Dispensationalist,” in Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism, ed. Herbert W. Bateman (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 246.]
So I’m kind of looking at it through the lens of 2 Peter 3:10-11.  “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,” I know what the kingdom is going to be like, I know what the kingdom priorities are going to be, and all Paul is saying here is live your life according to those coming priorities. He’s not at all indicating that the kingdom is established in the first century.
So that takes us through two of Paul’s writings that are sometimes misconstrued to teach a future kingdom. So next well look at another one, 1 Corinthians 15:23-28 so if you want to do some reading this week in preparation for that, that would be some good verses to read because we’ll be going into that one next week. So, I’m finished talking.