The Coming Kingdom 068

Dr. Andy Woods | May 1, 2019 | Romans 14:17 | The Coming Kingdom

Dr. Andy Woods

The Coming Kingdom

5-2-19               Romans 14:17        Lesson 68

Let’s take our Bibles and open them to the book of Romans chapter 14 and verse 17.  As you all know we’ve been continuing through our study on the Kingdom and we’re basically coming from an angle, as we’ve developed in the various lessons, that the kingdom is earthly and future.  So, the kingdom hasn’t been cancelled but it’s been postponed.  So, we’re living in the church age which is not the kingdom age.

So once you begin to talk like that people always say well what about this passage and what about that passage and what about this passage because there’s a lot of passages that make it look like we are currently in the kingdom.  So that’s sort of what we’re trying to tackle; we’ve looked at passages from Christ’s ministry, passages from the Book of Acts and currently we’re looking at passages in the ministry of the Apostle Paul.  And so one of the key passages that people use to teach that we’re in the Kingdom Now and there is no future kingdom because we’re currently in it, is Romans 14:17.

So let’s take a look at that verse.  Paul writes, “For the kingdom of God is” notice the present tense verb there, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. [Romans 14:17]

So you look at that and you can see why Kingdom Now theologians quote that verse constantly.  First of all it uses the present tense verb “is” indicating at first glance that we’re in the kingdom.  And then it says “the kingdom is not eating and drinking” which is kind of a bummer because I just had a wonderful hamburger there in the other room with the beans, the potato salad, etc.  And a light dessert.

So people say look, the kingdom is not eating and drinking. Well what is the kingdom?  It’s right­eous­­­­ness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  So, they use this verse to say we’re currently in the kingdom and they also use the verse to indicate that the kingdom is not physical at all so there’s not going to be Jesus ruling from Jerusalem on David’s throne; it’s not that physical.  What is it’s the reign of Christ in our hearts, that’s what they think it is. So, they use this verse to, number 1, deny the physicality of the kingdom on the earth one day, and number two, they use this verse to teach that the kingdom is a present reality, a present spiritual reality.

So the first time you look at that it sort of reads that way, doesn’t it?  So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to just take a look here at two issues that kind of help us explain this passage a little better.  Number one, and here are the two issues: number one, is it true that the kingdom is spiritual only and not earthly?  Number two, is the kingdom indeed a present reality based on Romans 14:17?  I like to use the words of some theologians to show you who’s quoting this verse.

This is a quote from George Eldon Ladd, and he wrote a book called The Gospel of the Kingdom. George Ladd was a long-time professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and he is one of the most aggressive, he’s dead now so I guess now he knows better, but he was when he was alive one of the most aggressive proponents of the idea that we are in the Kingdom Now.  And he is really the one that came up with the already/not yet concept.  And it was sort of his crusade to make fundamentalism academically unacceptable.  And that was part of the trajectory he was on, it was the trajectory Fuller Seminary was on for years and year to the point now where Fuller Seminary doesn’t even believe in the inerrancy of the Bible.  You can teach there without believing that the Bible is inerrant.  That’s why I’m kind of a little bit standoffish about academics that always want to make us more palatable to the unsaved world.  But he wanted to sort of take fundamentalism and make it unacceptable to modern day academia.  He didn’t like the idea that the kingdom was future so he started to argue for already/not yet.  So we’re in the kingdom in a spiritual sense now but there’s a fuller kingdom coming and Darrell Bock, at Dallas Seminary, the progenitor of progressive dispensationalism, most people believe borrowed heavily from George Ladd to bring that system to Dallas Seminary.

But notice how Ladd uses Romans 14:17. George Ladd, by the way, got into a feud in writing (that went on for decades) with John Walvoord at Dallas Seminary.  The two went back and forth; it wasn’t in the time period where e-mail was there but they went back and forth in letters and things, and criticizing each other in articles.  And Walvoord was of the view that the kingdom is future and Ladd was trying to promote the idea of already/not yet.

But anyway, George Ladd says, “The Word of God does not say that the Kingdom of God is a present spiritual reality.” What verse is he going to quote?  Romans 14:17. ‘” For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.’”  Ladd goes on and he says, “Righteous and peace and joy are fruits of the Spirit which God bestows now upon those who yield their lives to the rule of the Spirit.  They have to do with the deepest springs of the spiritual life, and this, says the inspired apostle, is the Kingdom of God  The Kingdom is a present reality. . .  It is an inner spiritual redemptive blessing” notice he has in parenthesis there “(Romans 14:17) which can be experienced only by way of the new birth.”  [George Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 16-18.]

So he and all these people who are arguing that we’re in a present spiritual form of the Kingdom Now and Ladd is arguing that through his already/not yet framework and this is the verse that he’s quoting, Romans 14:17.  So two issues, what does it mean when it says “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking.”  Does that mean no physical dimensions to it once it comes?  And number two, how in the world would our view handle the present tense “is” which makes it look like we’re in the Kingdom Now?

The first issue is: is it true that the kingdom of God is spiritual only and not earthly?  Dr. Toussaint, who I think has it completely right on this subject of the kingdom, says: “It was common for the Jews to say ‘not…but’ and simply mean that the emphasis is not this but that.” [Israel and the Church of    a Traditional Dispensationalists,” in Three Central Issues in Contemporary dispensationalists, ed. Herbert W. Bateman (Grand Rapids: Kregel Rapids, 1999), 246}

One of the things I’ll show you is when you go through the Bible the Bible will oftentimes compare two things.  For example, Romans 14:17, “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteous and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  See how it’s comparing eating and drinking, and righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit?  It’s a misreading of that verse to say righteous, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit excludes eating and drinking.  In other words, what’s happening here in Romans 14:17 is this is a question, not of exclusion but a question of emphasis.  That’s his point.  His point isn’t in the kingdom three’s not going to be any eating or drinking.  His point is once we enter the kingdom and you compare eating and drinking, which will be a reality, to righteous, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit which of the do you think is going to be emphasized?  What do you think?  Righteous, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit, that’s the emphasis.  He’s not saying there won’t be any eating or drinking at all.  Do you follow?

So, for people to use Romans 14:17 to deny an earthly kingdom that’s physical on the earth is to abuse how biblical writers… so it’s common in terms of comparison not to say thing A excludes thing B but thing A is emphasized over thing B.  Does that make sense?

So let me give you some examples of this, what Dr. Toussaint is talking about.  By the way, is there going to be eating and drinking in the kingdom.  I think so because if you go over to Matthew 8:11, and this is the problem of building your view of the kingdom from one verse, you’ve got to look at all the verses.  Jesus made this statement about the kingdom, “I say to you that many will come from the east and west, and recline at the table” what do you do at a table?  You do a lot of eating, and drinking and fellowshipping, “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west and recline at the table with” and who’s going to be there? My goodness, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” are going to be there, “in the kingdom of heaven.”  So, what he’s saying is when the millennium starts you’re going to have s sit-down meal with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Can you imagine the conversations you’ll get into?  Wow, that’s going to be interesting. So, the inclusion of the table very clearly indicates that there will be eating and drinking in the kingdom.

Over in Matthew 26:29 Jesus said, in His Passion week, just prior to His death, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”  So, He says once the kingdom starts we’re going to drink of the fruit of the vine together, with the disciples.  In fact, we’re going to drink it anew.  So very clearly if you look at the whole Bible it will connect the pleasure of eating and drinking with the kingdom.

Why would God deny us eating and drinking in the kingdom when He’s the one that invented eating and drinking?  I mean, you go back to Genesis 1 and isn’t it true that it’s a very physical description there, “Be fruitful and multiply…” [Genesis 1:22, “God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’”]  You have marriage, you have sexuality, you have procreation, you have eating, you have sunlight, and what does God say at the end of those six days?  He doesn’t even say it was good, He says it was “very good!”  Genesis 1:31.  [“God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31]

So this idea that physical things are evil is not a biblical belief; that’s a Gnostic belief, it was the Gnostics that came along just a little after the time of Christ and said the spiritual world is good, the physical world is evil.  And so your amillennialism, the idea that you’re only going to have a spiritual kingdom, that actually can be traced back to Gnosticism, not the Scripture.

So what about this business of comparison?  I mean, is it true that when the Bible juxtaposes two things it’s giving an emphasis rather than an exclusion, because that’s how I’m understanding Romans 14:17.  So the question is, is that true in other parts of the Bible.  Well, let me give you a few examples.  You all know Hosea 6:6, right, where God says, “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,” now some versions say “I desire obedience rather than sacrifice, “…and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”   Now when Hosea wrote that was Hosea saying shut down the sacrificial system?  No, he was not saying that because the sacrificial system was a part of the nation of Israel, an integral part.

So if that’s true what does he mean when he says, “I delight in loyalty” or “obedience rather than sacrifice.  He’s comparing loyalty with sacrifice and he says of the two things which should be emphasized—loyalty, obedience should be emphasized.  And it goes on and it says, “…and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”  So again, is Hosea saying shut down the offerings?  No, he’s saying of the two knowledge of God, relationship with God versus offerings of the two which should be emphasized?  Knowledge!  So, you can see very clearly there, Hosea 6:6, he is emphasizing or comparing to do an emphasis, not to exclude something.  Do you follow what I’m saying?  And that’s how to understand Romans 14:17.

And Toussaint’s point, backing up here just for a second, is this is a common way for our Bibles to talk, particularly since it was written by Jews.  This is common in their communication in other words.

How about this one?  Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. [20] “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal [21] for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Now if I’m going to interpret this as an exclusion then who in here has a bank account?  Nobody? You guys aren’t that poor, are you?  Everybody’s got a bank account, right?  Everybody’s got savings somewhere.

So, if I’m really going to be a true Christian I need to go ahead and liquidate my assets and basically live in poverty and not have a bank account, right?  And if you want to do that we’re accepting donations here at Sugar Land Bible Church.  NO!  No one would interpret it that way; everybody has a bank account, everybody has savings of some kind.  The only thing the Lord is saying is of the two treasure on earth versus treasure in heaven, what should be emphasized?  Treasure in heaven!  He’s not saying don’t open a bank account.  So again, this is a question of emphasis, not exclusion, which is a common Jewish way of speaking.

Oh no, look at this one, speaking to women, 1 Peter 3:3-4, “Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; [4] but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”  So here it’s talking about female beauty and its comparing what’s going on inside of the Christian woman versus what she looks like on the outside.  And of the two which should be emphasized?  The inside because that’s eternal.  Now if I’m not going to interpret that as emphasis but rather an exclusion, and I’ve seen a lot of very legalistic type churches do this, they’ll tell the females you can’t braid your hair, you can’t wear gold jewelry, some would say you can’t even wear makeup.  Should I give you the J. Vernon McGee line on that one?  Maybe I shouldn’t do that… he was asked the question is it permissible for a woman, a Christian woman to wear makeup and in his southern drawl he said, “Well, if the barn needs paintin’ then paint the barn.”  I’m just repeating what he said.

A lot of people have questions like this; I mean, doesn’t it say… and by the way, if this is a question of exclusion then I think you’d have to basically join a nudist colony wouldn’t you?  Because it talks about putting on dresses.  So, NO, we all understand what this means, it’s basically meaning of the two, outer beauty, inner beauty, inner beauty should be emphasized.  But it’s not at all saying a woman cannot beautify herself.  That’s how I’m understanding Romans 14:17.

How about this one, 1 Corinthians 4:20?  “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.”  So, in the kingdom there’s going to be words and power.   Which is the two is going to be emphasized?  Power, it’s a question of emphasis, not an exclusion.  If this is a question of exclusion then everybody has to walk around in the kingdom age with duct tape over their mouths because they can’t say a single word.  And we know that in the kingdom there’s going to be [blank spot in tape] right.  Zechariah 8:23 says, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘In those days” that’s the kingdom, “ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew,” notice what it says here, saying,” so they’re speaking, “‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”

So very clearly there’s words in the kingdom.  So, if there’s words in the kingdom what does it mean when it says “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power”?  [1 Corinthians 4:20] All it’s saying is of power and words the emphasis should be with power, not words.  That’s how it’s going to be in the kingdom.  So, the question is emphasis and not exclusion.  There’s clearly going to be words in the kingdom because Zephaniah 3:9 says about the kingdom, “For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, That all of them may” what? “call” don’t you use words to call on the Lord?  “…call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him shoulder to shoulder.”  So very clearly there’s going to be words in the kingdom.  So, when it says the kingdom “does not consist of words but in power” it’s not excluding words, it’s just emphasizing power although the words are still going to be there.  Are you following me?

So therefore Romans 14:17 is sort of easy to understand.  “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  That verse is not denying the physical nature of the coming kingdom, it’s just saying that when the kingdom comes righteousness, peace and joy in the Spirit are going to be emphasized more than eating and drinking, which will still be there.  The question is emphasis, not an exclusion.  So it’s kind of interesting that learning a few rules like this really protects us from false teaching, isn’t it.  All kinds of weird legalistic jags that people get into as people sometimes will misuse the Bible to control other people.  So, Dr. Toussaint, who I think has it right, sums it up and says in that coming kingdom the emphasis will not be on food but on spiritual realities.  It’s not a denial of food it’s just that won’t be an emphasis.

The second issue with Romans 14:17, what in the world do we do with the present tense “is” which makes it look like we’re presently in the kingdom.  “For the kingdom of God is,” well, I would say this, be careful about the present tense verbs.  Present tense verbs don’t always communicate present realities.  Many times in the Bible the present tense is used to emphasize certainty rather than a present reality.  It’s like the song, Crown Him with Many Crowns.  My father-in-law is a retired dentist and that’s a favorite song, Crown Him with Many Crowns.  So, if Jesus hasn’t been coronated yet why are we singing Crown Him with Many Crowns?  Because we’re saying His coronation is certain, it hasn’t happened yet, it’s certain.  Many times, the present tense in the Bible is used that way.

Notice that the present tense is used to describe our resurrection body.  All of these verbs are in the present tense as  you read these passages or verses: 1 Corinthians 15:42  “So also is the resurrection of the dead, it is sown a perishable body but it is raised an imperishable body.”  [43] it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; [44] it is sown a spiritual body, it is raised a natural body,” now here’s “is” [45] “it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” Notice that our resurrection body is described there in the present tense.  Are you in your resurrection body now?  You guys don’t look like you are and I doubt I look like I am.  But our reception of the future resurrection body is so certain the Bible can speak of it as a present tense.  So that’s what Romans 14:17 means when it says “the kingdom of God is,” see that, it’s not saying it’s here, it’s saying the kingdom of God is a certainty.  And so what I’m doing is I’m harmonizing this verse with everything we’ve studied about the kingdom in this course.

And if you go down to Romans 14:10-12 you start to see very clearly that the kingdom is future; it’s certain, verse 17.  But earlier in the passage, verses 10-12 it’s future.  Because what does he say, same chapter, just a little bit earlier, “Why, then, do you judge your brother? Or why do you belittle your brother? For we will” isn’t that future, “all stand before God’s judgment seat of Christ,” that would be in the kingdom.  [11] “For it is written:  As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee” what? “will bow before Me” that’s future, “every tongue” what? “shall give praise to God, [12] So then, each of us” what does it say, “will give an account of himself to God.”  He’s obviously describing conditions of justice which are going to exist in the future kingdom.  So, if that’s true why does he use the present tense in verse 17?  He uses the present tense in verse 17 to demonstrate that verses 10-12 are certain, they haven’t happened yet but these things WILL take place.

One other thing I’ll toss your direction, and we’ll probably spend more time on this when we get to Colossians 1:13 a week or two down the road, but one of the things to become familiar with, let me throw some fancy words at you, is what’s called a de jure de facto distinction.  De jure means legal, de facto means in fact.  So, there is a difference between something that’s legally yours versus something that you’re factually enjoying right now.  It’s like an inheritance, an inheritance is legally yours, right?  But are you factually enjoying your inheritance?  Not yet, that comes later.   So, the Bible will use the present tense a lot of times to communicate not factual presence but legal right.  See that?

For example, Ephesians 2:6 says, “And He raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the” where? “heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  In other words, that’s who you are as a Christian, that’s your legal identity.  Legally you are seated with Christ in the “heavenly places.”  Did you know that about yourself?  That’s who you are.  Now factually are you there yet?  You’re not there yet because we’re still stuck here.  So, if I’m still stuck here why would the Bible tell me that I’m raised with Him and seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus?  Because it’s not describing a statement of fact, it’s describing a statement of legal right.  Follow that?

How about Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is” where? “in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  So currently what is my legal standing?  I’m a citizen of heaven but factually, if I look at your passport would it say “heaven” on it?  NO, it would say the United States of America, wouldn’t it?  Your driver’s license would say the State of Texas, it wouldn’t say heaven.  If you have a driver’s license that says heaven I’d probably want to know where you’re getting your driver’s license from because it really doesn’t sound authentic to me.

So when Romans 14:17, backing up here, it says, “For the kingdom of God is” it’s not even so much saying the kingdom is a factual reality… if the kingdom were a factual reality you’d have to rewrite all the passages we have studied.  It uses the present tense “is” to describe our present legal right to the kingdom in the kingdom once it comes.  So that’s sort of the distinction we’ll get more into when we go to Colossians 1:13 a little bit down the road.  [Colossians 1:13, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,”]

So if the kingdom in Romans 14:17 is a future reality, as I’ve been trying to explain, and not a present reality, why does Paul bring it up here?  He brings it up because the future and the know­ledge of it should change our actions where?  In the present.  See, if you understand that once the kingdom comes the emphasis will not be on food but rather the emphasis is on spiritual things, as you live your life here on the earth waiting for the kingdom to come how do you begin to prioritize your life.  Not on physical things but on what?  Spiritual things.  In other words, you start to take on the same values that will exist in the coming kingdom.

That’s why Paul, in Romans 14:17 brings it up, because a lot of people make you feel like well, gee whiz, if you don’t think we’re in the Kingdom Now then the kingdom has no application to our lives.  That’s nonsense!  The greater you understand the priorities of God as revealed in Bible prophecy, in other words, the things that are going to last, the things that are going to matter, the greater they’ll revolutionize your priorities where?  Here!  This is why I like to quote 2 Peter 3:10-11, “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.”  Do you believe in global warming?  I believe in it in that sense, one of these days God’s going to take this whole world and blowtorch the whole thing.

Notice Peter doesn’t just give us a lesson in Bible prophecy but he adds verse 11, the application.  “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,” in other words, if I know that there are only going to be two things that are going to make it from this life into the next there will be a new world which will be physical, but what two things from this world are going to make it into that world?  We’ve talked about this before, right?  Number one, this book because Isaiah 40:8, says “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our Lord abides forever.”  Jesus in Matthew 14:35 says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will” what? “never pass away.”

So this Book is the only thing that’s going to make it from this life into the next.  And what’s the only other thing that’s going to make it from this life into the next?  The souls of men and women because God has said eternity is in the hearts of men.  [“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.”  Ecclesiastes 3:11] He created us for eternal things.

So the more you emphasize those two things in your life the more you’re making an eternal investment because everybody is looking for safe investments, right?  But what are two things that are safe?  I only know of two, times spent in this book, not just learning it but living your life according to it, sharing it with other people, and then the more time you spend with other human beings, investing in human beings, children, parents, parishioners, brothers and sisters in Christ, the lost because that’s going to make it into the next life as well.

So how would I know that that’s how I’m supposed to live? I only know that because of my know­ledge of the future; see that?    We’d have no idea that those were the priorities of God if I didn’t study His plan of the future, but since I know His plan of the future I know what His priorities are and therefore I can take my life and prioritize it accordingly.  It’s a lot like, I remember when I was younger my parents would take us to this nice restaurant and there was a block of ice, a large block, maybe… I don’t know, six feet tall, I’m not sure how wide but I remember even as a little kid I wasn’t even a Christian yet, I would watch this guy chisel something out of the ice and I would be sitting right next to him, I could see the perspiration coming off his forehead.  He could chisel amazing things.  If it was Easter he could chisel out a bunny out of the ice, a big tall thick bunny out of ice, or an Easter egg basket. Or if it was Christmas it was Santa Claus and you could sit there as you’re eating your food at this restaurant watching this guy work and work and work to do this.  And you could see the sweat coming off his forehead.  And I wasn’t even a Christian, I would sit there frustrated because as hard as this guy worked it was just a matter of time before the sun, s-u-n, melted everything away that he had produced.  See that?

If you can get that image in your mind that’s what most people’s lives are like.  They’re working, working, working and working all these different things but it’s stuff that won’t last because they’re not living their lives according to the kingdom priorities, because the kingdom program tells us that the Word of God in the souls of people will last.  So, I still have to work a job, I still have to live in this world, I still have to pay my bills, etc.  What the Bible is saying is hold more loosely onto the physical things that we think are so important and invest more aggressively into the things that are going to last.  And you wouldn’t even know what those things are unless you read what God discloses about the end and the coming kingdom.

So, if that’s the case that’s what Romans 14:17 is [can’t understand word].  “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” When he says “is” he’s not saying we’re in the kingdom, he’s saying you have a legal right to the kingdom, it’s not de facto here its de jure, you have a right to it.  And the future, a knowledge of it, should change how we behave when?  In the present.  That’s his point.  His point is never to say we’re currently in the kingdom; he’s saying organize your life according to kingdom priority, that’s his point.

And see all of this is missed when Kingdom Now theologians just quote that verse, aha, [can’t understand word] that match, we’re in the kingdom now.  So, Dr. Toussaint says, “in that coming kingdom the emphasis will not be on food but on spiritual realities.  It that will be true in the future then the Christian’s present conduct should reflect it.  The future does influence the present.”  [“Israel and the Church of a Traditional Dispensationalist,” in Three Central issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism, ed. Herbert W. Bateman (Grand Rapides: Kregel, 1999) 246.] And what’s he quoting there?  2 Peter 3:11 which is connected to 10, which tells you that the world is going to be destroyed by fire.  And then it says “what sort of people ought you to be….”

[2 Peter 3:10, “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. [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, [12] looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! [13] But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.”]

Alva J. McClain of Romans 14:17 correctly says: “The thought here fits a future Kingdom better than a present one. For surely in the present life no one can deny the importance of meat and drink; but so far as the Church is concerned in the future kingdom these things will be of no consequence. Therefore, since the church is to reign in the Kingdom, its members should not judge or grieve one another in such matters here and now (cf. vss. 13–21). All disputes of this nature should be left for the ‘judgment seat of Christ,’ which will inaugurate His Kingdom upon the earth (vs. 10).” What he’s saying is the reason Romans 14:17 says “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  And the reason, well, because of earlier Romans 14:10-12 which puts the judgment in the future.  The judgment kingdom concerning the kingdom, judged in the kingdom, are future.

[Romans 14:10-12, “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. [11] For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to ME, AND every tongue SHALL GIVE praise to God.”  [12] So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”]

So the future should change how we live in the present.  So if that’s true, why would I go around judging my brothers and sisters in Christ all the time?  You know a lot of Christians are like that, they think their spiritual gift is fruit inspecting, right?  Judging this, judging that in someone’s life.  Well if you understand the future, that God has reserved judgment for the future in the kingdom, and the more you think about the future the more you say, well the Lord will sort that out in that person’s life in His time; I’ve got enough things to worry about in my own life without being worried about someone else’s life, or obsessed with someone else’s life.  So McLain’s point is a knowledge of the future impacts us in the present and that’s why Paul is quoting Romans 14:17.  [Romans 14:17, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”]

So how would we handle Romans 14;17, when it says the kingdom is allegedly spiritual only but not earthly. We would say in response that’s not what the verse is saying.  The verse is balancing two things, not to exclude something but to emphasize something.

Number two, is the kingdom a spiritual reality?  No, because first of all the present tense can be used to describe something certain not necessarily present.  Beyond that, a knowledge of the future impacts us in the present and beyond that the present tense verb could be communicating a legal right-de jure-but not a what?  Something in fact.  So, hope that helps a bit concerning Romans 14:17.

Do you guys want to sneak this in? All right, quickly. Kingdom now theologians use this one too, 1 Timothy 6;15, which says, “which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.”  People say if that’s Jesus’ title, the King of kings and Lord of lords” then He must be reigning in His kingdom right now.  So how would we handle this?  Well, I would say this: there’s a difference between holding a title and functioning in the role described by that title.  You can hold a title to something but not the role and we see that, number one from the career of David and number two, from the context of 1 Timothy 6:15.  Remember the career of David? When was David anointed as King?  1 Samuel 16:13, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD” now the Spirit there is the Spirit given, the Holy Spirit to give David the authority and the energy from God to reign as king.  “…the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.”  Now who would the existing king at the time?  Saul.  What happened to Saul at his anointing?  “Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.”  [1 Samuel 16:14] So David is anointed to rule and Saul’s anointing to rule was taken away in those verses.

Now question: when that happened did David immediately become the king over Israel?  No, he didn’t.  In fact, he doesn’t become the king over Israel until 2 Samuel 5. In early chapter 2 then he gets Jerusalem under his jurisdiction and that’s when he really moves into the office and starts to function according to the anointing that he had been given.  So during that interim, between 1 Samuel 16 and 2 Samuel 2 who was ruling the nation without the anointing of God.  Saul was!  Saul was very, very jealous of David and when they began to say things like Saul has killed his thousands, David his tens of thousands (remember that) after David slew Goliath in chapter 17 he became very jealous and he tried to kill David several times.  [1 Samuel 17:51, “Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.”]

And David had a chance to kill Saul at least twice, one of the times was in an area near the Dead Sea called Engedi and David wouldn’t kill Saul, he waited on the Lord and he said I will not touch “the LORD’s anointed.”  [1 Samuel 24:6, “And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.”]

So, during the interim the majority of the nation was walking by sight and following Paul and a minority was walking by faith and following David, and those are called David’s mighty men.        [1 Chronicles 11:10, “Now these are the heads of the mighty men whom David had, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the LORD concerning Israel.”]

So, it’s a fascinating transitional time period.  It clearly shows that you can have the title without actually the office.  And there I’ve got the description of how that fits Jesus Christ.  Has Jesus been anointed as King?  Yes, He has!  Is Jesus ruling as King?  No, he’s not because who’s ruling over the world?  An illegitimate ruler like Saul, called the Devil.  The majority of the world is walking by sight, a minority is walking by faith and following Jesus, just like David’s mighty men.

So, when people quote 1 Timothy 6:15, “the King of kings and Lord of lords,” where Christ is called “the King of kings and the Lord of lords,” and therefore they argue, we have to be in the kingdom now.  The response to that is hold your horses, because there’s a difference between holding a title and functioning in the role described by that title.  And the Saul/David narrative demonstrates that very well, don’t you think?  The Saul/David narrative is basically there as a type of what’s happening with Christ presently.  Very clearly Satan is the ruler of this world, all those verses will teach us that.  That’s why He’s called the Prince of this World, the God of this Age, Prince and power of the Air, the One who we wrestle with.  I mean, if He wasn’t ruling this world why would we have to put on the whole armor of God?  “He roams about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour and the whole world lies in the lap of the wicked one.”  [1 Peter 5:8]

So where is he now?  He’s in a place of asking. In Psalm 2:8-9 in says of Christ, “Ask of Me” in other words, Jesus asks the Father “and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, [And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.]”  He doesn’t yet have the nations in a ruling sense, He’s in a place of asking.   You know Psalm 110, right, verses 1 and 2, “The LORD says to my LORD, sit at My right hand until I make your enemies your footstool….”  So, He’s in a place of waiting.

So, is He the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?  Yes, that’s a title.  Is He functioning in that office today?  No He’s not, He’s waiting and asking for that time in history when He will assume that office, just like David had to wait on God’s timing.  That’s why the Book of Hebrews, chapter 2, verse 8 says, “YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.”  For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.”  Do we see all things subjected to Him?  Obviously not.  The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, right?  Yes, He is, that’s His title but He’s not yet functioning in it.  Do you follow?  So when you understand this it’s very easy to handle 1 Timothy 6:15 in light of the future kingdom.

Very fast, look at the whole context of 1 Timothy 6:15. Would you not agree with me that verse 14 comes before verse 15.  Are there any disagreements on that point?  So to interpret verse 15 you’ve got to look at verse 14.  Right?  That’s just basic Bible study methodology.  And what was Paul Harvey’s famous line?  “The rest of the story,” would you guys like to know “the rest of the story”?  Well the rest of the story is in verse 14, “that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,  [15] which He will bring about at the proper time– He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,” my goodness, that changes everything, doesn’t it, because verse 15 talks about a “proper time” when he will enter His office as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Now He has the title, but when does His title fit His office?   That doesn’t come about, verse 15, until “the proper time,” and what’s the nearest antecedent to “the proper time”?  Go back to verse 14, what’s mentioned at the end of verse 14? “The appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,” which is the second advent.  See that?  So the second advent, verse 14, is the proper time, verse 15 when His title “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” will be consistent with His office.

So although He’s been anointed as King and He certainly has the title, He’s not yet in the office until the proper time and the proper time is what?  The second advent.  Now when people quote verse 15 to support Kingdom Now theology do they give you that background?  They never give you that background, they just take a single verse like a snowball and throw it at you.  And even if you’re not really tracking with everything I’m saying about the kingdom at least follow the method because this is how you defuse almost every false teaching out there; you put things in their context!

So just as at the proper time God deposed Saul thereby allowing David to ascend to and function within the role of a king in harmony with David’s much earlier anointing. We’re waiting for the same thing to happen with Jesus. God is not going to depose Saul, He’s going to depose who?  Satan!  When does that happen?  Look at the Bible, (hint, we’re studying it on Sunday mornings).  The Book of Revelation, it’s the deposing of the devil; that’s the proper time. Then Jesus, who’s now asking for the nations as His inheritance, will receive what he’s been asking for and He is no longer waiting at the Father’s right hand, He’s on the earth ruling and reigning.  And so His office catches up with His title.  I believe He received the anointing to rule early on, His anointing.  I think He got it at probably His resurrection or ascension, one of the two.  The anointing is His, He, like David, is just waiting on God, as it says here in verse 14, “the proper time.”

So hopefully that helps in terms of navigating through Romans 14:17 and 1 Timothy 6:15 and next we hit the Big Kahuna, because everybody and their mother that believes in Kingdom Now theology is going to quote Colossians 1:13. So try to look this week at Colossians 1:13 and figure out how to analyze it from a future kingdom point of view.