The Kingdom of God . . . A Fresh View Part 1
By Doug Krieger
This topic finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place—that’s right, between Peter (the rock) and Nathanael (with Jacob’s pillar). Syncing these “concrete” accounts unveils the overwhelming clarity of the Person and Work of the Son of God/Son of Man more so, insofar as comparative analysis, than most have ever thought.
Yes, there’s the “traditional squabbles” between Premillenarians and Amillenarians relative to the Kingdom of God—the who, what, when, where and how of it all, but somewhere along the line we lost the King of the Kingdom—you know, the King of Israel, the One building His Ekklesia Who said He would build it in order to crush the Serpent’s head through the Woman, the Bride sharing in His glory.
Likewise, we lost the “means” to the “end” – the nexus of the Kingdom: the cross of Christ! I think you are going to find this accounting a bit different because it takes from both Premillenarian and Covenant-Reform’s Amillenarian theology in an effort to express the emerging understanding of “Commonwealth Theology.”
There is far more concerning the Common Faith Once Delivered on which we agree than our differences; after all, when theological push comes to shove, a whole lot about the Kingdom of God didn’t save us: The King, our Deliverer, did! Simply put, if we finally transcend to the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17) to see Jesus only in His glory, and then see the Son of Man on Whom the angels ascend and descend (John 1)—then it won’t be a stretch to see why Jesus’ first miracle involved a Wedding Feast and, of course, the “glorious Bride.”
Yes, from Ekklesia’s Kingdom of God – to the New Jerusalem’s Bride—to this end this booklet is dedicated. Hold on . . . good thing this is a short read . . . chances are you will finish well. God bless.
Doug Krieger – Sacramento, CA - 2020
ONE BODY LIFE
The Kingdom of God . . . A Fresh View - Part 1 of 2
PREMILLENARIAN VS. AMILLENARIAN
A discussion on the Kingdom of God is way overdue. A redo on this topic is, quite frankly, far and away one of the most salient topics facing Christendom today. The rather bland entitlement of this discourse, however, belies the ever poignant, even acerbic, theological polarization in Christendom over the commencement, extension, and very nature of the Kingdom of God—just bear with me—we’ll discover what all this has to do with the Ekklesia and name changes? But first, we need to take care of a little theological house cleaning within the Household of Faith . . . for all is not “love and oneness” among those claiming “kingdom privileges.”
At the crux of dispensationalism is the separation of Israel and the Church (aka, the Ekklesia). Consequently, the manifestation of the “earthly kingdom’s” presence is/was de facto postponed due to Israel’s rejection of their King, the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, today’s Kingdom of God or simply, “The Heavenly Kingdom,” is the “Kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:13) prior to the coming of the actual Messianic Age (aka, the Millennium) when the King (either a reincarnation of David or someone like David or some who are keenly persuaded it could be the Son of David, Jesus) will literally reign from Jerusalem over the earth. During this time, the Bride of Messiah occupies the “heavenly realms.”
Therefore, keeping Israel and the Church eschatologically within their dissimilar polity demands the kingdom envisioned for the Church is heavenly in nature, spiritual in its manifestation both now and into the future, whereas, the kingdom for Israel is wholly earthly. The one is “other worldly” (dispensationalism) contrasted with “this worldly” (Israel). This dichotomy of kingdoms set up within dispensationalism’s framework is straightforward—Israel abides wholly distinct but separated from the Church when it comes to “kingdom teaching and practice.” But “dispensationalism’s dichotomy is under attack today . . . not only by Covenant-Amillenarian theologians but by the “progressives” among their own camp – as Miles J. Stanford once entombed:
Pauline Dispensationalism is heavenly. The Christian whom Paul presents is heavenly; the Church that Paul presents is heavenly—her Source is in heaven, although her birth took place on earth on the Day of Pentecost. She will return to her Source in heaven on the Day of the Rapture. Traditional Dispensationalism has been brought to confusion by Covenant Theology mainly because they have root similarity. Hence, unless she moves onto Paul’s vertical plane, there is little or no hope for her survival.
Coming onto Paul’s heavenly ground results in a full escape from all earthly, horizontal, New Covenant, Synoptic, Sermon on the Mount, and Millennial Kingdom influences. The heavenly position and identification factors of the Church via Paul are missing in Neo-Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology. Their horizontal doctrine and law-orientation prevent them from rising above the earthly, kingdom level. Hence we make no apology for including extensive teaching concerning the heavenly Church and the Christian life, not limited to, but centered in Paul’s Church Epistles. Since both Dr. Chafer and Dr. Wm. R. Newell were staunch and faithful Pauline Dispensationalists, we give their rightly-divided writings ample exposure in helping solve the present-day Dispensational dilemma. (Source: PAULINE DISPENSATIONALISM by Miles J. Stanford (Compiled as a PDF file by DJA March 2005 @http://www.pembrokebiblechapel.com/pdf/PaulineDispensationalismStanford.pdf - Retrieved on 05.08.2020)
Obviously, there is some identification with the “findings” among some of these Dispensational Progressives; however, Commonwealth Theology has its own bearing on the “heavens and the earth” dichotomy which you will see in this two-part series which distinguishes itself from all three camps—Dispensationalism, Progressive Dispensationalism and Amillenarian-Covenant theologies—while taking from all three those undeniable truths which are common to the “faith once delivered.”
Let me reinforce Stanford’s Marcion-style isolation of the Church’s realm found only in the Pauline writings, ipso facto the traditional dispensational construct of the Kingdom of God demands complete distinction (yes) and total separation (yes) between Israel’s “earthly” commission and the Church’s “heavenly” orientation, to wit:
Dual Gospels: Most dispensationalists and all Covenant theologians fail to realize that there are two Gospels, each dependent upon the Blood of the Cross. The one Gospel is [the] earthly (Kingdom), the other is heavenly (Grace). Both Gospels are “according to Jesus,” and present only one way: by faith. One Gospel was ministered by Christ on earth, during His pre-Cross humiliation, and was exclusively addressed to Israel regarding her Millennial Kingdom. The other—altogether “new creation” other—was ministered to Paul by the glorified Lord Jesus Christ; after Calvary, from heaven, exclusively to and for His chosen heavenly Body. John the Baptist’s, Jesus’, and the Apostles’ Gospel concerned the Messiah and His Kingdom – specifically and repeatedly referred to as “the Gospel of the Kingdom.” (Mat.4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mk.1:14; Lk. 9:2,6) The other, “the Gospel of the Grace of God, “was neither preached nor mentioned until Paul went forth to declare it. (Acts 20:24; Rom.3:21-28; Eph. 3:1-3)
The Church’s Source is in heaven; as a unique body she was brought into being on earth at Pentecost. One day she will return to her eternal Source and abode in heaven at the Rapture— not partially, but each and every member of His completed Body. (Interior Source: The glorious heavenly Church, March 10, 2005 5 7:35 PM).
Pauline Dispensationalism has no relationship, no continuity, with anything prior to the Cross, nor after the Rapture. His Body will be completed; His spotless Bride presented to Himself in heaven. Paul’s heavenly Gospel is exclusively for the Church. One need not go down to earthly Israel for anything! [My emphasis] Why should a heavenly citizen, “blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”, stoop to try [to] steal away some “spiritual” blessing from comparatively poor Israel? Like the wealthy shoplifter, in the 5 & 10! The Bride shares the throne with her Bridegroom, whether in heaven, or on earth. (Ibid.)
There you have it – two gospels, two kingdoms, two separated realms (heaven and earth) – total exclusion of Israel from the Bride of Messiah.
These previous paragraph have, in the main, encapsulated the understanding of most traditional or classic premillenarians; however, the theological perceptions of Amillenarians – both Catholic and Reform – completely disregard any “kingdom prospects” for the Jews/Israel (either heavenly or earthly), while contending that the Kingdom of God is altogether present in the “here and now” upon the earth and into the Eschaton. Amillenarians view the “postponement theory” wholly embraced by Stanford’s classical dispensationalism as nigh heresy:
“The postponement theory, or heresy as it has been called on one occasion, denies the unity of the church. It rejects the tenet that the church is the true Israel of God. It finds no continuity or organic unity of God’s revelation linking the Israel of the Old Testament with the church of the New. Moreover, the denial of the unity of the church involves a refusal to believe that the middle wall of partition has been broken down between Jew and Gentile. The chiliast [viz., those who affirm a literal 1,000-year millennium on the earth] is said to teach two ways of salvation, one for the Jew and one for the Gentile. The Jew of the Old Testament economy was saved in a manner different from that whereby the New Testament believer is redeemed to God. The manifestation of God’s wrath in the millennial kingdom is to take the place of the preaching of the gospel . . . the postponement theory is criticized because it disregards historical testimony. The Christian church has always held that Israel is the church. The view had adherents among the faithful of the apostolic age, among the church Fathers, and among the Reformers of the sixteenth century. It is impossible that the church should have been allowed to proceed for so many centuries in error when the Holy Spirit is present in her midst.”[i]
Douglas R. Shearer in his exposé of Amillennialism (Amillennialism – Theology or Metaphysics, self-published, cir. 2019, Sacramento, CA, p. 14-15) cuts to the chase by using the words of theologian Herman Bavinck, a contemporary of another Amillennialist, Abraham Kuyper, who openly admits that the Amillennial hermeneutic suffers greatly under a far-less literal interpretation of the OT text [and, I would say, the NT as well]:
The Old Testament, stripped of its temporal and sensuous (i.e., “material”) forms, is the New Testament. All Old Testament (rites, rituals, events, nations, and persons) shed their external, national-Israelish meanings and become manifest (i.e., “acquire their real meaning”) in a spiritualized . . . sense[ii] . . . all the prophets announce not only the conversion of Israel and the nations but also the return to Palestine, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the restoration of the temple, the priesthood, and sacrificial worship, and so on . . . Prophecy pictures for us but one single image of the future. And this image is either to be taken literally as it presents itself – and as premillennialists take it . . . or this image calls for a very different interpretation (i.e., hermeneutic) than that attempted by (premillennialists).[iii]
Shearer’s final summation of Amillenarian hermeneutics concludes with a veritable hermeneutical indictment:
A “very different interpretation” indeed! An interpretation that’s not grounded in the text; that, instead, is grounded in a hermeneutic that, once again, summarily strips away the plain, literal meaning of the text and affirms that the nations, persons, events, rites, rituals, and prophecies describe there serve a symbolic, type/antitype purpose only! Clearly, what we have here is metaphysics, not theology.[iv]
Within the context of CT there is a recognition that the extremity of these positions—one ultra-literal (dispensational- Premillenarianism) and the other ultra-allegorical (reform-Amillennialism) in their hermeneutic—would, nevertheless, temper their contentions admitting there’s “literal and allegorical” in both systems. We might be accused of being somewhat “theologically presumptuous” to placate both sides by taking their obvious strengths, proclaiming we alone take the “middle ground” thereby avoiding the extremes inherent in these opposing interpretations; oh, well, guilty as charged!
Shearer’s charge regarding the metaphysical (aka, “allegorical”) nature of Amillenarian hermeneutic bears immediate merit—especially, its ultimate Weltanschauung wherein the “dark side” of Amillenarian rejection of Israel’s materiality (both now and into the future) was wholly embraced by Hitler’s love of the same—simply put: How “on earth” (deliberate use) could Martin Luther’s writing of “The Jews and their Lies” (Von den Juden und ihren Lügen) be penned if a theology had not evolved through the centuries which demanded the Church occupy all spiritual and earthly blessing once shared with Israel . . . to the extent the Almighty has rejected the Jew and all her “supposed claims” to any inheritance, be it earthly or spiritual. Furthermore, it seems to this author somewhat hypocritical for the Church’s legacy to embrace their “heavenly city” (Ref. St. Augustine’s City of God) concept of superior priorities while dancing the light fantastic with the kingdoms of this world. On the one hand the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), for example, embraced the “