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 “doctrine of the two swords” in that Jesus overtly stated, “My kingdom is not of this world” – but then the RCC went off the chart with their crusades and Holy Roman Empire (among other heavenly-earthly entanglements—e.g., their “State Churches”) virtually erasing the fine line between the Holy and the Profane.
Allow me to be a bit curt by saying: Dispensationalism’s differentiation with that of Amillennialism at least provided “space” for the Jew (providing a somewhat condescending status thereto) only to “theologically ghettoize” them, keeping them wholly outside the Commonwealth of Israel and “sentencing them” under the banner of the pretribulational rapture of the Church to suffer the fate of Jacob’s Trouble in a far worse Holocaust at the end of the age. And, no, now is not the time—given the extremity of the hour—to smugly embrace a so-called “grammatical-historical hermeneutic” which is literal to a point, then obfuscates its treachery while posing to be a friend to the Jew while abandoning them to their most fateful hour (because that’s supposed to be biblical).
But again, the Amillenarian simply discards any such “theological ghettoizing” of the Jew by altogether dispensing with any such construct—the Church is the Spiritual Israel of God . . . the True Israel of God . . . All Israel. Even so, some Amillenarians (e.g., Preterists) conclude Bible prophecy’s Abomination of Desolation was, in point of fact, the destruction of the Herodian Temple in the Jewish wars between 66-70 A.D. terminating in the death of over a million Jewish defenders and inhabitants of Jerusalem by Titus and the X Roman Legion. In other words: Who cares about the Jews, they are not even on our radar and most who claim Jewish ancestry are at best nothing more than Gentiles (e.g., Khazars) posing as Israelites—there are no Jews of yesteryear—they’re all a bunch of wanabees—moreover, it’s time to stop coddling the Jews with this “bless them that bless thee” business . . . let them take care of themselves.
Confounding the dispensational effort to separate Israel from the Church is the disquieting attempt to bifurcate the terms of the “Kingdom of God” (the present manifestation of the “heavenly kingdom” upon the earth through the Church) from the “Kingdom of Heaven” – the term dispensationalist C. I. Scofield uses to describe the earthly manifestation of the “Messianic, mediatorial, and Davidic,” and has for its object the establishment of the kingdom of God in the earth:
(1) The kingdom of God is universal, including all moral intelligences willingly subject to the will of God, whether angels, the Church or saints of past or future dispensations (Lk. 13:28, 29; Heb. 12:22, 230; while the kingdom of heaven is Messianic, mediatorial, and Davidic, and has for its object the establishment of the kingdom of God in the earth (. . . 1 Cor. 15:24, 25).
(2) The kingdom of God is entered only by the new birth (John 3:3, 5-7); the kingdom of heaven, during this age, is the sphere of a profession which may be real or false (Mt. 13:3, note; 25:1, 11, 12).
(3) Since the kingdom of heaven is the earthly sphere of the universal kingdom of God, the two have almost all things in common. For this reason, many parables and other teachings are spoken of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew, and the kingdom of God in Mark and Luke. It is the omissions which are significant. The parables of the wheat and tares, and of the net (Mt. 13:24-30, 36-43, 47-50) are not spoken of the kingdom of God. In that kingdom there are neither tares nor bad fish. But the parable of the leaven (Mt. 13:33) is spoken of the kingdom of God also, for, alas, even the true doctrines of the kingdom are leavened with the errors of which the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Herodians were the representatives . . .
(4) The kingdom of God “comes not with outward show” (Lk. 17:20), but is chiefly that which is inward and spiritual (Rom. 14:17); while the kingdom of heaven is organic, and is to be manifested in glory on the earth . . .
Admittedly, CT finds some agreement in Scofield’s interpretation; however, Scofield’s entire theological construct has performed, once again on behalf of the dispensationalist, hermeneutical acrobatics by attempting to delineate the “Kingdom of God” (ostensibly for the Christians) from the “Kingdom of Heaven” (the Jewish manifestation of the Kingdom)—by giving these designations extra-biblical renderings in an attempt in keeping the Church’s “heavenly calling” from Israel’s “earthly estate” . . . notwithstanding, attributing both to the eternal plan and purpose of the Almighty in expounding upon His glory in delineating the two. The charge by Amillennialism that dispensationalism does despite by not bringing the two together (i.e., Israel and the Church) has formidable credibility; again:
“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.” (Ibid. Charles Feinberg, p. 252)
A FRESH LOOK AT THE MANIFESTATION OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
First of all, dispensationalism’s refinement in attempting to differentiate the meanings and timing of the “Kingdom of God” (occurring 68 times in the NT) and the “Kingdom of Heaven” (occurring 32 times in the NT) bear no such scrutiny. The term the “Kingdom of Heaven” was used in Jesus’ day by the devout in reference to G-d’s Name.[vi] The dichotomy of the “earthly” versus the “heavenly” was/is simply a vacuous juxtaposition bearing little or no understanding in the mind of the religious Jew, nor for that matter, the Gentile.
Yet, all of the aforementioned begs the question: What exactly is the manifestation of the Kingdom of God/Heaven in the here and now, let alone into the future?
“Kingdom living” – discipleship and/or sanctification and its movements – is uppermost in the minds and practice among many a sincere Christian. When such discipleship is attached to “authority” (e.g., “Lordship salvation” – where Jesus not only saves one but that individual manifests the “Christ life” by willingly coming under His authority in life and practice—living out the cross) is personalized in the individual, is one thing – but a very different thing when it is “collectively” introduced into the public square.
I make this intriguing comment at the outset of this “fresh look” in that today’s clamor between a more subdued intrusion (still very vocal) of discipleship (aka, “kingdom living”) by the, in the main, premillenarian persuasion is in counter distinction to the deliberate attempts at a Post-millenarian/Amillenarian approach to “collective discipleship” wherein the “Church militant” makes a concerted effort to influence, even subdue, the public square. One might contrast the two with one being but “salt and light” and the other being the entire steak coupled with a “strobe light show.”
Our brother, Dr. Gavin Finley, romanticizes the two in his outstanding reflections between the Pilgrim vs. the Puritan with the Pilgrim being the more docile of the two when it comes to orchestrating the government of God among men.[vii]
MATTHEW 16 VS. JOHN 1 – REVEALING GOD’S ULTIMATE INTENTION
Without controversy Matthew 16:13-20 is the sine quo non of all passages revealing the Person (Son of God) and Work (“I will build My Ekklesia”) of Jesus’ identity and mission—and its association with the Kingdom (viz., the “keys of the Kingdom of Heaven”). Without this disclosure we in the NT are left adrift in precisely determining His ultimate person-hood and the destiny of why the incarnate Son of God so manifested His presence among humankind. By humanity’s acknowledgement of His person-hood as the Son of God incarnate as a man must come as a revelation from the Father—only Almighty God can reveal such an enlightenment. It is this revelation which provides the BASIS (the “rock”) on which Jesus would build His EKKLESIA (aka, His “Church” - His called-out ones – His elect). Without this VISION there is no manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven/God . . . for when Jesus said that the “kingdom of God is already among you” or “the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21) it clearly meant that wherever He was/is THAT is the Kingdom of God—His presence is pure authority—the King is in the midst of His Kingdom.
This is the express purpose of the incarnation:
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end . . . Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation . . . He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Isa. 9:6-7; Zech. 9:9-10 – Excerpts).
Matthew’s gospel, of course, presents Jesus as the Son of David—His kingly linage as Messiah (Matt. 1:1) with, I might add, a total of 42 generations (14 X 3 = 42 – Matt. 1:17) which “42” is the precise number of the kings of the United Kingdom of Judah and Israel (3 – Saul, David, and Solomon so united); plus the 19 of Israel and 20 of Judah in the “divided kingdom” = totaling 3 + 19 + 20 = 42[viii]).
Jesus’ repeated use and practices revealed in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) the Kingdom of God/Heaven is personified in the Person of Christ Himself . . . however, it is mandatory, yea, self-explanatory, for any King to have a Kingdom. Now, when Matthew’s gospel was written somewhere between 50-65 AD and John’s gospel written in the latter part of the first century – towards the end of his life (cir. 85-90 AD)—there was a deepening revelation of the Person and Work of our Lord.
I believe a greater understanding of His nature, along with the Holy Spirit’s illumination of God’s Plan and Purpose of the Ages. Surely, John had a much greater grasp of Paul’s writings, having moved to Ephesus, probably during the Jewish War of A.D. 66-70 (Paul having been beheaded in Rome cir. 66-67 AD . . . “For instance, Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons in the latter part of the second century, stated, ‘John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence in Ephesus in Asia’” [Against Heresies 3.1.1]).[ix]
Therefore, at a minimum, some 20 years to a maximum of some 40 years, John’s gospel account produced a far more extensive unveiling of His Person and Work and how He would achieve His purposes among men after His earthly departure. Of measurable interest, the Synoptic Gospels all record the term “New Covenant” or “New Testament” (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20 – whereas John does not; but instead, delves into the New Commandment with great detail (John 13:34; 15:12 and possibly 14:31)—whereas the Synoptics completely obfuscate this most glaring account/terminology in the Upper Room. Was this intentional on John’s inspirational account or was it, by this time, the understanding of the Kingdom of God, insofar as from Israel’s material viewpoint, naught but an attempt to greatly diminished such an “earthly” concept, while drawing greater attention to the Ekklesia? Was John’s Gospel presenting a more “mature” understanding and practice of the Early Church? To a greater extent, I think not.
Moreover, the Synoptic Gospels proliferate with the “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven” language; however, John’s Gospel scarcely mentions these phrases. Only in reference to regeneration (John 3:3, 5) do we hear something about the “Kingdom of God” or we muse over the striking statement of Jesus when soldiers tried to capture Him in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My kingdom is not of this world.” Here is what I am driving towards:
A similar phraseology, with accompanying participants in both Matthew (Matt. 16-17) and John’s gospel (John chapters 1-2) can be contrasted. The first being the disciples, led by Simon Bar-Jonah whose name was changed to Peter at the revelation of the Messiah’s identity and purpose – while the second account in John involves a limited number of disciples, Philip and Nathanael, to wit:
“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to Him, ‘How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ And He said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’” (John 1:47-51)
SON OF GOD – KING OF ISRAEL
First of all, please forgive me for wafting between Peter and Nathanael—but the contrast, rather the parallels, are so striking it is hard not to sync them.
Remember, John’s gospel was written at least 20-40 years AFTER that of Matthew’s gospel, and, most definitely, from Ephesus or its environs, according to most contemporary scholars—Paul having written his most profound account of the Ekklesia’s nature and purpose to the Ephesian believers. Peter had already declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God in Matthew’s gospel—this was not revealed to him by flesh and blood but by the Father . . . the revelation of the Son of God was given by God. Nathanael—whose name means “God has given”—not only declared the divinity of Jesus—“You are the Son of God!”—but punctuated His exclamation with: “You are the King of Israel.” In other words—Nathanael brought the Son of God into immediate focus within the context of Israel’s materiality—The King of Israel.
You may suggest that Nathanael’s accounting by John was simply designed to highlight the superficial understanding that most Jews had of the “kingdom’s nature” – but I suggest a far more profound disclosure is in view, given the additional comments made by Jesus as a response to Nathanael’s outburst.
Jesus prefaced the question to Peter by stating He was the “Son of Man” (Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”). Peter immediately announced His Messiahship— “You are the Christ.” Then Peter acclaimed Him as the Son of God – so did Nathanael. Notice – Jesus did not introduce Himself to Nathanael as the Son of Man prior to Nathanael’s confession but afterwards! Jesus then in Matthew’s account with Peter declared His purpose for being in reference to the Ekklesia – but Nathanael, again, brought into context the Son of God with the “King of Israel.”
Again, you may suggest that this simply was a “post-acknowledgement” of His Messiahship. But why is this phrase included in the text? It is not just because John decided to include it—he could just as well dispense with the statement “King of Israel” since John’s Gospel allegedly presents Christ as the “eagle” (i.e., Son of God—a “heavenly prospect”); whereas Matthew’s gospel bears witness to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the King (His Kingship—an “earthly perspective”) – but he (John) did not; he included it; whereas, insofar as the King concerns, after Peter’s confession of Who was Christ, Jesus went on to give Peter the “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 16:19) and told Peter that “whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Thus, John declares the Son of God as the King of Israel, and Matthew declares Him as the Son of God but uses the new name of Peter destined to open the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven – the King and the Kingdom.
Jesus did NOT deny these entitlements made by Nathanael, but advanced “these things” climaxing them in a grandiose crescendo by saying something far more expansive than “I will build My Ekklesia” – no, He went much further by stating: “You will see greater things than these . . . you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:50-51). Here the Son of Man appears in the latter part of Nathanael’s confession; whereas Jesus introduced the questioning of Peter with “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matt. 16:13) . . . while pursuing His exchange with Peter in the context of the cross. Here, Peter rebuked Jesus’ disclosure of his suffering and death, coupled by His resurrection the third day—for this was the MEANS whereby Jesus’ Ekklesia would be built.
But more so with Peter . . . Jesus went beyond the cross lived out through His believers (as well) and declared: “For the Son of Man will come in the GLORY of His father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” – furthermore, “there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man (mentioned again) coming in His KINGDOM. Of course, immediately after Matthew 16’s account, Jesus was “transfigured” on the Mount (Matt. 17:1-10) where His GLORY was on full display; yet, Peter determined to build there three equal tabernacles—but the Father would have Peter see and hear “My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased . . . Hear Him!” This statement caused Peter, James and John to fall flat on their faces; and when they lifted up their eyes “they saw no one but Jesus only” (Matt. 17:5-8, Excerpts).
Since the Son in John 17 possessed glory with the Father prior to His incarnation: “O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5) . . . then why would Jesus ask the Father the following: “Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You . . . I have glorified you on the earth . . . I have finished the work which You have given Me to do . . . And Now, O Father, glorify Me” (John 17:4-5)?
In other words, the previous GLORY possessed by the Son before the world was, would be given, now as the INCARNATE SON OF MAN, a wholly new glory that would in turn be given to His disciples, to wit: “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one” (John 17:22) . . . “. . . that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). You see, the glory given to the INCARNATE Son of Man was to be given to His people so that they would be “perfected into one” (John 17:23)—it was the express purpose of the ONENESS OF HIS BODY—for the Kingdom of God—to bring Man into the glory in order for humanity to be perfected into ONE . . . into the glory shared by the Father and the Son!
You may assume that Matthew’s recording of Jesus’ efforts of the Ekklesia is most profound—it is. However, I would contest that the exchange with Nathanael is far and away more “purposefully elaborate” in that it not only expands, although not specifically mentioning, the theme of the Ekklesia, in that it illuminates HOW. . . BY WHAT MEANS . . . the House of God (Bethel), which is the Ekklesia to which Jesus expounds upon in Matthew 16, will be built. That is, through the practicum of the vision of Jacob’s ladder! Indeed, the entire account of Jacob’s vision and those matters which surround his encounters at Bethel bear overwhelming significance—for Jesus did not just pull this revelation of His Plan and Purpose as “greater things” out of thin air. He would “illustrate” just how the Kingdom of Heaven – the Ekklesia – would be built to enshrine His Glory – for “Unto Him be glory in the EKKLESIA, and in Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Eph. 3:21).
NOTE: Part 2 will, hopefully, posted simultaneously with this piece to make a coherent whole of The Kingdom of God…A Fresh View.
[i] Millennialism: The Two Major Views, Charles L. Feinberg, Moody Press, Chicago, Third Edition, 1980, pp. 252-53.
[ii] H Bavinck, The Last Things (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 96-97.