Problem of the Kingdom of God

A Systems Analysis Solution

Harold R. Booher, Ph.D.

Copyright 2013 - Harold R. Booher

Notes and References


1. Wright, N.T. The Last Word, San Francisco: Harper (2005), p. 106-110
2. Saucy, Robert L., The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, (1992), p. 81.
3. The twenty books reviewed on the kingdom of God are listed in Appendix A.:

Chapter 1: Kingdom of God is Theme of the Bible

1. Saucy, Robert L. The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan (1993), p. 81.
2. This is a more accurate translation from the Greek than the KJV, having tenses corrected, as rendered by Otis Sellers, Seed and Bread, “’Kingdom’ Means ‘Government’” Vol I, No. 29 Pasadena, CA: The Word of Truth Ministry.
3. Saucy , op. cit., note 1 
4. Ibid
5. Ibid
6. Ibid
7. John Bright concluded in his book Kingdom of God that “Jesus used the term [kingdom of God] as if assured it would be understood, and indeed it was. The kingdom of God lay within the vocabulary of every Jew. It was something they understood and longed for desperately.” (New York: Abingdon, 1953, 17-18). Quoted in Saucy, op. cit., note 1, p. 87.
8. Sellers, op. cit., note 2.
9. “The old rabbis called this [expected time in history] ‘the manifest kingdom of God,’ and linked it up with the fulfillment of all the glorious promises found in the Hebrew scriptures.” Sellers, op. cit, note 2. Booher, HR., Christianity’s Lost Dispensations, Pasadena, Ca: The Word of Truth Ministry (2011) Chapter 10.

Chapter 2: Determing Major Views of The Kingdom

1. Bright, John, The Kingdom of God, New York: Abingdon, (1953) pp.17-18; quoted in Saucy, Robert The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, (1993), p.87.
2. The scientific method applied to the natural world depends on the assumption that the world operates through laws that are commonly observable by human investigators. For the believer these laws were created by God. Aspects of the scientific method like repeatability, hypothesis formulation and empirical verification can only be applied to the Bible if it is assumed that God authored the Bible and in such a way that is commonly observable and comprehensible to the human reader. With so many disparate views of Bible interpretation even from those who accept a literal approach to hermeneutics, true application of the scientific method to the Bible seems a well-intentioned goal, but not a method likely to achieve the consensus of science in the natural world.
3. Buchanan, George Wesley, The Consequences of the Covenant, Leiden: Brill, (1970) p.55, quoted in Saucy, op. cit., note 1, p. 83.
4. Bright, op. cit., note 1, p. 7; quoted in Saucy, op. cit., note 1, p. 27.
5. Pentecost, J. Dwight, Thy Kingdom Come: Tracing God’s Kingdom Program and Covenant Promises throughout History. Grand Rapids: Kregel (1995) pp.11-12.
6. Ladd, George Eldon, The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies on the Kingdom of God, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans (1959) p.15.

Chapter 3: Evaluating Basic Kingdom Facts

1. Sellers (Seed and Bread, “’Kingdom Means ‘Government’” Vol. I, No. 29) emphasizes that “the word kingdom is a word in a living language” that has undergone changes over time.  However “the word basileia belongs to first century Greek which has now become a fixed or dead language, and it meaning must be settled by usage at that time.”  He concludes, “The word government says everything that is found in the Greek word basileia.  It is a more solid word [than kingdom] since it has not gone through the changes that have happened to the word kingdom.”
2. Pentecost, J. D., Thy Kingdom Come, Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel (1995) pp. 12-14.
3. Christian and Moslem nations as well as Israel all sometimes mistakenly claim the right to govern in God’s name. 
4. Regarding Israel understanding suffering servant concept, Bright comments: “There is little convincing evidence that the Jews before the time of Christ had any expectation of a suffering Messiah.” In fact the cross was “unto the Jews a stumblingblock (I Cor 1:23)” (John Bright in The Kingdom of God (Nashville:Abingdon, 1953, p. 208).  Regarding historians agreement on Jesus proclaiming the kingdom, see David Wenham’s statement (Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity? 1995, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 35): “The evidence is overwhelming, and modern scholars who seem to disagree about almost everything else are nearly unanimous on this one point — that Jesus proclaimed the coming of the kingdom.”
5. Bright, op. cit., note 4, p.187.
6. Saucy, Robert (The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan (1993) p. 81.
7. The gospel writers provide clear connections between the expectations of a coming royal dynasty for Israel and the coming of Jesus. One writer illustrates an example of Mary’s likely expectations and her basis for them.
The angel Gabriel told Mary that God would give her son, Jesus, “the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Lk 1:32-33). The language (“throne,” “house,” “kingdom”) is reminiscent of the original Davidic covenant promise in 2 Samuel 7:16.  Being familiar with the history of the Israelite monarchy and the Old Testament prophecies about the messianic kingdom, Mary could only have understood these words as announcing the coming of the prophesied kingdom.  (Saucy, op. cit., note 6, p. 82) 
8. Bright, op. cit., note 4, p.191. 
9. Ibid, pp.17-18.
10. Saucy, op. cit., note 6, p. 87
11. These points are excellently discussed by Saucy (op. cit., note 6, pp. 87-90).
12. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (The Kingdom of God, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1992, p 90) builds on this error using it to state, “the kingdom of god is a mystery,” elaborating that the kingdom therefore “is not easy for people to understand.” This is a great mistake on his part, since the secrets Jesus revealed to the disciples provided them with information about the characteristics of the kingdom; helping make the kingdom anything but a mystery to them.
13. Ibid, p.63.
14. Saucy, op. cit., note 6, pp. 83-84.  Proponents of the dual kingdoms view also accept the spiritual “at hand” for the church now and add a future kingdom for Israel. Saucy notes that Jesus supported both kingdom expectations. He quotes J. Ramsey Michaels who comments in his book The Kingdom of God and the Historical Jesus: “Jesus’ expectation is well within the framework of contemporary Jewish messianic and apocalyptic expectations.” Saucy elaborates on Michaels’ remarks “This involved a kingdom which was ‘both spiritual and national, both universal and ethnic’” (cited in Saucy, p.85).
15. Bright, op. cit., note 4, p.233-4.
16. The importance of a process with stages that is shown in this parable is one of the central concepts of the Sellers interpretation of the kingdom. For a different interpretation of Mark’s growing seed parable, see Pentecost, op. cit., note 2, p. 221. The essence of this parable for Pentecost is that the seed grows regardless of the sower, it is the word itself which grows and ultimately results in a harvest.  While this fact is likely true, it seems to be relatively insignificant as a description of the kingdom.
17.  Sellers (Seed and Bread, “God Must Intervene,” Vol II, No. 101) provides an argument that God must and will intervene to reverse the flow human history away from evil and toward Himself. Numerous examples are found especially in the psalms. For example, “He speaks of a time when “Evildoers shall be cut off “ Psa. 37:9); when He shall: “break the strength of evil and wicked men, and bring their wickedness to an end” (Psa. 10:15).”
18. Pentecost, op. cit., note 2, p.166.
19. Ibid, p.176-7.
20. Ibid, p.177.
21. See for example, David Wenham’s (op. cit., note 4, p.34) comment about the Kingdom of God being the heart of Jesus’ message in each of the synoptic gospels. “Matthew, being the most Jewish of the synoptic Gospels, prefers the expression, ‘kingdom of heaven,’ in line with the Jewish practice of avoiding direct use of the sacred divine name.”
22. Lloyd-Jones, op. cit., note 12, p.58.
23. Ibid, p.23.
24. Ibid, pp.22-23.
25. Ibid, pp.62-3.
26. The person of the triune God who enters us is the Holy Spirit. As far as the kingdom process in relation to those who enter; the kingdom first appears and if one is admitted into it, she will learn who He is.
27. Lloyd-Jones (op. cit., note 12, pp. 34, 44, 59, 60, 61, 90, 118, 119, 188).
28. Corley, Bruce "A students primer for exegesis," discusses the reader response biblical interpretation (which Lloyd-Jones appeals to) in Corley; B., Lemke, S.W., and Lovejoy, G.I. (Eds): Biblical Hermeneutics, Nashville: Broadman & Holman, (2002) p 172.
Contemporary hermeneutics considers the subjectivity of the reader-response approach to provide some value in biblical interpretation by giving “us vitality and flexibility” and by helping rule out “legalistic and insensitive pseudo-orthodoxy.” Most sermons attempt to make biblical text have significance for the church audience and most individuals wish to grasp the significance of the text for their own worldviews. However, significance to the sermon writer and the modern reader is perhaps the least important factor in Bible message interpretation.  This is because, as in all scientific endeavors, subjectivity is an unreliable means of investigation.  While it is important the Bible speak to every reader at some personal level, it needs to be based on understanding an accurate message. Although the reader must by necessity play a significant role in comprehending the text message, scholarly Bible interpretation should focus primarily on the divinely inspired author’s intended meaning using the classical historical-grammatical methods.  
29. Pentecost (op. cit., note 2, pp. 173-4) does not himself believe there is any merit to this view, and provides a number of considerations why “the church is not now fulfilling Israel’s New Covenant.” For example “The term Israel is not used in the Scriptures to describe anyone but the physical descendants of Abraham.”  Also, “the church is never promised inheritance in a land, material blessings on the earth, or rest from oppression, all of which are parts of the promise to Israel.”
30. Ibid, pp.11-12.
31. Progressive dispensationalist Robert Saucy (op. cit., note 6) introduces his idea of two forms of the kingdom by making the current kingdom a quasi-kingdom, not in terms of a “present reign” but through “faith in the King” and “some of the blessings of the kingdom on its citizens” present now.
The teaching of the early church, therefore, yields the same picture of the kingdom that is found in the Gospels.  The establishment of the kingdom on earth is still future.  The believer is related to this kingdom through faith in the King and is therefore an heir and already a citizen of the coming kingdom.  The King has already bestowed some of the blessings of the kingdom on its citizens, so it is possible to speak of the presence of the kingdom now.  This presence is described in terms of righteousness, peace, and joy (Rom 14:17), the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:13-14), and power (1Co 4:20), but never in terms of a present “reign.” (p. 110).
John Bright (op. cit., note 4) comes at the dual kingdoms idea a bit differently. He treats the visible church as a martyr church, a kingdom of Christ as opposed to the kingdom of God. He says, “There is no tendency in the New Testament to identify the visible church with the Kingdom of God.”…The Church is indeed the people of the Kingdom of Christ, but the visible church is not that Kingdom. … It must remain the Church of the Suffering Servant, a martyr church.” (p.236). Consequently, he concludes “the Kingdom of God in the New Testament must be understood in a two-fold aspect: it has come and even now is in the world; it is also yet to come. …If it be asked, then, whether the New Testament looked upon the Kingdom as present fact or future hope, the only answer is both.” (pp. 237-238)

For our purposes it is Pentecost (op. cit., note 2) who develops the rationale for the dual kingdoms concept most comprehensively.  To him and other classical dispensationalists, the church is important to God’s kingdom purposes since the cross, but there is still a need to fulfill Old Testament covenant promises with the nation Israel.  Christ did come bringing the offer of the Messianic kingdom to the nation Israel, but because of the rejection by the leaders of Israel, the kingdom was postponed. “…because the kingdom is based on an eternal, unilateral, and unconditional covenant, it cannot be nullified, or abrogated; instead, it has been postponed to some indeterminate future time” (p. 235, my emphasis).  Pentecost explains:
Following the rejection of Christ’s offer of Himself as the Messiah by the leaders of the nation, Christ revealed a new form in which the theocratic kingdom would be administered in the age falling between Israel’s rejection of Christ as Messiah, the Son of God, and the nation’s future acceptance of Him as Messiah at His second advent. (p. 228)

Chapter 5: Spiritual Kingdom Now?

1. Bright, John The Kingdom of God Nashville:Abingdon, (1953),  p. 225.
2. Ibid.  
3. Ibid, p.226.
4. Ibid. There is no specific scripture in the New Testament that “hails the Church as Israel.” Many attempt to use Paul to support this view, but it does not hold up under close examination. In Romans, Paul mentions some of the natural branches (Israel) being broken off (Romans 11:17-25) temporarily and in Acts, salvation coming to the gentiles (Acts 28:28), but nowhere is the Church called Israel.
5. Saucy, Robert The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993, p.105-6.
6. Ibid. p. 109-10. Saucy illustrates the partial victory Christians have experienced in Christ’s kingdom now.
Believers whose citizenship has been transferred into Christ’s kingdom are now free from “the dominion of darkness,” by which the apostle means the “satanic or demonic powers,” whose slaves they had formerly been and over whom Christ had triumphed.  But this deliverance is not yet all-encompassing.  It relates to the believer’s inner personal or spiritual freedom from the domination of the evil powers, but not yet deliverance from outward evil.
It is difficult to comprehend the difference between inner protection from evil powers, but not from outward evil. This really doesn’t tell us anything specific or encouraging about victory over evil.
7.  A selection of verses from the four gospels and Acts illustrates this miraculous era that demonstrated the power of God providing a foretaste of the kingdom. See for examples: Matthew 4:23-24; 10:8; 14:13-21; 14:22-32; Mark 5:39-42; 8:2-3;  Luke 9:1-2; 10:9; John 2:1-10; 11:38-44; Acts 3:1-10; 10:32-41; 16:26;19:11-12; 28:3-9.
8. Boyd, Gregory A., God at War,  (1997) Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, p. 19 Besides Jesus and Paul, other individuals or groups making informed statements or having an informed opinion concerning the kingdom include the disciples, John the Baptist, Joseph of Aramethaea, John in Revelation, the writer of Hebrews, James, brother of Jesus, Peter, Philip, Barnabas-with Paul, the mother of James and John, the crowd –on entry to Jerusalem, the angel Gabriel, and the malefactor on the cross.
10. Note the events displaying the kingdom coming with power beginning on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-21) that eleven of the twelve disciples witnessed. In that single day, “about three thousand souls were added unto them” (2:41) and after that “many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (2:43).

Chapter 6: Is the Kingdom the Millennium?

1. Sellers, O.Q., Seed & Bread, “King David’s Glorious Future,” Vol II No. 156 describes the role of David during the kingdom.
2. Note that David is referred to as both king and prince in these verses. From the earthly view David is king on the throne of Israel; from a heavenly view with Jesus in heaven looking over many nations, David is one of earth’s princes. “Since the land promised to Israel will be a principality of heaven in the day that Jesus governs the nations upon the earth, the one who then sits upon the throne of Israel will be called a prince” (Sellers, op. cit., note 1, p.222).
3. Pentecost, J. D., Thy Kingdom Come, Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, (1995) p. 146.
4. The problem is that all the Old Testament verses having David ruling Israel, must be interpreted as Jesus, since these verses are read as events coming about as a result of the second advent of Christ. 
5. Sellers, O. Q. (Seed and Bread, “The Mission of Elijah” Vol.I, No. 91) lists some of the jobs of Elijah when God assumes sovereignty of His government on earth. Elijah “is the one who will indicate the exact boundaries of the land God promised to Abraham, the boundaries of the land allotted to each tribe, the division of Israel according to their tribes, the identification of the Aaronic family, the three divisions of the tribe of Levi, the restoration of the judges and counselors as promised in Isa. 1:26, the identification of historical sites, the restoration and proper observance of the feasts.”
6.  The word “rapture” does not occur here or anywhere else in the bible, but these verses are what are used to support the idea of the rapture.
7. Pentecost, op. cit., note 3, p. 235.  Pentecost uses this parable to bolster the concept of two competing kingdoms; one Satan’s and one God’s ongoing presently during the church era. He sees the competition primarily between the word of God and the word of Satan, essentially giving us two competing spiritual kingdoms in the here and now. It will not be possible until the harvest to distinguish between those following the message of God’s word and those following Satan’s imitation.  One is impressed by how little information this concept reveals about the “secrets of the kingdom,” which was Jesus’ purpose in teaching with the parables (Matthew 13:11).
8. Sellers, O.Q., The Secrets of the Kingdom of the Heavens, Pasadena, CA: The Word of Truth Ministry, p.9.
10. The little season would be another possibility, but not considered here because at this stage we are only trying to distinguish the merits of a pre-advent period versus the millennium, both of which would be before the little season. 
11.  Sellers, op. cit, note 8, p. 8.
12.  This interpretation of tares among the wheat during the kingdom also makes it easier to understand the parable of the feast in the kingdom of heaven of Mat 8:12, where the subjects of the kingdom are thrown outside into the darkness. These subjects are the tares.
13. For dispensationalists, there is consensus on the first 3 ½ years of Daniels 70th week corresponding to the seven seals being opened in Revelation, ending with the Matthew and Daniel abomination of desolation prophecy.  The second 3 ½ years corresponds to the seven trumpets being sounded in Revelation and the great tribulation prophecy of Matthew.
14. According to Sellers (op. cit., note 8, p.11) the kingdom begins with the benevolent events such as regathering Israel (Exe. 11:17-21) and at the same time changing swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4).   The kingdom (pre-advent portion) ends with the reverse, plowshares beaten into swords as indicated by Joel 3:10.
15. Ribbons, John C. A World in Crisis, Pasadena, CA: The Word of Truth Ministry, p. 10,11.
16. Sellers, O.Q., Seed and Bread, “The Great Testing,” Vol I, No 40, Pasadena, CA: The Word of Truth Ministry.  Sellers explains that the “great tribulation” mentioned in Matthew is a prophesied national crisis of Israel “called in the Old Testament ‘the time of Jacob’s trouble,’ (Jer.30:7), and in Hosea 2:15, ‘the valley of Achor.’” Achor is a Hebrew word for trouble. In Revelation 3:10 the period is “the hour of temptation (trial).” What is important in all these descriptions of trial or tribulation is that this time of trouble is both national and relatively short.  “In Jeremiah 30:7 the promise concerning ‘Jacob’ is that ‘he shall be saved out of it,” and in Hosea the valley of Achor is declared to be a ‘door of hope.’”
17. Sellers, O.Q., Seed and Bread, “Character of the Last Days,” Vol. I, No. 16, Pasadena, CA: The Word of Truth Ministry.
18.  Pentecost (op. cit., note 3, pp 326-331) includes Israel’s “restoration to the land,” “repentance,” “conversion,” and “resurrection of the dead,” prior to the millennium. He also includes the times of the Gentiles, judgment on the Gentiles, and “The Tribulation,” before the millennium starts. Also see Robert Saucy (The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993, p.106, note 79) for support of a period between now and the return of Christ for the millennium.
{79. This would also seem difficult to harmonize with any present application of Revelation 20:4-6, which teaches the believer’s reign with Christ. To this we would also add the problem posed by the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:24 that sees Christ as giving up the kingdom at his parousia. If such is the case and believers are not presently reigning with him, when is the time for that coreign?}

Chapter 7: Process, Order, and Characteristics of the Kingdom

1. Otis Sellers claims that two great errors fill Christian prophecy interpretation. The first is putting all prophecies of the future into the millennium and the second is making the kingdom both now and in the future. (Seed and Bread, “The Kingdom- Present or Future” “Kingdom Blunders” Vol. I, Nos. 31, 32) The first error is common with all evangelists who equate the future kingdom of God with the millennium of Revelation 20 and have it inaugurated by the personal return of Jesus Christ. Sellers states: “This is the great error that is behind almost every problem of prophetic interpretation.” The dual kingdoms interpretation of dispensationalists like Pentecost illustrates the second type of error. To his credit, Pentecost recognizes that not all prophecy will fit either the current period or the millennium.  He places therefore such things as the return of Israel, their repentance, preservation of a remnant, conversion and repentance of Israel, and judgment on Gentiles into a short period preceding the tribulation (Pentecost, J.D, Thy Kingdom Come, Grand Rapids, Kregal, 1995, p. 326-329). But by trying to reconcile the idea of a spiritual kingdom with something totally different from the kingdom prophecies, Pentecost confounds both the definition and the timing of a future kingdom on earth. Sellers’ claim is well supported by the systems analysis conducted in Chapters 3 to 6. Whether alone or in combination neither the spiritual kingdom nor the millennium reconciles kingdom prophecy in scripture. Neither of these two interpretations provides us with a systematic flow of dispensations that logically gets us from the present to the millennium. 
2. Sellers makes a convincing argument that the gospel of John is actually the first written document produced during the dispensation of grace. His argument on this topic is covered in his documents available at the Word of Truth Ministry.  However, current scholarship consistently credits Mark with the first written gospel.
3. Sellers, O. Q., Seed and Bread, “The Most Important Parable” Vol. I, No. 48, Pasadena, CA: The Word of Truth Ministry.
4. Ibid.
5. Pentecost, op. cit., note 1, p. 235.
6. Sellers, op. cit., note 3.
7. Sellers did not always put this stage into the acts. In an earlier work he states: “The bright aspects of the early Acts period were never realized. The kingdom did not advance from “the blade” to “the ear” (Sellers, O.Q., “Sorting Prophetic Material,” 1952, p. 17). The explanation for his moving the ear to the Acts period probably came from further analysis of how an ear of grain develops. There was enough shown in Acts to illustrate the characteristics of the kingdom (an ear without full grain), but not enough to show all the grains that would be in the kingdom. 
8. Sellers, op. cit., note 3.
9. There are only two exceptions recorded in the gospels where Jesus showed favor to anyone other than Israelites.  One was a centurian (Mat. 8:5-13) and the other a Canaanite woman (Mat. 15:22-28).  In both cases, their faith was exemplary.
10. Peter’s visit to the house of Cornelius was the first proclamation of Jesus Christ to a gentile (Acts 10:9-16).
11. Paul would go straight through a city without stopping if there were no company of Jews in it (Acts 17:1).
12. Sellers, Otis, “Acts 28:28: A Dispensational Boundary Line,” Pasadena, CA: The Word of Truth Ministry (1947).
13. Anderson, Sir Robert, The Silence of God, Grand Rapids: Kregel (1897), p. 56.
14. Sellers, Seed and Bread ”The Importance of Acts 28:28” Vol 1 No. 11.
15.  Although the title is commonly written “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians” this is not an inspired title. In Paul’s introduction, he writes to “all the saints,” not just to the Ephesians. “Which are at Ephesus” appears in the KJV and some other translations, but does not appear in the Greek original.
16.  This does not mean that Israel was excluded and replaced by other nations, but rather that Israel was on same footing as other nations.
17. Sellers, Seed and Bread, “Interpretation of Philippians 1:6” Vol 1, No. 4, Pasadena, CA: The Word of Truth Ministry. The day of Christ is a title that applies only to the pre-advent kingdom dispensation.
18. “Blazing forth” is Sellers’ translation. He also notes that epiphaneia carries with it the idea of “a favorable intervention,” Seed and Bread, “What does Epiphaneia Mean?” Vol 1, No. 37. 
19. Ribbons, J. C.,  “God’s plan for mankind,” Chart, frame 4, Pasadena, CA: The Word of Truth Ministry.
20. Duration is a characteristic of both kingdom phases, but is different for each; approximately 500 years for Phase I and 1000 years for Phase II
21. The Bible also states Satan will be bound during this phase (Rev. 20:20), but this was not a factor used in the kingdom analysis
22. Sellers, O.Q., Seed and Bread, “God’s Next Move” Vol I, No 41, Pasadena, CA: The Word of Truth Ministry..



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