Print Friendly and PDF

CHRIST’S KINGDOM: FIRST CENTURY OR LAST?

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  Leave a comment

It is no wonder dispensationalists keep missing the Rapture dates they set and the Antichrist figures they propose: they cannot even recognize the most obvious elements of Christ’s teaching. They teach that Christ’s kingdom is yet future and that we have been waiting for it for 2000 years (though always declaring: “It is imminent!”)

But when does the New Testament see the coming of the kingdom?

Christ is introduced to Israel and the world through the ministry of John Baptist, who was prophesied in the Old Testament to be Messiah’s forerunner (Isa 40:3; Matt 3:3). John prepares the way for him by preaching: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2). Jesus picks up this theme in Mark 1:14–15:

And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.”

I will note three crucial aspects of this declaration.

First, Christ declares “the time” has arrived. What is “the time” to which he refers? It surely refers to the prophetically anticipated time, the time of the coming of David’s greater Son to establish his kingdom, for he immediately adds: “the kingdom of God is at hand.” After all, the Father sends Christ into the world in “the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4; Eph 1:10), to initiate the “favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:16–21). This time is “the acceptable time,” “the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). It is the very day righteous men and angels in the old covenant long desired to see (Matt 13:17; Luke 2:28–30; 10:24; John 8:56; Heb 11:13, 39–40; 2 Pet 1:10–11).

Second, Christ declares that the time “is fulfilled.” He does not say “the time may be fulfilled — if you will receive the promise.” Rather he forthrightly declares that the God-ordained time is fulfilled. Because of this Paul can later call this “the now time” (2 Cor 6:2; cf. Rom 3:21–26; Eph 3:10; 2 Tim 1:9–10). Though John and Jesus announce that the time is fulfilled, Jerusalem does not recognize the coming of “the time” (Luke 19:44; cf. Matt 23:37).

Third, Christ declares that since “the time is fulfilled,” therefore “the kingdom of God is at hand.” That is, because the God-ordained time is now fulfilled, the kingdom of God is finally right at hand. The coming of the kingdom does not await some distantly future return of Christ. During his first coming, at the very opening of his ministry, Jesus preaches that “the kingdom of God is at hand.”

The kingdom’s early new covenant revelation, then, declares its nearness in time, not its potential nearness, and certainly not its distance. Consequently, Jesus promises that some of his hearers would live to see the kingdom’s acting in great power in history: “There are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste of death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (Mark 9:1). Thus, not only is his kingdom present in his ministry, but some of his disciples will live long enough actually to see its exhibition in power. This exhibition would not be immediately, for some of his disciples would die first. Yet this must occur within the lifetimes of others, for “some” standing there would witness it. This apparently refers to the dramatic A.D. 70 destruction of the temple and the removal of the Old Testament worship system (cf. Heb 8:13; 12:25–28). This occurs as a direct result of Jesus’ prophecies (John 4:21–23; Matt 21:33–46; 22:1–7; 23:31–34:34).

Print Friendly and PDF

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Posts

Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

No Comments

Be the first to start the conversation.

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML.

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

*