Monday, July 30, 2018

Kingdom of Heaven vs. Kingdom of God

Excerpt from the Introduction to One Book Rightly Divided: Prophetic Edition

The Kingdom of Heaven Versus 
the Kingdom of God

Doug Stauffer
Andrew Ray

Sometimes long held dogmatic assertions, although erroneous, are the most problematic to overcome. The teaching concerning the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God has baffled dedicated students of the Bible for decades. Here are two of the most widely held definitions.

Definition for the Kingdom of Heaven: the earthy, physical, visible, Jewish, Messianic kingdom promised to Israel both in the past and future. This kingdom will be consummated upon the earth on the Day of the Lord.

The book of Daniel among many others foretold of this kingdom.

Daniel 2:44
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

Definition for the Kingdom of God: the spiritual and moral kingdom that cannot be seen because this kingdom is within believers. The spiritual elements are righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

The books of Luke and Romans define this kingdom.

Luke 17:20
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Romans 14:17
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Those who recognize the differences between these two kingdoms teach that God took the physical kingdom (Kingdom of Heaven) from the Jews and offered a spiritual kingdom (Kingdom of God) to the Gentiles that is entered by a spiritual rebirth. This is certainly all true! Yet, there is a problem with the dogmatic assertion that the Kingdom of God is a purely spiritual kingdom and only within all believers.

The following seven proof texts teach that people receive the Kingdom of God and go into it, see it, sit down in it, drink and eat in it, and inherit it—hardly something limited to a spiritual kingdom.

1.      People will Receive the Kingdom of God and Enter Therein

Luke 18:17 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

2.      People will Go into the Kingdom of God

Matthew 21:31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
3.      People will See the Kingdom of God

Luke 9:27 But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.

4.      People will Sit Down in the Kingdom of God

Luke 13:29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.

5.      People will Drink of the Fruit of the Vine in the Kingdom of God

Mark 14:25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

Luke 22:18 For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.

6.      People will Eat Bread and the Passover in the Kingdom of God

Luke 14:15 And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

Luke 22:15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: 16 For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.

7.      People will Inherit the Kingdom of God

1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God

Galatians 5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

The next passage reveals why so many Bible teachers teach that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are identical. In Matthew chapter 19, Jesus equated the two as equal when He spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven and then said “again I say unto you” as He repeated the same truth concerning the Kingdom of God.

Matthew 19:23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

The controversy surrounding this teaching and the vitriol spewed toward those who take differing positions are indicative of the problem with all Bible teaching—including dispensational teachings. If truths were easily grasped by all, there would be no controversy; and we would all probably build one tower of babel, thinking that our understanding of truth was something pleasing to God. Yet, maybe it is the Lord that finds it necessary to scatter us so that no individual has a corner on the truth or gets placed upon the pedestal. 

The Kingdom of Heaven versus Kingdom of God is one of the controversies that we hope we can help the body of Christ grasp by offering some semblance of reasonableness in this book. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

God's Spokesmen--Old Testament

 Chapter 5—One Book Rightly Divided: Prophetic Edition

God’s Spokesmen—OT

Bible students devoted to the truth believe God to be the Author of the entirety of scripture—all sixty-six books. Yet, God did not select a postal carrier to send His word from Heaven to earth. He instead revealed His word to various spokesmen to facilitate the delivery of scripture. Simply put, God spoke to men; these men spoke the words, but it was ultimately God speaking to the end recipients.  

Hebrews 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

The Bible reiterates this truth when it declares that “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).[1] Yet, while God’s word emphatically points heavenward toward the true Author of divine scripture, the world unfortunately declares the Bible man-made. As Haggai testified, every spokesman was simply “the LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message.  

Haggai 1:13 Then spake Haggai the LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD.

It is always important to give God the preeminence when considering His word while remembering that this fact does not exclude man’s responsibility and accountability. God committed His message to His messenger and then closely personalized that message to His messenger

Consider these few phrases as examples of this truth: “the law of Moses” in the Old Testament (Joshua 8:31) or “my gospel” (Romans 2:16) in Paul’s epistles. Further confirming this line of reasoning was Paul’s ownership of that which God had committed to him.

1 Corinthians 9:17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.

Not only was the message inseparably associated to its spokesman, but the message was also custom-made for the particular audience God deemed to be its primary intended recipients. Each of God’s spokesmen had a message for a specific audience living in a particular time. Unfortunately, this presents two very real dangers for the misguided Bible student:

1. Following any spokesman appointed to a previous time period or people group
2. Ignoring any spokesman intended for the student’s generation, people, or time period

In order to further develop this thought, consider the spokesmen as they relate to the various sections found within scripture. They are presented in the following order based upon the basic divisions given in the previous chapter.

  • The Pentateuch (Section A)
  • History (Section B)
  • Poetry (Section C)
  • Prophecy (Old Testament) (Section D)
  • The Gospels (Section E)
  • The Acts of the Apostles (Section F)
  • The Epistles (Section G)
  •  Prophecy (New Testament) (Section H)

It is important to consider two additional thoughts as we explore some of the details linked to the spokesmen associated with each of these scripture segments:

1.  Most sections have multiple spokesmen, and
2.  Those sections containing several contemporaneous spokesmen generally have one spokesman serving as the primary spokesman at any given time. 

Section A—The Pentateuch (Genesis Through Deuteronomy)
As previously discussed, the section titled The Pentateuch covers nearly 2,500 years. Obviously, such a lengthy time frame means that this period contained several different spokesmen. Some of the primary spokesmen include Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, etc. Each of these men received a particular God-given message and, as God’s spokesman, presented his message to his respective audience(s). In a later chapter, we will discuss the further divisions found within this section which, include the Ages of Innocence, Conscience, Government, and Patriarchs.

Those living during this time had to listen to God’s chosen spokesmen to ensure knowing God’s will for their lives. Those who refused to heed their spokesman’s message neglected the message to their own peril. The choice was and is very simply: ignore the spokesman (like Korah rejected the words of MosesNumbers 16:1-3) or follow your spokesman (like Joshua and Caleb hearkened to the words of Moses and faithfully strove to enter the land of promiseNumbers 32:11-12)!

When an individual follows God’s spokesman, he displays genuine faith in God and in God’s word. The specifics of that faith (or content of that faith) have obviously changed throughout history, but God always REQUIRES faith stating a transdispensational truth that it is IMPOSSIBLE to please Him without it.

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Moses’ ministry serves as an excellent demonstration of the validity of these claims. Forty years after fleeing Egypt, Moses returned with a message from God for the children of Israel. God required Moses’ audience to accept His word as delivered by Moses. The Bible offers several examples of God’s word and the people’s obedience. For example, by faith, Israel put the blood on the doorposts and walked safely out of Egypt. Those who refused to trust God (through their spokesman Moses) helplessly watched their firstborn die.

Hebrews 11:28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

Shortly thereafter, the people’s faith in Moses’ message carried them safely across the Red Sea.

Hebrews 11:29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.

In the wilderness, God used His spokesman to deliver the Law. Those who despised that Law died “without mercy.

Hebrews 10:28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:

No doubt that at least in content, Moses was the primary spokesman during this period.

 Unquestionably, wholly following the message given by Moses was the will of God for those living during Moses’ ministry. Those who followed the word of Moses demonstrated their faith though their obedience to the word of God. Their faith in Moses’ word would be borne out through their outward obedience.

James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Every sincere Bible student recognizes many distinctions between the message of God through Moses to the Jews and God’s message given to the New Testament Church. This is easy to prove by simply considering a few matters. Certainly, no New Testament believer would give any credence to someone claiming deliverance through blood placed upon doorposts. 

Likewise, no Christian would be willing to walk out into the Red Sea expecting anything less than a good soaking. For this reason, among many others, it is inconceivable how anyone could claim to be a nondispensationalist in doctrine and practice and simultaneously claim to believe the whole Bible. All those who believe the Bible are obedient to God by rightly dividing it.

2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Section B—History (Joshua Through Esther)
The next section (History) and the one following it (ProphetsOld Testament) overlap each other by approximately 300 years. As for content, the previous section, The Pentateuch, dealt with the giving and receiving of God’s truths and rules for living. However, Joshua (and the books that follow) reflects more of an action book indicative of a historical account. (Interestingly, one can readily see that the transition began with the book of Deuteronomy, which is very much a recounting of Israel’s history in the wilderness.) Like the previous section, which spanned several centuries, this period covers an extended period of approximately 1,000 years. Some of the most prominent spokesmen include men like Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, etc.

The spokesmen in this section delivered God’s message through the initial triumphs in Canaan, the ensuing years of complacency, the days of apostasy, the toilsome years of captivity, and the glorious days as God’s children returned to their once forsaken land.

Unlike the previous section with Moses (Pentateuch), this portion (History) did not have one predominate spokesman. When Moses died, God called Joshua to pick up his mantle. Joshua had been present at Sinai when Moses received the commandments and supported Moses’ efforts to enter the land of promise despite the opposition from the ten faithless spies (Numbers 13:30-33). He loved and served Moses faithfully; yet, his task was to lead people into Canaan.  

Joshua’s message did not contradict the message of Moses but rather built upon it (Joshua 11:15). Any man who truly accepted Moses as God’s spokesman would likewise accept Joshua as God’s ordained replacement. With the mantel shifting, so did the responsibility to follow the new God-called spokesman. No one could safely reject Joshua’s message in deference to remaining strictly a follower of Moses. Those who rejected Joshua, even if to remain a follower of Moses, did so to their own peril.

Joshua 1:16 And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. 17 According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. 18 Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.

If Joshua’s message varied from that of Moses, it was not a message contradictory but a different message for a different audience in different circumstances for a different time period. Another unique aspect to this section is the fact that there were times when God left the people without a true spokesman. The Book of Judges records these instances when God did not provide a particular spokesman. The tragic consequences of such circumstances were also repeatedly described: without a spokesman, the people did their own thing.

Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

During these periods described in Judges (Judges 17:6; Judges 18:1; Judges 19:1; Judges 21:25), Israel had Moses (in written form) but no visible national leader to follow. Each time the children of Israel turned away from the Lord, God delivered them into the hands of their enemies. Sadly, the children of Israel always seemed to follow the same pattern following their rejection of the Lord. Their rebellion would bring persecution. This persecution would cause them to cry unto the Lord for deliverance. God would then raise up a deliverer known as a judge (Judges 3:9; Judges 3:15).

Clearly, when God did not appoint a spokesman, man remained in a state of utter confusion. Darkness reigned! In such cases, people generally did whatever they deemed to be right in their own eyes. The same unfortunate outcomes show themselves prevalent each time people ignorantly refused to follow their appointed spokesman.
Section C—Poetry (Job Through Song of Solomon)
As previously stated, this section is grouped more for the type of its content than for any chronology. Yet, this poetry section of scripture, like the others, had defined spokesmen. These spokesmen included Job, David, and Solomon, along with lesser known figures like Elihu and Asaph. All were greatly used of God.

Section D—Prophecy (Old Testament) (Isaiah Through Malachi)
This period of time yielded the final spokesmen of the Old Testament period. More importantly, it was the work of these men to prepare the way for the first and second coming of Christ. The content of their messages was often twofold:

  • Israel’s pending judgment and
  • Israel’s restoration.

Every book in this section bore the name of its spokesman with the exception of Lamentations, which contained the lamentations of the weeping prophet Jeremiah. Like the previous sections, this portion of scripture provided several different spokesmen. Although they each had their distinct audience and purpose, their ministries often intertwined and certainly built upon each other. Chronologically, this section is best divided as:

  • pre-captivity prophets (e.g., Amos, Hosea, Joel, Isaiah)
  • captivity prophets (e.g., Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel)
  • post-captivity prophets (e.g., Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)

The “400 years of silence” refers to the time between the last of the Old Testament prophets and the arrival of Jesus in the New Testament. The phrase refers to the lack of new biblical revelation to the Jews (also called the intertestimental period). Yet, God remained active in world history causing major political and military events to occur, especially as He had predicted in the book of Daniel. During this time, the nation of Greece came to power and was conquered by Rome, fulfilling prophecy. This period should not be equated with the absence of God from any direct communication with people but as simply a period of no new transmission of the sacred scripture.

[1] For more in-depth information on the distinctions between revelation, inspiration, and men being moved by the Holy Ghost, see “The Fingerprint of God” by Andrew B. Ray.