Dispensationalism: "Thy Kingdom Come"

By Grover Gunn*

The Presbyterian Church in America Book of Church Order begins with the statement, "Jesus Christ ... sits upon the throne of David." Most people raised with the teachings of the Reformed faith would take this fundamental truth for granted. Who, after all, would question this essential teaching? Well, an informed and consistent dispensationalist would not only question this teaching, but would take strong exception to it. The Davidic throne is another Biblical subject concerning which dispensationalists and Reformed interpreters disagree.

The Davidic kingdom in Scripture is founded on the Davidic covenant of 2 Samuel 7:12-16. This covenant promise obviously involved Solomon, David's immediate seed and heir to the throne, since it spoke of the seed's building God's temple and of the possibility of the seed's sinning. The promise, however, also involved a greater antitypical fulfillment since it spoke of an eternal kingdom. The prophets later associated the eternal Davidic kingdom with the Messiah, who would inherit the throne of David and rule eternally over the kingdom in righteousness and justice (Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6- 33:15-16). This Messianic kingdom was to become a universal kingdom over all the kingdoms of the world (Psalm 2; Daniel 2:44). According to Reformed interpretation, these Messianic kingdom prophecies were initially fulfilled by Christ at His first advent, are being progressively fulfilled by Christ throughout this age, and will be perfectly and completely fulfilled by Christ after His second advent. Concerning the nature of Christ's fulfillment of these kingdom prophecies, Reformed interpreter Patrick Fairbairn has said the following:

Jesus of Nazareth needed no outward enthronement or local seat of government on earth, to constitute Him the possessor of David's kingdom, as He needed no physical anointing to consecrate Him priest for evermore, or material altar and temple for the due presentation of his acceptable service.1

No more should it have been expected, that the Messiah was to be a king on the earthly model of David, than that he should be a prophet on the same level with Moses, or a priest after the imperfect type of those who presented their fleshly offerings on a brazen altar.2

Dispensationalists disagree with this evaluation of the kingdom prophecies and their fulfillment. They teach that Christ at His first advent offered the Jewish nation an earthly political kingdom. If the Jews had accepted Jesus as the Messiah, He would have re-established the old Davidic political kingdom, exalted its majesty and extended its rule to the uttermost parts of the earth. Because the Jewish nation rejected the Christ, this kingdom offer was retracted and the earthly, political, re-established Davidic kingdom was postponed until the future Jewish millennium. Between the withdrawal of the kingdom offer and the future millennial establishment of the kingdom was inserted the church age, a parenthesis in God's prophesied program for Israel and the nations. The present age and the present reign of Christ have no direct relationship to the Davidic covenant or to Messianic prophecy, according to dispensationalism. The following comments by Dr. John F. Walvoord on the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant are representative of dispensational thought:

If a literal interpretation be adopted, the present session of Christ is not a fulfillment of the covenant and it must be referred to the future. It is clear that at the present time Christ is not in any literal sense reigning over the kingdom of David.3

A literal promise spiritualized is exegetical fraud. The point of the Davidic covenant is that the Son of David will possess the throne of His father David. To make His person literal but His throne a spiritualized concept is to nullify the promise.4

The New Testament is totally lacking in positive teaching that the throne of the Father in heaven is to be identified with the Davidic throne. The inference is plain that Christ is seated on the Father's throne, but that this is not at all the same thing as being seated on the throne of David.5

Which of these two understandings of the Davidic covenant and kingdom is correct? I was once committed to the dispensational understanding of the Messianic kingdom but now am convinced that the Reformed understanding is correct. In my change of conviction on this subject, three areas of study were crucial. First, I came to a better understanding of the word kingdom. Second, I re-examined the New Testament's testimony about the establishment of the kingdom at Christ's first advent. And third, I came to see some of the problems associated with the dispensational explanation of the kingdom.

First, there is the meaning of the word kingdom. Once I could not understand why anyone would believe that Christ is now ruling over His Messianic kingdom. When I thought of the Messianic kingdom, I pictured Christ ruling from earth over a territorial realm and exercising authority over political subjects after the pattern of King David in the Old Testament. I could see the Davidic kingdom in the Old Testament and I could visualize a Messianic kingdom rule in the coming Jewish millennium, but I could not see any direct association between the Messianic kingdom and the church age. Part of my problem was the common primary association of the English word kingdom with realm and subjects. The following are the second and third definitions of the word kingdom given in the Oxford English Dictionary:

These definitions are what we normally associate with the word kingdom, and these definitions are consistent with the dispensational interpretation in which kingdom must refer to a political kingdom. These definitions, however, are secondary definitions. The primary meaning of the English word kingdom is the following: This primary definition is marked obsolete, which explains why we seldom associate it with the word, but this obsolete definition is the primary meaning of both the Hebrew and the Greek words that are translated kingdom in our Bibles.8 According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, the "essential meaning" of the Greek equivalent of kingdom "is reign rather than realm."9 And the Hebrew equivalent of "the kingdom of heaven" is "an abstract construction to denote the fact that God is King ..."10 The term "can never mean the kingdom of God in the sense of a territory ruled by Him. For the expression denotes the fact that God is King, i.e., His kingly being or kingship."11 Both the Greek and the Hebrew words mean primarily the majesty and authority of the king. This abstract meaning is the primary meaning of the word, and the concrete aspects of a realm and subjects are secondary meanings.

This understanding of the word kingdom is well demonstrated in a parable which Christ gave in Luke 19:11-27 when he was about to enter Jerusalem and some "thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear" (verse 11):

A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But the citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
Notice that this man left both his realm and his subjects to receive his kingdom. Leaving one's realm and subjects to receive one's kingdom makes little sense if kingdom refers primarily to a realm and subjects. But if the word kingdom refers primarily to the authority to rule, this usage of the word in the parable makes perfect sense. This parable is allegorically referring to Jesus' ascending to the Father to receive His kingdom.

This proper understanding of the word kingdom clarifies the meaning of many passages. For example, in Matthew 6:33, Christ said, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." What is the Christian to seek in order to obey this commandment, a theocratic kingdom in a future age or God's rule and authority in all of life now? Also, notice the second petition of the Lord's prayer: "Thy kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10). With this proper understanding of the word kingdom, this second petition is almost synonymous with the third petition, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

When one realizes that the word kingdom has a primary reference to an abstract reign and a secondary reference to a concrete realm, he can easily understand how Christ's kingdom is simultaneously past, present and future. It is past in that the old Davidic political kingdom prefigured and anticipated the coming Messianic reign and in that Christ at His first advent actively established and exercised His authority to rule and to reign. It is future in that it is not until the time of the new heavens and the new earth that Christ's kingdom will be fully and perfectly realized in the concrete elements of realm (the new earth) and subjects (the elect of all ages). It is present in that the Lord Christ now has all authority in heaven and on earth and now is progressively concretizing His reign as the nations are discipled. As nations and peoples acknowledge and submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ, He is progressively possessing in practice what is already His in principle. The Messianic kingdom relates to the here and now as well as to the past and future. This is not an age of kingdom parenthesis and postponement.

The second area of study that caused me to change my concept of the Messianic kingdom from dispensational to Reformed was a general study of the New Testament's teachings on the kingdom. To begin with, the language of Scripture does not say that Christ at His first advent offered a kingdom that could potentially be postponed. The language of Scripture indicates that Christ at His first advent established a kingdom. Both John the Baptist and Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom was near at hand (Matthew 3:2; 4:17), not that it was potentially near at hand. Jesus told his disciples to seek the kingdom because "it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). Jesus gave specific instructions on how to enter the kingdom (John 3:3,5; Matthew 5:20; 7:21) and stated that "every man presseth into it" (Luke 16:16). In His Beatitudes, Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom belonged to those "which are persecuted for righteousness's sake" (Matthew 5:11). Christ spoke of the kingdom as an actuality that He was establishing, not as a potentiality that He might postpone.

Further, Jesus spoke as if the establishment of His kingdom was especially manifested in the casting out of demons (Matthew 12:28-30). In the casting out of demons, Satan, the strong man, was bound and his property was plundered (Matthew 12:29). When the disciples reported that "even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name," Jesus proclaimed that Satan was falling from heaven like lightning (Luke 10:17-18). The power of the name of Jesus over demons demonstrated that Satan was a defeated foe whose power was being grounded out. The kingdoms of this world had been in bondage to demonic paganism and under the lordship of Satan, who was called the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Satan had come to regard the world's glory and domain as his own (Luke 4:6). But Christ invaded the kingdom of Satan and won the deciding victory. As Christ anticipated His plundering of Satan's treasure through the drawing of people from all nations unto Himself, he declared, "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (John 12:31).12 This coming victory over Satan was so clearly manifested by the casting out of demons that Jesus said: "But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you" (Matthew 12:28). This verse is especially significant in that it occurs in the very chapter in which, according to the dispensationalists, Christ was withdrawing His kingdom offer. Commenting on this verse, George Ladd has said:

While the kingdom as the realm in which God's will is perfectly done continues to be future, the kingdom as the active saving power of God has come into the world in the person and activity of Christ to redeem men from the kingdom of Satan.13

Jesus also clarified the nature of the kingdom He was establishing in the parables of Matthew 13. Christ gave these parables, not to explain that He would not be establishing the Davidic kingdom spoken of in prophecy, but to correct some popular misconceptions about the prophesied Messianic kingdom. The mystery or previously unrevealed truth about the kingdom was not that God was going to postpone the kingdom program and temporarily engage in a church program that would be altogether different from the prophesied program. The mystery of the kingdom was that the kingdom would be established, not with cataclysmic suddenness and flaming judgment, but gradually and slowly. The kingdom was not to be established swiftly with military might, but peaceably through the sowing of the Word and the patient waiting for spiritual fruit. Kingdom success would not be immediate or sudden or conspicuous. Many would reject the kingdom like hardened soil rejects seed, and others would profess allegiance only to fall away like a plant in shallow soil or among thorns. The enemies of the kingdom were not to be immediately destroyed, but were to remain in this age like tares in a wheat field. The wicked were not to be fully removed from this world until the end of the age when their judgment will be like the burning of tares after a wheat harvest or the disposal of inedible fish after a harvest from the sea. The kingdom was to have a small and inconspicuous beginning, like a mustard seed, but it was gradually to grow into a great and remarkable entity. The kingdom was eventually to affect the whole world like a small bit of leaven brings life to a large and inert mass of dough. Though the kingdom had a small beginning, it was of great value and was worth giving one's life for. It was like a small pearl of great value or some treasure inconspicuously hidden in a field. Though these are small in size, men will sell all to obtain them. The kingdom parables taught that the kingdom was extremely valuable and that the kingdom had a great future before it even though its outward success would not be immediate or always apparent.

Jesus continued to refer to His kingdom work throughout His ministry. Referring to His own presence, Jesus told the Pharisees that the kingdom was in their midst (Luke 17:20-21). Jesus gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19) and told his disciples that some of them would not taste death "till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom" (Matthew 16:28). Jesus explained the principles of kingdom greatness (Matthew 18:1f.), kingdom forgiveness (Matthew 18:21f.) and the first and the last in the kingdom (Matthew 19:30f.; 20:20f.). Jesus explained the relationships of spiritual eunuchs (Matthew 19:12), covenant children (Matthew 19:14), and the materially rich (Matthew 19:23) to the kingdom. Jesus warned the chief priests and elders of Israel that the publicans and harlots were entering the kingdom ahead of them (Matthew 21:31) and that the kingdom would be taken away from them and given to others (Matthew 21:43; 22:1f.).

Near the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus entered Jerusalem and was acclaimed as the Messianic King of prophecy (John 12:13). Soon afterward, at His trial, Jesus was accused of being a political king and a rival of Caesar (John 18:33; 19:12). Jesus denied this, saying that His kingdom was not of this world and arguing that if His kingdom were of this world, His followers would have fought to have prevented His arrest (John 18:36). Earlier in His ministry, Christ had rejected a move to force Him to be such a king (John 6:15). It is noteworthy that Christ did not argue before Pilate that He had indeed come to set up a political kingship modeled after King David's but that He had since postponed all that and was no longer a rival to Caesar. Caesar's soldiers mocked the kingship of Jesus (John 19:1-3), and He was crucified under the indictment: "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews" (John 19:19). Jesus had given no evidence that He had offered a political kingdom to Israel. This instead was the misinformation His enemies had used to have Him crucified.

After His crucifixion, Jesus was resurrected from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father. The New Testament stresses that this resurrection-ascension established in a special way Jesus' Messianic kingship. The resurrected Christ appeared to the disciples and made the regal claim, "All power (or authority) is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18). He then promised to be with the church till the end of the age and gave the church the royal responsibility of discipling the nations, thereby securing for Christ His rightful realm. After giving the Great Commission, Christ ascended up into heaven in a cloud in fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14:

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Through His resurrection and ascension, Jesus became the Messianic Son of God in power (Romans 1:4).14 Jesus' divine Sonship as the second Person of the Godhead had no beginning or need for exaltation, but His Messianic Sonship as a human Son of David was established in power when Christ entered into His glorified resurrection existence. This Messianic Sonship had a beginning, a time at which God said, "Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten thee" (Psalm 2:7).15 Therefore Peter could say on Pentecost regarding the resurrection-ascension of Jesus:

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ. Acts 2:36
The title Christ, which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah, means the anointed one, which is the Old Testament title for God's chosen king over Israel (1 Samuel 24:6; Samuel 23:1; Psalm 2:2).

At the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch, Paul proclaimed a similar message about the Messianic rule of Jesus:

And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten thee. Acts 13:32-33
This second Psalm was written in terms of the Davidic kingdom as evidenced by the statement, "Yet have I set My king upon My holy hill of Zion." And yet the New Testament nowhere teaches that this Psalm awaits fulfillment in a future Jewish age. The New Testament instead gives repeated indication that the Messianic coronation spoken of in this Psalm was fulfilled at the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

In Acts 4:25-28, the second Psalm is again spoken of as fulfilled by "Thy holy Child (or Servant) Jesus whom Thou hast anointed." The book of Revelation also testifies that Jesus Christ by His resurrection-ascension and present heavenly reign has fulfilled and is fulfilling the second Psalm:

And he that overcometh and keepeth My works unto the end, to Him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers (Psalm 2:9): even as I received of My Father. Revelation 2:26-27

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9); and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. Revelation 12:5

And the author of Hebrews gave the following evidence:
So also the Christ glorified not Himself to be made a high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art My Son, to day have I begotten Thee. Hebrews 5:5

Another Psalm that clearly refers to the Messianic kingdom is the 110th Psalm, which begins as follows:

The Lord said unto My Lord, Sit thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
The dispensationalists claim that there is no basis for teaching that "the throne of the Father in heaven is to be identified with the Davidic throne,"16 and yet this Psalm clearly identifies the Messianic throne with the right hand of the Father. And Peter quoted this very Psalm in his Pentecost sermon in which he sought to prove that God had made Jesus "both Lord and Christ" through His resurrection-ascension (Acts 2:29-36). The New Testament contains significant additional testimony that the fulfillment of this Messianic Psalm began with the resurrection, ascension and heavenly seating of Jesus Christ.17

That Jesus is now exercising His prophesied Messianic rule is further confirmed by the apostolic church's total ignorance of any kingdom postponement. At Samaria, "Philip preached the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12). Paul and Barnabus encouraged newly formed churches with the message: "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). The unbelieving Jews at Thessalonica charged that Paul and Silas were acting "contrary to the decree of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus" (Acts 17:7). At Ephesus, Paul spoke "boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God" (Acts 19:8; compare 20:25). Throughout Paul's imprisonment at Rome, he "preached the kingdom of God" (Acts 28:31; compare verse 23). If Paul was aware that the kingdom had been postponed, he gave no indication of it. Perhaps this is why extreme ultra-dispensationalists conclude that the kingdom was not postponed until after the book of Acts and that Acts and all the epistles written during the time of the Acts are Jewish books and not Christian books!

The kingdom is also mentioned often in the New Testament epistles. For example, Paul spoke of salvation as deliverance from the domain of Satan into the kingdom of God's dear Son (Colossians 1:13). In Colossians 4:10-11, Paul referred to Aristarchus, Mark and Justus as "fellowworkers unto the kingdom of God." There are many other similar passages.18 The dispensationalist reasons that since these verses definitely refer directly to the church age and since, according to dispensationalism, the kingdom Christ offered to Israel was entirely unrelated to the church age, then the word kingdom in the above verses must refer to something entirely different from the word kingdom in the preaching of Christ. They argue that the word kingdom refers to "the universal and spiritual kingdom or rule of God"19 in verses such as the above. But where was the word kingdom redefined in Scripture? What is the Scriptural basis for claiming that the "normal" meaning of the word kingdom in the New Testament epistles is entirely different from the "normal" meaning of the word in the Gospels? To use a criticism which Dr. Ryrie used against an amillennialist, the reason that the dispensationalist does not see the kingdom which Christ offered in the above verses is because "he feels, of course, that he has found justifiable reasons for spiritualizing the concept of the kingdom."20 The "justifiable reason" here is that a consistent interpretation of the word kingdom would greatly contradict some basic dispensational assumptions.

Lastly, we want to look at some of the difficulties associated with the dispensational view of the Messianic kingdom. We will do this by looking at the dispensational explanation of the simple promise in the Davidic covenant, "I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever" (2 Samuel 7:13b). Dispensationalists teach that this covenant will be fulfilled literally and unconditionally. If this is the case, then dispensationalists need to explain how the throne of David remained literally established during the time of the Babylonian exile? Verses 38, 39 and 44 of the eighty-ninth Psalm give the following description of the status of the Davidic covenant during times of divine chastisement:

But Thou hast cast off and abhorred, Thou hast been wroth with Thine anointed. Thou hast made void the covenant of Thy servant: Thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.

Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne to the ground.

There are only two ways of which I am aware that the dispensationalist could deal with this. On the one hand, he could acknowledge that the Davidic covenant is conditional in the sense that God blesses in accordance with holiness. Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost takes this route and says:

The only conditional element in the covenant was whether the descendents of David would continually occupy the throne or not. Disobedience might bring about chastening, but never abrogate the covenant. Peters says:
Some ... wrongfully infer that the entire promise is conditional over against the most express declarations to the contrary as to the distinguished One, the pre-eminent Seed. It was, indeed, conditional as to the ordinary seed of David ..., and if his seed would have yielded obedience, David's throne would never have been vacated until the Seed, par excellence, came; but being disobedient, the throne was overthrown, and will remain thus "a tabernacle fallen down," "a house desolate," until rebuilt and restored by the Seed.21
Dr. Pentecost then goes on to argue that the Davidic covenant is unconditional because
... the covenant was reaffirmed after repeated acts of disobedience on the part of the nation. ... These reaffirmations would and could not have been made if the covenant were conditioned upon any response on the part of the nation.22
I disagree with the dispensational teaching on conditional and unconditional covenants, but I am in basic agreement with what Dr. Pentecost has said above about the Davidic covenant. The blessings of the Davidic covenant were conditioned upon obedience by the seed of David. This, however, did not mean that the Davidic covenant could have been abrogated or laid aside because the covenant ultimately had reference to the sinless Christ who through His obedience merited the full blessings of this covenant for His people. I believe Dr. Pentecost has dealt with the problem of the Babylonian exile by compromising the usual dispensational teaching on the nature of an unconditional covenant. I will examine the dispensational dichotomy between conditional and unconditional covenants in the next chapter.

On the other hand, a dispensationalist could deal with the problem of the Babylonian exile by defining the Davidic throne in such a non-literal fashion that the throne could said to be established even while unoccupied. This is the solution suggested by Dr. John F. Walvoord:

By the term "throne" it is clear that no reference is made to a material throne, but rather to the dignity and power which was sovereign and supreme in David as king. The right to rule always belonged to David's seed. By the term "kingdom" there is reference to David's political kingdom over Israel. By the expression "for ever" it is signified that the Davidic authority and Davidic kingdom or rule over Israel shall never be taken from David's posterity. The right to rule will never be transferred to another family, and its arrangement is designed for eternal posterity. Whatever its changing form, temporary interruptions, or chastisements, the line of David will always have the right to rule over Israel and will, in fact, exercise this privilege. This then, in brief, is the covenant of God with David.23

It is, then, not necessary for the line to be unbroken as to actual conduct of the kingdom, but it is rather that the lineage, royal prerogative, and right to the throne be preserved and never lost, even in sin, captivity, and dispersion. It is not necessary, then, for continuous political government to be in effect, but it is necessary that the line not be lost.24

If the Davidic throne only refers to "the right to rule," then the seed of David did retain the throne even when in Babylonian exile. This brings us to an interesting question: Does Christ not now possess "the dignity and power which was sovereign and supreme in David as king" and "the right to rule"? If the more immediate seed of David could possess the Davidic throne even when in Babylon by retaining the "right to rule," then why does not Jesus now possess the Davidic throne? If one accepts Dr. Walvoord's definition of the Davidic throne, then how can one possibly also hold that Christ does not now possess it because He is not literally ruling from earthly Jerusalem?

In arguing that Christ does not now possess the throne of David, dispensationalists insist that the true throne of David must be an earthly throne. They have insisted that a heavenly throne (Revelation 12:5) and a heavenly Mount Zion (Hebrews 12:22) do not fulfill the prophecy of the Davidic covenant. For example, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer has said the following:

... the throne of David is precisely what David believed it to be, an earthly institution which has never been, nor will it ever be, in heaven.25
More recently some dispensationalists have begun to teach that the Messianic rule will be exercised from both an earthly throne and a heavenly throne, as evidenced by the following quotations from Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost:

According to the established principles of interpretation the Davidic covenant demands a literal fulfillment. This means that Christ must reign on David's throne on the earth over David's people forever.26

This heavenly city will be brought into a relation to the earth at the beginning of the millennium, and perhaps will be made visible above the earth. It is from this heavenly city that David's greater Son exerts His Messianic rule, in which the Bride reigns, and from which the rewarded Old Testament saints exercise their authority in government.27

In closing this chapter, I would like to point out the practical difference between the Reformed and the dispensational views of the kingdom. When one accepts the Reformed understanding of the Davidic kingdom, it really is meaningful to the Christian today. It relates to the here and now, not to a future Jewish age. The prayer "Thy kingdom come" makes sense for today in the Reformed system. The dispensational view of the kingdom neglects the full significance of the present reign of Christ and can led to a pietistic, other-worldly sort of Christianity that is culturally impotent. Some dispensationalists have said, "Why polish the brass on a sinking ship?" and "My job is to fish for men, not to clean up the goldfish bowl." Dr. John F. Walvoord has expressed this mentality well in the following quotation from his book The Millennial Kingdom:

The premillennial concept of the present age makes the inter-advent period unique and unpredicted in the Old Testament. The present age is one in which the gospel is preached to all the world. Relatively few are saved. The world becomes, in fact, increasingly wicked as the age progresses. The premillennial view holds no prospects of a golden age before the second advent, and presents no commands to improve society as a whole. The apostles are notably silent on any program of political, social, moral, or physical improvement of the unsaved world. Paul made no effort to correct social abuses or to influence the political government for good. The program of the early church was one of evangelism and Bible teaching. It was a matter of saving souls out of the world rather than saving the world. It was neither possible nor in the program of God for the present age to become the kingdom of God on earth.28

End Notes

1 Patrick Fairbairn, Prophecy Viewed in Respect to Its Distinct Nature, Its Special Function, and Proper Interpretation (n.p.: T.&T. Clark, 1865; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), pages 230-231.
2 Patrick Fairbairn, Prophecy, page 229.
3 John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), page 199.
4 Ibid., page 200.
5 Ibid., page 203.
6 The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 1971), s.v. "kingdom."
7 The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. "kingdom."
8 George Eldon Ladd, Crucial Questions about the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1952), pages 77-81.
9 Gerhard Kittel, editor; Geoffrey W. Bromley, translator and editor, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964), 1:582.
10 Gerhard Kittel, editor, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 1:572.
11 Gerhard Kittel, editor, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 1:571-572. According to Ridderbos, "in Jewish eschatological literature the malkuth shamaim [kingdom of heaven] is understood to be the coming universal revelation of the kingship of God with which the appearance of the Messiah is intimately connected." Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom (n.p.: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1962), page 13.
12 Compare Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 12:9.
13 George Eldon Ladd, Crucial Questions about the Kingdom of God, page 89.
14 John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959, 1965), 1:9-12.
15 H.C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959), pages 50-51; Gerhard Kittel, editor, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 8:367.
16 John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, page 203.
17 Hebrews 1:13; 5:6; 7:17,21; 10:12-13; Matthew 22:41-46; 1 Corinthians 15:25-27a.
18 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 4:18.
19 Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), page 172; J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), pages 471-472.
20 Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, page 93.
21 J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, pages 103-104.
22 Ibid., page 104.
23 John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, page 196.
24 Ibid., page 201.
25 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 4:315.
26 J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, page 112.
27 Ibid., page 546.
28 John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, page 134.

* Grover Gunn is the Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church (PCA), Jackson, Tennessee. Visit his website for many excellent articles and sermons: http://grovergunn.net/andrew/andrew.htm.

This article is used with permission.