Kingdom of God
1 Cor. 15:25
Eph. 1:3; 2:6
1 Peter 2:9
Preliminary Points on the Kingdom of God
The Church of Christ usually1 reads "the kingdom of God" in scripture as synonymous with the "Church of Christ"2. It is appropriate for the Christadelphian, therefore, to show the unscriptural character of this substitution. This can be done by producing Biblical statements about the kingdom which are incompatible with statements about the ecclesia.3 The following are suggested lines of reasoning:
- Jesus stated: "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats . . . Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world . . . And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." (Matt. 25:31,32,34,46).
These conclusions follow:
- Jesus has not yet come in the throne of his glory since all nations have not been gathered before him, nor have the "sheep" been separated from the "goats".
- Therefore, the faithful are not yet in the kingdom since the invitation to enter the kingdom is not given until after the separation of the sheep from the goats.4
- If the faithful5 are not yet in the kingdom, then the kingdom of God cannot be the "church".
- Jesus stated that at the Judgment Day men will say, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" (Matt. 7:22). His statement followed the exhortation that "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21). Entry into the kingdom is conditional upon doing the will of God who is in heaven.
These conclusions follow:
- Since men have not yet been confronted by Jesus to give an account of what they have done (cf. 2 Cor. 5:9,10), they do not know for sure whether they have, in fact, done his will acceptably.
- But doing the will of God is the requisite for entry into the kingdom of God.
- Therefore the kingdom of God is not yet established, and cannot be synonymous with the "church."
- Peter asked Jesus,6 "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Matthew 19:27,28). This passage furnishes a whole array of appropriate questions to lead the Church of Christ contact to the desired conclusions. The following questions require answers:
- What is the scriptural definition of Christ's "throne of glory"? (See Matt. 25:31; cf. Peter's words in 1 Pet. 5:4).
- When will the Son of man sit on this throne? (See Matthew 25:31; cf. Peter's statement Acts 3:19-21).
- Where will the throne be located? (See Luke 1:32-33; 1 Chron. 11:4,5 cf. Ezek. 21:26,27; Acts 15:15-16).
- If the apostles are to sit on twelve thrones, when will this promise be fulfilled? (See Acts 1:6 and Matt. 16:27 cf. Rev. 11:18 - the servants are rewarded at the time of the resurrection of the dead "that they should be judged;" Rev. 3:21,22 cf. 2:26,27).
- The Apostle Paul states, "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." (1 Cor. 15:50). This passage in itself is proof that the kingdom is not the "church".
Consider the following:
- "Flesh and blood" persons presently constitute the "church".
- But, "flesh and blood" cannot inherit the kingdom,
- Therefore, the kingdom cannot be the "church".
- Paul wrote Timothy: "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;" (2 Tim. 4:1). The following questions require answers from the Church of Christ:
It is easy to establish by these questions that since the dead have not yet been raised, then the kingdom must yet be future, and, therefore, cannot be the "church".
- Is the time designated by "his appearing" the same as the time period indicated by "and his kingdom"?
- Who are the dead to whom the Apostle refers?
- When will these dead persons be raised? (The event must be future to the time when the Apostle wrote to Timothy since he says, "he shall judge the quick and the dead". How many quick and dead were judged at the beginning of "the church" and his appearing, if these occurred at Pentecost?)
- James writes to believers of the 'twelve tribes which are scattered abroad." (Jas. 1:1). He speaks of them as "heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him." (Jas. 2:5). Since baptized believers are by definition in the "church", in what sense can they be heirs of the "church" (if the kingdom is the "church")? Similarly, the Apostle Paul tells believers at Galatia: "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." (Gal. 5:21). How can believers not inherit the kingdom? If the kingdom is the "church" then believers are already in the kingdom and would have no need to fear failure to reach the promised inheritance, i.e., the kingdom of God.
- Peter writes to believers in his second epistle, (2 Pet. 1:1). He admonishes them that " . . . if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." (2 Pet. 1:10-11). Since, according to Church of Christ doctrine believers are already in the kingdom, (i.e., the "church"), how is one to understand the conditional nature of the entrance? Does the Church of Christ make the virtues listed in verses 5-7 requisites for church membership? How is one to understand the tense - "so an entrance shall be ministered . . . into the everlasting kingdom?" If believers are already in the kingdom into what are they to have a future entrance?
- The kingdom of God is to bring a reign of judgment, justice and peace. (Isa. 9:6,7; Rom. 14:17). Since the Church of Christ claims to be the kingdom of God one would expect to find judgment, justice and peace in it history. Is such the case? A perusal of Church of Christ shows it to be chequered with internecine strife. If the kingdom of God is the "church", it is not the Church of Christ.7
- The position outlined is not invariably the position of the Church of Christ since considerable variation of belief exists among the autonomous assemblies. Return
- For example, A. R. Main, a member of the Churches of Christ makes this identification: " . . . in denotation the kingdom of God, in so far as it is manifested in visible form on earth, corresponds to the church . . . " First Principles: Studies in Bible Truth (Melbourne: The Austral Printing and Publishing Co., 1969), p. 67. Return
- An important distinction should be noted: The Greek word "ecclesia", translated "church" refers to "called out" ones. The word "church" is used today to designate both the building and a religious grouping. The Church of Christ, therefore, is a "church" in the popular usage of the term, but it is not the ecclesia. It is not the ecclesia because of the false doctrines which the Church of Christ teaches. In this analysis careful attention should be given not to confuse the "Church of Christ" (i.e., the religious group known by the name today) with the ecclesia of the first century which held the doctrines presently taught by the Christadelphians. Return
- One does not know before the Judgment Day whether he is for certain a "sheep" or a "goat". The parable of the sheep and goats (Matt. 25:31-46) points out that many who think they are sheep will find out they are goats. The same self-deception is indicated in Matt. 7:22-23. Return
- It is sometimes argued that the parable of the sheep and goats refers to sheep and goat nations rather than individuals. Against this interpretation the following should be noted:
- "He shall separate them" - "them" is masculine in gender in the Greek text indicating that it refers to individuals, and not to "nations" which is neuter in gender.
- Those who inherit the kingdom are heirs of the kingdom. This is the language used of faithful brethren (Gal. 3:29; Jas. 2:5), not of nations.
- The Greek word "ethnos" translated "nations" is more frequently translated Gentiles (in the A.V.) implying Christ's stress that Gentiles, and not only Jews from "all the nations" wil be gathered to judgment.
- The righteous are commended in the parable for having given food and water to the Master as well as having visited him when sick and in prison. This is the language used elsewhere in the N.T. of believers (Matt. 10:40-42), not nations. Can it be imagined that nations such as Canada, Britain, the USA or Egypt could be commended by the Master, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" ("brethren" are defined by Christ to be those who hear and do his will - Lk. 8:21)?
- Sheep-like characteristics are attributed to believers and even to the nation of Israel (e.g. Jn. 10:1-28; Ezek. 34),. but where in Scripture is it used of other nations? Return
- It is noteworthy that in the context of this conversation that Jesus says, "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." (Matt. 19:24). If the kingdom of God is the "church," (as the Church of Christ asserts), is it difficult for a wealthy person to enter their church? It is in this context that the kingdom of God is associated with the king coming in "the throne of his glory" in the regeneration. (Matt. 19:28). Return
- Dissension still exists between Church of Christ congregations over legalistic interpretations regarding the use of church finances, the use of musical instruments to accompany worship, and the appointment of inter-church committees to promote radio and TV proselytizing. These issues are considered matters of faith and fellowship by some Church of Christ congregations. Return