A Scriptural view of the advancement of Christ's Kingdom By Jack Kettler
The following is a study dealing with the advancement of Christ's Kingdom in history. It is a survey of traditional postmillennial Protestant eschatology. No claims are made for originality. The writer is dependent on numerous brilliant theologians.
The God of Holy Scripture is Sovereign. Right now, He is governing this world by the word of his power. He is presently giving covenantal blessings and cursing according to his good pleasure. None can stay his hand. He controls all things including history. Men should fear and tremble before him.
The Scriptures set forth a much different view of history than many would like to believe. God not only controls history but has planned it as well. See Dan. 4:34-35 and Ephesians 2:11. There is a continual advancement of redemptive history in the Bible. God's purposes are not thwarted. Satan will not be a winner in human history. Christ Jesus has gained the victory. Satan's power has been broken. He is presently chained. He has always been restricted to doing only what God Almighty has permitted. Will Jesus be the winner in history or Satan? What sayeth the Scriptures?
We will survey Old and New Testament passages to see the continual advancement of redemptive history. The kingdom of Christ in history will subdue all others. Then and only then will come the end of the age. At this point, death itself will be forever defeated and the kingdom turned over to God the Father. Let us start with the book of Genesis. The first passage we will consider is Genesis 3:15.
This verse is significant because it sets forth God's promise of redemption and the defeat of Satan:
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
This verse is recognized as the first messianic prophecy. The verse speaks of the war between the followers of righteousness and Satan. From the seed of the woman, Christ would come and defeat Satan. Satan appears to gain the victory when Christ is crucified. Christ then rises victoriously from the grave and crushes Satan's head. Eve says that she had gotten a man from the Lord. It is significant that Adam and Eve named their first son Cain (to possess or to bring forth). See Genesis 4:1. The meaning of Cain's name evidences the fact that Adam and Eve understood God's promise of a redeemer who would come forth from Eve and would defeat Satan. They thought that this promise would be fulfilled immediately as evidenced by their firstborn son's name. They thought God through Cain would bring forth deliverance from the curse.
It is essential to see the promises of growth of the godly seed in human history. The verses that follow will continue to set forth the theme begun in Genesis 3:15 of the Messianic victory in history:
“And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth beblessed.Genesis12:3 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.” (Genesis 13:16)
“And he brought him forth abroad, and said, look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, so shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5-6)
And I will make thee exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. Genesis 17:6
“That in blessing I will bless, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:17-18)
“And, behold the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 28:13-14)
The above verses set forth the clear promises of victory for the godly seed. Consider the following points that we see from the above passages:
· All families would be blessed,
· All nations blessed,
· Unable to number the Godly seed,
· Nations and kings (plural) to come forth,
· Possessing the gates of your enemies
The following New Testament passages prove that these Abrahamic promises are fulfilled in Christ.
“These promises prove that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith....And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:14, 29)
“Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with out fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” (Acts 3:25-26)
The universal Abrahamic promises of victory flow right into the new covenant of Christ. These promises are fulfilled through the preaching and teaching of the gospel. There are other important messianic promises to consider:
“Why Do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psalm 2)
“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD's: and he is governor among the nations.” (Psalm 22:27-28)
“He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him, and his enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.” (Psalm 72:8-11)
“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.” (Psalm 110:1-2)
These Messianic Psalms clearly show Christ's dominion over all of the earth. In 2 Samuel we see the promise of the Davidic covenant:
“He shall build a house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom forever...And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:13, 16)
The Davidic promise shows there will be a kingdom and One who sits upon a throne forever. This is fulfilled in the New Covenant of Christ. The earthly throne of David was a type of the heavenly throne.
Christ now sits upon this throne and rules:
“This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool.” (Acts 2:32-35)
It is significant that Peter quotes Psalm 110:1 as proof that this is now happening. Christ is now ruling and exercising dominion. Christ does this through the preaching of the gospel. Individuals are converted, and begin living lives in conformity to what has been commanded. See Matthew 28:20. Those converted are part of Christ's inheritance. (See Psalm 2)
Additional passages that show Christ's dominion:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:2-4)
The above verse shows Christ's victory and rule in history. The phrase "last days" has specific reference to the end of the old Jewish world order. See I Corinthians 10:11 and Hebrews 9:26. These verses speak of the end of the world, as it relates to the end of Old Testament Covenant order. 1 Peter 4:7 speaks of the Old Covenant as ready to pass away. Hebrews 1:2 says specifically that the Christians in the first century were living in the “last days.” We see the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 A.D., and the end of the Old Testament sacrificial system. We are now living in the New Covenant world order, which is characterized by the rule of Christ in history through the preaching of the gospel and its effects in history. Isaiah has more to say concerning Christ's dominion:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. Isaiah 9:6-7.
The phrase “no end to his government” presents a powerful argument against the concept of the defeat of Christ's kingdom before the second coming. Premillennialists say, “yes there will be an end to Christ's government.” Consider the next verse:
“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people, to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:9-10)
This passage speaks of the gospel age. “...to it shall the Gentiles seek” clearly finds fulfillment during the gospel age. The phrase “...the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD” speaks of the extent of the influence of the gospel. There is no hint of the defeat of Christ's kingdom.
“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days, for the child shall die an hundred years old, but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them, and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit, they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble, for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 65:17-25)
These passages in Isaiah 65:17-25 are not talking about heaven because it is said there are still sinners and death. It is also interesting to note that Jesus is not said to be physically present upon earth, which constitutes a powerful argument against a premillennial interpretation of these passages. These verses should be understood in a figurative sense. Some premillennialists believe these verses are talking about the millennium, but it should be noted that the word millennium is not even mentioned. Revelation chapter twenty contains the only passages in the Bible that use the word millennium. Sound hermeneutic principles demand that we do not use an obscure passage in a book, which utilizes apocalyptic writing to interpret other portions of scripture. This is exactly what the proponents of premillennialism do.
Isaiah in Old Testament figurative language sets forth the blessings of Christ's gospel upon the earth during the New Covenant Church age. In the book of Ezekiel, we can see the growth of the church and the spread of the gospel utilizing Old Testament forms:
“Afterward He brought me again unto the door of the house, and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar...Afterward he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over... Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed, and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.” (Ezekiel 47:1, 3, 5, 8-9)
The passages in both Isaiah and in Ezekiel show an advancement of God's redemptive purposes in history. We do not see defeat for God's kingdom in history.
In the book of Daniel, we see that Christ's kingdom will defeat all human kingdoms:
“Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee, and the form thereof was terrible. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors, and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:31-35)
“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.” (Daniel 7:13-14)
Jesus identified himself as the very person of Daniel 7:13-14. Matthew 26:64 provides biblical proof of this. The Jews knew the significance of this claim as evidenced by their reaction in verse sixty-five. The Jews delivered Christ to the Romans to be crucified, seemingly giving Satan the victory. Remember Genesis 3:15. Christ rose from the dead victorious and is now seated on the heavenly throne (Acts 7:55).
Satan's power has been broken:
“And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” (Luke 10:18)
“Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house.” (Matthew 12:29)
“And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:15)
“And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:1-2)
The above four selections are a reality now. The passage in Revelation is not something that will happen in the future; it is a present reality. Some comments concerning the period when this book was written will be necessary. This is because futuristic interpreters inadvertently undermine the clear teaching of scripture that Satan is bound or restricted. The texts that reveal when the prophecy of this book will take place are called time indicator texts. They show that the book of Revelation is historical, not eschatological. See Revelation 1:1, 3 and Revelation 22:6,1 0. John in 22:10 is told: “...seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.” Compare Rev. 22:10 with Daniel 12:4. Daniel is told to “shut up the words, and seal the book.” The burdens of Daniel’s prophesy deals with the coming of the Messiah. See Dan. 9:24-27. This would happen in approximately 500 years. Daniel is told to “seal the book” and John is told, “seal not...the prophecy” of this book. These two commands are exact opposites, proving that John's Revelation was fulfilled in the first century. The biblical conclusion is that: Just as the time indicator texts of Revelation show “The time is at hand” 1:3, and “...which must shortly be done”, and “Behold, I come quickly” 22:6. Many Old Testament prophecies have already been fulfilled and bring glory to God and build the faith of God's people. The prophecy of Revelation is fulfilled like the prophecy of the virgin birth.
It will be important to consider the extent of Christ's power. Does He only have partial control of the Universe or sovereign control?
Consider the two following verses:
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, all power is given unto me in heaven and earth.” (Matthew 28:18)
“And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power. Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” (Ephesians 1:19-23)
What did Jesus teach concerning the growth of his kingdom? Consider two parables:
“Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. Another parable spake he unto them, The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” (Matthew 13:31-33)
These parables set forth identical teaching as Daniel 2:31-35 showing how Christ's kingdom will subdue all other kingdoms. Now let us turn to an important passage that ends the debate concerning the alleged earthly defeat of Christ's kingdom in history:
“For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:25-28)
The Scripture is clear, right now Christ is reigning. His kingdom is moving forward in history. He will continue reigning until all things are put under him. Not until then, and only then, will this present age of the gospel close. It is time for Christians to renew their efforts of preaching the gospel and disciplining of the nations. We have good reasons to believe that our efforts will be successful. Our reasons are found in the promises of God who cannot lie. We also have repeatedly seen in Scripture the fulfillment of prophecy, which encourages our efforts.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them [the nations] to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Will our efforts to fulfill this great commission and the disciplining of the nations be successful? It should be noted that this commission comes with a promise. The stone of Daniel 2:35 will never be destroyed. The stone becomes a mountain and fills the whole earth. This is the kingdom that can never be destroyed Daniel 2:44. This is Christ's Church. The mustard seed (the Church) will become a great tree.
Consider the two following scriptures:
“And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21)
I will close with the words of one of the great Christian hymns. It is again time in our churches sing and take seriously the words of this great hymn that sets forth the teaching of the Bible concerning Christ's victory over the nations. This hymn was composed during a time when believers took seriously Christ's command to disciple the nations. Today many believers are caught up in attending speculative prophecy conferences and reading into the Bible (eisegesis) contemporary news events.
Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus Going on before.
Christ the royal Master leads against the foe
Forward into battle, See, his banners go.
At the sign of triumph, Satan's host doth flee.
On then, Christian soldiers On to victory.
Hell's foundation’s quiver At the shout of praise.
Brothers, lift your voices, Loud your anthems raise.
Like a mighty army Moves the church of God,
Brothers, we are treading Where the saints have trod,
We are not divided, All one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, One in charity.
Crowns and thrones may perish, Kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus Constant will remain,
Gates of hell can never Gainst that church prevail
We have Christ's own promise, And that cannot fail.
Onward, then, ye people, Join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices In the triumph song
Glory, laud and honor Unto Christ the King
This through countless ages Men and angels sing.
Onward Christian soldiers Marching as to war, with
the cross of Jesus going on before. Sabine Baring-Gould, 1865. Amen!
“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com