By Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry Jr
In reading the New Testament we learn that even the disciples themselves miss his point for the most part — while Christ is on earth and they are under his direct daily tutelage for three and one-half years (just as they missed his teaching regarding his death and resurrection, Lk 24:6–9; Jn 2:22; 20:9, 24–26). In the Emmaus Road encounter after the crucifixion, certain disciples lament: “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done” (Lk 24:21). Jesus rebukes them for such foolishness: “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:25–27). They expect Israel’s political deliverance and exaltation through the Messiah.3 But Jesus explains prophecy’s true meaning, showing them that he must suffer and then enter his resurrected, heavenly glory.4
In response to the Pharisees Christ specifically declares that the kingdom does not come visibly with temporal fanfare. “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: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17:20–21). Obviously this demands the kingdom’s spiritual conception in contradiction to dispensationalism’s Armageddon-introduced, geo-political kingdom, where “every eye shall see him.” Walvoord goes to the trouble of providing a strange, technical explanation of Revelation 1:7, showing how every eye will see him when he returns, no matter where they are on the globe. He notes in this regard:
The question is raised how, in a global situation with the world’s population all over the globe, at any one moment every eye will be able to see Christ’s coming to earth. The answer seems to be found in 19:11–16. The coming of Christ, unlike the Rapture, will not be an instantaneous event but will be a gigantic procession of holy angels and saints from heaven to earth. There is no reason why this should not take twenty-four hours with its termination on the Mount of Olives. In that period the earth will revolve, and regardless of what direction Christ comes form, people will be able to see His coming from their position on the earth.5All of this explains why Christ goes about preaching the “gospel of the kingdom” (Mt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mk 1:14–15). He proclaims a redemptive, spiritual kingdom, not a political, visible kingdom. Hence, when he ascends to his heavenly throne he pours out spiritual gifts rather than political entitlements (Lk 24:44–49; Ac 2:30–35; 3:22–26; 8:12; Eph 4:8–11)
The Jewish authorities accuse Jesus of promoting a political kingdom to compete with Caesar’s empire (Lk 23:2; Jn 19:12, 15; cf. Ac 17:7; 15:8). This explains why Jesus asks Pilate where he received the political accusation against him (Jn 18:34) — he knows of the Jews’ misconception in this regard. His answer indicates his kingdom’s spiritual nature:
Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself on this, or did others tell you this about Me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (Jn 18:33–37)
At his triumphal entry into Jerusalem he presents his kingship in terms of meekness and lowliness, not as a conquering, political authority. “All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass’” (Mt 21:4, 5). John adds that “these things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto Him” (Jn 12:15–16). They initially conceived of him in political terms, as did the Emmaus Road disciples (Lk 24:18–21).
Paul picks up on and promotes the spiritual-redemptive nature of Christ’s kingdom, when he writes that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Ro 14:17). He disavows any geo-political conception of the kingdom. Likewise, he speaks of attaining an inheritance in the spiritual kingdom (the heavenly aspect of the kingdom) for those who are righteous (1Co 6:9–10; 15:50; Gal 5:21). He very plainly declares the kingdom’s heavenly aspect: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1Co 15:50). How could an earthly, political kingdom not offer an inheritance for flesh-and-blood people? That is the whole idea supporting the notion. But Christ’s kingdom is salvific, whereby we are “delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:12, 13).
1. Randall Price, “Prophetic Postponement,” Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy, 300.
2. Randall Price, “Prophetic Postponement,” PEBP, 301.
3. Cf. their hope that he would “redeem Israel” with the Old Testament dec-laration that God “redeemed” Israel by delivering them from Egypt to become an independent nation, Dt 7:8; 9:26; 13:5; 15:15; 24:18; 1C. 17:21; Mic 6:4.
4. Surely we cannot deny that at Christ’s resurrection and ascension he immediately “entered his glory,” which is evidenced by Pentecost: Jn 7:39; 12:16; 12:23; Ac 3:13. He is now the “Lord of glory,” cf. Jas 2:1; 1Pe 1:11; 2Pe 3:18; Heb 2:9.
5. Walvoord, Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, 524.