The so-called Dispensation of the “Kingdom”—the “Seventh Dispensation” (continued). When Scofield speaks of the Kingdom being “at hand” he refers this to a very vague and conditional realization of the Kingdom of God as promised to David and as foretold in the prophecies. It merely means that there is not going to be some great event intervening, another “dispensation.” Evidently this means that the “millennium” is at hand as spoken of by the prophets as he interprets those prophecies. The coming of the “church age” evidently interrupted the coming of the Jewish kingdom, but it did not erase the truth of the words of Jesus that the kingdom is at hand. There is some elasticity in the phrase “at hand.” Perhaps Jesus Himself did not quite understand just when the kingdom would come.
However, the truth of the matter is that the term “at hand” means exactly what is says. We repeat that the words “at hand” cannot with good, solid interpretation and sound exegesis be construed to mean “that no known or predicted event will intervene.” This cannot be the meaning of the term here in the text, nor is such the meaning of the several passages in which the term “at hand” occurs in the New Testament Scriptures. The term “at hand” is the translation of the Greek verbeggizoo—to bring near, to join one thing to another. “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8). In Genesis 48:10 the verb is translated in the transitive sense: “and they brought them near to him”; that is, the two sons of Joseph were brought near to their grandfather Jacob to receive his paternal and prophetic blessing concerning their relative greatness in Israel, each representing a tribe amongst the twelve. This does not mean anything else but “near.”
A little study of the New Testament is very enlightening and convincing.
Here we are dealing with the intransitive usage of the verb. It does not mean to bring near but to come near. A very clear case of the usage of the term we find inMark 14:42. The text here speaks of the imminent arrival of Judas Iscariot with the soldier band to take Jesus into custody and captive in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus has just finished His agonizing prayer in the Garden. He had sweat the great drops of sweat as of blood, bringing the sacrificial high priestly offering for our sins. And now He reaches out in obedience for the accursed tree. And Judas, the son of perdition, is about to give his traitor’s kiss. The hour has struck on the clock of God; it is the hour of the power of darkness. And now Jesus tells His disciples to waken from their sleep, for the “hand of the one betraying Me is at hand” (Matt. 26:45, 46; Mark 14:42). Surely here the words “at hand” do not allow for an endless procrastination and postponement of the arrival of Judas and the soldiers and the representatives of the chief priests and elders. Jesus hears the footsteps of the captors. There shall be no more time left.
Yes, we know it, we know it. There are passages in which the term “at hand” seems to allow for something being very remotely at hand. I refer to such passages as Romans 13:12. There we read: “the night is far spent, but the day is at hand.” This places us in the breaking of the dawn of day. The day-star is shining and telling us that soon the sun shall rise, and we shall be ushered into the eternal morning of heaven’s day and the glory of the ages to come. Soon the weary night of sin and sorrow will be over, and the battle will be won and the victory shall be accorded us by free grace. “Near” inRomans 13:12 is not near by our time reckoning, but by the measuring-rod of the eternal footsteps of God, with Whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day (II Peter 3:8).
Of this we must not be ignorant!
Can one now by analogy, from this usage of the term “at hand” (Rom. 13:12), conclude that in Matthew 3:1-3, which states that the “kingdom of heaven is at hand,” it means: in the very distant future, possibly; however, “no known or predicted event will intervene?”
Thus would Scofield have his Bible readers to believe. They must read this passage through the Scofieldian spectacles.
However, we think not—in the first place because the verb “from here” is in the perfect tense (eeggiken). And it is noteworthy that this perfect tense is used in each case where it is spoken of the kingdom of heaven being near, as proclaimed by both John the Baptist and by Jesus (Matt. 3:2; Matt. 4:17; Matt. 10:7; Mark 1:15). And we must remember that in the Greek language the tenses primarily emphasize the degree of the completion of a certain act, viewed from various points in time: present, past, and future. This is important to notice. And then the perfect tense indicates completed state up till the present time. We here are dealing with a present perfect tense. “The present perfect tense does not say that an act is just completed. That may be true or not. Here again the meaning of the verb itself and the context is to be carefully observed (Aktionart)” (Short Grammer Of the Greek New Testament, A.T. Robertson).
In the second place it should be observed carefully that in the broader context in Matthew 3:4 we are told that John began to preach in “those days.” These are the days when the Son of God has come into the flesh to be the Savior of the world, of both Jew and Greek, according to the election of grace. And, in the death and resurrection and ascension of Christ, the kingdom of God is realized and the throne of David is established in righteousness. It is when the predicted prophet, who is more than a prophet, is to appear before the Lord. He is the voice, crying in the wilderness (Matt. 3:3; Isaiah 40:3). Yes, when the kingdom of heaven comes, then the reconciliation of Jerusalem will be effected. This was the message of hope and peace which was to be proclaimed: ye have received of the hand of the Lord double for all your sins (Isaiah 40:1). Then shall all who are born out of God, Jew or Greek, receive from the fullness of the Word made flesh, grace for grace (John 1:16). Yes, He will reveal God unto us. We will be those who see God face to face one day in the face of Jesus Christ.
That is the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1-3).
And when Jesus came upon earth the kingdom of God had come. All that will ever be seen in the endless heavens of the kingdom of God, as this kingdom encompasses heaven and earth, is in Him. In Him the kingdom of heaven is nigh. So nigh is that kingdom to the church that Jesus says in Luke 10:9, “And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” In this healing of the sick they were by faith to see the having come of the kingdom of God. There is a Greek text which reads, “the kingdom of God has come nigh upon you.” In this kingdom coming the devils are cast out, the lame are caused to walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the dead are raised to life. And thus the prophecies are being fulfilled as spoken by Isaiah (Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 35:4, 5, 6; Isaiah 42:7). And it is important to notice that Jesus calls this beautiful manifestation of the kingdom of heaven to John’s attention in the deepest hour of John’s doubts and fears while in the prison, where he dies as did all the prophets who preached the word of God (Matt. 5:12;James 5:10).
Yes, the kingdom in all its saving and world-conquering power had come nigh. It was in a completed state of being fulfilled. And this kingdom was not a Jewish kingdom, an earthly kingdom; it was the kingdom of heaven. Says Jesus to the unbelieving and skeptic Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence” (John 18:38).
And why was Jesus killed by the Jews? Was it because He offered them the earthly kingdom and glory of David and Solomon, and the earthly land from the River Euphrates to Egypt? Had Jesus offered them such a kingdom He would not have died, nor would He have needed to suffer the torments of hell against the wrath of God for many But the Jews knew that He did not come to establish such a kingdom. Does He not come as predicted in Zechariah 9:9?” Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout O daughter of Jerusalem: behold thy king cometh unto thee: He is just and having salvation: lowly and riding upon an ass, upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 2:10; Isaiah 62:12; Matt. 21:5; John 12:15).
Yes, the kingdom of heaven was nigh in the days when John the Baptist cried in the wilderness; when he prepared the way before Christ, calling men and women to the repentance which Christ came to give to His people in sovereign grace. For this is a repentance of faith which Christ had to merit for us on the Cross, together with all the other gifts of salvation. These we receive even as we were elected in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love (Eph. 1:3, 4). For when the kingdom of heaven was actually realized in Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, then God gave that which all the signs of the healing and life-giving of Christ referred to, as the life-giving Spirit. Did not God raise the crucified Christ into the heavenly places “to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins?” (Acts 5:30, 31). And was this same benefit not also for the Gentile believers? (Acts 11:18). Do not the skeptic Jewish believers exclaim, “Then hath God also to the Gentiles given repentance unto life!”
Now we understand that the kingdom of God indeed had come in the days of John the Baptist; that the kingdom of heaven suffered violence, and that the violent took it by force. We then understand that all the prophets prophesied until John. We understand that it is for this reason that none born from women among the prophets, nor from among the priests and kings, were greater than John.
He truly came in the spirit and power of Elias. He is the herald of the morning.
No, the kingdom did not come near in some vague, indefinite sense, so that the postponement of its coming could last till some end-time millennial period. Only by exegetical jugglery can one maintain that indefensible interpretation.
(to be continued)