No Key Power—No Kingdom of Heaven
(This chapter in Rev. Lubbers’ series has been placed out of order. Chapter 8 appeared in the August issue. Our apologies to the writer and readers alike.)
The great institution of the Key-Power of Christ in the Church in the midst of the world is worthy of careful consideration when we examine the “golden- age” period of which the Post-millennialists speak. As we have before stated, it is the teaching of the Post-millennial advocates that toward the end of this present Dispensation of the New Testament the entire world and all nations will be “christianized.” This will be brought about by the preaching of the Word through the Holy Spirit. “All nations” will then be the domain of the church to such an extent and degree that the righteousness of Christ will prevail universally. And the question is: will there be the exercise of the key-power of the preaching and of ecclesiastical discipline in the realization of such a kingdom of peace?
This all sounds very much as if there will be no longer the reality that some enter the kingdom of heaven, and some do not. All will be kingdom of Christ, it is alleged. That will be the “victory” of the Word: all nations will become Christian! The world is growing better and better. It will be beneficial to hear from an avowed Post-millenialist himself how this will be achieved by Christ through the preaching. And then we should ask the question: is there room for “key-power” in such a preaching concerning the kingdom of Christ in this world? If one inquires: when will this utopia of the victory of the Gospel become ultimately realized, the answer is:
The redemption of the world is a long, slow process, extending through centuries, yet surely approaching an appointed goal. This process ultimately shall be complete, and before Christ comes again we shall see Christianized world (Page 38, The Millennium, L. Boettner).
The question will not down: will this envisioned Post-millennial “world” be Christianized in the sense that all men shall be spiritual citizens of the Kingdom of God, and that, too, by virtue of the power of regeneration which translates them out the kingdom of darkness into God’s marvelous Kingdom of grace in Christ Jesus? To this question, thus put, we do not receive a direct and unequivocal answer. We read,
This does not mean that all sin will ever be eradicated. There will always be some tares among the wheat until the time of harvest,-and the harvest,—the Lord tells us, is the end of the world. Even the righteous fall, sometimes grievously, into temptation and sin. But this does mean that Christian principles are to become the accepted standards in public and private life [idem, page 38).
But does this mean that these Christian “principles” proceed from a regenerated heart, so that good works are performed in great gratitude of having been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, yea, good works which proceed from a true and living faith in Christ, are performed from the love Christ shed forth in the hearts of the regenerated children of God, and are, therefore, performed to the glory of the riches of the grace of Christ? We will let the author of the aforementioned citations speak for himself. Writes he,
That a great spiritual advance (I underscore, G.L.) has been made should be clear to all. Consider, for example, the awful moral and spiritual conditions that existed on earth before the coming of Christ—the world at large groping helplessly in pagan darkness, with slavery, polygamy, the oppressed conditions of women and children, the almost complete lack of political freedom, and the ignorance, poverty, and extremely primitive medical care that was the lot of nearly all except those who belonged to the ruling classes. Today the world at large is on a far higher plane. Christian principles are the accepted standards in many nations even though they are not consistently practiced. Slavery and polygamy have practically disappeared. The status of women and children has been improved immeasurably. Social and economic conditions in almost all nations have reached a new high plateau. A spirit of cooperation is much more manifest among the nations than it ever has been before. International incidents which only a few years ago would have resulted in wars are now usually settled by arbitration. As evidence of international good will witness the fact that the United States this fiscal year (July 1957 to July 1958) appropriated more than three billion dollars for foreign aid and mutual security programs, and since the end of World War II has given more than sixty billion dollars for these purposes… (idem, pg. 38, 39).
We could quote more, but this will suffice to show what an avowed advocate of the Postmillennial teachings understands by the world becoming better and better. The aforementioned citations show very clearly what, according to this teaching, must be understood by the influence of the preaching of the Gospel by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Yes, in the Millennium of this golden age of “spiritual prosperity” during this present dispensation “the world at large, will enjoy a state of righteousness such as at the present time has been seen only in relatively small and isolated groups, as for example in some family circles, some local church groups and kindred organizations” (idem, page 14).
Now we must measure this so-called kingdom of Christ by our Savior’s own standards. Will this presentation of the kingdom accord with the fact that Christ speaks of the “keys of the kingdom” of heaven, and that this kingdom does not come by outward observation? (Luke 17:20; Matthew 16:18-19; John 20:23). In that Post-millennial kingdom in the world, which is nothing more than some humanistic-humanitarism at best, is the preaching of the Gospel indeed of such a kind that it .calls to faith and repentance with the clarion cry of a John the Baptist, “Repent ye for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”? Is such a kingdom the realization of the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3 “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight”? Of course, not! It is the Satanic attempt to bring about a united kingdom in the world, the unification of all nations, to overcome the “wounded head” of the confusion of tongues of the tower of Babel; this has nothing essentially to do with the unity of the body of Christ in the bond of peace, which is in the one body of Christ, where we have one Lord, one faith, one hope, one baptism, one God and Father, Who is above all, in all and through all (Ephesians 4:3-6). It is nothing else but the preaching of a “social Gospel” which is not a gospel, and which falls too under the anathema of Paul in Galatians 1:7: “but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ”! Paul writes “though we or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed!”
What was this truth of the gospel preached by Paul? It was the justification of the poor and guilty sinner in the blood of the Cross, and of fulfilling the law of Christ in loving the brother, by a saving faith which expects the hope of righteousness in the last day, and which fulfills the law, which in one word is: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. This is the love which Christ has shed abroad in our hearts by His Spirit when He makes the dead sinner alive, and makes him sit with Christ the glorified Lord in heavenly places (Galatians 5:5-14; Ephesians 2:1-10).
In this preaching of the Cross there is key-power, which binds on earth and binds in heaven, and looses from sins on earth and looses in heaven, when the Judge of heaven and earth judges righteously. But in this kingdom of Post-millennialism there is no preaching of the Gospel, which is a power of God unto salvation for the most sinful sinner, who is brought to faith and conversion! Nor is there a conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment in such a kingdom; the conviction by the Holy Spirit in the consciences of men, excluding the unrepentant from the kingdom of heaven, assigning them to the company of those who are represented by the gates of hell (John 16:8-11). These are the false church, which do not possess the infallible earmarks of the true church, where Christ gathers His people into His kingdom in the way of conversion and repentance of true faith. These earmarks are: the true preaching of the Gospel, the proper administration of the Sacraments, and the exercise of Christian discipline.
Is there then not any influence of the righteous saints in the earth? Indeed, there is. They are the light of the world, a city on a hill-top which cannot be hid (Matthew 5:14). And the saints walk in beautiful works, they let their light shine before men. And it is evident in these good works that they are children of their heavenly Father. But in their conversation and confession they are the condemnation of the world as was Noah in his day. We read in Hebrews 11:7that Noah in his preaching and building of the ark “condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”
It is true that Christ has overcome the world. This does not mean that the world is going to be Christianized. It means that this world remains “the present evil world” (Gal. 1:4). This is the world, (ioonos) age, which is under the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works (energizes) in the children of disobedience. Out of this present evil world the church has been “delivered” (Ephesians 2:2-3; Galatians 1:4). It required the atoning work of Christ to deliver us from this present evil age, the reprobate mass of mankind. Christ will put this reprobate world under His feet, and rule them with a rod of iron. That He does every day. Now is the judgment of this world. In this judged world we shall have tribulation. This is an overcome-world at Calvary and in Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and sitting at God’s right hand. Satan is cast out; he can no longer accuse the brethren day and night before God’s throne (Revelation 12:9-11). And Christ has the keys of hell and of death; He shuts and no man opens, and opens and no man shuts.
Where there are not keys of the kingdom to open and shut, there is no kingdom. And the kingdom of the Post-millennial dream is just that. It is a dream, an illusionary mirage in the desert. For Christ connects the keys of the kingdom and the gathering of the Church of the ages. The gates of hell shall never triumph!