ONE KINGDOM—ONE CHURCH
It is a rather startling fact that the proponents of Postmillennialism write volumes about the Kingdom in terms of the “golden age,” but are silent in every language about the Church, the Body of Christ, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all! Equally silent they are concerning the Church as the elect people of God, gathered out of every tongue, tribe, people, and nation of the earth; yes, concerning the Church as she is “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people” (people for God’s own possession), a Church “which is to shew forth the praises of Him who has called them efficaciously out of darkness into God’s marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9), about all this not a word is said.
That is, however, really as telling as it is startling! I repeat: we do not read about the Kingdom of God as they are the citizens of the heavenly kingdom, fellow-heirs with the saints and of the household of God, the dwelling-place of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:13-22). I can understand such silence about the Church by the Dispensational Premillennialists, who deny that the prophets saw the New Testament Church in the searchlight of their prophecy, but not on the part of the Postmillennialist, who confesses that Church and the Kingdom are the same people of God. I repeat: Dispensationalists deny that what they denominate “the Church Age,” was foretold in the promises of old; but Postmillennialists confess that the prophets foresaw the New Testament church as the fulfillment of prophecy, the promise to Abraham and to his seed.
We must at this juncture bear in mind what we have learned from I Corinthians 15:24-28, namely, that the Kingship of Christ does not end at the Parousia in the last day, when Christ officially presents the Kingdom to God the Father, and when God in that act becomes all in all. Really, God is, even now in the Dispensation of the fullness of times, very much all in all, but not so manifestly as He will be in the ages to come in the eternal state. Then we will see fully manifested God’s glory in Christ, the Lord of lords, the King of kings. This implies, among other things, that the citizens of that kingdom will be the entire Church, the body of Christ, as kings and priests unto God! (Rev. 1:6; Ex. 19:6; Is. 61:6;Rev. 5:10; I Pet. 2:5-9). For the kingdom and the Church are one and the same people in identity and in number; they are the same people called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light. The latter is denied by Premillennialists, but this is really the doctrinal position of the Postmillennialists.
Nevertheless, we read so very little about the Church of God in relationship to the Kingdom of God in all the writings of the proponents of the “golden age” of the Kingdom before the return of Christ upon the clouds of heaven!
Now this is rather startling, to say the least. But it seems to this writer, that it is also rather revealing of a one-sidedness in presenting the truth, which leads to grave and serious errors, not only in the field of Eschatology, the doctrine of the Last Things, but also in that of Theology and Ecclesiology. It is a theory which disrupts the structural truths of the Reformed Faith, and of the sound words of doctrine contained in the Scriptures. It is rather ominous not to hear the clarion sound concerning the Holy Catholic Church: “that the Son of God gathers, defends and preserves to Himself a church, out of the whole human race, elect unto everlasting life, in the unity of faith, and that I am and shall forever remain a living member of the same.” Yet, the proponents of Postmillennialism claim to be Reformed, even boasting a little that they are representing the true Reformed tradition. Fact is, they do not sound the Reformed keynote of Question 54 of the Heid. Cat., Art. 14 of the Belgic Confession, Art. 7-12 of Head of Doctrine I of the Canons of Dort, or Chapter XXV, 2 of the Westminster Confession.
It is the Reformed Confessional position that the visible church in the world, which consists of the whole number of the elect, is the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23) and that the church is the Kingdom of Christ (Matt. 13:47) outside of which there is no salvation. Incidentally, if we may anticipate our articles, the “out of every nation” may not be construed or misinterpreted as indicating all nations themselves. We hope to notice this more particularly in the future.
When one reads the Bible carefully it is quite clear and evident that Jesus speaks much about the Kingdom of God: it was the great central “theme” of His preaching (Matt. 4:23; Mark 1:14-15). This kingdom is not earthly but heavenly, which truth is emphasized in the entire Gospel of Matthew, where the term occurs some twenty times or more, but only three times do we read: kingdom of God. Besides, in the good confession before Pilate, Jesus says: My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). In another place we read, “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 (with outward show). Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
There is a very significant passage in Matt. 16:18-19 which merits our attention at this point. There we read,
“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.”
These are very significant utterances from the mouth of the Son of Man, Who unfolds here the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven in the world. Without going into detailed exegesis of this passage, we notice the chief elements in this teaching:
1. This is the first and only time that Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of heaven, joining it with the Church, which He calls “My church.” This is His ekkeesia, the called-out ones, called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, and that too, in every tongue, tribe, kindred, and nation. This church is the body of Christ, the living branches in the true Vine, Christ. They are those who are born again, and who, therefore, can see the kingdom of God with spiritual eyes of faith (I Pet. 1:19-22; I Peter 2:1-10; John 15:1-8; John 3:3).
2. The text clearly teaches that this church stands in need of protection against the “gates of hell which would prevail against her.” In this church of Christ the life that is lived is a kingdom life, the life of the Kingdom of heaven here on earth. This life is manifested in those of whom this Kingdom consists: the poor in spirit, those that mourn in Zion, the meek in the earth, those who long for the righteousness of the Cross by faith, those who are merciful, having received sovereign mercy, those who are pure in heart and who shall see God face to face in His Kingdom, and finally, those who are the peacemakers, and who shall be denominated sons of God! Here Christ connects very integrally the Church and the Kingdom. He speaks of them not only in one breath, but shows how the keys of the kingdom of heaven are for the well-being of the Church (Matt. 5:2-9).
3. Only Christ is the Builder of the Church. “I will build My Church” (Matt. 16:18). That is a Divine work which distinguishes Christ from Moses. The latter is only a faithful servant in all of God’s house (Heb. 3:1-6). Christ really built the church in three days (Eph. 2:20, 22; I Pet. 2:5;Col. 2:7; John 2:19). He builds His church only with living spiritual stones, the living members of the Kingdom of heaven (I Pet. 2:5).
4. Christ also clearly reveals in this passage that all who deny the content of the great confession of Peter, revealed to him by the heavenly Father, must be barred from the Church and from the Kingdom of heaven. Such must be deemed as belonging to the very gates of hell which would prevail against the church. With this in view Christ will give to Peter and to all the apostles and to the whole church the “keys of the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:19; Matt. 18:18; John 20:23;Rev. 1:18b; Rev. 3:7). These keys are the public preaching, the official preaching of the gospel, and the exercise of Christian discipline in the Name of the Lord. These keys are the strong bulwarks, the impregnable palaces of the King in Zion as He dwells in the midst of His people, the church in the world. In this church He exercises the Key of David, and calls upon His church to do so in His Name (Rev. 2:2, 14-16, 20-23). From this it appears that the Kingdom of heaven is inseparably connected with the Church; the one is not without the other in the world, in this life or in the life to come. Thus the Son of God gathers, defends, and preserves the church, elect unto everlasting life; thus only the living members abide in the church as heirs of the Kingdom of heaven forever. Thus they are God’s house when they remain in the faith, firm to the end (Heb. 3:6, 14).
5. This keynote of the holy Scriptures is sounded in the Reformed confessions, which keynote is not, the basic note in the writings of Postmillennial advocates, even though they say loudly that they are Reformed. To say the wrong thing loudly does not make it true, neither if it is said often and repeatedly. That the Church and Kingdom of heaven are basically one and the samepeople is not taught clearly, and it is almost forgotten in silence, to the best of my knowledge. For the position of the Reformed Churches we refer to our references earlier in this essay.
6. It ought to be clear that severing the proper relationship of the church and the Kingdom of heaven can only work ill for the proper understanding of both the church and the Kingdom. The emphasis of either of these two must needs lead to a one-sidedness which leads to heresy and error. Whatever influence goes out from the Church and Kingdom of heaven in the world must always be such that it keeps the “gates of hell” at bay, and frustrates the attempt of the forces of Satan to triumph over the church. Only when the Kingdom of heaven is established more and more in the hearts of the elect people of God, the living members of Christ’s church, are such living members also the heirs of the Kingdom of God (Rom. 4:13-14; Rom. 8:17; Matt. 5:5; Matt. 19:29,Matt. 25:17; I Cor. 6:9-10; Rev. 21:7).
The lines of demarcation between the church and the gates of hell must not silently be erased, nor denied in an attempt at a world-wide Kingdom of God in the world, which embraces all nations, as nations!