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The Kingdom of God in The Epistles ( R. H. Boll)

by

R. H. Boll

From The Kingdom of God:

A Survey-Study of The Bible’s Principal Theme

By R. H. Boll 

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.”  2 Peter 1:19 

Chapter 9
The Kingdom In The Epistles

     RHBoll The epistles likewise present the kingdom as now present in spiritual manifestation, and also as future in outward manifestation and its future world-rule–just as we have seen it in the Gospels and Acts.

We will not take up the Kingdom-references here one by one as we come to them, but sum up the Kingdom teaching of the Epistles topically. It is not possible to quote the scriptures; but if the reader will open his Testament and read the passages cited it will be an advantage.

1. THE KINGDOM AS PRESENT.

To the Colossians Paul writes that God has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (Colossians 1:13). Evidently “the dominion of darkness” is Satan’s sway and kingdom. Out of that we were delivered. The kingdom of the Son of God’s love into which we were translated is the realm in which the Lord Jesus Christ exercises sway and rule. In it we now are. In it we hold citizenship. Its headquarters–the seat of its authority and government–is where the Head is, in heaven; therefore it is said that “our citizenship is in heaven,” (Philippians 3:20) where also our life is hid, and from where (in the Person of the Saviour) our Hope descends (Colossians 3:1-4). The characteristics of this government–the essential spiritual features of this kingdom–are “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). To exhibit these features in testimony to the world has this new spiritual “nation” been called into being (1 Peter 2:9, 10). Alas, how greatly it has failed of realizing this purpose of its calling!

2. THE KINGDOM FUTURE.

Though in and of the kingdom now, the kingdom is again represented to us as a promised inheritance (James 2:5). The wicked and immoral do not inherit it (1 Corinthians 6:9); nor those who practice the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). But those who in their faith supply the Christian graces shall have an abundant entrance into it (2 Peter 1:11). For it the Christians labored (Colossians 4:11); for it they suffered (compare Acts 14:22)–for only those who suffer with Christ and endure shall reign with him in glory, Romans 8:17, 18; 2 Timothy 2:12–and Paul prayed and yearned that they might so be counted worthy of it (2 Thessalonians 1:5).

It is also to be noted that not until our testing time is over, and our full adoption–“the redemption of our bodies”–only then can we inherit the kingdom. For “flesh and blood”–that is, humanity in its corruptible estate, cannot inherit the kingdom of God; and corruption cannot inherit incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:50). This concept of inheriting the kingdom, when used of the church, has reference to our exaltation and glorification with the Lord Jesus, and the sharing with Him of His rule and authority. This is the kingdom which cannot be shaken, which we have not received as yet but are in process of [59] receiving (Hebrews 12:28)–just as we are said to be “receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9).

The nature of that glorious reign and our part in it, is set forth in several places. It is a “heavenly kingdom.” 2 Timothy 4:18, but rules over the earth. The “world to come” of Hebrews 2:5 is literally in the Greek “The inhabited earth to come.” This kingdom is not to be under the rule of angels, but is to be governed as God had originally planned (Genesis 1:26), and, as, despite man’s fall, God afterward promised and prophesied (Psalm 8), by man–in guarantee of which we behold Him who once suffered death, now exalted and crowned with glory and honor, the Man, Christ Jesus. For through Him God will bring His many sons unto this glory (Hebrews 2:5-10). The whole creation awaits eagerly this revealing of the sons of God, and we ourselves, now burdened and groaning, await it:–the day of the redemption of our bodies (which is the day of Christ’s coming) (Romans 8:18-24).

In that day the saints will judge the world in conjunction with their Lord (1 Corinthians 6:2), and shall reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). Then also they shall be crowned with the crown of righteousness, of life, of glory (2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4). In all their rule, work, and service, the glorified Christians will be inseparably conjoined with their returned Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17), who shall be glorified and marvelled at in them (2 Thessalonians 1:10).

WHEN WILL CHRIST GIVE UP THE KINGDOM?

      Against this teaching, so plain and really indisputable, an argument is made on the grounds of 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, which, because of the importance attached to it, we quote here in full:

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”

It is claimed on the strength of this passage that the Lord Jesus will surrender the Kingdom at His Second Coming. If this text teaches that there can, of course, be no future Messianic kingdom, and therefore, all the kingdom of Christ that ever will be is now. Here again one must wonder what silent influences must have worked so to becloud the minds of otherwise clear-sighted expositors. [60]

Their whole argument is based upon the ambiguity of the word “then” (beginning verse 24)–which ambiguity does not exist at all in the Greek. In the English the word “then” may mean either “at that time” or “next after,” “next in order.” But in the Greek these ideas are distinguished. The Greek word “tote” expresses the idea of “at that time”; but in enumerations, where sequence is to be expressed, the Greek has “eita” or “epeita.”1

It is the words epeita and eita, which are employed here, in 1 Corinthians 15:23, 24. A stricter rendering of these two verses would be–“Christ the first-fruits; after that (epeita) they who are Christ’s at his coming. Afterwards (eita) comes the end when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God even the Father.” The length of time elapsing between the items enumerated by “epeita” and “eita” indicate that the events follow one another in order. In our passage the first “then” (“epeita”) has already stretched over an interval of nearly 2000 years: Christ the first-fruits, then they that are Christ’s.

When is this “then”?

Answer: At His Coming.

Again he says, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father.”

When does that “then” come in?

Answer: At the destruction of “the last enemy” which is “death.” But this, as we learn in Revelation 20, will not be until after the Millennium, the glorious age to come, in which the returned Christ with His glorified saints shall reign. For Death, the last enemy, shall not be destroyed until after “the thousand years are over” (Revelation 20:7-15).

There are, in fact, two ages, two dispensations, marked and specified during which Christ’s name stands supremely exalted: “in this age” and “in that which is to come.” (Ephesians 1:21.)2 In the present age Christ’s name is above all, the Father who Himself has given Him an absolute free hand, alone excepted. The same will be true in the next age. After that (“in the ages to come,” Ephesians 2:7) the Son will take the place of subjection and subordination, yet (though having surrendered the now completely restored kingdom to the Father, that God may [61] thenceforth be all in all) will continue to reign with His saints, under the Father’s government, “for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).


1 Thayer defines eita, “then, next, after that” citing Mark 8:25; Luke 8:12; John 13:5; Mark 4:17. “As in classic Greek,” he says, it stands in enumerations to mark a sequence depending either on temporal succession, as Mark 4:28; 1 Corinthians 15:24 [which is the passage we are here discussing]; 1 Timothy 2:13; or on the nature of things enumerated, 1 Corinthians 12:28.
Epeita” he defines as meaning “thereupon, thereafter, then, afterwards”; and “time and order” he cites its use in 1 Corinthians 15:46; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Hebrews 7:27; and 1 Corinthians 15:23, which is the passage we are discussing. The “then” in 1 Corinthians 15:23, 24, therefore, does not mean “at that time,” but “subsequently” or “afterwards”–how long after, to be learned from the context or other part of scripture. But the other “then,” “tote” in the Greek, an entirely different word, which means “at that time,” is used, in Matthew 25:31 for example, and 1 Corinthians 15:28. [61]
2 The (ASV) text says, “not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” But the Greek word is “aion,” the strict and primary meaning of which always and everywhere is “age;” as correctly translated in the New International Version, The New American Standard Bible and in the New King James Bible. Of the expression “ho aion houtos,” “this age,” and similar term in Galatians 1:4; 1 Timothy 6:17; 2 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:12; Thayer says it refers to “the time before the appointed return or truly Messianic advent of Christ;” and the “aion mellon” “age to come” is “the future age,” i. e. the age after the return of Christ in majesty, the period of the consummate establishment of the Divine Kingdom and all its blessings.” Thayer cites our passage, Ephesians 1:21, by way of example. [61]

 This edition edited and updated with NIV by R.L. Garrett, Sr.
Revised September, 2000.
Published by the Church of Christ Mission
P.O. Box 30, Ruwa, Zimbabwe.

 


Unless otherwise indicated,
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION,
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.




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