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The Eternal Kingdom

by R. H. Boll

(Reprint from the 1936 February Word & Work.)

The “eternal kingdom”—what is it? It is the one and only refuge into which our post-millennial friends flee when confronted with clear Bible statements of a kingdom which is yet before us. When the word of God speaks of a kingdom into which we who are in the kingdom already (Col. 1:13) must yet enter (Acts 14:22)—a kingdom which is promised to us and which we are to inherit (Jas. 2:2); a kingdom into which men are to be admitted “in that day” (Matt. 7:21, 22)—we are informed that this means “the eternal kingdom”, which is “the kingdom of glory,” or the “upper and better kingdom”, which is not future at all, but is going on now and always has been. The important place assigned to this concept in the common eschatology warrants a careful examination and inquiry into the scripture-grounds for such a doctrine as that of the “eternal kingdom.” What is meant by the term?

If this “eternal kingdom” is -not that we are in now, what relation does the church hold to that “eternal kingdom”? Is it merely a sort of vestibule to it? Surely not! Yet can any man enter that “eternal kingdom” except he had first become a member of the church? When all the church has at last passed into the “eternal kingdom” -what becomes of it? Is it absorbed in that kingdom and does it disappear from existence?? Or does it remain? If the church is a kingdom distinct from this “eternal kingdom,” and does not pass out of existence when entering into the eternal kingdom, will it then be a kingdom within the other kingdom? Who will give us light on these points?

Now the Bible speaks of an eternal and universal rule* of God, a dominion which is from everlasting to everlasting. Is that the thing meant by the “eternal kingdom”? Not by any possibility. That universal dominion of God is not a promise, nor is it our inheritance, nor can we enter it. Everything and everybody is already in that. It extends as far as God’s omnipotent rule extends: it includes all creation. “Jehovah hath established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom ruleth over all. (Ps. 103:19.) The saved belong to it and the lost also; the rebellious fall under its government as well as the obedient. Satan himself is in it, and is subject to its rule. (Job. 1:6-10; 2:1-6.)

In that sense the “eternal kingdom” cannot be the promise set before us. There is indeed the promise of an eternal kingdom. To the Christians who supply in their faith the “Christian graces” and who make their calling and election sure, is the following precious promise: “Thus shall be ministered unto you an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1 :11.) But here the common “eternal kingdom” idea fails. Peter defines this eternal kingdom 36 as that “of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” To say that this entrance into the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ occurs at death is entirely without scripture-foundation: It is ‘‘in that day,” at the time of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15: 50); at the time of the Return of our Lord from heaven, —only then is this entrance into “the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” promised us. But that happens to be the very time when, according to the anti-millennial theory, the Lord Jesus Christ surrenders the kingdom to God, and lays it down forever! (1 Cor. 15:24-28.)

Must it not be concluded then that the eternal kingdom of Christ spoken of by Peter is that Messianic Kingdom of Old Testament promise, which we are yet to inherit, which comes when He comes (Luke 21:31) in which the church shall sit and rule with him? It is not a state of glory and bliss in heaven into which the saints enter at death, according to common current view, but that self-same promise of the Messianic reign which pervades all the scriptures; in which, though the Son surrenders the sovereignty thereof unto the Father in due time, He will continue to reign in the New Heaven and the New Earth for ever and ever, and we with Him. 

Robert Henry (R. H.) Boll   –1875-1956–was a well-known preacher among the Churches of Christ and served from 1904 until his death in 1956 as minister of the Portland Avenue Church of Christ in Louisville, KY.  He was Editor of the Word and Work Magazine from 1916 to 1956.

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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4