Some things pertaining to the kingdom not so easily comprehended as many suppose.
PROPOSITION 14. Some things pertaining to the kingdom not so easily comprehended as many suppose.
This is already seen by the greatness of the subject (Props. 1 and 2), by the differences of opinion (Prop. 3) entertained, the connection it sustains to the supernatural (Props. 6 and 7) and to mysteries (Props. 11, 12, and 13).
Obs. 1. Taking the word “mystery” to denote, as theologians state, something revealed that was before unknown, Revelation itself must be carefully scanned and compared to appreciate these. At the same time, whilst a fact is disclosed, or an ordering is divulged, yet the reason why it will, or the manner in which it may, be accomplished is either not explained or merely hinted at, thus leaving large room for attentive study and reflection. Besides this, many things—the great burden—relating to the Kingdom are still in the shape of unfulfilled prophecy and promise, requiring discrimination to distinguish what belongs to different dispensations, to the two Advents, to the past, present, and future, so that we may form a correct estimate of the preparatory stages and of the Kingdom itself. The Apocalypse, with its varied and discordant interpretations, alone proves our proposition.[*]
Note. Van Oosterzee (Ch. Dog., vol. 1, p. 105) correctly observes: “Now, indeed, we see from the nature of the case, that even a revealed mystery may have its dark sides; the sun come forth from behind the clouds nevertheless still dazzles our eyes. But Holy Scripture nowhere teaches that mystery as such lies, and must necessarily lie, entirely beyond the reach of all human ken; the contrary is evident from 1 Cor. 13:2; Eph. 3:4. Mystery, too, though never wholly penetrated, may still be known, but only by means of Revelation.” This corroborates our position, viz.: that the things of the Kingdom can only be found within the limits of Scripture, and can only be understood to the extent that God has been pleased to reveal and explain them.
Obs. 2. Some persons confidently tell us that “the Gospel of the Kingdom” is readily understood by all men, forgetting how variously it is interpreted and preached. This assertion is contradicted by the remark of Jesus, that the revelations concerning the Kingdom were only given to believers and not to those without (Mark 4:11, etc.), and by the declaration (John 3:13), that the things relating to it must be received exclusively on the testimony of Him who declared them. All men are not believers, and even multitudes, who profess to believe, do not receive this testimony, (as e.g. witness the rejection of much of His Word, and of His last revelation as given in the Apocalypse). Even among believers, the apostle distinguishes between the weak and the strong (Heb. 5:12), between the unlearned and the understanding (2 Pet. 3:16), and many exhortations are based on a growth of knowledge and the avoidance of ignorance. We are exhorted that there “are some things hard to be understood” (2 Pet. 3:16), some things exceeding the measure of the wisest, some things beyond our experience, some things so grand in conception and associated with the Infinite, that they can only be apprehended by faith. No one, therefore, excepting a believer, who receives the word as spoken, the testimony as delivered, can duly appreciate the whole Gospel—good news—pertaining to it. Those who make the above assertion, are led to it by mistaking repentance, faith, obedience, etc., the adjuncts or preparatives of the Kingdom, for the Kingdom itself. We must discriminate between the means employed by which the Kingdom can be obtained—which is also Gospel or glad tidings—and the Kingdom itself—which proclaimed is the Gospel in its fullest sense.
Obs. 3. There is no systematic statement of the doctrine of the Kingdom in the Bible. It is given in brief covenants, in separate prophecies, in detached portions, in fragments, in hints, in promises, in concise outlines, and to bring all these together in their regular order much labor is requisite. Without diligent comparison, no progress can be made. A devout recognition of much that is now regarded trivial, or of little practical value, is demanded. Unless there is a deep conviction that the Bible is a Divine Record, and that, in consequence, everything that it contains should be duly weighed and placed in its connection with the Divine Purpose, it is impossible to harmonize the Word: some discordant elements will inevitably appear to prevent unity.[*]
Note. This is illustrated by supposing that we had lived just previous to, and during, the First Advent. Had we then taken up the Old Test. to search after the Messiah, and passed by the lesser, even minute, particulars, and the detached, isolated hints, referring to the birth, life, betrayal, scourging, crucifixion, etc., and confined ourselves to the moral enlarged Messianic descrpitions (as, e.g., those representing His glory), we, too, like the Jews, would have failed to comprehend the matter as it was to be realized. So now, unless there is a careful collation of all passages that legitimately refer to the Kingdom, error may, more or less, be advanced. If, as claimed, the Scriptures are the Word of God, then every word—conceding that the truth is given through the language and style most familiar to the writer—is of importance. Being engaged in examining witnesses for the truth, in weighing testimony, to do justice both to the writers and ourselves—yea, to God Himself—this cannot be omitted with safety. This caution becomes the more imperative, since it is pointedly predicted, that many shall, by a neglect of the truth, reject the things pertaining to the Kingdom, and have no faith even in the coming of the King.
Obs. 4. Avoiding, on the one hand, the opinion of the Romish Church that the Scriptures are so unintelligible; so obscure that they need the interpretation of the Church, of Councils, of the Fathers, or of the Pope; and, on the other hand, the view of some Protestant divines, and others, that all things are clear and intelligible to him who is in the Spirit—it is best to preserve the due medium, that whilst many things are plainly stated, yet others, for the reasons given, can only be ascertained by laborious research, or, as some old writers have quaintly observed, by “digging for hid treasures.” The Kingdom, forming the subject-matter of a large portion of the Bible, cannot be correctly apprehended in its totality without the student passing over all that the different sacred writers have to say concerning it.
Obs. 5. “The Gospel of the Kingdom,” as intimated, includes “the mystery of God,” i.e. the final, closing act as presented Rev. 10:7, embracing the ultimate realization of the previously ordained provisionary institutions. This is seen in the language employed, for the word in our version “declared” is used to denote the declaration of good tidings, glad news, so that some (as e.g. Editor of Proph. Times, vol. 10, p. 190) render the phrase: “The mystery of God is (to be) fulfilled, even as he preached glad tidings to his servants the prophets.” However translated, the Gospel undoubtedly comprehends the grand consummation, the perfected Redemption realized only in the Kingdom.