The Kingdom, thus predicted and promised, was not in existence when the Forerunner of Jesus appeared.
PROPOSITION 37. The Kingdom, thus predicted and promised, was not in existence when the Forerunner of Jesus appeared.
Many books positively assert that the covenanted Kingdom of God continuously existed, subject only to some changes. Eminent men (whom we shall largely quote) declare the same, and make the church (after the overthrow of the Theocratic-Davidic Kingdom) its continuation. They, however, have not adduced a single direct passage of Scripture in support of their theory; and the facts, as already stated, all clearly prove the contrary. They have mistaken the original Divine Sovereignty lodged in the Creator for the Kingdom of promise, i.e., for the special reign of God over a nation, which alone is the covenanted Kingdom; or else, led by a preconceived development theory, they are forced to seek out and engraft such a Kingdom, and elevate the church into the same.
Obs. 1. The Theocratic-Davidic Kingdom is the Kingdom of God; this has been proven. Now this Kingdom was fallen, and it continued thus down to John the Baptist.
Obs. 2. The church, which was continued after the fall of the Davidic Kingdom, is nowhere directly designated the Kingdom of God. While under the care of the Divine Sovereignty, it is not, and, according to covenant, it cannot be, this Kingdom.
Obs. 3. The Prophets, in this church, instead of pointing out an existing Kingdom, invariably represent it as fallen, and its restoration as future.
Obs. 4. This same Kingdom was promised in its restored form to a certain descendant of David. He was to be its Restorer. Now it is folly to hold, that the Kingdom existed just before His appearance. His Advent and the Kingdom are inseparably linked together, so that the offspring of David, the long promised Son, must first appear, and then the Kingdom. This is the order laid down by all the Prophets. The Kingdom is promised to the Son of Man, and He must first come as man.
Obs. 5. The greatest looseness and latitude of opinion exist among able writers. In Prop. 20, Obs. 4, notice was taken how Thompson assumes the existence of a Kingdom, and that the Jews (against all historical fact) believed themselves to be in it. The Jews had no knowledge of a then existing Kingdom, for they looked, longed and prayed for the Davidic restored under the Messiah. Many writers imitate Thompson, and even exceed him, for they have a continuous Kingdom of God from Paradise down to the present day, making no distinction whatever. Others are a little more moderate, as e.g. Prof. Hengstenberg (The Jews and the Ch. Church), who locate “the very beginning of the Kingdom of God” in the times of Abraham, i.e. long before the Theocracy was established. Of course, such a writer continues it on regardless of the Kingdom’s distinctive features and the utterances of prophecy.[*]
Note. The writer has often been pained at the recklessness of statement on this subject. Many excellent authors, not distinguishing what really constitutes a Theocracy (viz.: God’s condescending to act in the capacity of an earthly Ruler, etc.), make the Theocracy or Kingdom existing down to the fall of Jerusalem, and then coolly transfer it over to the Christian Church. No solid advancement can be made in Theology until such utterly unfounded positions are relinquished.
Obs. 6. Auberlen (The Proph. of Daniel) has presented no profounder thought for the proper conception of the prophecies of Daniel, than that which carefully discriminates in this matter, saying: “According to what the book (Dan.) says of itself, it intends to represent something infinitely deeper and more sublime, namely, the relation of the two fundamental powers of universal history, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world, from the time when the Kingdom of God ceases to exist as a separate state, till the time when it shall be re-established as such in glory.” Daniel gives us an epitome of the time, chronologically, during which the Kingdom does not exist down to the period of its re-establishment, thus supplying important links in the prophetical delineation of the Divine Purpose. It is scarcely necessary to add that it includes, at least, the period down to John the Baptist.[*]
Note. Even if we were to take the usual interpretation given, by our opponents, to Daniel (e.g. chs. 2 and 7) respecting the setting up of Messiah’s Kingdom, viz.: at the First Advent, it would sustain the position of our Proposition. The prediction of establishing the Kingdom at a particular, specified era is sufficient evidence that for some time, at least, previously it must not have been in existence. The prophecies indicate the Divine Sovereignty controlling all things, even while the Kingdom of God did not exist on earth as promised.
Obs. 7. Let the reader consider, what is too much overlooked, that this Kingdom is one of promise and here on the earth, and hence does not refer to the divine nature of the Father or of Christ considered in itself, separate and apart from the expressed covenanted relationship (comp. Props. 80 and 81). For, as Dr. Storrs (Diss, on Kingdom) has well remarked, that government solely arising from, or inherent in, the Divine Nature “could not be the subject of promise or expectation.” God’s Sovereignty, necessarily and eternally inherent in Him and pervading all things, is never promised, only as connected and abiding with David’s seed in this Kingdom. This is confirmed by what is said in Hebrews respecting the human nature of Christ (comp. Props. 82–84).
Obs. 8. The only Kingdom of God, distinctively announced as such, is that one in which, as we have shown. God Himself condescends to act in the capacity of an earthly King, exhibiting directly the functions of such a King in legislative, executive, and judicial action. After the overthrow of the Theocratic-Davidic Kingdom, none such existed on earth, but a sad, mournful vacancy transpired.
Obs. 9. This Kingdom was not preached to the people immediately before John the Baptist came. Luke (16:16) says that Jesus declared: “The law and the prophets were until John; since that time the Kingdom of God is preached.” in whatever way this is explained (see Judge Jones’s Notes, p. 110, etc., and Com. on Matt. 11:12, 13), it certainly implies a period of time preceding when the Kingdom was not directly offered for acceptance. The legitimate inference follows, that it was not in existence. It was, indeed, predicted, promised, believed in, and expected, but it was not authoritatively offered for present acceptance and realization, as was done by John and those following him.
Obs. 10. That the Kingdom did not thus exist, is very apparent from the language of John himself (Matt. 3:2): “Repent ye, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” implying, forcibly, that for some time it had not been near, seeing that it now drew nigh.
Obs. 11. This teaches us in what light to consider the notion entertained by numerous eminent writers (as e.g. Hengstenberg in The Jews and the Ch. Church), viz.: that the Christian Church, as the Kingdom of God, is simply a continuance of an existing Kingdom of God in the Jewish nation. It is fundamentally erroneous, and most seriously affects the interpretation of Scripture. (Comp. Props. on the Church.)
Obs. 12. Many able theologians folly indorse our Proposition as a self-evident fact. Thus e.g. Van Oosterzee (Theol. N. Test.) makes the Kingdom of God something “new,” not a mere uninterrupted continuation, “for it has first come nigh in the fulness of time (Matt. 4:17); it did not before exist on earth.” While guarding against one extreme (i.e. to make out the Ch. Church a continuation of the Kingdom), he falls, however, into another when he asserts that “it did not before exist on earth,” which is pointedly contradicted by the previous establishment of the Theocracy, that was, par excellence, the Kingdom of God, by its withdrawal and promised restoration.