The disciples sent forth by Jesus to preach this Kingdom were not ignorant of the meaning to be attached to the Kingdom.
PROPOSITION 43. The disciples sent forth by Jesus to preach this Kingdom were not ignorant of the meaning to be attached to the Kingdom.
To say that they were ignorant of that which they were specially to preach is an evident absurdity; and if true (which it is not) would severely reflect upon the Divine Teacher and Commissioner. Their mission necessarily implying a correct knowledge of the Kingdom, is confirmatory of Christ’s own preaching, for the preaching, of the Master and of those who are sent to preach must correspond.
Obs. 1. What Kingdom they all preached is so evident (e.g. from Acts 1:6, etc.), that our opponents save us the trouble of stating it by frankly admitting it. (e.g. Prop. 42, Obs. 2). Jesus instructed them, Jesus sent them, Jesus never contradicted their views of the Kingdom,[*] Jesus approved of their preaching and rejoiced over it. This is amply sufficient, seeing that the Kingdom accurately corresponded with the one contained in the grammatical sense of the covenant and prophecies.
Note. It is only necessary to say that our opponents themselves produce Matt. 20:20, 21; Luke 24:21, and Acts 1:6 as evidence of the Jewish views of the apostles. Take these three illustrations, and, over against the unwarranted deductions of numerous writers, Jesus says not a word against their conception of the Kingdom; in fact, He fully admits the correctness of the same by alleging nothing against it. The request of the sons of Zebedee, based on the Jewish conception (Art. “Kingdom of God,” Ency. Relig. Knowl.) of the Kingdom (Matt. 20:20, 21), is refused, not on the ground of their misconceiving the nature of the Kingdom or even that such stations are to be allotted in it, but because such positions as they asked for are to be given to those by the Father, who have evidenced their fitness by humility and service. So simple is this that a child cannot mistake it. Hence, how gratuitous and unjust are the disparaging remarks heaped by some commentators and writers upon these disciples. Some (Olshausen loci) express surprise that Jesus did not correct their view of the Kingdom, but actually employs the very language to confirm them in it. Precisely so; He could not do so, because they entertained a more Scriptural idea of the Kingdom than those who exhibit such amazement. Luke 24:21 teaches how these preachers understood their own message; so also Acts 1:6; and Jesus, instead of telling them that they were mistaken, merely, leaving the notion of the Kingdom untouched, points to the future, the times of fulfilment being in the Father’s hands.
Obs. 2. If Jesus did not tell the Jews and His disciples that they were in error respecting the Kingdom, and this already is presumptive evidence that they were correct in anticipating the Kingdom to be a restoration of the Davidic Kingdom, much more is this true, when He sends men, whom He knows to hold such a view, to preach it. The ablest writers (we have given some, others will be quoted as the argument advances), of all shades of opinion, fully admit that the disciples preached the Jewish Kingdom, and candidly inform us that such was their belief down to the period of the Ascension, Acts 1:6. (Those few, therefore, who try to ignore it, and pretend that a spiritual conception of the Kingdom, something like their own modernized notions of it, are dishonest to the Record, and the general testimony on the subject). We therefore contend that, after Jesus Himself preached this Kingdom, taught His disciples publicly and privately, considered them qualified to proclaim the Kingdom, and sent them forth also to preach it—after all this, it is sheer presumption to question their knowledge of it. It is folly to suppose that we know the nature of that Kingdom better than they did, who were expressly commissioned to hold it forth as an inducement to repentance. If they were in error on so important and fundamental a point, it is unreasonable to suppose that Jesus would leave them in error, send them forth to disseminate error, and thus allow them, commissioned by Himself, to deceive the people. It is incredible, and yet if we are to believe eminent and good men, Jesus actually sent forth His disciples to preach erroneous doctrine! No gloss, however artful, no apology however skilful, can cover up this ugly feature in this supposed case; there it stands, boldly and defiantly presented by infidels, and prominently held forth even by many believers. Any theory, however plausible, esteemed, fortified by great names, which makes the first preachers of the Kingdom proclaim what they did not understand, preach what was an untruth—such a theory is radically wrong, and virtually, with all its profuse apologies, makes Jesus Himself the sender forth of false preachers. If the Kingdom is not that which they taught, what must we think of the instruction of Him who commissioned them? Thank God, the Word itself is consistent, and it repels a charge which human wisdom has foisted upon it in its blindness, in order to make out of the church the predicted Kingdom of God. Here is the difficulty: men judge these preachers under a misconceived theory, and consequently with prejudice.[*]
Note. Some keenly feel this difficulty in their Church-Kingdom theory, and thus—over against overwhelming proof—try to remove it. Gregory (Four Gospels, p. 120) declares that Jesus “corrected their (the twelve) false Jewish views of His priestly character, and of His Kingdom,” and appeals for evidence to Matt. 16:13–20, and 20:28! The passages being largely incorporated by us, need no comment. Ebrard (Gospel His.) constantly takes it for granted that the covenanted and predicted Kingdom is spiritual, and that the disciples comprehended it. Thus e.g. p. 267, referring to the Ser. on the Mount (comp. Prop. 42, Obs. 6 and 8, note), he says: “Jesus availed Himself of this opportunity, after the selection of His disciples, to explain, fully and distinctly, to them and to the people, what was the nature of the Kingdom.” He calls it “the inaugural discourse of the new Kingdom” (p. 273), in which Jesus says: “Such and such is the nature of my Kingdom; such its form; such the proper state of mind; and such are my demands,” in order “to afford the means of certainty” to the hearers. This is solely Ebrard’s imagining, for he utterly fails to show where the nature of the Kingdom is defined, and mistakes the means and accessories for obtaining the Kingdom for the Kingdom itself. It is painful and saddening when such men so seriously miss “the means of certainty.” The preconceived Church-Kingdom theory explains it all. Some writers even make the appointment of the twelve to be equivalent to the founding of a new Kingdom, although they preached it as future. On the other hand, that the disciples knew the nature of the Kingdom and located its future, is well stated by Dr. Imbrie in “The Regeneration” (Pre-Mill. Essays, p. 153, etc.).
Obs. 3. It is freely admitted that there were many things that these disciples, when preaching the Kingdom, did not then know, but it was not requisite to know them for the simple reason that, before the decided postponement of the Kingdom, it was no part of their mission to preach them. Thus e.g. they did not know that the Jewish nation would refuse to repent, that the representative men would conspire to put Jesus to death, that the Messiah would be crucified, that the Kingdom would be postponed to the Sec. Advent, that the Gentiles would be called, etc., and, more, all these things had nothing to do with their commission. They were not to preach the death of Jesus, or things then unknown to them; they were commissioned to preach the Kingdom conditioned by repentance—to offer it to the Jewish nation—and thus far they were instructed and had knowledge of the truth. This preaching of the Kingdom was (Props. 54 and 55) necessary at that time, while a knowledge of the other things was not only unnecessary, but would have, if imparted, actually disqualified them for their important mission. This exquisite arrangement of truth in the mission of the first preachers is, to our mind, most forcible evidence of inspiration.
Obs. 4. Miracles (Matt. 10:1, 8, Luke 10:17, etc.) attend their preaching of the Kingdom, which is a most convincing attestation of both the truthfulness of their proclamation, freed from error, and the intimate relationship that the Kingdom sustained to the Supernatural. Would Christ give the power of working miracles to persons who confirmed themselves and others in erroneous doctrine? Even Judas, at that time, however much he fell afterward, must have, in virtue of the mission bestowed upon him, known and proclaimed the truth concerning the Kingdom. Designed as the miracles (wrought by some, perhaps all) were to foreshadow (Prop. 7) the power to be experienced in the Kingdom itself, they were also, at the same time, a witness to the veracity of the preachers themselves. Such an attestation, Origen, Jerome, and all others, who desire us to believe that they were in error, have never yet been able to give us.
Obs. 5. What little satisfaction many commentaries give us when commenting on the preaching of John and the disciples. Work after work will not make the slightest mention of difficulty in the matter, and artfully speak of it as a gradual developing from darkness into light, just as if the style of their preaching was but a little removed from that of “the moderns,” A host literally jump at the conclusion—proven to be false by the continued belief of these preachers to the ascension of Jesus—that they preached (without knowing it) the establishment of the church-kingdom. The large majority, without perceiving how fatally they sap the very foundations of Confidence in the Truth, and invite unbelief to hold itself in merriment over the defect, pass the whole thing by with the comment—as if it amounted to nothing, or was scarcely worth noticing, or the most reasonable thing to expect—that these men were yet filled with “Jewish prejudices” and “Jewish forms,” and the time had not yet arrived for the notion of a pure, spiritual Kingdom. Indeed, if this is so, as learned men tell us, then the first preachers of the Kingdom were very unreliable guides, being “the blind leading the blind,” and, what is worse, divinely commissioned to do this! Infidelity exults in such teaching, which effectually cripples the first preaching of the Kingdom and introduces a discordance and antagonism fatal to the unity and integrity of the Word.
Obs. 6. How unfairly this subject is treated may be found illustrated in various Lives of Christ. Some of these (e.g. Fleetwood’s) make the preaching of the twelve and the seventy exactly correspondent with their own modern ideas of the Kingdom. The same unfairness is true of Histories of the Bible. Thus e.g. Gleig (His. of the Bible, vol. 2, p. 223), after stating the views of the Jews in a restored Davidic Kingdom under the personal reign of the Messiah, tells us that it should not surprise us that the disciples continued in such a belief because “prejudices are usually deeply seated in proportion to the absence of culture,” thus actually degrading the disciples to ignorance and uncouthness to make out a case, forgetting that by so doing he degrades the mission and instruction imparted by Jesus. If they were lacking “culture,” if they were under “deeply seated prejudices,” if they were under a “delusion” (as Gleig well-meaningly says), how was it possible for Jesus, honestly and consistently, to send them forth to proclaim their want of “culture,” their “prejudices,” and their “delusion” to others, and confirm the same by miraculous signs! The same lack of candor is found in Theologies. Thus e.g. Knapp (Ch. Theol., s. 89, 99, 154, etc.) frankly tells us the Jewish view, and that the disciples entertained it, but then endeavors to break its force by insinuating, without adducing the slightest historical or scriptural proof, that the Kingdom was also understood in a spiritual sense, and that a purer and higher meaning was gradually placed upon the phraseology pertaining to the Kingdom. But this does not clear the preachers of the Kingdom; it does not vindicate their official position, for, according to his statement, others—who were not specially appointed as preachers of the Kingdom—had better, purer ideas, which, we are to infer, came down to us. This mode of reasoning only makes the matter worse, for in one place all the concessions needed are made; and in another, they are virtually recalled under the unproved statement that in connection with this idea of the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom they also must have held (implied) the notion of a moral or spiritual Kingdom. Such an important point as this, must have more than mere inference and unsupported supposition; and Knapp forgets, that the very men who, above all others, should have this pure, spiritual conception of the Kingdom (if it is the one intended) are the disciples, the preachers, whom he confesses to be in ignorance of it down to the ascension. These illustrations will suffice; the reader can readily find a multitude.[*]
Note. Neander (Ch. His., vol. 1, p. 37) makes Zechariah’s faith to express itself in a “worldly sense, or worldly turn, or shape,” because he expected deliverance from enemies, etc. But let the reader notice that Zechariah was under the direct influence of the Spirit, and it follows that his utterances are to be received in preference to Neander’s, especially seeing that they correspond with that of the prophets (who link with the Messianic Kingdom a deliverance of the Jewish nation from its enemies, as shown Props. 111–114). He delineates the disciples’ ignorance, etc., very much as Knapp, and seeks refuge in his germ or development theory.
Obs. 7. Misled by some favorite theory, the plain facts of the disciples’ preaching are unintentionally misstated, and, of course, others are improperly influenced. Thus e.g. Neander (Life of Christ, sec. 174) has taken the unwarranted liberty of saying, when referring to the mission of the disciples into Galilee, that they were to spread “the announcement that the Kingdom had appeared,” that “they were only to proclaim everywhere that the Kingdom of God, the object of all men’s desire, had come.” Now if we turn to the Record, it is impossible to find any such commission given to the disciples; for instead of preaching that the Kingdom “had appeared, and “had come,” they were expressly charged to say (Matt. 10:7): “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and (Luke 10:9): “the Kingdom of God is come nigh to you.” If language has any force, this phraseology cannot, by any means, be made to be the equivalent of Dr. Neander’s. So Olshausen even (Com. Matt. 3:2), hampered by his Church-Kingdom theory, makes the announcement “is at hand” to be an equivalent of “is already present.” Others, influenced in the same way, interpret the language in like manner. The difference to some may appear trivial, but as we proceed will be found exceedingly weighty and essential (Props. 55–61). How, in the nature of the case, could the first preachers of the Kingdom proclaim that a Kingdom “had come,” was “already present,” when they themselves (as both Neander and Olshausen admit in other places) were not conscious of it down to the ascension (Acts 1:6)? Forsaking the primitive view, the ablest men involve themselves in difficulties, and excite antagonism where none exists.
Obs. 8. It is a fact to be lamented, that while infidelity has made itself merry over the preaching of the disciples, calling it “mistaken,” “deceived,” “delusion,” etc., the Apologists, unable themselves to receive this preaching, or to satisfactorily account for it, have done nothing to remove this stumbling-block out of the way. Some unbelievers in a kind of ironical manner (Dean Mansell On Freethinking) suggest, as the result, that as the whole proof of Christianity rests on the Prophecies, it is necessary in order to make out such a proof to avoid the literal and proper meaning, and introduce a mystical or allegorical interpretation; for the past has proven that the apostles themselves misinterpreted the prophecies too literally or in a Jewish manner. This, of course, opens the flood gates to every conceivable fancy, and strikes a deep blow at the vital part of Christianity. Hence it is, that an oily class, smooth-tongued and eloquent over the virtues of Jesus and His devoted band, profess, all the time stabbing the reputation and character of these teachers, that they only desire to remove that blundering literal interpretation and plant religion more securely on a spiritual one, which will not recognize “the fables” of the early preaching. The grossest attacks and the most artful, centring on the early preaching, come from all sides, and a careful reader will sadly notice that in the replies of the defenders of Christianity, with but rare exceptions, there is found a willingness to receive these suggestions of unbelief, viz.: to discard the literal, grammatical sense of the prophecies, which it is wrongfully supposed led these disciples into their errors, and, therefore, to receive as an offset a spiritual one, which can transmute David’s throne into the Father’s throne, and change every other phrase to suit the situation. Alas! the influence of such a method upon the minds of men without sufficient independence to think for themselves!
Obs. 9. Those, too, who so candidly concede “the Jewish cast” of the disciples’ preaching are undecided as to the time when an entire change in their views of the Kingdom (as alleged) was wrought. While some place it even later (others asserting no change, but leaving it to development in the church) than the day of Pentecost, the majority of our opponents seem inclined to date it from the outpouring of the Spirit. For the credit of the Church-Kingdom theory, an effort must be made, in some way, to trace it back to inspired men. Now at this stage of the argument we only say this: if the change in the doctrine of the Kingdom took place, as multitudes hold, and as e.g. Bernard (Bampton Lectures, “The Progress of Doctrine”) infers, how comes it then that the early “consciousness” of the church does not portray this change in the writings of that period? Why does the church, founded by these disciples, assume the position that Jesus, the crucified one, is the Messiah (with a full understanding of the Jewish meaning of the name), so declared by His resurrection and exaltation, who remains in heaven during this intermediate period until the elect are gathered out and the time arrives, at the Sec. Advent, for the reestablishment of the Theocratic-Davidic Kingdom? Why is it that none of the Primitive churches indicate such a change of doctrine, and directly trace it to the apostles? Surely if the current notion on the subject is the correct one, this feature ought to be observed. Bernard and others do not meet the real objections against their view, for fully admitting that a change was introduced, this change was not one in the belief of the Kingdom, but only in the manner and time of its introduction, in the reception of preliminary measures, made now necessary by the postponement of the Kingdom and the organization of the Christian Church. This change does not affect covenant promise, confirmed by oath, while Bernard’s violates covenant and explicit promise.[*]
Note. The student is reminded that persons cannot be too cautious in such wholesale deductions, made because of the introduction of certain changes which do not affect the nature of the Kingdom. Thus e.g. many stumble at the resurrection of Jesus, and cannot see how this is to be reconciled with the expectations of the restoration of the Theocratic-Davidic Kingdom; but they overlook the predicted fact (God foreseeing all, and thus ordering) that this is implied in an immortal Son of David thus restoring and reigning, and that this resurrection was expressly foretold as a requisite to fulfil the promises pertaining to the Kingdom. This disregard to the Kingdom preached, etc., leads to many strange and unscriptural statements. Thus e.g. Bernard (in the excellent Lectures referred to) says: “Peter presents the Gospel as the fulfilment of prophecy, and completion of the covenant made with the fathers.” The truth is, that Peter only presents the Gospel to show how prophecy will be fulfilled (saving in the call of the Gentiles), and how the covenant was confirmed in Christ and shall yet be amply realized in the future. Again: “The Gospel has fought itself free, and severed itself from Judaism, not merely in its form but in its essence, proclaiming Salvation by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not by the works of the law.” Admitting freely the grace brought through Jesus, through whom alone we expect to inherit, the sentence as it stands is misleading. The Gospel did not cut itself free, etc., until the influence of the Alexandrian school prevailed, as seen in the first and second centuries. True Judaism looked forward, having the covenants and promises, even to the sacrificial death of the Messiah, and the death of Jesus is no separation from but a confirmation of the Judaic essence, for the Salvation promised through this Messiah is identical with that proclaimed by Judaism. This will be shown hereafter.