Posts Tagged with “kingdom”

Chapter 1 – He Will Reign Forever

This chapter seeks to establish the claim that “the kingdom of God is the grand central theme of Scripture that encompasses all other biblical themes,” a theme that brings coherence and unity. This is a strong claim, and while I think the chapter does a good job of arguing for it, other equally expansive themes could be argued with equal force. Qualifying the kingdom as “a central theme” instead of “the central theme” would have been a bit more prudent. With that being said, it is an expansive category, which is why I decided that I needed more information on the subject.

Vlach argues that the kingdom program can be divided into five parts:

  1. Creation – Genesis 1-2
    God creates man as His image-bearer, to rule and subdue creation
  2. Fall – Genesis 3
    Man fails to be God’s image bearer, leading to the both man and creation experiencing devastating results
  3. Promise – Genesis 3:15 to end of OT
    God promises that, through the seed of the woman, the fall will be reversed and man will effectively rule over creation
  4. Redemption – Gospels and Epistles
    Jesus provides redemption through His atonement, with His death being the basis for both a restored kingdom and reconciliation of all things1
  5. Restoration – Revelation
    Jesus reigns over the earth for 1000 years, at the end of which His kingdom merges into the perfect, eternal kingdom of the Father

For Vlach, this list highlights the importance of the kingdom theme. It runs from Genesis to Revelation, it permeates OT history and prophecy, it was central in the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus, and it is the focus of NT eschatology.

The last pages of the chapter define the term “kingdom.” The concept of kingdom should include, at a minimum, the following aspects:

  • Ruler – A kingdom must have a ruler with both the right, authority, and power to rule
  • Realm – A kingdom must have a realm of subjects to be ruled over
  • Rulership – A kingdom must have the active exercise of being ruled

A king can be sovereign, that is, have the right to rule, but for a kingdom to exist, he must actually exercise that right in a realm over which he has authority. Vlach notes that the word kingdom, as used in scripture, is applied at times to each of these aspects individually, but the concept still includes all three. For example, “He has made us to be a kingdom,” in Revelation 1:6, describes believers as a realm. But Revelation 5:10 indicates that the ruler and rulership with be included at a future date.

Vlach concludes the chapter with this final, succinct definition of the kingdom of God: “The rule of God over His creation.”

  1. This last point – the reconciliation of all things – is the lynchpin in the argument for the primacy of the kingdom plan in scripture – it is not just about the fate of man, but the fate of all things []

Overview of “He Will Reign Forever”

This is bit of a weird series, but I’m reading a rather large book and thought this blog (which I haven’t posted two in nearly four years) would be a good place to dump my thoughts about it. The book is “He Will Reign Forever – A Biblical Theology of the Kingdom of God” by Dr. Michael J. Vlach.

A few thoughts before I start: I’m approaching this book from a traditional / revised dispensational, non-reformed background with a “lay” perspective. Dr. Vlach is (as far as I can tell) writing this from a revised / progressive dispensational reformed position. He is also a professor at John MacArthur’s “The Master’s Seminary.” I discovered him first through a random comment on Twitter, then watched some of his YouTube videos. Dr. Vlach is a very talented communicator and presented some convincing arguments on the importance of the Kingdom. This is an area that I have been study, starting about 3 months ago when I was reading Matthew and thought, “What is the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus was preaching?” I realized I didn’t have a cohesive picture of the kingdom of God, so I’m going to read his 40 chapters / 630 pages book and see what I can learn.

Introducing The Kingdom (p. 11)

Vlach presents the scope of his book in the section.

“The goal is to be comprehensive, examining and harmonizing most kingdom passages, particularly those that address the kingdom’s nature and timing. Also, when the kingdom interacts with other important themes such as covenants, promise, seed, salvation, people of God, and others, this work addresses those as they relate to the kingdom.”

Vlach then introduces the “new creationist perspective” on the kingdom. This is, at its most basic level, an approach that “expects the ontological1 order and scope of eternal life to be essentially continuous with that of the present earthly life except for the absence of sin and death.”

While I welcome the end of sin and death, this frankly sounds a little underwhelming, chiefly neglecting the promise of a face-to-face, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Hopefully we’ll see some deeper exposition on this later.

Vlach writes, “The new creationist perspective, as presented in this work, is a form of dispensationalism and consistent with the ideas presented in both revised and progressive dispensationalism.” If you’re wondering what those ideas are, the very brief version is as follows:

  • Classic/Traditional Dispensationalism: No covenant promises to Israel find application or fulfillment in the church today and there are separate eternal destinies for Israel and the church
  • Revised Dispensationalism: Some aspects of covenant promises to Israel find application in the church today and believers of all ages share the same eternal destiny
  • Progressive Dispensationalism: Some aspects of covenant promises to Israel find fulfillment in the church today and believers of all ages share the same eternal destiny

This will certainly be an area of concern for me as I continue. Progressive dispensationalism has been used to incorporate ideas from amillennialism and preterism into traditional dispensationalism, as well as downplaying the rapture.2 Some areas of progressive dispensationalism are directly repudiated by Vlach (see below), so I am curious to see how much Vlach’s understanding of the kingdom incorporates progressive dispensationalism.

Vlach lays out 6 key statements of the new creationist approach:

  1. The material realm is important in God’s purposes
  2. The physical promises in the Bible will be fulfilled just as the Bible writers expected
  3. The coming new earth will be this earth, purged and restored
  4. Individuals, Israel, and the nations are important in God’s plans
  5. The fulfillment of particular elements as a means to fulfill universal elements need not be denied or themselves universalized
  6. God’s kingdom will involve social, political, geographical, agricultural, artistic, technological, and animal elements

He completes his overview with three final observations. First, he emphatically states that the OT and NT are in perfect harmony and present absolute continuity, with no need for the reinterpretation of the OT with the NT. Secondly, he makes room for contingency, stating that, “God has determined the kingdom’s arrival is based on certain factors and responses… God is sovereign over all things, yet human responses affect the timing of some eschatological [end times] events.”3 Finally, he states that, while the book is not specifically about millennial views, the new creationist perspective strongly affirms pre-millennialism, with an earthly kingdom of Jesus after the present age but before the eternal state.

So next I’ll be looking at chapter 1, hopefully moving a bit faster.

  1. The essential nature or source of something []
  2. See David Dunlap’s essay on progressive dispensationalism in his book, “The Glory of the Ages,” p. 215-221 []
  3. He references Jer 18:1-10, which includes the statement that, “if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it… if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.” []