Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. Glad you could tune in! In today’s program, Tom begins a two-part series with guest, Andy Woods, as they address the topic of The Coming Kingdom. Here’s TBC executive director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. The topic for this and next week is The Coming Kingdom. To review this subject with me is Andy Woods, who is a pastor and an author. His latest book is titled The Coming Kingdom: What Is the Kingdom, and How Is the Kingdom Now Theology Changing the Focus of the Church? Andy is a graduate with two degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary, and he also holds a law degree from Whittier Law School in Southern California. Andy, welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Andy: Hey, it’s great to be here, and I appreciate the opportunity. Thank you.
Tom: Andy, as I mentioned, you sent me earlier copies of your book, but now I have the hardcopy, and it’s…not the hardcopy, but the final book. And I’m excited to see it in print, ready to roll! Because, you know, I thought it was just a terrific book. I’ve learned quite a bit from it. But here’s my question: What motivated you to write this book about the coming kingdom of Jesus Christ?
Andy: Well, I think my motivation – you know, I teach in a Bible college, so I’m around millennials a lot – twenty-somethings – and I noticed that they’re, one after another, being pulled into this Kingdom Now theology. And I noticed that when they go off to graduate school (I teach undergrads), when they go off to graduate school, they get in front of these erudite professors that convince them that we’re in the Kingdom, and I noticed that our camp, which is the idea that the Kingdom-is-future camp, really didn’t have a lot to produce in terms of scholarship, whereas the other side – they produce stuff constantly.
And you know how the Holy Spirit just deals with us, and I just felt the Spirit saying – I know you guys have experienced this many times – the Holy Spirit just says “Do something for Me. Help Me here. Put yourself forth to serve me.” And so that was sort of the motivation, and I started putting together articles, one after the other. Thomas Ice, of the Pre-Trib Study Group was nice enough to post them in his Pre-Trib Perspectives. And what I thought was a series that would last about a month ended up being about three years – over three years. And finally, I had all that material, and I took my sabbatical from the college and just kind of compiled it into an academic book. And I’m really trying to reach these millennials and get them back to what the Scripture says.
Tom: Right. I think one of the motivations for the millennials – young people, they want to solve problems. Even before I became a believer in college, we had the Peace Corps. We had things that we wanted to do to change the world, and so on. So that enthusiasm – on the one hand, it could be quite good. On the other hand, if it goes down the wrong road, if it misses what the Scripture is teaching, it can be problematic.
But, Andy, when we talk about prophecy, when we talk about what’s ahead, based on the Scriptures, a lot of people view it as not practical. “You don’t want to be concerned about that.” It’s kind of the “pie-in-the-sky” sort of thing. Now what are some of the inherent problems, in your view, with that kind of thinking?
Andy: Well, one of the things…I used to think that way until I was challenged by one of my professors, Dr. Pentecost, who’s gone to be with the Lord, when I was studying there at Dallas Seminary. And he made a statement…one time in class, he said, “You’ll notice every time [and he used the word “every time”] you see a reference to the Second Coming in the New Testament, you’ll always see it linked to daily life: the need to endure, the need for patience, the need to evangelize…” And I started looking through the Scripture because I didn’t really believe him the first time he said it, and lo and behold, it’s true. I mean one obvious one is 1 John:3:2-3:
“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet appeared what we will be, but we know when He appears, we will be like him because we will see him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope on him purifies himself just as he is pure.”
And I would just challenge people that think that way to study the Bible for themselves. They’ll see that the Second Coming passages are always linked to daily behavior, not the least of which is hope. I mean, my goodness, if I didn’t have the hope of the soon return of Christ and that there was a better world coming, and I was just stuck with the politicians and politics that we have today, I would be extremely depressed. So, I think it is very practical to get into prophecy.
Tom: I think about my own walk with the Lord, and I’ve been a believer about 40 years, and I tell people, “If I could change anything about my walk it would be that maybe…well, at the beginning and probably for too long, I was very temporally oriented as opposed to be eternally oriented, and what the Lord had for us for eternity! And that’s where the mentality comes up: Well, if you’re too heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good. Boy, that is so dead wrong. I mean, how can you be really heavenly minded in what the Lord wants and what He wants us to do, and so on, and it be impractical? It’s not. It’s the most practical.
But, Andy, I don’t know if you had a chance to…because we’ve talked some about this, but I think I mentioned that I did an article called, “Is Your Eschatology Showing?” And the point of it was that if a Christian doesn’t have a correct biblical view of what the Bible declares will take place regarding future events as we see the Lord’s return drawing near, he could be deceived into supporting programs that oppose what the Scriptures teach.
I’m going to mention a couple of these things, Andy, and you can jump on any one you want, or all of them. Here are some of the problems: There are those out there who are preaching and promoting big time that there’s going to be a worldwide revival. There are those who preach and teach that Christians are in position to take over the world, or could be, or should be. There are programs that focus on solving the world’s problems prior to the Second Coming of Christ. What are your thoughts on some of those?
Andy: Well, the biggest problem with it is that it shifts onto the church a task that God never gave to the church. These things you’re talking about: worldwide revival – you know, I think of passages like “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord,” and “Peace and safety, and every need met.” I mean, those are kingdom condition, and the only person, according to the Scripture, that can bring those conditions into existence is the King himself. So, when I get involved in those projects and make that my concern, I’m shifting onto myself a task that only Jesus can do. And wouldn’t that be sneaky of the devil in the last days of the church to get our time wasted – what precious time we have left – get it wasted onto something that only Jesus can do and will do directly? So that would be my biggest…it’s just a question of priorities. The better you understand prophecy, the better you understand what our priorities should be in the present.
Tom: Andy, Lord willing, as we continue this conversation this week and next week, I want to talk about some specifics regarding those issues of how we’re going to…the programs that are out there to motivate us to “set up the kingdom right now.” But anyway, we’ll talk about that in a bit, but could you kind of encapsulate for us what the Scriptures teach about the coming kingdom? We’re going to cover a number of the significant aspects in our two programs, but I think laying out the basics of what will take place and when would be a really helpful start, Andy.
Andy: Well, probably the first thing I would distinguish – and I do this right at the beginning of the book – I would distinguish between what’s called a Universal Kingdom that’s always in effect, where God is always reigning, and He’s always sovereign, and He’s always in control. And that really…that kingdom that’s sometimes is called the Universal Kingdom is something that continues today, and that’s really not what we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with more, if I could use a technical phrase, the Theocratic Kingdom, where God the Father rules over a man, and He indirectly governs the world through that man, and that’s what I believe God’s original intention was. When you go back to Genesis:1:26-28 you’ll find God ruling over Adam, and he was to govern creation on God’s behalf. And what happened in Genesis 3 is that God [allowed] Adam to listen to the creation that he was supposed to be ruling over – a talking snake. And in the process rebelled against God. And the moment that happened is the moment that kingdom disappeared from the earth.
And so, really, the great story of the Bible is how that kingdom is going to be restored, and it really will not be restored until what we would call the Millennial reign of Christ – the thousand-year reign of Christ – where God the Father will rule over not the first Adam but the last Adam, Jesus Christ, and He will rule over creation on God the Father’s behalf. And what you start to see developing very early on in the Scripture is the nation of Israel is set aside to bring forth this Messiah and this kingdom; prophecies and promises are given all the way through the Old Testament to bring forth this Theocratic Kingdom. And this really is what was offered to the nation of Israel on a silver platter, I believe, in the first century, which, tragically, they turned down. And so now the Theocratic Kingdom is still in a state of postponement – not cancellation. God is doing something completely different today called “The Church Age,” where He’s reaching those that will be citizens of this coming kingdom.
But one of these days, the church will be removed from the earth. Our work will be done through the Rapture. And God, in the final seven years of human history, will really put the pressure on national Israel, bring a remnant of them to faith in what we call the Great Tribulation period. And then through that remnant, he will establish His long-awaited kingdom program, and that’s when the Theocratic Kingdom that God originally wanted to establish in Eden will come back to Planet Earth, and that’s what we’re expecting. That’s what we’re hoping for.
Tom: Andy, I want you to give just a few more details about the Theocratic Kingdom, especially when you said that the nation of Israel was offered the kingdom. Now, I’ll just mention something, and then you jump on it. Because the King was there! The King was right in front of them. And that’s the First Coming of Christ. He came as the king. But He was rejected. Is that right?
|Andy: Yeah. I mean, they had the book of Deuteronomy:17:15 all the way back in the time of Moses. It’s very clear that the nation of Israel had a responsibility to enthrone the king of God’s choosing, which God delivered to them right on time. He was standing in their midst, they saw His miracles, and…this is what the theologians call the “Offer of the Kingdom,” and it’s what’s traced so carefully for us in the Gospels. And had Israel enthroned, hypothetically, this king, the Kingdom would have come. But we know the tragic end of that. National Israel, except for a very small remnant, especially amongst the leadership, turned down this offer. And so the Kingdom is in a state of postponement today. The condition has never been met.
And what are we, as the church? We’re basically those (a small body of people) that have accepted by faith in the very Jewish Messiah that the nation of Israel rejected, so we’re a spiritual man, but we’re not the Kingdom.
Tom: Right. And the Kingdom, as you said, is a temporal kingdom. But let’s go back to the Universal Kingdom. We believe that God is sovereign. He’s in charge. How would you explain that? Or could you explain a little more about what you term the Universal Kingdom? It’s a spiritual kingdom. Or is that correct or not?
Andy: Yeah, I mean when we talk about the Universal Kingdom, we’re really talking about the spiritual worldwide reign of God, which is eternal, which always exists, and it really is the direct rule of God. And it’s not really conditioned upon any kind of human response. It’s always there. The theocratic kingdom is a different animal (if I can use that expression) entirely. It is future, it is earthly, and it is ruled – or will be ruled – indirectly by God the Father through God the Son. And that phase of the kingdom cannot come until national Israel fulfills a condition going all the way back to the book of Deuteronomy:17:15.
So, you know, you talked about worldwide revival. Let’s say we had worldwide revival today, and every Gentile on Planet Earth got saved, which would be a wonderful thing, [but if] tiny Israel remains in unbelief, the Theocratic Kingdom stays in postponement. And the opposite is true. If every Gentile rejected Jesus Christ but tiny Israel fulfilled her condition and believed in Jesus, or what they call Yeshua, the Theocratic Kingdom would materialize. And so, what’s holding everything back in terms of the Theocratic Kingdom is the response of Israel, because she is the covenanted nation.
Tom: Right. And that’s a wonderful hope. We’re looking forward to it, because when Christ returns, our Blessed Hope, He’s going to set up the kingdom in Israel. He’s going to rule and reign from Jerusalem, and, as you mentioned earlier, the earth will be transformed. It won’t be the perfect condition, but it will be incredibly better than anything that we can imagine now.
Andy: Yeah, it won’t be the eternal state, which is what you find in the last two chapters of the Bible, where, according to Revelation:21:4, sin and all of its consequences will be done away with. Prior to that point in time, it’ll actually be the rule of God the Father through God the Son over this earth, and the curse that God has placed on this earth due to man’s rebellion against God is dramatically curtailed. People’s lifespans are longer; the wolf and lamb will lie down together; they’ll beat their swords into ploughshares; even the Dead Sea (there’s a reason we call that the “Dead Sea”—everything in the sea is biologically dead because of the high salt content). But according to Ezekiel 47, even that Dead Sea will be miraculously brought back to life. Ezekiel talks about a functioning temple during that time period. The knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth, and you’ll actually be able to see Jesus physically present and ruling from David’s throne in Jerusalem.
So, that’s where we’re going to get our social justice, and that’s what we’re looking forward to
Tom: The stunner, Andy, is that some – I mean, they’ll go along with the program; not all will. But some, their hearts—if they don’t give their hearts to Christ, they do not receive their Savior. It’s amazing.
Andy: Yeah, and that’s, I think, one of the reasons why God is allowing this time period to go forward. Because there will be those who survive the Great Tribulation period, and they will be believers. We get all this from Matthew:25:31-46, called “The Sheep and Goat Judgment.” They’ll enter the Millennial Kingdom in their mortal bodies. They’ll have children, their children will have children; the population of the earth will come back up dramatically. But the sin nature is still present. And what you have is people living in a near-perfect condition for 1,000 years, and yet, tragically, we know from Revelation:20:7-9 that the first chance these folks get, there’s a worldwide rebellion against Jesus Christ. And what’s so sad about it is that God is proving once and for all that man’s real problem is not his environment. You can put a corrupt sinner in a perfect environment, and he’ll still be a sinner. What people need – and I believe many during this time will receive this, and as you pointed out, some will not – but what they need is an internal transformation, which Jesus called “the new birth”; which Peter called “the new nature,” an that's desperately what people need. Simply altering their environment isn’t going to help them, in the long run. And I think God allows this 1,000-year time period to go forward to prove this point once and for all.
Tom: Absolutely, Andy.
Andy, now, from the beginning of the program to the last sentence you gave, you’ve been talking about something that people don’t understand – or, at least, the term. You've been talking about dispensationalism. These things are going to take place. This takes place, and then this takes place… Would you give our listeners a brief definition of dispensationalism and why it’s so important to what we’re talking about?
Andy: Yeah, dispensationalism, although it’s kind of ridiculed by a lot of folks today, really is a wonderful concept, because it really is the keys that unlock the whole Bible to you. The word “dispensation” – you’ll find it translated that way in some older Bible translations, Ephesians:1:10 and Ephesians:3:2, and the actual Greek name is from a compound word, oikonomia. It comes from two words: oikos, meaning “house” and nomos, meaning “rule” or “law.” So a dispensation is really “house rules.” And as you go through the Bible, what you’ll discover is that the rules change from age to age. So, for example, you move out of Genesis 1 and 2 into Genesis 3, and the rules obviously changed. You have death entering the picture; man now has to work by the sweat of his brow; pregnancy becomes difficult – none of those things were happening in Genesis 1 and 2, so obviously the rules changed. And so a traditional dispensationalist, like myself, would kind of step back and see that the rules in God change about seven times. And so the age of time that we’re in now, God has different rules in effect as compared to what it was like in Old Testament times. And in the Kingdom Age, the rules will be changed differently to what they are today.
One thing I want to be clear on, though, is the plan of salvation. It never changes. That’s constant all the way through. Because sometimes we’re accused of teaching different ways of salvation. Salvation has always been by faith alone, in Christ alone. It’s in the Old Testament. They didn’t know the name “Christ,” but they were looking forward to a coming Messiah, whereas we know the name Jesus, and we’re looking backward by faith to a coming Messiah. That never changes. But the outworking of God’s purposes changed about seven times. That’s what’s meant by dispensation, or house rules. If that concept is not acknowledged, it leads to mass confusion, as you try to study and interpret the whole Bible.
Tom: Right. You see, the reason – not only what you said, but another reason I think this is so important is, you know, I mentioned the term “eschatology.” That’s just how the last days are going to play out. God gives us this information. This is prophecy. This is what’s going to take place. And we see, in my view, a chronology throughout the Bible: this takes place, and then this will take place… For example, we have the Church Age. And then we have the Rapture of the Church. And then we have the seven years of Tribulation; and then we have the Millennial Reign of Christ. These are not issues that are so complicated you can’t figure it out. The Bible says, “This is going to take place, and this is going to take place, and this is going to take place… Andy, if we blow that off, it isn’t just confusion, but Jesus said, “Take heed…” talking about the Last Days prior to His coming. “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Well, wait a minute! He was asked what would be the sign of His coming, and so on. If we don’t recognize that it’s a dispensation, it’s an issue that going to take place, and if we just disregard that, it’s not going to be good.
Andy: Yeah, it’s just a basic method of Bible study interpretation to recognize dispensations. So when you study any chapter of the Bible, you need to ask yourself, “What dispensation are we in?” So that tells you what is directly governing and binding today. So there are so many pastors today from the Kingdom Age, which is yet future, that people apply today indiscriminately without really understanding dispensations, and it results in a confusion of our purposes and priorities in God’s promises in the present.
Tom: Andy, we’ve got about a minute left, but we’re looking forward to next week’s program. There’s some things that you mentioned in your book – I mean, there’s a whole lot that you mentioned in the book, but one of the things among many that are so important that you spell out is the difference between a conditional promise vs. an unconditional promise, which is so important, so significant, related to the land of Israel and so on. So, I look forward to discussing these things with you and much more. Folks, I encourage everyone to get right on part 2 of this interview.
So, Andy, thanks for joining me, and I look forward to our further discussion next week.
Andy: Great! I’m looking forward to it also.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 featuring T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter contact us at PO Box 7019, Bend, Oregon, 97708. Call us at 800.937.6638. Or visit our website at the bereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us, and we hope you can be here again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.