The Kingdom of God is at Hand, part II

‘Tween the Times

In part I, the intertestamental era (the time between the Old and New Testaments) was discussed including the literary works, social developments, and beliefs of the different Jewish sects of this period. Since God had sent no prophets since the time of Malachi, the oppressed Jews turned to writing various works which are known as Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. Much of this literature was fictional, some of dubious origin, while others contained factual historical accounts interspersed with inaccuracies; however, there was a fair amount on the spirit world including the angelic realm, eschatology, and the afterlife.

The Church of today is in waiting in a not too dissimilar way. There have been no prophets since the writings of the Apostles in the first century; and, we are in between the two advents – Jesus’ First and Second Comings.

However, in recent years there has been the claim that God has brought back prophecy through the so-called “restoration of the five-fold ministry” of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers based on an interpretation of Ephesians 4:11-13. Interestingly, the focus is primarily on the first two in this list to the virtual exclusion of the others with some of the self-proclaimed using these titles to define their own personhood as in Apostle __________ or Prophet __________ (with the first letter of their designation capitalized).

It is beyond the scope of this article to do an in-depth exposition on the Latter Rain movement[1] from which the “five-fold” teaching in the previous paragraph and much of the remaining article emanate. Others have already done a fine job such as Tricia Booth (formerly Tillin of Banner Ministries) at The Birthpangs of a New Age[2], Herescope[3], and others.

It would be journalistically improper, unfair and inaccurate to make direct correlations between the Jewish sects of the intertestamental era with Christians of the present; however, general comparisons may prove interesting. The Qumranians as identified in the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) lived a monastic type of lifestyle perhaps not too dissimilar to monks and nuns of the Roman Catholic Church of today. Also, the Qumran group had their “teacher of righteousness” whom they looked to for interpretation of the Scriptures not unlike the Roman Catholic Church looks to the Papacy.

Similarly, Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer (IHOP)[4] in Kansas City, Missouri could be compared to the Qumran community in that both groups are separative – IHOP less so, as they do allow guests. However, once you are ‘in’ at IHOP, it’s not so easy to leave as one ex-IHOPper illustrates[5].

Like the Qumran community had its “righteous teacher,” the International House of Prayer has its leader, Mike Bickle, as primary expositor of the Bible. While Bickle himself says he’s not a prophet, he has relied upon both Bob Jones [see here for article on this blog] and Paul Cain for “foundational revelation” with respect to the vision of the International House of Prayer and its 24/7 worship. And, similar to the Qumranians, Bickle believes we are in the last days; and, likewise, Bickle feels like his congregation has reached a step or two beyond other Christian groups.

More comparisons could be made; but, that would detract from the primary focus of this article. However, in general, it could be said that most people today believe we are currently in the last days much like those of the intertestamental period thought.

Kingdom Now/Dominionism and the Redefined Great Commission

The first paragraph of part I ended with this question: “So, is the kingdom of God NOW?” Bill Johnson answers in the affirmative:

“Jesus taught us how to live by announcing, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand!’ It is a present reality affecting the now.

“…Many say that we must be careful over how much emphasis we put on what we are to become in the now. Why…?”[6] [bolding from italicized original]

While the Kingdom of God is most certainly now, its consummation will come only when Jesus returns bodily [Acts 1:6-11]. Johnson, however, believes Jesus gave the authority to us to “take dominion” over the earth; i.e., to “Christianize” by ‘miracles, signs and wonders’ thus distorting Matthew 28:19-20 and redefining the Great Commission as orthodox Christianity knows it:

“In redeeming man, Jesus retrieved what man [Adam] had given away. From the throne of triumph He declared, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore…’ In other words I got it all back. Now go use it and reclaim mankind…”[7] [emphasis and ellipse as in original]

Johnson states that the “authentic gospel” is actually “the gospel of the kingdom [8] – meaning what is known as Dominionism or Kingdom Now. Interestingly, the part about repentance and sin as in Luke 24:47 – “and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem.” [NIV] – is conspicuously absent or deemphasized amongst those who have redefined the Great Commission. Without the knowledge that we are sinners – the bad news – what good is the Good News of the Gospel? Todd Bentley even goes so far as to say:

“…We can preach the Gospel all day long, but that won’t save souls….” [9]

That’s because it’s all about the ‘miracles, signs and wonders’ according to the Bentley and Johnson viewpoint. In the October, 2009 issue of Charisma, C. Peter Wagner states the same basic thing as Johnson:

“Formerly I thought my task was to go to as many nations of the world as possible and plant as many churches as possible. Now I take the Great Commission more literally when it tells us not to make as many individual disciples as we can but to disciple whole social groups – such as entire nations. This is kingdom theology.

“When God created Adam and Eve, He told them to take dominion over all His creation (see Gen. 1:28). This was God’s plan until Satan succeeded in persuading Adam to obey him rather than God. The result was that Satan usurped Adam’s authority and took dominion himself.”[10] [emphasis mine]

This whole premise of ‘reclaiming lost dominion’ is faulty. The main problem with this logic is that the dominion referred to in Genesis 1:28 refers to ruling over the fish, birds, animals, and “every living thing” on the earth. The next two verses in Genesis explain God’s intent:

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food. And it was so. [NIV]

In effect, the Lord is saying we are to have stewardship rather than ownership over the earth. Who really owns the earth? Psalm 24:1 states, “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” [NIV] In the book of Job, Satan himself must receive God’s permission to test Job (Job 1:6-12 and 2:1-6). And, in Job 38:33 God states the following as a rhetorical question:

33 Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth? [NIV]

Obviously, Satan does not have dominion over the earth – he may be “lord of this world” in a sense; but, he doesn’t own it or control it. God is still sovereign. So, regarding Wagner’s and Johnson’s (and others’) claim that the dominion of the earth was lost to Satan at The Fall, Scripture just does not attest to that. From the Adam Clarke commentary regarding Genesis 1:28:

“…God created man capable of governing the world, and when fitted for the office, he fixed him in it. We see God’s tender care and parental solicitude for the comfort and well-being of this masterpiece of his workmanship, in creating the world previously to the creation of man. He prepared every thing for his subsistence, convenience, and pleasure, before he brought him into being; so that, comparing little with great things, the house was built, furnished, and amply stored, by the time the destined tenant was ready to occupy it.” [11]

The more traditional view of postmillennialism (that Jesus will return after the Millennium spoken of in Revelation chapter 20) does not believe that man has any control as to when the coming of the new heavens and the new earth will take place. Yet, this is the basic premise of the late Earl Paulk in his 1985 book Held in the Heavens Until…. In it, he asserts the classic Latter Rain notion that Jesus cannot return until certain things are accomplished by Christians. The back cover of the book explains:

Why must Christ “remain in heaven until the time of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21)? When will the time come? As Christians, are we responsible for holding Christ?

“…The Church must accept its responsibility in the Second Coming of Christ. Only when the church is in the spirit of unity as the mature Bride of Christ will He return.” [12][emphasis mine]

So, with this view, Christians are either hindering or hastening the Second Coming by our actions or inactions. The book goes into all the Latter Rain doctrines, including Dominionism, in the same way Johnson and Wagner believe. Paulk begins by saying Adam and Eve were not only created in God’s image, but were created as His offspring with the implication, of course, that they were little gods:

“When God created His offspring in His own image, He determined that they would bring order and dominion to the earth. God declared the dominion of His Kingdom over everything throughout the entire universe (Genesis 1:26).…” [13][emphasis mine]

Just like Johnson and Wagner above, Paulk goes back to the Garden of Eden.

Error Incarnates Error

Some of the implications and ramifications of the “errors” regarding one’s view of the kingdom of God are delineated by D. A. Carson in his Common errors in understanding the Kingdom[14].  As indicated here throughout this article, these doctrinal “errors” compound themselves in and with their associated teachings.

[Side note: there are various movements with this same flair such as Reconstructionism[15]; however it is beyond the scope of this article for a full discussion. Herescope[16] has been doing a very fine series on the various flavors of Kingdom Now theology.]

Kenneth E. Hagin says basically the same thing as Johnson, Wagner and Paulk with respect to the Great Commission in his book The Name of Jesus in which he quotes heavily from E. W. Kenyon’s similarly titled book The Wonderful Name of Jesus. The belief is that Christians can do most anything in Jesus’ name because Jesus specifically gave His authority to the “Church” including, of course, taking dominion[17]. Hagin picks up where Paulk left off in the previous section:

“…When someone is born again, he is baptized into, put into, immersed into the Body of Christ.

“Jesus is the Head. We are the Body. The Head and the Body are one.” [18] [all as per original]

Note how “Body” is capitalized. Hagin also references II Corinthians 6:14-16; and, because of the words of verse 15, “…And what concord hath Christ with Belial?” [KJV] he equates this to mean “the Church is called Christ…:”[19]

“…In fact, in the Epistles, the Church is called Christ!

“The Church has not yet realized that we are Christ.” [20]

Curiously though, in the following he does not capitalize “head” or “body” which is assumed to be a typographical error especially as he explains further that we are Christ individually not just collectively:

“…Christ is the head; we are the body. We are Christ.

“…We are here as His representatives – not only collectively, but individually.” [21] [emphasis mine]

Then he quotes Kenyon directly (attributing this to Kenyon):

“When we pray in Jesus’ Name, we are taking the place of the absent Christ; we are using His authority to carry out His will on the earth.” [22]

So, we go from a redefined Great Commission to self as god. It gets worse. Here are well known words of Kenyon which Hagin parroted on more than one occasion:

Every man who has been ‘born again’ is an Incarnation, and Christianity is a miracle. The believer is as much an Incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.” [23] [emphasis mine]

This is tantamount to Manifest Sons of God doctrine[24]. By strict definition, the word incarnation infers a preexistence; and, by extension, this also infers the doctrine of reincarnation. Here’s Paulk stating basically the same thing as Hagin/Kenyon:

“…It was the quickening and bringing alive of the Word which was incarnate in Jesus Christ. That Word became incarnate in the Church.

“…Jesus was the firstfruit of God’s incarnation, a man living out God’s perfect will. Now He says, “…My people will bring forth life as they become the ‘incarnate Word’ on planet Earth.” …the Church is the ‘ongoing expression’ of God.” [25] [emphasis mine]

“All things have been given to us, even to the point of allowing us to share the divine nature of Jesus. Sharing His nature is a definition of the ongoing incarnation of God on the earth. ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory.’ His inheritance is already ours.” [26][emphasis mine]

Then Paulk goes on to reference Matthew 18:19-20[27] just as Hagin does in his book[28] in justifying the same doctrine AND; similarly Paulk references Mark 16:17-18[29] in the same manner as Hagin[30]. There is certainly a lot of cross-pollination between Hagin’s teachings and Paulk’s even though Hagin is considered Word of Faith while Paulk is considered Latter Rain. In reality, both Word of Faith and Latter Rain have much in common.

“…The next move of God awaits Christ in us taking dominion, being the standard by which God can judge the world. The next move of God awaits the total oneness of the family of God in heaven and earth…” [31][emphasis mine]

The Changing Face of Christianity

At the time of publication of Paulk’s Held in the Heavens Until…, the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA)[32] was not yet formed; however, one of the major goals of Latter Rain was to establish a hierarchy of leadership which others must be subordinate to. In 1985 when this book was first published the “modern prophetic” was gaining momentum.

“Jesus cannot come until the apostolic ministry is re-established. We are now in the period of the prophets. Today God is raising up prophets who are under the anointing of God, but the period of the apostolic ministry will soon return also. Only then can Jesus Christ return.” [33][emphasis mine]

The ICA’s “Presiding Apostle” is C. Peter Wagner of Global Harvest Ministries[34]. Membership as of November 10, 2009 can be found at this link.[35] The newest version of their website now requires a member login; whereas, previously anyone could access their site. Courtesy of Internet Archive a/k/a The Wayback Machine the following info from their former site is recovered:

“The Second Apostolic Age began roughly in 2001, heralding the most radical change in the way of doing church at least since the Protestant Reformation. This New Apostolic Reformation [NAR] embraces the largest segment of non-Catholic Christianity worldwide, and the fastest growing. Churches of the Apostolic Movement embrace the only Christian megablock growing faster than Islam.” [36][emphasis mine]

Further, on the Prospectus tab the redefined “Great Commission” is identified and its importance explained:

“The fundamental vision of ICA is to speed the completion of Jesus’ great commission to preach the gospel to every creature and to make disciples of all nations. World evangelism is the pulse beat of apostles wherever they might be found. Nothing that we do in ICA should eclipse or even dull this essential vision. The accelerated advance of the Kingdom of God is our highest priority….” [37] [emphasis mine]

Bill Johnson, in his own push for both apostolic authority and unity (at the expense of doctrine) in this “post-denominational era,” compares and contrasts what he terms “fathers” (modern day “apostles”) and “teachers” (those who adhere to sound doctrine). He claims these “fathers/apostles” are humble, they imitate other “fathers,” and they have a ministry of power with a focus on “The Kingdom.” On the other hand, “teachers” are prideful, they “gather around ideas” to the point of being divisive (in sticking to orthodox Christian doctrines) while focusing on the “many words” of said teachings. To him, signs and wonders take precedence over sound doctrine.[38]

Mike Bickle states that Jesus cannot return until the Bride of Christ (the Church) is mature, perfect. Bob Dewaay wrote an excellent piece on Bickle’s Bridal Paradigm[39] which shows the International House of Prayer view.   This belief of Bickle is shared by Paulk:

“The purpose of every move of God is to produce the mature Bride: Christ in us, the power of God’s authority displayed through us, taking dominion of the planet. God waits for us to complete His plan. God cannot move again until we fulfill our mission on earth.” [40] [emphasis mine]

Mike Bickle is also (in)famous for the following quote:

“The Lord said simply, ‘I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity in the earth in one generation.’” [41][Emphasis mine]

Rick Joyner, of MorningStar Ministries[42] on the back cover of his book The Harvest, states a similar thing:

“What is about to come upon the earth is not just a revival or another awakening; it is a veritable revolution. This vision was given in order to begin awakening those who are destined to radically change the course and even the very definition of Christianity.” [43]

And, Bill Johnson, at Todd Bentley’s “commissioning” service at the ‘Lakeland Revival’ on June 23, 2008 said:

“…We shape the course of history by partnering with you giving honor where it’s due. You welcome the glory as well as anybody I’ve ever seen in my life – I long to learn from you in that and I bless you. And, I pray with the rest of these that the measure of glory would increase, that Moses would no longer be the high water mark with the glory shown from his face but instead the revelation of the goodness of God would change the face of the church. And that he would use your voice, he would use your grace, your anointing, to alter the face of the Church before the world….” [44] [emphasis mine]

It seems, unfortunately, the “face of the Church” has changed, and for the worse, in some quarters; but, did God do this or did man? “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” [Hebrews 13:8] “But you remain the same and your years will never end.” [Psalm 102:27] “God is not a man that He should lie or a son of man that He should change his mind.” [Numbers 23:19] The Bible provides the answer. [all Scripture from NIV]

The New Age Kingdom

“The Kingdom of God will be presented to Christ by the Kingdom prototype, a true demonstration of Him in the world. When His Kingdom on earth has been demonstrated in prototype, Christ will return…” [45][emphasis mine]

The words above are those of Earl Paulk. Compare these and the other quotes in this article to Alice Bailey, acting as a medium for “Tibetan Master DK (Djwhal Khul),” in her 1937 esoteric/occult book From Bethlehem to Calvary, explaining the New Age view of the kingdom of God in the chapter titled “Our Immediate Goal: The Founding of the Kingdom:”

“…The question, however, arises whether we may hasten the process; whether, by a right understanding of Christ and His teaching, we could so expedite matters that the kingdom and its laws may hold sway earlier than would otherwise be the case….” [46][emphasis mine]

“…We can produce, and as a [human] race give birth to, the next kingdom in nature, which Christ called the kingdom of God; this is the kingdom of souls, the kingdom of spiritual lives, and herein, uniquely, Christ emerges.” [47][emphasis mine]

Bear in mind that “Christ” here does not refer to the Jesus Christ of orthodox Christianity but rather the occult/esoteric/New Age version. The soon-to-emerge “Christ” above refers to the “Christ consciousness” and; once enough individuals achieve this state – a “critical mass” – the physical embodiment of the antichrist will arise on the scene.

Put another way, the New Age view is that “Christ” is not a person but an “office”[48] or “anointing” which Jesus received; so, in the following quotes, “Christ” refers to this “Jesus” rather than the actual divine Jesus Christ of true Christianity. In the occult/esoteric view Jesus had both a human nature and a divine nature (as do all humans according to this view); and, through effort He attained godhood leaving His humanity behind. This, of course, changes the definition of “church” and the “kingdom of God” as well.

“…the motive must be the one that incited Christ to all His divine activity – the founding of the new kingdom and the attainment of that state of consciousness on a universal and human scale which will make out of the human being a citizen of the kingdom, consciously functioning therein, voluntarily subject to its laws and striving steadfastly for its extension on earth….” [49][emphasis mine]

“The true Church is the kingdom of God on earth, divorced from all clerical government and composed of all, regardless of race or creed, who live by the light within, who have discovered the fact of the mystical Christ in their hearts, and are preparing to tread the Way of Initiation. The kingdom is not composed of orthodox theologically minded people. Its citizenship is wider than that, and includes every human being who is thinking in larger terms than the individual, the orthodox, the national and the racial. The members of the coming kingdom will think in terms of humanity as a whole; and as being as they are separative or nationalistic, or religiously bigoted, or commercially selfish, they have no place in the kingdom. The word spiritual will be given a far wider connotation than that which has been given in the old age which is fortunately now passing….” [50][underline/bold as emphasis in original, additional bolding mine for emphasis]

“How will this condition of God’s kingdom materialize on earth? …by men and women everywhere cultivating the wider consciousness, and becoming more and more inclusive….” [51][emphasis mine]

The exclusivity of the “old age” of Biblical Christianity with its insistence on only one way to salvation is seen as “sin” and “divisive” by the New Ager. Their goal is inclusiveness as the above quote demonstrates. The reasoning is that worldwide unity is critical to the attainment of the next leap in humankind from the homo sapiens of the current Piscean Age to homo universalis in the upcoming Age of Aquarius[52]. Ed Tarkowski, in his work Lord Maitreya: Lord of the Apostasy, (“Maitreya” is the name given for the antichrist) explains:

“New Agers believe that every age has had a teacher who manifested ‘the Christ.” During the past 2,150 years, they say, we have been in the age of Pisces, the energies of which brought divisions into the world. It is believed that now we are in a transition period, and that the new age of Aquarius will be one of synthesis, an age of unity and oneness. This unity of all things will bring fulfillment to humanity through the realization that man is god. Many believe that this realization will be brought forth under the Aquarian leadership of and through the personal appearance of the Lord Maitreya.” [53] [emphasis mine]

A central tenet of New Age teachings is evolution and the accompanying doctrine of reincarnation. In her 1948 book The Reappearance of the Christ – which refers, once again, to the “Christ consciousness” and/or antichrist – Alice Bailey speaks of the ultimate fulfillment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The “Hierarchy” mentioned below is the New Age “spiritual Hierarchy” or “Masters of Wisdom” who are, in reality, demonic spirits. “Christ” in the last sentence is actually the antichrist or Lord Maitreya:

“…It will then be possible for the Hierarchy [Masters of Wisdom], the Church of Christ hitherto invisible, to externalise [sic] itself and to function openly upon the physical plane. This will indicate a return to the situation which existed in Atlantean days when (to use Biblical symbology, Genesis Chaps. 2 and 3) God Himself walked among men; He talked with them and there was no barrier between the Kingdom of men and Kingdom of God. Divinity was then present in physical forms and the Members of the spiritual Hierarchy were openly guiding and directing the affairs of humanity, as far as man’s innate freedom permitted. Now, in the immediate future, and on a higher turn of the spiral of life, this will again happen. The Masters will walk openly among men; the Christ [antichrist] will reappear in physical Presence….” [54][brackets mine for explanation, emphasis mine]

In stating “The Christ will reappear” the actual meaning is the antichrist will appear. This will NOT be Jesus Christ’s second coming as the text may seem to say.

Building the Kingdom on the Firm Foundation

Ethics and religion cannot be legislated as this will not, by itself, change the heart. Only God through Jesus Christ can do that. For a good read on the correct way to ‘build the Kingdom’ see Relevant Bible Teaching[55].

The Kingdom of God is within the true believer (Luke 17:21) by the indwelling Holy Spirit – the one who trusts in the Jesus Christ of the Holy Bible. The Kingdom is constructed by God through Holy Spirit conviction, not man. It is built through preaching the True Gospel and a receptive heart accepting this Gospel – the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the one and only begotten/incarnated Son of God, who took the sins of the world upon Himself and nailed them to the Cross thus providing the means of salvation for all who believe on Him. Raised on the third day, He ascended bodily and is now at the Father’s right hand providing intercession for us. If you confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior you will have eternal life provided you stand firm to the end.

Please dear reader, be sure you are helping to build the right Kingdom. Your eternity could be at stake.

Endnotes:

[1] Wikipedia. Latter Rain <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latter_Rain_(post-World_War_II_movement)>

[2] Booth, Tricia (formerly Tillin). The Birthpangs of a New Age. <http://www.birthpangs.org/articles/latterrain/gloryappx.html>

[3] Herescope home page <http://herescope.blogspot.com/>

[4] International House of Prayer home page <http://www.ihop.org/>

[5] “Ariel” “Why I Believe IHOP is a Cult” The Gospel Masquerade <http://gospelmasquerade.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/why-i-believe-ihop-is-a-cult/>

[6] Johnson, Bill. When Heaven Invades Earth. 2003; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 178

[7] ibid. p 30

[8] ibid. p 27

[9] Bentley, Todd. Kingdom Rising: Making the Kingdom Real in Your Life. 2008; Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 67

[10] Wagner, C. Peter. The Case For Dominion. Charisma (2009, October) p 29

[11] Adam Clarke Commentary on Genesis 1:28; studylight.org <http://www.studylight.org/com/acc/view.cgi?book=ge&chapter=1&verse=28#Ge1_28>

[12] Paulk, Earl. Held in the Heavens Until… 1985; K Dimension, Atlanta, GA; back cover

[13] ibid. p 153

[14] Carson, D. A. Common Errors in understanding the Kingdom. 2008; Evangelicals Now <http://www.e-n.org.uk/p-4197-Common-errors-in-understanding-the-Kingdom.htm>

[15] Wikipedia. Christian Reconstructionism. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Reconstructionism>

[16] Herescope. “The Emerging Order” Part 6: The Next Great Awakening… Or Great Deadening? see parts 1-5 also <http://herescope.blogspot.com/2010/10/emerging-order.html>

[17] Hagin, Kenneth E. The Name of Jesus. 1979; RHEMA Bible Church / Faith Library, Tulsa, OK; pp 18-19, 42, 47

[18] ibid. p 66

[19] ibid. p 105

[20] ibid.

[21] ibid. p 106

[22] ibid.

[23] Hagin, Kenneth E. “The Incarnation” The Word of Faith. (1980, December; #13) Kenneth Hagin Ministries, Tulsa, OK; p 14 as quoted in Russell Sharrock’s book Covenant Theology: A Critical Analysis of Current Pentecostal Covenant Theology. 2006, Lulu Enterprises, Morrisville, NC; p 109

[24] Graves, Charles S. “Sonship and Rebellion Anointing or Apostasy: The Latter Rain Legacy. As sourced from Tricia Booth’s website Birthpangs: A New World Order in the Making. <http://birthpangs.org/articles/background/Chas-Graves-Anointing-Apostasy.pdf> pp 22-30

[25] Paulk, Op.Cit. p 163

[26] ibid. p 197

[27] ibid p 198

[28] Hagin, Op.cit. The Name of Jesus. p 20

[29] Paulk, Op.cit. p 198

[30] Hagin, Op.cit. pp 17-18

[31] Paulk, Op.cit. p 198

[32] International Coalition of Apostles (ICA) home page <http://www.coalitionofapostles.com/>

[33] Paulk, Op.cit. p 228

[34] Global Harvest Ministries home page <http://www.globalharvest.org/>

[35] International Coalition of Apostles Membership Directory, November 10, 2009 <http://www.psa91.com/resource/ica.pdf>

[36] International Coalition of Apostles former home page courtesy Internet Archive / Wayback Machine <http://web.archive.org/web/20080204161103/http://www.apostlesnet.net/> par 4

[37] ibid. par 5

[38] Johnson, Op.cit. pp 89-94

[39] Dewaay, Bob. Mike Bickle and International House of Prayer: The Latter Rain Redivivus. <http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue107.htm>

[40] Paulk, Op.cit. pp 230-231

[41] Bickle, Mike. Growing in the Prophetic. 1996; Creation House, Lake Mary, FL; p 30

[42] MorningStar Ministries home page <http://www.morningstarministries.org/> Joyner is the one who predominately “restored” Todd Bentley to “ministry.”

[43] Joyner, Rick. The Harvest 1993; MorningStar Publications. Charlotte, NC; back cover

[44] “nowbelieve” YouTube video “Todd Bentley ‘Commissioning’ of June 23, 2008.” <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A05WQYi7aQ> Bill Johnson; 1:30 – 2:10

[45] Paulk, Op.cit. pp 235-236

[46] Bailey, Alice A. From Bethlehem to Calvary. Copyright 1937 by Alice A. Bailey, renewed 1957 by Foster Bailey; Lucis Trust, 4th paperback edition, 1989; Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, New York; p 262

[47] ibid. p 259

[48] Cumbey, Constance. The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow. 1983, Rev. ed., Huntington House, Shreveport, LA; p 252. This is also available as a free download at <https://public.me.com/cumbey> “HIDDEN DANG…ND COVER.pdf” p 214

[49] Bailey, Op.cit. pp 271-272

[50] ibid. p 273

[51] ibid. p 274

[52] Tarkowski, Ed. “1945: The Signal For The Christ’s Return” Lord Maitreya: Lord of the Apostasy. <http://www.velocity.net/~edju/maitreya.htm>par 5

[53] ibid. “Who Is Lord Maitreya?” par 2

[54] Bailey, Alice A. The Reappearance of the Christ. 1948, Lucis Trust, 9th printing 1979 (4th Paperback Ed.); Fort Orange Press, Inc., Albany, NY; p 121

[55] Barnett, Brenton M. Relevant Bible Teaching webpage Does the Bible Teach a Cultural Mandate? <http://www.relevantbibleteaching.com/site/cpage.asp?cpage_id=140011557&sec_id=140001239>

The Kingdom of God is at Hand, part I

[see part II here.]

Jesus Himself stated, “The kingdom of God is at hand” in Mark 1:15 [NIV]; however, it is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew that He also said “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matthew 4:17, 10:7 NIV] A quick examination of Scripture leads to the conclusion that the phrases “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” are synonymous. So, is the kingdom of God NOW?

Most first century Jews, according to their understanding of Scripture, were looking for a Messiah who would provide theocratic rule thus delivering them from Roman oppression and immediately establishing the Kingdom of God – the Age to Come. The then-current age – “Satan’s Time” – was one of sin, sickness, demonic possession, and evil in which evil men were triumphant.[1]

Consequently, even though Jesus Christ healed the sick, drove out demons and even claimed to have forgiven sins, the majority of religious leaders did not recognize Him as the Messiah in part because He did not try to overthrow Rome. Since many of the Pharisees – one of the religious parties of the day – did not believe Jesus’ claim as the “I Am” [John 8:58] they wanted to stone Him for blasphemy!

Historical background

Writings of the Intertestamental Era

400 years had already elapsed between the writing of Malachi, the last Old Testament book to be recorded, and the era of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In the intertestamental period (the time between the Old and New Testaments), the Jews were not a free people most of the time instead subjected to the rulership of various empires. There were no prophets providing correction or guidance; and, consequently, it was a rather unhappy time. As a result, it was a period marked by a surge in the production of literary works, the most important of which were the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Tanakh – what Christians know as the Old Testament (abbreviated LXX)[2], the Apocryphal & Pseudepigraphic writings (some of the Apocrypha were translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic and included as part of the LXX)[3], and the Dead Sea Scrolls.[4]

The word Apocrypha, from Greek derivation, means “hidden” which has a view of the works being either esoteric and only to be understood by the initiated or, “hidden” in that the nature of the writings are questionable or heretical[5]. The term Pseudepigrapha is usually applied to Jewish (and Jewish-Christian) writings from 200BC to AD200 and comes also from Greek etymology meaning the writings were attributed to fictitious authors[6] although some have authorship ascribed[7]. From both groups of works the subject of eschatology has a significant role. Taken all together, this literature appeared to have a profound effect on the pre-Christian and the immediate post-Resurrection era[8] up through the destruction of the Second Temple in AD70[9]. [Note: for the purposes of this article the “New Testament Apocrypha” including the so-called “Lost Gospels, ” Acts of Andrews, Epistles of the Apostles, etc. are not considered.]

…These and other writings emerged during the long silence that fell between the death of the last OT prophet, Malachi (about 400 B.C.), and the appearance of John the Baptist. To some extent these writings attempted to discern what God was saying to a nation that, though it had repudiated idolatry, still suffered under the dominion of a succession of pagan powers… [10]

At the Council of Jamnia in AD90 Jewish rabbis rejected the Apocrypha (of which parts were included in the Septuagint) as canonical[11]. Yet, some of the Apocrypha are included in the Catholic New American Bible as Deuterocanonical (meaning later added to the canon) books[12]. Some of the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine such as purgatory, masses for the dead, and obtaining the merit of God through good works come from these Apocryphal works[13].

The OT canon accepted by Protestants today was “very likely established by the dawn of the second century,” some time after the destruction of Herod’s Temple in AD70. However, the Apocrypha was still in common use by most Christians until the Protestant Reformation[14].

Societal Developments of the Period

Even though the Second Temple was in operation from 516 BC[15] until AD70[16,17] geographical constraints and oppressive regimes prevented easy travel for the typical Jew. Thus the synagogue was born. Synagogues can be likened to our modern day church buildings as they provided a convenient way to gather socially and to worship. Jesus Himself visited local synagogues [Luke 4:14-21; Matthew 12:9; Mark 1:21]; and, the Apostles [Acts 9:20, 13:5-43] and early Christian missionaries preached in them as well[18].

The Sanhedrin was a committee of Jews with recognized executive, legislative, and judicial power over Jewish faith and lifestyle during the Seleucid Empire (196 – 167BC), the Maccabean revolt (168 – 143BC) and within the limits imposed by Julius Caesar, Herod the Great, and Roman procurators during the Roman Empire (44BC – AD66).[19,20] Subordinate to the Sanhedrin were the religious parties or sects known as the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and the Qumran community[21]. Since the Sanhedrin had authority over these sects and ultimate authority over capital cases (yet subordinate to Rome during Roman occupation), Jesus’ trial is seen as being conducted illegally[22].

Beliefs of the Sects

Not much is known about the separative and isolationistic Essene group except that they were very legalistic living both frugally and communally while limiting contact outside their sect. While they did not condemn marriage in principle it was avoided and celibacy was celebrated. Their sect was continued on by the adoption of children. There was an expectation of an impending apocalyptic battle between good and evil. Evidence of a soon to emerge Messiah is in their writings also[23].

Even less was known of the Qumran community until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) which were first unearthed in 1947. The Qumranians are likely a sect that broke from the Essenes. This extremely sectarian group rejected the Jewish leadership referring to them as “sons of darkness” and “men of the pit” while referring to themselves as “sons of light” and “sons of truth.” They firmly believed they were living in the end times[24].

From the DSS it is evident that the Qumranians were highly legalistic with a commitment to study the Torah. The Qumran group believed they were living in the end times and accepted the guidance of a certain teacher of righteousness [ed: probably based at least in part on Malachi 4:5] who was presumably preparing them for the Messiah. Their own writings about this “righteous teacher” are too sketchy to determine the exact role of this figure; however, it is apparent that the community accepted his interpretations of the prophetic OT books regarding eschatology. Since the Qumran believed in a resurrection of the dead, it may be assumed in studying portions of the DSS that they expected the “teacher of righteousness to be martyred and eventually raised up[25]. Their Messiah figure, on the other hand, was more of a human son of David concept rather than a divine apocalyptic Son of man[26]. Some scholars construe that the Qumran belief system supports two or three Messianic figures[27,28].

As supernaturalists, the Pharisees believed in angels, demons, bodily resurrection [Acts 23:8], and immortality with reward for the righteous dead[29] in contrast with retribution for the unrighteous[30]. They were legalistic to the point of going beyond the Scriptures in attempting to adhere to the Torah; and, to this end added their own oral tradition to keep various points of the law. A good example of this is their view of the Sabbath [Mark 2:23-28]. The Pharisees “neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness” [Matthew 23:23 NIV] creating a more works-based religion than one with a personal God.

The Pharisees believed both in man’s free will and the sovereignty of God yet thought neither would cancel out the other. Ethics such as human equality were emphasized in their teachings but not necessarily from a theological standpoint[31]. They expected the Messiah to restore Jewish freedom[32].

One credible source stated outright that the Pharisees believed in reincarnation[33]; yet, the general consensus among Christian scholars is that Pharisaical belief regarding immortality adhered to orthodoxy instead. However, in the Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphic literature there are references to reincarnation[34]. In some camps, the Kabbalah was thought to be in use as early as the time of Moses as part of an oral tradition and reincarnation is one of the tenets of Kabbalistic doctrine[35]. While there are certainly some Jewish sects who currently espouse reincarnation[36], it is not clear when this doctrine first came about. The Apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus, or Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach[37], contains a warning against such esotericism [Sirach 3:20-22].[38]

The common people were predominantly middle class and identified mostly with the Pharisees in part because this party was of the same class[39]. It should be noted that not all Pharisees were of the same ilk as those represented in the NT. Some contemporaries within their own party recognized their hypocrisy and rebuked them for it[40]. Gamaliel appeared to try to honor a personal God with his words [Acts 5:33-41]. Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, would, of course, become the Apostle Paul.

The Sadducees, more than any of these groups, had an interest in Temple ceremonies and sought a literal interpretation of the Torah. They appeared to reject extra-canonical sources for doctrine. As the most affluent of the religious groups, the Sadducees wielded political clout disproportionate to their relative size[41]. It is assumed that they held a large percentage of seats on the Sanhedrin.

The Sadducean view of eschatology was quite simplistic and widely divergent from the other sects as they did not believe in a resurrection [Matthew 22:23, Mark 12:18, Luke 20:27] or an afterlife and even denied the existence of a spiritual world altogether [Acts 23:8] attributing everything to free will[42].

Eschatological Views of the Pre-Christian and Immediate Post-Resurrection Era

With the exception of the Sadducean view, the predominant Jewish belief of the pre-Christian era included the imminent arrival of a Messianic figure (or figures assuming one of the viewpoints regarding the Qumran group) to deliver them from their Roman oppressors and immediately establish the Kingdom of God. Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stewart, in their book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, describe the Jewish eschaton (view of the end of time) as the belief that the Messiah’s coming would usher in the “Age to Come” to be “characterized by the presence of the Spirit, righteousness, health, and peace.”[43]

Since Jesus Christ’s disciples/followers came directly from Jewish heritage or were familiar with Jewish eschatological beliefs, they were also expecting Him to soon usher in the Kingdom and overthrow Rome[44] while He was still on the earth. Consequently, Jesus’ arrest and subsequent death on the Cross was met with immense disillusionment among His disciples in part because of this assumption [Luke 22:61-62; 23:27, 48-49; 24:17-21]. However, their sorrow turned to joy with His Resurrection and Ascension!

Yet it was apparent that the end of the age had not come in full:

“Very early, beginning with Peter’s sermon in Acts 3, the early Christians came to realize that Jesus had not come to usher in the ‘final’ end, but the ‘beginning’ of the end, as it were. Thus they came to see that with Jesus’ death and resurrection, and with the coming of the Spirit, the blessings and benefits of the future had already come. In a sense, therefore, the end had already come. But, in another sense the end had not yet fully come. Thus it was already but not yet. [45] [emphasis in original]

First century Christians had to adjust their eschatological thinking to fit the events of the Resurrection and Ascension. However, apparently some were expecting the imminent return of Jesus Christ prompting the Apostle Paul to write the two Thessalonian letters to provide markers of what first must take place before His return. They still had a “kingdom now” mindset. This expectation of imminency with regard to Christ’s return continues in the mindset of most Christians today.

This “tension” between the already but not yet is an important hermeneutical tool in interpreting the New Testament[46]. Passages such as Colossians 3:1-2 illustrate this quite well:

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. [NIV]

We are already raised up with Christ, yet we are still physically here on earth. However, since we have the future expectation of being raised with Christ, we are to already set our hearts and minds on heavenly things. Similarly, when Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is at hand” He was using this same principle. The Kingdom era has already begun; but, the consummation is yet to be fulfilled.

There are those today who are attempting to hasten Jesus Christ’s return by taking the not yet into their own hands. It is the doctrines of some of these which will be compared to the doctrines of the groups above in the second part of this article.

See Part II here.

Endnotes:

[1] Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stewart “The Gospels: One Story, Many Dimensions.” How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. second edition, 1993; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; p 131

[2] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. “The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 1. 1979; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 164-174. This section features Bruce M. Metzger as contributor.

[3] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. “Between the Testaments.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 1. 1979; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 179-192. This section features Harold W. Hoehner as contributor.

[4] Barker, Kenneth; Burdick, Stek, et. al. “The Time between the Testaments” NIV Study Bible. copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 1424-1425

[5] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 161 Metzger

[6] ibid. pp 162, 170

[7] Marshall, I. Howard; Millard, Packer “Pseudepigrapha” New Bible Dictionary. third edition, 1996; Intervarsity, Downers Grove, IL; p 985

[8] Gaebelein, Op.cit. pp 173-174 Hoehner

[9] Richards, Lawrence O. “Apocrypha” Richards Complete Bible Dictionary. 2002; World Bible Publishers, Iowa Falls, IO; p 76

[10] ibid.

[11] Marshall, Op.cit.

[12] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 162

[13] Richards, Op.cit.

[14] Barker, Op.cit. p 1425

[15] Richards, Lawrence O. “Ezra” Richards’ Complete Bible Handbook. 1987; Word, Inc., Dallas, TX; pp 233-234

[16] Wikipedia The Second Temple <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Temple> para 1; as accessed 10/17/10

[17] Richards, Op.cit. “The Second Temple” Bible Dictionary p 967

[18] ibid. “synagogue” pp 957-958

[19] ibid. “Sanhedrin” pp 894-895

[20] Gaebelein, Op.cit. pp 184, 189-191 Hoehner

[21] ibid. pp 192-193

[22] Richards, Op.cit. p 895

[23] ibid. “Essenes” pp 346-347

[24] Gaebelein, Frank E., Gen. Ed. “Dead Sea Scrolls.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 1. 1979; Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pp 395-398. This section features William Sanford LaSor as contributor.

[25] ibid. pp 399-401

[26] ibid. pp 400-403 [The bulk of this information on the Qumran is from the work of William S. LaSor titled The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972]

[27] Barker, Op.cit. p 1427

[28] Hanson, Kenneth “The Wicked Priest” Dead Sea Scrolls: the Untold Story. 1997; Council Oaks Books, Tulsa, OK; p 82

[29] Richards, Op.cit. “Pharisees” p 782

[30] Barker, Op.cit. “Jewish Sects” p 1473

[31] ibid.

[32] Richards, Op.cit.

[33] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 192 Hoehner

[34] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 165 Metzger

[35] Wikipedia “Primary Texts” Kabbalah. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabbalah> para 2, also “History: Origin of Terms” para 1; as accessed 10/17/10

[36] Rich, Tracey R. “Resurrection and Reincarnation” Olam Ha-Ba: The Afterlife. <http://www.jewfaq.org/olamhaba.htm>  Copyright 5759-5760 (1999); Tracey R. Rich; para 4; as accessed 10/17/10

[37] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 166

[38] Confraternity of Christian Doctrine “Sirach” New American Bible. <http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/sirach/sirach3.htm> 2002; Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC; Sirach 3:20-22; as accessed 10/17/10

[39] Richards, Op.cit. “The Common People” Bible Handbook p 443

[40] ibid. “The Pharisees” p 442

[41] Gaebelein, Op.cit. p 192 Hoehner

[42] Richards, Op.cit. “Sadducees” p 885

[43] Fee, Op.cit. p 132

[44] ibid.

[45] ibid. pp 132-133

[46] ibid. p 133

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