THE KINGDOM FORETOLD BY THE PROPHETS
THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM
With an Examination of DISPENSATIONALISM
and the "Scofield Bible"
THE teaching of dispensationalism concerning the Kingdom is apparently founded upon two mistaken ideas; first, that the Kingdom foretold by the prophets of old-- especially when the prophecy related to David or his house--was the earthly kingdom of Israel; second, that "the next thing in order" on the Divine program was national restoration and earthly supremacy for the Jews. These two suppositions being taken for granted, it is easy to assume further that the Kingdom which the Lord said was at hand was the earthly kingdom.
But in fact both the ideas set forth above are erroneous; for the Scriptures clearly prove that the Kingdom foretold by the prophets was the very same Kingdom of God based upon the death and resurrection of the Son of David, which was brought into the world by the coming of the Holy Spirit, and which has been extended throughout all the nations of earth, and through all the centuries of this era of grace "by those who have preached the gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven."
And in particular we are able to show that the prophecies which refer to David and his Seed have their fulfilment during this present age. The main facts concerning the Davidic prophecies are:
1. The work which, according to those prophecies, the promised Son of David was to accomplish was the two-fold work of saving sinners from among all nations and building the House of God (the church). Both parts of this two-fold work are presented in the Gospel of Matthew.
2. The "throne" convenanted to David's Son was the throne of the universe, not thc throne of the earthly Israel.
3. The prophecies require for their fulfilment that the promised Son of David should first suffer and die before He could reign, whether in heaven or on earth.
This third point is of special value for our present purposes, in that it makes it quite impossible that the earthly kingdom, even if such a thing were foretold at all, could have been proclaimed, or even contemplated, in the days of the Lord's earthly ministry. It makes certain that the only kingdom which was, or could have been in view, was the spiritual Kingdom of God which was to be founded upon the death and resurrection of the "Son," the "Christ" of God, Who also was God's "King," spoken of by David in the Second Psalm.
The fact that the expected Son of David must needs have suffered and risen again ere He could reign (whether in heaven or on earth), is clearly set forth by the apostle Peter in Acts 2:25-3I; where he quotes Psalm 16 and explains that David was not speaking of himself when he said "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption," but was speaking of Christ. And then he further explains that David "being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ."
This gives us plainly the true meaning of God's word and His oath to David in regard to the Throne, showing that the promise was to be fulfilled in resurrection.
Clearly then the Davidic promise would lead us to expect, not an earthly kingdom at Christ's coming, but just what happened, namely His death, resurrection and ascension and His enthronement in heaven at God's right hand, as foretold in Psalm 110, which Peter proceeds immediately to quote and apply (v. 33).
It is appropriate at this point to remind the reader that the Kingdom of Israel is not the Kingdom of God and was never called by that name. Therefore the very terms of the announcement made by Christ and His forerunner are proof to all who know the Scriptures that, whatever it was that God was then about to do, it was not the restoration of the earthly glories of Israel's vanished sovereignty.
And specially is it to be remembered that the true Israel was never at anytime, in the purpose of God, an earthly nation or Kingdom. This being recognized, it will be clearly perceived without any further help from the Scriptures, that the whole rabbinical doctrine of an earthly Kingdom over which the Messiah, the son of David was to reign and to which all the nations of the world were to be tributory, was from top to bottom a work of their carnal imagination.
Turning back to Numbers 23:9 we read the word which Jehovah put in Balaam's mouth, that "the people (of Israel) shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations." And Moses, speaking to God, had said: "So shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth" (Ex. 33:16). For God's purpose was that Israel should "dwell in safety alone" (Deut. 33: 28). And that is still His will for those who are in His Kingdom (2 Cor. 6:17; Phil. 3: 20).
Therefore, pursuant to this purpose, the Lord Himself became their King, and reigned over them, until, as a punishment for their rebellion against Him, He gave them their own desire and made them into an earthly kingdom, with a human king, "like all the nations." The record of this transcendently important event is in I. Samuel, Chapter 8. There we read (v. 4 ) that:"All the elders of Israel gathered themselves together and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways; now make us a king to judge us like all the nations."
This action of the nation by its elders displeased Samuel; but the Lord instructed him to hearken to the voice of the people, and to grant them their petition, in all they had asked; because,--and let the reason be noted and weighed--"They have not rejected thee, but they have re}ected Me, THAT I SHOULD NOT REIGN OVER THEM" (v. 7).
Thus Israel formally rejected the Lord as their King; and this, as He proceeds in the succeeding verses to declare, was the culmination of all their unfaithfulness and apostasy from the day He had brought them up out of Egypt even unto that day.
The earthly Kingdom of Israel, therefore, was the expression of God's high displeasure with that people. As He said to them long afterward, "I gave thee a king in Mine anger" (Hos. 13:11). And yet this is the Kingdom for whose restoration the rabbis of old were fatuously looking; and which they were so confidently expecting that they made it the foundation of their whole system of doctrine. Is there then anything stranger among the religious vagaries of our times than that the very same fatuous notion should have become the foundation of a strictly novel system of Christian doctrine? And does it not heighten the wonder that the leading teachers of that new system, with its foundation of sand, should be prominent amongst those who have elected to call themselves, Fundamentalists?
It was, of course, to be expected that the Jews of Christ's day should have seen in the prophecies only what they wished to see--that is to say, the era of lsrael's earthly greatness. It is quite natural that they should have construed the prophecies in accordance with their own carnal desires and thoughts. And we have it on the highest authority that it was because they knew not their expected Messiah, when He came to them, "nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, that they have fulfilled them in condemning Him" (Acts 13:27). Therefore it is not surprising that the coming of Christ should have meant for them nothing more or other than political deliverance from their Roman oppressors. But it is a cause for surprise, and for deep sorrow as well, that learned commentators in our day, men whose views are widely accepted as authoritative, should make the same fatal mistake. And the marvel of it is the greater because the New Testament Scriptures have made it plain to all Christians that the Kingdom foretold by the prophets of Israel and announced by Christ and His servants, is of a spiritual character-- "not eating and drinking," as the earthIy minded Jews supposed (and still do), "but righteousness, and peace and joy, in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17).
The two disciples with whom the Lord walked on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-27), and who were disappointed and grieved because they had hoped that it had been He who should have redeemed Israel, were rebuked by Him as "Fools (or senseless ones) and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken." And thereupon, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets" He proceeded to show them that the entire prophetic word made it necessary that He Who was "the Christ" should suffer those very things and enter into His glory.
Very likely we have felt pity for those foolish disciples, who ignorantly cherished an idea so contrary to the purposes of God as revealed by all His holy prophets since the world began. Yet surely much allowance is to be made for them, seeing that they were Israelites in the flesh, that they were actually under the heel of a despotic heathen power; and especially, seeing that their accredited teachers unanimously construed the prophecies in that sense. But how can we account for the fact that, in spite of the expositions of prophecy by the Lord Himself and by His inspired apostles which dispel completely the thought that the Lord's first coming had anything whatever to do with the national independence of Israel, learned men of our day have revived that exceedingly "Jewish" idea, and have made it the corner stone of their system of teaching? A discerning servant of Christ has lately said that we have here the most extraordinary phenomenon to be found within the pale of orthodox christianity.
In the present chapter I propose to examine some of the prophecies which refer specifically to David, the object being to ascertain just what was promised in that connection. It is often taken for granted nowadays that, where David's name is mentioned in a prophecy, the subject thereof is the earthly greatness of the nation Israel. In fact that idea has so completely taken possession of the minds of certain teachers that the very mention of David's name in a passage of Scripture (as Matthew 1:1) is regarded as sufficient warrant for calling it "Jewish." But the truth of the matter is that the prophecies linked with the name and history of David have to do specially with the gospel, and with the House of God, that is to say the Church.
What those prophecies really called for was the coming, through David's line, of One Who should be the Saviour of the world. The gospel of God concerning His Son "which He had promised afore by His prophets" was connected with David as much as, and as closely as, with Abraham. Paul makes this very clear in the beginning of his inspired explanation of the gospel given in his Epistle to the Romans, where he says that "the gospel of God" was "concerning His Son" who was "of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Rom. 1:13). And the same apostle recalls this fundamental point of gospel-truth very emphatically in his last message in which he says: "Remember Jesus Christ of the seed of David raised from the dead according to my gospel" (2 Tim. 2:8, R. V. ).
It is greatly to be regretted that David's connection with the gospel has been almost wholly lost sight of in our day; for the facts in that regard are necessary to an understanding of the breadth and fulness of the gospel-message. However, it is not a difficult matter for any who are interested to possess themselves of those facts. We have endeavored to set them forth in some detail in a work entitled "Bringing Back the King," in the section entitled "The Sure Mercies of David." Hence we will confine ourselves at present to the consideration of only a few prominent points.
The main fact to be grasped is that the special promises of God which He is fulfilling in our day of grace and salvation, were given and covenanted to the two men, Abraham and David. Thus the gospel rests upon these two pedestals; and the promises to David (or concerning David's Seed) were just as much for all mankind as were the promises to Abraham and his "SEED." God made His "everlasting covenant" with Abraham (Gen. 17:7), and also with David (2 Sam. 23:5). It was the same covenant; and it was to be established by the death and resurrection of the promised "Seed"; for we read in Hebrews 13:20 of "the blood of the everlasting covenant," which was shed by Jesus Christ. Moreover, our Lord Himself, in instituting His memorial Supper, said of the cup, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood which is shed for you" (Lu. 22:20).
We might concisely summarize the Gospel of God's grace as that Divine message which brings to sinners of all nations "The blessing of Abraham" and "The sure mercies of David"; and since the "blessing" and the "mercies" are all secured through Jesus Christ, it is evident that Matthew 1:1 is the opening of this era of grace.
The "everlasting covenant" which God made with those two men was an unconditional covenant, that is to say a covenant of Grace. Since God alone was bound by it, there could be no failure in it. That covenant had to do with matters which are infinitely great and of everlasting duration, namely, the Family, the Inheritance, the Blessing, (i.e. the Holy Spirit, Gal. 3:14), the Throne, and the House. Of these five infinitely great things the first three were enbraced in God's promises to Abraham, and the last two in His promises to David. With these simple facts in mind we will be able to arrive at a clear understanding of the main features of the Davidic prophecies.
All the five great things mentioned above are embraced in the "Salvation of God," which is now proclaimed by the Gospel to sinners of all nations, in the Name of "Jesus Christ of the Seed of David raised from the dead." All of them depend absolutely upon the blood of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God, apart from which there could have been no blessing of any sort whether for Jew or Gentile. Apart from the blood of atonement there was nothing for mankind but condemnation; for at the time of Christ's first coming "all the world" had become "guilty before God." It is simply an impossibility that an earthly kingdom could have been announced by God's servants at that time, if ever.
God's gospel is, as we have seen, that "which He had promised afore by His prophets"; and therefore we must turn back to the prophets to find out just what the gospel-promises were and are. It is a greatly impoverished gospel when the promises; concerning David's Seed are taken from it, are characterized as "Jewish," and are "postponed" to another age than this, and to another people than the redeemed of this age. And that is exactly what is being done under our very eyes. Let us therefore awake out of sleep, and realize what is going on.
Paul puts the matter very clearly also in his words recorded in Acts 13: 22,23, where, speaking in a Jewish synagogue concerning the people of Israel, he recalled that God, after removing Saul from the throne, had "raised up unto them David to be their king"; and he said: "Of this man's seed hath God, according to His promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus." It was therefore, a Saviour that God had promised to Israel through David's line; for it was a Saviour that Israel needed as much as other peoples of the world. The restoration of the earthly kingdom would not have met their need; much less would it have met the need of the world. That, however, was not in view at all. For "when the fulness of the time was come" and "God sent forth His Son" it was "to redeem them that were under the law" (Gal. 4:4,5), not to restore their earthly greatness. And likewise, when Christ Jesus proclaimed with His own lips, "The time is fulfilled. Repent ye and believe the gospel" (Mk. 1:15 ), it was of "the Kingdom of God" He was speaking, and not of the earthly kingdom and He called it "the gospel."
The apostle Paul in the discourse from which we have just quoted showed that the "Saviour" Whom God had raised up to Israel from the Seed of David was not for Israel only, but for "all who believe in Him"; and this is in exact agreement with the proclamation made by the angel of the Lord to the shepherds who were watching their flocks by night at the time of the Lord's birth. The angel's words were "Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
It is strange that this proclamation from heaven. which gives the Lord's full designation "Christ the Lord" and His birth "in the city of David," and the purpose of His coming, as "Saviour" for "all people," has been so completely ignored in the discussion of the matter in hand; for its decisive bearing thereon is evident. Much is made of the fact that the heathen Magi, who saw the star in the East, came with the query: "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" (Mat. 2:2). That question of the Magi is often referred to as if it proved that Christ had come in connection with the earthly kingdom. It ought not to be necessary to say that the question asked by those Magi proves nothing of the sort. Coming from the East where the memory of Daniel's and Ezekiel's prophecies was doubtless preserved, and possibly Balaam's also (Num. 24:17), they probably had received light in regard thereto. Moreover, the Lord was and is "the King of the Jews"; so that the question of the Magi was an intelligent one. It does not indicate at all that they were expecting the national emancipation of the Jews; for that would have had no special interest for them. The more reasonable explanation of their interest in the birth of Christ, and of the trouble they took to pay homage and "offer gifts" to Him (Psa. 72:10), was that it had been in some way revealed to them that the One who was born "King of the Jews" was to bring blessing also to the Gentiles. Therefore the coming of the Magi "to worship" Christ indicates an event of far greater importance than the birth of an heir to the throne of David. It is recorded that the Magi were "warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod," from which it appears that they were being divinely guided in their mission. It is clear, therefore, that the bearing of this incident is not at all what the advocates of the postponement theory make of it.
But the message of the angel to the shepherds at Bethlehem was an authoritative announcement direct from heaven; and it was given in plain words that leave nothing to conjecture. It tells the precise purpose for which Christ had been born; and its terms shut out all possibility that an earthly kingdom was in view. Indeed the purpose for which God sent forth His Son has been repeatedly declared in messages straight from heaven, through angels and men, as Zacharias and Simeon, and later by the inspired apostles, as well as by the Lord Himself. In not one of these declarations concerning the object of His coming is there the slightest hint of an earthly kingdom; but on the contrary they one and all reveal purposes utterly inconsistent with it. Nevertheless, in the interest of dispensationalism all these clear declarations are swept aside, while other passages of Scripture are forced and wrested in order to make them yield to it a semblance of support.
It is a significant fact that while the message brought by the angel Gabriel to Zacharias, who was to be the father of the Lord's forerunner, was the first communication from heaven to earth after the stream of Old Testament prophecy had ended in Malachi, the first human lips that were opened to prophesy the beginning of the new and long awaited era of blessing were those of the women Elizabeth and Mary, (Luke 1:4155). The words uttered by the latter tell clearly that the new era then about to begin was to be --not that of any earthly kingdom whqtever, but--that of "the mercy" promised to the fathers, "to Abraham and his seed forever." And it was subsequently revealed through Paul that the "seed of Abraham" who were to inherit the promises are those who believe the gospel. For we read: "Know ye, therefore, that they which are of faith, the same are the childen of Abraham" (Gal. 3: 7). And again: "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Id. 3:26,29).
In view, therefore of what has been said above I may briefly summarize the various predictions concerning the Seed of David by saying that what God promised to give through David's line was not an earthly King for the Jews, but a Saviour for all the world.
Matthew records in his first chapter that He Who was born of the virgin of David's line was a Saviour, and was named "Jehovah-Saviour" before His birth ( Matt. 1:21). Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied of the Coming One as being a Saviour, saying that God had raised up an horn of Salvation in the house of His Servant David; and further said that this raislng up a Saviour in the house of
David was in fulfilment of what God had spoken "by the mouth of His holy prophets ...since the world began" (Lu. 1: 68-70). Thus we learn (and many other Scriptures declare the same fact) that what was required for the fulfilment of that which all the prophets foretold was the coming in the house of David--not of an earthly king, but of-- a Saviour.
Zacharias further prophesied concerning the ministry of John the Baptist that he was to go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways--not to give notice of an earthly kingdom but --"to give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins(Lu. 1:77).
The angel of the Lord, in announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds on Bethlehem's plain, spake not a word of His having come to reign over Israel, but
proclaimed good tidings of great joy for all people; saying: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ, the Lord" (Lu. 2:10,11). Here again, in a message brought straight from heaven, the promised One of David's line is announced as a Saviour for all men, not a King for the Jews.
Simeon also, being filled with the Holy Ghost, and led by the Holy Ghost to the temple, took the infant Son of David from His virgin mother's arms and spake of Him as God's "Salvation" which He had "prepared before the face of all people"; and as "a Light to lighten the Gentiles" (Lu. 2:30-32). Thus the inspired messages through men and angels all testify clearly that the One Who had come of David's line was the Saviour and Light of the world.
In due time "the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness," and he preached to all the people of Israel. His message was in perfect accord with the word of all the prophets; for he announced the coming of a Saviour Who should give His life for all men--"the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world"--and declared that "all flesh" (Jew and Gentile) should "see the Salvation of God" (John 1:29; Lu. 3: 6).
We have also the testimony of the Lord Himself, the true and faithful Witness, declaring that He came "not to be ministered unto" (that is to be served as kings are served) "but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20: 28). We have this same testimony from His own lips in many other passages (as Luke 4:18-21). And we have also the "good confession" which He witnessed before Pontius Pilate when falsely accused before him of attempting to set up an earthly throne, saying: my Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18: 36; cf. Luke 4:5).
The apostles likewise, after the death and resurrection of Christ and their baptism with the Holy Ghost as promised by John the Baptist, proclaimed the same tidings of a Saviour for all men, Who had been raised up in the house of David. Thus Peter preached concerning David that he "being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on His throne; he (David) seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ"; and Peter continues the explanation of the prophecies concerning Christ, making it clear that the throne which He was to occupy in resurrection, according to God's oath to David, was the throne of God in heaven (Acts 2:29-36).
And again Peter preached concerning Christ, saying: "Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:31).
Paul also connects God's salvation for all men with David, saying, "Of this man's seed hath God, according to His promise, raised unto Israel a Saviour" (Acts I3:22,23). And in his epistle to the Romans, the same apostle unfolds "the gospel of God; which He had promised afore by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures," telling us that the promised gospel of God was "concerning His Son, which was made of the seed of David, according to the flesh" ( Rom. 1:1-3). And the last words of this great preacher and apostle of the Gentiles in regard to the gospel proclaimed by himself, is a stirring exhortation to "Remember Jesus Christ of the seed of David, raised from the dead according to my gospel" ( 2 Tim. 2:8, R. V.).
Thus we have the concurrent testimony of prophets, angels, Spirit-filled men (Zacharias and Simeon), the Lord's forerunnner who also was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb (Lu. 1:15), of the Lord Jesus Himself, and of the inspired apostles,all declaring with one voice that God's promise and purpose from of old, was to raise up of the seed of David One Who should save His people by the sacrifice of Himself, and should he straightway exalted to the heavenly throne of a heavenlyh kingdom. The whole voice of Scripture,--both in the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, the Gospels, the preaching of the apostles in the book of Acts, and their teaching in the Epistles,--tells the same clear story of the steadfast purpose of God. In the light of these Scriptures, and of many others of like nature, it is as clear as that divine light can make it, that the Kingdom, promised afore by the prophets to the Son of David, was and is that spiritual and heavenly Kingdom which that promised Son of David first announced, and then introduced by His death and resurrection, by sending down the Holy Ghost after He had been exalted to the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, and by sending forth the gospel into all the world.
Return to Table of Contents for Gospel of the Kingdom