Prof. Johan Malan, Mossel Bay, South Africa (April 2011)
It is of the greatest importance that Christians should expect a future kingdom – not a kingdom now, during the church dispensation. One of the very serious forms of deception, which the Christian church worldwide is exposed to, emanates from wrongly interpreted promises and commands that we should establish a visible kingdom here and now. An orientation of this nature is the breeding-ground for spiritual deception since it offers Satan’s alternate kingdom the opportunity of holding out to believers something else than that which the Bible promises us for the present dispensation: a different faith, a different way of life, a different status, a different world, and ultimately a different Christ and a different kingdom.
Kingdom now theology, also referred to as kingdom theology or dominionism, is founded upon a large number of false premises. It deviates from the pure doctrine of the Bible in a number of ways. The following 20 characteristics of our present position in the world refute a kingdom orientation for the church dispensation:
We are living in a world which lies under the sway of the Wicked One” (1 John 5:19). However, we should not conclude from this that God is not sovereign in the universe. He decided to give every person a free will (Jos. 24:15; Matt. 23:37; Rev. 22:17). That means that nobody on earth is predestined or programmed to live or die in any particular way. We can use our free will to love and serve the Lord (2 Cor. 5:20), or we can use it to live in sin, thereby rendering ourselves followers of Satan’s kingdom. The great majority of people take wrong decisions on their spiritual loyalties, and that is the major reason why we are living in a predominantly evil world.
With a view to this situation the Lord Jesus referred to the devil as “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30). He was indeed cast out by Christ (John 12:31; 16:11), but His salvation only applies to those who accepted Him as Saviour, and they are a small minority (Matt. 7:14; Luke 13:24). As far as the majority is concerned, the devil is “the god of this age” who blinds the minds of people so that they should not accept the gospel message (2 Cor. 4:4). He is “the prince of the power of the air” who controls the unsaved people (Eph. 2:2). Although he was defeated by the Lord Jesus he still maintains a firm grip on the evil world where he roams around like a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8).
This spiritual domination is so intense that Paul refers thus to the great struggle in which we have to remain standing against a depraved world which is in the power of Satan: “Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:11-12). Evil rule of the world is an accomplished fact, and we can see the evidence of it all around us. The entire history of humanity since the Fall bears witness of Satan’s big influence on people and his power to impact their decisions.
True Christians are not members of Satan’s evil kingdom since we have been “delivered from this present evil age” (Gal. 4:1). Although we are not part of this evil kingdom we are engaged in an intense battle with it, and that is the reason why we need spiritual armour. Johns says, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). We should always be mindful of the fact that we are not party to this corrupt kingdom, that we have been delivered from it and do not need to yield to its influences.
Profs. Walvoord & Zuck (Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 903) comment as follows on this scripture: “John was seeking in these summarising statements to reinforce the readers’ consciousness that they are distinct from the satanically controlled world system and basically free from its power. They need not listen to the worldly ideas advanced by the antichrists (3:7-8). Nor need they succumb to worldly desires (cf. 2:15-27).” We were set free.
As far as the majority of sinners are concerned, it should be brought to their attention that sin is a form of rebellion against God. The Lord will enforce His supremacy upon them by judging them because of their own sin and also because they have changed the world into an evil place in which it is difficult for Christians to survive: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). They disregarded God’s command that all people should repent, and for that reason they will be judged – not because they were not among the elect (Acts 17:30-31).
From all these statements it is obvious that in the world at large we are not living in a Christian kingdom. Neither do we have a mandate, command or the capacity to destroy the kingdom of darkness and replace it with a Christian kingdom on earth. Only individuals can be saved now, not nations, and they have to be instructed how to fight the good fight of faith to be able to stand against an evil world.
According to the Bible the apostate world will, during the course of time, become more evil as it heads for the great tribulation (Matt. 24:21). Only at the end of the tribulation when Christ returns as King, the Antichrist and false prophet will be destroyed and the devil bound in a pit (Rev. 19:19–20:3). Until then we will be sojourners and pilgrims in an evil world (1 Pet. 2:11). Dominion theologians should take note of these basic facts and stop deceiving their followers with a kingdom vision.
During the dispensation of the church we are promised a cross and not a crown. We are not kings now who rule over their inheritance, but disciples of the crucified Christ who are engaged in a fierce battle against an evil kingdom. We are followers of the suffering Christ who is still rejected by the majority of people, and He only offers us a cross when we decide to follow Him in a spiritually dark world: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23; cf. 1 Cor. 2:2; Gal. 6:14).
There is no mention that we are wearing a crown now and are endued with royal powers. We first have to suffer with Christ in this dispensation if we wish to be glorified with Him in His kingdom after His second coming (Rom. 8:17; cf. Phil. 1:29). “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2:12). The enduring part is now, but the promise of ruling positions in the kingdom of Christ will only be fulfilled after His second coming. It is now the time to identify with the cross, to hold fast to the Lord and to persevere on the right way, even under the most trying circumstances.
“Hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations – he shall rule them with a rod of iron... as I also have received from my Father” (Rev. 2:25-27). The victories that we are called upon to achieve now are not political or military victories, but victories for the cross. That happens when people come over from the darkness of sin to the marvellous light of God’s hidden kingdom (1 Pet. 2:9). They will then have to put on the armour of God to remain standing until He comes for us.
Our present status is that of disciples and servants – not kings and lords over our inheritance: “And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:44-45). We should become conformed to the image of the lowly Servant, who laid down His life for the salvation of a perishing world. We should not act autocratically and strive after high positions as that would be contrary to our calling as servants.
Only narcissistic people would strive after great power and influence over people as they want to be highly respected and live in excessive wealth. They would make any effort to occupy high positions in a kingdom, rather than being labourers, servants or slaves in a spiritually hostile world. But they forfeit the power of the Holy Spirit and act completely in the flesh when they glorify themselves as “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6).
It is not now the time to rule but to serve. A good shepherd is not one who is a lord over the flock but an example to the congregation (1 Pet. 5:3). Authority and obedience are indeed mentioned as virtues (1 Pet. 5:5) but not arrogant self-exaltation, inapproachability by minors, and unjustified despotism. That is not the mind of Christ.
Our basic calling is to be the salt of a corrupt earth and the light of a dark world (Matt. 5:13-14). Since we are living in a hostile world we should take a bold stand against the unrighteousness and deception around us. Paul says, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:11). We should not in any way participate in the sin and evil practices of the world, but “become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).
We are in the world but not of the world. Actually, we are living in two worlds: spiritually in the hidden kingdom of God in which righteousness and peace reign, and physically in the more prevalent kingdom of Satan which is characterised by sin, confusion and evil deeds. We must keep our way pure in the midst of all the unrighteousness around us.
In this dispensation the wheat and tares grow together in the same field, but at harvest time the tares will be thrown into the fire while the wheat will be gathered into the heavenly barn. In God’s kingdom there will not be such an element of evil in society as we experience now.
Because of the nature of the present dispensation we should logically expect tribulation and persecution. The kingdom of darkness with its majority support is not at all impressed with our values, faith, opinions and way of living, and for that reason it will reject and persecute us: “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world... therefore the world hates you... In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 15:19; 16:33).
The Lord Jesus has indeed overcome the world and its evil powers, and that victory is at the disposal of every believer, but it is not enforced upon the unsaved world during this dispensation. Everyone still has the opportunity to fill up the measure of his iniquity, since the time of giving account of themselves will only be when Christ comes again. In the meantime, the persecution, slandering and rejection of true Christians continue unabated, which accounts for the fact that we must enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations (Acts 14:22).
In some societies the rejection and persecution is more severe than in others. But is occurs universally, even in countries where freedom of religion is granted. Should a true Christian, for example, refuse to join a secret society, to accept or pay bribes, to become involved with other corrupt practices, to drink with colleagues and friends, to listen to dirty jokes and participate in vile or derogatory conversations, he will very soon discover that he is not part of this world with its evil systems and practices. All believers should count the cost of their faith.
The kingdom of Christ is not of this world and will only be revealed at His second coming. We have no command to overtly establish His kingdom as a physical reality in the world before He comes again. No transformation movement or any compromise with “moderate” political leaders will transform the present world into a Christian kingdom. The kingdom of Christ is fundamentally different from that of the world and cannot even function in an alliance with it.
Our command is to minister to people spiritually so they can come out of the darkness of Satan’s kingdom into the light of Christ’s kingdom. That will render them strangers in the wicked world, and together with all Christians they should accept the fact that they are sojourners while looking forward to the coming of Christ and the revelation of His kingdom: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). Only when He comes as King of kings will He reign over the earth (Rev. 11:15; 19:11-16).
The dominion mandate to Adam is often quoted by kingdom now theologians as justification for their view that man is destined to rule the world. The command is: “...fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). These theologians further explain that during the Fall this authority was appropriated by Satan, but through the victory of Jesus (the last Adam) we have regained our position of dominion. We should now, according to them, show the necessary faith and boldness by taking over the world and ruling over it.
But the mandate of Genesis 1:26-28 does not include authority over people – it only subjects the natural world to the authority of humans. The ecological disasters which threaten the world today, e.g. the pollution of the atmosphere and water resources, deforestation and global heating, are the direct consequences of the extreme abuse of the dominion mandate. The mandate over the physical world which was given to Adam and his descendants was not terminated by the Fall, and therefore does not need to be returned to them by Christ.
God has given the control over human societies to their kings and leaders: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1). If these leaders are apostate, their subjects will have an apostate government. But if the leader is God-fearing, the opposite is more likely to be true. The nations of the world have, except for short periods of good government, all lapsed into apostasy.
The Lord did not hand over the control of the world to the church. The dominion mandate which churches demand for themselves is completely in conflict with the Bible. This disposition will foster compromise and a decadent ecumenical movement which will only benefit the Antichrist and his empire.
We are living in a world which is largely under the control of the devil in his capacity as Mammon, the god of money. As Christians we should live in accordance with the principles of God’s unseen kingdom, and not in terms of the principles and values of Mammon’s materialistic kingdom: “You cannot serve God and Mammon” (Matt. 6:24). Paul says that people to whom the pursuit of wealth is a high priority are on the wrong way that leads to destruction and perdition (1 Tim. 6:9-10).
Wealth is like thorns and thistles in a person’s life which prevent the seed of the Word to grow, even though such a person may be exposed to the true gospel message. If he is not prepared to break with his materialistic way of life he will not be able to awaken spiritually and to grow: “He who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22).
A secular, materialistic lifestyle is completely at variance with a true Christian way of life. We cannot outwardly manifest God’s kingdom during this dispensation before the kingdom of Mammon has been destroyed, and that will only happen at the second coming of Christ.
In Revelation 5, the glorified church in heaven says the Lord Jesus has made us kings and priests. The elders will sing to Christ on the throne: “You were slain and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9-10; cf. 1:6). This is a clear reference to two offices (king and priest) that the elders did not yet have and will only practice during the millennial reign of Christ on earth (“...we shall reign on the earth”). At that stage they were not yet kings. In Revelation 20:6 reference is also made to the future fulfilment of these offices, and that will only be after the resurrection of the just: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection... they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
It is dispensationally completely wrong to refer to Christians as kings and priests during the church age. Depending on our social position or the capacity in which we serve the Lord we may be described as believers, disciples, servants, heads of family, elders, deacons, pastors or teachers. There is no strong emphasis on a hierarchic structure in the church of Christ, and positions of authority are only instituted to maintain good order in the congregation. The pastors and elders should not be haughty rulers but examples to the flock. He who wants to be first should be the servant of everybody else. Decisions should be taken by consensus, involving the whole congregation, rather than adopting a top-down authority structure. Strong leadership is only needed for the unruly.
A “priest” (Heb. kohen) means “someone who renders service” and refers to Old Testament priests who had to perform certain duties under the law, among others, to sacrifice in the tabernacle or temple on behalf of the people. Ordinary members of the nation were denied access to the holy places of God without the mediation of priests. This office is never mentioned by Paul with regard to the functioning of New Testament congregations. He only explains in his letter to the Hebrews how the priestly order was terminated by Christ and substituted with something better.
Through the once for all sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross He completely abolished the temple service with its repetitive sacrifices, and also discontinued the Levitical priesthood. He became High Priest according to another order, and through the torn veil opened the way to all believers to draw near to God’s throne of grace themselves, without the mediation of a priest (Heb. 10:19-22; 7:11-28). We do not need any priests in the New Testament who need to approach God on our behalf – neither do we need specially ordained ministers with a high status and exclusive rights and functions to officiate on our behalf. Every believer has the privilege to personally follow and serve Christ, and also to ask counsel from Him as High Priest.
Reference to a priestly office in the revealed kingdom of God simply indicates that we will not only have political and administrative functions as kings in Christ’s government, but also religious functions. But that will not constitute a return to the law or the perpetuation of the Levitical priesthood. Peter says that the spiritually revived Israel will be a “royal priesthood” and a holy nation to proclaim the praises of the Messiah – the Lamb slain for our sins (1 Pet. 2:9). That is exactly what other believers from the nations will also do. We will be charged with special duties to serve Christ’s grace.
But that is still future – we are not yet a royal priesthood, only witnesses, servants and disciples of Christ who should minister to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Pet. 4:10). There clearly is a chronological fulfilment in Christ’s positions as Prophet, Priest and King. During His first coming He was Prophet and Servant of God who proclaimed the truths of the Word and also paid the price to validate God’s plan of salvation. At His crucifixion He fulfilled a High Priestly function by offering a once for all sacrifice for sin. After that, He ever lives as High Priest to make intercession for us at the throne of God (Heb. 7:25-26). At His second coming He will come as King of kings to rule from the restored throne of David from Jerusalem.
A great many churches are involved with dominion theology, as they see for themselves a higher status in this context. Congregations such as Moreleta Park in Pretoria even offer “Daniel seminars” to make men conscious of their calling to act as kings in society. For the women there are “Esther seminars” in which they are taught to live up to their status as queens. The fees for these seminars are high, and afterwards it is only the organisers who live as kings and queens. They are pre-empting their royal status. We first have to suffer with Christ if we later want to rule with Him (Rom. 8:17).
The inclination towards signs and wonders is a breeding-ground for kingdom now deception. Those who expect a visible kingdom during the church age are strongly bent towards the idea that this kingdom must demonstrate its power through various supernatural signs and wonders. There should, according to them, be mighty prophets and apostles who receive important revelations from God, who can speak on behalf of Him to the world, and also have the power to heal the sick, raise the dead, make people fall in the Spirit, and perform many other dramatic signs.
But the Lord Jesus says, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matt. 16:4). The sign of Jonah was that he was three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish, and also that an entire pagan city repented in reaction to his preaching. This sign was fulfilled during the death of Jesus when He was in the grave for three days and three nights and rose on the third day (Matt. 12:4). After that, thousands of people repented when they heard the gospel of the atoning death and resurrection of Christ. Agnostic Jews who did not want to accept this message, learned how thousands of Gentiles (as earlier in Nineveh) turned to God with repentant hearts. We must have faith in the great sign of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus – not in other signs and wonders.
Signs and wonders play a very minor role in the church dispensation, as the Lord wants us to live by faith in Christ, and not by virtue of physical signs. Any emphasis of this nature usually leads to deception, and the devil will use such signs to prepare the way for the acceptance of the Antichrist and false prophet: “For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). The Antichrist and false prophet will excel in this regard (2 Thess. 2:8-12; Rev. 13:11-15).
As far as prophecies are concerned, we should guard against the possibility of being deceived by specially “anointed” but self-imposed prophets and prophetesses. We must be guided by the Bible, and not by the extra-biblical prophecies. The prophetic revelations which the Lord gave to the church were concluded with the writing of the Book of Revelation. Should anybody dare to add any further prophecies to it, God will add to him the plagues revealed in His Word (Rev. 22:18).
People who have prophetic ministries in our time should only quote and interpret Biblical prophecies – not revelations through dreams, visions, foreign tongues and other extra-biblical sources. The prophecy of Joel that young people shall prophesy and old people dream dreams, was only given to Israel (Joel 2:28-32).
The situation which Joel discusses, and which is quoted in Acts 2:16-21, clearly refers to the tribulation period when Israel and the nations will be in the midst of the judgements of the terrible day of the Lord. During that time there will be great signs in the sun, moon and stars. Israel will still be unsaved as a people and flee for survival to a place in the wilderness. God will then communicate with them by supernatural means to prepare them on the soon coming of the Messiah. There will even be a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Israel (Zech. 12:10).
On the day of Pentecost not one of the books of the New Testament were yet written, and for that reason supernatural revelations still occurred. Only after the whole Bible was written, God started talking to us mainly through His Word, which is Spirit and life (John 6:63). Dreams and visions no longer played a role, while speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues were replaced by Scripture-reading and the interpretation of Scripture. Do not make the mistake of brushing aside the Bible for the sake of dramatic kingdom manifestations, and start pursuing the false revelations of self-imposed prophets and prophetesses.
The grace of Christ puts us in a position of conflict against a depraved world, teaches us to proclaim His second coming and thus to expect a future kingdom: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13).
From this section it is evident that ungodliness and worldly lusts are contrary to the grace of Christ. When we have been saved by grace and were delivered from these lusts we should ensure that we do not again become ensnared by them. We are living a life which is in opposition to the present evil world (Gal. 1:4). We are not in a Christian kingdom to which we can heartily adapt, but in a depraved world.
We must learn to prevail against all the godlessness, and while doing so we keep looking forward to the second coming of the Lord Jesus. He will reveal the glory of God’s kingdom on earth, destroy the antichristian powers, bind the devil, and institute a government of righteousness. Only then, will the nations no longer walk after the stubbornness of their evil hearts (Jer. 3:17).
The dispensation of grace and the dispensation of the kingdom are distinctly different from one another. We are contending with an evil world. Paul said to the Ephesians: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Eph. 2:1-3).
Although we are no longer part of the depraved world, we are still physically in the world and must see to it that we are not lured back to our former conduct by worldly lusts. We are absolutely not kings now who are ruling over the apostate world, but sojourners and members of another kingdom which is not of this evil world. We are waiting for the revelation of Christ’s kingdom.
The present dispensation of grace is not only distinct from the coming dispensation of the kingdom of Christ on earth, but also from the previous dispensation of the law in Israel. There must be no uncertainty on this matter, “for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). Our salvation was achieved by Christ’s work of grace on the cross, and for that reason “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4). If we are not willing to fully accept this truth and still prefer to base our salvation partially on the law, we are lost: “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4).
Nevertheless, many people still try to live under the law. They do not realise that the law was only given to Israel and that, to them, it was a tutor to Christ (Gal. 3:24-25). When they are reconciled with the Messiah, the role of the tutor becomes obsolete because He has fulfilled the law. Since the beginning of missionary outreaches to the Gentiles only Christ was proclaimed. The Holy Spirit - not the law - convicted people of sin. In Acts 15, a decision was taken under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that Christian congregations should not be subjected to the law of Moses. That rule still applies.
The church is not Israel, not even in a spiritual sense, as a view of this nature also promotes the mixing of law and grace. The spiritual Israel refers to saved Jews (Rom. 9:6; Gal. 6:16). We are members of the hidden body of Christ on earth. There is only a spiritual bond between true Christians, not a structural one. We are not members of a named people or nation, we cannot lay claim to a God-given territory; neither are we members of a specific kingdom. We are only members of local congregations in order to be better able to jointly serve the Lord. But the emphasis is not upon buildings and denominations because we, “as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Pet. 2:5).
We should guard against rigid denominational structures with institutionalised positions of authority, based upon humanly-determined rules and dogmas (the commandments of men), as that often leads to a situation in which Christ is no longer the Head of the congregation, and Christians are no longer guided by the Holy Spirit. Powerful denomination structures (the deeds of the Nicolaitans – Rev. 2:6) tend to enter into alliances and friendships with the depraved world, and that jeopardises the principles of Christ’s kingdom. The church is not destined to achieve a position of power in this dispensation.
The true church of Christ is in conflict with the world and should not put itself in the position of Israel, start functioning in terms of certain laws, and establish mighty structures to enforce its authority upon societies. We are only committed to Christ’s spiritual law of love (John 13:34-35) and that enables us to give guidance to those who walk in darkness.
Faith is not a supernatural force which we can manipulate at will to our own end. According to the kingdom now theology of the Word of Faith Movement Christians have creative powers in their words by virtue of their faith (for more information, read Occult Invasion by Dave Hunt or Tongues, Prosperity, & Godhood by Cathy Burns).
Kenneth Copeland says that faith is a power, just like electricity. According to Charles Capps God used faith for everything that He created, and for the same reason Christians can also use it to make things happen. Because God is in us, says Copeland, we have the same abilities that He has. The way in which faith is put into practice is to merely speak words. We should have faith in our words: “Just name it and claim it.” Kenneth Hagin says that divine faith is released through the words of our mouth. There is creative power in God’s words, and therefore also in our words – we should only believe it.
Hagin advances this deception still further by his allegation that since all people are spiritual beings, regardless of whether they are Christians or not, they can all release faith power if they only believe what they say. He calls its “positive confession”. Hagin says, “You get what you say.” In his book Having Faith in your Faith (1980, p. 4-5) he says, “It used to bother me when I’d see unsaved people getting results, but my church members not getting results. Then it dawned on me what the sinners were doing: They were cooperating with this law of God – the law of faith.”
Copeland says that the secret of realising all the desires of your heart is to ensure that the words of your mouth are in agreement with that which you want. Robert Tilton states that everything which you say will happen to you. Hagin writes: “I never prayed in my life that either of my children would be saved. Not a single prayer. I never prayed a prayer that either one of them would be filled with the Spirit. They’re 30-some years of age today, and I don’t believe I prayed more than half a dozen times for both of them in all these years. Why? Because you can have what you say – and I had already said it! (K. Hagin: How to write your own ticket with God, 1985).
The error of this false gospel is very obvious. To those who have been deceived by it, faith is not faith in the Lord Jesus to do things for us in accordance with His will and promises. Faith to them is an impersonal, magical power which can be used by any person on earth, also by pagans, to fulfil the desires of their heart. They want to know nothing of a difficult battle against an evil world (John 16:33; 1 Pet. 4:12; 1 John 5:19) – neither of all the afflictions that Paul experienced during his ministry (2 Cor. 1:8-11 and 11:23-29). These problems, according to them, can easily be overcome if your faith is strong enough.
Faith in a falsely conceived impersonal supernatural power which was allegedly given by God as a gift to all people is used as the driving force to build a human kingdom on earth – a modern tower of Babel. More and more false prophets will emerge to do great signs and wonders. That will prepare the way for the Antichrist and false prophet who will perform the most astounding signs.
The Word of Faith Movement does not believe that the redemptive work of Christ was done on the cross, but that it was finally accomplished in Hades or Hell. In this way they deny the most basic foundation of the Christian faith, they proclaim “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4), and are building an earthly kingdom in collaboration with him. In this kingdom they are living in the greatest affluence, prosperity and luxury, while preparing the way for the greatest false Christ of all time – the Antichrist.
Several of the most popular preachers in the world are involved with this false Jesus and his message of prosperity. They maintain that Christ did not die on the cross for our sins but that afterwards, in Hell, He died spiritually. There He had to assume the position of fallen man and accept Satan as His stepfather, and was persecuted and scoffed at by demons for three days. Then only was the price paid and did the Father resurrect Him from the dead.
The fact that Joyce Meyer and Benny Hinn are part of this deceptive movement, and have a big following worldwide, is a cause of great concern. Seriously consider the following warnings on Joyce Meyer and take a strong stand against these false teachers:
In an article, What's the Truth About Joyce Meyer and the Word-Faith Movement? Dr. J. Carrigan of On Thruth Ministries says: “I am very concerned about Joyce Meyer and her doctrine because she is wholly aligned with the Word-Faith Movement which is a seriously flawed doctrinal system based on the heretical teachings of Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland. Hagin and Copeland, together with other supporters of this religious movement, teach that God is SUBJECT to the power of FAITH and is OBLIGATED to grant every request made in FAITH. They also teach that God and Man are the same kind of being, which elevates the nature of man and undermines the nature of God. I am compelled to recommend strongly that all biblical Christians distance themselves from the ministry of Joyce Meyer, her television program, her books, and her conferences because of her association with the devastating errors of the Word-Faith Movement.”
Mike Oppenheimer posted an article on Joyce Meyer to his website www.letusreason.org in which he says, among others: “Meyer may not be completely engulfed in Word Faith teaching but she is yoked with Word Faith teachers and her writings and teachings have certainly been influenced by their theology. Her ministry is now a multimillion-dollar organization with 500 employees and offices in Europe and South Africa... She says, I don't want to spend my whole life talking about the promised land without ever getting there. I want to live in it. (This means accumulating wealth and living the good life now)... Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ And He meant the Old Covenant. The job He had to do was just getting started. He really did the job the three days and nights that He was in hell. That’s where the job was done. He was pronounced guilty on the cross but He paid the price in hell. (From the Cross to the Throne; Joyce Meyer audio tape) This teaching has been popularized from Hagin, Copeland, Fred Price, Charles Capps, etc. In her book, The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make, Joyce writes, During that time He entered hell, where you and I deserved to go (legally) because of our sin. Jesus paid on the cross and in hell. Jesus took your place in hell. ...no plan was too extreme... God rose up from His throne and said to demon powers tormenting the sinless Son of God, ‘Let Him go.’ Then the resurrection power of Almighty God went through hell and filled Jesus. ...He was resurrected from the dead – the first born-again man. (p. 35- 36). This is clearly Word Faith false theology. Jesus did not need to be born again – He’s God! Only sinners need to be born again.”
This erroneous belief in what Jesus did when he allegedly descended to Hell has a wider impact than is commonly realised, since it is proclaimed in different form by various churches. As far as the destination of lost sinners is concerned, the Bible distinguishes between Hades and the lake of fire. Hades (sheol in Hebrew) is the place where all the spirits of the lost go to after dying. Here they await the final judgement, when they will get bodies at the second resurrection, and will then appear before the great white throne to be condemned to the everlasting lake of fire. In Hades they already know what lies ahead for them and they suffer spiritually at the thought of the eternal flames for which they are destined. They are in great agony among all the cursed souls who also died in their sin.
Apart from Hades there is also Tartarus, a place of confinement for fallen angels (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude v.6). They are in a dark, underground dungeon where they have been bound in chains of darkness, waiting for the final judgement when they will go to Hell. A third place which the Bible refers to is the bottomless pit, which is the habitation of demons (Rev. 9:1,2,11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1-3).
Before the crucifixion of Christ there was still a fourth abode in the lower parts of the earth for the righteous dead, i.e. Paradise. The souls (a combination of soul and spirit) of the righteous were kept here, and there was a great gulf fixed between Paradise and Hades (Luke 16:26). When Jesus died he descended to Paradise, and not to Hades or Hell (Gehenna). He said to the penitent thief on the cross: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
The word “Hell” does not refer to Hades but to the lake of fire. It is derived from the word Gehenna, which referred to the burning trash heaps outside Jerusalem, from which perpetual smoke ascended. Corpses were also burnt here. In Mark 9:45 Hell is described as “the fire that shall never be quenched”. That is the final destination of all sinners. At the final judgement, Tartarus and Hades will be emptied and all their inhabitants cast into Hell: “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:4; NIV). At present there is nobody in Hell – the Antichrist and false prophet will be the first inhabitants of this place (Rev. 19:20). A thousand years later the devil will follow them (Rev. 20:10), and then the fallen angels and all the lost people of all time (Rev. 20:13-15).
In different Bibles, among others the King James Version, Hades and Tartarus are wrongly translated as Hell (cf. Luke 16:23; 2 Pet. 2:4; Rev.20:13; KJV). This mistake gave rise to the wrong perception that Jesus descended into Hell after His death on the cross. But He “descended into the lower parts of the earth” (Eph. 4:9) where He had two missions. Most importantly, He went to show Himself to the just in Paradise, where all the believers were until that stage (Luke 23:43). He is the Lamb of God who, through His once for all sacrifice on the cross, fulfilled all the shadowy sacrifices that were brought in Old Testament times for believers. Nobody can go to heaven without the sacrifice of the Son of God, “for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:1,4). These believers had to wait for the promise of the Messiah (Heb. 11:39-40). He took all these spirits with Him to heaven (Eph. 4:8-10) where Paradise is subsequently described as part of heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4; Rev. 2:7). That is where all the saved ones are now.
Secondly, Jesus also preached to the spirits in prison (1 Pet. 3:19-20) to confirm their judgement, and also to fallen angels in Tartarus, a gloomy dungeon which is closely associated with Hades (2 Pet. 2:4).
An unbiblical view which is entertained by many people is that Old Testament believers in Paradise were still largely under the control of Satan, and that Jesus had to deliver them from this domination and take them to heaven. That is an erroneous idea which ties up with the Word of Faith deception that Christ descended into Hades to redeem people.
Finis Dake (Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible) also played a part to establish the deceptive idea that Jesus had to liberate deceased believers in Paradise from the power of Satan. He expounds on this idea in: Dake, F., 1955: The truth about Hell: Tartarus, Paradise, Sheol-Hades, the bottomless pit, Gehenna – the lake of fire. He says, among others: “(49) The Paradise compartment of Sheol: A place other than the grave for the righteous who, until Christ came, were captives of the devil against their will (Heb. 2:14-15). ... (56) Christ, while in Sheol/Hades, liberated the righteous captives of Satan taking them to heaven with Him when He ascended on high (Eph. 4:8-10; Heb. 2:14-15). ... (57) Paradise is now empty of all the righteous souls.”
But Satan could not have controlled the righteous since nobody could pass from Hades to Paradise (Luke 16:26). Dake wrongly applies the thought of deliverance in Hebrews 2:14-15 to delivering believers from Hades/Paradise. This scripture refers to the deliverance of living people from the power of Satan. The statement that Satan, who had the power of death, was “destroyed” (Gr. katagese) can also be translated as “rendered useless” to scare or intimidate Christians with the thought of death. To us, death has lost its sting (1 Cor. 15:55).
Old Testament believers were definitely not after their death in a place where Satan had control over them. Christ only ratified the salvation of those believers, resulting in the unification of Old and New Testament believers into one body. They will also jointly be glorified (Matt. 8:11; Heb. 11:39-40).
Diverging views on where the deceased in Old Testament times went to, can be attributed to the fact that the concept “paradise” as the destination of the just was unknown at that time. Reference was only in a generic sense made to sheol as the “grave”, i.e. the abode of the dead, regardless of whether they were just or lost. That is the reason why commentators rightfully referred to the two compartments of sheol as the destinations of the just and the lost respectively. Bible translators (particularly in English) were certainly aware of this distinction, but in the absence of proper terms they translated sheol either as “grave” or “hell”, depending on the context in which it was used. (cf. Gen. 37:35, 1 Sam. 2:6, Ps. 6:5, 9:17, 16:10, 86:13; Eccl. 9:10 in the KJV).
The New Testament reference to “paradise” or “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22; 23:43) as the place where the souls of believers were kept before the crucifixion of Christ, renders any further reference to the two compartments of Hades or sheol unnecessary. One matter on which we should have absolute clarity is that there was never (including in Old Testament times) any indication that Satan had control over the just, since Christ would in that case have been compelled to do redemptive work from the power of Satan in Hades. His redemptive work on the cross was complete, and by virtue of that waiting saints from the Old Testament could accompany Him to heaven. Their conditional salvation was ratified by Christ’s fulfilment of the typological sacrifices that were brought for their sin.
Christ ascended to heaven, and that was where Paul also longed to be (Phil. 1:23). When the rapture occurs, the Lord Jesus will bring with Him from heaven all those who died as believers, so that they can be bodily resurrected from their graves on earth and receive their glorified bodies here (1 Thess. 4:14-17). After that, all believers with glorified bodies will ascend to heaven with Christ, where they will first appear before His judgement seat, and then take possession of their heavenly homes which He prepared for them.
Lost souls go to Hades, and after the final judgement they will be cast into the lake of fire (Hell) where they will remain forever. Saved people go to heaven. Their home will be in the New Jerusalem which will later descend upon the new earth. Heaven and earth will then be joined together. Nobody can escape from Hades or Tartarus once they are there. They are irrevocably heading for Hell (the lake of fire). Their fate has been sealed, they know it, and for that reason they experience great agony in the terrible place of the damned.
From this discussion it is clear that the deceased saints will also share in the revelation of God’s kingdom on earth. The Lord commented on the faith of a Roman centurion and said: “Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:11). Believers from all parts of the earth will share in this experience, and that includes Old Testament believers. For this reason alone, it is impossible that the kingdom of heaven can be revealed before the resurrection of the just.
The church of Christ should continue to invite people to enter in so that the house of the Lord may be filled (Luke 14:23). Our obligation is not to reveal the kingdom of the Lord, but to invite people from all nations to enter in. The Lord Jesus Himself will reveal His kingdom when He comes, attended by all the saints of all time (Zech. 14:5; Col. 3:4). When we rule with Christ in the millennium the lost souls will still be in Hades, awaiting the final judgement: “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished” (Rev. 20:5). Only then will they be resurrected, condemned and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:7-15).
The Bible clearly states that we are involved in a spiritual war against the kingdom of Satan (Eph. 6:10-12). He deceives people through evil thoughts, the lusts of their fallen nature, and also through the influence of the depraved world. The Lord gave us spiritual armour to offer resistance against these attacks, temptations and sinful inclinations (2 Cor. 10:3-5). The spiritual weapons are faith in the Lord Jesus (1 John 5:4-5), the Word (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12), prayer (Jas. 5:16), the blood of the Lamb (Eph. 1:7), and the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:11). Individual believers all experience this spiritual battle in their lives.
Apart from contending against the devil, to which the Bible calls us, there are also unbiblical methods of spiritual warfare which we should avoid. One of these is called strategic spiritual warfare and is committed to the casting out of the devil and the pulling down of his strongholds which have been established above towns, cities, and even entire countries. These strongholds are associated with so-called territorial demons. Specific societal sins are linked to these strongholds, e.g. non-Christian religions, witchcraft, ancestor worship or crime. It is believed that when these strongholds of evil have been pulled down through prayer and their powers have been broken, the spiritual blinding of people will cease and great Christian revivals will occur in which virtually all people in a specific area will repent and come to faith. The entire society will then experience a Christian transformation, resulting in the sudden vanishing of superstition and poverty. Prisons will ultimately become empty.
The fathers of the transformation movement are George Otis of the Sentinel Group in the USA, as well as Peter Wagner of the World Prayer Centre in Colorado Springs. A number of years ago, Peter Wagner took a prayer group to Turkey to pull down the strongholds of Islam, and subsequently he declared the country free from demonic influences. Since that time, the spiritual condition and grip of Islam upon Turkey has not changed at all – the expected revival and Christian transformation have never occurred. Similar actions were also conducted without success in South Africa and various other countries in the world. These people only raised false hopes.
As a first step they conduct spiritual mapping, in which the most common sins of a particular society are recorded. These sins are regarded as evil strongholds that should be pulled down in faith in order to liberate society of oppressive demonic influences.
Strategic spiritual warfare is one of various forms of dominionism. These people accept promises which relate to the revealed kingdom of Christ after His second coming (i.e. His thousand-year reign of peace) and then wrongly apply them to the church dispensation. Some of these promises are that the devil will be bound so that he can no longer deceive the nations (Rev. 20:2-3), sin, crime and warfare will cease (Jer. 3:17; Isa. 2:4), the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord (Isa. 11:9), entire cities and countries will serve the Lord (Zech. 8:20-21; Isa. 19:23-25), and Christians will rule with Jesus Christ as kings on earth (Rev. 5:9-10; 20:6).
Prominent church fathers such as Augustine and Calvin held the wrong view that the kingdom dispensation when the devil will be bound, will not dawn after the second coming of Jesus Christ, but applies to the period between His first and second coming, i.e. the church dispensation. According to them, the devil is bound at present and it is the intention of the Lord to take over the world and rule it through His church. We only need to be awakened to this vision and start expelling the devil form planet earth so that we can establish a Christian world. The Lord will raise up prophets and apostles to unite Christianity and demonstrate their supernatural power by performing great signs and miracles.
Because of their unbiblical views on spiritual warfare several of the leaders of this movement have become entangled in extreme charismatic thinking and practices. Their vision for revival is based upon a dramatic show of extra-biblical revelations and signs, and because of this they seek after experiences rather than true godliness. They also are outspokenly ecumenical as their final objective is to establish united city churches. Peter Wagner even refers to the post-denominational church of the 21st century, in which all denominations will converge. He also speaks of the “apostolic revival” in which apostles and prophets will rule over the united church. For the sake of unity, mass meetings should frequently be held in stadiums where Christians can join hands and forget about their theological differences. Even Roman Catholics are welcome at the meetings as nobody’s faith is questioned. The whole movement is built upon compromise, in favour of a vision that the united church of Christ should accept their position of authority in the world right now, and rule over it.
But the fact is that during this dispensation we are sojourners and pilgrims in a world which lies under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19). We will not take charge of the world and rule over it during this dispensation, but instead we will be hated and persecuted by the world (John 15:19). Spiritual warfare has a personal application because the Lord delivers individuals from sin and temptations, and empowers them to remain standing in the battle against the enemy of their souls. They will not achieve control over the world, but shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation (Phil. 2:15). We are not kings and rulers, but soldiers of the cross. While we increase in holiness the world will become more evil (Rev. 22:11).
The transformation movement is a coordinated effort by ecumenical-minded churches and Christian ministries to unite themselves, obtain influence in society, dismantle spiritual opposition, and promote kingdom conditions on earth. They make use of mass meetings to achieve their objective.
As explained above, strategic spiritual warfare is practised by these people to deliver entire countries, and ultimately the whole world, from evil powers. At the same time they proceed with their strategy to promote a world-wide revival – also by means of mass rallies, including the Global Day of Prayer. It is conspicuous that the emphasis in their meetings is not so much on personal holiness and a more intimate relationship with God, but predominantly on improved human relations. It seems as though they wish to establish unity at all cost, as all forms of inequality and other problems must be excluded from social life. Everybody should be happy, healthy, literate, and well cared for. Crime and all forms of strained relations should completely vanish.
Churches are united to achieve this purpose, but alliances are also forged with governments and the business sector to bring about a total transformation of society. These efforts tie up with Rick Warren’s Global Peace Plan. The most recent effort to achieve a major breakthrough in South Africa as well as the whole of Africa is done under the banner of Fire Trails. In this movement they have completely moved away from the Bible in the pursuance of new prophetic revelations. They now rely on extra-biblical prophecies by various self-imposed prophets and prophetesses (see www.firetrails.co.za).
It is claimed that when the purpose of the transformers has been achieved, the kingdom of God will descend upon earth, causing all societies and countries to live together peacefully and in harmony. Large-scale development will take place, everybody will be employed, warfare and crime will cease, and the prisons will become empty. It is due to expectations of this nature that the transformation movement does not at all accept or proclaim the biblical scenario for the end-time. According to the Bible, spiritual apostasy will be a worldwide phenomenon, as well as political instability, anarchy, wars and rumours of wars, famines, pestilences and natural disasters. This situation will gradually deteriorate and lead to the greatest tribulation in human history (Matt. 24:21).
Since the transformation movement does not expect a situation of this nature, they also do not believe in the rapture of true believers before the tribulation period. They absolutely reject the idea that an Antichrist and false prophet will appear on the scene to deceive and oppress the entire world. Neither do they believe that the devil will only at the second coming of Christ be deprived of his power-base on earth and bound in a pit – they want to do it now and through their own efforts, with the help of God, rid the world of all evil. Anything less than this is regarded by them as unbelief, a weak faith or a lack of vision.
In spite of intensive efforts these past fifteen years, the transformation movement has never achieved any success and there is no indication of any strongholds which have been pulled down by them. False religions, crime, drug abuse and poverty have even increased. But they continue with their efforts and only wait for the big breakthrough. Because they have completely lost touch with the biblical program for end-time events, transformation is a humanly driven process which is doomed to failure. Many members of the movement may have noble objectives of social upliftment with what they have in mind towards ensuring a better life for all, but they are prescribed on what to do by the kingdom agenda of their leaders – not by the Bible.
United Christian nations who serve the Lord with one accord is not a promise for the church dispensation, and will only become a reality during Christ’s millennial reign. Christian idealists who try to realise such a situation on earth are completely out of touch with the prophetic word. They make three serious mistakes: Firstly, they practise replacement theology by substituting Israel for the church and then applying Israel’s Messianic promises to the church. Secondly, they mix biblical dispensations by transferring millennial promises meant for the time after the second coming of Christ, to the dispensation of the church. Thirdly, they offer historical interpretations (preterism) to end-time prophecies on natural disasters, apostatising and deception, by alleging that these things happened long ago. As far as they are concerned, the end of the church dispensation will not coincide with a dark time of divine judgements.
One of the promises to Israel which is sometimes applied to the church by kingdom theologians is the following: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: People shall yet come, inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us continue to go and pray before the Lord, and seek the Lord of hosts. I myself will go also. Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech. 8:20-23).
Kingdom-minded people obviously do net read this prophecy in its correct context, as it is stated that the nations will go up to Jerusalem to seek the physical presence of the Lord there. They will also maintain good relations with the saved Israel, as Israel will be particularly blessed by the Lord (Zech. 8:23; Isa. 60:10-12). We are very far removed from this situation as Christ has not yet returned to Jerusalem to create conditions such as these. Such a state of affairs can obviously only prevail in the millennium, as the devil will then be bound and no longer able to fan the evil lusts of people (Rev. 20:1-3). Nations will only then be able to live in peace without waging any wars (Jer. 3:17; Isa. 2:1-4). During that time, only one religion will be practised on earth and that is the Christian religion: “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9; Zech. 13:2). All people will only serve the Triune God, and regularly worship the Lord Jesus in Jerusalem (Is. 2:3; Acts 15:16-17).
A situation of this nature cannot exist now or be realised in any way, since we live in the multireligious times of the Gentiles. In this dispensation most people reject the God of Israel, His Son as well as His Word: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed [Christ], saying, Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us... Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion... You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Ps. 2:2-9). The Messiah will rule from Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
At the end of this dispensation Israel will be intensely hated by the nations, and for that reason the Lord will gather all nations against Jerusalem to enter into judgement with them there because they have rejected the people of Israel, the God of Israel, the Messiah of Israel and also the Word of God (Zech. 12:2-3; 14:2-3; Joel 3:1-2).
It is absolutely unthinkable how the people who try to establish a kingdom during the church dispensation can overlook these important facts on the end of the church age. The servants of the Lord are not described as nations during this time, but as a small minority group of disciples of Christ among all nations.
The church dispensation does not end in a great revival from which a worldwide Christian kingdom will emerge, but in a time of great apostasy from which the Antichrist’s false world religion will emerge: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4).
During this time of great apostasy, many Christians will grow cold in their love and will be swept away by the strong current of deception and worldliness: “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12; Rev. 2:4-5). Many Christian churches will become so materialistic and complacent that they will not even realise that, spiritually speaking, they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, and that the Lord Jesus has already withdrawn Himself from their midst (Rev. 3:16-17).
People will be full of themselves and their own wisdom, live reckless and presumptuous lives, but still maintain to be Christians (2 Tim. 3:1-5). But they will not endure the sound doctrine of the Bible, and reject and even persecute evangelical Christians who proclaim these truths (2 Tim. 4:2-5). Nevertheless, these nominal believers are strongly inclined to protecting their vested earthly interests, and they are now trying to establish a mighty Christian empire to serve this selfish purpose. Their spiritual standards are so low that anyone is welcome to join.
When will the eyes of these deceived and apostate people be opened? According to the Bible, small numbers of them will be plucked like brands from the fire, but the big majority will only wake up when they remained behind after the rapture and soon afterwards discover that the Antichrist has gained extensive political, religious and economic control over the world. They will then see how evil the global government really is, which they helped to establish through their compromise and unitary initiatives.
At that stage, and also right through the tribulation, people will be tested and sifted (cf. Luke 22:31). The majority of them will accept, follow and worship the Antichrist (Rev. 13:3-4), but there will also be a large group who will reject him and accept Jesus as Saviour and Messiah. In Israel, 144 000 special witnesses for the true Messiah will be saved early in the tribulation period (Rev. 7:1-8), and afterwards, during the seven years, millions of people from all nations and peoples will be saved (Rev. 7:9-17).
It is not now the time to pursue a manmade revival by joining hands with millions of wayward believers, thereby disregarding doctrinal differences and lowering spiritual standards with a view to mobilising large numbers of people for a kingdom. It is now the time to ensure that you are not deceived (Matt. 24:4-5), to watch and pray to be worthy for the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom (Luke 21:36), and to go out into the highways and hedges to bring in those who are still outside (Luke 14:23).
Preaching on the second coming, particularly also with a view to the future revelation of Christ’s kingdom, should be a high priority. In fact, it should be an important characteristic of every evangelical congregation. We all want the kingdom of Christ to be established on earth so that the sin and unrighteousness of the present dispensation can cease. But that will not happen before the coming of the Lord Jesus as King of kings; consequently, ecumenical-minded believers will do well to abandon their efforts to found this kingdom before the coming of Christ. Such efforts will only benefit the false Christ as they are in support of his alternate kingdom by creating a positive frame of mind for its acceptance by way of emphasising the advantages of globalism and religious unity.
When we proclaim the second coming it instils in us a desire that the Lord will save us from the deteriorating world. We should not have any illusions on the great falling away of spiritual and moral standards in the end-time. It already happens and the situation is getting worse. It is only logical that a person such as the Antichrist will soon gain control over the world. According to the Bible it is also logical to expect that the period of his rule will coincide with divine judgements. Furthermore, also in terms of the Bible, it makes a lot of sense to expect that the Lord will remove true believers to a place of safety before the time of judgement, as He also did during the times of Noah and Lot.
This removal from the disaster area of divine judgements is the blessed hope of all true Christians (Tit. 2:13). Preachers who do not proclaim this hope are failing to offer a positive future expectation to members of their churches. Neither do they promote a commitment to holiness in the lives of believers, as uninformed people have no idea of the preparations that are needed to appear before the heavenly Bridegroom in a worthy and holy manner. But if this hope is instilled in them it will have the desired effect as he who entertains the hope on the return of Christ “purifies himself just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).
One of the strongest proofs that we are not living in the period of God’s revealed kingdom on earth now is the fact that we are still in the times of the Gentiles. In the Old Testament, Israel was God’s chosen people with whom He concluded an everlasting covenant (Gen. 13:14-15; 26:3; 28:13). Israel was God’s representative on earth, and this relationship did not only have religious implications but also political implications with regard to a kingdom, a capital and a territory. Jerusalem played a key role and was called by God: “The city which I have chosen for Myself, to put My name there” (1 Kings 11:36). God’s name is attached to Jerusalem, and this is the reason why this city never vanishes from the prophetic future of Israel.
When the people of Israel were faithful to God, they were invincible and untouchable to the Gentiles. God was known in the world to the degree to which He revealed Himself in and through Israel. Even the reckoning of time was done according to the Jewish calendar and the terms of office of Israel’s kings.
Because of Israel’s spiritual apostasy they were mostly poor witnesses to the Lord and had a shaky kingdom. During the longest period of their stay in the land, Israel forfeited the blessing, presence and protection of the Lord. Because of their own actions they were cursed rather than blessed by the Lord (Deut. 11:13-32; 28:1-68). Their waywardness eventually led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile of Judah and Benjamin (the northern ten tribes of Israel were by then already in exile). Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C. when Judea became a province of Babel (2 Kings 25:1-21).
Israel’s kingdom, which was the physical manifestation of God’s kingdom on earth, was terminated for a long time. It was followed by the times of the Gentiles, in which the further course of history was described in terms of the periods of rule of heathen kings. The restoration of Israel after the Babylonian exile was only partial and for many centuries Jerusalem was no longer the capital of an independent and free Jewish nation – until 1980! After the Babylonian control they were subject to the Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires. The temple again became dilapidated and fell into disuse, so God stopped sending prophets to Israel. After Malachi, for more than 400 years, there was no prophet of the Lord in Israel until John the Baptist, who lived during the time of the Messiah, Jesus.
Israel did not only reject the prophets of God, but also their Messiah-King, Jesus, and in so doing they delayed the restoration of their kingdom for a very long time. Jesus said to them: “You shall see Me no more till you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 23:37-39). In the meantime, Jerusalem would be destroyed, partially rebuilt and mainly occupied by Gentiles: “And Jerusalem would be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).
It is an indisputable biblical fact that Israel and Jerusalem must first be fully restored (physically, politically and spiritually) before we will see a revelation of God’s kingdom on earth. God attached His name to Jerusalem forever. The future glory of Israel will be unsurpassed as they will be a truly Messianic state under the direct control of the Messiah.
It is not surprising that the Lord Jesus who paid the ransom for our sin in Jerusalem and founded the early church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this city, will specifically return to Jerusalem at His second coming to fully restore Israel and then rule the world from the throne of David in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:4-5; Acts 15:16-17). These crystal-clear facts should be observed by all who have a high regard for the fulfilment of biblical prophecies.
When the King of kings has come, He will first fully restore Israel to Himself spiritually (Zech. 12:10–13:1; Ezek. 36:24-28) and then restore the fallen throne of David in Jerusalem (Jer. 3:17; 31:38). Jerusalem will no longer be trampled by Gentiles, but the Gentiles will go up to Jerusalem to honour the Lord and to be instructed by Him (Isa. 2:2-4). They will annually send a deputation to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles there, which will be the major Messianic feast of His kingdom (Zech. 14:16). Jerusalem will be “the city of the great King” on Mount Zion (Ps. 48:2).
Israel will achieve their purpose as God’s people, and because of that they will be highly regarded by the nations of the world (Zech. 8:23). International support will spontaneously be rendered for the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the tribulation period (Isa. 60:10-15). Israel will be a spiritual blessing to the whole world and all nations will seek their favour (Rom. 11:11-12). Israel will evangelise the world during this future Messianic age which will follow after the church dispensation and the coming of the Messiah (Isa. 27:6).
The church of Christ exists during the times of the Gentiles when Jerusalem is trampled and everyone follows his own way. The darkened hearts of the majority of people allows Satan a firm grip upon the world. That is the reason why the church has to fulfil its mission in a hostile world, and has never been called upon to establish a kingdom which the Lord will only reveal after His second coming and the full restoration of Israel. How can the church fail to discern this important fact? Can their ignorance be ascribed to the effect of replacement theology, in terms of which the church regard themselves as Israel and Rome as Jerusalem?
Israel and Jerusalem are presently in a process of restoration, but not yet in a final stage. From God’s point of view Israel will only be fully restored when the Messiah has come and the whole Israel is saved: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26). The present physical and political restoration of Israel is an indication that the times of the Gentiles are running out.
When the rapture occurs, the church dispensation will expire and the 70th year-week of Israel will take effect (1 Thess. 4:16-17; Dan. 9:26-27). These seven years will be a transitional period in which Israel’s calendar will again become active, although the Gentile calendar will still be observed. But when Israel and Jerusalem will have been fully restored at the coming of the Messiah, a completely new dispensation will dawn in God’s plan for humanity – that will be the dispensation of God’s manifested kingdom on earth.
During the church dispensation we are, spiritually speaking, living in a dark and hostile world. The Lord Jesus sends us out as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matt. 10:16), and because of that we should definitely expect opposition and rejection. We should have an unshakeable faith in the saving grace of the Lord Jesus, but not unrealistic expectations that great numbers of people will react positively to the gospel message. The parable of the sower indicates that only a part of the seed will fall on good soil (Matt. 13:3-23). The hearts of many people have become dull: they hear but do not really understand what they hear (Matt. 13:14-15; 2 Cor. 4:4). Many of them will seek to enter through the narrow gate, but few will succeed (Luke 13:24).
We should also realise that our commission of evangelisation will not lead to the revelation of a Christian kingdom during this dispensation, since the judgements of God upon the unbelievers will occur at the end of the church age. The Lord Jesus also said: “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). In the night of God’s judgements the time of grace for many sinners will be over. They will then be held accountable for their rebellion.
We should not expect that the proclaiming of the gospel in this dispensation will give rise to a Christian kingdom on earth. The gospel will rather lead to a more pronounced division between light and darkness, as well as animosity from nominal believers towards evangelical Christians who fearlessly proclaim the principles of the kingdom of light – a kingdom which is not of this world. That is the reason why the Lord Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). A Christian witness even causes divisions within families (Matt. 10:35) – and all the more so in the wider society. Simeon said about Jesus: “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against” (Luke 2:34).
The Name of the Lord Jesus has indeed caused great divisions in the world! Not only the atheists, agnostics, and followers of the non-Christian religions have taken the field against Him, but also apostate Christian theologians who refuse to accept His virgin birth, deity, the significance of His crucifixion, as well as the reality of His resurrection, ascension and future return to the earth. What does Christ say about these reactions: “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (Luke 7:23).
The disagreements because of Jesus, as well as the campaign of hatred against Him, will continue until He comes to snatch away His bridal congregation, but shortly afterwards it will flare up to even higher heights. During the reign of the Antichrist there will initially be a large degree of religious unity on earth because the true Christians will be away. “All the world” will follow the Antichrist in amazement and worship him as their common “Christ” and “Saviour” (Rev. 13:3-4,8). But when large numbers of people will again be saved by accepting the true Christ as their Saviour (Rev. 7:1-17), profound hostility will set in and believers of that time will be executed in great numbers for refusing to worship the Antichrist (Rev. 6:9-11).
When Christ returns with His saints, it will be the end of the evil control by the kingdom of darkness on earth (Rev. 19:19–20:3). The kingdom of heaven will be revealed in an illustrious way and the names of all the idols will be cut off (Zech. 13:2). Only then will “the earth [be] full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9). All people will serve the Lord, but particularly the saved remnant of Israel: “No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34).
What a wonderful future to look forward to! We have all reason to remain steadfast and immovable in the service of the Lord, even though we have to enter into His kingdom through many tribulations. We should stand firm in the Lord, persevere until He comes for us, and be resolute not to make any compromise with the end-time spirit of apostasy. We should punctually execute the commands of the Lord if we wish to be found good and faithful servants, who also have boldness to give account of their lives before the judgement seat of Christ. Only then will He make us rulers over many things (Matt. 25:23).