Some Thoughts on Masculinity and Femininity

When we get beyond the many obvious physical differences between the sexes, and consider what is different about them internally, we know instinctively that there is something called “femininity” in women and “masculinity” in men. We may be tempted to think of these as two traits that explain the fundamental differences in male and female personalities. We may express these differences by saying, for example, “men are more rational and women are more emotional” or “Man is strength, and woman is beauty”. There is some truth in both of these maxims; but the whole truth is more complicated.

Neither are masculinity and femininity single traits, or even patterns of behavior. They involve perceptions, attitudes, inclinations, emotions, reactions that are partly products of their physical differences, and partly qualities that fit them for their respective callings. Rather, it is the whole personality type that differs between the sexes. A boy naturally develops a male personality type because he was born a male; and because he admires his father, and wants to be like him. This begins when he starts copying his father’s actions and words. He is not just playing when he uses a toy workbench and tools that his father gave him; he is becoming a man. The same is true of the female.

Because so much of the upbringing of children depends upon the behavior that they observe every day in the home; it is essential that both parents accept and act out the sex roles that God has assigned to each. It is also important that girls spend most of their time with their mothers and other women, in the home, learning the duties of a wife, mother and homemaker.  Boys should ideally (as they do in agricultural communities) spend most of their time with their fathers and other men, learning how men act and think and interact with each other, and also being trained to do the work their fathers do.

There must be different emphases in the training of boys and girls. For this reason (and others) schools should be segregated by sex. Girls must learn serenity, modesty, unselfishness and humility. These qualities are indispensable in a woman. They are the various facets of inner beauty. Boys must learn to be responsible, honest, courageous and diligent. These together form an inner strength. Children with these qualities (which can be developed early on) grow up to be persons of worth, capable of fulfilling their God given roles. They will also be attractive mates to the opposite sex, irrespective of their outward appearances.

But the differences between the sexes are not the only things that must be taken into account in the rearing of children. The Bible does not usually differentiate when it teaches the Christian virtues and way of life; because men and women are more alike than they are different.

If there is a single word that is descriptive of masculinity, it is this: men are workers. They are goal-oriented; and they are frustrated if they cannot see progress in their work. They are willing to work hard and make sacrifices if they can only achieve their goals. They tend to be easily bored with repetitive tasks that give them no sense of accomplishment.

Women, on the other hand, are nurturers. They care about needs, rather than goals. The endless round of unexciting tasks involved in being a homemaker, especially the care of young children, may wear her out; but they do not drive her crazy, as they would a man. She nurtures a vegetable garden, or a flower bed, or a tree just as truly as she does a child or an animal. A man would rather till and fence a garden plot, which gives him a sense of achievement; and then leave the daily care (other than the heavy work) to her.  This is not selfishness on his part, or a weak slavishness on hers: it is just the way we were made to be; complementary members of a family.  Each is made according to a master plan, by which he or she provides the strengths that the other lacks, so that each finds completeness in the other.

This is not to say that men are incapable of nurture, or that women never work with a goal in mind; only that there are these opposite tendencies which develop their personalities – naturally and predictably – in different directions.

The man who is conspicuously masculine and the woman who manifests a natural femininity will not only be appealing to others of both sexes; but they will be well able to fulfill their biblical, traditional sex roles, and find fulfillment in them.

Howard Douglas King

March 5, 2019

The Blunders of Kings

 

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The two parts of the book of the Kings document the fall of Israel from its highest point to the very depths. It opens with the ascent of Solomon, the son of David, to the throne of all Israel, and describes in detail the main events of his reign; during which the kingdom of Israel reached its highest development, its greatest territorial extent, and the pinnacle of riches, power, and national glory in the ancient world.

Solomon built the temple that his father had envisioned, planned and provisioned – an extraordinary edifice that would become known as one of the seven wonders of the world. His own palace, also described in these pages, was likewise famous. Solomon had everything, and did everything. He was a wise and just judge, an architect and builder, a natural scientist, a political strategist, a philosopher, a poet, a prophet, a master of agriculture and animal husbandry. God blessed him with an immeasurable abundance of talent and wealth.

Yet for all this, he was a man, a sinner. He succumbed to the temptations of his position, indulging himself with an enormous harem, among whom were many infidel women and idolaters – in direct disobedience to the law of God. These evil women seduced him to the building of Pagan temples in Jerusalem and the public worship of false gods; and brought on him the destruction of his kingdom. No one, no matter how favored by God, is immune to his discipline.

But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.

For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.

And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded. Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father’s sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen. (1 Kings 11:1-13)

The Lord also sent a prophet named Ahijah to a man called Jeroboam.

And it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field: And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces: And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee: (But he shall have one tribe for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel:) Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father.

Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant’s sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes: But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes. And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there.

And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel. And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee.” (1 Kings 11:29-38)

Solomon’s son and heir, Rehoboam, ascended the throne when Solomon died. But he immediately shot himself in the foot, and lost the kingdom committed to him. This is explained as the fulfillment of the predicted judgment on his father. In fact, his father was responsible for alienating the man who would take the ten tribes away from him as well. Jeroboam rose suddenly to the kingship of Israel, leaving only Judah, and the diminished tribe of Benjamin to David’s dynasty.

And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king. And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it, (for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt;) That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.

…And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him; And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents. But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the tribute; and all Israel stoned him with stones, that he died. Therefore king Rehoboam made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.” (1 Kings 12:1-4, 13-19)

But what did Jeroboam do? Did he learn from the mistakes of these two kings? Not much, it seems! Immediately, he corrupts the worship of God by building unauthorized altars and two golden calves to worship, thinking thereby to protect his new kingdom from the risk of eventual reunification with Judah! God has given him this kingdom, yet he immediately insults God and breaks the most fundamental law – the very law that Solomon broke to the loss of the kingdom – in the vain hope of preserving his place. This in spite of the fact that the same God who gave him the kingdom promised to sustain him in it if he would be obedient!

And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel. And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee.”(I Kings 11:37-38). Thus he earned the name of infamy that recurs in the Scriptural record: ”Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin”.

And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.

And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.” (1 Kings 12:26-33)

The judgment on Jeroboam was not long delayed. He died just 22 years after rising to the throne, and his son was murdered two years later, along with all his house.

And the days which Jeroboam reigned were two and twenty years: and he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his stead.” (1Ki 14:20)

And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned over Israel two years. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.

And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him; and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines; for Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon. Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him, and reigned in his stead. And it came to pass, when he reigned, that he smote all the house of Jeroboam; he left not to Jeroboam any that breathed, until he had destroyed him, according unto the saying of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite: Because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger.” (1 Kings 15:25-30)

David declares that nations and kings are not above the law of God, and that the Messiah will be their king. Here is his solemn warning:

Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psalms 2:10-12)

NOTES:

1) The fact that the tribe of Benjamin was treated as one tribe with Judah may be accounted for by revisiting its history. The tribe of Benjamin was once fairly large and powerful, and boasted many great warriors. But after the division of the land under Joshua, during the time of the Judges, Benjamin committed an egregious error in the matter of the Levite’s concubine, by taking the part of the wicked sodomites that dwelt in their city of Gibeah, who were her murderers, and refusing to surrender them to justice. The other tribes of Israel united and defeated Benjamin in battle, and nearly destroyed the tribe altogether. Only six hundred Benjamite warriors were left. This is documented in the book of Judges, chapters 19-21.

2) The division of Israel into two kingdoms also had its roots in history. Saul was king over all Israel, but when he died, only Judah recognized David as the true king of Israel. Saul was a Benjamite, after all; and the ten tribes supported Saul’s house in a seven-year civil war that led to the eventual triumph of David and Judah, with the unification of the nation, and the establishment of a capital city in Jerusalem. Naturally, Benjamin, which was not a large tribe in the first place, suffered much loss in that war. With the kingship passing to David, Benjamin lost most of its influence with its defeat. But the ten tribes had fought against the house of David, and now, less than a century later, the old grudge was revived, so they were ready to say to Rehoboam, “What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David.” (1 Kings 12:16)

3) When Ahijah tore the garment into 12 pieces, and gave 10 to Jeroboam, two pieces were left. These represented Judah and Benjamin. But Levi, one of the ten, was insulted and cut off from their calling and livelihood by Jeroboam. So they also became concentrated in the southern kingdom. And many others deserted Jeroboam because of his corruption of the religion of Israel:

And Rehoboam dwelt in Jerusalem, and built cities for defence in Judah. He built even Bethlehem, and Etam, and Tekoa, And Bethzur, and Shoco, and Adullam, And Gath, and Mareshah, and Ziph, And Adoraim, and Lachish, and Azekah, And Zorah, and Aijalon, and Hebron, which are in Judah and in Benjamin fenced cities. And he fortified the strong holds, and put captains in them, and store of victual, and of oil and wine. And in every several city he put shields and spears, and made them exceeding strong, having Judah and Benjamin on his side.

And the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts. For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest’s office unto the LORD: And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made. And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers.” (2 Chronicles 11:5-16)

4) Israel was carried away by the Assyrians a century before Judah was taken captive to Babylon. Few of them returned to the land of Israel when Cyrus’ decree of release was published; so the “Israel” that was in the land after that was mainly composed of Judeans, Benjamites and Levites who returned to their own capital city and the surrounding country. They came to be called “Jews” at this time.

Howard Douglas King, February 15, 2020

 

Essential Elements Of A Consistently Christian World-view

For any worldview to be considered Christian at all, it must be grounded on the written Word of God, and the revelation of the glorious person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. But a Christian’s worldview may be inconsistent — that is, it may contain elements that are inconsistent with each other. Most of us have ideas that we have acquired during our up-bringing, that cannot be reconciled with the Bible or with Christian doctrine.

The following are some elements of biblical teaching and the teaching of historic Christianity that have often been excluded from the thinking of modern Christians because of foreign ideas that are already deeply implanted before conversion, or because they are the unspoken axioms of contemporary society. These concepts must be rooted out, and replaced by biblical concepts.

The Necessity of Authority and Subordination

The master/servant relationship is inescapable, for it is essential to cooperation and coordination of effort in any task. In the very first relationship – that of man to God, this relation necessarily obtains. The second relationship – that of man to wife – is one of authority and subordination. In the third basic relationship – that of parent to child – the inequality is even more conspicuous and necessary. The fourth basic relationship – that of master and servant – is just an extension of the authority of the father beyond the natural family to another dependent person. All other relationships in a Christian society are based on and patterned on these family relationships.

Involuntary servitude has not really been abolished – except in the household, where alone its harshest features can be ameliorated by caring, durable personal relationships. It is just limited now to impersonal secular institutions; such as prisons, armies, schools, and to a lesser extent, the workplace. Only the authority of the husband, father, and householder has been destroyed.

The Theocratic Principle

Every man and every human institution is and ought to be under the rule of God, period. He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God, who is the King of all kings, and the Lord of all lords.

Secularity is Not Normal

We have come to regard secular institutions and enterprises as normal; but God regards every one as insubordinate to Him, as little rebellions, as outposts of the Devil. Every institution ought to acknowledge God and serve Him.

You have the Wrong Universe

Every non-biblical worldview is not only dangerous to the souls of its adherents; but is out of touch with the most fundamental and vital realities. Christianity is not an ideology – it is the truth. If we refuse to accept the truth, it will not prevent our having to deal with it eventually. The man who jumps off a building because he believes he can fly will hit the ground hard.

Damnable Ignorance

The typical American not only does not know what he is doing; but he knows not whence he came, nor why he was made, nor what he ought to do, or where he is going. He ought to know these things. There is no barrier to his knowing these things. So, while it sounds harsh, his ignorance is damnable sin.

Unity, Diversity, and Commonality

Unity of purpose and cooperation in common action are consistent with diversity; so long as that purpose arises from ideals that are sincerely held in common by all. One King – one Law – one people.

 

Howard Douglas King

August 5, 2015

Revised April 1, 2017

The Limits of Literal Interpretation

The general principle of the literal interpretation of Scripture, which we (with all Protestants) heartily endorse, chiefly applies to historical narrative. The prophetic passages of Scripture, as well as the poetic book of psalms, often contain figurative language. This is a native feature of poetry, and a common one in prophecy. This fact has been the occasion of many differences of opinion on the interpretation of prophecy.

The general rule of literal interpretation, therefore, does not require us to interpret every word of Scripture in a literal sense. Indeed, to attempt to do so would often result in nonsense; and many times it would bring Scripture into conflict with Scripture. The correct method is to follow the Scripture’s own indications as to when it speaks in strict literalness, and when not. This is an aspect of the vital principle that Scripture interprets itself, which is equally as fundamental as that of literal interpretation.

The gospels are literal historical records of the words and deeds of Jesus. But within this is the literal record of Jesus’ sayings, in which there are very many times that He either uses figurative language, or interprets the Scriptures in a non-literal manner. This is the reason that His disciples so often did not understand Him.

As a case in point, here is a prophecy from the Old Testament:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6)

And here is the non-literal New Testament fulfillment, according to the angel Gabriel:

And many of the children of Israel shall he [John the Baptist] turn to the Lord their God. And he [John] shall go before him [Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16-17)

And according to Jesus Christ:

Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elijah, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:11-15)

And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elijah truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elijah is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.“ (Matthew 17:10-13)

And they asked him, saying, Why say the scribes that Elijah must first come? And he answered and told them, Elijah verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at naught. But I say unto you, That Elijah is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him.” (Mark 9:11-13)

It is probable that most Israelites prior to the coming of John the Baptist interpreted the prophecy of Elijah’s coming literally, and we cannot condemn them for doing so. But this is a plain instance of literal interpretation leading to an erroneous conclusion. The scribes, observing that Elijah the Tishbite had not yet appeared on the scene, thought they had an unanswerable argument against Jesus’ claim to Messiahship!

It would be wrong to demand an additional, literal fulfillment of this prophecy in the future (as some nevertheless do) on the mistaken premise that because a literal fulfillment is possible, anything less would be inadequate and contrary to the truthfulness of God. Jesus makes it plain that John is the complete fulfillment of the prophecy when he says, “this is Elijah, which was for to come”.

Besides, the prophecy was for Elijah to come before Messiah appeared. Since Jesus has already come, there is now no opportunity for a completely literal fulfillment. On the other hand, John the Baptist fulfilled the actual terms of the prophecy by his ministry, restoring true religion in Israel in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

Finally, John was not inferior to Elijah, nor was he a less significant figure in the history of Israel. This second Elijah did no miracle, but he turned back the hearts of the children of Israel to the Lord, as the first one did (1 Kings 8:37-39); and also announced the long-awaited coming of Israel’s redeemer-king! Therefore, in sending John, God did not do less than He would have done, if He had sent the literal Elijah.

But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. (Luke 7:26-28)

By parity of reasoning, when the New Testament declares that the Kingship of Christ is to be exercised from His throne at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:30-36) rather than from an earthly throne in Jerusalem, how can this be viewed as an inadequate fulfillment of the promise to David concerning his seed, when the power and authority of that throne in heaven includes any that David had, and is infinitely greater than that of any earthly throne? It’s as if someone promised his son a hundred dollars upon his graduation from school, and gave him a car worth ten thousand dollars instead! Who would be so mad as to complain that the promise was not fulfilled because it was not fulfilled to the letter?

The Jewish expectation of a literal, visible, earthly kingdom was not only false, but it was a main cause of their rejection of Jesus, for they were only interested in a Messiah who would come and liberate them from the Romans. They did not realize that their greater bondage was to sin and death; and that for this cause they needed most of all a spiritual redeemer. The Bible tells us that they did what they did to Christ because they did not understand the prophets; and yet Dispensationalists today follow the same wrong path!

Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.” (Acts 13:26-27)

This error was so ingrained, that even His disciples didn’t “get it” for a long time.

But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done… Then he [Jesus] said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:21-27)

Dispensationalists claim that prophecy is “history written beforehand”, and claim to follow the rule, “literal unless impossible”. The tendency of the Dispensational brand of excessive literalism is to expect a future, literal fulfillment of prophecies that have already been spiritually fulfilled. The result is a complex and bizarre futuristic scenario unlike anything the historic Christian church has ever seen before.

Howard Douglas King

Why the Second Coming of Christ is Our Blessed Hope

11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Tit 2:11-14)

INTRODUCTION: TITUS’ MISSION

The second chapter of this epistle begins with the charge of the Apostle Paul to Titus, who had been left in Crete with a commission to set the churches in order:

“For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:” (Tit 1:5)

Accordingly, he sets forth in brief the qualifications for elders, closing with these words:

“Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (Tit 1:9)

Then he warns Titus that there will be schismatics and false teachers to contend with:

“For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:” (Tit 1:10)

He next describes their character, and gives Titus direction in his dealing with them. He is to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith”, and to “stop the mouths” of the deceivers by sound doctrine (see 1:9 above).

Finally, he describes the character of these men in the following terms:

“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Tit 1:16)

SOUND DOCTRINE AND SOUND PRACTICE

The division of the epistle into chapters at this point tends to obscure the fact that there is an important continuity between Chapter 1 and chapter 2. For the emphasis on sound doctrine which appears in verses 9, 11, 13, and 16 of chapter 1 recurs in the first verse of chapter 2:

But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:” (Tit 2:1)

The chief duties of Titus and the elders he appoints are to teach sound doctrine, and to inculcate the behavior that befits it. The word “become” means “to befit”. “The things which become sound doctrine” means the particulars of behavior that are consistent with the doctrines of Christianity. Call to mind the words of verse 1:16, which close the first chapter: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him”. There is an intimate connection between 1:16 and 2:1.

Pursuing this theme of Christian conduct, and by way of illustration, he sets forth a series of particular directions to the several classes of people, consonant with the peculiar social station and circumstances of each grouping. He addresses in turn aged men, aged women, young women, young men, and after an aside to Titus himself (urging him to maintain an exemplary deportment) bond-servants; in a few words exhorting each of them to the principal duties, and urging them to avoid the most common sins, of each class.

TWO ARGUMENTS FOR OBEDIENCE

He then enforces these directions in a long sentence that runs from verse 11 to verse 14, beginning with the following arguments:

11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;”

First, the gospel – the doctrine of the grace of God which had been preached to the Cretians – is far from being a license to sin. Paul contrasts those things that we should reject, “ungodliness and worldly lusts”, with those that we should embrace, ”we should live soberly, righteously, and godly”. This is our duty in this present world (age). Those who think that they can live as they list, and expect to be counted with the saints in heaven have got another think coming. We are going to have to change our lives to accord with the requirements of God’s word. We are going to have to listen to the preaching and submit to it – to obey; or we will never learn to live as the God of grace requires.

The second argument is that “…our Saviour Jesus Christ gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (verse 14). God did not forgive us our sins that we might continue in them; but that we might be redeemed from the power of them, and purified or sanctified from them. We are to become a “peculiar” (special) people, whose lives are full of those good works which lead men to glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). The implication is that, if this does not take place in our lives, we prove ourselves to be among the reprobates who “profess that they know God; but in works deny him”.

All of this has been by way of background and establishing context. I hope I have demonstrated the unity of the early part of the epistle.

VERSE 13: ITS CONNECTIONS

Now, “sandwiched” between these two arguments is found the text in my title, which I will now attempt to expound:

13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

This verse is in the middle of the sentence that begins with verses 11-12 and ends at verse 14. As such, it is connected to verse 12 and verse 14. Both of these connections are important.

The first connection is this:

…we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope

The key word is “looking”. In our day, that requires explanation. But first, let’s see what’s important about the connection. While we are living godly lives in this world (age), we are to be also looking for the appearing of our Savior and the dawn of a new age. Now this is not an additional duty, so much as a powerful encouragement to live a holy life. Suffering is a part of life for all in this sinful world; but Christians are likely to suffer an additional burden – that of persecution. We need to remember that this present evil world will come to an end, and that the temporary suffering we endure here bears no proportion to the eternal glories of the new world.

The word “looking” has nothing to do with gazing heavenward, or looking up every once in a while to see if Christ is there yet. His appearing may be a long way off. But here is the true idea. We should be “looking for” this blessed hope, like a new bride “looking for” her husband who has had to be away from her for a time. The word used here denotes expectancy. The sense is that we are to reach out towards it with our spirits, and to desire to take hold of it. We can’t do this unless we often think about it. The great consolation in the midst of all our trials is to consider that our Lord Himself is coming to perfect our redemption!

This grand expectation should be so much a part of us, that it transforms our lives. It should loosen our grip on all things merely temporal. It should make us careless of what may happen to us: whether we live long or not, whether we prosper in this world or not, whether we suffer or not. The return of our Beloved overshadows all these trivial things in the hearts of those that love Him and long for His appearing.

The second connection is this: Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ

The One who is going to “appear” is “the great God”. Jesus Christ is not just a man, or even an angel: He is God incarnate. What could be more significant than His return to earth after so many centuries of His absence?

He is also our Savior, the same one who laid down his life for us, to save us from sin. He is our friend! We should be more than eager to see Him! The eternal redemption which He obtained for us by His life and death will not be completed until He comes.

WHAT IS THE BLESSED HOPE?

Now, to the text itself, and the words “the blessed hope”. The English word “hope” can have at least four distinct meanings: the verb “to hope” can mean “to desire” something future, which may or may not happen. Second, it can mean “to be sure of”. Third, when it is a noun, it can mean “the confidence or assurance that we possess regarding a future event.” And fourth, it can mean “that which we hope for”.

The first thing to notice in our text is that “hope” here means “the thing hoped for”. It can mean nothing else, because none of the other meanings is compatible with the idea of being “looked for”.

Second, while there are commentators who differ, the consensus is that this “blessed hope” is the same thing as the “glorious appearing” of our Lord Jesus Christ. Admittedly, the Greek text may be interpreted in such a way that these are two different things. Adam Clarke, for example, says ”Some think that the blessed hope and glorious appearing mean the same thing; but I do not think so. The blessed hope refers simply to eternal glorification in general; the glorious appearing, to the resurrection of the body;” but notice that he offers no evidence or argument in support of his opinion. Isn’t it curious that Clarke finds in the words “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” only a reference to the resurrection?

Notice that the phrase, “The blessed hope” is not self-defining. It could mean “ eternal glorification in general” or the resurrection, which is expressly called our “hope” in the book of Acts. (23:6; 24:14) If Paul had stopped at the words, “blessed hope”, we could not be certain what is meant by it; so that it is not unreasonable to take the following clause as a definition or explanation of what that hope is: “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”. The word “and” that connects the phrases does not necessarily imply that they are two different things, since the Greek word kai can be translated “even”.

Besides, while we have many hopes to be fulfilled in the last day, the center of all our hopes is Jesus Christ Himself, and in particular, His appearing. All of the eschatological (last days) events revolve around the return of the King, Who will set everything right!

WHY IS IT CALLED THE BLESSED HOPE?

Let’s dig a little deeper, and consider further what are the reasons why the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ is called the blessed hope.

One Reason why the second advent is called “the blessed hope” is because it marks the end of this age and the beginning of that longed-for and everlasting age which is to come. The New Testament commonly distinguishes two “worlds” or ages:

And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. “ (Matthew 12:32)

But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.“ (Mark 10:30)

Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.“ (Luke 18:30)

Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife. And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:33-36)

Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:” (Ephesians 1:21)

For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

I quote these texts, rather than merely cite them because citations are often overlooked. They may not capture our attention. It may come as a shock to those who have had Dispensational teaching, and who think that there is another age (the millennium) to come between ours and the eternal state, that the New Testament knows nothing of such a thing as a “middle age” between the two. If there is a “millennium”, it can only occur within our own present age; as many of the best theologians have believed.

This is the age of hardship, of warfare, of broken hearts and broken bodies, of sin and suffering. Who would not be glad to exchange it for a world in which none of these things exists? The resurrection and eternal life are the unmerited reward of our term of labor. Is this not a sufficient reason to be looking for the day of His coming?

A Second Reason why the second advent is called “the blessed hope” is because when once that event occurs, everything moves inexorably and rapidly forward to the consummation. When Christ returns, what we know as the history of the world is at an end.

The great commission having been fulfilled, the preaching of the gospel for the conversion of sinners will be at an end. (Mathew 28:20) The celebration of the sacraments will cease, having been ordained only until “the end of the age“ (Mathew 28:19-20), “till he come”(1 Corinthians 11:26). All these things will have served their purpose.

The longsuffering of God toward the world for the sake of His elect will be ended when the last elect sinner is converted (2 Peter 3:9-10). The church will then be complete, and the work of redemption at an end. Then he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (2 Thessalo-nians 1:10). All the dead in Christ, the saints of all ages, shall rise (1 Corinthians 15:22-23), and all the living saints shall be caught up and transformed (1 Corinthians 15:51 with 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Christ shall then present His perfected bride to himself (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Immediately upon the return of Christ, a series of final events commences: the glorification of the faithful, the resurrection of the dead, the final and eternal judgment of all men, the renovation of the earth by fire, the inauguration of eternal bliss on the renewed earth. It is proper and natural then, that we should be taught to focus on the return of Christ as the event that signals the fulfillment of all our hopes.

A Third Reason is that all these other eschatological events will be the acts of the Savior Himself, performed as the completion of His Mediatorial mission of saving the world. He will personally call the dead out of the graves. (John 5:29) He Himself will judge the world. (Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 17:30-31) It is He, and none other, who will dissolve the frame of earth, and refashion it to a new perfection! (Rev. 21:5-6 – see 1:8)

When He comes, He will set all things to rights. Nothing will be right until then. And when He does it, it cannot ever be undone. Nothing less than this complete consummation of the happiness of the elect and the removal of all evil from the world forever will serve the perfect purposes of God, who has resolved upon our perfect blessedness in our Lord and savior Jesus Christ, and in Him alone!

To separate the second coming of our Lord from the other constituent parts of the consummation is nothing less than to diminish its importance, as well as its place of centrality to Christian hope. Even worse is to separate the second coming itself into two stages: the so-called “rapture” and the “revelation”. This makes the rapture the blessed hope instead of His appearing! There are many who are convinced that they are living in the last generation, and that they will be alive when Christ comes (any day now). For them, the “blessed hope” is to be alive at the rapture – to leave earth without having to die! How different is the scriptural perspective!

SUMMARY

Let us then heed the words of the Apostle, and be careful to both teach and practice those things that become the gospel; with the encouragement that the King will not disappoint our hope, for:

The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Th 1:7-12)

Howard Douglas King

August 12, 2019

 

 

Daniel’s Seventieth Week

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting right-eousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (Dan 9:24)

Dispensationalists are adamant that the Kingdom of God, which Jesus Christ “offered” to the Jews, was postponed when they rejected Him as king, and that the postponement fits into the prophecy of Daniel above, between the 69th week and the 70th. They call this a “parenthesis”, and fit the entire “church age” into that parenthesis.

Not to dwell on the fact; but there is no such thing as a “church age”, in the sense that they mean it — that is, the span of time from Pentecost to the rapture in which the New Testament church will have existed. For the church has existed from the earliest days of history; though not in its modern form. Christ died for the church and no other; and that means everyone in history who has trusted in Him for salvation. Otherwise, the Old Testament saints must have been lost.

But there is no parenthesis between Daniel’s 69th week and the 70th that contains the entire church age. Not only does Scripture not mention any such gap, but the possibility is precluded by the fact that the “seventy weeks” are a measure of the time from the decree of Cyrus (freeing the Jews to return and re-build Jerusalem) to the kingdom of “Messiah the prince”. To arbitrarily insert or delete any period of time anywhere would change the total to something other than seventy weeks. The prophecy would then be of no use at all!

Let’s say that I told you I would complete a job for you in two weeks, and you find at the end of the two weeks that I’m not half done. You ask me why I’ve not kept my word, and I reply that I have. You ask “How so?” I answer, ”I’m sorry. Obviously there’s been a misunderstanding. I guess you didn’t know about the parenthesis.” “The parenthesis?” you say. “That’s right”, I say, “There’s a parenthesis of indefinite length between the first week and the second. I’m not sure when the second week starts, but it could be any day now – or it could be years off. No one knows for sure. Is this a problem for you?” Who would listen for a moment to such nonsense?

In American football, a chain is used to measure the distance gained by the team that is on offense. What if a part of that chain were replaced by a large rubber band? That is what the Dispensational interpretation does to this text; for it adds an undefined period in the middle of a definite measurement of time.

The Dispensationalists place the seventieth week, as I have said, after the church age, at the “rapture of the church”, when it is taken from the earth during the entire seven years. These years are said to be characterized by the “Great tribulation”, and they take the “great tribulation” of Matthew 24, etc. out of context to prove it. All of this is defended with the very poor arguments and the faulty hermeneutic that characterizes Dispensationalism.

The seventy weeks are broken down into seven weeks, sixty-two weeks, and one week. Naturally, they run consecutively; the seven, then the sixty-two, then the one final week. During the first seven weeks of years, the city and temple were rebuilt. Then, after sixty-two more weeks, Messiah made His public appearance (at His baptism), exercised His ministry, and performed His redeeming work, which culminated in His being “cut off” in the final week of the seventy, having established the New Covenant just before His death.

The prophecy had its fulfillment at the end of the Babylonian captivity of the Jews: the restoration of Jerusalem(v.25), the building of the second temple (that took exactly 49 years), the advent of Christ, his redeeming work (v.24), and succeeding events (v.27). Jesus the Messiah was “cut off” after the sixty-ninth week, that is, in the seventieth week. There is therefore no remaining week of prophetic time to be fulfilled in the future.

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after [the] threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off…” (Daniel 9:24-26)

The prophecy does not say how long after the sixty-ninth week it would be when Messiah would be cut off, but it was obviously within that week. That is all the prophecy requires. The time period is not measured in years; such that we must calculate the number of years to the end of the seventy weeks, that is 490; and say that the predicted events must run right up to the 490th year. The units of measure are hebdads, weeks of years — not years as such.

The phrase “unto the Messiah the Prince” probably refers to the time of His baptism, when he was about thirty years of age. This is when his forerunner, John the baptist, told the world that this man was the Messiah, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, and when the Father gave testimony that Jesus was His beloved son:

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after [the] threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off…” (Daniel 9:24-26)

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God…

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:1-6;21-22)

It is important that we notice that this particular date is marked in Luke’s gospel with greater precision than the date of any other event in the New Testament. Why, but because it is the year when the sixty-nine weeks of Daniel were ended? It would be strange indeed if it were only the beginning of John’s ministry that was so carefully marked, and Jesus the Messiah’s appearance was not! As the text suggests, Jesus was baptized near the beginning of John’s ministry:

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized…”

Besides, John’s ministry probably only lasted about six months (A.T. Robertson’s Harmony of the Gospels), so the baptism of Christ likely took place in the year so carefully defined here.

The evangelist would have been very conscious of the predicted time when Messiah was to appear. The Jews kept a precise chronology. Jesus Himself, at the beginning of His ministry, preached “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). What “time” was fulfilled? Did Jesus merely mean the time fixed by God in His secret decree? Or was He not rather pointing to a concrete and verifiable fact, which would enable His hearers to authenticate His person and mission? If Jesus had not appeared at the predicted time, the Jews would certainly have known it, and would have used it against Him! There was only this one prediction in the Jewish Bible of the time of the coming of Messiah. So when Paul spoke of “the fullness of the time”, when “God sent forth His son” (Galatians 4:4), it is probable that He too had Daniel’s prophecy in mind.

Therefore we believe that the first sixty-nine weeks (483 years) of Daniel’s prophecy reach to the baptism of Christ and the beginning of His ministry. Since Jesus’ ministry continued for about three and a half years, it follows that the crucifixion of our Lord occurred at about the halfway point in the seventieth week of Daniel. It is clear that His death served “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness”. Opinions differ as to what the other phrases “to seal up the vision and prophecy,” and “to anoint the most Holy” refer to, but whatever view we take of these items, it is certain that they must also have been fulfilled within the seventieth week.

What becomes then of the Dispensationalists’ “parenthesis theory”? The seventy weeks have long since run out! There is no remaining seven year period to be pushed far into the future. And it follows that there is no “parenthesis” during which the kingdom was postponed. Jesus was born a king. In His ministry, He announced that the kingdom was at hand. And He inaugurated His kingdom when He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God.

For further study, see Calvin’s Commentaries on the Prophet Daniel, or Mauro’s exhaustive study, The Seventy Weeks of Daniel.

THY KINGDOM COME

THY KINGDOM COME

The Lord’s Prayer and the Future of Christianity

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10)

From the beginning of this age, the prayer our Lord taught to his disciples has been a prominent part of the private and public worship of Christians all over the world. We use it as a prayer, reciting it in our liturgy every Lord’s Day. Others teach that it is a model prayer, and use it as a framework to organize or to construct their own prayers. Only strict Dispensationalists reject its use altogether, claiming it belongs to another dispensation. So it is fitting that we have a clear understanding of what it means. For the mere repetition of the words does not matter if we don’t understand what our Lord meant us to pray for, and what answer to expect.

Calvin likens this prayer to the Decalogue; in that it is composed of two parts, the first having to do with God, and the second with man. The heart of the prayer lies in the first three petitions, and that will be the subject for our consideration today. This is because of its greater importance, and also because there is very little disagreement as to the meaning of the second three.

In the original, the verbs are deliberately located first in the sentences, for emphasis. The Greek word order is:

Hallowed be thy name!

Let come thy kingdom!

Be done thy will!

The verbs of these three petitions are all aorist imperatives. What does this mean? It means that they are couched in the form of peremptory requests! There is the greatest urgency about these three requests. One should never mumble through them, half asleep, not caring what he is saying, nor considering what they mean. They are to be spoken with understanding and passionate desire for their fulfillment.

This brings us to the heart of the matter. What are we supposed to be asking for? Some have found in these words nothing more than pious aspiration. The JFB Commentary is an example of this:

…we incline to think that the aspiration which we are taught in this beautiful petition to breathe forth has no direct reference to any such organic fulfillment, and is only the spontaneous and resistless longing of the renewed soul – put into words – to see the whole inhabited earth in entire conformity to the will of God. It asks not if ever it shall be – or if ever it can be – in order to pray this prayer. It must have its holy yearnings breathed forth, and this is just the bold yet simple expression of them.”

In this view, Jesus gave the church a prayer to pray repeatedly, continuously through the centuries and millennia with no expectation that it will ever be fulfilled! When we pray it, we are merely “venting” our godly desires. But would it not be strange indeed, if we were given such vehement language to express desires that God has not promised to gratify. In fact, if the pessimists are right, and God has revealed that the church will never achieve universal dominion, would it not be insubordination, even rebellion on our part to demand this of God?

Another view is that its only fulfillment is the ultimate victory of Christ’s kingdom at the end of the world. Granted, that is and must be our fervent desire and hope as Christians. The perfection of the eternal state is what we long for; but what about in the meantime? Are we really to believe that the only model prayer Christ ever gave us left out any reference to the state of His kingdom in this world? That there is nothing in the prayer about God’s current programme? That our devotion can be complete without a sense of mission and a desire for the flourishing of the kingdom of God?

Martin Luther did not expect the gospel to be victorious in the world; in fact, he expected the world to end in his day. But he did have the good sense to recognize the relevance of this prayer to the present age. In his Small Catechism, he writes:

The Second Petition – Thy kingdom come.

What does this mean? The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.

How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

The Third Petition – Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

What does this mean? The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.

How is God’s will done? God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will.

But Luther limits the scope of the petition to the personal without warrant. The second generation of Reformers, who built on the foundation laid by Luther, gave a more adequate explanation of the prayer. John Calvin expresses the optimism of faith implied in this petition:

By this prayer we ask that He may remove all hinderances, and may bring all men under His dominion, and may lead them to meditate on the heavenly life… We therefore pray that God would exert His power, both by the Word and by the spirit, that the whole world may willingly submit to Him… There is still another way in which God reigns; and that is, when he overthrows his enemies, and compels them, with Satan their head, to yield a reluctant subjection to his authority, “till they all be made his footstools” (Hebrews 10:13).

The substance of this prayer is, that God would enlighten the world by the light of his Word, — would form the hearts of men, by the influences of his Spirit, to obey his justice, and would restore to order, by the gracious exercise of his power, all the disorder that exists in the world. Now, he commences his reign by subduing the desires of our flesh. Again, as the kingdom of God is continually growing and advancing to the end of the world, we must pray every day that it may come: for to whatever extent iniquity abounds in the world, to such an extent the kingdom of God, which brings along with it perfect righteousness, is not yet come.” (Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, p. 320)

As to the expression highlighted, “the kingdom of God is continually growing and advancing to the end of the world”. Calvin gave us a fuller and more explicit statement in the preface to his Institutes of the Christian Religion. This work, written intentionally to vindicate the martyr church of France, he dedicated to his sovereign, Francis, King of France. Listen as he exhorts the King to defend the cause of the Protestants being persecuted in his kingdom:

“Your duty, most serene Prince, is, not to shut either your ears or mind against a cause involving such mighty interests as these: how the glory of God is to be maintained on the earth inviolate, how the truth of God is to preserve its dignity, how the kingdom of Christ is to continue amongst us compact and secure. The cause is worthy of your ear, worthy of your investigation, worthy of your throne.”

The characteristic of a true sovereign is, to acknowledge that, in the administration of his kingdom, he is a minister of God. He who does not make his reign subservient to the divine glory, acts the part not of a king, but a robber. He, moreover, deceives himself who anticipates long prosperity to any kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God, that is, by his divine word. For the heavenly oracle is infallible which has declared, that “where there is no vision the people perish” (Prov. 29:18).

Let not a contemptuous idea of our insignificance dissuade you from the investigation of this cause. We, indeed, are perfectly conscious how poor and abject we are: in the presence of God we are miserable sinners, and in the sight of men most despised–we are (if you will) the mere dregs and off-scourings of the world, or worse, if worse can be named: so that before God there remains nothing of which we can glory save only his mercy, by which, without any merit of our own, we are admitted to the hope of eternal salvation: and before men not even this much remains, since we can glory only in our infirmity, a thing which, in the estimation of men, it is the greatest ignominy even tacitly to confess.

But our doctrine must stand sublime above all the glory of the world, and invincible by all its power, because it is not ours, but that of the living God and his Anointed, whom the Father has appointed King, that he may rule from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the ends of the earth; and so rule as to smite the whole earth and its strength of iron and brass, its splendour of gold and silver, with the mere rod of his mouth, and break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel; according to the magnificent predictions of the prophets respecting his kingdom (Dan. 2:34; Isaiah 11:4; Psalm 2:9).

After Calvin, this optimistic view of the future of Christ’s kingdom was generally adopted among the Reformed churches, and held by them for many generations. It was propagated in the notes of the Geneva Bible. And it was the view expressed in the Westminster Standards.

The Westminster Larger Catechism distinguishes several aspects to Christ’s kingship in the answer to question 45:

Q. 45. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, [1] in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; [2] in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, [3] restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; [4] and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.

With the first coming of Christ, the kingdom has come, as predicted, yet not in its fullest sense. Christ has all the authority now, but He must fight an age-long and bloody war to bring the rebellious nations under His scepter. His enemies must be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1). For now, He rules in the midst of His enemies (Psalm 110:2). With this understanding, we are now ready to appreciate the Westminster Divines’ comprehensive and detailed answer to our question:

Q. 191. What do we pray for in the second petition [of the Lord’s prayer]?

A. In the second petition, (which is, Thy kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate: that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here, and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him forever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.

Later Reformed scholars, until the late 19th century, shared this optimistic understanding of Scripture, and entertained the hope of the ultimate triumph of the gospel.

John Gill comments on Matthew 6:10:

“In this petition the disciples were taught to pray for the success of the Gospel, both among Jews and Gentiles; for the conversion of God’s elect, in which the kingdom of God would greatly appear, to the destruction of the kingdom of Satan, and the abolition of the kingdom of the beast, in the latter day; which will usher in the kingdom, of the mediator, he will receive from his Father, and this will terminate in the kingdom of glory: in a word, not the kingdom of nature and providence is meant, which always was; but the kingdom of heaven, which was at hand, nay had taken place, though as yet was not very visible, and which is spiritual in the hearts of God’s people, Jews and Gentiles; and which will appear exceeding glorious in the latter day, and at last be swallowed up in the ultimate glory; all which must be very desirable by the sincere lovers of Jesus Christ.”

Albert Barnes agrees with this perspective:

Thy kingdom come” – The word “kingdom” here means “reign.” (See note, Matthew 3:2.) The petition is the expression of a wish that God may reign everywhere; that his laws may be obeyed; and especially that the gospel of Christ may be advanced everywhere, until the world shall be filled with his glory.

Thy will be done” – The will of God is, that people should obey his law, and be holy. The word will, here, has reference to his law, and to what would be acceptable to him. To pray, then, that his will may be done, on earth as in heaven, is to pray that his law, his revealed will, may be obeyed and loved. His law is perfectly obeyed in heaven, and his true children most ardently desire and pray that it may also be obeyed on the earth.

The object of these three first petitions, is, that God’s name should be glorified and his kingdom established; and by being placed first, we learn that his glory and kingdom are of more consequence than our wants, and that these should be first in our hearts and petitions before a throne of grace.

Even John Wesley, who cannot be considered “Reformed” summarizes thus:

Thy kingdom come” – May thy kingdom of grace come quickly, and swallow up all the kingdoms of the earth: may all mankind, receiving thee, O Christ, for their king, truly believing in thy name, be filled with righteousness, and peace, and joy; with holiness and happiness, till they are removed hence into thy kingdom of glory, to reign with thee for ever and ever.

An official confessional document of the Reformed Presbyterian Church reads:

We believe that a period approaches, in which the kingdom of Christ shall triumph over all opposition, and have a universal diffusion, influence, and prosperity. The Romish antichrist shall be destroyed, and shall cease not only to exert a malignant influence of any kind, on the ecclesiastical and social institutions of those countries where it has prevailed, but to have an organised existence on the face of the earth. The Jews shall be converted to Christianity, and added to the church. The greater fullness of the gentiles shall be brought in. Mohammedan and Pagan nations shall embrace the religion of Jesus, and all mankind shall possess the knowledge of revealed truth. There is reason to believe, that the truth shall be felt in its illuminating, regenerating, and sanctifying efficacy, by the greater number for those who process it.(sic) Knowledge, love, holiness, and peace shall extensively prevail, under the copious effusions of the Holy Spirit. Arts, sciences, literature, and wealth shall be consecrated to the service of Christ. The social institutions of men shall be erected and administered under the influence of scriptural principle. Oppression and tyranny shall terminate; wars shall cease from the earth, and the nations be united in peace. The inhabitants of the world shall be exceedingly multiplied, and pure undefiled religion shall exert supreme dominion over the hearts and minds of men, and diffuse universal felicity. This happy period shall be of long duration. It will be succeeded by a general defection from truth and holiness, and the prevalence of irreligion and crime, which will immediately precede the second coming of the Son of man from heaven.” (Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland, 1842. Pages 348 – 350). [I have omitted the Scripture proof texts to save space. HDK]

Enough has been said to show that the expectation of victory is a part of our Reformed heritage; and that to pray in the expectation of that victory was regarded by our Reformed forefathers as a Christian duty. And I hope I have shown that, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are not asking God to do what we know He has no intention of doing; but rather what He has promised to do, what He intends to do, and what He shall certainly do.

The Reformers and their successors dared to dream of converting whole nations, all of Europe, even the world! They dared to strive for and pray for great things, knowing that, however small and weak they were, the work did not depend on them, but upon God, who would surely fulfill His promises to those who were faithful and obedient. May the Lord give us great faith, that we may show ourselves worthy of the priceless heritage bestowed upon us by a gracious providence; that we may attempt great things for God, and expect great things from God!

Howard Douglas King