Tuesday, April 24, 2007

America Must Pray - Samuel Davies

Samuel Davies was born in New Castle County, Delaware in 1723. His parents named him "Samuel" to remind him always that he was "the son of prayer," harking back to the Old Testament prophet. Davies served in the French and Indian Wars and was ordained as a "New Light" Presbyterian, committed to serving as an evangelical preacher in spreading the Word of God.

Davies was Jonathan Edward’s successor as president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). He was respected as a historian and, when visiting London, was invited to officiate at Sunday services for King George II.

Davies spent considerable time composing prayers and hymns to accompany his Sunday services. While he was criticized for roaming outside of the Psalms for musical worship, he continued to do so in order to bring freshness to the Sunday services. He reveled in spiritual relevance for the benefit of others. In his prayers he would approach God by likening himself as a piece of clay. He wanted his prayers published to help others struggling in their communication with the Lord.

Davies wrote some one hundred poems and prayers, many of which he appended to his messages. A month after saying these words in a sermon, "Pray frequently, pray fervently!" Davies was dead.

He most famous hymn, still sung today, was Great God of Wonders.

Great God of wonders! All Thy ways
Are worthy of Thyself—divine;
But the bright glories of Thy grace
Among Thine other wonders shine;
Who is a pardoning God like thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What About Virginia Tech?

Many people ask, “Where was God when thirty-two students and faculty died at the hands of a mad gunman?” This is a natural question and one that both unbelievers and believers may ask. It seems sometimes that God is asleep and that He is passive when such tragedies happen. But the child of God knows that God is not impotent and helpless, and that indeed He does have a plan. But the only way we know this is by looking at the road map, the guide book, the revelation of the Word of God! It must be added however that even after we have seen the biblical verses and the truths about this subject in the Bible, we still struggle because of our human limitations. We are so small, and God is so big! 

    With such events that just happened in Virginia, believers in Christ have to look at the Scriptures in an orderly and systematic fashion to understand all that God is saying about such happenings. Here is a doctrinal progression we need to keep in mind:
  1. Sin is real. Evil is not the figment of our imagination. And yet evil, and Satan, are not loose canons on deck! Nothing happens outside of God’s providential domain!
  2. Humans are responsible for their actions one hundred percent!
  3. And yet, God is one hundred percent sovereign! He has a plan that will not be thwarted or hindered. And His plan includes the evil actions of humans and of the fallen angelic world. How can mankind be one hundred percent responsible and God one hundred percent sovereign? I DON’T KNOW! But this is what the Bible proclaims. We cannot say: God is seventy percent sovereign and mankind thirty percent responsible, or even the other way around!
  4. Even death is in a mysterious way, included in God’s sovereign purposes. The apostle James wrote that we can’t even say what were going to do next year, for what we should say is: “If God WILLS we shall LIVE and also do this or that” (James 4:13-17). To deny His sovereignty over our lives and our death is arrogance. James adds, “But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil” (v. 16).
    King David died when God was through with him (Acts 13:36). Our days are numbered and we do not go beyond those assigned to us (Job 14:5). God in an absolute way, controls nature and the nations as He wishes (Job 12:13-25). For His purposes He can allot “months of vanity” to us and appoint “nights of trouble” as He sees fit (Job 7:3). He leaves illness with us in order to humble us (2 Cor. 12:7-10). No one can stop God from doing what He wishes, and, nothing happens outside the scope of His providence (Dan. 4:35). And yet we trust in His absolute righteousness and goodness. He knows what He is doing! 

    Those who do not believe God is sovereign in all things, even in death, need to read Arthur Pink’s Sovereignty of God. 

The sovereignty of God in all things is one of the forgotten and misplaced major doctrines of Christianity. Those who deny such just have not studied thoroughly the whole Word of God.

Monday, April 16, 2007

America Must Pray - George Washington

Washington was one of the founding fathers that many thought could have been a deist. But this may not have been so. It is true, however, that religiously he was as enigmatic to his contemporaries as he would be to later historians. While he regularly attended Episcopal services at churches near his estate at Mount Vernon, he was also fairly regular when away and attended churches in Philadelphia and New York. Yet he simply did not speak openly on church doctrinal or spiritual issues. It was because of his silence that historians, fairly or unfairly, labeled him a deist.

But this was not unusual. Many of the men who were thinkers in the colonies pulled back or repudiated the squabbling between denominations. They wanted to have little to do with formalism in their spiritual life.

When Washington was thirteen he wrote down in a notebook verses entitled "On Christmas Day." In it he wrote: "Assist me, O divine One, to sing this morn, On which the Savior of mankind was born." During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress called for days of prayer and fasting. Washington reinforced those directives with his men, noting in his diary, "In prayer we implore the Lord, and giver of all victory to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness. We approach the throne of Almighty God with gratitude and praise."

When he retired from his work he wrote a letter to all the governors of the newly freed states invoking God’s continual blessings upon them. He wrote what was called "Washington’s Prayer." He implored the new nation

to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves that Charity, humility and a pacified temper of mind, which are the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion (Christianity) which should rule, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.

Washington of course could not retire. He was elected as the first president of the United States! At his inauguration he added the words to his acceptance speech, "So help me God" and then kissed the Bible. This launched a tradition. He went on and said that God was the Great Author of every public and private good, and then implored the nation never to forget "His divine blessing on which the success of this government must depend." When the inauguration was finished seven hundred people formed two lines and made a "grand procession" to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for a service of blessing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

America Must Pray - The Warner Sisters

    It is said that some of the spiritual speeches given by Abraham Lincoln inspired these two sisters, Anna and Susan, to write some of our most familiar songs that actually were prayers put to music.
    What inspired them the most was a speech by Lincoln in which he said:
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand, which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessing were produced by some superior wisdom, and virtue of our own. … We have become too proud to pray to the God that made us.
    The Warner sisters were Sunday school teachers in West Point, New York. They taught the cadets in the U.S. Military Academy of which most ended up in the Civil War, with many fighting each other on the battlefield. From the hearts of the sisters came "Jesus Loves Me."
Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.

Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
Thou hast bled and died for me,
I will henceforth live for Thee.
   As the Civil War went on many men and women on both sides produced prayers and songs that glorified the struggle but that also called upon the mercies of God. One such was Robert Lowry, a professor of rhetoric and the pastor of the Hanson Place Baptist Church in Brooklyn. He had become depressed at reading the war casualty list and also because some of his friends and parishioners had come down with the deadly typhoid disease. 

    As Robert put it, his "imagination began to take itself wings" and he began to think how he could raise everyone’s spirits. In fifteen minutes one evening he had sketched out the words for "Shall We Gather At the River." He immediately sat down and worked out the melody on the parsonage organ.
Shall we gather at the river
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?

Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.
    While riding on a train after the war, Lowry heard a group of drunken lumbermen singing his hymn, and singing through every word of it! He realized that what he had written would endure long after he was gone.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Progressive Dispensationalism: Is Christ Now on the Throne of David?

Introduction & Review
One of the major tenets of Progressive Dispensationalism is that Jesus is now occupying David's throne spiritually in heaven.  However, the Bible is clear that, when the throne of David is occupied in the future by Jesus, this will be the only fulfillment of the prophecy historically (i.e., that the Messiah will reign on David's Throne; Luke 1: 31–33). Traditional Dispensationalists and those consistent with their hermeneutics argue that Jesus, presently seated on the Throne of His Father, is not reigning on David's throne. Progressive Dispensationalists, such as Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock, argue that Christ is now on David's throne and reigning spiritually over a spiritual kingdom. They still claim there will be an historic, earthly rule in the future, however.

From their book Progressive Dispensationalism (Wheaton, IL: Bridge Point, 1993), Blaising and Bock write:  

Every New Testament description of the present throne of Jesus is drawn from Davidic covenant promises.  Repeatedly, the New Testament declares that He is enthroned at the right hand of God in fulfillment of the promise given in Psalm 110:1. This is a Davidic promise; it is the son of David who fulfills it. In Acts 2:30-36, the resurrection, ascension, and seating of Christ in heaven at the right hand of God (Ps. 110:1) are presented in light of the prediction "that God had sworn to him [David] with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne" (Acts 2:30). No other throne is discussed in this text except the Davidic throne.[1]

But does Acts 2:30-36 really teach that Christ is now on David's throne? Admittedly, the passage is tough to follow in the English structure, but by taking it apart in the Greek text, one can see that the verses are not claiming Jesus is now reigning as promised in the Davidic Covenant, either "spiritually" or actually.  Amillennialists wish to claim such so that they can believe the Church is the kingdom and all the millennial promises can then be allegorized! Those who hold a Progressive Dispensational persuasion also believe that Christ is now on David's throne but believe He will also return for the literal millennial rule.

To make the issue clear, we must argue the point with a logical and chronological sequencing. The order of events may look something like this:

1. The Ascension of Jesus Back to Heaven.  After being with His disciples for some forty days, Christ ascended back to the Father.

“After He had said these things [to His disciples], He was lifted up while they were looking on and a cloud received Him out of their sight...[And the angels said]: This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9, 11).

2. But before His death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus prophesied He would be glorified as the Son of Man.

“Jesus said, ‘Now [with My impending death and resurrection], is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified with Him...God will glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately’" (John 13:31-32).

3. Jesus was Exalted in Heaven as the Son of Man. Daniel 7 pictures Christ entering the throne room of the Ancient of Days (God the Father) and granted dominion over all things.

“Behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And He was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; ...and all the dominions will serve Him” (Dan. 7:13-14, 27).

4. Why is Christ Exalted? As the Son of God, He was willing to come to earth and die for lost humanity. He would then be honored by His heavenly Father for His humility and His obedience. 

Paul writes:

“He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to...death... on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus Every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:8-11).
Note that Paul says that men will confess someday that "Christ is the Lord"!  Xristos means the Anointed and refers to Him as the king who will reign on the earthly Davidic throne. Lord refers to His universal sovereignty as Master of the universe! He is certainly declared the Christ, but that earthly reign has not yet begun. He is Lord, but men as yet do not recognize it. Someday they will!

5. As the Son of God, Jesus is now seated on His Father's throne, not the Davidic throne!
“The LORD [Jehovah, Ever-existing One] says to my Lord [Adonai], [the Messiah]: ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet’" (Ps. 110:1).
More on this verse later.

Chronologically, this happened after Jesus is presented as the Son of Man to the Father (Dan. 7:13-14). Adonai pictures His sovereignty and dominion as stated in Daniel 7. Adonai translated implies: "Lord of the earthly realm, master, owner, possessor, master of servants, of kings."

The Acts 2:36 Problem
Almost all amillennialists say Christ is now on David's throne because of Acts 2:36. They claim "Lord and Christ" refer to the same thing and that Jesus is now on David's throne, at least partly because of this passage. Calvin puts it this way:

[Peter] joined the title Lord with the Christ, because it was a common thing among the Jews, that the Redeemer should be anointed upon this condition, that he might be the Head of the Church,...And now, forasmuch as they know that Jesus is the Anointed of the Lord, the governor of the Church,...[2]
The Pulpit Commentary notes:

God has acknowledged, accepted, and exalted Jesus, so affirming his Messiahship, and entrusting him with Lordship in the new spiritual kingdom.[3]

The context of Acts 2:36 begins with verse 22 where Peter reminds the Jews how God used Jesus with miracles and wonders.  He was then nailed to a cross (v. 23) by the Lord's "predetermined plan" and raised from the dead because death could not hold Him by its powers (v. 24). The reason: God would not abandon His soul in Hades "nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay" (vs. 25-28) as quoted in Psalm 16:8-11.

The Jews thought this psalm simply referred to David, but Peter points out that David was buried and his tomb (and possibly his body) "is with us to this day" (v. 29). To understand what Peter says next, we must quote verses 30-32:

“And so, because he [David] was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.” 

Note in verse 30, there is a clause that, if set aside briefly, helps make more sense in the meaning.
“And so,...he [David] looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,...”

And he adds, "This [is] Jesus [whom] God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses." This descendant, God would place on David's throne! With this, David sees the resurrection as demonstration that Jesus is the Christ (the Anointed, Messiah)!  When Peter says "his descendant upon David's throne" (v. 30), the Jews would have no other point of reference than the Davidic Covenant, and that throne would be placed literally in the city of Jerusalem! The throne mentioned then in verse 30 is not the heavenly throne that will be mentioned in the verses to follow.

        Verses 33-36 begin a new thought. They read:
“Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.
“For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.’’” 

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”

These verses build on the previous verses, but a new subject is introduced. Christ is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, as Peter quotes Psalm 110:1. Not as the Reigning Messiah, but as the Lord! His Messianic reign comes later! The passage that causes the problem is 2:36. It reads:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made[4] Him both Lord and Christ [Messiah]—this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Almost no commentators analyze the verse grammatically.  Notice how McGarvey (and so many others) believe that Peter is putting Lord and Christ together:

[God] had made him Lord by causing him to sit on God's own throne, to rule over angels and men; and he had made him Christ by causing him to sit on the throne of David according to the promise. It was God's throne, because it was the throne of universal dominion; and it was David's throne, because it was the lineal descent from David which made Jesus the rightful king.[5]

Observe how Hackett also confuses Christ as now on the throne of His Father and the idea of a future reign of Jesus with His disciples. Hackett, along with others, makes this careless mistake:
Moreover, that the phrase "to sit at the right hand of God," or "of the throne of God," does not of itself mean "original divine" dominion is clear from the fact that Christ assures his faithful disciples they shall sit down with him on his throne, even as he sat down with the Father on his throne. (Rev. 3:21)...The dominion here which Christ received belonged to him as Mediator; and it is to cease, therefore, when the objects of his kingdom as Mediator are accomplished.[6]

Granville Sharp's Rule VI
Notice that the verse says "both Lord and Christ." In Greek "both ... and" is the Greek conjunction kai used twice:  "kai Kurios, kai Xristos." This phrase actually creates separation between the two nouns and the two offices. In Sharp's Rule VI, he makes this point:

And as the insertion of the copulative kai between nouns of the same case, without articles,...denotes that the second noun expresses a different person, thing, or quality, from the preceding noun,..."[7]
Thus, Peter is making Lord a title distinct from Messiah!  Lord would be a reference to Psalm 110:1 and Christ (Anointed) a reference to Psalm 2:2. The expression "Both (kai) Lord and (kai) Christ" is further supporting the idea of the two different offices.  All translations and all commentaries retain the "kai ... kai" construction as "both ... and."  In every case of this "both ... and" construction, as cited by Bauer, the two nouns are to be translated as separate phrases or distinct entities or properties.[8] Thus, Jesus being Lord is different from His being the Christ.

Though there is certainly an association meant in the two titles Lord and Christ, there are still separate things going on in regard to these designations. He now is seated as Lord by His Father in heaven and He will someday be seated on David's earthly throne in the millennium.

Below are some examples as to how Sharp's Rule VI works in other passages where "kai ... kai" is used. The two nouns are separate; they are not the same thing.

“Able to destroy both (kai) SOUL and (kai) BODY in hell" (Mt. 10:28).
“Both (kai) WISDOM and (kai) KNOWLEDGE of God” (Rom. 11:33).

Though only One person is in view, Jesus, this separation of function of office is carried over in the book of Revelation. Christ is spoken of as:

“Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev. 17:14).
“King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16).

As has already been pointed out, but is worth repeating, another interesting passage that seems clearly to make such strong separation of the two thrones is Matthew 19:28, which reads:

“I say to you [the disciples], that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration [of the earthly kingdom] when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” 
The Issue of the Melchizedekian Priesthood of Christ
Blaising and Bock argue that the Davidic Covenant is now being partly fulfilled in that Christ is on His Davidic throne in heaven as a priest after the order of Melchizedek. From this position in glory, and at the right hand of God the Father, they argue this is another Davidic Covenant promise and prophecy now taking place.  Blaising and Bock write:

[Jesus's] present kingship is further elaborated in Hebrews in terms of its Melchizedekian priestly office and function, another Davidic covenant promise (the oath sworn to David and revealed in Psalm 110:4). This priestly office is brought together with the already defined Davidic sonship to describe again His present throne—the "throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16), occupied by our "great high priest...Jesus the Son of God" (4:14, cf. 5:5-6).[9]

Is Christ's present Melchizedekian priesthood really a part of the Davidic Covenant promise? Or, is His Melchizedekian priesthood part of His work as the Initiator of the New Covenant that has to do with a sacrifice for sins and the forever forgiveness of those sins?  If this is the case, Jesus' present priesthood in heaven is not related directly to His future earthly kingly reign in Jerusalem in the millennium.

No matter from what school of thought one argues, all have to admit that in the kingdom we will see Christ functioning in both offices, king and priest. Jesus will officiate as the priest in the new temple, but He will also be ruling as king and monarch over Israel and the earth. But before going on, a review is important. What is the Melchizedekian priesthood all about?

Abraham and Melchizedek
When Abram (later Abraham) had been in Canaan for a time, he encountered the king of Salem (probably early Jerusalem) who was a priest and an intercessor of "God Most High" (Gen. 14:18). This king was named Melchizedek which means "king of righteousness." The story is fascinating and full of strong implications that there were godly men, scattered probably throughout the Middle East, who knew the true God and had a personal relationship with Him.

Melchizedek acted as a priest for the Lord. He accepted tithes and had the power and authority to bless Abram (v. 19).  Melchizedek is not mentioned again in the Old Testament until the reference in Psalm 110:4. And it is with this verse that the problem arises.

Psalm 110:  A Psalm of David

Without question, Psalm 110 is the song concerning the Davidic Covenant and promises. But to understand how and why the issue of Melchizedek is brought up in these verses, is to solve a very important mystery. For example, why does verse 4 suddenly come in the middle of the kingly context? The verse reads:

“The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’”

The outline of Psalm 110 may help us:
Verse 1. "The LORD'S [Yahwah] declaration to my [David's] Lord [Adonai] 'Sit at My right hand, until I make a footstool for Thy feet.'"

There is little question that this incredible psalm sees God making a prophetic declaration to the Messiah. The irony is of course that David's Master is his own son! Jesus quotes this passage to the Pharisees. He asks them, "'What do you think about the Christ [Anointed], whose son is He?' They said to Him, 'The son of David'" (Mt. 22:41-42). The Lord then quotes Psalm 110:1 and asks the Pharisees "If David then calls Him 'Lord', how is He his [David's] son?" (v. 45).

The answer is clear! The Messiah is both David's physical son and the Son of God who will someday be instructed to sit at the Father's right hand!

Verses 2-3.  By the authority of the Father, the Son will rule with a scepter from Zion [Jerusalem].
“The LORD will stretch forth Thy strong scepter [the Messiah's] from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Thine enemies.’ Thy people will volunteer freely in the day of Thy power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Thy you are to Thee as the dew.”

These verses, without doubt, refer to the literal and historical reign of the son of David during the millennium. Though verse 3 is difficult, it seems to be saying that the people will rally to the king freely and give themselves as an offering to His service.

Verse 4. Then comes the verse concerning the Messiah as a priest after the order of Melchizedek. This priesthood is to be eternal in nature.

“The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’”

Verses 5-7. These passages are also clearly Messianic.  Again, they speak of the king coming in wrath and judging the nations. The verses are dealing with the literal and historic rule of David's Lord whom Jesus points out is the Son of God.

“The Lord [the Messiah] is at Thy right hand [at the right of God the Father]; He [the Messiah] will shatter kings in the day of His wrath [His coming to earth]. He will judge among the nations. He will fill [the earth] with corpses, He will scatter the chief men over a broad country. He will drink from the brook by the wayside; therefore He will lift up His head.”

On verse 6 Unger writes:
"He shall judge among the nations" and peoples confederated against Him (Psalm 2:1-3; Rev. 16:13-16; 19:11-20; cf. Matt. 25:1-46). Literally, "He will fill them (the nations, or earth, land) with corpses"..."He shall wound...the Head over many countries ('over a broad territory')," evidently referring to the literal "head"...of the Antichrist (Rev. 13:1-10), the Satan-dominated leader of the great end-time revolt against God and his attempt to take over the rule of the earth (Psalm 2:1-3; Rev. 13:7; cf. 19:20).[10]  

Now comes the question and the mystery. Is the Melchizedekian priesthood here mentioned in Psalm 110:4 a part of the Davidic Covenant? Since Christ is now carrying out the office of that priesthood in glory, it might seem as if that proves that the Davidic Covenant is now in operation in a spiritual sense, as Blaising and Bock want to imply. But Unger answers this with a "no," yet the final verdict will actually come from the writer of the book of Hebrews. On this issue, Unger notes:

Although Christ is a Priest like Melchizedek now, the full display of that priesthood will not occur until He comes as King and unites the two offices in one Person. Not until the night visions of Zechariah (Zech. 1:4-6:8), which cover events that close this age, are completed will the symbolic action of the crowning of the high priest take place (6:9-15), prefiguring the Messiah upon "his throne" (6:13); so Christ must first receive His own throne before He can manifest the full [earthly] glory of His eternal Melchizedek priesthood.[11]
Th  Melchizedekian Priesthood and the New Covenant
The writer of Hebrews will tie Christ's present priestly ministry with the New Covenant, not the Davidic Covenant. Question: But is not the Melchizedekian priesthood mentioned in Psalm 110:4, which is a Davidic Covenant psalm? The answer is yes. But though mentioned, David the author does not actually come out and say that this priestly office is part of the Davidic Covenant! In interpretation, one must note what is not said as well as what is said!

Again, the issue will be settled when it is observed how the inspired writer of Hebrews treats and refers to the Lord's present priestly activities.

Christ Superior to Aaron
In Hebrews 5, the author of the book tells us that God gave a sacred call to the Levitical or Aaronic priesthood when He called Aaron as the first high priest (5:4). But, the apostle who wrote Hebrews adds: there are two things even more important about Jesus. First, quoting Psalm 2:7, the writer points out that Christ is designated as God's own Son. "Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee" (Heb. 5:5).

Secondly, the writer shows that the Lord Jesus has been designated a priest after Melchizedek. "Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" (5:6). Since Christ would be born of the royal tribe of Judah and of the kingly clan of David, He could not be born of the priestly tribe of Levi. But the Melchizedekian priesthood does not show lineage or historic succession, as the author of Hebrews later wrote:

“Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he abides a priest perpetually [uninterrupted]” (7:3).
There was no recorded genealogy nor beginning and end to Melchizedek's ministry. However, the Aaronic priesthood had a strict rule of lineage and succession. But as there is no such earthly order seen with Melchizedek, Jesus could act as an independent priest in the same manner.

At His death, Christ personally took upon Himself the roles of the priestly offering. In His physical [flesh] He offered prayers and cried out to the One [God] who could have saved Him from death (Heb. 5:7). He was obedient as a Son by which He offered Himself and suffered as a sacrifice (5:8; Isa. 53). Having "completed all things" (teleioo), "He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation" (5:9). He was "brought forward, assigned (prosagoreo) by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek" (v. 10).

Which Covenant?
Since Jesus became "the source of eternal salvation" (5:9), which covenant is this sacrificial work referring to: Davidic Covenant or New Covenant? The answer seems to be the New Covenant because it creates a personal relationship and gives forgiveness of iniquity and sin (Jer. 31:33-34). It would offer a cleansing from iniquities (Ezek. 36:33), remove the heart of stone (v. 26), and allow God's Spirit to come within (v. 27). This covenant would be based on the shed blood of Christ, for He said:  "... this is My blood of the [New] covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins" (Mt. 26:28). This is repeated in Luke 22:20: "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood."  

Jesus said these words as He and the disciples were at the Passover meal, which of course was portraying His sacrificial death. Interestingly, He continued speaking and told His disciples "But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom" (v. 29).

How did the disciples take these words? "Oh, He must spiritually mean the coming Church Age!" Or, "He's talking about a coming 'spiritual' Davidic reign that precedes His actual literal earthly reign!"
To the disciples the Davidic Covenant would mean the earthly literal reign of the Messiah in Jerusalem. There is no pre-spiritual reign in view!

But back to the book of Hebrews. Does this book confirm that Christ's priesthood is tied to the New Covenant and not the Davidic Covenant? Hebrews clearly ties the Melchizedekian priestly work of Christ to the New Covenant and not the Davidic. Jesus began “…with an oath through the One [God] who said to Him, ‘The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, Thou art a priest forever’; so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (7:21-22).

“For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (vs. 26-27).

“But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant [the Mosaic Covenant] had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second [the New Covenant]” (8:6-7).

The writer of Hebrews then immediately quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 and the entire passage about the prophesied coming New Covenant that would contrast the old law, the Mosaic Covenant.  He concludes with this statement:  

“When [God] said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is become obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear” (8:13).

Jesus entered the heavenly tabernacle with the sacrifice of His own body (9:11, 24), "through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (v. 12), "who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God,.." (v. 14).

“And for this reason, He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first [Mosaic] covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (v. 15).

So far, the writer of Hebrews is connecting Christ's sacrifice with the New Covenant of forgiveness of sin. The author is doing this with direct references to the New Covenant and no hint that Jesus' sacrificial work, nor His present intercessory function, is fulfilling any part of the Davidic Covenant. 
The final argument is sealed with this summary:

“He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet.  For by one offering He has consecrated for all times those who are sanctified” (10:13-14).

The author again quotes the New Covenant as given in Jeremiah 31:33-34.

“And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, and upon their mind I will write them,’ He then says,  ‘And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more’" (vs. 15-17).

In the kingdom, all the covenants (Palestinian, Davidic, and New) weave together to form an eschatological tapestry. But it is paramount for the theologian of God's Word to be accurate. The Melchizedekian priesthood of our Lord does not relate to a partial fulfillment of that Davidic Covenant. The Davidic Covenant has to do with the kingly Messianic reign and we are not in the kingdom presently, in any form or fashion.

Blaising and Bock are mistaken when they write:

This priestly office (Melchizedekian) is brought together with the already defined Davidic sonship to describe again His present throne—the "throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16), occupied by our "great high priest...Jesus the Son of God" (4:14, cf. 5:5-6) [12]

Blaising and Bock are attempting to imply that the throne of grace is where Christ is now seated, but more. They are trying to imply that this throne is the heavenly Davidic throne. It is not!

Two verses before, Hebrews 4:14, simply picture Christ the "great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God,..." Thus, He sits next to His Father, on the throne of grace, "that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need" (v. 16). This is the Father's throne, made by the Son's sacrifice “the Intercessory throne,” but certainly not the Davidic throne relating to His future Messianic earthly rule!

Ryrie puts a proper perspective on this issue and what Progressive Dispensationalists are trying to say, when he rightly concludes: They are causing,

… a blurring of the distinction between the church and the Davidic kingdom by asserting that Christ is now reigning from heaven on the throne of David and that the church is the present revelation of the eschatological kingdom. 

They say the church is "a Present Revelation of the [Messianic] kingdom." This emphasis comes from focusing on the Lord's present reign in heaven on the Davidic throne in inaugural fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant and incarnate as the son of David and "not as generic humanity." Therefore, progressives conclude that the church is the "present reality of the coming eschatological kingdom." It is the kingdom today.

In American evangelicalism the writings of George E. Ladd widely promoted views of the kingdom that are now embraced by progressive dispensationalism. Although progressives try to distance themselves from Ladd and disclaim any dependence on his theology, they are espousing the same views. When Bock was asked if Ladd would disagree with his views, he replied, "I think the fundamental thrust of the structure he would not disagree with." The major similarities, if not sameness, between Ladd and progressives are these: (1) the focus on the kingdom of God as an overall, all-encompassing theme; (2) the already/not yet, progressively realized nature of the kingdom; (3) the present position of Christ reigning in heaven as the Messianic/Davidic king.
If Christ inaugurated His Davidic reign at His ascension, does it not seem incongruous that His first act as reigning Davidic king was the sending of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33), something not included in the promises of the Davidic Covenant? 

Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews plainly declares that Christ "sat down at the right hand of the throne of God," not the throne of David (12:2).  That does not deny that our Lord has all authority in heaven and earth or that He rules in the world and in the church; rather, it denies that He is ruling on David's throne now and that the Davidic Covenant has already been inaugurated. To conclude otherwise confuses the various rules in the Bible. Remember, too, that David himself was designated and anointed to be king some time before he began to reign as king. Christ is the Davidic king, designated before His birth to reign over "the house of Jacob," not the church (Luke 1:31-33), though He will not be reigning as Davidic king until His second coming.[13]

[1]  Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism (Wheaton, IL: Bridge Point, 1993), p. 182.
    [2]  John Calvin, Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1989), p. 114.
    [3]  H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, eds., “Acts” in The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), p. 90.
[4] Made. The Greek word is poieo. In this context, the best definition is "appoint, grant, commission" according to Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider, eds., Exegetical Dictionary of The New Testament, 3 Vols. (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994), 3:124, 126.
[5]  J. W. McGarvey, New Commentary on Acts of Apostles (Delight, AR.: Gospel Light Publishing Company, 1892), p. 36.
[6] Horatio B. Hackett, Commentary on Acts (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications,  1992), pp. 52-53.
[7] Granville Sharp, Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article … Containing Many New Proofs of the Divinity of Christ (Atlanta:  The Original Word, Inc., 1995), p. 25.
[8] Walter Bauer; A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, rev. F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederich W. Danker, trans. William F. Arndt and William F. Gingrinch (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979), p. 394.
[9] Blaising and Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism…,p. 183.
[10] Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, 2 Vols. (Chicago:  Moody Press, 1981), 1:916.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Blaising and Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism ,p. 183.
[13] Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), pp. 165, 166, 169.

America Must Pray - Sanford Bennett

One of the most enduring songs written after the Civil War was by Sanford Bennett entitled, "In the Sweet By and By." Bennett was the owner of a drugstore in Elkhorn, Wisconsin who had just returned from the war. A friend, Joseph Webster, a gifted musician trained formally in composition, came to Bennett’s store each day to talk and play chess. Often Webster would come in depressed and down.

When asked what was wrong, Webster would often reply, "It’s no matter. It will be alright by and by." That idea hit Bennett like a flash of sunlight!

As Bennett put it, he took out a pen and it was all over in thirty minutes. A new hymn was born. In short order he was singing the words along with Webster and two other friends. There’s a land that is fairer than days, And by faith we cans see it afar, For the Fathers waits over the way To prepare us a dwelling place there.

In the sweet by and by, We shall meet on that beautiful shore; In the sweet by and by, We shall meet on that beautiful shore!

Bennett continued to manage his drugstore while Webster went on pursuing a composer’s career, writing over a thousand musical compositions and compiling the very popular Sunday school hymnal "The Signet Ring." However he would not have the same success as with "The Sweet By and By." That hymn was perfect for the post-Civil War era because it conveyed pathos with a mixture of comforting warmth. It came to typify the virtues of spiritual hope.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Progressive Dispensationalism: What Really Is It?

In the mid to late 1980s, a new “dispensationalism” was beginning to surface in the academic world that is called “progressive dispensationalism” (PD). Over the past several years some of the leading “traditional” or “classic dispensationalists” have written many articles and books critiquing and pointing out the danger of this “new or revised dispensationalism.”

In order to allow our readers to acquire a better understanding of this clear and present danger to true dispensational theology, we have compiled sections out of what we feel have been the best critiques of this theological development. These sections are footnoted indicating the book from which they were gleaned.  The student may want to purchase one or more of these volumes to gain an even deeper explanation of progressive dispensationalism. We hope this serves as an alarm for traditional dispensationalists to be aware of the danger this new development poses in our churches and schools. As you can see, at stake is the consistent literal interpretation of Scripture.

What is a “Complimentary Hermenutic”?
Recently, some who claim to be interpreting Scripture literally have introduced what they call “complementary hermeneutics.”  Those who use this approach classify themselves as progressive dispensationalists. They also still wish to be numbered among premillennial pretribulation dispensationalists. Darrell Bock, who seems to have been the one who introduced the term “progressive dispensationalism,” defines it [complimentary hermeneutic] this way: “The New Testament does introduce change and advance; it does not merely repeat Old Testament revelation. In making complementary additions, however, it does not jettison old promises.”

The method at the present time does not seem to be applied to all of Scripture, but is applied to the promise of the Davidic covenant of 2 Samuel 7.  It is admitted that when the covenant was originally given, it was made exclusively with Israel.  However, in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost, Peter brought in the church as recipients of the covenant as well. This is defended by Peter’s use of Psalm 110. In this way it is  inferred” or “implied” that the kingdom promises to Israel are now being fulfilled in part by Christ’s position at the right hand of the Father. This means the Davidic kingdom is “now but not yet” in all its fullness.  What the New Testament is said to have done is “complement” here what was given in the Old Testament.

What this means, if applied unilaterally to all of Scripture, is that the original recipients of the revelation could never know precisely what the text meant until the promise was fulfilled or the canon of Scripture was closed. After all, later “complements” might introduce drastic changes in the original promise.

“Complementary hermeneutics” must not be confused with the historic orthodox doctrine of progressive revelation.  This latter truth means that God revealed His truth gradually, sometimes over a long period of time.  What was revealed later never changed the original revelation, however. The meaning and the recipients of the promise always remain the same. More truth is simply given about the germ truth given initially. When a promise was given to certain people about a certain thing or certain place, it was always fulfilled exactly as predicted.

All the biblical and theological ramifications of progressive dispensationalism and its foundation stone of complementary hermeneutics have not yet surfaced. Several have, but the effects even of these upon classic or normal dispensationalism have not yet been realized. Two doctrines that are absolutely indispensable to the system out of which progressive dispensationalism arose and with which its advocates still want to be identified are greatly affected by it. These are the mystery nature of the church and the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit. Progressive dispensationalism slights both of these by attaching new meanings to them.

Progressive dispensationalists no longer believe that the church is a mystery completely unrevealed in the Old Testament.  “Mystery,” as used in the New Testament, has always been understood to mean that which had not been made known before but came to be made known. This meaning is based on Paul’s usage of the word in Romans 16:25. Progressive dispensationalism does not believe the church was completely unrevealed in the Old Testament but that it was simply unrecognized there.

Likewise, Progressives do not believe the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit is entirely new to the New Testament. They see shadows of the work of the Spirit in the Old Testament.

Many who are classic dispensationalists—and even those who are not dispensationalists at all question why those who no longer believe in the foundational essentials of dispensationalism still want to be a part of the dispensationalism family.

This is truly something not yet revealed.

Lack of Consistency in Applying Literal Hermeneutics 
Its discontinuity with normative dispensationalism. Clearly, progressive dispensationalists are distancing themselves from the consistent literal hermeneutics of normative dispensationalism by introducing “complementary hermeneutics.” In speaking of the issues still on the table to be discussed by covenant theologians and progressive dispensationalists, Blaising and Bock say, “The final issue on the table is hermeneutical. The issue is not a distinct hermeneutic but debate about how to apply the hermeneutic that we share.” This sharing is between covenantalists and progressives, not progressives and normative dispensationalists, further demonstrating the distance progressives wish to have between themselves and classic dispensationalists.  Unquestionably, a literal hermeneutic consistently used has been a key feature of normative dispensationalism. Both nondispensationalists and dispensationalists acknowledge this “The first tenet of dispensationalism is that the Bible must be interpreted literally.”

Progressives are moving away from the literal hermeneutic of normative dispensationalism. Although they still want to come under the umbrella of a grammatical-historical hermeneutic, they (in their own words) embrace ideas developed “in sophistication beyond that which was practiced by classical dispensationalists....

Furthermore, a number of dispensationalists who today practice consistent grammatical-historical interpretation (in its more developed sense) have revised some of the distinctive interpretations of earlier dispensationalism. Literary interpretation has developed so that some things which earlier interpreters thought they “clearly” saw in Scripture, are not “clearly” seen today at all.
Bruce Waltke sees this as a very basic difference: “This already–not yet model of [progressive] dispensationalism, entailing a less than one-for-one correspondence between Old Testament covenants and prophecies and the partial fulfillment in the church, shakes the very foundations of [normative] dispensational hermeneutics, which includes a consistent literalistic interpretation of the Old Testament, another sine qua non of the system.”

Some questions arise from this distancing. (1) Does the progressives’ modification or redefining of literalism permit them to proclaim honestly their continuity with the dispensational tradition? (2) Is the umbrella of literalism large enough to cover their expanded historical-grammatical hermeneutic? (3) Is it progress to see things in Scripture not so clearly today as before?  (4) If the literal hermeneutic of normative dispensationalism is not adequate to interpret all of Scripture, especially the prophetic and apocalyptic parts, what may happen to other characteristic teachings of dispensationalism in the ongoing work of the progressives?

Complementary hermeneutics. In order to give a hermeneutical base to certain interpretations of the progressives (e.g., Christ is now on the throne of David in heaven, and the somewhat indistinctiveness of Israel and the church), they have introduced what they call complementary hermeneutics.  This means that “the New Testament does introduce change and advance; it does not merely repeat Old Testament revelation. In making complementary additions, however, it does not jettison old promises. The enhancement is not at the expense of the original promise.”  The first sentence of their definition opens the door for their already/not yet view of the Davidic kingdom. The last two sentences keep them from becoming amillennialists.

PD’s “Complimentary Hermeneutic” and the Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament 
Development of “complementary hermeneutics” by new dispensationalists revolves around issues related to how New Testament writers handle the Old Testament. Blaising and Bock present three approaches to the question. They could be viewed as the traditional literal approach, the spiritual approach, and the new complementary approach.

The complementary approach put forth by Blaising and Bock is claimed to be a synthesis combining the answer of older dispensationalism, which demonstrates a greater sensitivity to “the historical interpretation of the Old Testament,” while adopting covenant theology’s view that includes the “adding of new revelation.”  Bock has suggested, in the process of interpreting Peter’s use of Joel in Acts 2 that the “eschaton has begun; the movement toward the culmination of the eschaton has started, as have the benefits associated with the coming of the Day of the Lord.”

It appears that, in the minds of Blaising and Bock, their complementary hermeneutical synthesis lends support to their theological dualism of an “already/not yet” view of the Davidic kingdom rule.  “Both dispensations [Church Age and Millennium] are also united as aspects of the messianic reign of Christ.... Both dispensations are seen in the New Testament as fulfillments of the Davidic covenant.” Bock sees “the presence of fulfillment” in Peter’s use of Joel in Acts 2 and adds, “it is not a comparison.” However, Blaising and Bock appear to be in agreement with older dispensationalists who tend to see the Old Testament passages as left untouched by New Testament development: “The enhancement is not at the expense of the original promise.”

Ken Gentry, representing a traditional covenant approach, believes that “the Christian exegete must allow the New Testament to interpret the Old Testament...This approach to biblical interpretation allows the conclusive revelation of God in the New Testament authoritatively to interpret incomplete revelation in the Old.”  This would be a sound statement if Gentry meant that the Scripture was expanded down through history (progressive revelation) as more details and explanation are added in such a way as not to change the meaning of an original Old Testament passage through reinterpretation in the New Testament (i.e., the church replacing Israel in OT passages). But that is not what Gentry means.  His approach is a so-called “grammatical-historical-theological” hermeneutic, whereby it is believed that the New Testament gives a theological basis for changing the original meaning of the Old Testament. Gentry believes that New Testament theology gives him the liberty to take Old Testament passages and apply them “spiritually” to the church. He asks, “Why cannot there be a spiritual Israel?”  From the perspective of covenant theology, it is sometimes taught that spiritualization of the Old Testament is needed to make it conform to the doctrine of the New Testament.

But must one adopt an element of spiritualization (i.e., the New Testament [re]interprets the Old Testament) into one’s hermeneutic in order to properly understand how the New Testament uses the Old Testament?  That seems to be unnecessary.

Arnold Fruchtenbaum claims that the New Testament writers (all were Jewish) quote the Old Testament in the common Jewish way in the first century.  “They often gave a spiritual meaning or a new application to an Old Testament text without denying that what the original said literally did or will happen.”  Fruchtenbaum cites four ways the New Testament quotes from the old and notes that Matthew 2 contains an example of all four uses (see chapter 4 [in Issues in Dispensationalism]). “The first example is called literal prophecy plus literal fulfillment”.

This example is found in Matthew 2:5-6, which quotes Micah 5:2. In the original context of Micah 5:2, the prophet is speaking prophetically and prophesying that whenever the Messiah is born, He will be born in Bethlehem of Judah. That is the literal meaning of Micah 5:2. When a literal prophecy is fulfilled in the New Testament, it is quoted as a literal fulfillment. Many prophecies fall into this category, such as Isaiah 7:14, 52:13-53:12, Zechariah 9:9, etc.

The second classification is called literal plus typical:

This example is found in Matthew 2:15, which is a quotation of Hosea 11:1. However, the original context is not a prophecy, it is an historical event. It is a reference to the Exodus when Israel, the national son of God, was brought out of Egypt. It is obvious that Hosea is thinking of literal Israel for in the following verses he points out how Israel quickly slipped into idolatry. The literal meaning in context of Hosea 11:1 is a reference to the Exodus. There is nothing in the New Testament that can change or reinterpret the meaning of Hosea 11:1, nor does the New Testament deny that the literal Exodus actually happened. However, Israel as the national son of God coming out of Egypt becomes a type of the individual Son of God, the Messiah coming out of Egypt. The passage is quoted, not as a fulfillment of prophecy, since Hosea 11:1 was not a prophecy to begin with, but as a type. Matthew does not deny, change, or reinterpret the original meaning. He understands it literally, but the literal Old Testament event becomes a type of a New Testament event. This is literal plus typical. Many of the citations in the Book of Hebrews of Exodus and Leviticus fall into this category.
Fruchtenbaum calls the third approach literal plus application:

This example is found in Matthew 2:17-18 which is a quotation of Jeremiah 31:15. In the original context, Jeremiah is speaking of an event soon to come as the Babylonian Captivity begins. As the Jewish young men were being taken into captivity, they went by the town of Ramah. Not too far from Ramah is where Rachel was buried and she was the symbol of Jewish motherhood. As the young men were marched toward Babylon, the Jewish mothers of Ramah came out weeping for sons they will never see again. Jeremiah pictured the scene as Rachel weeping for her children. This is the literal meaning of Jeremiah 31:15. The New Testament cannot change or reinterpret what this verse means in that context, nor does it try to do so. In this category, there is a New Testament event that has one point of similarity with the Old Testament event. The verse is quoted as an application. The one point of similarity between Ramah and Bethlehem is that once again Jewish mothers are weeping for sons that they will never see again and so the Old Testament passage is applied to the New Testament event. This is literal plus application. The original text may be history or prophecy. The Jeremiah quote is an example of history. An example of prophecy is in Acts 2:16-21 which quotes Joel 2:28-32. Virtually nothing that happened in Acts 2 is predicted in Joel 2. Joel was speaking of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the nation of Israel in the last days. However, there was one point of similarity, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, resulting in unusual manifestations. Acts 2 does not change or reinterpret Joel 2, nor does it deny that Joel 2 will have a literal fulfillment when the Holy Spirit will be poured out on the whole nation of Israel. It is simply applying it to a New Testament event because of one point of similarity.

Finally, the fourth is called summation:

The example is found in Matthew 2:23.  “…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, that he should be called a Nazarene.” However, no such statement is found anywhere in the Old Testament. Since Matthew used the plural prophets, one should be able to find at least two, yet there is not even one. The fourth category does not have an actual quotation as in the first three categories, but only a summary of what the prophets actually said. The plural use of prophets is a clue to this category. In the first century, Nazarenes were a people despised and rejected and the term was used to reproach and to shame (John 1:46). The prophets did teach that the Messiah would be a despised and rejected individual (e.g. Isa 53:3) and this is summarized by the term, Nazarene. Another example of this category is Luke 18:31-33. Using the plural for prophet again, Jesus states that the time for fulfillment has come and He states what is to be fulfilled: “the Messiah will go to Jerusalem, be turned over to the Gentiles; the Gentiles will mock Him, treat Him shamefully, spit on Him, scourge Him, and kill Him, but He will rise again the third day.” Not one prophet ever said all this, but the prophets together did say all this. Hence, this is a summation.

Fruchtenbaum believes that every quotation of the Old Testament in the New will fit into one of these four categories.  He notes that the “procedure is not simply ‘to interpret the Old by the New’ as Covenant Theology insists...There is no need to conclude that the New Testament changes or reinterprets the Old Testament.” An approach such as this contributes to a consistently literal hermeneutic and demonstrates why many dispensationalists still believe that older approaches to interpretation are to be preferred.  How the Old Testament is used in the New is no basis on which to abandon or modify a consistently literal hermeneutic.

Christ’s Position at God’s Right Hand 
In the ancient world the seat at the right hand of a monarch was the place of honor.  It was given to a victorious general or to a wise and faithful counselor.  It has been rightfully awarded to the Lord Jesus as the One who has completed the task God gave Him (John 17:4)—the One who by His death on Calvary’s cross defeated Satan, sin, and death.  David had written, “The LORD says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’” (Ps.  110:1).  Jesus Himself referred to this passage when He debated with the Pharisees concerning His identity as the Christ. To His question, “Whose son is he?” they correctly responded, “The son of David” (Matt. 22:42; Mark 12:35).  Seeking to show them that He was more than a human being, Jesus asked, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’?” (Matt. 22:43).  Then He quoted Psalm 110:1 and asked, “If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” (Matt. 22:44-45; Mark 12:36-37).  Similarly, in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter pointed out that “David did not ascend to heaven,” and then Peter quoted Psalm 110:1 as a prophecy of the exaltation of Jesus (Acts 2:34).

Of importance is the fact that the throne at God’s right hand is the throne of God the Father, not Jesus’ throne.  The author of the epistle to the Hebrews wrote that Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2; see 8: 1; Matt. 5:34; 23:22; Acts 7:49). The glorified Christ in His messages to the seven churches through the apostle John said, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev. 3:21).  Furthermore, the exalted Jesus is to remain at God the Father’s right hand as the honored One until God fulfills His promise to “make His enemies a footstool for His feet” (Ps. 110:1; see Matt. 22:44; Mark 12:36).  Our Lord’s present activity in building and ministering to His church is separate from and does not compromise His remaining at God’s right hand until that promise is fulfilled.

The promoters of a position called progressive dispensationalism view Jesus’ position at God’s right hand differently. Its exponents are dispensationalists because “they view the church as a new manifestation of grace, a new dispensation in the history of redemption,” and they affirm that “the church is a new institution, begun at Pentecost,” At the same time, however, they insist that “Jesus’ rule from God’s right hand initially yet decisively fulfills promises made to David.” They recognize a future millennial dispensation with Christ reigning visibly on earth in Jerusalem on David’s throne with Israel as the head of the nations; but now, “As the Davidic heir, Jesus sits in and rules from heaven. As a result they believe that both the dispensation of Christ’s present ministry from heaven and the future millennial dispensation are “united as aspects of the messianic reign of Christ.” Both dispensations are seen in the New Testament as fulfillments of the Davidic covenant.”

The difference of opinion begins in progressive dispensationalism’s teaching concerning Jesus’ presentation of Himself as the promised Messiah in His ministry on earth in the first Advent. According to this view, Jesus’ presentation of Himself to the Jewish people inaugurated His messianic kingdom.  “In the gospel of Luke, it is clear that with Jesus’ presence, and especially in his Resurrection-Ascension, comes the beginning of Jesus’ kingdom.” And “first, there is an inauguration with Jesus’ coming and particularly in his resurrection-ascension to [sic] God’s right hand.”

In support of the position that Christ’s presence marked the inauguration of His messianic kingdom, progressive dispensationalists point to Jesus’ miracles of healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, enabling the lame to walk, and raising the dead. Jesus told John the Baptist’s disciples to describe these miracles to John as confirming evidence that He was “the one who was to come” (Matt. 11:3), the Christ, the One whom John had announced (3:2, 11-12). No one questions the fact that such miracles demonstrate Jesus’ identity as Israel’s Messiah, but performing miracles is not the same as marking the inauguration of His messianic kingdom.  Instead the miracles identified Him as the Messiah in His offer of Himself as such to the Jewish people.

As His ministry continued, the Jewish religious leaders increasingly opposed Jesus and rejected Him as their Messiah until Caiaphas, “high priest that year” (John 11:49), told the Sanhedrin, “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (11:50). John continued, “So from that day on they plotted to take his life” (11:53). Speaking of the Jewish people at Jerusalem in particular, John later wrote, “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him” (12:37). This rejection, John noted, fulfilled Isaiah 53:1, which he quoted. The Jewish people’s rejection of Jesus as their Messiah was final when Pilate presented Jesus to the crowd as their King and the crowd shouted, “Take him away!  Crucify him!” and the chief priests said, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).  In the face of such rejection of the King by His subjects, the kingdom can hardly have been inaugurated.

Progressive dispensationalism makes much of Peter’s statement that the miracle of the disciples speaking in tongues as a result of the filling of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was “what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). They quote Joel 2:28-32, pointing out that the beginning of the present dispensation of the church is identified as part of “the last days” (Acts 2:17).  This is not quite correct, however, because “the last days” are Peter’s words, not Joel’s, who said, “And afterward” (Joel 2:28).  Progressive dispensationalists are partially correct, however, because the writer to the Hebrews used the phrase “in these last days” in relationship to Jesus’ incarnation and first coming (Heb. 1:2). Although the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost corresponds to what Joel prophesied, he was speaking about an outpouring in the dark days immediately preceding the second coming of Christ to earth (Joel 2:30-31), not the outpouring to begin the church.

Progressive dispensationalism also focuses on Peter’s quotation at Pentecost from two of David’s psalms (Pss. 16:8-11; 110:1) that speak prophetically of Jesus’ resurrection in a body that did not experience decay. They draw the conclusion that since by resurrection and ascension “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), He is now fulfilling the Davidic Covenant and reigning in heaven. True, Jesus is David’s greater Son (Luke 1:32), but the focus of the Davidic Covenant is God’s promise to David that “your house [i.e., lineage] and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16; see 7:13; Ps. 89:28-29, 34-37) on earth, and not in heaven. Christ is not now fulfilling the Davidic Covenant; instead He is now at God’s right hand, waiting “for his enemies to be made his footstool” (Heb. 10: 13; see Ps. 110: 1). In the future He will return to earth to occupy David’s throne and fulfill God’s promises to David.

In a real sense what Peter did both in his message on the Day of Pentecost and more specifically in his sermon in Solomon’s Colonnade (Acts 3:11-26) was to call the Jewish people to repent and to accept Jesus as their Messiah so that He could return and establish His messianic kingdom. In effect it was a reoffer of the kingdom.  Peter said, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.  He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets” (3:19-21, italics added). Though many individual Jews responded to Peter’s message (“about three thousand” on the Day of Pentecost; 2:41) and the apostles’ witness (“the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”; 2:47), the Jewish religious leaders rejected His message and increasingly persecuted the apostles (4:3, 5-7, 18-21; 5:17-27, 41) and others, resulting in the martyrdom of Stephen (6:12; 7:54-60) and greatly increased persecution that dispersed all of the believers except the apostles (8:1, 3).

Progressive dispensationalists, together with the adherents of what they call “revised dispensationalism” accept a single New Covenant instituted by Christ with the Twelve at the Passover Feast the evening before His arrest and death (Matt. 26:17-20, 26-29; Mark 14:12-17, 22-25; Luke 22:7-20), and commemorated by His church in the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 11:23-26) as a proclamation of “the Lord’s death until he comes” (11:26).  For the people of Israel, represented by the Twelve, the New Covenant will become effective with the establishment of the messianic kingdom at Christ’s return to earth. Jesus told the Twelve, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until the day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:16, 18). At that future time the blessings of the New Covenant will be bestowed on the repentant, redeemed people of Israel as prophesied by Moses (Deut. 30:1-10) and the prophets (Isa. 11:10-12:6; 14:1-3; 25:6-9; 26:1-27:13; 59:20-60:22; Jer. 31:1-25, 37:1-23; Dan. 2:44-45; 7:15-18, 23-27; 12:1-2; Joel 2-3). Although some blessings of the New Covenant now enjoyed by members of Christ’s body, His church, are the same as some to be bestowed on redeemed Israel in the messianic kingdom, Israel will also experience many different blessings then.

Also progressive dispensationalism identifies the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant with God’s promises to David in the Davidic Covenant. However, nothing of a spiritual nature is mentioned in the promises of the Davidic Covenant; the promises deal only with a house (lineage), a kingdom, and a throne being established and enduring forever (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:28-29, 33-37). True, the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant will be poured out on the people of Israel in conjunction with the establishment of the messianic kingdom. But this is not because those blessings are part of the promises of the Davidic Covenant; rather, they will occur because of Israel’s repentance and return in faith to the Lord.

Progressive dispensationalism makes the same mistake in tying the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant to the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 17:1-8; 15:18-20). God did tell Abram, “you will be a blessing...and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (12:2-3). Abraham also is a blessing as the stellar Old Testament example of justification by faith (15:4-6; Rom. 4:1-25; Gal. 3:6-9). God’s specific promises to him in the covenant, however, were that his offspring would be as the stars of the heavens (Gen. 15:5) and that God would give “the whole land of Canaan...as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you” (17:8; see 15:18). When Israel returns to the land of Canaan and occupies it as an everlasting possession in the millennial kingdom age, they will experience the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant, blessings which are an outgrowth of the promises in the Abrahamic Covenant and, in particular the promise that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (12:3).

In Hebrews 7:4-10:25 the New Covenant is contrasted with the Mosaic Covenant and the system of sacrifices, offerings, and Levitical priesthood related to that covenant. It is new as the replacement of the old Mosaic Covenant (8:8-13; Jer. 31:31-34).  The New Covenant also is identified with a better high priest, one “in the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 6:20).  This new high priest is the Lord Jesus, of course, who “did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest” (5:5) but “was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek” (5: 10). God the Father said to Him, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (5:6; see 7:21; Ps. 110:4).

Since “Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High” (Heb. 7:1; Gen. 14:18) and Christ is a priest “in the order Melchizedek,” progressive dispensationalists tie Christ’s priestly work of bestowing blessings together with His being the Davidic king and conclude that He is now bestowing those blessings as part of His reign as the Davidic king in heaven.  They believe that “the Melchizedekian priesthood is part of the Davidic Covenant” simply on the basis of the inclusion of the statement, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4) in the same psalm as the statement, “The LORD says to my Lord; ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’” (110:1). However, no reference to the Davidic Covenant is made in the psalm, nor is either statement a promise in the Davidic Covenant. They also believe that “the Melchizedekian priesthood is an office given to David’s son as part of his inheritance.  But nowhere does the Bible state that the Melchizedekian priesthood is part of the inheritance of Christ, David’s Descendant.

In addition, Melchizedek ministered to Abram as “priest of God Most High” approximately a thousand years before David’s reign.  Therefore instead of the Melchizedekian priesthood being an office given to David’s Son as part of His inheritance, as progressive dispensationalism states, the reverse is true: Being David’s Son is an honor given to Christ, the Melchizedekian Priest, as part of His inheritance. Progressive dispensationalism, however, says that Christ’s bestowal of spiritual blessings now are part of His reign as the Davidic King in heaven. Further, although Melchizedek was “king of Salem,” he ministered to Abram, blessed him and God Most High, and received “a tenth of everything” from Abram as priest of God Most High (Gen. 14:18-20). Since Abram was not a resident of Salem, Melchizedek had no real relationship to him.  Also being a king does not necessarily mean functioning as a king.  Christ is King now, but He is not now reigning as the Davidic King, fulfilling the Davidic Covenant.  David was anointed as king of Israel by Samuel (I Sam. 16:1, 12-13) more than fifteen years before he was publicly anointed as king over Judah and seven and a-half more years before he was publicly anointed as king of all Israel (2 Sam. 5:2-5; 1 Chron. 11:1-3; 12:38).

Certainly, therefore, Jesus Christ as David’s Son and Heir can now be the Davidic King without functioning as such until He returns to earth and establishes the kingdom. In many respects the crux of the difference of opinion with progressive dispensationalism focuses on its interpretation of the statements in Psalm 110:1, 4, the quotation of Psalm 110:1 by Peter in Acts 2:34-35, and the relationship of those verses to the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. In an excellent article on the interpretation of Psalm 110, Elliott Johnson writes, “Is Jesus’ present position at God’s right hand one of royal, Davidic status? Several observations about Psalm 110: 1 and Peter’s quotation of it in Acts 2:34-35 help show that the answer to that question is no: 1. The Messiah’s present seating awaits a future conquest... 2. The Messiah’s present position does not include the images of coronation... 3. The Messiah’s present seating involves what Yahweh decreed.” In contradiction to progressive dispensationalism Johnson concludes from Psalm 110 that “Messiah’s present session does not involve His reigning on David’s throne.

PD’s View of the Church 

The Teaching of Reconstructed/Modified/Progressive Dispensationalism on the Distinctiveness of the Church

In recent days this newer form of dispensationalism has modified or clouded the classic, or normative, dispensational distinction between Israel and the church in four ways.
1 By introducing different facets to the concept of the church, the church in this new view is less distinct. For example, Craig Blaising writes, “Progressives do not view the church as an anthropological category in the same class as terms like Israel.... The church is neither a separate race of humanity [true]...nor a competing nation [perhaps not competing, but a nation nevertheless, I Peter 2:9]...The church is precisely redeemed humanity itself.” What exactly is meant is not clear to me.  Blaising also says that the church is not another “people-group” in connection with the future promises to Israel, the evidence being that a Jewish Christian today “does not lose his or her relationship to Israel’s future promises...[but] will join the Old Testament remnant of faith in the inheritance of Israel.” But does not a Jewish person who accepts Christ today belong to the body of Christ and inherit the blessings of that position, rather than Israel’s?  Or, as the quote implies, does he inherit both?

Though not holding to all the teachings of the new dispensationalism, another writer says that the church is an “independently valid historical entity even though it is not an ontologically distinct entity.” One feels that such a distinction will not clarify matters for the average reader but may, in fact, blur the distinction between Israel and the church.

Another progressive, Robert Saucy, maintains that the church is included in the concept of “the people of God,” which began with the nation of Israel. (Again, what about pre-Israelite redeemed people like Abel, Noah, Melchizedek—were they not also people of God?)  The people of God are
one people because all will be related to him through the same covenant salvation. But this fundamental unity in a relation to God through Christ does not remove Israel’s distinction as a special nation called of God...Nor does it define the totality of the people of God as “Israel,” requiring that the church is somehow a new Israel.”

This statement is not entirely dissimilar to what has been traditionally taught by dispensationalists, for it does not obliterate the distinction between Israel and the church nor does it replace Israel by the church, which is conceived as the new Israel.

2 By redefining the concept of the church as a mystery, the church has a less distinctive purpose in God’s plan. As previously stated, classic dispensationalism has understood the mystery of the church to be Jews and Gentiles as joint-heirs in the Body of Christ and joint-sharers of the promises in Christ, something unknown in the Old Testament (Eph. 3:4-6).

Amillennialists say that this mystery “was new and unknown in a relative sense only, being in its essentials an important theme from the time of Abraham.” In other words, the mystery of the church, the Body of Christ, was only relatively unknown in the Old Testament, being revealed in kernel form. Essentially the same viewpoint is found in covenant premillennialism: “The Greek noun musterion, ‘mystery,’ does not necessarily imply discontinuity.… A ‘mystery’ need not even have been unknown or unappreciated previously, except perhaps relatively so.”

In a similar vein revisionist/progressive dispensationalists view the mystery as unrealized but not completely unrevealed in the Old Testament. Thus, Saucy writes, “A mystery may be hidden in the sense that its truth has not yet been realized. The corresponding revelation consists not in making the truth known in an objective or propositional sense but in bringing it to reality or existence.”  The argument is buttressed by interpreting “the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4) as the general plan of salvation, citing Old Testament passages that predict Gentile blessing but that in no way predict the truth of the Body of Christ (e.g., Isa. 12:2-4; 42:6; Zech. 9:9-10).  The progressive sees himself in a mediating position between traditional dispensationalists (who understand that mystery as unrevealed in the Old Testament) and nondispensationalists (who, like the progressives, see it as only relatively unknown in the Old Testament) and who anticipate “one grand Messianic fulfillment” to the exclusion of any Millennium.

Clearly, then, the Progressives and the amillennialists agree on the relation of the mystery to Old Testament revelation (as being partly revealed) but disagree on a millennial fulfillment. Saucy affirms this:

Although we thus agree with the nondispensationalist that Paul’s teaching concerning the mystery of the composition of the Church in the union of Jew and Gentile in Christ is a fulfillment of the OT predictions, we must hasten to add that such fulfillments do not require us to understand all of the prophecies related to the Messianic salvation and kingdom as thereby fulfilled.

Does the term mystery mean something not revealed in the Old Testament, or can it mean something partly or relatively revealed?  In classical Greek the meaning of mystery was something hidden or secret. In the plural form, the word was used to designate the sacred rites of the Greek mystery religions—secrets that only the initiated shared.

In the Old Testament, the Aramaic equivalent of mystery appears only in Daniel 2:18, 19, 27, 28, 29, 30, 47; 4:9. In the second chapter of Daniel the mystery was the dream and its interpretation; in 4:9 it was only the interpretation. In all instances the mystery was something unknown. In the Dead Sea scrolls two synonymous words for mystery indicate not only something unknown but also wisdom that is far above finite understanding.

In the New Testament the word occurs twenty-seven times and includes ideas of something both deep (Matt. 13:11) and secret (Col. 1:26).  The Greek scholar, J. B. Lightfoot, gives the meaning of the word as “simply ‘a truth which was once hidden but now is revealed,’ ‘a truth which without special revelation would have been unknown.’” He expands on this definition: “But the one special ‘mystery’ which absorbs St. Paul’s thoughts in the Epistles to the Colossians and Ephesians is the free admission of the Gentiles on equal terms...This, though hidden from all time, was communicated to him by a special revelation.” 

The mystery in Ephesians 3:6 is that Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the same body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ. This is the detail of the “mystery of Christ” in verse 4. The mystery is more than the fact that Gentiles are included in God’s salvation, for there is little mystery in that, since the Old Testament revealed this (Gen. 12:3; Isa. 42:6-7). If this only is the mystery, then Paul was wrong to label it a mystery, for it is neither something new nor something higher. The heart of the mystery is the one body into which both Jews and Gentiles are placed.

A concordance examination of the word body indicates that the idea of a body into which redeemed people are placed is nowhere found in the Old Testament. The first occurrences of the word body in connection with the Body of Christ is in I Corinthians 12:12-25 and the next is in Romans 12:5. The remainder occur in Ephesians and Colossians.  This further supports the truth that the mystery of the equality of Jews and Gentiles in the one Body of Christ was unknown and unrevealed in the Old Testament.

3 By abandoning the concept of the church as an intercalation or parenthesis. Classic dispensationalism used the words parenthesis or intercalation to describe the distinctiveness of the church in relation to God’s program for Israel. An intercalation is an insertion of a period of time in a calendar, and a parenthesis in one sense is defined as an interlude or interval (which in turn is defined as an intervening or interruptive period). So either or both words can be appropriately used to define the church age if one sees it as a distinct interlude in God’s program for Israel (as clearly taught in Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks in 9:24-27).

Progressive/modified/revisionist dispensationalism wishes to discard the word parenthesis, implying that it means that the church is something lesser in God’s plan, an afterthought. Of course, the dictionary definition does not support this meaning.  Instead, the church is submerged into the broader kingdom concept and called a “functional outpost of God’s kingdom” and a “sneak preview” of the future kingdom.

4 By a new concept the meaning of the baptism with, or by, the Spirit. Classic dispensationalism has understood this particular ministry of the Holy Spirit as forming the Body of Christ, the church, in this dispensation (Acts 1:5; 11:15-16; 1 Cor. 12:13).  Progressive dispensationalists do not believe that the baptism is a unique ministry only for the people of the present church age and understand the body metaphor as applicable to believers who are not in the church.

Whereas these changes have not led the revisionists to deny all distinctions between the church and Israel or to embrace “replacement theology” (the teaching that the church is the new Israel), one wonders if some day that may not happen. Already one progressive dispensationalist has done this: “[The number twelve] is perhaps the most familiar number in the Bible, most frequently associated with the sons of Jacob, the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve apostles of the ‘new Israel,’ the church.”

PD’s view of the Kingdom 
One of the major emphases in revisionist dispensationalism is on the kingdom as the unifying theme of biblical history. One of the major weaknesses in the system is not defining the kingdom and not distinguishing the various kingdoms in the Bible.  In general, progressives speak of a single, or unified, kingdom of God in both Testaments, with major emphasis on the “eschatological kingdom,” defined as the kingdom of God in the last days (which began with the first coming of Christ). Thus, their exposition of the kingdom of God in the Old Testament (though the actual phrase does not occur in the Old Testament text) focuses largely on the Messianic reign, especially in the future, millennial kingdom. In the New Testament the discussion breaks down into the kingdom related to the life of Christ, to the church, and to the future. All these are aspects of the eschatological kingdom, since the last days begin with the first coming of Christ. The discussions are accompanied by numerous charts.
It would not be practical in a single chapter to attempt to sort out all the facets of the kingdom discussions in revisionist dispensationalism. Nevertheless, two significant areas need investigation.
First, because the focus is largely Messianic, whether discussing the psalms, prophets, the life of Christ, or the epistles, various kingdoms are blurred and their characteristics merged because Christ is the one involved in each. At least two results follow from this. One is the blurring of the distinction between the church and the Davidic kingdom by asserting that Christ is now reigning from heaven on the throne of David and that the church is the present revelation of the eschatological kingdom. The second result identifies the goal and purpose of history as Christological in contrast to normative dispensationalism’s focus on the glory of God. A Christological purpose is less comprehensive (than the glory of God purpose in normative dispensationalism) but goes hand in hand better with the Messianic, eschatological, unified kingdom emphasis.

Second, this unifying kingdom emphasis places a different cast on the place of the church in the program of God. The church is called a “sneak preview” of the kingdom and “a functional outpost of God’s kingdom.”  The church is “a Present Revelation of the [Messianic] kingdom.” This emphasis comes from focusing on the Lord’s present reign and authority as Messianic—enthroned and reigning in heaven on the Davidic throne in inaugural fulfillment of the Davidic covenant and incarnate as the son of David and “not as generic humanity.” Therefore, progressives conclude that the church is the “present reality of the coming eschatological kingdom.” It is the kingdom today.
In American evangelicalism the writings of George E. Ladd widely promoted views of the kingdom that are now embraced by progressive dispensationalism. Although progressives try to distance themselves from Ladd and disclaim any dependence on his theology, they are espousing the same views.  When Bock was asked if Ladd would disagree with his views, he replied, “I think the fundamental thrust of the structure he would not disagree with.” The major similarities, if not sameness, between Ladd and progressives are these: (1) the focus on the kingdom of God as an overall, all-encompassing theme; (2) the already/not yet, progressively realized nature of the kingdom; (3) the present position of Christ reigning in heaven as the Messianic/Davidic king.