By Charles H. Welch
Two very important terms that every student of Dispensational Truth must study are the words "kingdom" and "church", otherwise nothing but confusion must follow the misunderstanding and misuse of these terms. We have given some attention to the word "church" in Part One, we now turn our attention to the term "kingdom".
In the first place let us remember that every word has a "pedigree", it has an environment called its "context", and it has a set of connotations "implying certain attributes". When we hear for the first time that it is proposed to change the word "kingdom" for the word "government", we may feel that there is nothing here for debate, but we have only to consider the pedigree, the context and the connotation, to realize that this translation ultimately robs the Son of God of His Crown rights!
Great Britain, Soviet Russia or the United States have a GOVERNMENT, but we have yet to learn that a President has had a coronation, sits on a throne, wields a sceptre or reigns, yet each of these terms is an essential "attribute" of the word we are considering.
First let us discover what the word translated "kingdom" and its variants meant to the Greek himself, and if it be objected that the Greek was 'outside inspired Scripture let us be modest enough to realize that we are too, when we attempt any translation into our own tongue. For the pedigree of the term we turn to the Lexicon of Liddell and Scott, who had no axe to grind, and who suppressed no essential evidence.
It will be seen that any translation that removes from the mind the concept "ROYAL" is not "LOYAL" to the testimony of Greek usage.
We, however, have always said that while the testimony of the Greek Lexicon is important, Greek was not the basic language of inspiration. For that we must turn to the Hebrew, and if the Hebrew eliminates the concept "royal" then "government" may be as good as any other translation.
If, in the estimate of the Hebrew, the word "government" would be a good synonym for the word "kingdom", it would help us if there could be produced just ONB example. The fact of the matter is that though there are two Hebrew and two Greek words translated "government" and eleven Hebrew and five Greek words translated "governor", one Chaldee and three Hebrew words translated "to govern", not once does the word "king" or "kingdom" appear. Again we concede that the argument from silence may be misleading, and so we proceed to positive evidence by which we must be bound and by which all unprejudiced translation must be bound likewise. From this testimony there can be no appeal unless we are to join the ranks of those who reject the inspiration of the originals, and if we get as far as that, what does anything matter, "Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die!"
The word translated "KING" in the Hebrew O.T. is the word melek. It occurs 2,520 times, 2,518 times it is translated "KING" and twice "ROYAL", and in no other way. Perhaps we shall find a divergence if we consult the Chaldee equivalent. That word occurs 155 times, 154 times translated "KING", once "ROYAL", and in no other way. This seems convincing enough but we will leave no stone unturned or give any ground for saying that we have only presented selected references. We will have the whole evidence.
With such evidence, counsel could sit down and the jury could return but one verdict. We do not intend to say what that verdict must be, we are lords over no man's faith, but we are absolutely sure ourselves. We quote salutary words uttered by another:
We have presented our evidences which have been reached in conformity with Paul's injunction:
We cannot help feeling glad, however, that when we have arrived at our conclusions we are not found robbing Christ of His Crown, Throne or Royal prerogatives. God will yet say from heaven:
Basileus occurs 118 times in the N.T. and is always translated "king"; Basileia occurs 161 times, seventy-two of which are used in the phrase "the kingdom of heaven", and thirty-two in the phrase "the kingdom of God", leaving fifty-seven references to inc1ude every other mention of a kingdom. Some special variants of the phrase "the kingdom of God" are:
The kingdom of God is found seven times in Acts (Acts 1:3, 8:12, 14:22, 19:8,20:25, 28:23 and 31). Once in Acts we have a question as to the restoration of "The kingdom again to Israel" (Acts 1:6). The kingdom of God occurs in Paul's epistles as follows: once in Romans 14:17, "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink," four times in 1 Corinthians, "The kingdom of God is not in word" (1 Cor. 4:20), "shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (6:9,10), "cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (15:50), once in Ga1atians, "shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:21), once in Collossians, "my fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God" (Col. 4:11), once in 2 Thessa10nians, "counted worthy of the kingdom of God" (2 Thess. 1 :5). We must examine these passages presently, but before doing so, the gospels claim attention owing to the insistent use of the terms "the kingdom of heaven" and "the kingdom of God". While we must be prepared to discover a difference between "the kingdom of heaven" and "the kingdom of God", we must not do so to the ignoring of the most evident fact that where Matthew uses the one phrase, Mark or Luke uses the other. Whether Christ spoke to the people in Aramaic we do not know, but there are passages where His actual expressions are recorded, e.g. talithi cumi, which is Aramaic. IF Matthew and Luke record the same utterance, then even though Matthew says "heaven" and Luke says "God", that divergence is merely the consequence of translation, and the point of view of the different readers that were visualized. The following list will suffice to show that "heaven" and "God" are used interchangeably at least in some passages.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but is sufficient for the purpose. The Jews used the term "heaven" where we would use the name "God". We have in the N.T. examples of this usage: Matt. 21:25, Luke 15:21, John 3:27; and such expressions as the "fear of heaven", the "service of heaven", "the name of heaven" (that could be blasphemed) are constantly recurring in Rabbinical literature. Elias Levita said: "they call God heaven because heaven is the place of His habitation", and whether we are satisfied with the explanation offered, the fact is stated "they call God heaven". The expression "the kingdom of heaven" was used in an extremely wide sense by some Rabbinical writers, for "the yoke of the kingdom of heaven" referred to the wearing of phylacteries. This idea, however, need not be imported into the teaching of the N.T., it only shows how a phrase could be employed and how impossible it would be for a foreigner unassisted to arrive at such a meaning.
While the phrase "the kingdom of heaven" is found only in Matthew, and the parallel passages in Mark and Luke read "the kingdom of God", there are five passages in Matthew where he departs from the normal and uses the phrase "the kingdom of God" (Matt. 6:33, 12:28, 19:24, 21:31 and 43).
The word basileuo is used of Archelaus (Matt. 2:22), and also of a "nobleman" (Luke 19:14); it is used also of the reign of death, of sin, and of grace in Romans (Rom. 5:14,17,21,6:12).
There are seven variants of the phrase "the kingdom of":
We return now to the references to a kingdom in Paul's ministry. In Acts 20:25 he summed up his early ministry in the words "preaching the kingdom of God". When he met the elders of the Jews at that fateful all-day conference of Acts 28:23, he testified to the kingdom of God, but with the following limitations; it was that phase of the kingdom of God that was associated with "Jesus", and could be substantiated by Moses and the Prophets. After the dismissal of Israel, at the beginning of the dispensation of the Mystery, Paul preached the kingdom of God as it was associated with "the Lord Jesus Christ", not now with "Jesus", but as the Mystery had by then been revealed, there is significance in the complete omission of any reference to Moses and the Prophets (Acts 28:31). For the dispensational significance of Acts twenty-eight, see articles on the ACTS, on ACTS 28 the DISPENSATIONAL BOUNDARY.
Twice the Apostle tells us what the kingdom of God is NOT. It is not meat and drink (see the scruples already dealt with in this chapter) but "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17). In 1 Corinthians 4:20 he says: "for the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." Four solemn utterances of the Apostle refer to those things which prevent inheritance of the kingdom of God. 1 Cor. 6:9,10, Gal. 5:19-21 and Eph. 5:5, give a list of fleshly lusts and practices that one can hardly associate with those called "saints" , yet these things are written to warn the believer that he may forfeit spheres of glory, even though he will be saved "so as by fire". These passages must be read, not in view of the unalterable position of Colossians 1: 12 where we have been made meet for the inheritance, but in the light of Colossians 3 :24,25 where in the same epistle we read of the "reward of the inheritance" and of its possible forfeiture. With these references we should read 2 Thessalonians 1:5, where the Apostle speaks of believers being counted "worthy" of the kingdom of God for which they also suffered. The kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1: 13) is set over against "the authority of darkness", the kingdom of the Son being the antithesis of the kingdom of Satan.
For the sake of clarity, we speak of "kingdom truth" as something that is different from "church truth", and no harm will be done, but much help by observing this distinction, providing we ever remember that all callings-kingdom, church and other companies of the redeemed, whether on earth, in the heavenly city or far above all-must be comprehended in the all-embracive kingdom of God. See article entitled MATTHEW.