New Covenant Publications - A Counter Cult Ministry

 

THY KINGDOM COME

 

“Let us every hour expect the kingdom of God in love and righteousness, because we know not the day of the Lord’s appearing.”
(Second Epistle of Clement, A.D. 98-100)

 

It is taught as part of the Kingdom study of the International Churches of Christ (Boston Movement) * that the kingdom of God was established, “set up”, on the day of Pentecost almost two thousand years ago. By this they mean the kingdom (with Christ reigning as it’s King) which is prophesied about in Scripture (such as in Daniel 2:31-45) came into existence on that day. Understanding correctly that the Church came into existence at that time, marked by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the conversion of three thousand people, parallels are drawn between God’s kingdom and the Church culminating in the following statement: “In Acts 2 the church and the kingdom of God come into existence.” It is important to note here that the prophetic Scriptures that they use to support their view are prophecies concerning the restoration of the Davidic kingdom, a physical earthly kingdom with its throne in Jerusalem. The ICC makes no distinction between the spiritual kingdom (either here on earth or in heaven above) and the physical, earthly kingdom; all references to the “kingdom” are attributed to the Church, and more notably to the ICC.

This is evident in their use (or misuse) of Matthew 6:33, “But seek first THE kingdom...”, which they use quite often to get members to “seek first” what’s best for the movement or what leadership wants people to do. Notice they even misquote the verse, which actually states, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness...”. They claim that the Church (meaning, in their minds, the International Churches of Christ, Boston Movement) and the “kingdom” are one in the same entity. Therefore, they teach that unless you are a member of the ICC you are not in God’s kingdom. For in their eyes, there are no other churches or groups of people recognized by God as being a part of HIS kingdom. In fact, the Evangelization Proclamation of the ICC, speaking of the members, states:

“The Spirit then gave us a deep conviction that only these baptized disciples comprise God’s kingdom on earth.” (Evangelization Proclamation, 2/4/1994)

First of all, the ICC apparently disregards the fact that there are two kingdoms referred to in the Scriptures that they use in their Kingdom Study. One is God’s kingdom (the kingdom of light), which is spiritual in nature and has existed from eternity. It did not come into “existence” on the day of Pentecost. For if, as Christians, we have been taken out of the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light, the kingdom of light had to have already existed. You cannot be brought into something that does not already exist. Believers are a part of that kingdom through being born again of the Spirit of God. And as believers, born again of the Spirit of God, we have a heavenly citizenship. (Php 3:20) Again, we have been translated out of darkness into the spiritual kingdom of God, brought out of darkness and into the light. (Col 1:12-13, 1Pt 2:9) We are labeled by God the children of light. (Eph 5:8) We are exhorted by Paul to “...put on the full armor of light.” (Rom 13:12 kjv)

These Scriptures are speaking of the spiritual kingdom. “Darkness” and “light” speak of the spiritual realm. Scripture states that we are citizens of heaven and that we have been seated in the heavenly realms. (Eph 2:6) This is speaking spiritually (in Christ), for we are not actually in heaven. We are also God’s children, members of His household, yet we’ve not actually taken up residence in His house. (Jn 14:2-3) Scripture also states that we are heirs to the kingdom. (Mt 25:34) This means that we are waiting to inherit this kingdom. It is our inheritance that we are one day going to receive. (Eph 1:14; Heb 9:15; 1Pt 1:3-5; Rev 21:7, 22:5) How can you inherit something which not only is spiritual in nature, but is something you already have, that you are already a part of? The truth is you can’t. You can only become a part of the spiritual kingdom through the new birth, being born again of the Spirit. God made the new birth available through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


Therefore, if Scripture speaks of the saints (believers who are already in the spiritual kingdom) taking possession of the kingdom at some future time (Dan 7:18, 27), then this future kingdom spoken of has to be something other than the spiritual kingdom. The spiritual kingdom is not something you can take possession of. You have to be born into it through faith. And, again, the spiritual kingdom is not something that was ever “set up” within our time dimension. It is of the spiritual realm. It is not of the natural realm. It has existed as long as God has existed. We can see evidence of the spiritual kingdom only through the working of the Holy Spirit. That’s why Jesus said, “...if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Mt 12:28)

Scripture also speaks of a physical kingdom; one which will be “set up”, and with a physical throne (throne of David) in the city of Jerusalem.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” (Isa 9:7)

Read also Psalm 122:3-5 and 132:11-12. Again, this is a physical kingdom over which Jesus will physically reign. As the angel told Mary,

“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, his kingdom will never end.” (Lk 1:31-33)

The throne of David is a physical throne of the kingdom of Israel that God promised would endure forever. Speaking about David, God said,

“I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as the heavens endure.” (Ps 89:29)

Read also Psalm 89:3-4 and 35-37. Speaking to David, God said,

“Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” (2 Sam 7:16)

The throne and the kingdom of David were both physical. It is this throne which God promised to give to Jesus, and this kingdom which He promised that Jesus would reign over. God promised that the kingdom of David would endure forever and God is not a liar. He will restore the Davidic kingdom.

“In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent (tabernacle). I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be...” (Amos 9:11)

God says that He will restore David’s fallen tent (lit. booth, a figure of a deposed dynasty), and build it as it used to be. Contrary to what some people believe, this cannot be speaking spiritually of the Church because at the time of Amos the Church had not yet existed to be able to be restored to what it used to be. The throne (rulership) will be restored, even the temple will be rebuilt, and Jesus will reign.

“And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Mt 19:28 kjv)

“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God....They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” (Rev 20:4)

Jesus will then hand the kingdom over to the Father, after He has defeated all power and authority. (1Cor 15:24-25) As yet, Jesus is still at the right hand of the throne of God (Acts 5:31) making intercession for His saints. He is our high priest in the heavenly tabernacle. (Heb 8:1-2) He is not yet reigning over His physical kingdom. This will take place upon His return. (Zec 14:1-9, Obad :21)

It is suggested by some in the ICC that there will never be a future physical kingdom with Jesus physically reigning on earth. They propose that there is only one kingdom, which a person can enter only by becoming a member of the ICC. They spiritualize Scriptures all through the Bible that have anything to do with the physical end time kingdom as well as with the return or second coming of Christ. Gordon Ferguson (an elder, evangelist and teacher in the ICC) even teaches in his book Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory that the phrase “Son of Man coming on the clouds”, as is used in Mt 24:30 (and in the parallel passages: Mk 13:26, Lk 21:27), is not speaking of Christ’s return, but of the coming of the judgment which was to befall Jerusalem in AD 70. 1 If this is true, then why was Jesus warning His disciples all through Matthew chapter 24 (as well as the parallel chapters in Mark and Luke) of false Christs coming and claiming to be Him returning?

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” (Mt 24:4-5)

“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect---if that were possible.” (Mt 24:23-24)

Jesus was warning about individual men who would come claiming to be Him. What has the coming of false Christs have to do with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70? Jesus also stated that they would perform miracles to try and deceive even the elect. Where is any documentation to show that this occurred just before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70? The appearance of anyone claiming to be Christ Jesus performing anything close to the miracles of Jesus would have been recorded in history, and possibly even by the apostle John who wrote his three epistles well after AD 70. Yet there is no such record of this happening before, at, or around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. John does speak of an anti-Christ performing great miracles and deceiving all the earth (Rev 13:13-18), but he was writing prophecy, speaking of a future time from when he was writing. At the time of his writing Revelation AD 96-98), Jerusalem had been destroyed for almost thirty years.


Of the false Christs and false prophets who would be coming, Jesus said, “...do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Mt 24:26-27) He is warning of the appearance of false Christs as opposed to His genuine coming, not false destructions of Jerusalem. To suggest that the coming of the Son of Man in Matthew chapter 24, or anywhere in Scripture for that matter, is a coming judgment (destruction) of Jerusalem is utterly ridiculous. Jesus even states that His angels will be with Him, that they will gather His elect (believers), and that all men will actually see Him coming.

“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” (Mt 24:30)

“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” (Mk 13:26-27)

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.” (Rev 1:7)

He also tells the believers, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads for your redemption is drawing near.”(Lk 21:28) None of this took place anywhere around AD 70! Notice also the phrase, “so SHALL it be!” from Rev 1:7. John’s vision of the Son of Man coming on the clouds was something that was going to happen in the future. At the time John had this vision (AD 96-98, almost 30 years after the destruction of Jerusalem) this had not yet happened. And it still hasn’t happened. Matthew 24:30 (in light of these other Scriptures) cannot be taken any other way but literally.

Looking again to the Kingdom study of the ICC, there are two main passages of Scripture used to support their teaching of the kingdom coming into existence on the day of Pentecost. The first is from the book of Daniel, chapter 2 verses 31-45. This passage tells of Daniel interpreting a prophecy about a kingdom which will be “set up” and which will crush all other kingdoms.

“In the time of those Kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” (Dan 2:44)

According to this verse, God will “set up” (establish, construct) a kingdom which will crush all other kingdoms (kingdoms of men). As mentioned before, the spiritual kingdom is of the spiritual realm that has always existed. Several Scriptures, which have already been presented, show that the only kingdom which will be “set up” will be a physical, earthly kingdom; having it’s throne in the city of Jerusalem and Christ reigning on earth as it’s King.

“Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Mt 19:28)

When will be this “renewal of all things”? When will His followers be seated upon twelve thrones to judge? The answer to these questions is extremely important because it is also the time when Jesus will take His place upon His glorious throne to reign over His kingdom. Reread Revelation 20:4. Two additional passages of Scripture that speak of the future earthly kingdom that Christ will reign over are also found in the book of Revelation.

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name...” (Rev 11:15-18)

“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony...” (Rev 12:10-11)

NOTE: These passages of Scripture concerning future events were written by the apostle John more than sixty years after the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost. In one Scripture are found the coming of the power, the coming of the kingdom of God, and the coming of Christ’s authority. And that Scripture begins with the words, “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come...”. Notice the present tense phrases, “have begun to reign” and Now have come”. These two passages of Scripture show the time of the beginning of Christ’s reign. They also show that time to be in close relation to that of judging the dead and rewarding His saints.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Mt 25:31-34)

The promised inheritance is the “kingdom” which has been “prepared for you (all believers) since the creation of the world”, and which will “never perish, spoil or fade---kept in heaven for you....until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1Pt 1:4-5) What kingdom is it that the saints will inherit? Compare, now, Daniel 2:35 and 2:44 with the following Scriptures.

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Mt 3:12)

“In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.” (Mic 4:1)

“You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” (Ps 2:9)

“Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter.” (Rev 19:15)

THIS HAS NOT YET HAPPENED . The passage of Scripture taken from Daniel (Dan 2:31-45) is a prophesy of the end time physical kingdom which Christ will physically reign over from the physical throne of David in Jerusalem. In the seventh chapter of the book of Daniel is found another dream (Daniel’s) concerning “four beasts”, four kingdoms, of the world. (Dan 7:3,17) The description of the fourth kingdom is very similar to the fourth kingdom mentioned in Daniel 2:40. Both are described as being “of iron” and they will both crush all else. From this fourth “beast” (kingdom) will arise a horn with “eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.” (Dan 7:8) At the conclusion of the dream, Daniel witnesses the following:

“Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast (the fourth beast) was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time. In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Dan 7:11-14)

It is specifically stated that the Son of Man receiving His sovereign (reigning) power occurs at the time of His “coming with the clouds of heaven”, which is His return to earth (the second coming). (Mt 24:30, Mk 13:26-27, Acts 1:9-11, Rev 1:7) Daniel asks for the meaning of the four beasts and is given this answer.

“The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever ---yes, for ever and ever.” (Dan 7:17)

Daniel then asks about the fourth beast, and the horn that spoke boastfully and “was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.” (Dan 7:21-22) Concerning the beast he was given the following answer....

“The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it.” (Dan 7:23)

And concerning the boastful horn...

“...another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and a half a time (a year, two years and a half a year). But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever.” (Dan 7:24-25)

Note the similarities between Daniel 7:24-25 and Revelation 13:5-7. Keep in mind, as mentioned before, that the book of Revelation is a prophecy of future events written in AD 96-98, more than sixty years after Pentecost.

“The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months(three and a half years). He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them.” (Rev 13:5-7)

The apostle Paul also wrote about this future world ruler, in his epistle to the Thessalonians, some twenty years after Pentecost.


“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God....The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders...” (2 Th 2:1-9)

Continuing in context of chapter thirteen of Revelation, verse eight states that all inhabitants of the earth, except for the saints, will worship the beast. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast. It is impossible that this is referring to the Roman Empire of 2,000 years ago or to any one of the Roman emperors, as Gordon Ferguson suggests 2, because not all of earth’s inhabitants worshiped Rome. The Jews never worshiped Rome. They hated Rome and rebelled several times. And not all of the known world was conquered by or seduced by Rome at that time. The peoples in the Far East, most of Africa, and the whole area of Russia for example, never worshiped Rome. Scripture also teaches that the lawless one will be destroyed by Christ’s coming.

“And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” (2 Th 2:8)

Verses 9-18, of Rev 13, speak of the authority and rule of the beast, death and persecution for all those who will not worship the beast, and the mark of the beast to be received on the hand or forehead, which is the number of the name of the beast. His number is 666. These Scriptures are speaking of the time of the antichrist, Satan’s world ruler who will gather all the kings of the earth together to war against He who rides the white horse, and whose name is called Faithful and True. (Rev 19:11,19) Again, John is writing of events that will take place in some future time from AD 96-98, the time of his writing Revelation. The antichrist will be defeated and thrown into the lake of burning sulfur . (Rev 19:20) It is after this time that the saints will take possession of the kingdom. It is some time after AD 96-98 that the saints will take possession of the kingdom.

“But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High.” (Dan 7:26-27)

Since they are already in the spiritual kingdom, what kingdom is this speaking of??? In light of all these Scriptures, how can anyone teach that the Bible never speaks of a physical kingdom of God on earth? From what I understand, the ICC even denies that Jesus will return (actually stand upon) the earth. If so, how do they interpret Acts 1:11 and Zechariah 14:4? Do they spiritualize these as well? In Acts 1:9-11 Jesus speaks to his disciples on the Mount of Olives and then ascends before their very eyes. (We know it to be the Mount of Olives because verse 12 tells us so) Then, as they were looking intently into the sky, two men dressed in white (thought by most Bible commentators to be angels) appeared beside them and began to speak to them.

“‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky?’ This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:11)

Notice Scripture states, “this same Jesus” will return in just “the same way” as they saw him go. He ascended (bodily) from the Mount of Olives (a specific piece of real estate) and vanished ‘in the clouds’. If the angels speak the truth, then Jesus will return ‘in the clouds’, and descend (bodily) onto the Mount of Olives. And this is exactly what Zechariah 14:4 states will happen.

“On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.” (Zec 14:4)

Again, this is a literal, specific piece of real estate upon which “this same Jesus” is going to descend (bodily). And his feet will once again touch the earth. And there is going to be a real earthquake from which people are going to flee like people fled from the earthquake that took place “in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.” (v 5) That, too, was a literal earthquake. It is historical fact. There is absolutely no ground or support for spiritualizing these Scriptures. And you cannot claim that Zechariah 14:4 is prophesying about a time during Jesus’ earthly ministry because there was no earthquake at that time, nor did the Mount of Olives split in two. Nor did the LORD my God come with “all the holy ones with him” as verse 5 states will happen. And it still hasn’t happened. And according to verses 6-8, the day that it does happen will be very unique. Then verse 9 states,

“The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.” (Zec 14:9)

Again, this has NOT yet happened. It is a prophecy of the return of the lord Jesus Christ and the establishment of his earthly kingdom, the kingdom spoken of in Daniel 2:31-45. Anyone who truly desires to understand the depth and truth of the prophecies contained in the book of Daniel need only read it in its entirety and compare it with other end time prophecies, such as Zechariah 14, and with the book of Revelation.

Also compare the character and nature of prophecy itself. Most fulfillments of prophecy, which have already occurred, were fulfilled literally with very little symbolism involved. Even the explanations of visions or dreams by heavenly messengers throughout the Old Testament are not as far reaching as the spiritualizing of Scripture found in Gordon Ferguson’s book. I am not claiming to have all the answers. But I am confident that anyone who digs into the word of God, sincerely seeking to know, and asks Him for guidance will have a better grasp of the end times, the return of Christ, and the establishment of the physical kingdom of God. You may not understand everything and you may disagree with my views, that is your freedom in Christ, but you can still get to Heaven. I, unlike Gordon Ferguson, am not so arrogant as to make such a ridiculous statement as “...salvation is based on a perfect understanding of biblical prophecy!” 3 Contrary to what Mr. Ferguson appears to believe, salvation is based on faith in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, and on His substitutionary sacrifice.

The other main passage of Scripture that the ICC uses in support of their teaching of the kingdom coming at Pentecost is Mark 9:1.

“And he said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” (Mk 9:1)

They put this Scripture together with Acts 2:1-5, which tells of the Holy Spirit coming like a mighty wind with tongues of fire, and propose that this was the coming “with power” spoken of in Mark 9:1. They tie in the fact that this took place in Jerusalem, where prophecy states that the kingdom will be“set up”, and conclude that this was the coming of the kingdom of God. Again, no distinction is made between spiritual or physical.

At this point I would like to briefly discuss the nature of parallel passages within the Gospels. Parallel passages are written accounts of any incidents that occur or words that are spoken, which are recorded in more that one place in Scripture. The authors of the four Gospels all wrote about the life of Jesus, recording many of the same words that He spoke and many of the same incidents. To get the full understanding of any particular incident or of any words spoken, all of the Gospel accounts of that particular incident or words spoken have to be given equal value and validity. For example, if I wish to get a complete picture of Jesus’ baptism I have to refer to all three of the Gospel accounts, not just one or two. Matthew and Mark state that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus as He was coming up out of the water. (Mt 3:16, Mk 1:10) Yet, Luke’s account states,

“And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove.” (Lk 3:21-22)

I cannot disregard Luke’s account that Jesus was praying after He had come up out of the water. Perhaps He began to pray as He came up. However it happened, Jesus was praying at the time the Holy Spirit descended on Him. This is not to say that Luke’s account contradicts the other two. There are no contradictions in the word of God. The Gospel accounts do not contradict one another; at times they simply point out or emphasize a different aspect of the same event. Some parallel passages are almost word for word identical. The account of Jesus healing the man with leprosy is one such example. (Mt 8:1-3, Mk 1:40-42, Lk 5:12-13) Others are similar, but not identical. The baptism of Jesus is one such account, as is the account of His crucifixion. Together, the four Gospels record all of the words spoken by Jesus as He endured the agony of the cross. Separately though, each of the Gospels record only two or three different phrases. No one single Gospel contains them all. Again, to get the full picture of the crucifixion I must consult all of the Gospel accounts. As believers we accept that Jesus spoke all of the words recorded, not just the ones in Mark or John. Look again to Mark 9:1 and the announcement of the coming of the kingdom of God. This is an incident where there exist parallel passages in Matthew and in Luke. First, read Mark 9:1 within it’s context, remembering that Mark did not write in chapter and verse. These were added much later.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’ And he said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” (Mk 8:34-9:1)

Now read the parallel passages in Luke’s account.


“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God .” (Lk 9:23-27)

According to both accounts by Mark and Luke, some of the people standing and listening to Jesus would not taste death before seeing “the kingdom of God”, and see it “come with power”. Now read Matthew’s account.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (Mt 16:24-28)

So, not only will they see “the kingdom of God”, and see it “come with power”, but according to Matthew they will also see “the Son of Man coming in his kingdom”. Put the three Gospel accounts together, giving them equal value and validity, and the picture painted is one containing the visual appearance of the Son of Man, the visual appearance of the kingdom of God, and the visual accompaniment of heavenly or supernatural power. Keeping in harmony with the rest of scriptural language, the picture painted is one of the second ‘coming’ of Christ. The immediate context of these three Scriptures is speaking of just that. In fact, wherever in Scripture the words “Son of Man”, “kingdom”, “coming”, and “power” are found together, the reference is always to the return of Christ. This gives rise to a dilemma concerning the meaning of the words, “...will not taste of death before they see...” (Mt 16:28) How could any of the people standing there see Christ’s coming in His kingdom if it is yet to happen and they died almost two thousand years ago? Without going into lengthy explanations let me just say that there are varying opinions. Some hold to the view that Jesus was referring to the Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-9,Mk 9:2-10, Lk 9:28-36) which took place within days of His speaking the words recorded in Mt 16:28, Mk 9:1, and Lk 9:27. Peter, John, and James, who were among the people that Jesus had been speaking to, accompanied Him up a high mountain where they saw Jesus in His glorified state, as He will appear in His kingdom. They also saw Elijah and Moses standing before them in “glorious splendor”. (Lk 9:30-31)

According to this view, it is believed that this was a futuristic vision because, as Scripture states, the only time that human beings who have died will appear in “glorious splendor” (presuming they are saints) is at the second coming of Christ. (1Cor 15:42-44,49,51-53) Also, the only time that Jesus, Moses and Elijah will be together, and be appearing in “glorious splendor”, will be in the kingdom of God after Christ’s return. If this was a glimpse of the future glory of the kingdom, then some did see it before they tasted death. The scriptural support for this view comes strongest from Luke’s account of the transfiguration.

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God. About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him up onto a mountain to pray.” (Lk 9:26-28)

The very next thing to occur was the transfiguration. Notice the phrase, “About eight days after Jesus said this...”. The King James Version translates this phrase, “And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings...”. This phrase links the verses just prior to it, that of Jesus coming in His glory and some seeing the kingdom before tasting death, with those that follow it, the occurrence of the transfiguration. Peter later expounds on this transfiguration in his second epistle. He states, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”(2 Pt 1:16) The Greek word translated “coming” in 2 Peter 1:16 is  par-oo-see'-ah, pronounced par-oo-see’-ah, and is used, when speaking of Christ, only in reference to His second coming. (Mt 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 2Th 2:1,8) Peter is speaking of the second ‘coming’ of the Lord Jesus Christ and claims to have been an eyewitness to His majesty, a majestic state that will not actually be viewed by mankind until His return (Second Coming). In verse 17 Peter says that Jesus received honor and glory from God the Father “...when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” (2 Pt 1:17) In verse 18 Peter states that all of this took place “...when we were with him on the sacred mountain”, which has to be speaking of the transfiguration since that was the only time that Peter ever heard those words spoken by God while at the same time witnessing Jesus in His majestic state. Peter, John, and James were eyewitnesses to the majesty of Christ, the way He will appear upon His return. And they witnessed it before He had even been crucified. What they were seeing was a preview of Christ at His Second Coming, similar to what the apostle John was to see in his visions which he recorded in the book of Revelation.

This brings up another interesting point. The book of Revelation is a record of John’s visions of the end times, which includes the appearance of the antichrist, the Second Coming of Christ, His reigning on earth for a period of 1,000 years, God giving possession of the physical kingdom to the saints, the final judgment on all the ungodly, the new Jerusalem, etc. Not only was John present at the transfiguration, he was also present when Jesus spoke the words in Mt 16:28, Mk 9:1, and Lk 9:27, about seeing the “son of man coming in his Kingdom” and the kingdom coming “with power”. There might be a difference of opinion as to whether or not the transfiguration was a peek into the future, but there is no refuting the fact that in the visions of Revelation John saw the coming of Jesus, the kingdom coming, even the New Jerusalem coming. He saw it all. And he saw it before tasting death.

The scriptural support for this view is strong, but as with most doctrinal issues, not everyone is in agreement. One thing that is agreed upon, and is quite clear from many other Scriptures is that Mt 16:28 is in no way referring to or speaking about what occurred at Pentecost. And if Matthew’s account is not referring to Pentecost, then, in keeping with the scriptural harmony of parallel passages, neither Lk 9:27 nor Mk 9:1 can be referring to Pentecost. As mentioned before, with parallel passages the event described or the meaning implied is the same in all of the accounts. They are just recorded by different authors. Whatever Jesus meant in Mk 9:1, He also meant in Lk 9:27 and in Mt 16:28. It’s the same speech, to the same people, at the same place, the same hour, the same day, by the same Jesus. If this is clearly understood, then how can anyone believe that Mk 9:1 and Mt 16:28 have two different meanings?

There are more parallel passages all throughout Scripture speaking about the coming of the kingdom of God (read Mt 26:29, Mk 14:25, Lk 22:17). Most impressive to me is the recording, in three of the Gospels, of the signs of the end of the age. These are Matthew (chapter 24), Mark (chapter 13), and Luke (chapter 21). In all three accounts of Jesus prophesying about the end times, He speaks of a fig tree (a metaphor used in Scripture referring to Israel) and the lesson to be learned from it.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Mt 24:32-34)

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Mk 13:28-30)

Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Lk 21:29-32)

“...the kingdom of God is near.” In the context of the chapter where this phrase appears, it follows directly a list of signs of the end of the age, things that will take place directly proceeding the second ‘coming’ of Christ. (Lk 21:27-28) “When you see these things happening...”, the kingdom is near. One of the things to look for happening is the blossoming of the fig tree (Israel). In the Old Testament, Scripture often used the fig tree as a symbol for the nation of Israel. And there are many prophecies that actually stated that Israel would be re-established as a nation. Therefore, many believe this blossoming of the fig tree to be that re-establishment of Israel as a nation. This did not occur until 1948. Luke 21:29-32 is one of the prophecies which some people spiritualized (interpreted spiritually rather than literally) up until this re-establishment of Israel as an actual, physical nation. They were convinced since Israel had not existed for almost 2,000 years, that the future prophecies concerning Israel must be referring to the Church. In 1948 they were proven wrong. The ICC is apparently guilty of the same mistake in that it appears they fail to make a distinction between the physical nation of Israel and the Church. Gordon Ferguson suggests that the restoration of Israel spoken of in Amos 9:11-15 is a prophecy concerning the Church.4 However, as mentioned before, Scripture clearly says that God will restore the ruins of David’s house (lit. booth, a figure of a deposed dynasty), and quotes God as saying,

“I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them....I will plant Israel in their own land never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them.” (Am 9:14-15)

This can only be speaking of the nation of Israel because God never promised a specific area of land to the Church, as He did to Israel (2 Sam 7:10 kjv), nor was the Church ever exiled from the land God had given them. Read also Ezekiel 39:25-29. Whatever your belief concerning the restoration of Israel, you cannot ignore the fact that some of the other signs listed in the 21st chapter of Luke which mark God’s kingdom being near have not yet happened. As Jesus said, “Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the Kingdom of God is near.” (Lk 21:31)

This teaching by the ICC that their Church is the only one true Church, which is also exclusively the kingdom of God on earth (be it physical or spiritual), and that there will never be an earthly kingdom with Jesus reigning from Jerusalem (Zion), demonstrates an extreme ignorance of the Biblical teaching about the Second Coming of Christ. Such false teaching has also resulted in the even more ridiculous, arrogant, and ignorant claim that unless you are a member of the ICC you cannot be in God’s kingdom! The International Churches of Christ (Boston Movement) began in 1979 in Lexington, Massachusetts, USA by Kip McKean. Were there no Christians between the first century and 1979? Where was God’s kingdom during all that time?


A final point I would like to make is that there are many Scriptures which state that we (believers) will or shall reign with Christ.

“If we endure, we will also reign with him.” (1Tim 2:12)

“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)

To be able to reign with him we must first endure (or persevere) and overcome. Both of these Scriptures are written to believers who are already in the spiritual kingdom, and they are speaking of the future. In the 5th chapter of Revelation, John records a song sung by those around God’s throne in Heaven. The last line of the song is as follows,

“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:10)

Gordon Ferguson claims that this is speaking of our reigning now, present tense.5 However, the Greek word used which is translated “they will reign” is  basileuw, which is in the 3rd person, plural, future tense. According to the Greek language, our reigning on earth, as described in Rev 5:10, is something that will happen in the future, or at least in the future from when John was writing (AD 96-98). Look it up for yourselves, it’s not hard to find. A good concordance, a Greek lexicon and a Greek dictionary are all you need. Of course, a willingness to accept whatever you find, regardless of what or who it comes into conflict with, is always helpful.

In addition, it is sometimes helpful to understand how the first and second century Church viewed the Scriptures. Their understanding of things can sometimes shed light on passages, which we today find difficult or confusing. Their views are expressed in the writings of the early church fathers, many of which are still in existence today. In one such writing entitled, An Ancient Christian Sermon (Second Clement), believed by some scholars to have been composed around A.D.100, we find the following statement.

“Let us wait, therefore, hour by hour for the kingdom of God in love and righteousness, since we do not know the day of God’s appearing.” 6

As with many of the Scriptures contained in this article, the above statement places the coming of the kingdom of God with the return of the Lord Jesus. In fact, it is significant to note that until the publications of Origen (A.D. 185-254), every one of the early Christian writers taught that the prophesies of Daniel, Revelation, and Matthew 24 would be fulfilled in the last days at the end of this age. Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp (who was taught by the Apostle John), who died as a martyr to his faith, made it abundantly clear in his writing Against Heresies, stating,

“1. In a still clearer light has John, in the Apocalypse, indicated to the Lord’s disciples what shall happen in the last times, and concerning the ten kings who shall then arise, among whom the empire which now rules [the earth] shall be partitioned. He teaches us what the ten horns shall be which were seen by Daniel, telling us that thus it had been said to him: ‘And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, who have received no kingdom as yet, but shall receive power as if kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and give their strength and power to the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, because He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings.’ It is manifest, therefore, that of these [potentates], he who is to come shall slay three, and subject the remainder to his power, and that he shall be himself the eighth among them. And they shall lay Babylon waste, and burn her with fire, and shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the Church to flight. After that they shall be destroyed by the coming of our Lord. For that the kingdom must be divided, and thus come to ruin, the Lord [declares when He] says: ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.’ It must be, therefore, that the kingdom, the city, and the house be divided into ten; and for this reason He has already foreshadowed the partition and division [which shall take place]. Daniel also says particularly, that the end of the fourth kingdom consists in the toes of the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar, upon which came the stone cut out without hands; and as he does himself say: ‘The feet were indeed the one part iron, the other part clay, until the stone was cut out without hands, and struck the image upon the iron and clay feet, and dashed them into pieces, even to the end.’ Then afterwards, when interpreting this, he says: ‘And as thou sawest the feet and the toes, partly indeed of clay, and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided, and there shall be in it a root of iron, as thou sawest iron mixed with baked clay. And the toes were indeed the one part iron, but the other part clay.’ The ten toes, therefore, are these ten kings, among whom the kingdom shall be partitioned, of whom some indeed shall be strong and active, or energetic; others, again, shall be sluggish and useless, and shall not agree; as also Daniel says: ‘Some part of the kingdom shall be strong, and part shall be broken from it. As thou sawest the iron mixed with the baked clay, there shall be minglings among the human race, but no cohesion one with the other, just as iron cannot be welded on to pottery ware.’ And since an end shall take place, he says: ‘And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven raise up a kingdom which shall never decay, and His kingdom shall not be left to another people. It shall break in pieces and shatter all kingdoms, and shall itself be exalted for ever. As thou sawest that the stone was cut without hands from the mountain, and brake in pieces the baked clay, the iron, the brass, the silver, and the gold, God has pointed out to the king what shall come to pass after these things; and the dream is true, and the interpretation trustworthy.’

2. If therefore the great God showed future things by Daniel, and confirmed them by His Son; and if Christ is the stone which is cut out without hands, who shall destroy temporal kingdoms, and introduce an eternal one, which is the resurrection of the just; as he declares, ‘The God of heaven shall raise up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed,’” 7

How can anyone who sincerely seeks to know the truth of His word dispute or ignore the overwhelming proof against the teaching of the ICC? Perhaps it does come from a lack of scriptural knowledge. Perhaps it comes from trusting in men, and not examining what is being taught. The Bereans examined the Scriptures everyday to see if what Paul was speaking was true. (Acts 17:11) They didn’t just accept the teaching of this apostle, they put his teaching to the test. How much more should we, who are living in these days of false doctrines and traditions of men? I urge all those who are seeking God not to trust your salvation to any man or group of people, or to follow anyone out of the need or desire of being accepted. Paul said, “We are not looking for praise from men....We are not trying to please men but God who tests our hearts.” (1Th 2:4-6) I also urge every believer to follow Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonians.

Test everything. Hold on to the good.” (1Th 5:21)

Pray continually so that you will not be deceived, and seek the Lord thy God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, with all of your strength. Only there will He be found. (Jer 29:13-14, Dt 4:29)



AMEN          

 

 

Additional Scriptures concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Mt 16:27 1 Th 2:19 1 Th 5:23 Jude 14
Mt 24:44 1 Th 3:13 Php 3:20
Mk 8:38 1 Th 4:16 2 Tim 3:18

 

Footnotes


  1. Gordon Ferguson, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory (Woburn, Mass.: Discipleship Publications International, 1996) p.p. 31, 185

  2. ibid, p.p. 109-115

  3. ibid, p. 183

  4. ibid, p. 179

  5. ibid, p. 64

  6. “An Ancient Christian Sermon (2 Clement)”, The Apostolic Fathers Lightfoot and Hammer (Baker Book House, 1989) p. 73

  7. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book 5, chapter XXVI, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol 2, Roberts and Donaldson (Hendrickson Publishers, Mass, 1995)

 

(All Scripture references are taken from the New International Version unless otherwise noted. The use of bold type and underlining in Scripture references are for emphasis and do not appear within the Scriptural text of the NIV)

 

 

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