You are hereWhen was the Kingdom of God Fully Established? (Part One)
When was the Kingdom of God Fully Established? (Part One)
by Duncan McKenzie
OK time for a pop quiz. This is an open book test so you can use your Bible. I do not want to see anyone looking at their neighbor’s computer screen, however! There is only one question on this quiz and it is multiple-choice. How hard can it be?OK time for a pop quiz. This is an open book test so you can use your Bible. I do not want to see anyone looking at their neighbor’s computer screen, however! There is only one question on this quiz and it is multiple-choice. How hard can it be?When was the kingdom of God fully established?
A. AD 30
B. AD 70
C. A and B
D. It has always been fully established
E. I am an idealist and do not believe that one can supply chronological indicators for the establishment of the kingdom.
F. I am a futurist; the kingdom of God will be fully established in the future when Jesus is physically ruling from Jerusalem
Although it is a bit of a trick question, the best answer is C. The kingdom of God was fully established in heaven at Jesus’ ascension in AD 30; it was fully established on earth at His Parousia in AD 70. Jesus possessed the kingdom at AD 30 (Dan. 7:13-14; Matt. 28:18). He fully shared the kingdom reign with His people at AD 70 (Luke 19:11-27; Rev. 2:25-27; cf. Dan. 7:21-22).
After working on my book (The Antichrist and the Second Coming) for the last eight years (ugh!), the following are some of my conclusions concerning the timing and nature of the kingdom of God. Note: Unless otherwise specified, all Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.
Let me start with a very basic definition of the kingdom of God. A kingdom is a domain over which a king reigns. Thus, the kingdom of God is a metaphor for reign of God, especially the actualized reign of God. Now of course the whole world has always been the domain of God and His kingdom has always existed in some form through His dealings with His people. As God told the children of Israel: ‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…” (Exodus 19:5-6; cf. Rev. 1:6). Even though all the earth has always been the Lord’s, there was a time when God took His great authority and fully started reigning (in the spiritual realm) on earth. This was at AD 70, the time when the kingdom of this world fully became the kingdom of God (Rev. 11:15-18); this was the time of the kingdom being present with full power.
‘For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’ And He said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.’ Mark 8:38-9:1
Is the Kingdom of God Different from the Kingdom of Heaven?
In talking about the kingdom of God, some (mostly dispensationalists) try to differentiate the kingdom of God from the kingdom of heaven. This is wrong; the two terms are synonymous. Consider Matthew and Mark’s description of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry:
“From that time [John being put in prison, v. 12] Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 4:17
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’ Mark 1:14-15
These two accounts are talking about the same time and the same message. Using the word “heaven” instead of “God” was a Jewish way of making extra sure one did not take the sacred name of God in vain. Notice that in Matthew 19 both phrases are actually used by Jesus in the same discourse:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Matthew 19:23-24
Ultimately it was “the God of heaven” who would set up a kingdom which would never be destroyed. (Dan. 2:44). Notice that the gospel, or good news, that Jesus preached was that of the kingdom of God (cf. Luke 4:43; 8:1).
The Kingdom of God is a Spiritual Kingdom
God’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. As Jesus told Nicodemus: “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-5; cf. 2 Timothy 4:18). As Jesus told Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36 NASB). Jesus was continually looking for metaphors to convey the truth of this spiritual kingdom: What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?” The benefits of the kingdom of God are not those of a physical kingdom; rather, they are spiritual (Rom. 14:17). The kingdom of God was associated with manifestations of spiritual power (Luke 9:11; 10:9; 11:20): As Paul said, “the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. (1 Cor. 4:20). Jesus said He would give His followers the “keys” of this kingdom: And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matt. 16:19; cf. Matt. 18:18-20.
When we were born again God ‘delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13-14) We are told to make this kingdom and our relationship with God our first priority: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [the physical necessities of life v. 31] shall be added to you.” Those who habitually do evil are not part of the kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9; Gal 5:18-21; Eph. 5:1-7). The eternal life that is gained by being part to the kingdom is like a precious treasure; it is worth giving up everything for it (Matt. 13:44-46). Even family ties should not take priority over the kingdom: Assuredly, I say to you, there is not one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.” Luke 18:29-30 cf. Luke 9:59-62. It is better to posses the eternal life of the kingdom physically maimed than it is it to be physically whole but excluded from it (Mark 9:45-48; Matt. 19:12; no doubt some hyperbole in the Mark 9t reference). This is a very important point. The Bible continually emphasizes that our relationship with God should be our first priority, more than life itself (cf. Matt. 10:28; Rev. 12:11). It is difficult for those who are preoccupied with the cares of this world (Matt. 13:18-23) and/or riches (Matt. 19:23) to enter the kingdom God.
One needs to be wary of a “kingdom message” that is little more than a social gospel. There is an emerging teaching that attempts to dress up a left wing social agenda with the trappings of the kingdom of God (read or just Google some reviews of Brian McLaren’s book, Everything Must Change to see what I am talking about). Don’t let a counterfeit “kingdom message” get you off track. While we should be helping the poor and feeding the hungry, if we are not turning people to the Lord we have failed. It does not profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul (Matt. 16:24-28). Even if we were to end social injustices and save the environment, if we are not bringing people to Jesus we are failing.
Not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord” is part of the kingdom of God; only those who do the will of God (Matt. 7:21). One would need a righteousness that exceeded that of the Pharisees to enter the kingdom (Matt. 5:20). The Pharisees, by trusting in their own righteousness instead of that which comes through Jesus, were not entering the kingdom of heaven. To make matters worse, they were preventing others from entering the kingdom (Matt 23:13; cf. 12:22-37). Directing people away from Jesus in the presence of clear manifestations of God’s power was an unforgivable sin (Matt. 12:31-32). This would not be forgiven even in the age to come (i.e. the post-AD 70 kingdom age).
Children and the Kingdom of God
Jesus had a great love of children and often used them as an object lesson of the kingdom: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of haven.” (Matt. 18:3-4). Elsewhere, Jesus said that the one who wants to be the greatest in the kingdom of God should strive to be the greatest servant (Matt. 20:20-28). In another place Jesus commended childlike enthusiasm for Him as being a kingdom virtue: “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” Mark 10:15. It is often said that the childlike behavior that Jesus was commending here was childlike faith. If one looks at the context, however, the childlike behavior that Jesus was commending was a behavior that was bugging the disciples (Mark 10:13-16). I do not think the disciples were bugged by the simple faith of the children! Rather, I think they were bugged by the children flocking around Jesus like little puppy dogs. To the disciples the children were a distraction from more important adult business. Jesus was telling His disciples that they could learn from the children’s excitement for Him; they would need some of this childlike enthusiasm in the difficult days that lay ahead.
Because the kingdom of God is not an earthly kingdom (John 18:36) flesh and blood can not inherit it (1 Cor. 15:50). The kingdom would be fully established on earth at AD 70 (I discuss this below) but because it is a spiritual kingdom its coming would not be a visible event (Luke 17:20). The disciples were instructed to pray for this coming of the kingdom: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). Jesus told the Pharisees that the kingdom of God was in their “midst” (Luke 17:21 NASB). The translation of v. 21 as the kingdom of God being “within you” is inaccurate (don’t tell that to an idealist, however!). It was not within the Pharisees; it was in their midst with the presence of Jesus the King (cf. Matt. 12:28; Luke 10:9-11). While the kingdom would start out quite small, its influence would grow and become widespread (Matt. 13:31-33).
While God has always been in control of the world and the kingdom has always existed in some form, the kingdom of God began to more fully exercise force with the coming of King Jesus (cf. Is. 9:6-7; Matt. 21:1-9). The NIV is correct when it translates Matthew 11:12 in the following manner: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” (note: the translation of Matt. 11:12 of the kingdom “suffering violence” is mistaken). With John’s ministry, the kingdom of heaven was exercising force and forceful men were seizing it. According to Jesus, “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it” Luke 16:16. In OT times only a few people had the Holy Spirit (mostly kings and prophets; cf. Nun. 11:24-29). John the Baptist was one of these people; he was a mighty prophet. As great as John was, the very least in the kingdom would be greater than he. “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matt 11:11. Anyone who is part of the kingdom of God is greater than John because that person is born of God (John 3:1-15; cf. Rom. 8:29) and has become a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:1-4)
While the kingdom of God was being established in Jesus’ day, it would not come with full power until Jesus’ Parousia at AD 70. This would happen in the lifetime of some of Jesus’ first century hearers (Mark 8:38-9:1 cf. Matt 16:27-28; 2 Tim. 4:1).
So you also when you see these things happening [the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem, Luke 21:20-24], know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. Luke 21:31-32
The Two Stage Establishment of the Kingdom of God
The kingdom of God had a two stage establishment. It was fully established in heaven at Jesus’ ascension in AD 30; it was fully established on earth at Jesus’ Parousia in AD 70.
The AD 30 establishment of God’s kingdom in heaven is shown in Revelation 12. The following is a very brief summary of that chapter.
In Revelation 12 we are presented with a woman, a male Child and a dragon. This is showing the ultimate fulfillment of the protoevangelium (Google it) which spoke of the enmity between the serpent and the woman, and the ultimate victory of her seed (Gen. 3:15). In Revelation 12 the woman delivers her Child (the Messiah v. 5; cf. Ps. 2:9) and He is caught up to the throne of God. The dragon (the ancient serpent, Satan, v. 9) is then cast out of heaven by Michael the archangel (vv. 7-9) and pursues the rest of the woman’s children (v. 17). Revelation 12 is showing the casting out of Satan from heaven at the AD 30 ascension of Jesus (the catching up of the male Child to God’s throne, vv. 1-12; cf. John 12:31-32). Notice, the devil was thrown to the earth at this time unbound, not bound and into the abyss, vv. 10, 12 (as one would expect if the millennium began at AD 30). The woman in Revelation 12 is Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Is. 66:7-13, “She delivered a male child…for as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children.” vv. 7-8); she is the true Israel. Paul said that this heavenly Jerusalem was the “mother” of all believers; “But the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.” (Galatians 4:21-31). Jesus was the first born of this new covenant mother, “the first born among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). Thus in Revelation 12 we see Jesus as the first born (v. 5) and then the many brethren (v. 17), the rest of the new covenant mother’s children.
The birth of the male Child in Revelation 12 is not showing Jesus’ physical birth; rather, it is showing His AD 30 spiritual birth as the 1st born from the dead (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5). This is why as soon as the male Child is “born” He is caught up to God’s throne. Notice how Paul applies God’s birthing of the Messiah in Psalms 2:7 to Jesus’ resurrection: “And we declare to you glad tidings-that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: I will give you the sure mercies of David” (Acts 13:32-34). After the first born Son is caught up to God’s throne, the new covenant mother and the rest of her children (v. 17) would need protection from Satan during the wilderness journey of AD 30-70 (Rev. 12:6; cf. Heb. 3:7-4:11). The end point of this spiritual exodus (of a time and times and half a time, Rev. 12:14; cf. Ex. 19:4) was the AD 70 shattering of the Jewish nation (cf. Dan. 12:7). This was when the kingdom of God would be fully established on earth (Dan. 7:25-27; cf. Rev. 11:15-18) and Satan would be bound for the millennium.
That is a very condensed summary. The important point for this paper is that the male Child being caught up to God’s throne is showing the AD 30 ascension of Jesus. This is when Satan was cast out of heaven. Right before Jesus went to the cross He proclaimed the following: “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.” (John 12:31-32). It is this AD 30 casting out of Satan that Revelation 12 is showing. Notice that in Revelation 12 (see below) the kingdom is fully established in heaven at this time of the ascension of Jesus, but not yet on earth. Thus, the time between AD 30 and AD 70 would be the already/not yet of the kingdom; it was established in heaven but not yet on earth:
“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down…Therefore rejoice O heaven and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” Rev. 12:9-12.
The kingdom of God is fully established in heaven at the AD 30 ascension of the male Child but not yet on earth; to the contrary, a woe is proclaimed on the earth as Satan is cast to it unbound (v. 12). This explains why the NT portrays Satan and active and unbound on earth in the time between AD 30 and AD 70 (Eph. 2:2; 6:11, 16; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8; 1 Thess. 2:18; 1 John 5:19). Even though Jesus was given all authority “in heaven and on earth” at the cross (Matt. 28:18), Satan was still allowed to be the “god” of the pre AD 70 age (2 Cor. 4:4; cf. Rom. 16:20). It should be noted that while the already/not yet of the kingdom is a valid concept, it is misapplied by futurists. The not yet ended at the AD 70 full establishment of the kingdom on earth. This was when God took His “great power and reigned” (Rev. 11:17; cf. Dan. 2:40-45). It was the time that Jesus sat upon the throne of His glory (Matt. 16:27-28; 25:31-46), the time when He fully implemented the world-wide authority He obtained at the cross.
Some (trying to prove that the end of the millennium was near in the first century) try to equate Satan’s short season in Revelation 12:12 with the short time at the end of the millennium (20:3, 7-10). This is logically impossible, however. The short time in Revelation 12:12 happens right after Satan has been thrown out of heaven to the earth; he has not been in the abyss yet. In contrast, the short time at the end of the millennium happens right after Satan has been released from the abyss after being in it for the “thousand years” (Rev. 20:7-10). The thousand years, although not a literal time period, still represents a significant amount of time that Satan is in the abyss. Thus, unless one wants to say that the abyss and heaven are the same place, the two time periods could not possibly be referring to the same time. Again, the kingdom would be fully established on earth at the end of a time, times and half a time (Rev. 12:14). This was at the AD 70 destruction of the Jewish nation (cf. Dan. 7:25-27; 12:7; Rev. 11:15-18).
The Parable of the Minas
The two-stage establishment of the kingdom of God can be seen in the parable of the minas (a mina was worth about three months wages):
Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him and give it to him who has ten minas.’ (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’) For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given: and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. But bring those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.’” Luke 19:11-27
It is at the return of the nobleman (his second coming) that the reign of his kingdom fully begins. This was when his servants shared in his reign, v. 17 (analogous to when the saints received the kingdom, cf. Dan. 7:21-22). Again, the kingdom of God was fully established in heaven at Jesus’ ascension, Rev. 12:1-12 (analogous to the time when the nobleman went to receive his kingdom, cf. Dan. 7:13-14; Matt. 28:18). The kingdom of God was fully established on earth at Jesus’ Second Coming (analogous to the time of the return of the nobleman, cf. 2 Timothy 4:1).
Notice, the destruction of the subjects that didn’t want the nobleman to reign over them (vv. 14, 27; cf. John 19:15); this refers to the AD 70 destruction of the Jews. This destruction is repeatedly shown in conjunction with the time of the full establishment of the kingdom of God on earth (cf. Matt. 8:11-12; 21:33-45; 22:1-10; Rev. 11:15-18).
Allow me to make one more point regarding the parable of the minas; notice that it uses the two advent model. While some have recently criticized the idea of a Second Coming as not being biblical, it is this two advent model that the parable of the minas is using. There is nothing wrong with the concept of a Second Coming (cf. Matt. 24:42-51; Acts 1:9-11; 3:19-21 etc.). Matthew 25’s parable of the talents is essentially the same as the parable of the minas. Like Luke 19, Matthew 25’s nobleman takes a long journey (v. 14). After an extended period of time (although within the lifetime of the people he left) he returns again (v. 19).
The Full Establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth Happened at the AD 70 Destruction of the Jewish Nation
One can see the AD 70 full establishment of the kingdom of God on earth in the parable of the wicked vinedressers (Matthew 21:33-43). God would come and destroy the wicked vinedressers who persecuted his servants and killed His son, vv. 37-41 (the AD 70 destruction of the Jewish nation) and then fully give the kingdom to His new covenant people (cf. Dan. 7:21-22):
“Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage–time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers? They said to Him, ‘He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons’…Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it…Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.” (Matt. 21:33-45).
See Isaiah 5 for the background of this parable (“For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel. And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant…” v. 7).
A similar parable of the full establishment of the kingdom of God at the AD 70 destruction of the Jewish nation is shown in Matthew 22:
And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding and they were not willing to come. Again he sent out other servants, saying ‘Tell those who are invited “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies destroyed those murders and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests… Matthew 22:1-10.
The same elements are found here as are found in the parable of the wicked vinedressers: a wicked people persecute a ruler’s servants and have complete distain for his son. Those people are destroyed and another people take their place. Notice in the parable of the vineyard it is the owner who comes. In the parable of the wedding, however, it is the armies of the king that come. There is no contradiction here. In the Old Testament God would come in judgment by means of an invading army (cf. Ezek. 32:1-15).
The Kingdom of God was Never Put on Hold!
Dispensationalists say that the kingdom of God was put on hold when the Jews rejected it. They are forced into this non-biblical position because of their earthly materialistic conceptualization of the kingdom of God (which has obviously not happened). They thus look for a future physical kingdom that will be centered in Jerusalem. That is not what Scripture teaches, however (cf. John 4:19-24). The wedding of the king’s son in Matthew 22 was not put on hold because the original invitees would not come; rather, they were destroyed and it went forward with a new people (vv. 8-10; cf. 1 Peter 2:4-10). The same motif of a wedding happening right after the destruction of a wicked city can be found in Revelation 17-19. In those chapters the harlot city of Babylon (i.e. unfaithful Jerusalem, cf. Ezekiel 16) is burned and then a wedding happens:
After these things [the destruction of Babylon in chapters 17-18] I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.’ Again they said, ‘Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!’…And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ Revelation 19:1-3, 6-7
Matthew 22:1-10 and Revelation 17-19 are showing the exact same sequence of events; the wicked city of Jerusalem is destroyed by fire and then a wedding happens. At AD 70 God cast out His unfaithful old covenant wife (cf. Hosea 1:2) and then His new covenant bride received her inheritance as she became married (cf. Galatians 4:21-31; Rev. 18:21-24). Notice that harlot Babylon is a widow (Rev. 18:7); unfaithful Israel became a widow when she had her Husband (Jesus) killed. It should also be noted that the plagues of harlot Babylon, (“pestilence and mourning and famine and…burned up with fire” Rev. 18:8 NASB) are exactly what happened to Jerusalem (not Rome) at AD 70.
In terms of the kingdom of God being put on hold, consider Acts 28:17-31. In that chapter it had become absolutely clear to Paul that the Jews had rejected the message of Jesus and the kingdom. Did Paul switch to a message of kingdom postponement? Absolutely not!
Therefore let it be known to you that salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it! And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves. Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him. Acts. 28:28-31.
The salvation of God (which is the heart of the kingdom message) was being sent to the Gentiles in the first century. The kingdom was not put on hold when the Jews rejected it; to the contrary, the Jews would be kicked out of it when it came with full power at AD 70:
And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 8:11-12)
All of Israel who were not part of true Israel (i.e. those of physical Israel that rejected Jesus, cf. Rom 9:6-8) were cast out of the kingdom at the AD 70 end of the old covenant age (cf. Gal. 4:21-30). In the first century, non-believing Jews were being cast out while believing Gentiles were being grafted in (Rom. 11:13-24). Jesus would cause “the fall and rising of many in Israel…” (Luke 2:34). The AD 70 house cleaning of the kingdom is shown in the parable of the wheat and tares:
Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.’ He answered and said to them: ‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of the His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matt. 13:36-43.
Notice the allusion in Matthew 13:43 to Daniel 12:3. In Daniel 12:1-7 the judgment and resurrection are shown as happening at the time of the shattering of the power of Daniel’s people, the AD 70 destruction of the Jewish nation (cf. Rev. 11:15-18). Also notice that this is talking about much more than the destruction of Jerusalem. The majority of Jews in the Roman Empire did not perish in the fiery destruction of Jerusalem; that does not mean, however, that they escaped the judgment that is shown here.
The Full Establishment of the Kingdom of God and the Judgment
Matthew 25 shows the judgment that would happen at AD 70 full establishment of the kingdom at Jesus’ Parousia. The judgment would determine who was part of the kingdom and who was not, and would involve all nations. It should be noted that the word for “nations” (Gr. ethnē) can also be translated as “Gentiles.” Seeing as how it is individuals who are being judged here, not nations or ethnic groups, “Gentiles” might be the better translation:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’…Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’…and these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. Matt. 25:31-34, 41, 46
Jesus had clearly said earlier that this time of His coming in glory with the angels to judge each according to his works would happen within the lifetime of some of His hearers
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. (Matt. 16:27-28).
Partial preterist Gary DeMar breaks ranks with his partial preterist brethren here and admits that the judgment of the nations/Gentiles in Matthew 25 is speaking of AD 70:
There is little evidence that the ‘coming of the Son of Man’ in Matthew 24:27, 30, 39 and 42 is different from the ‘coming of the Son of Man’ in 25:31. Compare 25:31 with 16:27, a certain reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70:
‘For the son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds’ (Matt. 16:27).
‘But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne’ (Matt. 25:31).
These verses are almost identical. The timing of Matthew 16:27 is tied to the verse 28: ‘Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.’ ‘Recompensing every man according to his deeds’ corresponds with ‘He will sit on His glorious throne’ to execute judgment among the nations (25:32). [Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church, 4th edition (Atlanta: American Vision, 1999), 199-200]
While I agree with DeMar here, he does seem to be equivocating a bit. He seems to imply that the judgment at AD 70 was just among nations (as opposed to individuals). Is he saying that the judgment of individuals is separate from this judgment and happens in the future? If this is DeMar’s position then I think he is trying to have his cake and eat it too (by saying that the judgment at AD 70 was not the Judgment). The judgment in Matthew 16 and 25 is not just among nations but is of individuals, “then He will reward each according to his works…” Matt. 16:27; cf. Rev. 22:12); it is the Judgment. I will discuss how I see the post-AD 70 judgment of individuals below.
Notice that the judgment of the kingdom of God is associated with eternal life. As I mentioned previously, God’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom (“and these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” Matt. 25:46). Also notice that Jesus is not teaching any kind of universal reconciliation or comprehensive grace and forgiveness of all mankind at AD 70; quite to the contrary, there was to be an eternal separation at that time (cf. Matt. 25:1-13, 26-30). Those teaching universalism (most preterists who do so usually cloak it with a different term) have to work overtime to twist the clear meaning of passages like the one above. Those who did not belong to the Lord were not reconciled to Him at His Parousia, rather, they were told to depart from him for eternity at that time:
So that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes in that Day to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe… 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10
Paul was certainly not teaching universalism here. The separation of the unrighteous from God did not end at the AD 70 end of the age; to the contrary, it fully began at that time (cf. Dan. 12:1-7).
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! Matthew 7:21-23; cf. 25:41
The Full Establishment of the Kingdom of God would Happen at the Second Coming of the King
The full establishment of the kingdom of God on earth would happen at the Second Coming (as is shown in the parable of the minas, Luke 19:11-27). Notice in 2 Thessalonians 1:5, the saints had not fully received the kingdom yet (cf. Heb. 12:28; Rev. 5:9-10); they would do so at AD 70, right after the great tribulation (Dan. 7:21-22; cf. Acts 14:22). Also notice that the Second Coming, the judgment and full establishment of the kingdom of God were to be simultaneous events. As Paul told Timothy: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom 2 Timothy 4:1. This time of the full establishment of God’s kingdom is shown in Revelation 11:15-18:
Then the seventh angel sounded; And there were loud voices in heaven, saying ‘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 sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth’ [tēn gēn, the Land]. Rev. 11:15-18 NASB
The Greek word gē is often better translated as “Land” in Revelation (i.e. the Land of Israel) rather than “earth.” The kingdom of this world fully became the kingdom of God at the destruction of those who were destroying (or ruining) the Land, the AD destruction of the Jewish nation. Notice that the judgment and resurrection were to happen at this time (v. 18; cf. Dan. 12:1-7). As I mentioned earlier, the full establishment of the kingdom involved the actualized reign of God. This happened at AD 70 as God took His great power (cf. Matt. 28:18) and fully began reigning.
Some mistakenly interpret 1 Corinthians 15:22-25 (which talks about Jesus delivering the kingdom to His Father at the full establishment of the kingdom) to mean that Jesus quit reigning at AD 70. This is wrong. Revelation 22:1 says that the throne in heaven is “the throne of God and of the Lamb.” God (Father and Son) began their full reign at AD 70 (cf. Matt. 16:27-28; 25:31-46). More than that, believers fully entered into God’s reign at this time of the full establishment of the kingdom of God on earth (Rev. 22:1-5; cf. Rev. 3:20-22). Remember, in the parable of the minas (Luke 19:11-27) it was at the second coming of the nobleman that he fully began the reign of his kingdom. It was at that time that his followers fully shared in his rule:
And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, “Well done good servant: because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities….’ Luke 19:15-17
Notice that the nobleman’s servants are judged at the time of his coming (see the parallel parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30). Added to this, it was at the nobleman’s return that his followers fully shared in his rule. It was at AD 70 that the saints fully participated in the reign of the kingdom of God (cf. Daniel 7:15-27; Rev. 2:24-29). There is a very important point here: God’s kingdom is administered through His people. At AD 70 God fully shared His kingdom reign with His new covenant people (Matt. 21:40-43). Thus, God partners with His people today in His kingdom reign!
The judgment that began at the AD 70 full establishment of the kingdom of God has continued since that time.
Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth- to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people -saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, and the sea and springs of water.’ And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.’ Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.’ Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors and their works follow them.’ Revelation 14:6-13.
It is still true today that “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Since the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem (the fall of harlot Babylon, Rev. 14:8) those who are believers are rewarded for their works; while those who are non-believers are cast into the lake of fire (cf. Rev. 20:15). Notice, that for those who die after the AD 70 fall of Jerusalem, it is only the ones who die in the Lord that are blessed (Rev. 14: 13), not everyone who dies from that time on.
The New Heaven and New Earth at the Full Establishment of the Kingdom of God
The AD 70 full establishment of the kingdom of God on earth is shown in Revelation 21-22 in the form of the New Jerusalem coming to earth (Rev. 21:1-2; 10). Like the rest of Revelation, the truths being conveyed here are by way of symbols (cf. Rev. 1:1). The new heaven and new earth is not heaven; neither is it talking about a physically restored planet in the future. Notice, there are still the unredeemed in the new heaven and earth, those who are outside the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:14-15). This is not talking about a future literal city with the redeemed inside it and sinners outside it. Revelation 21-22 is showing by way of symbols the post-AD 70 spiritual order of this world. It is showing the spiritual condition of this planet` after the AD 70 coming of the New Jerusalem to earth (symbolic of the full establishment of the kingdom on earth).
For background on the new heavens and earth see Isaiah 65-66. In Isaiah 65:1-19 Isaiah prophesied that God would slay His people who rejected Him and then establish His true people in a new heaven and earth:
I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am’ to a nation that was not called by My name. I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts… You [the rebellious people] shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; for the Lord God will slay you, and call His servants by another name…For behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. Isaiah 65:1-2, 15, 17-18
Paul in Romans 10:20-21 said that the two people contrasted in Isaiah 65 were physical Israel and God’s new covenant people (cf. Rom 9:21-33):
But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: ‘I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will l move you to anger by a foolish nation.’ But Isaiah is very bold and says: ‘I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me. But to Israel he says: ‘All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.’ Romans 10:19-21
God said He would call His true people “by another name” at the (AD 70) destruction of His rebellious people (Is. 65:15). It may be stating the obvious, but that other name was “Christian.” The Jerusalem of the new heaven and new earth is the New Jerusalem, the bride. The new heaven and new earth is not talking about the establishment of a new planet but the full establishment of a new people (cf. 1 Peter 2:4-10), the AD 70 full establishment of the kingdom of God on earth.
The full establishment of the kingdom of God on earth resulted in a spiritual regeneration of the world. Notice below how this regeneration is equated with the kingdom; it would happen at AD 70, at the time Israel was judged:
“Assuredly I say to you, that [A] in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also [B] sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28).
“But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one on Me, that you may eat and drink at My table [A] in My kingdom, and [B] sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:28-30).
Again, the regeneration in the new heaven and new earth (cf. Rev. 21:5) is not the physical recreation of our planet; it is the spiritual restoration of our world at the full establishment of the kingdom of God. It would happen at AD 70, at the time that Israel faced judgment. This was the time of the Second Coming:
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began (cf. Acts 3:19-21).
Revelation shows two groups of people in the post-AD 70 time of the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1-2), those who are part of the New Jerusalem bride (now wife, Rev. 21:9-10) and those who are not part of her (Rev. 22:14-15). Those who are part of the New Jerusalem are those who are in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27); they have access to the tree and water of life (Rev. 22:1-5). Those who are not part of the New Jerusalem do not have access to eternal life (cf. Rev. 3:5; 22:19). Notice there is no more death only for those who part of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:4). Those who are not part of her are already spiritually dead (i.e. separated from God, cf. Matt. 8:21-22) and, unless they come to the Lord, will end up in the lake of fire: “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murders, sexually immoral. Sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Rev. 21:8; cf. 21:27.
Some claim that because the new heaven and earth is not heaven, that therefore the fact of whether one is inside or outside of the New Jerusalem has nothing to do with one’s post mortem existence. Consider, however, the following warning at the end of Revelation: “and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. Rev. 22:19 NKJV (the NASB has a slightly different reading but the same concept: “God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city). While it is true that the new heaven and new earth is not a picture of heaven, it should be obvious that whether one is part of the New Jerusalem (or not) and whether ones name is in the Book of Life (or not) has everything to do with one’s post-mortem existence. Do not be deceived in this matter.
To say the lake of fire is simply the AD 70 end of the old covenant system in the burning of Jerusalem is absurd. While multitudes were killed in the destruction of Jerusalem, that was the first death. The seven churches of Asia had little to fear from that death (they were approximately 1,000 miles away from Jerusalem). The lake of fire has to do with the second death, not the first death (Rev. 21:8); it involves spiritual separation from God for eternity (whether that involves conscious torment, cf. Rev. 14:9-11, or annihilation I do not know). Jesus was not as concerned about saving people from the physical death of the first death (cf. Matt 24:9-13; Rev. 12:11) as He was about saving people from spiritual death of the second death:
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? Luke 9:24-25
Revelation does not show the lake of fire being destroyed at AD 70; rather, it shows the temporary abode of the unrighteous (in Death and Hades) being subsumed by the eternal abode of the lake of fire at that time.
Death and Hades Thrown into the Lake of Fire
In Revelation 20:14 death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire. G. K. Beale discussed a number of possible meanings for this; the following two are the ones he considered preferable (they are not mutually exclusive):
‘death and Hades’ may be a metonymy in which the container is substituted for the contained. That is, that they are ‘cast into the lake of fire’ is another way of saying that unbelievers formerly held in the temporary bonds of ‘death and Hades’ will be handed over to the permanent bonds of the lake of fire. This may be supported by v. 15, where, ‘were cast into the lake of fire’ is repeated, but clearly in reference to unbelievers consigned to judgment.
Or it may be that v 14 affirms that ‘death and Hades,’ as the location of those who have suffered ‘the first [physical] death’ in the preconsummation age, has come to its end and is now incorporated into or superseded by ‘the lake of fire’ as the location of those suffering ‘the second [spiritual] death’ in the postconsummation age. Therefore, final perdition now enters in place of the provisional. brackets in original.
G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, eds. I. Howard Marshall and Donald Hagner, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) 1035.
We agree with Beale thoughts here (although disagree on his futurist timing); again, the two possibilities he gives are not mutually exclusive. We see the casting of Death and Hades into the lake of fire as symbolizing both the AD 70 casting of the unrighteous dead into the lake of fire and the destruction of the intermediate state of the unrighteous dead at that time. At AD 70 the intermediate state of the dead was done away with. Those who die after AD 70 who are in the Lamb’s Book of Life go directly to be with the Lord with their resurrection bodies (The souls under the altar in heaven were told they just had “a little while” until the resurrection, Rev. 6:9-11; if it has not happened yet, then it must have gotten pretty crowded under that altar in the last 2,000 years!). Those who die after AD 70 who are not in the Book of Life are judged and go directly to the lake of fire. Again Revelation does not show the lake of fire as being destroyed at AD 70.
Revelation 21-22 thus leaves us with a post-AD 70 image of the kingdom age, with some who are part of (what is since AD 70) the New Jerusalem wife (Rev. 21:9) and some who are not part of her. The kingdom of God is world-wide since AD 70 (cf. Dan. 7:23-27), but it is spiritual dominion not political. Some are concerned that the teaching of a world-wide kingdom of God leads to universalism; this concern is unfounded. The dominion of the Roman Empire was essentially world-wide in the first century (in terms of the then known world), but many living in it were not citizens of it. In a similar manner, while the whole world became the domain of God’s kingdom at AD 70, not everyone living in this domain is a citizen of the kingdom. In the new heaven and new earth it is only those who are part of the New Jerusalem that have eternal life. Having said that, the gates of the New Jerusalem are open today (Rev. 21:25). We should be imploring people to come to the Lord so they can become part of God’s holy “city.” “And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” Rev. 22:17. This is the kingdom message we need to be sharing today!
Towards the end of Revelation God gives one more description of the New Jerusalem and who is part of her and who is not:
I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) it gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:22-27 NASB
Any form of preterism that says all people today are in covenant relationship with God or that all have eternal life is just plain wrong and should be firmly resisted. I am concerned that preterist universalism (which goes by a number of different labels) is becoming more and more accepted in preterist circles as a legitimate form of preterism. It is not; it is another gospel. “Only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” have the eternal life that is found in the New Jerusalem (v. 27).
Ezekiel 47 has a parallel prophecy that relates to Revelation’s vision of the water of life (compare Ezek. 47:1, 12 with Rev. 22:1-2). Many of the visions of Revelation are directly related to those of Ezekiel.
Then he brought me back to the door of the house [i.e. the Temple]; and behold, water was flowing from under the threshold of the house toward the east, for the house faced east. And the water was flowing down from under, from the right side of the house…Then he said to me, ‘These waters go out toward the eastern region and go down into the Arabah; then they go toward the sea, being made to flow into the sea, and the waters of the sea become fresh. It will come about that every living creature which swarms in everyplace where the river goes will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi to Eneglaim there will be a place for the spreading of nets. Their fish will be according to their kind, like the fish of the Great Sea, very many. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing. Ezekiel 47:1, 8-12 NASB
Notice that everywhere the healing water flows that there is life; there are places where the water does not go, however. These places are full of salt (i.e. they would not support human life). In the present time of the new heaven and new earth the waters of life do not flow everywhere; one has to come to them. One has to come to the Lord: ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive…. John 7:37-39 cf. 4:10-14. This gospel message has not changed since AD 70: “And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” Rev. 22:17.
While all believers today are fully part of the New Jerusalem in a positional sense, we are not yet fully part of it in an experiential sense. When Paul told first century believers that they were sitting “together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6), he was talking about the believer’s position in Christ, not that they were literally in heaven. We will be experientially face to face with God when we die and put on our resurrection body. Indeed one needs a resurrected body to survive an unveiled encounter with God (cf. Exodus 33:17-23). Mortal man cannot survive in the full presence of God. It would like being face to face with the sun; a physical body would vaporize. This is why flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 15:50). Thus it is when we die that we will fully experience the exceeding joy of God’s Presence. That is the blessed hope of the believer!
At AD 70 the whole world became the Holy Land (Rev. 21:1-2); that is, it became the domain of God’s new covenant people. This parallels Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45 where the stone that broke Nebuchadnezzar’s image became a great mountain (a high place, a location that is close to heaven) and filled the earth (cf. Rev. 21:10). At AD 70 the sea (a symbol of the abode of the serpent, cf. Is. 27:1 and non covenant people, cf. Is. 60:5) ceased to exist. The domain of the serpent was gone at AD 70 as the whole world became the domain (spiritually speaking) of God’s people. It needs to be remembered that Revelation is communicating by way of symbols. Those who are looking for the oceans to disappear in the future are going to have a very long wait (about as long as those who are looking for there to be a literal slain lamb on God’s throne! Rev. 5:6). If the sea were to literally disappear in the future the earth would become a desert wasteland (evaporation from the oceans give us most of our rainwater). For a systematic interpretive approach to Revelation, see my article <a href=http://planetpreterist.com/news-2533.html> “The Serious Error of the Literal Hermeneutic in the Interpretation of Revelation”</a>
At the end of Revelation we are told the following about the New Jerusalem:
‘Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murders and idolaters, and wherever loves and practices a lie.’ Rev. 22:14-15.
Again, this is a post-AD 70 picture of the kingdom age. The New Jerusalem coming to earth (Rev. 21:1-2, 9-10) is speaking of the AD 70 full establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. While the dominion of the kingdom of God is universal today, not everyone is a citizen of the kingdom. Only those who are in the Lamb’s Book of Life are part of the New Jerusalem and thus the kingdom (Rev. 21:22-27). These are the ones who have access to the tree and water of life; outside are the unredeemed. This is the antithesis of any kind of universalism (preterist or otherwise). Do not be deceived by those who earnestly seek to tell you differently.
The kingdom of God is a metaphor for the reign of God, especially the actualized reign of God (cf. Rev. 11:15-18). The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom not a physical kingdom (John 18:36). Jesus possessed (or repossessed) the domain of this planet at AD 30 (Dan. 7:13-14; Matt. 28:18); the kingdom of God was fully established in heaven at that time (Rev. 12:1-12). Jesus shared His reign with His followers at His Parousia at AD 70 (Luke 19:11-17); the kingdom of God was fully established on earth at that time (Dan. 7:17-27). The kingdom of God is worldwide today but not everyone is a citizen of the kingdom, only those who are in the Lamb’s Book of Life. We should be encouraging people to come to the Lord that they may become part of the New Jerusalem and partake of the tree and water of life (Rev. 22:1-2). This is the gospel of the kingdom that we should be taking to ends of the earth today!
In part two of this article I will talk about the full establishment of the kingdom of God as shown in Daniel 2 and 7. I will also examine the relationship between the millennium and the full establishment of God’s kingdom.