"Perhaps no truth of the divine revelation has suffered more at the hands of interpreters than that concerning the kingdom. Protestant theology has very generally taught that all the kingdom promises, and even the great Davidic Covenant itself, are to be fulfilled in and through the Church. The confusion thus created has been still further darkened by the failure to distinguish the different phases of kingdom truth indicated by the expressions "kingdom of heaven," and "kingdom of God." In the light of plain Scripture all of these confusions are inexcusable, for at no point is the Biblical revelation more clear and explicit. Founded upon the covenant of Jehovah with David, a covenant subsequently confirmed by Jehovah's oath, the great theme of predictive prophecy is that kingdom. Even the order of the setting up of the kingdom, relatively to the great Gentile world empires, is declared. The events attending the setting up of the kingdom of the heavens on the earth are described. The New Testament carries forward the Old Testament’s view of the kingdom into greater detail, but without change. The very first mention of Christ in the first verse of the first chapter in the New Testament identifies Him with the Davidic Covenant, and the promise of Gabriel to His virgin Mother is a new confirmation in express terms of that covenant.
The New Testament reveals the present age as a parenthesis in the prophetic program during which the Church is called out from among the Gentiles, a stranger and pilgrim body, belonging to the kingdom of God, but in no sense identical with the kingdom of heaven."
Lewis Sperry Chafer
"It stands to reason, since five-sixths of the Bible is addressed to one nation to whom the kingdom promises are given, that any plan of study which avoids prophecy and ignores, or "spiritualizes," God's covenants with His chosen earthly people will be incomplete, misleading and subject to mere human assumptions."
Shadowhawk (who isn’t as smart as Lewis Sperry Chafer)
When the Lord was born into this world, He came to fulfill that which was covenanted with David. Just as was announced to Mary...
"And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1:31 33)
In being born into this world, the "God of heaven" had enfleshed Himself in the seed of David so as to be given the throne of David and to establish His kingdom on this earth. The "kingdom of heaven", therefore, was "at hand".
Not only was the King here, but the time schedule given by the prophets for the establishing of the kingdom of heaven was almost completed. (cf. Dan. 9:24-27) For this reason, as the Lord preached the gospel of the kingdom, He said,...
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of god is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." (Mark 1:15)
This is what the program of God was all about when our Lord was here on this earth. Israel's long awaited and covenanted "kingdom of heaven" was "at hand". And with that being the case, as the Gospels describe, the Lord heralded beatitudes in view of it; taught the issue of entrance into it; declared who would be "least" and "great" in it; informed the twelve of their special positions in it; warned about the purging wrath that He would execute upon the nations and this world preliminary to establishing the kingdom, etc.
As God's kingdom program with His people Israel continued on following the Lord's resurrection and ascension back to heaven, the apostles eagerly looked for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. (Acts 1:6) They, therefore, proclaimed to Israel the arrival of her "last days", (Acts 2:1-36), as spoken of in the prophets, and exhorted the people to respond positively to the offer of the kingdom. (Acts 3:12-26)
It is clearly evident that "the kingdom of heaven" has not yet been established on this earth. None of the aforementioned prophetic declarations concerning its establishment have been fulfilled, yet when the Lord was here "the time" was "fulfilled" for it, and so it was preached to be "at hand". What has happened? Why hasn't "the God of heaven" set up that covenanted kingdom?
Though many explanations have been set forth, God's own explanation concerning what He has done is the one that needs to be understood and appreciated.
God's explanation as to why He has not yet established Israel's "kingdom of heaven" has to do with the fact that He has temporarily set Israel and her program aside, and He has ushered in a new and different dispensation or program.
As the apostle Paul teaches us in Romans 11, when Israel "stumbled" at the testimony of Christ that was heralded unto her, God did something unexpected. He "blinded" the nation and turned unto the Gentiles.
"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." (vs 25)
God has "blinded" Israel and has put her program and His special dealings with her aside. In so doing, God has turned to the Gentiles and He is now administering a dispensation of His grace. As the apostle Paul declares in Ephesians 3,...
"For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery;...which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel." (vs 1, 3,5, 6)
The dispensation, or program, of the grace of God for the Gentiles is what God is now working out, and has been working out since He raised up Paul as a brand new apostle and committed to him the revelation of it. During this present dispensation of grace God's program and special dealings with the nation of Israel are set aside. Again, as Paul teaches in Romans 11, God has "not cast away His people". He is not through with Israel. But rather, her "fullness" is yet to come. Since her "blindness" is "in part", "until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in", Paul goes on to say,...
"And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliver, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins." (vs 26, 27)
Israel's "fullness" is yet to come, and when it does, as Zechariah 14:9 says, "...the LORD shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one."
Also, as Isaiah declares to the redeemed and the delivered of Israel in that day,...
"...ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God:...For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations." (vs 6,11)
Israel's covenanted "kingdom of heaven" will yet be established on this earth, just as God's sure word states, and His covenants with her promises. But right now God's program with Israel is set aside. Right now God is working out "the mystery of Christ" in this dispensation of His grace and is forming the "new creation", the church, the body of Christ, for a purpose He has in the heavenly places.
Christians need to understand and appreciate this and realize that God's program with Israel recorded and described in the Old Testament, the Gospel accounts, and the opening of the book of Acts, isn't what God is working out today. But rather, in accordance with "the revelation of the mystery" having been given to Paul, it is in his epistles to us that we have the testimony from God concerning what He is doing today, and what He is doing with us, the members of the "new creation".
According to the scripture, God revealed through the pen of Paul that which had been "hid in God" from the beginning of the world, from all ages and all generations. The mysteries that God revealed through this Apostle was not contained in the Old Testament prophecies.
If you took Paul’s writings out of the New Testament, the Gospel of Grace, the truth about your salvation, your justification, your sanctification, your identity, your inheritance, your position, your righteousness, your preservation, and your standards for living the Christian life would all be completely different. These are not found in the Law or the Prophets, the Old Testament or even the Gospels, but must be searched out and found in the Epistles containing the truth about us, the Church, the mystery of God, "even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:26,27)
From no one else, and no where else is this written. This truth is not found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James or Jude. But yet is it the most basic fundamental truth of who and what a Christian is today. It’s no wonder that the church has so much trouble identifying the life of a Christian, they keep looking in the Law or the Prophets, the Kingdom Of heaven, the Old Testament or the Gospels and never get to the "all truth" that Jesus said the Spirit would guide them into. (John 16:12-13)
The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven never spoke of the kind of relationship with the Messiah that the church enjoys with the Christ. The Jews were never taught about the concept of the Messiah indwelling them. No Jew understood this because it was a unique character of the church.
In John 14:20, Jesus said, "at that day you shall know that I am in my father, and you in me, and I in you". The phrase, "at that day", indicated they did not know this yet, they couldn't conceive of it yet.
The Body of the Christ concept is a unique, mysterious, a brand new truth for a "new age"( though I hate to use that term these days). We are the body in which the Christ manifests Himself to the world. The church is not an organization, nor is it something that can be diagrammed on a structure chart, with services and programs --it's an organism, alive and real, functioning not by structure, but by the Holy Spirit in each one of us, the Body of the Christ. You can’t "go to church", you are the church. Wherever you are, the church is there.
The Body of Christ is not under any Law but under Grace, scriptures, any scripture, those concerning the Kingdom Law or those concerning the Mosaic Law are not meant to instruct the church on how it is to operate. The Church operates by the power of the Holy Spirit and is controlled by the same. We are not spiritual Jews, we are the Church, not just followers of the Christ but rather one with Him, His body. We are not what the New Testament saints will be or what the Old Testament saints where we are something different, something brand new, something hid in God from the ages, we are the Body of Christ.
There is a dangerous and entirely baseless belief which assumes that every teaching of Christ must be binding during this age simply because Christ said it. The fact is forgotten that Christ, while living under, keeping, and applying the law of Moses, also taught the principles of His yet future kingdom, and at the end of His ministry and in relation to the cross, He also anticipated the teachings of grace. If this three-fold division of the teachings of Christ is not recognized, there can be nothing but confusion and contradiction of the truth.
Christians need to understand that the Church in completely under the dispensation and Covenant of grace and that they are not to be any part of the "Kingdom of Heaven". Every teaching of the kingdom, which contemplates the responsibility of the individual, is based on a covenant of human works, and is purely legal in character. In this age God is dealing with men on the bases of His grace as it is in Christ. His dealings with men in the Kingdom age are based on a very different relationship. At that time, the King will rule with a rod of iron. There is no word of the cross or of grace in the kingdom teaching.
To rightly divide the Word of God is to understand that the Kingdom teachings being addressed in the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles of Peter, James, John and Jude are not about the Church and are not meant to govern it.
We are something else, something brand new, hide in God from the beginning of the world. We are the Church, the body of Christ operating by the Holy Spirit under the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus, and not of any law, Mosaic or Kingdom.