Understanding the Supposed “Theocratic Kingdom” | Sam Waldron

by | Sep 22, 2022 | Apologetics, Systematic Theology, Theonomy?

 

*This series is a republication of lectures written by Dr. Waldron near the end of the 1980s. This is Part 4 of a series titled “Theonomy: A Reformed Baptist Assessment.”

For Part 1, you can click here: https://cbtseminary.org/theonomy-a-reformed-baptist-assessment-sam-waldron/

For Part 2, you can click here: https://cbtseminary.org/the-sources-of-theonomic-development-sam-waldron/

For Part 3, you can click here: https://cbtseminary.org/the-challenges-of-critiquing-theonomy-sam-waldron/

 

Theonomy: A Reformed Baptist Assessment. Pt.4

Understanding the Supposed “Theocratic Kingdom”

 

I.) The Nature of the Theocratic Kingdom

Any treatment of the Theocratic kingdom confronts itself, first of all, with the task of defining the term, Theocracy. Its etymology is not in doubt. Etymologically, it is “God-rule.” One dictionary recognizing its native, civil context, properly defines it as “the rule of a state by God or a god …” Theologically, however, defining this word is much more difficult. Let me attempt to do so briefly by means of four assertions.

 

A) Yahweh is in a unique sense king of Israel.

There is nothing startling in God’s claim to be king. As Creator, He is Sovereign of all (Ps. 74:12f., 93:2, 103:19f.). But it is not merely this general dominion that the term, Theocracy, designates. It is specifically God’s kingship in Israel that is the proper starting point. This meaning of God’s kingship pervades the Old Testament and is a prominent characterization of His peculiar relation to Israel (Ps. 44:1-8 esp. v. 4, Ps. 68 esp. v. 24, and Isa. 41:21). Yahweh is even viewed as the commander of Israel’s army (Exod. 12:41, 17:8-16, Num. 10:35, 21:14, 23:21).

Yahweh’s assumption of kingship over Israel is related to the Exodus period in Israel’s history and, most specifically, to the covenant-making at Sinai (Exod. 19:5, 6; Ps. 10:16; Deut. 33:1-5). The reference in Deut. 33:1-5 is to the covenant meal with Israel’s leaders in Exod. 24:1-11. Oehler comments, “The Patriarchs called Him Lord and Shepherd, and it is not until He has formed for Himself a people by bringing Israel up out of Egypt that He is called, Exod. 15:18, “He who is King forever and ever.”[1]

The natural conclusion that one might draw from all of this is that God would occupy the place human kings occupied in other nations (Judges 8:23; 1 Sam. 8; 12:12; 2 Chr. 13:8). This explains the apparent defect in the Mosaic, civil order that no definite office of executive power is appointed at the Exodus period. Oehler comments, “The Mosaic Theocracy presents the peculiar phenomenon of being originally unprovided with a definite office for executing the power of the state.”[2]

The words of McPheeters form a fitting transition to the second assertion.

If the foregoing be a correct account of the idea expressed by the word “theocracy” and particularly if the foregoing be a correct account of the Old Testament representation of God’s relation to, and rule in and over Israel, it follows as a matter of course that the realization of such an idea was only possible within the sphere of what is known as special revelation.  Indeed, special revelation of the Divine will, through Divinely chose organs, to Divinely appointed executive agents, is itself, the very essence of the idea of theocracy.”[3]

 

B) The direct promulgation by special revelation of a specific and detailed civil order is, then, charac­teristic of the Theo­cratic order. It is, of course, precisely this divinely revealed civil order that is often in mind when the term, Theocracy is used.

It is interesting in light of the formal assumption of kingship over Israel by Yahweh at Sinai that the giving of this civil law-order occupies a prominent place in the Sinaitic covenant. This becomes clear in all sorts of ways.  Deut. 33:1-5 specifically mentions as part and parcel of Yahweh’s kingship “the law that Moses gave us, the possession of the assembly of Jacob.” The contextual reference to the to the law as the possession of “the assembly of Jacob” is a reference to Israel as a formal, civil (as well as religious) entity. Thus, the judicial law is included.  The Exodus account confirms this.  Immediately after the speaking of the Ten words by God Himself in Exod. 20, but before the ratification of the covenant by blood and the covenant meal in ch. 24 there inter­venes the promulgation of the divine, civil law-order of the Theocratic kingdom in chapters 21-23. These chapters epitomize this order.  Note Heb. 9:19:  “When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood . . .” This statement must mean that, though this civil law-order is later expanded, Exodus chapters 21-23 are its epitome. Deut. 4:5-8 also refers to this order.  In this passage it is clear that pre-eminently the civil order is in view.  This is clear, first of all, from the fact that it is Israel as a nation-a civil order-contrasted with the other nations which is in view.  Further, the terms, “statutes and judgments,” are distinguished in Deuteronomy from the covenant itself (The covenant in this context is essentially the Ten Commandments.) and clearly refer to the detailed civil order to be followed in the land (Deut. 4:12-14, 5:1-3 with 5:30-6:3). This civil order was one of the glories of Theocratic Israel.  Isa. 33:22 confesses,  “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; He will save us.”

 

C) A third characteristic of the Theocracy is the union of church and state in the Theocratic kingdom. Fairbairn marks this idea out as the key idea of the Theocracy:

First, then, in respect to the true idea of the theocracy–wherein stood its distinctive nature? It stood in  the formal exhibition of God as King or Supreme Head of the commonwealth, so that all authority and law emanated from Him; and by neces­sary conse­quence, there were not two societies in the ordinary sense, civil and religious, but a fusion of the two into one body, or, as we might express it from a modern point of view, a merging together of Church and State.

. . . And this is simply the idea embodied in the Jewish theocracy; it is the fact of Jehovah condescend­ing to occupy, in Israel, such a center of power and authority.  He proclaimed Himself “King in Jeshurun.”  Israel became the commonwealth with which He more peculiarly associated His presence and His glory.  Not only the seat of His worship, but His throne also, was in Zion–both His sanctuary and His dominion.”[4]

Many aspects of the civil law of Israel corroborate this observation. There were civil penalties for religious defection to idolatry and the frequent involvement of the priests and Levites in civil matters (Num. 5:15f., 35; Deut. 19; 21:5). Ceremonial and national restrictions with strong religious overtones were placed upon entrance into the assembly of Israel (Deut. 23:1-8). The seat, center, and focus of both the civil power and the religious worship in Israel were identical. The ark of the covenant in the holy of holies was the throne of Jehovah (1 Sam. 4:4; 2 Sam. 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chr. 13:6; Ps. 80:1; 99:1; Isa. 37:16). This is not surprising. It was in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple that Yahweh dwelt with His people, Israel. If Yahweh was the king of Israel, it follows that the temple must have been His throne (Num. 10:35, 36; Ps. 11:3; Isa. 6:1f.; Ezek. 43:7; Jer. 3:16; 17:[5]).  Even the identity of Israel as at one and the same time a “kingdom of priests,” Exod. 19:6, points to the identity of the civil and ecclesiastical establishments since it attributes both royal and priestly status to the “holy nation.”[6]

All this is not to say that there is not an element of separation between the civil and ecclesiastical establishments in Israel. We must not forget the strict separation of the royal and priestly offices. The king and the priest were never to be the same in the Theocratic kingdom (1 Sam. 13:8-14). This points to the ultimate inadequacy of the Old Testament institutions to fulfill the Theocratic ideal.  It leaves the uniting point of the Theocratic kingdom even in its fullest Old Testament development in the person of Yahweh. Only in the new age would such inadequacy and imperfection be removed. Of the one who perfectly united the divine and Davidic kingships, it is written: “Behold, a man whose name is Branch for He will build the Temple of the LORD. Yes, it is He who will build the Temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne.  Thus, He will be a priest on His throne and the counsel of peace will between the two offices.” (Zech. 6:12, 13)

 

D) The fourth and concluding perspective in our defini­tion of Theocracy is the Davidic fulfillment and mediation of the Theo­cratic kingdom.

Though it might have seemed from what we have said previously that a human king in Israel would be a contradiction of the Theocratic ideal, the Old Testament plainly reveals that the divine kingship is vested through the Davidic covenant in the Davidic kings. David’s son and heir is adopted by Yahweh as His son and heir (2 Sam. 7:14; 1 Chr. 17:14; Ps. 89:26-29; 2:2-7).

This point might be vastly illustrated. I can only point you to the plainest evidence. Deut. 17:14-20 contemplates without condemnation the possibility that a human king would be appointed to implement the civil order revealed by Yahweh, King of Israel. The Chronicler has for one of his themes the idea that Yahweh’s kingship is now exercised through the Davidic dynasty.  1 Chr. 17:14 lays the foundation for the development of this theme in its record of the Davidic covenant itself. Through Nathan Yahweh says of David’s son, “But I will settle him in My house and My kingdom forever and his throne shall be established forever.” 1 Chr. 28:5 records the second inauguration of Solomon as king. “Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king . . .” 2 Chr. 13:8 records Abijah’s speech to Jehoram and all Israel. While Abijah’s historical account may be slanted, the theology of v. 8 is unimpeachable. “So now you intend to resist the kingdom of the Lord through (in the hands of) the sons of David.”

One point must be carefully noted in conclusion. By the Davidic Covenant the Theocratic Kingdom was united to the line of David and the city of Jerusal­em (Ps. 78:67-72). The Theocracy was concentrated into God’s choice of David and Zion. It is for their sakes that Judah is spared time and again (1 Kings 11:11-13, 32, 34, 36; 14:21; 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19; 19:34; 20:6). It is in David and Zion that God’s unique kingship over Israel is exercised, that God’s specially revealed civil order is main­tained and that the union of the civil and ecclesiastical (the royal and the priestly) institutions are epitomized.

There are certainly aspects of this attempt at a biblical definition of the Theocratic Kingdom which are amenable to Theonomic thought. The promulgation of a specific and detailed, civil law and the union of the ecclesiastical and civil spheres are to be noted in particular. Yet already questions are raised about the relevance of all this for Christians today by features of this definition. First, the idea of the Theocracy is limited to the unique reign of Yahweh over the nation Israel. May the law-order given to them in consequence of this unique, redemptive-historical relationship be extended to all nations and all time? Second, the Theocratic Kingdom is fulfilled and is made concrete through the Davidic Covenant in the reign of David and His sons in Jerusalem. With no divinely authorized son of David reigning on earth and with the earthly Jerusalem long ago destroyed, what is the relevance of such a Theocratic Kingdom for ourselves? This question brings us to a second, major issue with regard to the Theocratic Kingdom.

 

II.) The Disruption of the Theocratic Kingdom

The data so far presented permits the following definition of the Theocracy. The Theocracy is the nation of Israel as constituted by the institutions and blessings of the Sinaitic and Davidic covenants made with them by Yahweh, their king. The destruction of the Theocracy implies, therefore, nothing less than the destruction of the nation of Israel. It implies the removal of the peculiar institutions and blessings granted to Israel under the Sinaitic covenant and the Davidic covenant. The land, the laws, the temple, the Davidic dynasty, Zion, all are removed in the destruction of the Theocracy.

The disruption of the Theocratic kingdom is a phenomenon which, of course, cries out for an explanation. That explanation is written large across the face of the Old Testament. The blessings of the Sinaitic and Davidic covenants are removed, because the conditions of those covenants have been violated.

Deuteronomy‑-wise in the experience of Kadesh Barnea‑-forecasts the eventual breaking of the Sinaitic covenant by Israel, Deut. 29:25 records the answer to the question, “Why has the LORD done thus to this land?” (v. 24) It is, “Because they forsook the covenant . . .” Therefore “the LORD uprooted them from their land.”  Deut. 31:14-22 contains Yahweh’s prophecy that Israel “will forsake me and break My coven­ant,” “spurn Me and break My covenant,” and they will be “consumed.” (v. 16, 17, 20) The accuracy of this forecast is vindicated in Jeremiah who uses the imagery of divorce (3:1-8, 31:31, 32) and rejected silver (6:27-30) to teach the formal renunciation of Judah in the Exile

The relevant Old Testament literature also records the violation of the Davidic covenant and lays the demise of Judah squarely at the feet of the house of David. Jeremiah specifically denounces the abuses of the Davidic king. The striking thing about these denunciations is the way in which the conduct of the king determines the future of Judah.  Jer. 21:11, 12 urges the king to further civil righteousness in order to avoid the wrath of God upon the nation. Jer. 22:1-5 makes the execution of civil justice and the protection of the poor from oppression by the king the determin­ing factor in whether Judah will experience the blessing or the curse. 2 Kings 23:26, 27 relates the ultimate destruction of the city and the temple immed­iately to the abuses of Mannasseh, the king. The account of the last four Davidic kings reverberates with the reversal of the Davidic blessings. Each king does evil in the sight of Yahweh (2 Kings 23:31, 32, 36, 37; 24:9, 24:19). The temple is plundered twice before its ultimate destruction (2 Chr. 36:7, 10, 18). At least three deportations depopulate the land and the city of Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:10-16, 25:11, 12, Dan. 1:1-7). Finally and climactically, the city and the temple are leveled and the last king of the four hundred year Davidic dynasty is led blind and childless to Babylon.

What must be clearly emphasized in all of this is that the disruption of the Theocratic kingdom was the preceptive will of God. It was no longer God’s revealed will for the people of God to give their political allegiance to a the theocratic, civil order. One of the most striking illustrations of this epochal alteration in the preceptive will of God for the civil conduct of His people is found in Jeremiah’s unprecedented call to fall away or apostatize to the king of Babylon (Jer. 21:8-10; 37:13-15; 38:1-28). This call to fall away is followed up with the advice of Jer. 29:1-7 where the Jews are told to pray for and seek the welfare of the city where they are exiled.

The very theme of the book of Daniel is to emphasize the perspectives which must guide the people of God in this new political situation. One might almost think of Daniel 2:37 as stating one of its main thrusts. It is intended to teach the legitimacy of Nebuchadnezzar’s rule.  The terms, kingdom, power, strength, and glory, themselves imply the idea that not mere power, but actual authority has been divinely granted to Nebuchad­nezzar.[7]  The frequent repetition of this theme in Daniel 4:36, 37, 5:18, 19 also implies this. The parallel use of this terminology in Dan. 7:14, 22, 27 of the kingdom of God also suggests this point. Also relevant is the allusion in Dan. 2:37 to Ps. 8:6-8 and through it to Gen. 1:26, 27 noticed by several of the commen­tators.[8] This ties Nebuchadnezzar’s rule to the image of God and thereby establishes its validity.

The authority of Gentile kingdoms lasts longer than the initial 70 year period of exile. The restoration after this exile is largely symbolic and does not restore the independence of Judah.  The authority given originally to Nebuchadnezzar is passed on to the Gentile kingdom which rule over the Israel of God till the second advent of Christ. This is suggested by the imagery of Daniel 2 and 7. The four Gentile kingdoms (and the number four may have a symbolic significance beyond its admittedly literal significance) are seen as one entity.  One awesome symbol of civil authority in the hands of man represents them all. The symbolism of Daniel 2 and 7 reveals, however, that the authority of these Gentile kingdoms is only provisional. Its termination comes when God restores the kingdom to the Son of Man and the saints of the Most High (Dan. 2:44; 7:13, 14, 22, 27). This is a prophecy of nothing less than the restoration of the Theocratic kingdom.

In the meantime the Apostle Paul states what is the preceptive will of God for His people. In Rom. 13:1 he says, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” The rich redemptive-histori­cal backdrop of this statement is not often appreciated. For it was of the Roman Empire, the fourth and iron kingdom of Dan. 2, of which Paul was originally speaking. The four Gentile kingdoms of Dan. 2 include ultimately all non-Theocratic civil authority ruling over the people of God till the end of the age and the dawning of the Theo­cratic kingdom. To that authority Paul requires that Christians give submission.

 

III.) The Restoration of the Theocratic Kingdom

It is the timing and character of the eschatological restoration of the Theocratic Kingdom which must here be addressed. Among evangelical and conservative interpreters of Daniel a sharp cleavage exists on the timing of the coming of the kingdom prophesied in Daniel 2 and 7. In general it is fair to say that Dispensational, Pre-millennial commentators hold to a future restoration associated with the second advent of Christ. Anti-chiliasts and some Pre-millennialists have held that the kingdom of God promised in ch. 2 and 7 came in the events associated with Christ’s first advent.[9]  A growing number of evangelical scholars are committed to a synthesis of these views at least insofar as their general perspective regarding the coming of the kingdom.[10]  These scholars recognize a tension in the New Testament regarding the coming of the kingdom: an “al­ready” and a “not yet” in the coming of the kingdom. They believe the kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament unfolds itself in two successive stages.

It is in Matthew–the “Jewish” gospel–the gospel of the son of David, in which the term, kingdom, occurs 55 times and the term, king, occurs a further 23 times, that this subject receives its clearest treatment. It is, further, precisely from Matthew that one would expect the clearest teaching on the restoration of the Theocratic kingdom.

It is in Matthew 13 and its seven, great parables of the kingdom that the issue of the coming of the kingdom is most pointedly addressed. Each of these seven parables assumes in one way or another that the coming of the kingdom takes place in two stages. The parable of the tares is, however, most pointed in this regard (Matt. 13:24-30, 37-43). The Kingdom of God comes in two stages. It will come as the eschato­logical harvest, but it must for that very reason come first as seed-time. Extraordinary as the thought must have seemed to the Jewish mind, until the coming of the eschatological harvest, good and evil men will co-exist in the world in the time of the Kingdom. Astonishingly, the coming of the Kingdom does not mean the immediate destruction of the wicked. The Messiah comes first as sower then as harvester.  It is not his will that the wicked be immediately destroyed.

Ridderbos says,

The issue between the servants and the landlord is not the question who is to execute the separation, nor what kind of separa­tion it is to be, but when it will happen.  Though the servants desire to carry out an immediate separation, the landlord determines that it shall be postponed till the day of the harvest, for–thus he tells his servants–you might pull out the wheat in gathering the tares….

….Since the kingdom comes like the seed, and since the Son of Man is first the sower (vs. 37) before being the reaper (vs. 41) the last judgment is postponed.  The delay is implied in this difference.  Whoever sows cannot immediately reap.  The postponement of the judgment is determined by the modality of the kingdom of God that has already come with Christ.[11]

Ladd remarks,

The meaning of the parable is clear when interpreted in terms of the mystery of the Kingdom:  its present but secret working in the world.  The Kingdom has come into history but in such a way that society is not disrupted.  The sons of the Kingdom have received God’s reign and entered into its blessings.  Yet they must continue to live in this age, intermingled with the wicked in a mixed society.  Only at the eschatological coming of the Kingdom will the separation take place.  Here is indeed the revelation of a new truth: that the Kingdom of God can actually come into the world, creating sons who enjoy its blessings without effecting the eschatological judgment.[12]

Applying this framework to the interpretation of Daniel and the restoration of the Theocratic kingdom, one obtains the result that a tension exists between the “already” and “not yet” aspects of the restoration of the Theocratic kingdom.

It is possible to construct an impressive argument for the present restoration of the Theocratic kingdom. The motifs of the Davidic covenant find affirmation in many different ways in the NT.  David’s son has now been exalted and now exercises all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 1:20-22; Acts 2:34-36; Rom. 1:3, 4).  He reigns in Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22-24).  There he occupies David’s throne (Acts 2:30, 31).  There is the full unification of the throne of God and of David.  He occupies the throne of God himself (Rev. 3:21, 5:1-13) in the temple of God (Heb. 8:1-6).[13]  Yet all of this finds its focal point in heaven (Phil. 3:20; Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22f.).  The NT insists that “we do not yet see all things subjected to him.” (Heb. 2:8f.; 1 Cor. 15:20-28).  Premil­lennialists have been right to insist upon an earthly reign.  The meek will inherit and reign upon the earth.  (Matt. 5:5, Rev. 5:9, 10)  The restoration of the Theocratic kingdom means security under the Davidic king for the people of God (Jer. 23: 5, 6; 33:14-18; Ezek. 34:20-25; 37:24-28).  This is by no means the lot of the people of God in the present, evil age (2 Tim. 3:12, Acts 14:22).

Thus it is that we may speak of the heavenly and spiritual inaugur­ation of the Theocratic kingdom.  Yet we must never forget that there is an external, earthly manifestation of this kingdom which is crucial to it and is yet to come.  This the older anti-Chiliast writers tended to miss or neglect.[14]

Now we come to the crucial, practical upshot of all this. When one is speaking of civil authority, one is speaking of a very earthly and external issue.  It is, then the perspec­tive of the “not yet” that is regulative in relation to the subject of civil life.  As to earthly, civil authority the Theocratic kingdom is not yet.  The eschatological re-gathering of (new) Israel awaits (Mt. 8:11, 12; 24:29-31; Lk. 13:29).  The Gentile kingdoms may yet require our submission, because the “times of the Gentiles” continue till the end of the age, a reference to the period of the supremacy of the Gentile powers of Daniel (Luke 21:24).[15]  The new Jerusalem in its earthly manifest­ation is not yet (Rev. 21:1-7).  Jesus, Paul, and Peter command submission to Daniel’s fourth kingdom (Matt. 22:15f.; Rom. 13:1f.; 1 Peter 2:13f.).  Jesus refuses the offer of civil authority in the days of his flesh (Luke 12:13, 14; Jn. 6:15).

The conclusion must be that in its political and civil dimensions the Theocratic kingdom is not yet on earth.  The Church finds itself in a continuation of the “times of the Gentiles” and for this reason the Christian’s duty to the Gentile kingdoms is similar to that of post-Exilic Israel.

 

IV.) Practical Implications:

The implications of this overview of the destruction and restoration of the Theocratic Kingdom for issues relating to the Christian Reconstruction movement are manifold.

 

A) The commonality of post-Exilic Israel and the Church in terms of their Relation to Civil Authority.

The data brought forward in this study supports the conclusion that substantial unity and continuity exists between post-Exilic Israel and the Church in the matter of their relation to the Gentile kingdoms.  The church as the New Israel inherits Israel’s relation to Gentile authorities and feels their power both in its human and bestial dimensions.  C. F. Keil sees the matter clearly, “Accordingly the exile forms a great turning-point in the development of the kingdom of God which He had founded in Israel.  With that event the form of the theocracy established at Sinai comes to an end, and then begins the period of the transition to a new form, which was to be established by Christ . . . “[16]

The recognition of the development of a new continuity between Israel and the Church at this point in redemptive history must not disguise the remaining discontinuity.  There was a typical and partial restoration of the Theocracy under the Medo-Persian Empire.  While Judah was no longer a kingdom, it was a province of the Persian empire and, thus, a civil entity.  Within these limitations the Theocratic civil order continued to be enforced with civil penalties and the union of the church and state remained.  The NT makes clear that the Church is not in continuity with this partially restored Theocracy (Matt. 21:33-46; Acts 7:1-53 with 6:8-15).  It dies under divine judgment shortly after the Church’s establishment.

 

B) The Non-Theocratic Character of Civil Authority till the Return of Christ.

The first conclusion reminds us that with the expiration of the partially restored Theocratic order all civil authority ceased to be Theocratic in the sense in which we have defined that word in this here.  God is no longer the unique king of any civil entity.  No nation is now mandated to adhere to a divinely revealed civil order.  While the moral principles enshrined in the laws of the Old Covenant remain authoritative, no nation is bound to the detailed, civil order of Old Testament Israel.  Add to all of this the destruction of the Temple as the earthly throne of Yahweh and one must also conclude that no longer are church and state a united entity.  The redeemed community no longer has a civil structure.  Thus, the divine establishment of the Gentile civil authorities means that the separation of the civil and ecclesiastical institutions in human society is now God’s preceptive will.  The alteration of this order will be signaled only by the return of Christ.

 

C) The Divine Establishment of the Gentile, Civil Authorities.

The assertion that no civil authority is now Theocratic definite­ly does not mean, biblically, that civil authority now stands in no relation or only a negative relation to God.  The biblical data clearly establishes the fact that the present, Gentile civil authori­ties are divinely constituted.  It was clear that this fact implies the idea that Gentile authorities are responsible to God and owe Him obedience as civil authorities.  More stress is placed in the literature, however, on the duty of the people of God to subject themselves to the government of these rulers.  To resist Nebuchadnez­zar was to resist God.

The Biblical mandate to render obedience to the Gentile kings sheds light on the extent and character of the duty owed to civil authorities.  Of course, no obedience was to be rendered to demands that violated the explicit demands of God.  On the other hand, service and obedience was to be rendered to uncovenanted, autocratic, proud, idolatrous, abusive, and often bestial rulers.  No fact could speak more eloquently of the truth that our subjection to civil author­ity is not conditioned on (our estimate of) the way it is being exercised.  Bestial demands and behavior may call for disobedience or flight, but they never provide the grounds for violent resistance or rebellion.  If Nebuchadnezzar’s self-deifying idolatry and Ahasuerus’ tyranny did not give the right of rebellion, then it is hard to imagine any conditions under which the abuse of civil power would warrant rebellion against “the powers that be.”

Worth mentioning here is the fact that examples of rebellions led by Jews against foreign kings during the time of the Theocracy are not relevant to the issue now being addressed.  Shamgar, Samson, and the other saviors sent to deliver Israel from foreign domination lived before the divine transfer of civil authority to the Gentile kings and before the divine destruction of the Theocracy.  There is a qualitative redemptive-historical difference between Eglon and Nebuchadnezzar.

 

D) The Curse-Character of Life under the Gentile kingdoms.

The authority of the Gentile kingdoms originated in covenantal curses and life under them continues and will continue to be a curse to the people of God.  The clear prophetic outlook of the word of God is that the bestial character of these kingdoms will continue to characterize them and will finally completely dominate the es­chatolog­ical manifesta­tion of Gentile authority.  This is not to be read as permission to ignore or be indifferent to civil righteousness insofar as it is within our ability to enhance it.  Such a con­clusion would fly in the face of the totalitarian claims of God and His word.  This conclusion does mean, however, that civil authority is not to be made the object of mis-directed hope or consuming attention by the people of God.  The mark of the perversion of the Biblical perspec­tive is the re-focusing of hope upon social change.  This error pervades modern theologies of social change.  The true hope of the people of God is the re-establish­ment of the Theocratic kingdom.  This, as the Scripture declares, will be the achievement not of civil reformation but of cataclysmic and supernatural divine interven­tion.  The application of this observation to Theonomic Postmillenialism is obvious.  It must be expanded when we come to deal with the eschatological expectations of Christian reconstruction.

 

E) The Central Importance of the Church for the Work of the Kingdom.

The entire theological perspective enumerated in this study warrants the conclusion that the energies and responsibilities of the Kingdom center on the Church in this age.  The Theocratic Kingdom is present only in the redemptive task of the church not in the conservative task of the state.  Therefore, labor for the Kingdom, must not place an equal importance on ecclesiastical and civil matters.  The dominion mandate must not be set alongside the Great Commission as its equal nor may it be seen as its real content.  The Church (and its task) is the exclusive focus of kingdom endeavor in this age.  The theocratic kingdom is now present not in visible or political form, but in spiritual and ecclesiastical form.

 

F)  This study of the Theocratic Kingdom leads us to expect that the judicial laws which were part and parcel of the Theocratic Kingdom would receive a distinctive application in the New Testament. 

Specifically, this treatment would lead us to expect that they would be applied (1) to the eschatological restoration of the Theocratic Kingdom in the age to come and (2) to the ecclesiastical manifestation of the Theocratic Kingdom in this age. As a matter of fact further examination of the New Testament in the next part of this study will confirm this hypothesis.

Implicit in this application of the judicial laws is a reality that must be stated explicitly.  The restoration of the Theocratic Kingdom at the end of the age is not the restoration of the same, old Theocratic Kingdom.  Rather, the kingdom is restored in a glorified and transfigured form.  The old kingdom sustained a typical relation to the glorious kingdom to come.  Thus, there should be no expectation that in the coming kingdom the judicial laws of Israel would receive an exact and literal application.  Thus, it is even more clear that no such literal and wooden use of the judicial law is appropriate in the present, ecclesiastical manifestation of the kingdom.  How much less is such an application appropriate to the uncovenanted, Gentile kingdoms.

 

 

    [1]ibid.

    [2]Loc. cit.

    [3]W. M. McPheeters, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. J. Orr, V. Wilmington, AP&A, n. d., p. 2965.

    [4]Patrick Fairbairn, The Typology of Scripture, II, Evangelical Press, 1975, pp. 418, 419.

    [5]Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, “Theocracy”, p. 617

    [6]Brown, Driver, Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, attributes the meaning, priest-king, to MAMLEKAH COHENIM here.  The LXX translates “hierateuma“, royal priest-hood, and this rendering is adopted in the N. T., 1 Pet. 2:9.  Others references to this phrase in the N. T. further substan­tiate this translation (Rev. 1:6, 5:10).

    [7]Cf. BDB in loc.

    [8]Young, op. cit., p. 73.  Cf. also

Joyce Baldwin, Daniel, Inter-varsity Press, 1978, p. 93.

    [9]Wood, op. cit., p. 72f.

    [10]Fairbairn, op. cit., pp. 440f.

    [11]Ridderbos, op. cit., p. 137

    [12]Ladd, op. cit., p. 97

    [13]Cf. G. E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, Geerhardus Vos, Pauline Eschatology.

    [14]Fairbairn, op. cit., p. 441.

    [15]Exegetical facts which encourage this identification are the allusions to Daniel in the surrounding context of this phrase, 21:20 and 27, and the linguistic parallels between the use of kairoi here and its frequent use in Daniel with reference to the Gentile kingdoms (Dan. 2:21; 7:25; 9:26, 27).

    [16]Murray, op. cit., pp. 253, 25

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Are all sins the same? | Tom Hicks

Are all sins the same? | Tom Hicks

“Is it true that all people are equally sinful? If someone has sinful anger in his heart, but never acts on it, is that person really the same as someone who has sinful anger in his heart and then murders his whole family?”

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