Ask the Pastor; Is the Kingdom of God Land Based?

Hello Pastor,

I was wondering if you could shed a little light on something for me. In a letter I recently received from someone I am corresponding with my pen-pal said something about the Kingdom of God not being geographic. When I told you that you said that they were “basically saying goodbye to our Postmillennial faith.”

How does a geographic Kingdom of God tie in with our Postmillenialism?


Dear Ned,

Thank you for writing again.

When people say the Kingdom of God is “not geographic” they are denying that it is land based. The Kingdom of God then is not concrete in time and space. In the postmillenial vision it might be said that the Kingdom is not primarily about geography but as the Kingdom of God advances it does have geographic (land based) implications. We all agree that the Kingdom of God is first and foremost Spiritual and Spirit driven but to suggest that this spiritual Kingdom has no corporeal (land based) implications is not accurate.

One thing that Abraham was promised in the Old Testament was “a Land” (geography). In the NT Postmillennialism believes that the promised land to Abraham in the OT is now the whole earth. Because God’s Kingdom encompasses the whole Earth it shall encompass the whole earth.

17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Once a nation is discipled that geographic nation is part of the Kingdom of God. As postmillennialists we agree with scripture that the whole earth will be discipled before Christ’s return and so the whole planet will be part of God’s very geographic Kingdom.

In Matthew’s Gospel our Lord Christ speaks about his people “inheriting the earth.” They can not inherit a non geographic earth that is not a part of His Kingdom.

So, while it might be said that the Kingdom of God is ultimately spiritual that does not mean that it can not be geographic. Indeed, I would say that a Kingdom of God that is only spiritual is no Kingdom at all.

As God’s people advance the cause of Christ the nations of the world become the Nations of the Lord (again… geography) and the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea.

So … there is a geographic quality to the Kingdom. As the Kingdom advances, earth and place increasingly become what they already are, to wit, the Kingdom of God. (“Now … Not Yet” hermeneutic.)

To deny this makes the Kingdom increasingly abstract and perhaps even gnostic. For gnostic like thinking then God’s Kingdom, in terms of place, is reduced to heaven.

One concrete example before I leave you.

The home you own and the land it sit on is geographic and is part of God’s Kingdom because the land is owned by someone (you) that is redeemed and so owned by God. Because God owns you God owns that land and so that land is part of the Kingdom of God.

Thank you for writing Ned.

Athanasiaus … A Knight of the Rectangular Table

This sense of Victory that we find in Psalm 98 and in Watt’s Hymn was common place enough throughout Church History. Athanasius, who lived through some of the worst persecution that the early Church knew, and who knew the trials of being a wilderness voice for orthodoxy on the trinity for nigh unto 40 years – A man who was exiled 5 times and was often in danger of losing his life could still speak of this victory. Athanasius could be Athanasius contra mundum (Athanasius against the World) because the man believed, that with Christ’s coming the Kingdom had come. Athanasius believed the “age to come” Kingdom that Christ established was overcoming this present wicked age. Athanasius wrote to that end,

“Since the Savior came to dwell among us, not only does idolatry no longer increase, but it is getting less and gradually ceasing to be. Similarly, not only does the wisdom of the Greeks no longer make any progress, but that which used to be is disappearing. And demons, so far from continuing to impose on people by their deceits and oracle-givings and sorceries, are routed by the sign of the cross if they so much as try. On the other hand, while idolatry and everything else that opposes the faith of Christ is daily dwindling and weakening and falling, see, the Savior’s teaching is increasing everywhere! Worship, then, the Savior “Who is above all” and mighty, even God the Word, and condemn those who are being defeated and made to disappear by Him. When the sun has come, darkness prevails no longer; any of it that may be left anywhere is driven away. So also, now that the Divine epiphany of the Word of God has taken place, the darkness of idols prevails no more, and all parts of the world in every direction are enlightened by His teaching. Similarly, if a king be reigning somewhere, but stays in his own house and does not let himself be seen, it often happens that some insubordinate fellows, taking advantage of his retirement, will have themselves proclaimed in his stead; and each of them, being invested with the semblance of kingship, misleads the simple who, because they cannot enter the palace and see the real king, are led astray by just hearing a king named. When the real king emerges, however, and appears to view, things stand differently. The insubordinate impostors areshown up by his presence, and men, seeing the real king, forsake those who previously misled them. In the same way the demons used formerly to impose on men, investing themselves with the honor due to God. But since the Word of God has been manifested in a body, and has made known to us His own Father, the fraud of the demons is stopped and made to disappear; and men, turning their eyes to the true God, Word of the Father, forsake the idols and come to know the true God.”

From the Mailbox — Pastor Bret, aren’t you ignoring the Biblical arguments of the NT regarding Exile?

Dear Pastor,

I read your recent post on “absolutizing the exile” and was struck by how you seem to ignore the Biblical arguments of the New Testament that explicitly refer to believers as exiles, strangers, and aliens. The New Testament absolutizes the exile experience for the Christian.

Hendrick Van Everouma

Dear Hendrick,

Thank you for your query. I shall seek to broaden on what I already wrote on the sermon in question. I did anticipate this objection by noting this,

“We understand because of our own antinomian unfaithfulness we are living in an age of Exile but there is no reason to absolutize this Exile as if it is the norm for all times and places. Scripture speaks repeatedly of the Triumph of Christ in time and space. The Kingdoms of this world are shattered by the rock cut out of the Mountain that rolls over the Kingdom statue. The Knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. The Kingdom of heaven leavens all. The mustard seed of Christianity becomes a great tree in which all the Nations (Birds) find refuge.

There is something altogether unseemly in a theology that says “’we’ve always lost, we are losing now, and we will only ever lose, though spiritually speaking that losing is really winning. If we want to be faithful we have to see ourselves as perpetual exiles in every generation.’”

Of course you know that in a 30 minute sermon matters have to be condensed and packed tightly. Further you know that there is no way you can take into the pulpit everything you’ve learned in your study. As such much that is good gets left on the cutting table.

As it pertains to Scripture, we are explicitly told that God’s people will inherit the earth. Don’t you agree that upon our inheritance (and remember our Hermeneutical methodology of “now, not yet”) of the earth it would be rather odd to speak of us as exiles in the earth we have inherited?

Further Scripture clearly teaches that with Christ’s victory (Resurrection, Ascension and Session) the age to come has inaugurated and is rolling back this present evil age. Would you really hold it to be the case that where God’s already present inaugurated Kingdom is expanding in a particular nation or people group so that Christ’s reign is respected and so that God’s Word is incarnated into Family, Education, Courts, Law, etc. that at that point God’s people are exiles in the sense of not belonging to such a Christian social order?

You see, knowing you as I do, the reason you insist on absolutizing the exile theme of Scripture is because you are an amillenialist in your eschatology, and so, being consistent, you must absolutize exile. At least some of your friends have a eschatology does not allow for speaking of realities like “Christian social order,” or “Christian Education” or “Christian Law,” or “Christian family.” As such, all that is left in such a “theology” is exile.

Of course I think your eschatology is under-realized and you think mine over-realized. But to suggest that I am ignoring NT arguments is, as we have seen, almost as if you are trying to steamroll me on this issue.

Other texts we might appeal to from the NT is when our Lord Christ said,

“Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.”

Now if the ruler of this world was cast out with the cross then clearly exile does not need to be a theme that is absolutized in Scripture. Now, I quite agree that there is a “not yet,” to this “now,” but why should we absolutize the “not yet” with the absolutizing of “exile” and so not include the idea that “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever,” or, “For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet.” Surely when the Kingdoms of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord at such a time God’s people will not be exiles. I know you think that won’t happen until Christ returns but for those of us who do not hold your eschatology we are required to object.

And of course there is Psalm 2

8 “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”

Of course we know that Christ has already been given the uttermost parts of the earth as His possession in principle and that He reigns now, but we look for that already present reign to progressively ever more manifest itself as the age to come keeps rolling back this present evil age.

You see, our disagreement here is that you see the fulfillment of these words as “spiritual,” while I see them as also spiritual but as also having corporeal impact upon real nations. Again, it is the difference between amillennial and postmillennial eschatology. I will pray for you that you do not under-realize the present age to come Kingdom if you will pray for me that I do not over-realize the present age to come Kingdom.

Now, we could take this a whole different direction by noting the problem you have by “absolutizing the exile” theme. Remember, that exile in the Scripture is typically associated with God’s judgment at His people’s disobedience. While I agree that there are epochs of exile, do you really want to suggest that God’s people are always under God’s exilic judgment until they die and go to heaven?

Well that is enough. Forgive me for going on and on but I reckoned that if you were having these thoughts others out there in the Internet land might also be having them as well and as such I wanted to go on and on just a wee bit.

Thanks for your question.

Augustine’s Postmillennialism

“Turning to Augustine, Wendy Zoba notes, Augustine teaches that history “would be marked by the ever-increasing influence of the church in overturning evil in the world before the Lord’s return” (Zoba, “Future Tense” Christianity Today [October 2, 1995]: 20). This would eventually issue forth in a “future rest of the saints on earth” (Augustine, Sermon 259:2) “when the Church will be purged of all the wicked elements now mixed among its members and Christ will rule peacefully in its midst.” (Cited in Brian E. Daley, The Hope of the Early Church: A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology [Cambridge: University Press, 1991], 133). This early incipient postmillennialism contains the most basic element of the later developed system: a confident hope in gospel victory in history prior to Christ’s return.

We may also reference Augustine’s comments on Psalm 2. Regarding the Lord laughing at the nations (Ps 2:4) he writes: “it is to be understood of that power which he giveth to His saints, that they seeing things to come, namely, that the Name and rule of Christ is to pervade posterity and possess all nations.” At v. 7 he writes: “‘Ask of Me,’ may be referred to all this temporal dispensation, which has been instituted for mankind, namely, that the ‘nations’ should be joined to the Name of Christ, and so be redeemed from death, and possessed by God. ‘I shall give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance,’ which so possess them for their salvation, and to bear unto Thee spiritual fruit.” (Augustine in The Post-Nicene Fathers, 8:3)”

John Owen, the Postmillennialist … The Nationalist … The Believer In Christendom

On John Owen

He sounds postmillenialistic here, as he speaks of the Christian faith being importantly upheld by the rulers of his nation. He also calls the rulers of the “fathers” of his people, suggesting that the nation must be seen indeed as a family:

“If once it comes to that, that you shall say you have nothing to do with religion as rulers of the nation, God will quickly manifest that he hath nothing to do with you as rulers of the nation. The great promise of Christ is, that in these latter days of the world he will lay the nations in a subserviency to him, — the kingdoms of the world shall become his; that is, act as kingdoms and governments no longer against him, but for him. Surely those promises will scarcely be accomplished in bringing commonwealths of men professing his name to be of Gallio’s frame, — to take care for none of those things: or as the Turk, — in an absolute indifferency what any profess; I mean, that are not his own, for in respect of them he changes not his God. Not that I would you should go and set up forms of government to compel men to come under the line of them, or to thrust in your sword to cut the lesser differences of brethren; not that I think truth ever the more the truth, or to have any thing the more of authority upon the conscience, for having the stamp of your authority annexed to it, for its allowance to pass in these nations. Nor do I speak a word of what is, may, or may not be incumbent on you in respect of the most profligate opposers of the truths of the gospel, but only this, that, not being such as are always learning, never coming to the knowledge of the truth, but being fully persuaded in your own minds, certainly it is incumbent on you to take care that the faith which you have received, which was once delivered to the saints, in all the necessary concernments of it, may be protected, preserved, propagated to and among the people which God hath set you over. If a father, as a father, is bound to do what answers this in his family unto his children; a master, as a master, to his servants; if you will justify yourselves as fathers or rulers of your country, you will find in your account this to be incumbent on you.

Owen, John (2012-01-07). The Essential Works Of John Owen (Kindle Locations 116471-116479). . Kindle Edition.