- Category: Church Beliefs on the Kingdom
Theme Text– 'Savage wolves will come in among you. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.' (Acts 20:29-30)
We see that the main message of Jesus during his ministry was a Kingdom of Heaven (i.e. governed from Heaven) to be established on the Earth. Now let us read some church history to learn how theological beliefs have changed regarding the kingdom over the course of time.
1) What did the Early Church believe?
Encyclopedia Britannica records -
‘Faith in the nearness of Christ’s second advent and the establishing of his reign of glory on the earth was undoubtedly a strong point in the primitive Christian Church…These enthusiastic expectations were inseparably bound up with the Christian faith down to the middle of the second century’.
Yes, the Christians of the first two centuries looked forward to God’s kingdom coming upon the earth. That belief was the central core of their Christian faith.
2) What happened in later centuries?
Encyclopedia Britannica continues:
‘After the middle of the second century…the spirit of philosophical and theological speculation, which began to spread through the churches, did not know what to make of the old hopes of the future. To a new generation they seemed paltry, fantastic…but more than this, these wild dreams about the glorious kingdom of Christ began to disturb the organization which the churches had seen fit to introduce…
Augustine was the first who ventured to teach that the Catholic Church…was the kingdom of Christ, that the millennial kingdom had commenced with the appearing of Christ, and was therefore an accomplished fact.
By this doctrine of Augustine’s, the old millenarianism [1000-year kingdom] was…banished from the official theology.’
Yes, the rise of the Papacy and its power structures slowly destroyed the scriptural kingdom hopes.
3) Didn’t Martin Luther’s Reformation undo the damage done by the Papacy?
The Reformation did recover many biblical doctrines that the Papacy had suppressed through the medieval times. But since it had been so many centuries of distortion by then, not all the scriptural truths were restored.
The damage done to the kingdom doctrine continued to remain.
Encyclopedia Britannica states:
‘The German and Swiss reformers…threw millenarianism overboard. They took up the same ground in this respect which the Roman Catholic Church had occupied since the time of Augustine.’
Modern Christian nations were considered God’s kingdom (‘Christendom’ – Christ’s kingdom).
4) What do present-day Protestants believe about the kingdom?
Protestants have varied views on the kingdom today. Some of them are –
Modernist – They believe modern Man can establish a peaceful kingdom on earth all by himself. This doesn’t have any scriptural support. But it’s a popular view.
Fundamentalist – They believe fire will destroy the earth. Some believe Christ will rule on earth for 1000 years, but only believers will be around and they’ll leave earth to go to heaven in the end.
Spiritual – They believe the kingdom is just a mystic spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men. They do not believe in any real kingdom to come upon the Earth.