- Published: 16 December 2010
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In the first place let us remember that every word has a "pedigree", it has an environment called its "context", and it has a set of connotations "implying certain attributes". When we hear for the first time that it is proposed to change the word "kingdom" for the word "government", we may feel that there is nothing here for debate, but we have only to consider the pedigree, the context and the connotation, to realize that this translation ultimately robs the Son of God of His Crown rights!
Great Britain, Soviet Russia or the United States have a GOVERNMENT, but we have yet to learn that a President has had a coronation, sits on a throne, wields a scepter or reigns, yet each of these terms is an essential "attribute" of the word we are considering.
First let us discover what the word translated "kingdom" and its variants meant to the Greek himself, and if it be objected that the Greek was 'outside inspired Scripture let us be modest enough to realize that we are too, when we attempt any translation into our own tongue. For the pedigree of the term we turn to the Lexicon of Liddell and Scott, who had no axe to grind, and who suppressed no essential evidence.
A kingdom, dominion, hereditary monarchy opposed to Tyrannis, and secondly, a diadem.
A kingly dwelling, palace, seat of empire, royal city, royal treasury, tiara, diadem.
A king, prince, lord, frequently with collateral sense of Captain or Judge, later an hereditary king, then the king's son, prince or any sharing in the government: at Athens, the second of the nine Archons. After the Persian war the King of Persia was called Basileus, so afterward the Roman Emperors.
Under monarchical government.
To be king, to rule, to be made king, to rule over a people, to be governed or administered, to be of the king's party.
Royal, kingly, like a king, princely.
It will be seen that any translation that removes from the mind the concept "ROYAL" is not "LOYAL" to the testimony of Greek usage.
We, however, have always said that while the testimony of the Greek Lexicon is important, Greek was not the basic language of inspiration. For that we must turn to the Hebrew, and if the Hebrew eliminates the concept "royal" then "government" may be as good as any other translation.
If, in the estimate of the Hebrew, the word "government" would be a good synonym for the word "kingdom", it would help us if there could be produced just ONE example. The fact of the matter is that though there are two Hebrew and two Greek words translated "government" and eleven Hebrew and five Greek words translated "governor", one Chaldee and three Hebrew words translated "to govern", not once does the word "king" or "kingdom" appear. Again we concede that the argument from silence may be misleading, and so we proceed to positive evidence by which we must be bound and by which all unprejudiced translation must be bound likewise. From this testimony there can be no appeal unless we are to join the ranks of those who reject the inspiration of the originals, and if we get as far as that, what does anything matter, "Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die!"
The word translated "KING" in the Hebrew O.T. is the word melek. It occurs 2,520 times, 2,518 times it is translated "KING" and twice "ROYAL", and in no other way. Perhaps we shall find a divergence if we consult the Chaldee equivalent. That word occurs 155 times, 154 times translated "KING", once "ROYAL", and in no other way. This seems convincing enough but we will leave no stone unturned or give any ground for saying that we have only presented selected references. We will have the whole evidence.
- Melukah is translated "kingdom" 18, "king's" 2, "royal" 4. No other way.
- Malekuth "empire" 1, "kingdom" 49, "realm" 4, "reign" 21, "royal" 14. No other way.
- Chaldee equivalent "kingdom" 46, "realm" 3, "reign" 4, "kingly" 1. No other way.
- Mamlakah "kingdom" 108, "reign" 2, "king" 1, "royal" 4. No other way.
- Mamlakuth "kingdom" 8, "reign" 1. No other way.
- "Real conviction concerning great truths can come only when we have made our own personal studies and come to our own independent conclusions."
- "Not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual."
- "Yet have I set My KING upon My holy hill of Zion."
- "The kingdom of Christ and of God" (Eph. 5:5).
- "The kingdom of His dear Son" (Col. 1:13).
- "His heavenly kingdom" (2 Tim. 4:18).
- "The everlasting kingdom of our Lord" (2 Pet. 1: 11).
The kingdom of God is found seven times in Acts (Acts 1:3, Acts 8:12, Acts 14:22, Acts 19:8, Acts 20:25, Acts 28:23 and Acts 28:31). Once in Acts we have a question as to the restoration of "The kingdom again to Israel" (Acts 1:6). The kingdom of God occurs in Paul's epistles as follows: once in Romans 14:17, "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink," four times in 1 Corinthians, "The kingdom of God is not in word" (1 Cor. 4:20), "shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9-10), "cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 15:50), once in Ga1atians, "shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:21), once in Colossians, "my fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God" (Col. 4:11), once in 2 Thessalonians, "counted worthy of the kingdom of God" (2 Thess. 1:5). We must examine these passages presently, but before doing so, the gospels claim attention owing to the insistent use of the terms "the kingdom of heaven" and "the kingdom of God". While we must be prepared to discover a difference between "the kingdom of heaven" and "the kingdom of God", we must not do so to the ignoring of the most evident fact that where Matthew uses the one phrase, Mark or Luke uses the other. Whether Christ spoke to the people in Aramaic we do not know, but there are passages where His actual expressions are recorded, e.g. talithi cumi, which is Aramaic. IF Matthew and Luke record the same utterance, then even though Matthew says "heaven" and Luke says "God", that divergence is merely the consequence of translation, and the point of view of the different readers that were visualized. The following list will suffice to show that "heaven" and "God" are used interchangeably at least in some passages.
"Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
"The kingdom of God is at hand; Repent ye."
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
"Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God."
"Suffer little children . . . for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
"Suffer the little children . . . for of such is the kingdom of God.".
"A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven."
"How hardly shall they that have riches, enter into the kingdom of God."
"He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
"He that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."
"It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven."
"Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God."
This list is by no means exhaustive, but is sufficient for the purpose. The Jews used the term "heaven" where we would use the name "God". We have in the N.T. examples of this usage: Matt. 21:25, Luke 15:21, John 3:27; and such expressions as the "fear of heaven", the "service of heaven", "the name of heaven" (that could be blasphemed) are constantly recurring in Rabbinical literature. Elias Levita said: "they call God heaven because heaven is the place of His habitation", and whether we are satisfied with the explanation offered, the fact is stated "they call God heaven". The expression "the kingdom of heaven" was used in an extremely wide sense by some Rabbinical writers, for "the yoke of the kingdom of heaven" referred to the wearing of phylacteries. This idea, however, need not be imported into the teaching of the N.T., it only shows how a phrase could be employed and how impossible it would be for a foreigner unassisted to arrive at such a meaning.
While the phrase "the kingdom of heaven" is found only in Matthew, and the parallel passages in Mark and Luke read "the kingdom of God", there are five passages in Matthew where he departs from the normal and uses the phrase "the kingdom of God" (Matt. 6:33, Matt. 12:28, Matt. 19:24, Matt. 21:31 and Matt. 12:43).
The word basileuo is used of Archelaus (Matt. 2:22), and also of a "nobleman" (Luke 19:14); it is used also of the reign of death, of sin, and of grace in Romans (Rom. 5:14, Rom. 5:17, Rom. 5:21, Rom.6:12).
There are seven variants of the phrase "the kingdom of":
- The kingdom of heaven. This kingdom will be the fulfilment of the prayer "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10). It will be the realization of the promise of Deuteronomy 11:21, "the days of heaven upon the earth." It will be the fulfilment of that which Nebuchadnezzar dimly saw, namely that "the heavens do rule", that "the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men" (Dan. 4:25-26). Upon the evident rejection of Christ (Matt, 11:20-24; Matt. 12:6, Matt 6:41, Matt. 6:42) He explained to His bewildered disciples the course that the kingdom would take, revealing to them in parable form "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 13:11).
- The kingdom of God. This term, as we have seen, may be as limited in scope as the term "the kingdom of heaven", but on the other hand it can be as universal as the sovereignty of God. There is nothing extraordinary about this double usage for we exercise the same discretion in daily conversation. Writing to one person, I might say "I live in London", but to another I might say "I live in England". There would be no contradiction, the only thing to remember would be that "London", like the kingdom of heaven, is more limited than "England", which is like the kingdom of God. Consequently we shall find the kingdom of God in Paul's epistles, but to jump to the conc1usion that their teaching therefore "is all one and the same as that of the Gospels" would be as foolish as assuming that because I wrote to say that I lived in England, and it was known that a friend in Oxford lived in England, that London and Oxford were all one and the same. There are spheres in the kingdom of God which the kingdom of heaven can never embrace.
- The kingdom of their Father. The fact that this passage (Matt. 13:43) does not say the kingdom of the Father, but the kingdom of their father, shows that the emphasis here is on their relationship by new birth (John 3:3). So also "My Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26:29) is one not so much of sphere and scope but of relationship. The kingdom of the "Father" is not of frequent occurrence.
- The kingdom of the Son of Man. "The Son of Man coming in His kingdom" (Matt. 16:28). With this passage should be associated the many references to the Lord as "The Son of Man". Of the eighty-eight occurrences, no less than eighty-four are found in the Gospels. It occurs but once in the epistles, namely in Hebrews 2:6, and is a quotation from Psalm 8. The Lord as the Son of Man will fulfil the prophetic vision of Daniel 7, as He affirmed before the High Priest (Matt. 26:64).
- The kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph. 5:5) and The kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:13), together with Paul's reference to "His heavenly kingdom" (2 Tim. 4:18) show plainly that while the kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of Israel must not be confounded with the church, the church is nevertheless a part of that sovereignty that embraces all.
- The everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:11). Peter ministered to the circumcision (Gal. 2:8).
- The kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev. 11:15). This will fulfill the promise of Psalm 2, and is far removed from the hope of the church, for it is as "Prince of the kings of the earth" that at the sounding of the seventh trumpet, "the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ." The Stone cut out without hands, not only destroys the Gentile dynasty, but we learn that "in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed . . . it shall stand for ever (or to the ages)" (Dan. 2:44).
We return now to the references to a kingdom in Paul's ministry. In Acts 20:25 he summed up his early ministry in the words "preaching the kingdom of God". When he met the elders of the Jews at that fateful all-day conference of Acts 28:23, he testified to the kingdom of God, but with the following limitations; it was that phase of the kingdom of God that was associated with "Jesus", and could be substantiated by Moses and the Prophets. After the dismissal of Israel, at the beginning of the dispensation of the Mystery, Paul preached the kingdom of God as it was associated with "the Lord Jesus Christ", not now with "Jesus", but as the Mystery had by then been revealed, there is significance in the complete omission of any reference to Moses and the Prophets (Acts 28:31).
Twice the Apostle tells us what the kingdom of God is NOT. It is not meat and drink (see the scruples already dealt with in this chapter) but "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17). In 1 Corinthians 4:20 he says: "for the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." Four solemn utterances of the Apostle refer to those things which prevent inheritance of the kingdom of God. 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-21 and Eph. 5:5, give a list of fleshly lusts and practices that one can hardly associate with those called "saints", yet these things are written to warn the believer that he may forfeit spheres of glory, even though he will be saved "so as by fire". These passages must be read, not in view of the unalterable position of Colossians 1:12 where we have been made meet for the inheritance, but in the light of Colossians 3:24-25 where in the same epistle we read of the "reward of the inheritance" and of its possible forfeiture. With these references we should read 2 Thessalonians 1:5, where the Apostle speaks of believers being counted "worthy" of the kingdom of God for which they also suffered. The kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:13) is set over against "the authority of darkness", the kingdom of the Son being the antithesis of the kingdom of Satan.
For the sake of clarity, we speak of "kingdom truth" as something that is different from "church truth", and no harm will be done, but much help by observing this distinction, providing we ever remember that all callings-kingdom, church and other companies of the redeemed, whether on earth, in the heavenly city or far above all-must be comprehended in the all-embracive kingdom of God.
The English word church has come down to us from the Greek through the Gothic. Walafrid Strabo, who wrote about A.D. 840 gives as the explanation of the word kyrch the Greek kuriake, a word that means related to the Lord, as he kuriake hemera the Lords day. The Scottish word kirk retains the sound of the Greek original still. In ordinary parlance, the word church can refer both to the body of worshippers assembled together, or to the building in which they are met, but there is no instance in the New Testament where the word church refers to a building. In the ministry of Paul a transition in the usage of the word is observable which is dispensationally important. Before Acts 28 and while the hope of Israel still obtained, the apostle addressed six epistles to different companies of believers. Unto the churches of Galatia, Unto the church of the Thessalonians, Unto = the church of God which is at Corinth. Thus five of these early epistles use the word church in a local sense. Romans is the exception in this group, this epistle is not addressed to the church which is at Rome bu= t To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints (Rom. 1:7) , the word church being reserved for the last chapter, where it occurs five times.This prepares the way for the great change which meets us in Ephesians and Colossians. In these great epistles of the Mystery, the word church is not used in the opening salutation, but is invested with new glory, the first occurrence being in Ephesians 1:22-23, The church which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. The word translated church, is with one exception the translation of the Greek word ekklesia, which becomes in English ecclesia and enters into the composition of such words as ecclesiastical etc. The one exception is Acts 19:37, robbers of churches, which the R.V. more correctly renders robbers of temples. Ekklesia occurs in the New Testament 115 times, three of these occurrences being translated assembly the rest church. The Septuagint version uses the word about eighty times, but we will defer their examination until we have finished our survey of the usage of the word in the New Testament.
The following extract from Trench on the Synonyms of the New Testament is of interest:
- There are words whose history it is peculiarly interesting to watch, as they obtain a deeper meaning, and receive a new consecration, in the Christian Church; which, even while it did not invent, has yet assumed them into its service, and employed them in a far loftier sense than any to which the world had ever put them before. The very word by which the Church is named is itself an example - a more illustrious one could scarcely be found - of this gradual ennobling of a word. For we have it in three distinct stages of meaning - the heathen, the Jewish, and the Christian. In respect of the first, as all know, was the lawful assembly in a free Greek city of all those possessed of the rights of citizenship, for the transaction of public affairs. That they were summoned is expressed in the latter part of the word; that they were summoned out of the whole population, a large, but at the same time a select portion of it, including neither the populace, nor strangers, nor yet those who had forfeited their civic rights, this is expressed in the first. Both the calling and the calling out, are moments to be remembered, when the word is assumed into a higher Christian sense, for in them the chief part of its peculiar adaptation to its auguster uses lies. It is interesting to observe how, on one occasion in the New Testament the word returns to this its earlier significance (Acts 19:32, Acts 19:39, Acts 19:41).
- This is he, that was in the CHURCH in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai.
In the nineteenth chapter of Acts, a reference is made to the Greek usage of the word ekklesia. The concourse of people gathered to the theatre at Ephesus is referred to as an ekklesia, the assembly was confused (Acts 19:32). Upon the arrival of the town clerk, he reproved the people for the rashness of their proceedings saying: If ye inquire anything concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly (ekklesia) (Acts 19:39), and having thus spoken he dismissed the assembly (Acts 19:41). Here the word is used in its original sense, a called-out people, assembled for a particular purpose. It will be seen, therefore, that it is not enough to point to the word church and thereby set aside the distinctive callings of God. The kingdom as announced in Matthew is not to be contrasted with a church, but is in itself to be viewed as a company of called-out ones. The reference to the church in Matthew 16:18 does not look to the subject of subsequent revelation reserved for the prison ministry of Paul, but to the calling that was announced in the Gospel of the Kingdom. There was a church before Pentecost, as Matthew 18:17 makes clear.
In the Prison Epistles the word ekklesia is advanced to its highest conception. It is the body of Christ, it will be the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. It will be seen that it is not enough to say: The church began at Pentecost, we must go further, and define what church is in view. Under the heading ekklesiaor called-out company we find the following different assemblies, ranging from the nation of Israel separated from all the nations of the earth down to the church to which Philemon acted as host. Before, therefore, we build up any doctrine upon the presence of the word church in any passage of Scripture we should consult the context and realize the dispensation in which any particular church finds its calling and sphere.
- The nation of Israel viewed as distinct in their calling to be a kingdom of Priests in the earth (Acts 7:38). In this light it will be perceived that some care must be exercised when we are seeking to differentiate between the Kingdom and the Church.
- The Church spoken of as existing in the days of Christs earthly ministry before either His sacrificial death, or before the day of Pentecost (Matt. 18:17).
- The Church concerning which Christ spoke as future, and built upon the rock, and confession Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God related to Peter with his keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:18).
- The Church which was formed in the day of Pentecost, which
- partly fulfilled the prophecy of Joel 2:28,29.
- awaits complete fulfilment until the future day of the Lord.
- is inseparable from the enduement of spiritual gifts.
- is inseparable from the kingdom of Israel (Acts 1:6; Acts 2:30-31).
- is inseparable from baptism for the remission of sins. This Church is related to the dispersion (Jas. 1:1; Jas. 5:14).
- The Church of God, which Paul persecuted before his conversion in Acts 9 (Gal. 1:13, 1 Cor. 15:9; Phil. 3:6) and which continued to assemble and to grow under his subsequent ministry (1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Cor. 11:16; 1 Thess. 2:14; 2 Thess. 1:4).
- The Church of God, called in the same chapter, the Church of the living God (1 Tim. 3:5, 1 Tim. 3:15) to whom was directed that ministry of re-adjustment which had in view the building up of the body of Christ until all arrived in the unity of the faith, etc. (Eph. 4:11-13).
- The Church of the One Body, the calling that goes back before the foundation of the world, and ascends to the position far above all where Christ sits. This church is entirely disassociated from all previous companies, having no relation with Israel, Abraham or New Covenant, but filling the great dispensational parenthesis of Israels blindness, which fell on that nation in Acts 28. The status, calling and constitution of this Church can be gathered by reading Ephesians and Colossians, remembering as the reading progresses, ever to try the things that differ.
- The seven Churches of Asia (Rev. 1 to 3), one of them namely the Church at Pergamos, will be in the city where Satans seat is (Rev. 2:13). These seven churches will resume where the Church of Pentecost left off and carry the fulfilment of Joel 2:28-29 through to its end. In these Churches there will be some who will say they are Jews and are not (Rev. 2:9). This company, though enumerated separately, really falls under heading No. 4, but owing to the setting aside of Israel at the coming in of the dispensation of the Mystery, we have listed these Churches separately.
We believe that the earnest student who obeys the injunction of 2 Timothy 2:15 and discovers under which of these heads the church under examination falls, will have no difficulty in correctly relating any church mentioned in the New Testament with its respective calling and dispensation.