The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
July 22, 1990


1) God's Kingdom and the "Parenthesis Theory" (Tom Edwards)


God's Kingdom and the "Parenthesis Theory"
by Tom Edwards

Looking for the physical rather than the spiritual was one of Israel's problems of old. Even the Lord's apostles had been waiting for their physical kingdom to be restored and had been expecting Christ to be the One who would bring this about.

The kingdom that Christ established, however, is not earthly. As Jesus told Pilate in John 18:36, "My kingdom is not of this world."

In Daniel 2, prophecy is made concerning this spiritual kingdom in which God would establish. In this chapter, four earthly kingdoms are mentioned which would each rule successively as a world ruling empire. They are Babylon, the Medes and Persians, Greece, and Rome.  Daniel 2:44 declares: "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever." The expression "In the time of those kings" has reference to the kings of the Roman empire, and it would be during their time that God would establish His kingdom upon earth.

Christ and John the baptist lived during this time, and the major thrust of their sermons was "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2; 4:17).

Many premillennialists believe in what is called the "Parenthesis Theory." According to their view, Christ came to set up His kingdom, but was hindered by the rejection of the Jews. As a consequence, he had to use a substitute instead -- the church; which is supposedly a "new concept" and "never mentioned in the Old Testament," as seen in this following comment by J. Dwight Pentecost:

(The church is) "the inception of an entirely new, unheralded, and unexpected program...The church is manifestly an interruption of God's program for Israel, which was not brought into being until Israel's rejection of the offer of the kingdom."

The Bible teaches, however, that the church was part of God's eternal plan and not some spur-of-the-moment design or a last-minute substitute for the kingdom.  Ephesians 3:10,11 reads: "to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, (11) according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Clearly, this passage shows that God's intention for the church in proclaiming the truth was "according to the eternal purpose" of the Lord. Every Christian is to be a teacher of the gospel in whatever capacity he or she can.

The church has been bought by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28) through the Lord's propitiatory sacrifice that was planned before the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1:18-20). Peter also states concerning the death of Jesus in Acts 2:23 that He was "delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God...."

Obviously, God knew that His Son would be rejected, but rather than interfere with His scheme of redemption and the establishment of His kingdom (church), this rejection would serve to bring that plan about through the cruel death of Christ on the cross.

Perhaps the "Parenthesis Theory" was started because men were not able to see the connection between the church and the kingdom. It's interesting to observe that the church and the kingdom (when referring to the church) are always spoken of in the future tense prior to Acts 2, but from Acts 2:47 on, both are shown to be in existence; and, actually, the terms can be used interchangeably, for they both stand for that same blood-bought group of God's people. There are no separate rules for the kingdom and separate rules for the church. The same laws that God has given to man which express how he is to gain access into the kingdom and live therein are the same laws that he must obey to gain entrance into the church and live properly in it.

Prior to Acts 2:

Matt. 16:18, "...I will build My church."

As we have already seen, Jesus, John the baptist, and the disciples of the Lord had preached that the kingdom "was at hand." As a matter of fact, it was so near that the Lord had stated in Mark 9:1, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power."

This passage indicates that the kingdom had not yet come, but would during the life of some of those who were listening to Jesus at that time.

From Acts 2:47 Onward

Acts 2:47, "...And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."

Colossians 1:13, "He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,"

John testified toward being in the kingdom (Rev. 1:9) and related that God "has made us to be a kingdom" (Rev. 1:6).

The church (kingdom) was established after Christ ascended to the right hand of God: "I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:13,14).

This is a prophecy of the ascension of Jesus. He is shown going back to the Father -- not coming from Him in order to set up a kingdom on earth. Notice what is given Him at this time:

Dominion (EPH. 1:18-23; Zech. 6:12,13)

Glory (Christ was exalted and glorified at the right hand of God)

and a Kingdom

One of the purposes for Christ having received this kingdom is so that "all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him." If His kingdom were not yet established then its purpose could not be fulfilled.  Consequently, we who are Gentiles would then be without hope and without God.

The premillenialist teaches that Christ will return from heaven with the raptured saints, raise the righteous dead, and rule on David's throne for a thousand years. But, according to 2 Sam. 7:12,13, righteous David would not be around when Jesus would establish His kingdom and reign in it. The passage reads: "When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever." According to Acts 2, the one who fulfilled this was Jesus Christ Himself. He built the "house" ("the house of God" is "the church of the living God," 1 Tim. 3:15; "I will build My church," Matt. 16:18).  This would be done when David's "days are fulfilled," and he would "rest" with his "fathers" (2 Sam. 7:12); and, as we saw in last week's bulletin, this would also be the time when Christ would reign from the throne of David (which was the same as the throne of God). Gloriously, Christ is doing this now and reigning over His kingdom as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

First published for the Tri-state church of Christ in Ashland, Kentucky, at 713 13th Street.

evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards