Now we move deeper into understanding the Kingdom of God. If you just came upon this series of studies, you can backtrack here and catch up at your own pace. Anyone wishing to move ahead faster can find them in the CAP lessons. - CL
This study is extensively cross-referenced to scripture. By all means, take the time to read and study those verses. You want to become familiar with the Bible narrative and the only way to do that is from the Bible. The book is only our track. The 15 stages are clearly outlined within the text.
We know that the first step in the transformation of the earth is God's sovereign grace in extending salvation to individuals. He regenerates them, adopts them, and calls forth from them an acknowledgment of His lordship. He extracts from them, in principle, their unconditional surrender. By grace are men saved, through faith, and that not of themselves; it is a gift of God, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The second step is the response of men in acknowledging the assignment of God's dominion covenant. Men are to subdue the earth (Genesis 1:26-28; 9:1-7). This assignment is basic to man's being, and men carry it out, either under the lordship of Satan or the lordship of Christ. The Satanists, having no autonomous law, and therefore no tool of dominion, are unable to carry out this assignment. We know that in hell and then the lake of fire, men are impotent, passively being consumed forever, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:48). When salt is poured on a city, it is destroyed; nothing will grow in that soil (Judges 9:45). A little salt acts as a savor, which is why Christians are referred to as the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13), and why salt was required in the animal sacrifices in the Temple (Leviticus 2:13), but too much salt is a sign of God's total judgment, which is why Lot's wife was turned to a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). This is the curse of hell: total impotence. "For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt" (Mark 9:49). Sin requires a sacrifice, and if man does not choose to cling to Christ's sacrifice, then he shall become the sacrifice. Rebellious man becomes an eternal sacrifice burning before God.
God is using His people as salt. They are the salt of the earth, as a savor, but they also serve as salt to Satan and his kingdom. Christians are salting over the city of Satan, destroying it, causing it to become impotent. This is the salt of the gospel. It is savor to the regenerate and death for the unregenerate. It is like salt in a man's diet: too little makes for boring food, and too much can make us sick.
Thus, when men who are regenerate take seriously God's dominion assignment, and they adopt God's law as their tool of dominion, they begin the process of salting Satan's kingdom, which is the other side of the dominion coin. The flourishing of God's kingdom is the salting over of Satan's.
The third step is the use of the law to subdue one's flesh, and then one's environment. Paul's anguish concerning the war between his flesh and his spirit tells us what we are up against (Romans 7). So does Paul's description of our spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." (v. 11) Truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and the word of God: here is our equipment (w. 14-17). The word of God provides us with our moral guidelines.
Biblical law also provides us with a tool of external dominion. God promises blessings for that society which surrenders unconditionally to Him, and then adopts the terms of His peace treaty (Deuteronomy 8 and 28).
Fourth, the blessings of God begin to flow in the direction of His people. “A good man leaveth an in heritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just." (Proverbs 13:22). As Benjamin Franklin said, honesty is the best policy. Capital flows to those who will bear responsibility, predict the future accurately, plan to meet the needs of consumers with a minimum of waste, and deal honestly with both suppliers and customers. Again, Deuteronomy 8 and 28 show us the nature of this wealth-transfer process. This wealth-transfer program is through market competition and conformity to God's law. Satan's kingdom is progressively decapitalized.
Fifth, the stewardship principle is universalized. God owns the whole earth: “The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the earth and all they that dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1). The steward must acknowledge his Lord's total authority over him, yet he is expected to administer this property faithfully, efficiently, and profitably, as Jesus taught in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). God finally comes as the owner to dispossess those who have not recognized His absolute sovereignty over His own land, as Jesus warned the Jews in His parable of the vineyard (Matthew 21:33-41). In every institution, God dispossesses Satan's subordinates and replaces them with His subordinates. To retain derivative sovereignty over the earth, men must honor the original owner. Everything is held by lease. This lease has terms attached to it, and the terms are spelled out in God's law.
The whole idea of the Jubilee year, where every 50 years the land of Canaan returned to the original Hebrew families, points to a final Jubilee, when God returns the land to His adopted sons (Leviticus 25:8-17). Dominion men purchase back redeem every institution that they can afford, steadily, until that final day, just as Jacob purchased his birthright from his older twin brother Esau, even though God had promised Esau's birthright to Jacob (Genesis 25:23, 29-34). As God makes more capital available to His people - more money, more tools, more influence - they can afford to lease even more of Satan's kingdom, which he holds as a squatter anyway. God's law begins to dominate every sphere of life, across the face of the earth.
Sixth, those who conform themselves to Biblical law, and who subdue their environments by the appropriate laws, will rise to prominence. This is what God said would happen to Israel, as nations marveled at Israel's laws (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). Men who seek responsibility in terms of their faith in God tend to have the responsibility given to them by those who resist taking responsibility. Joseph was master of Potiphar's house, although he was a slave officially (Genesis 39:6). Then he was placed in prison, and soon he was the real keeper of the prison (Genesis 39:22). Finally, he became second in command in all of Egypt (Genesis 41:40-43). Ungodly men can exercise dominion only in terms of power, since they reject God's law, and God steadily removes their power from them. Satan refuses to subordinate himself to anyone or anything, but dominion is always exercised by those who are subordinate to the One who exercises sovereign power. Satan becomes wholly subordinate on the last day, but then all power is removed from him. He never surrenders, and therefore he is destroyed. He refuses to surrender to God unconditionally; he is therefore destroyed absolutely.
Seventh, the treaty of peace is extended to all areas of those cultures that surrender to God unconditionally. The whole of society must be put under dominion. Societies can rule under God's sovereign authority, as Israel was called to do, or they can become tributaries to God's conquering kingdom, as the nations far from Israel were expected to do (Deuteronomy 20:10-11), or else they are to be destroyed (Deuteronomy 20:12-15). There is no "King's X," no escape hatch.
Eighth, this provokes the nations to jealousy (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). They see the wisdom of God's law. The church is to be a city on a hill, for we Christians are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). We are not to put our light under a bushel (Matthew 5:15-16). People want external blessings. These blessings are the product of a social order which respects the law of God. They have to get the blessings on God's terms. They must capitulate. Any blessings received except in terms of God's law-order are preludes to destruction (Deuteronomy 8:11-20).
Ninth, even the Jews will be provoked to jealousy. Paul cited Deuteronomy 32:21 concerning the Jews: "But I say, did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you" (Romans 10:19). The Gentiles have received the great blessing. "I say then, Have they [the Jews] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy" (Romans 11:11). This becomes a means of converting the remnant of Israel in the future, and when they are converted, Paul says, just think of the blessings that God will pour out on the earth, given the fact that the fall of Israel was the source of great blessings for the Gentile nations. "Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness?" (Romans 11:12). When the Jews receive their promise, the age of blessings will come. When they submit to God's peace treaty, the growth of the kingdom will be spectacular. This is what Paul means by his phrase, "how much more."
This leads to stage ten, the explosion of conversions and blessings. If God responds to covenantal faithfulness by means of blessings, just consider the implications of widespread conversions among the Jews. When the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, then Israel will be converted (Romans 11:25). The distinction between Jew and Gentile will then be finally erased in history, and the kingdom of God will be united as never before.
Eleventh, the kingdom of God becomes truly worldwide in scope. This involves the beginning of the restoration of the cursed world. The curse will then be lifted progressively by God. One result is longer life spans for man. This is a down payment on the paradise to come after the final judgment. God says: "For, behold I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind" (Isaiah 65:17). But this process of creation is part of history, to be concluded by the final conflagration. It has preliminary visibility, in time and on earth. How do we know this? Because of verse 20, one of the crucial teachings in the Bible concerning God's preliminary blessings: "There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed." Isaiah 65:20 therefore points to a time before the final judgment, when people still die and sinners still operate, but which resembles the long life spans of those who lived before Noah's Flood. This passage cannot possibly be referring to the world beyond the final judgment, yet it points to external blessings, namely long life, that do not exist in our world. These words cannot legitimately be "spiritualized." They refer to life on earth. They refer to a specific blessing on earth. It is a blessing that is a down payment on paradise, a testimony of God that He can deliver this fallen cursed world. This testimony, however, is not based on a radical break with the processes of history, but is instead a testimony that stems from the steady expansion of God's kingdom. There is continuity in history, and there is also progress in external affairs. This is not some hypothetical internal kingdom, but a visible kingdom of flesh and blood.
Twelfth, the forces of Satan then have something concrete culturally to rebel against. They will have the testimony of the success of God's kingdom, in time and on earth, to point to their failure. They will have to conform themselves outwardly, as spies do, in order to retain the external blessings of God. They will be as the foreigners dwelling in Israel were: under the law, protected by the law, and blessed in terms of the law. They will have to become subordinate in order to gain access to the blessings. Yet ethically, they cannot remain subordinate forever. Satan couldn't do it in heaven, so he won’t do it on earth. Neither will his followers. But they must rebel against something. Their kingdom is being invaded, not Christ's. They are fighting the defensive strategy; we aren't. They are headed back toward the last outpost, not us. They will rebel (Revelation 20:7-9a), but they will not succeed.
Thirteenth, Satan's rebellion is immediately smashed by Christ and His angels (Revelation 20:9b-10). Satan tries one last time to defeat Christ, but he rebels from a position of weakness. He sought in Eden to beat God by using His creation, mankind, against Him. God has reversed the tables on Satan. He has defeated Satan's kingdom by using man as His instrument of dominion, exactly as He said he would in Genesis 1:26-28. Satan has no victory to claim. He has been proven wrong about the impotence of Christ's human followers, just as he learned from Job, once God had taught Job what He was all about. God did not save Job by a miraculous intervention, after all God saved Job by the testimony of His word, by carefully teaching Job the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. Then He restored Job's health and wealth. Why should we expect something different on this side of the cross? Why should we expect Satan's victory now, when he was decisively beaten in his challenge against Job? At the end of history, Christ and His angels visibly defeat Satan, where he is trapped in hell, desperately hoping that the gates of hell shall prevail against the church. Yet the history of Christ's victorious kingdom, in time and on earth, will already have destroyed the basis of that last hope of Satan.
Fourteenth, the final judgment leads to Satan's confinement to the lake of fire. The contents of hell are dumped into the lake (Revelation 20:14). This is the end of Satan's quest for dominion apart from subordination to God.
Fifteenth, God creates the final version of the new heaven and new earth, wherein grows the tree of eternal life (Revelation 22:2). Men now have access to it. No longer is it in Eden, with a flaming sword to keep men from gaining access to it on the basis of their own works and power (Genesis 3:24). He demonstrates that His down payment on this final dwelling place had been wholly reliable.
It is strange that Christians today cannot envision the program for conquest God has established for His people. They lack confidence in themselves, it seems. They lack confidence in their understanding of their own responsibilities. They have misread the plain teaching of the Bible, finding alternative outlines that remove their guilt for inaction. They prefer not to acknowledge their personal ethical burden of striving to fulfill the terms of God's dominion assignment. And even when they admit that this assignment really was given to man by God, and is still in force, they conclude that it's an impossible task, and God never has believed that regenerate men can fulfill their assignment, in time and on earth. They lack confidence in God's program for earthly victory.
It would be very interesting to be able to go back to the era of the Judges, in order to discover if theologians and popularizers of the defeatist faith in that era had rewritten God's dominion assignment regarding Canaan. We can imaginatively reconstruct some of the possible arguments. The first approach might have gone something like this: "Well, yes, God told us either to drive the Canaanites out of the land, or to destroy them utterly from the face of the earth. But, of course, His language must be understood as referring to spiritual victory. God in fact has allowed us to conquer in His name. We are not to have anything to do with the gods of Canaan. We are to live as though we had successfully driven them out of the land. In principle, we have, since we have driven Canaan's gods out of our hearts, our lives, and our congregations. Of course, we live as strangers in the land which God had promised for our inheritance (Judges 2:34). We are not, however, spiritual strangers to the land of promise. No indeed! We dwell victorious in the land in the hills, perhaps, since the Amorites won't let us come into the valley, but victorious in spirit. And when they finally attack us in our mountain strongholds, as we know they will, and burn our walled cities, as surely they must, we will hold out, praying to God for martyrdom, or else His triumphant return with His angels, which will definitively prove to everyone that we are more than conquerors." This is the "continuity of defeat" version, also known as the triumph of Satan's leaven, in time and on earth.
Another variation might be the "temporary interlude of defeat" version. It might have gone something like this: "Yes, God told the generation which came out of Egypt that they could conquer if they were faithful to His covenant. But they weren't faithful to that covenant. So God abrogated that covenant. He brought our fathers to the very edge of the land (Deuteronomy 34), but they did not pass over. His covenant has been suspended during our period of history. He will bring His people into the land, driving the Canaanites completely out of the land, but not until He returns in power and might with His angels. Then He will re-establish His covenant with His people, and the Canaanites had better look out then! But God did not plan on our entry into the land. True, we are here in the land, but God has a new administrative principle for our generation. We are to preach the gospel to the people of the land, but we know that they will not convert in huge numbers, and they will seek to drive us out of the land. But they will not succeed. Just before they try, Christ will appear secretly, and secretly remove us to heaven. After seven years we will return, in our restored bodies, to serve as princes with Jesus, subduing Canaan for a thousand years, fulfilling God's command given to our forefathers in Egypt. So it's not our responsibility to drive the Canaanites out of the land. (Besides, those guys are tough!)"
Excuses, excuses, excuses: man never runs short of excuses. The problem is: God never accepts them. Adam and Eve didn't escape, just because each of them blamed somebody else for the problem. God holds His people responsible for laboring continually to subdue the earth to His glory by means of the grace of law. That responsibility is with every generation, and God expects His people to extend the dominion of His kingdom, generation by generation, culture by culture. He has told us that Christians can do it, and that eventually His people will do it. It may take a thousand years, but they will do it. Man was created for this very purpose, and Satan will not successfully thwart God's plan. Angels will not take the credit for Satan's long-term retreat into his last stronghold; the redeemed adopted sons of God will take the credit, under the sovereignty of God.