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Originally published in "The Lord's Coming Herald & Wesleyan Bible Prophecy Advocate," Summer Edition 1999

It's The Kingdom, Stupid!

    Liberal Democrats rode to power seven years ago on the coinage of the phrase: "It's the economy, stupid!" It seemed, somehow, that they were able to get to the heart of what a majority of the American people wanted. By saying this we are not exonerating the materialistic false-values of our society today, but simply acknowledging what has obviously been the reality of our time.

    Now there is a profound spiritual lesson here, which the modern Conservative Wesleyan Holiness movement should not miss, for if she does, it could well become her ticket to irrelevance and unreality.

    We will put this truth in the form of a simple question. That question is this: what resonates most centrally with the heart and soul of New Testament Christianity?

    Answer: "the kingdom of God." The expression itself is used over three-hundred times in the four gospels alone, far more than any other. And yet, in our short years we have observed an appalling dearth of understanding of, and preaching on, the kingdom of God! Many in the movement have little or no idea what the phrase means. At best, the concept is fuzzy, nebulous, and diffuse in the thinking of most of us today.

     It is probably fair to say that the kingdom of God has not been the centrality of our message in much of the Wesleyan Holiness movement in recent times. And yet it was so central in the New Testament! By the way, when was the last time that you have heard, or tried, to explain the "kingdom of God" concept? In the past two years I have heard two well-known holiness preachers completely leave out any mention of the kingdom concept from their sermons being preached on texts,  where, in the language of the text self, that concept was most prominent.

    We feel uncomfortable with the kingdom of God, friends, because in popular thinking it is something that has been "postponed" as far as the fortunes of Christianity in this present age are concerned. I am talking about the clear New Testament identification of the "kingdom of God," with Christ's "messianic" kingdom here, of course.

    Yes, "messianic kingdom" talk is quite foreign to most of us; we feel more comfortable talking about being "saved and sanctified," than we do in using messianic terminology to describe our relationship to Jesus Christ.

    Why does "messianism" seem so unnatural to us? Is it not because messianism does not fit into the neatly pigeonholed classification system of "holiness theology" we have developed only in modern times?

    Our theological classification system, friends, has programmed us to believe that messianism is something that belongs to the Jews. In our tradition, as far as we Gentiles are concerned, it is the gospel of "Scriptural Holiness. "

    Somehow these two, in our traditionalistic way of thinking, do not seem to have a lot in common. In fact, we have been taught that they were quite distinct: Christ's Jewish messianic kingdom is one thing; His Gentile Bride, the Church, is quite another. Where did this dualism, this dichotomy, originate?

    Is it truly germane to the New Testament? Does it radiate from the New Testament? Does it honestly resonate with what is really there in the New Testament? Are your sure? Have you ever really thought about it?

   How does our present understanding of "Scriptural Holiness" relate to New Testament messianism? And can we really comprehend the Bible teaching on "true holiness of heart and life" and completely leave out of the loop any ideological connecting links to Christ's messianic kingdom?

    Perhaps to put it a bit more clearly: can we be "holy people" and still not be living in Christ's messianic kingdom now? And does Christ have two types of messianic kingdoms, one for the Church now, and another for the Jews later on? Does Christ have some kind of euphoric "messianic kingdom" (political, military, secular, nationalistic, or otherwise) that has nothing to do with the highway of holiness, entire sanctification, properly so called? Is "saved and sanctified," as we understand it now, the Utopian hope for the world today and tomorrow, or must God do something else to bring millennial peace? Do we have the answer in the Christian religion now, or must we tuck our heads, fold our wings, and wait for God, in sovereign arbitration, to bring upon us a brighter day?

    Not if we realize, once and for all, that Scriptural Holiness—full salvation—redemption from all sin—IS Christ's messianic kingdom! Sadly, a generation grooved deeply into "dichotomist" (meaning a philosophical dualism based on ancient Greek Gnosticism) dispensational ideology has arisen in the Holiness movement that has tried to preach holiness in disconnection from the kingdom of the Messiah, and it hasn't worked, for the naked truth is that in so doing they have not really preached "holiness" at all, but "another gospel"--a gospel of legalism--the evasion and hypocrisy that was in essence the religion of a Christ-rejecting first century Judaism.

    Yes, too many have preached holiness only as the outward shell of an appearance, and neglected the Bible's messianic religion of the heart, from which all true morality and godly, Christ-like living flows.

    The Democrats resonated with reality in 1992 and won a presidential election. Methinks it's time the Wesleyan Holiness Movement starts resonating again, too--not in some irrational, cravenly-compromising way of  sordid, outward compromise with a godless world--, but in returning to the original Wesleyan message of Christ's coming and His kingdom—a kingdom, as John Wesley himself so often and so ably preached, of "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."

    It's the kingdom, stupid! Go thou and preach the "good news" of the kingdom of God!

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