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Originally published in "The Lord's Coming Herald & Wesleyan Bible Prophecy Advocate," Summer Edition 1990

Setting Up The Kingdom

     The popular dispensational premillennial teaching that when Jesus returns he will set up a millennial kingdom and reign on earth over a restored Judaism for one thousand years is a theological truth claim bristling with loaded ideological assumptions quite foreign to the biblical understanding of John Wesley.

    First, is the presumption that the messianic kingdom Jesus intended to establish was "postponed" by events that took place during His first advent; but what exegetical basis is there for such a theory? Is it not held on claims made in the interpretation of the controlling features of Daniel's prophecy of the 70 Weeks? But why are we so sure Sir Robert Andersen's boasted theory of the  Seventy Weeks is such a sacred cow? Logically speaking, if Sir Robert Anderson's theory of the Seventy Weeks is a gigantic hoax, then the dispensational colossus of salvation history/Bible prophecy error must tumble.

   Second, the conception that Jesus will return to set up some millennial kingdom runs on an un-Wesleyan assumption about the nature of the messianic kingdom Jesus intended to establish by virtue of His first advent. Nowhere did John Wesley introduce a millennial concept into his discussion of the coming Kingdom. Rather than the dispensational dichotomy between a present parenthetical church age, and a postponed future messianic kingdom, the kingdom theology of John Wesley was synthesized, instead, in an importantly different manner. It included, first, the "kingdom of grace" that is experienced through regeneration and entire sanctification of the believer in this present life; second, the "kingdom of glory" that is realized by the believer in eternity after the consummation.

  Whatever John Wesley thought about the "thousand years" of Revelation chapter twenty it was not allowed to color his belief in a single second coming of Jesus Christ involving the general resurrection of the dead, and the universal judgment of all mankind at the consummation in the end of this world. Nor did it affect his understand of the continuity of the "kingdom" as a simple progression "from grace to glory" in the article of transferal from the things of time and mortality to those of the invisible world of things immortal and eternal.

  Darbyism, or the dispensational premillennial theory, thrusts its antinomian dagger straight into the heart of the Christian gospel of new covenant holiness at this point. Its conception of the "millennial kingdom" that is to be "set up" after the second coming is essentially a replay of the misguided political messianic hope of apostate Judaism calculated to divert attention away from experiential sanctification, which is the central issue in the this-worldly biblical redemptive expectation.

When cloven tongues of fire sat on the heads of the 120 disciples in the upper room (a symbol for the purification that was then occurring in their hearts, Acts 15:8-9), the only "kingdom" Jesus ever intended to establish was as fully set up as was ever possible for it to be this side of immortality. It was not to be a military, political, or secular kingdom of force or fame, because Christ never once indicated that His kingdom should gratify the carnal expectations of the unregenerate masses in any age.

It is a fact of history that modern architects of the dispensational premillennial theory were uniformly "two naturists" in their doctrine of Christian holiness.  The "two-natures" theory denies the possibility of  Christians being cleansed from the carnal nature, and teaches, instead, that we must have the carnal mind, as well as the Holy Spirit,  operating together all our lives.  As rabid antinomians, they sought to bring a new definition to the messianic nature of the kingdom than what Jesus intended, and which the Jews of Jesus' day understood all too well. The Jews knew that Jesus was speaking about a spiritual kingdom that required moral transformation, but they did not want to accept it. They wanted to cling, instead, to their un-Scriptural political messianic delusion that offered "carnal conceptions" of that kingdom.

The preaching of Jesus put Judaism under conviction. Their delusion of a political kingdom offered them false comforts that passed the buck. "When Messiah comes he will establish the kingdom" they sanctimoniously reassured themselves. Jesus said: "I'm here, the kingdom has arrived, and now you must do something yourselves--repent."

The modern dispensational premillennial delusion of a "postponement" of the messianic kingdom beyond the scope of present responsibility, to a future era characterized by an overwhelming display of sovereign, supernatural necessitating arbitration destroys the moral foundations of the Christian religion and pre-empts the Gospel of all that is truly socially redeeming.  Methodist theologian Daniel Steele recognized this fact, and wrote the book "Antinomianism Revived: The Theology of the Plymouth Brethren Examined and Refuted. " Every Wesleyan preacher ought to read it.

Related Article Links

Was John Wesley Really A Premillennialist?
Why Daniel Steele So Strongly Opposed Dispensationalism