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Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "The Kingdom Model." To view all parts, click the link below.
The first model of the Kingdom mentioned in Howard Snyder’s article is “The kingdom as future hope.”
I suppose this view refers to those who see the Kingdom only in terms of the future and that there is no present Kingdom. Such a view does not consider the two types of Kingdom presented to us prophetically by the reigns of Saul and David. Those living under Saul may have looked forward to a better Kingdom model than they were experiencing, but the fact is that Saul was indeed anointed by God as king. Therefore, Saul’s kingdom was an imperfect or inferior model of the Kingdom.
The Current Pentecostal Model
Saul’s model was Pentecostal in nature. Pentecost, or the feast of weeks, was a feast where the first fruits offering (wheat bread) was “baked with leaven” (Leviticus 23:17). Pentecost was a leavened feast, and this was a primary feature of that feast. What was God telling us by showing us the presence of leaven in that first fruits offering? Leaven means corruption, and thus Pentecost brings a Kingdom model that is flawed and needs to be “baked” in the fire.
The baking kills the leavening action. The baptism of fire, also inherent in true Pentecost, was designed to deal with the leaven in each of us. John the Baptist pictured it in a little different way, saying, “He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12). Chaff in this case, is the equivalent of leaven. Both indicate flesh, or carnal tendencies.
When the people fail to allow the fire of God to burn their flesh, their hearts are not acceptable as first fruits offerings of Pentecost. They may call themselves Pentecostal, but their claim is invalid. Only the fire of God qualifies them as living sacrifices that are acceptable to God (Romans 12:1). The lack of such fire causes believers to “be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2), rather than to be transformed into the image of Christ.
Leavened bread plus fire is the equivalent of unleavened bread.
Saul’s model of the Kingdom prophesied also of the failure of Pentecost to manifest a perfect Kingdom model. Hence, Saul degenerated morally and spiritually until he was plagued with evil spirits. His blindness no doubt made it difficult for him to discern the difference between the Holy Spirit and the “evil spirit from the Lord.” 1 Samuel 16:14 says,
14 Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.
So also today, it is often difficult for believers to discern the difference between a manifestation of the Holy Spirit and that of an evil spirit. We only need to look at the controversies that have arisen over the years. Some groups say that the gift of tongues is demonic, whereas the Bible clearly shows that it is a valid gift of the Holy Spirit. But when demonic counterfeits present themselves in Pentecostal meetings, the people often lack discernment to tell the difference.
This problem is no different from the problem seen with Nadab and Abihu, who did not distinguish between strange fire and holy fire (Leviticus 10:1, 2). As priests of God, it is our duty to discern the difference between man-made fire and the fire of the Holy Spirit.
The Fire of Pentecost
Pentecost is a genuine feast of the Lord. However, we must understand its limitations and be diligent lest we reject the fire of God. Most people claim to want the fire of God, because they want to revel in His glory; yet the main purpose of that fire is to cleanse and purify our hearts. It is the “fiery law” of Deuteronomy 33:2 KJV, which is being written on our hearts, transforming our hearts into the image of God.
The fire of God is the way in which the New Covenant is being implemented (Hebrews 8:10). Those who reject the law of God as evil or irrelevant show that the New Covenant has yet to do its work in their hearts. They are yet Old Covenant believers resisting the law of God or attempting to be conformed to the image of Christ apart from the fire of God.
Hence, we often see this strange contradiction within the church in the Pentecostal Age—and even among those who call themselves Pentecostal. Like Israel of old, they witness the great manifestation of fire (as in Leviticus 9:24), but then they allow that fire to be extinguished so that they can offer strange fire to God (Leviticus 10:1). This Old Testament example prophesied of future conditions in the church.
And so we return to the Kingdom model that many entertain today, where the Kingdom is a future hope. The perfect model seen in the feast of Tabernacles is indeed a future hope, but we are today being prepared by a Pentecostal model. This allows us to embrace the fire of God, be filled with the Spirit, and be cleansed in our inward parts. History shows that not all believers avail themselves of the Pentecostal model, and so the church has much leaven in it. In the end, the church has been a repeat of the reign of Saul, the Pentecostal king of the Old Testament.
The Institutional Church Model
Howard Snyder’s fourth model is “The kingdom as institutional church.” That view is correct, as long as we understand its connection to the institutional monarchy of King Saul. This explains the corruption in the church, which almost everyone will acknowledge. The problem comes mainly when church members fail to understand the difference between Saul and David, for then they tend to have too much faith in their denomination.
The Roman church, for example, teaches that its church will never fail and will never be replaced by a greater model. The Jews thought the same about Judaism, citing Moses’ righteousness as proof. The Roman church points to Peter. We have no wish to malign either founder, but keep in mind that Saul himself was anointed by God through Samuel, but this did not prevent God from replacing his house with the house of David.
So the prophet told Saul in 1 Samuel 15:23, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.” Again, he said in 1 Samuel 15:28, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you.” God still allowed Saul to finish the time given to him—forty years—but his kingdom did not endure beyond that time. His forty-year reign was a type (or fractal) of a forty-Jubilee cycle allotted to the Pentecostal Age from 33 to 1993 A.D. (See my book, Secrets of Time.)
Many have lost faith in the church, but many still hold on to the conviction that, given enough time, the church under Pentecost will bring in the fullness of the Kingdom. Snyder points out that such people think that the solution is to bring more people into the church and that church growth will win in the end. This is the motive behind the drive to create megachurches.
But he points out too that “the growth of an unfaithful church is not particularly good news.” Few understand that the story of Saul has already prophesied the failure and replacement of the institutional church.
Howard Snyder’s article says,
“A group of theologians was discussing the Gospels. After a long exchange, one lamented: ‘Jesus promised us the kingdom, and instead all we got was the church!’”
It is obvious they did not understand the story of Saul and David, nor did they understand the leavened nature of the Pentecostal feast. Jesus did indeed promise us the Kingdom, but He made this promise at the end of the Passover Age. The Passover Age began with Israel’s first Passover as they came out of Egypt, and it ended the day Jesus died on the cross on Passover of 33 A.D.
Passover as an age had passed. Pentecost was fast approaching. But Tabernacles was yet far into the future.
The Countersystem Model
Howard Snyder discusses the “kingdom as countersystem,” which is where the church withdraws from the ungodly political and social life to focus upon the few believers within its circle. He points out that such a view uses the slogan, “politics and religion don’t mix.” His conclusion is,
“But that’s not how things work out in practice. Instead, we end up in our Christian ghetto while the world careens toward eternal destruction, or so it seems to me.”
In my view, the countersystem is partially true, but it lacks a broader knowledge of the word. Daniel and Nehemiah were involved in politics. Jesus Himself was crucified for political reasons when viewed from a human standpoint. In the second, third, and fourth centuries many believers withdrew into the wilderness. In the fourth century monasteries were formed to allow men to withdraw from the world, seek God, and try to obtain perfection by devoting themselves fully to the study of the word and through contemplation, meditation, and study.
Unfortunately, this took many good men out of service, whereas they might have borne witness of the gospel to the ungodly world. But they gave up on the world and certainly had no thought of changing the political situation. This view tends to negate the Great Commission. Setting up Christian communities is not a bad idea, but it has the potential of setting up a “Christian ghetto.”
The fact is, politics and religion ought not to be separate. Better stated, government should not separate itself from the morality of God’s character as expressed in the word of God. If righteous men separate themselves from government, unrighteous men will fill the void.
The solution is not to separate the two but to unite them. Church and state should be separate only in a biblical sense, where Moses and Aaron had distinct functions but worked together. Later, King David had his duties, while the high priest had other duties, but they did not fight each other. This was also the concept in early America when they separated church and state on the biblical model. More recently, this has been interpreted to mean that government should be completely secular. Hence, the laws of God have been replaced by the laws of men, and this has institutionalized immorality and corruption.
The Political Model
Howard Snyder’s seventh model is the “kingdom as political state,” or theocracy, which is also known as Dominion Theology, or Reconstructionism. Snyder comments on this:
“To support this model biblically one has to rely heavily on the Old Testament, which in turn raises the question of in what sense the Old Covenant is fulfilled in the New. The tendency is to make the Old rather than the New Covenant normative in society.”
Snyder obviously does not distinguish between the law and the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant applies the law externally, while the New Covenant applies it internally. But it is the same law. The law expresses (and to some extent defines) the divine nature. Hence, He came to Mount Horeb as fire to deliver a fiery law. The fire of the Holy Spirit burns “the flesh” and replaces it with the fire of God’s law written on our hearts.
Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). He then quoted the law to refute the words of the tempter. Surely the law is inspired and is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). We ought to be careful not to despise any part of the word of God that we do not understand.
During the time allotted to the beast empires, prophesied in Daniel 2 and 7, we ought to respect those ungodly authorities that God has put over us on account of the sins of Jerusalem. Daniel himself led no revolutions, nor did Jesus. Yet Daniel was faithful to God while also an advisor to the king of Babylon. He knew that the time of change, where the Kingdom would be returned to the saints, was far into the future.
Therefore, it seems that we ought to do what we can to alleviate the problems of injustice and corruption in the world, while recognizing that the Dominion passed to “beast systems” for a period of “seven times,” or 2,520 years (7 x 360). When Christ returns to rule, it will indeed be a political Dominion, for He will be the King of the earth. The saints will reign with Him and under Him.
The main problem with Dominion Theology is that it believes that King Saul’s reign can be salvaged. It fails to see the difference between Saul and David. Hence, it is a Protestant version of the Roman church, seeking to reform Saul, not recognizing that Saul has already been disqualified. Dominion Theology does not account for timing, because it does not recognize the forty Jubilee cycles of Saul’s reign.
Otherwise, Dominion Theology has much to offer. We should indeed train people in the laws of God and Kingdom government. If such people can attain political office, I would support such godliness. This basic idea will win out in the end, but only in the context of the overcomers who represent David, rather than Saul.
Christian Culture Model
Snyder’s seventh model is “The kingdom as Christianized culture,” which he says is better expressed as “the kingdom as Christ’s transforming culture.” This is a Social Gospel model, which can be either good or bad, depending on one’s view of Christian culture. Essentially, Christians are indeed called to transform hearts of individuals, which necessarily will transform the culture of their environment.
The problem has mainly been that Christian culture has rejected the law of God in favor of “church law,” or the laws of Church men. Without a clear understanding of the law, we can only hope to create a flawed system, even when created by well-intentioned men. Most men who want to change culture view the solution through Old Covenant eyes, because they do not truly understand the difference between the two covenants. Their perspective of the covenants makes their understanding of the law flawed.
Communism and Socialism are secular ways of transforming culture, attempting to establish fairness rather than justice and sameness rather than biblical equality. These world views do not respect the labor of the people. Hence, they forcibly tax men’s labor and redistribute it to the poor. The poor are grateful, but they ought not to appreciate stolen money.
A godly tax (tithe) is a return on God’s labor. Tithes are ten percent taxes on the increase from nature itself, which God appoints for the support of His Kingdom’s government. Once that tithe is paid, the laborer owns his own labor and government is bound to defend his right to use it as he chooses.
Many liberal Protestant churches, along with the Roman church, have adopted the world’s Socialist models of unjustly taxing men’s labor. Their Social Gospel is flawed because they do not believe or understand the laws of God in their attempt to do good. Today Socialism is so fundamental to governments around the world that it has been normalized. The charge of “Socialism” is now used as a label for a nation that the government wishes to designate as an enemy (such as Venezuela). Yet the inherent hypocrisy is overwhelming.
The Utopian Kingdom
Many philosophers have written books presenting their views about how to attain a utopian society, that is a perfect model for life on earth. The Bible presents its own model as well, where the laws of God are fully operational. The main difference is that men’s views presume that mortal and corruptible men can and will attain a utopia if they just follow certain principles.
While their assumptions may be true theoretically, the Bible shows that even the perfect Kingdom model found in the laws of God are unattainable by means of men’s best intentions. In other words, the utopian Kingdom of God is beyond the reach of men because they are full of death (mortality). This is their fatal flaw that causes them to sin (Romans 5:12, Greek text).
Utopia can and will be achieved only by the New Covenant, which is God’s promise, or vow. God has vowed not only to make this utopia available to all, He has promised to bring it about. He has vowed to save all mankind and to create this utopia by the end of time. Most Christians think that the New Covenant is God’s promise to help our flesh fulfill its own vow to follow Jesus and to be obedient. God will indeed help us in this regard, but our flesh can never be perfected, because it has already been sentenced to death (Genesis 2:17; 2 Corinthians 1:9).
God’s method of setting up His utopian Kingdom involved re-creation, not reformation. By faith we have been begotten as new creatures, and this “new man” (Ephesians 4:24 KJV) is not the same as the old man which was born through natural, Adamic seed.
That new man, once conceived through the feast of Passover, must be nourished through Pentecost, so that it matures. Once matured, it is brought to birth through the feast of Tabernacles.
Only a few go through this process in the present age, but God has promised that all mankind will do this, for “every tongue” will confess Him as Lord (Phil. 2:11). Most of mankind will make that confession at the Great White Throne, after which time, they will experience the same fire of God that we currently experience under Pentecost. That is the “lake of fire” in Revelation 20:15.
This fire is designed to purify by destroying the flesh, so that God can fulfill His New Covenant vow to save all mankind. The process will end with the Creation Jubilee, when by grace all are set free and return to the inheritance that they lost when Adam, his children, and his entire estate (the earth) was sold on account of his sin (Matthew 18:25).
Yes, the Kingdom Utopia will indeed be achieved, not because man has the potential to save himself by his well-intentioned vow, but because God has the power to fulfill His promise.
This is the story of the Kingdom as God envisioned it from the beginning. The detour brought about by Adam’s sin has been long, but we have faith that God has the power to win in the end.
Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "The Kingdom Model." To view all parts, click the link below.