(On understanding of the Scriptures)
It has long seemed to the writer that many if not most doctrinal differences are caused by a partial apprehension of the truth, rather than from a willful desire to depart from God’s word. A man perceives some special point of the truth, and loyally contends for that. If then he closes his mind to further teaching, or even tries to nullify the Scriptures that seem to conflict with his limited view, he becomes a sectarian. But if he accepts all that God says, and seeks to take hold of all in growing apprehension, he realizes to that extent the privilege and doctrinal position of a simple Christian. This is a distinctive mark.
Most of us have heard the parable of the Three Blind Men and the Elephant. The blind men went to see the elephant, and were permitted to touch him. One of the blind men got hold of the elephant’s leg, and came away with the impression that the elephant was like a tree. The second felt along his broad side and came to the conclusion that the elephant was like a wall. The third happened to grasp his ear, and he thought that the elephant was like a fan. All three had examined the elephant, and each had got a different impression. It would be easy to see how the three might fall into an irreconcilable controversy over the matter, even to impugning one another’s honesty and veracity, while yet they all spoke the truth. Each one’s apprehension of his subject was partial, and each one supposed that his partial knowledge was the whole truth.
Let us apply the lesson to the controversy that has been raised concerning the Kingdom. Some contend that—(barring an indefinite eternal state of bliss in heaven, which they call “the eternal kingdom,” title borrowed from 2 Peter 1:11)—the Church, is the final fulfillment of all the kingdom prophecies. Others (the writer is not one of them, nor has he ever been) hold that the kingdom is not yet established, but is wholly future. May it not be possible that here we have a case of partial apprehension of God’s truth? And, if such be the case, would it not be a gain in every way if the parties to the controversy would enlarge their hearts so as to take in all the scripture truth on the subject, without so much as attempting to do violence to any part of it?
Take the one side—it seems to me that even one passage as plain as Colossians 1:13 (“Who delivered us out of the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love”)—ought to be sufficient to convince a man that those who in this day are saved through the gospel are in the kingdom. And there are other passages to the same effect. Why should a Christian, a free child of God, bound by no men’s creed, feel any necessity of explaining away, or in any wise circumventing such a statement of God’s word? Why should any believing man be under bondage to a theory, whether it be his own or that of another, that would compel him to refute such a passage as this?
On the other hand, let a man take up the statements concerning the kingdom in the New Testament, and examine them carefully in the light of their context, and judge whether without exception the church answers to the requirements of each passage. If the kingdom here spoken of is simply the church, would it not be peculiar to say (as in Matthew 5:3)—“theirs is the kingdom of heaven?” Is the church theirs? Or does He refer to the church when He says the “many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 8:11). Does the term “kingdom of heaven” mean something so radically different in this place than it means elsewhere in Matthew? And if it cannot apply to the church here, may it not be that the “kingdom of heaven” includes something more than is now seen in the church? Again, if the church was meant, would it not be strange to say, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom?” (Luke 12:32) Would it not be an awkward promise “to give you the church?” Elsewhere the expression “to give one the kingdom” does not merely mean an admission to citizenship in it, but the sovereignty over it. (1 Samuel 15:28; Daniel 4:17; 5:31. Comp. Luke 4:6, 7).
Again, how could James call Christians “heirs” of the kingdom which God has “promised to them that love him?” How could Paul and Barnabas tell the Christians that through much tribulation they “must enter into the kingdom of God”—although they were already in it? Clearly the meaning here is larger than our limited conception. And where and when, unless there is such a phase of the kingdom coming in which the glorified church will rule with Christ over the nations of the world, will the saints “judge the world”? (1 Corinthians 6:2). Where or over whom could they “reign?” (2Timothy 2:12; Revelation. 3:21). Or how could they exercise authority over the nations, ruling them with a rod of iron? (Revelation 2:26, 27). How, if the present realization in the church exhausts the meaning of the kingdom, could the “signs in the sun and moon and stars,” heralding Christ’s second coming, be an indication that “the kingdom of God is near?” (Luke 21:34). How could John, foretelling things yet to be (Revelation 1:19 and 4:1), represent the Lord’s world-wide reign as coming in at the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15); or upon Satan’s expulsion from heaven (comp. Ephesians 6:12) say, “Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ?”
Here we need to enlarge our conception of God’s word. That the kingdom is here and that we are in it, is true, for God has so told us. That the kingdom is to come in world-wide manifestation and glory and authority is equally certain for Old and New Testament combine to declare it. If anyone cannot reconcile these things he can yet accept them both upon the authority of God’s word. And brethren who are minded to let the Scripture utterances on both sides of the question stand in their own fair light, and who are unwilling to bow their necks to any doctrinal yoke that would demand the expunging of such portions of God’s word as may seem to favor the one side or the other are not to be condemned as heretics or evil doers. Let us rather open our hearts to admit all the kingdom teaching of the Bible. We shall not go astray in so doing.
In the following studies, which for the most part appeared serially in the Word and Work, the writer has attempted—not to propound or bolster up some peculiar theory, but to reach, as God gave him ability and grace, a juster and more comprehensive conception of the great theme of the kingdom of God as set forth in the whole word of God.
Preface to this 1998 Edition, Revised September, 2000
This classic work, The Kingdom of God, by R.H. Boll has long been out of print. It is a work that deserves wide circulation, and it was the felt need here in Zimbabwe for such clear, comprehensive, Word honoring teaching that has inspired it’s reprinting.
It was this editor’s privilege to study under R.H. Boll for two short years. Of the many preachers and teachers of God’s word under whom I have been privileged to learn, R.H. Boll has helped me the most to a better understanding of the whole counsel of God. A deeply spiritual man, whose face shone with the love of Christ, he was always balanced in his presentation of the word. He was truly an exegete without equal in his generation. His summation of the Kingdom of God in the first chapter of this book is most masterful. In a few words he has beautifully and clearly set forth basic scriptural truth that is fundamental to further understanding.
This edition also contains an exposition by this editor on the parables of Matthew 13. Although not on the same level as the writings of R.H. Boll, I trust the reader will nevertheless find it helpful in understanding this great subject of the Kingdom of God.
- R. L. Garrett, Ruwa, Zimbabwe
Thanks to the Word and Work, 2518 Portland Ave., Louisville, KY 40212, for permission to republish this great work. (Printed copies of this book and other reprints may be ordered directly from the Word and Work)