14-6 The Literality Of The Kingdom
The very literal descriptions of the Kingdom found in the Old Testament
prophets are often ridiculed by theologians and members of many denominations.
It is claimed that the language is figurative of some place of reward
other than the earth, seeing that this planet is going to be burnt up.
In answer to this, it must be understood that a ground rule of Bible
study is that we should always take the Bible literally unless there is
good reason to impose a spiritual interpretation. For example, the first
verse of the book of Revelation informs us that the vision is largely
symbolic (Rev. 1:1), which should guide us in our view of it. There is
also a certain sense of aptness and realism in the use of language which
can indicate whether or not a passage is to be read symbolically. Thus
when we read of the earth staggering like a drunken man (Is. 24:20), it
is obvious from the kind of language used that we are intended to read
this symbolically. By contrast, the language used to describe the future
Kingdom is very easy to understand literally; there is no hint that we
should take it symbolically.
It would appear that due to men's inability to summon enough faith to
believe that such a time really will come here on earth, they have devised
theories which explain it away. Their alternative of a spiritual, or heaven-based
kingdom, is vague and lacking in detail, therefore there is little to
believe in, and little faith is either required or encouraged. If indeed
the descriptions of lame people being cured, or deserts being made fertile,
are only symbolic, then the question must be specifically and convincingly
answered: 'Symbolic of what?" These passages are describing God's
Kingdom. If we are unsure what exactly they are symbolic of, then we do
not know the Gospel ('good news') about the Kingdom, and therefore cannot
expect any place in it.
Further, it should be quite clear from all the evidence presented so
far, that God has an eternal purpose with man upon this earth; He would
not destroy the planet which He had promised to Abraham's seed for ever.
We should therefore expect there to be literal descriptions in the Bible
of the Kingdom which is to come upon the earth.
The following passages confirm this:-
- "God himself that formed the earth and made it; he has established
it; he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited" (Isa.
45:18). The creation of earth will have been in vain if God destroys it;
but, by contrast, it is God's purpose to inhabit it with immortal people.
- "The earth abides for ever" (Ecc.1:4).
- "He has also established them (the elements of the solar system)
for ever and ever: he has made a decree which shall not pass" (Ps.
And again, others have come to this same conclusion: "The Biblical
promise is rather of 'a new heaven and a new earth' (Is. 66:22; Rev. 21:1).
And the word which it uses for 'new', kainos rather than neos, implies
the renewal or restoration of all things, rather than a fresh start, as
it were, on another site" John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich, On
Being The Church In The World (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1960)