Debating Bible Basics Duncan Heaster  
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14-6 The Literality Of The Kingdom Of God

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. 148:6).

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) p. 20.