Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 26, 1958

The "Active And Passive" Kingdom

Robert C. Welch, Birmingham, Alabama

A paper, written by a Brother Thurman, entitled "Is 'the Church' the Kingdom?", has been sent to me by Bernard Haygood. It teaches premillennialism. Brother Haygood says that the writer of the paper taught in David Lipscomb College about seven years ago. Apparently the author thinks that he has a new idea on the kingdom question. Premillennialists have contended all along that the church is not the kingdom which is described in the Scriptures. The main theme of his paper is that the church is not the kingdom because the word kingdom has an "active and passive meaning," and that it is used in the active sense in the Scriptures. He teaches that the kingdom in the Scriptures refers to the rule rather than the ruled; and that in the millennium the saved will be ruling rather than ruled. Continual study must be given this subject of premillennialism because the error has not been eradicated. For a time its effect and spread was stopped in the church; but, as less and less is said in refutation, others are being caught in its flaming destruction.

The author says: "Not that I now agree with ALL `premillennialists', but I am inclining more and more toward the view that Jesus will COME before the 1000 years." That is the kind of statement that nearly all premillennialists make. No two of them can agree on the theory. When they launch on the sea of speculation there is no chart or compass to keep them together. Also, he is like most of them in another respect; he thinks that he is profound in his understanding of the prophecy of the Bible; that is, he leaves that impression in his paper. He repudiates and ridicules the commonly accepted translations of the Bible; "How did a translator, who is supposed to know Greek, get the authority to stick the indefinite English word `world' into Heb. 2:5?" He puts words into his readers' mouths in the form of a question to show that they think him profound; "But surely the Lord does not expect us to work with such HARD subject matter! Do you really think that we need to make such an intensive study of these matters?" He discusses another matter with a degree of arrogance; but in which there is grave danger. He ridicules what the "scholars" of "your group" say about the question. In areas where premillennialism is most rampant there is a serious tendency to be opposed to it and those who hold it from a partisan stand rather than from an understanding of the question. That disposition smacks of denominationalism.

Below is an argument of his in attempted refutation of the teaching that the church is the kingdom; based on his distinction between the active and passive senses of the word kingdom.

"People who are honest and sincere have mistaken the 'kingdom' of Jn. 18:36 to mean a passive kingdom, the people ruled `the church'; others have mistaken `of this world' to be an expression of PLACE, as though Jesus were saying `my kingdom is not one of the kingdoms of this world', Etc.; Jesus is obviously using 'kingdom' here in an ACTIVE SENSE, royal power, ruling authority — and `of this world' does not express PLACE BUT DERIVATION, SOURCE: 'my kingdom power is not derived from this world'."

One thing which he seems to have failed to see in his distinction between the active and passive senses of the kingdom is that one is not existent without the other; each includes and involves the other. One does not exer{cise} kingship without subjects. There are not subjects without kingship. No "dominion" is exercised without "domain." There is no "domain" without "dominion" also. Each time Christ speaks of his kingdom both the rule and the ruled are involved. Though he may be referring primarily to his power, yet the term itself includes the subjects. In the same manner, when the subjects have primary reference in the use of the term, it also includes Christ, the king. With reference to the statement in John 18; I know of none who says that the ruler of that "kingdom" is on the earth except premillennialists. The materialist premillennialist is the one who has trouble with this passage; and Brother Thurman has not helped himself one bit by deciding that his theory is proved by a "passive and active" meaning of the word. He argues that the passage means the rule or ruler, but does not mean the subjects; hence, cannot refer to the church. If that be so, then he has yet to prove that Christ must come to earth to rule. We readily agree that his power is from heaven; but we also know that his power is exercised over the church (Eph. 1:20-23).

He connects Rev. 2:26,27 with Heb. 2:5,8, to try to show that Christ is now reigning because that will only come when the faithful reign with him in the millennium over the nations or the inhabited earth. If he could stop trying to change the translation of Heb. 2:5 long enough to read the first two chapters of Hebrews on the comparison between Christ and the angels he would find that Christ is now reigning on the throne and speaking (ruling) unto us who now inhabit the earth. The prophecies quoted in the two chapters were made in a past age (world), hence they correctly would speak of a "world to come" when speaking of us, now. If he will then read Matthew 25; he will find what the final act of his reign on the throne will be — the judging of the nations; and if he will then read Matt. 28:18, he will find that Christ now has all authority and power; and then if he will read I Cor. 15:20-28, he will find when that reign will come to an end. Christ has all authority now and will give it back to God when he has abolished all enemies; the last one, death. The inference that Heb. 2:5,8 teaches that Christ must have another period of a thousand years upon the earth after his second coming in which all things are subjected to him, is pure speculation and addition to that passage and a violation of the context and of other positive statements concerning his reign and kingdom at this present time.