The nation of Israel was a union of the Universal and Redemptive rules of God on earth, but as we saw last week, the nation’s disobedience and indifference resulted in a termination of that union when God’s Shekinah glory departed from the Temple.
This does not cancel God’s promise that one day the two kingdoms will be perfectly united, but important for how this impacts understanding of our current situation as the NT church is the fact that this union has not yet taken place. Christ’s first coming qualified him as the perfect King/Priest and accomplished the means of redeeming a people who would comprise the citizenship of the Universal redemptive Kingdom, but Christ’s first coming never brings with it the same union of the civil and redemptive that existed in Israel’s kingdom. Christ preached this kingdom while he is on earth, and he promised that it will come. But this concrete, literal kingdom that unites the Universal common kingdom with the Redemptive kingdom, according to Christ in John 18:36 “is not of this world”—that union is not a present reality. It will happen only after Jesus comes again, when “the kingdom of the world”—that is, the common kingdom—“will becomes the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (Rev 11:15).
In other words, since the united universal redemptive kingdom will not again be established on earth until after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the union of socio-cultural spheres and the redemptive sphere will not take place until that future kingdom. Presently, the two kingdoms exist separately from one another; one day in the future, these two kingdoms will be united into one kingdom. When that kingdom comes, God will fully redeem his people, the Second Adam with take his place as the perfect King/Priest over all creation, he will fully unite the Universal kingdom with the Redemptive kingdom, and in fact he will restore all of creation (Isa 65:17, 21–25). Michael Vlach summarizes the future union of the two kingdoms well: “When the ultimate Mediator, Jesus, successfully reigns over the earth, the mediatorial kingdom will be brought into conformity with God’s universal kingdom (see 1 Cor 15:24, 28). And God’s will on earth will be done as it is in heaven (see Matt 6:10).”1
It is important to note at this juncture that, although the particular way I have described this theology of the two kingdoms may reflect my own dispensational understanding of the future millennial kingdom, this theology of the two kingdoms is not limited to dispensationalism. What I have been describing here is very similar to Augustine’s City of God and City of Man, Martin Luther’s doctrine of the two kingdoms, John Calvin’s teaching of the two governments of God, and even Abraham Kuyper’s theology of sphere sovereignty. Likewise, although in the minority within evangelicalism, this theology continues to be taught today in some Reformed circles, mostly within the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Westminster Seminary in California and the writings of men like David VanDrunen, Michael Horton, D. G. Hart, and Carl Trueman. Traditional dispensational thought is one form of two kingdom theology, but it is not the only form. This is why, by the way, early fundamentalists were a union of dispensational premillennialists and Two Kingdom Covenantal Amillennialists. The biggest difference between these two versions of two kingdom theology is that the dispensational version sees the establishment of the united kingdom to take place in a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on this earth with national Israel having a central role, while the Reformed version sees it as taking place in the New Heavens and Earth. Both, however, hold that these two kingdoms will not be united until Jesus comes again.
This view stands in stark contrast to what Moore correctly called the “evangelical consensus.” That view, sometimes called cultural transformationalism, Neo-Kuyperianism, or Neo-Calvinism, emphasizes an “already/not yet” inaugurated eschatology, which understands the NT church to be “an initial manifestation” of the united kingdom, thus giving the church a present mandate participate in God’s plan to redeem all things.
Thus, the first important tenet of a biblical philosophy of cultural engagement is recognition that God works differently in sovereignly ruling over all things through human institutions on the one hand, and in his redemptive rule over his chosen people during this present age. No union between the two will exist until Jesus comes again.
- Vlach, He Will Reign Forever, 56. [↩]