The Good Confession, by Robert Roberts (continued)
The Things Concerning the Kingdom of God
1. So you have come to the conclusion that the doctrines believed by the Christadelphians constitute the truth of the Gospel? I have.
2. What affect does this conviction produce in your mind? A desire to be immersed.
3. Why do you desire to be immersed? Because Christ has commanded it.
4. But what do you think immersion will do for you? It will unite me to Christ. I believe it is the way appointed for men to put on the name of Christ, and obtain the remission of their sins.
5. Then you do not think you have any connection with Christ at present? No. I consider I am in Adam in my present position, and therefore under condemnation to return to the dust forever.
6. Do you suppose baptism will unite an ignorant person to Christ? No; we must believe the truth.
7. Then it is not the mere act of immersion in water that does anything for us? Oh no. It is its connection with our belief in the truth.
8. But even where the truth is believed, you don't suppose there is any virtue in the water of baptism? No; I look upon it as an act of obedience which God has appointed as the ceremony by which a believer may be united to Christ. The union I believe to be one effected in the mind of Christ and of God, as the result of their recognition of the obedience rendered.
9. Do you believe union in Christ can take place in our dispensation without this ceremony? No; I believe whatever God appoints is essential.
10. The importance of such a matter you would consider to arise from the fact of God's requiring it, and not on account of any inherent quality in the process or the element employed? Precisely so. Whatever God might appoint I should consider necessary. I believe, as Paul says, He appoints foolish things in the working out of His purposes toward men. Baptism I believe to be the way He has appointed for the believer to pass out of Adam* into Christ; and it is for that reason I desire to be baptized.
*It will be noted that bro. Roberts uses expressions that later were given a different, mechanical interpretation to support an unsound theory. Bro. Roberts repudiated the incorrect meaning charged against his words, and later was careful to express himself in different words, to avoid giving the appearance of supporting the new theory.
11. You use the term 'believer.' What do you mean by it? I mean a person who believes the Gospel.
12. You are aware that the orthodox bodies of religious people profess to preach and believe the Gospel? Yes.
13. Do you think they do so in reality? No; I thought they did, at one time.
14. Then the question for us to consider on the present occasion will be: What is the Gospel that a man must believe to make baptism of any use to him? Certainly; that is what I desire to come to.
15. To assist you in coming to it, allow me to call your attention to the Gospel that men and women believed in apostolic times before baptism. I suppose you would admit that to be the Gospel we ought to believe in our day? Certainly.
16. I refer to what is said of Paul when a prisoner in Rome: that he "preached the Kingdom of God, and taught those things that concern our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:31); and, as showing that faith in these 'things' was pre-immersional, we read (Acts 8:12) that "WHEN the people of Samaria believed Philip, preaching the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ, THEY WERE BAPTIZED BOTH MEN & WOMEN."
Now, do you recognize the necessity for believing 'the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ before immersion? To follow apostolic guidance, which I believe to be the only safe guide in the present day, I am bound to say I do.
17. Then the object of our conversation will be to ascertain whether you, desiring immersion, believe these things? That is what I desire to be put to the test.
18. Do you suppose that a man can believe what he does not know? Certainly not.
19. So the enquiry tonight will necessarily be as to the state of your knowledge? I have come here tonight with that idea.
20. To proceed to this enquiry: you will have observed there are 2 classes of 'things' in the summary of the Gospel given us in the apostolic record? Yes: 'the Kingdom of God' and 'the Name of Jesus Christ.'
21. Now suppose we take these 2 departments of Gospel truth separately? I should think that would be the better plan.
22. You will observe the things concerning the Kingdom of God are put first? Yes,always.
23. What idea is represented to your mind by the phrase 'Kingdom of God'? Suppose any of your former religious associates were to ask you such a question, how would you answer?
Of course, I have been accustomed to look upon the Kingdom of God very differently from what I do now. I used to consider that it meant the reign of God in the heart, and had no reference to the state of affairs existing among mankind. If I were asked by my former religious associates what I understand by it now, I should say that I expected God to set up a Kingdom on earth, at the coming of Christ, that should destroy all other kingdoms, and last for ever.
24. You understand the Kingdom of God to mean a political institution by which all the earth will be divinely governed when it is established? Precisely: that is my idea; that it will be a real literal administration of divine authority in political affairs, and, indeed, in all matters that affect the well being of man and the glory of God.
25. This idea you have formed from reading the Scriptures? Yes. If necessary I could refer to portions of the Scripture which plainly teach it.
26. There wilI be no necessity. The object of this conversation is not to try if you can demonstrate the truth, but to find out if you believe it. For once, assertion without proof will be conclusive. You may well say 'for once,' for I assure you I don't find it so among my friends, who think I have gone wrong in my head for embracing such doctrines.
27. Our next enquiry must turn upon the 'things concerning the Kingdom of God which of course can only mean the particulars about it, or the details that God has been pleased to disclose an the subject? Yes, I presume the 'things concerning' can have no other meaning.
28. On that presumption, let me ask to begin with: Has the Kingdom of God any relation to anything God has done in the past? Do I quite understand the question?
29. Is there any connection between what God is going to do, and what He has already done? I understand the Kingdom will be quite a new thing in the earth.
30. You will understand me better, perhaps, if I ask if God has at anytime in the past, in any part of the world, interfered in the affairs of men? Do you refer to His dealings with the Jews?
31. I do. Oh yes, I believe He formed them a nation for Himself by calling Abraham and multiplying his posterity, suffering them to be enslaved in Egypt, and afterward redeeming them from the bondage of Pharaoh, and putting them thru a 40-years' discipline in the wilderness, and settling them in the Land of Promise, under laws delivered by the hand of Moses.
32. Were the Israelites obedient to the laws thus given them? For a while they were, but afterwards they were disobedient, observing the manners and customs of the heathen nations.
33. What was the consequence? God gave them over to great calamities of famine and war.
34. Did these calamities destroy them? Not all at once. They were many times delivered on becoming repentant. For 100s of years, God had patience with them, chastening and succoring them according to their condition.
35. What ultimately became of them? After the rejection of Jesus, their nation was entirely broken up by the Romans and they were scattered to every part of the globe.
36. While they occupied the land of Canaan as a nation, under the constitution of things delivered to them by Moses, how would you describe their Kingdom? The 'Kingdom of Israel,' wasn't it?
37. I mean, would you consider it was a human kingdom? It was a Kingdom composed of human beings, but I should certainly consider it a divine Kingdom, seeing its laws, and origin, and kings, and people, were of God.
38. Then it would be a Kingdom of God on the earth? Certainly. I now see your meaning. It would be that to which Jesus refers when he said to the Pharisees, "The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." [Matt. 21:43]
39. Now my question is: Will the Kingdom of God to be set up at the coming of Christ have any connection with the Kingdom of God that has already existed? Certainly. The Kingdom of God to be set up at the coming of Christ will be the Kingdom of Israel restored. I did not at first perceive your meaning.
40. To try you a little: How can the ancient Kingdom of Israel be restored when Paul says that the First Covenant (by which of course he means the constitution of things in Israel based upon the Covenant made with them at Sinai) was to pass away as a thing that had waxed old, and for which there was no more use? There you place me in a little difficulty. Let me think a moment. The prophets plainly foretell the return of the Jews from their present captivity. It cannot be that Paul would say anything inconsistent with the prophets.
41. No: he quotes the prophets as his authority for the statement I have referred to. It is in Hebrews, is it not?
42. Yes: Heb.8:7-13; 10:15-17. Oh, I think I see it. The first constitution of things under which the Jews existed as the Kingdom of God has been done away with, and will not be re-established. When they are restored, a New Covenant will be made with them, "not according to the covenant (as God says by Jeremiah) that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt." [Jer. 31:32]
43. That suggests another point on which I would ask a question or two. You are aware God made certain Promises to Abraham? Yes, I now see those Promises to be the basis of the Gospel.
44. Can you name the features or points in the Promise? That he should have all the land of Canaan for an everlasting inheritance.
45. Do you think that it is the literal land of Canaan? I do, because Paul, referring to Abraham coming into it, calls it the 'Land of Promise' (Heb. 11:9), and says he should 'afterwards receive it for an inheritance.'
46. Did Abraham receive the 'Land of Promise'? No, he was a stranger in it all his days, and Stephen says (Acts 7:5) that "God gave him none inheritance in it, not so much as to set his foot on, yet He promised He would give it to him for a possession.
47. Then what would you say must happen before the Promise can be fulfilled? Abraham must rise from the dead, and inherit the Land of Promise. Then it is, I believe, that he will be seen in the position depicted by Jesus, when he speaks of many coming from the east, west, north, and south, and 'sitting down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of God.'
48. What else was promised to Abraham? It would seem that resurrection and eternal life were in substance included in the Promise of the land.
49. Doubtless; but my present question relates to what is expressed in the Promises? That all nations should be blessed in him and his Seed.
50. You are of course aware that his Seed is conjoined with him in the promise of the Land as well? Yes, I have distinctly noticed that.
51. Whom do you understand by his 'Seed'? Well, Paul leaves me no room for a mere opinion on the subject. He says "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the Promises made. He saith not 'And to seeds' as of many, but as of one: 'and to thy Seed' -- WHICH IS CHRIST." I am, therefore, bound to believe that the Promise unites Jesus with Abraham in the assurance of a future possession in the Land of Israel, and the blessing of all nations in them.
52. Have you observed the statement in the Promise, "Thy Seed shall possess the gate of his enemies" (Gen.22:17)? I have.
53. What do you understand by it? That Jesus should take forcible possession of the power of all who are opposed to him.
54. Do you see any parallel in it to the statement in Rev. 11:15: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ"? I do indeed. The statement in Revelation seems a very good amplification of the meaning of the pledge given Abraham that his Seed should possess the gate of his enemies.
55. Can you recall any other feature in the Promise to Abraham? I cannot.
56. Anything as to posterity? Oh yes, that his seed should become more numerous than the sand of the sea. There would seem to be an individual seed and a multitudinous seed mentioned in the Promises.
57. No doubt it is so, just as there is an individual Christ and a multitudinous Christ in the 'One Body' of his people, when perfectly made one with him at the resurrection. But l suppose that the promise that his seed should become numerous refers to the Jews in the past?
58. No doubt it includes them, in their past increase, but it also extends as far as the Promise itself is intended to reach, and we have seen that that goes into the endless future. I can see that that must be so, so that the Jewish nation is destined to become a very numerous people.
59. When you consider the great multitude of them destined to be raised to inherit the Kingdom under Christ, and the great increase that wilI take place among the Jews after the flesh when their Kingdom is restored, it follows that the Promise to Abraham of an incomputable progeny will be fulfilled in the absolute sense. This will appear in a still stronger light when we come to consider what will take place beyond the Kingdom.
The immediate question I wished to bring under your notice was this: When Israel was settled in the Land of Promise as a nation, did that settlement have its basis on the Promise made to Abraham? No; I should scarcely say it had, although God did promise that they should be released from the bondage of the Egyptians. Their settlement in the Land took place under the Law that came into force by Moses, and the stability of it was made dependent upon obedience to that Law.
When they were obedient, they prospered; when they disobeyed, they were driven out. This was the very bargain that was made between them and Moses. It seems to me that if it had taken place under the Promises to Abraham, there would have been no such conditions, and no failure in the blessings promised.
60. You reason rightly in the matter, and I should like to call your attention to the exact coincidence between your reasoning and that of Paul in Gal. 3. He says "if the inheritance be of the Law, then it is no more of promise, but God gave it to Abraham BY PROMISE." You perceive how completely this proves that the Promises to Abraham are to be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God? Of that I have not now the slightest doubt. I have noticed that Paul says the Gospel was preached unto Abraham, and I can see -- with the new view I have received of the Gospel -- how the Promises made to Abraham are in reality the very Gospel preached by Christ and the apostles, only in a more condensed form.
61. Before going farther, I would call your attention to another Promise -- another Covenant, in fact -- which has a bearing upon the Kingdom whose establishment we are considering. You have noticed in the New Testament the statement, occurring several times, that Jesus is to sit on the throne of his father David? I have; and before I heard of the Christadelphians, I never could understand it.
62. Have you noticed any connection between this statement and any covenant that God ever made with anybody? I have noticed that Peter says God swore to David with an oath that of the fruit of his loins according to the flesh He would raise up Christ to sit upon his throne (Acts 2:30).
63. Are you aware of any Covenant to that effect having been made with David? Yes, I read of it in the history of David, and several times in the Psalms.
64. What do you understand it to mean? Why, that David was to have a descendant who should be Son of God, and who should occupy David's throne forever.
65. That descendant you understand to be Jesus Christ? Yes, it is so declared, and I believe it.
66. Then what idea is represented to your mind by the proposition that Jesus is to sit on David's throne? The idea expressed by the words. I can give you no better answer: perhaps I don't understand what you mean.
67. You are aware that orthodox teachers explain it to signify the position Christ now occupies at the right hand of God? Yes, I am aware of that; but I no longer receive that view. I understand Jesus will occupy the throne of David in a literal or political sense.
68. You don't, of course, suppose that the actual seat called a throne upon which David used to sit will be occupied by Jesus? No; I do not understand the word 'throne,' when used in a political sense, to apply to a bench or seat of any kind, but to the royal position. I believe, as applied to Jesus, that the phrase 'throne of David' has the same meaning that I find it has in other parts of Scripture, where it said Solomon and others 'sat on the throne of his father David.' They did not use the same seat, but they occupied the same position.
69. Then you expect Jesus to occupy the same position as David occupied? I do.
70. What position was it? King of the Jews.
71. Was he king for himself, or by his own appointing? No; he was king for God's nation, and was appointed to that position by God.
72. You are aware of the present position of the Kingdom of David? Yes, it can scarcely be said to exist. The land, of course, is there, and the nation exists in a state of dispersion, but there is no Kingdom.
73. Then what do you consider must happen before Jesus can sit on the throne of David? I consider that in the first place, Jesus must return from heaven and appear on earth, and take possession of the power that belongs to him as a king.
Then there must be a restoration of the Jews, and a reorganization of the ancient Kingdom in the land, which we are told will be reclaimed from the desolations of many generations, and made like the garden of the Lord. Indeed I don't know that I can express it in better language than that which says (Amos 9:11):
"I will raise up the tabernacle of Dav id that is fallen, & close up the breaches thereof, and will build it as in days of old."
74. You consider then that the setting up of the Kingdom of God on earth, of which you spoke to commence with, will be the re-setting up of the Kingdom God had before? Precisely, that is my idea: but, of course, as you pointed out, under a new and different order of things.
75. Can there be any Kingdom of God, then, without the restoration of the Jews? It is not for me to say what God can or cannot do, but it is quite certain that the Kingdom He has promised cannot become a fact in the earth without the restoration of the Kingdom again to Israel, for that is the Kingdom promised.
76. Will Jesus be no more than David was? Well, the son, in this case, I believe, is greater than his father, as is shown by the psalm Jesus quoted to the Pharisees in which David in spirit called him Lord.
77. But I mean with regard to the office he will exercise in the Kingdom when established? Well, David was simply a king. I believe Jesus will be a Priest as well as a King: he will be at the head of the religion of the whole world, and officiate between God and the nation of Israel.
78. Will his exercise of the priestly office require the offering of sacrifice? Well, he is a Priest now, and has offered the one great sacrifice in his own death.
79. I will come to that presently: my question relates to the state of things that will exist when the Kingdom of David is restored? With regard to Israel and the nations of the earth, you mean?
80. Yes. I believe the sacrifice of animals will be re-instituted. This is plainly taught by the prophets. It seems a little incongruous with the fact that Christ has accomplished the one great sacrifice, but I have no doubt it will serve a wise end.
81. What will be the object of Christ's rule in Israel? To bless them, I suppose, in everything: to give them good laws, to enlighten them, to teach them the truth, and bring them nearer to God, and make them fit for eternal life.
82. What will be the relation between the restored Kingdom of Israel and the other nations of the earth? I don't think I quite comprehend your meaning. As I take it, there will be no other power in the earth.
83. That was the point I wished to bring out. Do you suppose the kingdoms of the Gentiles will continue to exist after the Kingdom of Israel is restored? Oh no; I believe they will all be destroyed by Christ at his coming, and that the nations of the whole earth will be under the government of Christ.
84. Where will be the seat of this government? I believe in jerusalem, from which we're told the law goes forth to all nations.
85. How will the world be governed bythe King of the Jews? We are told that his people will reign with him. Therefore, I conclude, he will send out his people as governors in all the earth, to rule them, and judge among them, enlighten them as to his laws and the truth, and generally to bless them with the benefits of the Kingdom of God established in Palestine. In this sense I can see that the Kingdom of God will fill all the earth, while in one sense located in the Land of Promise.
86. Are you aware of any law with reference to Jerusalem that will come into force? Yes, I read that the nations will go yearly to Jerusalem to worship.
87. In what condition of nature do you suppose Christ's people will be, when thus ruling the world with him? I believe they will be in the same condition as he is: immortal.
88. Who are Christ's people? All, in every age, who believe the Promises, and are obedient to the commandments of God.
89. As the majority of them are dead, what must occur before they can be installed in the position you have described? They must be raised from the dead, and glorified.
90. What part do you hope to have in the Kingdom? I hope to be accepted by Christ as one of his people, and to share with all the rest the glory and honor of his position as King and Priest of the whole world.
91. You have rightly said the rulers of the Kingdom of God will be immortal. What will be the condition of Israel and the nations in this respect? I believe they will be mortal, and subject to death as we are now, only that life will be longer.
92. How long will this state of things continue? A thousand years.
93. Then the Kingdom of God is only to last 1000 years? It is testified that the saints will live and reign with Christ 1000 years.
94. Then is it so, that our salvation will only last 1000 years? Oh no: it will last for ever. The Kingdom will have no end: only the state of things you asked me about -- the ruling of the mortal nations on earth -- will come to an end after a 1000 years.
95. Then what will be after the 1000 years? There will be no more death and no more curse. All things on earth will be new. Christ's mission to take away the sin of the world and its consequences, will be accomplished.
96. How will this change be brought about? I believe that at the end of the 1000 years there will be a revolt of nations, followed by another resurrection and judgment, when all who are not found worthy of eternal life will be destroyed; and all others, living and dead, will be made immortal.
97. Do you suppose the earth will then be destroyed? No, it would be strange if it were destroyed just as its redemption is complete. It may be changed in some respects to adapt its condition to the new kind of inhabitant that will hereafter occupy it, but that it will ever be destroyed I do not believe. I believe it is appointed the eternal dwelling place of the redeemed of our race.
98. These then are the THINGS CONCERNING THE KINGDOM, which, you will observe, have mainly to do with the second coming of Jesus? So I clearly perceive.
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