Tag Archives: George Ladd

Defining “Kingdom of God”: A Paper (Part 1 of 3)

desert pathLast month I wrote a short paper about the definition of the term “kingdom of God” for my Fuller class on the Gospels. Originally, I was going to wait until I received a grade for the paper before I posted it online…but since it looks like Fuller is taking their time grading it, I figure I would go ahead and start posting sections of the paper for your reading enjoyment.  🙂

Note that while I am going to save the full bibliography until the end, I will try to include references throughout the journey so that you (and all the copyright lawyers out there) will know where I gathered my information. 😛



The Gospel texts declare that the central message of Jesus Christ was the “kingdom of God” (Mt 4:17; 9:35; Mk 1:14-15; Lk 4:43). Unfortunately, the phrase is not defined in the Gospel texts as the Biblical writers most likely assumed their readers would already know the meaning of the phrase. This leaves the modern reader in the predicament of having to define the phrase based upon the Old Testament writings, Jewish intertestamental literature, and the particular contexts in which Jesus used the phrase. Accordingly, this paper will seek to briefly define the phrase the “kingdom of God” and look at its impact on the teachings of Jesus. Continue reading Defining “Kingdom of God”: A Paper (Part 1 of 3)

The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of the Second Advent and the Rapture

At the heart of Biblical redemptive truth is the Blessed hope of the personal, glorious second advent of Jesus Christ. Salvation has to do both with the redemption of men as individuals and as a society. Salvation of individual believers includes the “redemption of the body” (Rom. 8:23). We must not only be saved from the guilt of sin, and delivered from the power of sin. Redemption is not completed until we are delivered from the very effects of sin in our moral bodies. The Biblical doctrine of the resurrection is a redemptive truth: it means the salvation of the body. This salvation will be realized only by the personal second coming of Christ.

So begins the introduction of George Ladd’s book The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of the Second Advent and the Rapture.

The Blessed Hope by George Ladd
The Blessed Hope by George Ladd

A fairly easy read, this book tackles a very important issue into today’s church: the substitution of the rapture in place of the Second Coming of Christ.

Think for a minute – if you were to stop your average every-day Christian on the street and ask them what they are looking forward to when Christ comes back, what would they say? I guess that most of them would tell you that they are looking forward to the rapture when they will be taken out of this world.

Yet, Biblical the rapture is not our hope.

Our hope, our Blessed Hope – as Ladd would say – is with the return of the King of Kings. That we may dwell with Him on a renewed earth. That is what we need to be looking forward too – not a pre-tribulation rapture that takes us out of the world like a cosmic escape hatch. Continue reading The Blessed Hope: A Biblical Study of the Second Advent and the Rapture

The Presence of the Future by George Ladd (Formerly Titled: Jesus and the Kingdom)

Normally I try not to follow a book review with another book review…but I am going to make an exception today. Tongue out

George Eldon Ladd's book The Presence of the Future is one of those landmark theological books that send shockwaves throughout Christendom. This is neither an overstatement nor the ramblings of a lunatic fan – it is exactly what happened in the mid-1960s when the book was released under the title Jesus and the Kingdom (the title was changed in 1974 when the "Revised Edition" was released).

So what is so "shocking" about Ladd's book?

Well to understand that you have to first take a step back and look at history of theology up to the 1960s.

Beginning in the early 18th century, scholars and theologians started to interpret the Bible as a historical document rather then the "word of God". This led many folks to discount the miracles, signs and wonders described in the Gospels as fictional stories added to the documents to help boost the early church's claims. [@more@]

Albert Schweitzer was a key player in this quest for the "historical Jesus" studying the Jewish writings, culture and religion of the inter-testamental period. Unfortunately, Schweitzer did not stop there – instead he proposed the concept that Jesus did not recognize himself as "God" but that he knew that he was just a human following the direction of the Lord.

The result of this "human" or historical Jesus concept is that the eschatological message of the kingdom of God that Jesus was proclaiming was false. Instead the only "good" parts of the Gospels where the social ethics promoted by Jesus (see my earlier book review on Schweitzer's Kingdom of God and Primitive Christianity).

The conservative fundamental reaction to this quest came in several different flavors, all of which stressed the God-breathed nature of the Bible:
  • Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement tended to focus on the victory passages of the Bible saying that the kingdom of God had come among man and that followers of Jesus could enjoy the fullness of life (ie. a realized eschatology).
  • Evangelicalism went the other route and focused on the spiritual nature of Jesus' message claiming that the kingdom of God was yet to come (ie. a delayed eschatology).

Enter George Ladd.

As the professor of New Testament exegesis and theology of Fuller Theological Seminary, Ladd was able to study the life and ministry of Jesus through the lens of both the quest for the historical Jesus and the conservative fundamental view. In other words, he studied ministry of Jesus Christ through the context of first century Judaism while maintaining the inerrancy of the Bible.

The result of this study was became known as "inaugurated eschatology" – or as Ladd puts it in The Presence of the Future:

The Kingdom of God is the redemptive reign of God dynamically active to establish his rule among men, and that this Kingdom, which will appear as an apocalyptic act at the end of the age, has already come into human history in the person and mission of Jesus to overcome evil, to deliver men from its power, and to bring them into the blessings of God's reign.

The Kingdom of God involves two great moments: fulfillment within history, and consummation at the end of history.

The impact of such a statement echoed throughout Christendom to the point that the majority of Bible scholars across all movements today tend to agree with Ladd's "inaugurated eschatology". Examples of such scholars include N.T. Wright, C.H. Dodd, and Gordon D. Fee.

You might have noticed that I used the phrase "tend to agree" when mentioning other scholars. The reason for that phrase is that while a lot of scholars agree with the concept of inaugurated eschatology, they don't apply it in practice.

To my knowledge, which I will grant is limited; there are only two movements that make inaugurated eschatology the PRIMARY focus of BOTH their theology and practice. These two movements are the Vineyard and the New Wine Movement within the Anglican Church in the UK.

Remember yesterday when I referenced the "eschatological Jesus" – well, this is what I was referring too. The Jesus who ushered in the Age to Come through his life and ministry; yet who also told informed us that the Age to Come is yet to come.

The Kingdom of God is here, coming; delayed and near – all at the same time. We live between the times in an eschatological tension.

The Last Things: An Eschatology For Laymen by George Ladd

George Ladd is one of my favorite theologians for a number of reasons. The main one however is his focus on the eschatological Jesus as oppose to the “legal” or “justification” Jesus of most evangelicals.

The Last Things: An Eschatology For Laymen is one of the last book written by Ladd before he died in the early ‘80’s. The date of the book – 1978 – is very important as it is a scholarly response to the rise of “Dispensationalism” in the late 1960s and 1970’s. Sadly enough (in my opinion) the ideas of dispensationalism has continued to grow over the past few decades to the point in which it is the primary eschatological view of evangelicalism.

You may ask “what is dispensationalism?”

Well, that is a very good question. Literally, “dispensationalism” means a “series of dispensations or time periods in which God deals in different ways with his people.” For example, cessationists use a twist on dispensationalism to “prove” that the gifts of the Spirit (healing, miracles, tongues, etc) have stopped.

Ladd doesn’t put a lot of focus on this aspect of dispensationalism as he sees no problems in having different time periods: the era of promise under Abraham, law under Moses, grace under Christ, and the Kingdom of God in the future. (Note that I personally disagree with Ladd on this point as I only see two Biblical time periods: this Present Evil Age and the Age to Come…but that’s another discussion.)

The main tenet of dispensationalism according to Ladd is “that there are two peoples of God for whom God has two different programs and destinies – theocratic and earthly for Israel, spiritual and heavenly for the church.”[@more@]

It is this tenet that Ladd is speaking out against as it affects the way one views prophecies. Instead, Ladd proposes that we “recognize progressive revelation” and “interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament.” More specifically, Ladd, who grew up under the umbrella of dispensationalism, states that the “Old Testament must be interpreted (and often reinterpreted) by the new revelation given in the person and mission of Jesus Christ.”

An example of this “reinterpretation” can be seen in Christology where Jesus reinterprets Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant” as the coming Messiah and the “Son of Man”. It is worth noting that within the context of Isaiah 53, the “Suffering Servant” is never referred to as the “Messiah” – instead the “servant concept fluctuates between the corporate concept, Israel, and the individual who redeems Israel.”

Knowing that folks would naturally ask about the modern day nation of Israel and what happens to them, Ladd devotes an entire chapter looking at the issue. Knowing that this is a hot bed of emotion, I’m going to try to summarize Ladd’s work as it pertains to this book view…however, if you want to know more, check out the book. Smile

In a nutshell, Ladd looks at Romans 9-11 in which Paul tackles this very same question. Paul starts off by pointing out that “Israel” – that is the people of God – is not identical with the physical offspring of Abraham: “For not all who are descended from Israel [natural seed] belong to Israel [spiritual seed], and not all are children of Abraham became they are his descendants.” (Rom 9:6-7). Or in other words, true Israel is determined not by natural physical descent or DNA, but by the “divine election and promise of God.”

So what do we do with the present day “Israel”? Ladd proposes three things:

  1. Israel remains a “holy” people (Rom 11:16), set apart and destined to carry out the divine purpose
  2. All Israel is yet to be saved
  3. The salvation of Israel must be through the new covenant made in the blood of Christ Jesus already established with the church, not through a rebuild Jewish temple with a revival of the Mosaic sacrificial system.

After addressing the main tenet of dispensationalism and how that affects the modern day nation of Israel, Ladd moves on to discuss the Second Coming of Christ, the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, the Resurrection, Rapture, Judgment and the Kingdom of God. Throughout each selection, Ladd looks at how prophecy is interpret through the life and mission of Jesus Christ while combating the views of dispensationalism.

One thing I must point out, as doubtless some of you are wondering, is that Ladd does hold to a classic premillennial view of Revelations. Meaning that he thinks there is a literal 1,000 year reign of Jesus on earth before the start of the New Age with the restored heaven and earth.

Classic premillennialism defers from dispensational premillennialism in that dispensationalist believe that the millennial kingdom is for the Jews in which the Mosaic sacrificial system is restored and the Old Testament prophecies about Israel as a nation are fulfilled literally. Again, even in this there is the core belief in dispensationalism that God has two separate people groups with whom He will deal with in two different ways.

If you are wondering, I tend to stick to the pan-millennialism view: everything is going to pan out and we win. However, if pushed, I would have to say that I lean towards either classic premillennialism or amillennialsim view as I don’t see much Biblical support for dispensational premillennialism or postmillennialism.Cool

A Black Coffee Day

coffeeIf you look, you can tell my mood by what I drink or what shoes I have on. For example, when I’m feeling tired, wore out or otherwise miserable, I drink my coffee black. If I’m doing great or if I want to relax, then I drink some tea or coffee with cream and sugar.

Today was a black coffee day.

It begin with my truck not starting (dead battery) and continued through out the day. Not because it was a “bad” so to speak – it’s just that I’m tired. I kept waking up last night coughing up crap and basically not sleeping. Sigh. It seems that our entire team (well, the US team at least) is still having health issues. If you think of us, please drop a line upwards for the Man to heal our bodies.

On the good side, I had a wonderful Bible study last night with the men from Sweet. We just started reading through the book of Galatians – talk about returning at the right moment (last night was chapter one). Our “usual” M.O. is to read a chapter out loud and then discuss it. Sometimes (like last night) this discussion takes off into other areas as there are a few of us who enjoy a lively “discussion”.

[@more@]In the past we have only studied ‘historical’ books (parts of Samuel and Kings as well as Acts). This time we are studying Paul – which I think will prove to be interesting.

One of the guys had a commentary by Martin Luther… which was “interesting” to say the least. In case you don’t know, I’m not a fan of Luther (or Calvin for that matter). Yeah, Luther did some great things for God, but he also had some strange and, in my view, incorrect views (but that’s another topic).

The main point of this is that the guy who had the commentary made the comment that I better bring a commentary on Galatians next week – someone to balance out Luther’s views. Rising to the challenge, I ordered N.T. Wrights commentary today (it should be in on Thursday). I’m looking forward to seeing what Wright has to say as he is one of the best Kingdom Theologians out there today.

I also have a New Testament Theology book by George Ladd that I’m going to look at…. And I may have another commentary on Galatians from my Paul’s Letters class at LU. Hmm… I wonder were it would be?