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Why I research Kingdom Exclusion

“First of all, you must understand this: No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever originated through a human decision. Instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21, ISV).

In November 2007, I published a critique of the teaching commonly known as the “Word of the Kingdom.” The occasion was a circumstance that had arisen at Mountain Bible Church, where I am youth pastor. The teaching had been introduced by members two years earlier, and was the source of some alarm. After a period of extensive review, the eldership concluded that the teaching “clearly adds to the Gospel message and leads to a very specific point of view that departs from traditional evangelical Christianity.” Officially, the eldership decided that they would not “support” or “recommend” the teaching nor would they permit the “Word of the Kingdom” to be taught at church-sponsored events. Subsequently, my critique, which was intended as a personal response to the teaching, was endorsed by the eldership (many of whom edited and commented on the working drafts). Simultaneously, I published the critique at Agabus.com, my personal blog, to initiate a period of public comment on three critical objections raised in my paper. A number of people responded, and I am actively corresponding with those who are interested in this topic.

Admittedly, the critique reflects a local concern, and that is problematic, as a few points require “inside” knowledge. I choose to publish it on the world-wide web because I felt the paper could nevertheless be useful to others in similar circumstances.

I am currently working on a second critiquea, and I have expanded the focus to include the doctrine of “kingdom exclusion” or “millennial exclusion,” a school of thought promoting the idea of a “temporary punishment of unfaithful Christians at the judgment seat and during the millennial kingdom” (J.D. Faust, The Rod, Will God Spare It?). This doctrine is relatively obscure, and, as such, has not been examined by the Christian community at large. Much of what has been published about millennial exclusion originates from proponents of the doctrine. The second critique will more generally address the topic.

In accordance with the scripture quoted above, I believe this teaching should be reviewed by a body of competent scholars and lay people. I am issuing such a call.

Anecdotal observations:

1. Millennial exclusion is a form of dispensationalism. Its advocates are predominantly pre-millennialists.

2. ME is a relatively new doctrine, originating perhaps in the early- to mid-20th century. As such, it is not commonly known. For reference, consider Cornerstone Christian Fellowship’s assertion that “most churches today emphasize the gospel of grace, but do not teach the gospel of the glories of Christ” (link). Cornerstone is a “kingdom” or “exclusionist” congregation.

3. In some manner, ME is a reworking of the Catholic notion of purgatory (proponents of ME categorically reject this point).

4. There is a tendency toward modalism, i.e. God switching between Father, Son and Spirit (this observation bears some threshing out—it has been observed elsewhere).

5. ME is maintained by a diverse—and sometimes divergent—body of believers, including Watchman Nee, Arlen L. Chitwood, A. Edwin Wilson, and J.D. Faust.

6. ME employs an allegorical hermeneutical method based on types and antitypes.

7. ME has not been codified systematically; there are divergent strains.

8. Advocates of ME typically avoid naming this doctrine, insisting that what they teach is simply what one finds in scripture. They generally avoid appellation. (I have adopted the term, millennial exclusion, on two grounds: it is an apt descriptor and it has been applied by some advocates of the doctrine of “temporary punishment.”)

9. ME is not promoted as a new teaching. Its advocates often claim they are simply “going deeper” into scripture or are “studying the full counsel of scripture.” They also suggest that all they are doing is letting the “scripture speak for itself.” Implied in this view is the idea that ME is not an interpretation of scripture.

10. ME attempts to reconcile the doctrines of eternal security to warnings in the New Testament against immoral conduct and also exhortations to finish well.

11. ME promotes three modes of salvation, viewing man as a tripartite or triune being. The spirit is saved by grace. The salvation of the soul emanates from grace but is “determined by works” (see Cornerstone’s statement of faith, for example). The salvation of the body is realized at the resurrection, and its state is determined by the condition of the soul.

12. MEists tend toward King-James-onlyism, i.e. the preference of the King James Bible over modern translations, typically rooted in theological concerns.

These anecdotal observations (some of which are documented in my critique) require further research and critical analysis.

My aim is to research these points objectively, and thus I submit them to the Christian community at large. Public comment is welcome.