Dominionism

Hi Reggie,
I have a friend in a local church that embraces Dominion theology. I feel that it is a dangerous error. Can you have a look at this material and tell me what you think? How would you recommend I approach this?

I do not exaggerate when I say that I’ve never seen the prophetic portions of scripture handled more irresponsibly. This writer distorts and goes beyond the most extreme forms of non-millennial and anti-futurist viewpoints of preterism and / or amillennialism. At least those schools recognize a great tribulation and some form of Antichrist. Even if they interpret these as past, still, it is understood that any “dominion” that Christ secured by His victorious ascent was not of such a nature as to end the power and dominion of the beast kingdoms of this present evil age.

It is hard to see how anyone could suggest that the dominion of the beast kingdoms, the fourth in particular, could have ended with Christ’s heavenly coronation at the time of the ascension. It is clear that the dominion of the gentile kingdoms is not finally “taken away” (Dan 7:12, 26) until the destruction of the last beast (Dan 7:11; Rev 19:20) who brings the final persecution of the saints (Dan 7:21; Rev 6:11; Rev 13:7) at the end of the “times of the gentiles” (Lk 21:24; Ro 11:25).

Regardless of ones view of prophecy, all schools of eschatology agree that the early church faced a future Antichrist and tribulation of unequaled severity (Dan 12:1;  Mt 24:21; Rev 7:14). The kingdom had indeed come in power with Christ’s first advent, but the saints would not “possess” the kingdom in the way described in Dan 7:13-14, 26, until the destruction of the last persecuting beast (“little horn”) at Christ’s return (Dan 7:11 with Rev 19:20).

Since the beast is not destroyed until Christ’s return (Dn 7:11; 25-27; 12:7;  2Thes 2:8; Rev 19:20), we should understand that the kingdom described in  Dan 7:13-14 does not refer to Christ’s ascension, but to His return. Significantly, the “first resurrection” receives its very designation as “first” in manifest connection with resurrection of the tribulation martyrs of the final beast persecution (Rev 20:4).

According to Rev 17:12, there is a future development of the fourth kingdom in a final stage that is symbolized by ten horns, which is self-interpreted as “ten kings that shall arise” (Dan 7:24). According to Rev 17:12-13, these ten kings had not yet appeared at the time John wrote the Revelation.

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.”

This beast is clearly the ‘little horn’ of Dan 7:8, 21, 24-25.  Therefore, if these ten are clearly future from the time of John’s writing, it becomes plain that their “dominion” could not have been “taken away” at the time of Christ’s triumphant ascension.

In Dan 2:44, we see that the kingdom envisioned by Daniel comes “in the days of these kings” (i.e., the ten kings of Dan 7:24; Rev 17:12).

“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.”

How then can it be supposed that kingdom of Christ has taken this final form of world dominion at the time of the ascension? It is true that in Christ a present from of the kingdom has been revealed, i.e., “the mystery of the kingdom”. In this sense, the kingdom is here. We have been translated into the kingdom of His dear Son (Col 1:13). However, in Lk 21:20-21, 31, we see that “the kingdom of God” is still being represented as future (“near at hand”) in relation to the signs connected with the desolation of Jerusalem. In this sense, the kingdom of God remains a future hope (Rev 10:7; 11:15, 17-18).

It is therefore no denial of the present form of the kingdom to understand that there is a future form or stage of the kingdom that is not set up until ‘the days of the ten kings’. Rev 17:12 is decisive to show that the kingdom spoken of in Dan 2:44 could not have been established at the time of Christ’s first advent, simply because the ten kings that accompany the beast in the final persecution had not yet appeared at the time John’s writing of the Revelation. So whatever victory is signaled by Christ’s post-resurrection investment of “all authority,” it did not relieve the church of the expectation tribulation and a future beast that would “overcome” the saints (Dan 7:21; Rev 13:7).

Who will deny that the blasphemous ‘little horn’ of Dan 7:8, 11, 20-21, 25, is the self exalting king of Dn 11:36-37 that Paul identifies with a future ” man of sin” who will be destroyed at Christ’s return (2Thes 2:3-4, 8)? Now notice how Paul connects the destruction of this man to the time that Christ comes to gather the church to Himself (2Thes 2:1-4, 8; see also Mt 24: 31).  Paul is clear in showing that Christ cannot return until this “man” comes first (2Thes 2:3), and John is clear in showing that when this last beast appears, “he must continue a short space” (Rev 17:10).

A careful observance of the context will show that “kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven” is not “given to the people of the saints of the most High” (Dan 7:27) until AFTER the destruction of the beast (Dan 7:11, 26), who rises AFTER the ten kings (Dan 7: 24). This is the “little horn” of Dan 7:8 who prevails against the saints in Dan 7:21 (compare Rev 13:7). Let it not pass our notice that the kingdom is not given to the saints until after the final persecution of 3 1/2 years (Dan 7:25-27; 12:7; Rev 12:14; 13:5).

The writer of the article appears to arrive at his view that the dominion of the beast kingdoms is taken away at the point of Christ’s ascension on the basis of his reading of  Dan 7:13-14. Like many amillennialists, he assumes that the Christ receives the kingdom upon the event of His ascension attended by the clouds of glory (Acts 1:11). However, even if we grant that Christ receives the kingdom upon His triumphal ascent into glory, we must also say that He brings His kingdom with Him upon His return in clouds of glory (Mt 24:30; 1Thes 4:17; Rev 1:7).

A closer inspection of the context that surrounds Dan 7:13-14 will show that the dominion of the cloud coming Son of Man does not precede, but rather follows the destruction of the beast (Dan 7:11). In Rev 19:20, the same language is applied to the destruction of the beast at Christ’s return. So the dominion and kingdom that is in view in Dan 7:13-14, 27 can only refer to the millennial reign of Christ that follows the tribulation and the destruction of the beast, as the thousand year reign of Christ begins after the destruction of the final beast (Dan 7:11 with Rev 19:20) and the resurrection of martyrs of the last persecution (compare Rev 6:11; 20:4). [Note: If this resurrection is the same as the resurrection described in Dan 12:2, 13, then it is clear that it follows immediately after the great and unequaled tribulation of Dan 12:1 and Mt 24:21, 29).]

Since this writer takes the view of many that the dominion (“the greatness of kingdom under the whole heaven”; Dan 7:18, 27) passes over to the saints at Christ’s ascension, it becomes a matter of utmost concern how those taking this view want us to understand how this “dominion” of alleged present possession is to be understood and applied.

Some speak as though the kingdom secured by Christ is already so completely in the “possession” of the saints, as to imply that all that is waiting is for the saints to “take” or “possess” their possessions in a kind of spiritual warfare, whereby all earthly institutions are subject to be ‘re-claimed’ and transformed by the church.

In this view, anything that has not yielded to the sway of Christ’s dominionwaits only for the church to “possess” that ground or territory by spiritual conquest in the here and now. Such a presumptuous notion is not only opposed by scripture; it is opposed by reality and history. No such dominion passed to the saints at Christ’s first coming.

It is only after the destruction of this final beast (Dan 7:11 with Rev 19:20) that the saints receive dominion upon this earth (Dan 7:25, 26-27). Until then, the spirit of the individual believer is sealed and seated with Christ, but the earthly life of the church is still subject to the Devil’s hatred and persecution to the end (Rev 12:17). On what basis, then, do some say that the church of the present hour will be able to assert a greater “dominion” over the kingdoms of this world than the church of any former generation?

So what do we mean by the saints “possessing” the kingdom under the whole heaven (Dan 7:18, 27)? What do we mean by “dominion” in the sense it is used here in Daniel? Never, in all the centuries since Christ’s ascension, have the saints “possessed the kingdom” and exercised “dominion” in the sense that it is being taught by some today.

Since we are being assured that the tribulation is past, and Satan is already bound, does this mean that our generation will now accomplish what the saints of an earlier time could not? However we may understand Christ’s victory over Satan, one thing is certain. It did not exempt the church from tribulation (Jn 16:33; Acts 14:22; 1Thes 3:4).

Do we now make bold to declare that through a “better” understanding of Christ’s ascension over all principalities and powers, that we may now take back our government? What of the saints in other less advantaged countries, or countries that are increasingly hostile to the faith? Is this their time too? Will they also possess and exercise governmental dominion on this earth too, now that the devil has been so finally bound and defeated? Such presumption calls for a serious reality check as to how, and in what sense, has Satan’s dominion has been destroyed.

I noticed also that the author of the article understands “the end”, as it is used throughout Daniel, to refer to the days of the Roman occupation, which began in 63 B.C. This is simply astonishing. Anyone who will see, can see that the term is used to refer to a final Antichrist and tribulation that ends in nothing short of the resurrection, including Daniel’s personal resurrection (Dan 12:1-2, 13; see also Dan 11:35-36; 12: 4, 6-9).

But if the great tribulation is past, is Christ’s return also past? It surely must be, since His coming is “immediately AFTER the tribulation of those days” (Mt 24:29-31). Because the scripture is so clear that Christ comes after the tribulation, those who see the tribulation as now past say that Christ came in the sense of His spiritual presence in the judgment upon Jerusalem. They argue that Jesus depicted His coming in “cosmic language” or “apocalyptic imagery” familiar to the OT. Examples are sometimes cited to show that the “day of the Lord” imagery, so common to the OT, was intended only to convey an imminent cataclysm, not “the” end, but only “an” end, not “the” day of the Lord, but only “a” day of the Lord. Thus, it is believed that Jesus had reference only to the impending destruction of Jerusalem when He spoke of the “end”.

However, not only does the scripture place Christ’s return after the tribulation, it also places the resurrection at the end of the tribulation (see Dan 12:1-2). So what do we do with the resurrection in Dan 12:2? Consistency would demand that if Christ’s return after the tribulation is spiritual and not literal, then the resurrection of Dan 12:2 must also be spiritual, since it too comes at the end of the tribulation. In other words, if the tribulation of Dan 12:1 and Mt 24:21 is to be reckoned as past, then by the same rule, the resurrection of Dan 12:2 must also be past.

Notice how Paul connects Christ’s return to destroy the Antichrist in 2Thes 2:8 with the believer’s hope of being gathered to Christ at the day of the Lord (“our gathering together unto Him”; compare 2Thes 2:1-3, 8). Notice too how nearly Paul’s language matches the Lord’s reference to the post-tribulational “gathering together of His elect” (Mt 24:29, 31). You see then how these events cannot be separated without great violence to the context and the consistent use of terms that are too similar to dissociate.

If the tribulation is past, then in some sense Christ must have returned “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Mt 24:29-31). If this is so, then it follows that the resurrection of Dan 12:2 is also past, since it too follows the unequaled tribulation of Dan 12:1 and Mt 24:21. If past, and the church is still here, to what then does such a ‘spiritual’ resurrection have reference?

In view of such ‘exegetical problems’ for those who subscribe to the view the tribulation is past, we must further ask, did this mystical return of Christ in the events of 70 A.D. also accomplish the destruction of Paul’s ‘man of sin’? This would be impossible to maintain, since Paul so clearly connects the believer’s hope of being gathered to Christ at His return (2Thes 2:1) with the destruction of the man of sin at the day of the Lord (2Thes 2:3, 8). Let us not make bold to separate what God has so manifestly joined together, while we boast of attention to context.

I would like to ask this writer what he thinks we are to do with the many scriptures that describe a future Antichrist as contemporary with a final, brief, and unequaled tribulation? In Daniel chapter 7, dominion passes to Christ in Dan 7:13-14 only after the destruction of the beast in Dan 7:11. Only a serious neglect of context can imagine that the dominion of the beast kingdoms has been ‘taken away’ at Christ’s first advent, while the ultimate head of that kingdom (the Antichrist) is not destroyed until His return.

Context will not permit the separation of Christ’s return from the post-tribulational day of the Lord that destroys the Antichrist, raises the dead, and gathers the church. Furthermore, the context of the day of the Lord in both testaments is always depicted, as centered around a final siege of Jerusalem.

It may have been the greatest temptation for many living long after the destruction of Jerusalem to interpret the prophecies in an allegorical way. How else could it be maintained that Christ could come soon, since the Olivet prophecy, Paul’s “little apocalypse”, and John’s Revelation had tied the events of Christ’s return so closely to the final desolation of Jerusalem (Mt 24:15-16, 21; 2Thes 2:4; Rev 11:2)? But now, the blessed hope of the church and Israel can be soon enough fulfilled without such spiritualization of scripture. It has returned to its first century apocalyptic context.

Against all odds, veritable mountains have moved in recent history to make possible the literal fulfillment of an end that “shall not come” apart from a last day’s struggle over Jerusalem (Dan 11:31; 12:11; Mt 24:14-16; 2Thes 2:3-4). We have come full circle. The church of today lives again beneath the shadow of an imminent world crisis over Jerusalem, as the covenant city has once again become a cup of trembling to all the nations round about (Zech 12:2-3).

The age will end exactly as the ancient Hebrew prophets said it would, around an international dilemma over Jersualem, called by the prophet Isaiah, “the controversy of Zion” (Isa 34:8). This is why such doctrinal distortions of the kind this writer sets forth are perfectly calculated to blind and disarm the church to what is fast approaching. When interpretation misleads to this degree, it is no more an academic discussion; it is spiritual. It is pastoral abdication.

We fully grant that the NT shows a pattern of fulfillment that some have called “realized”, or still better, “inaugurated eschatology”. It is the recognition that by the revelation and mighty acts of the Spirit, the powers of the coming age have broken into history, in unexpected advance of the day of the Lord. There is the “already” of present fulfillment, but there is also the “not yet” that must await the yet future day of the Lord. In the NT, the phrase, ‘day of the Lord’ or ‘day of God’, is always associated with Christ’s return to gather His church (1Cor 5:5; 2Cor 1:14; 1Thes 5:2; 2Thes 2:1-3; 2Pet 3:10, 12; Rev 16:14-15).

No one doubts that the second epistle of Peter was written after 70 A.D. There, the day of the Lord, or “day of God” (2Pet 3:10, 12), is still seen as the future hope of the church (compare also 1Thes 5:2, 4; Rev 16:14-15). All throughout the OT prophets, the day of the Lord is always depicted as ending a period of unequaled tribulation. Daniel, following the lead of the earlier prophets, sees a final aggressor in connection with an unequaled great tribulation. The tribulation is always depicted as ending with his destruction and Israel’s deliverance and the resurrection of the righteous (Dan 7:11; 11:45; 12:1-2, 13 with Isa 25:8; 26:19-21).

If the passages in Dan 7 concerning the Antichrist (“little horn”, “beast”; “king of fierce countenance”, “vile person”, “willful king” etc) are all past, the question becomes, when were these things fulfilled? It sounds like this writer is saying that when Christ destroyed the works of the Devil (or sealed their destruction; 1Jn 3:8), the power and dominion of the beast kingdoms was finally stripped away and given to the saints. How then do we explain Dan 8:24 with Rev 13:2, where Satan has power to empower a final beast kingdom, which, on any interpretation, was certainly future to the Lord’s heavenly enthronement at His ascension?

I noticed that this writer’s case stands or falls on a single text of disputed meaning, i.e., Dan 7:12: “As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.” However, the surrounding context makes clear that this removal of dominion awaits the destruction of the final “little horn” (Antichrist), who is the farthest extension of the last beast kingdom, and final stage of the kingdom of man, as represented in Daniel’s metallic image in Dan 2.

Therefore, unless one is already predisposed to dismiss a future millennium, it makes much better sense to see that the ten kingdoms are not finally destroyed at the end of the “times of the gentiles” (Lk 21:24), but continue into the millennial age. Their power is broken, but they survive as nations to come under the millennial rule of Christ. Some of these nations become penitently submitted to the rule of God out of Jerusalem, as shown by many OT prophecies (e.g., Isa 19:23-25; Mic 4:2; Zech 2:11; 8:23).

Regardless of how spiritually or literally its duration is interpreted, the scripture makes clear that the millennium does not begin until AFTER the resurrection of the tribulation martyrs (Rev 20:4), who are not raised until AFTER the destruction of the final beast (Rev 19:20), who brings the final persecution against the saints (Dan 7:21 with Rev 6:11; 13:5).

Therefore, to place the removal of the fourth kingdom’s dominion at Christ’s ascension is an overly realized eschatology, to say the least. It is self exposed by the view of the NT that Christ’s victory over death and the Devil has not removed the outward character and progress of a “present evil age” which continues to remain under the sway of the evil one (1Jn 5:19).

If this writer understands that the dominion of the earth (“under the whole heaven”) passed over to the saints with Christ’s ascension, then surely he must see the kind of limits this would put on his concept of dominion. Rather than exercising “dominion” over this world’s kingdoms, the church has always been a people who, for Christ’s sake, are “killed all the day long” (Ro 8:36). So which is it? Did the ascension mark the end of this world’s beast kingdoms, or was it the “end” of Jerusalem in 70 A.D?

If Nero was the beast, and the Roman siege of Jerusalem marked the time of Christ’s mystical return, then what kind of dominion was “taken away” from all the long line of tyrants that have equaled or exceeded the power and cruelty of the Caesars? This doesn’t appear to justify the interpretation that the dominion of the beasts has been taken away. From the time that John wrote his Revelation, a sixth beast was present, and another, the worst of all, was still to come (Rev 17:10).

If we suppose that the post-Constantine church seemed momentarily to bear rule over many of the kingdoms of the earth, we should also remember that the time of the church’s greatest temporal dominion was also the time of its greatest apostasy. This episode of history displayed nothing of the kind of dominion that God promises His persecuted people at the end of a final great tribulation. Sometimes what appears success is really judgment.

No, the “dominion” spoken of in Dan 7 comes to the saints only AFTER the destruction of the beast (compare the nearly identical language in Dan 7:11 with Rev 19:20). In John’s Revelation, the first resurrection follows the destruction of the beast (Rev 20:4). Paul quotes Daniel verbatim to show that the willful king of Dan 11:36-37 is the ‘man of sin’ that Christ destroys at His return (2Thes 2:3-4, 8). In Daniel, he’s the one who brings the tribulation that ends in the resurrection (Dan 7:25; 11:31-36; 12:1-2, 7 with Rev 11:2; 13:5). “This” is when the saints possess the kingdom, and not before. Only then, when “the beast is destroyed and his body given to the burning flame” (Dan 7:11), do the saints rule and reign with Christ for a thousand years (Dan 2:44; 7:13-14; Rev 20:4).

It is true that we have been translated into the kingdom of His dear Son, and “in Him” we are sit down in heavenly places, far above all principality and power. In Him, we have victory over fear and death, despite all kinds of tribulation. But as to the public enforcement of His rule, we must say that “now we see not yet all things put under Him” (Heb 2:8). There is still a “not yet” of future fulfillment that is not fully enforced until His return in glory. That is the blessed hope. It’s not here yet. Only then, at His appearing, will the spirit of Antichrist that has reached final embodiment in the ‘man of sin’, be finally destroyed. Only at the sounding of the last trumpet will the “mystery of God be finished” and “the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and His Christ” (Rev 10:7; 11:15, 17-18). “Which in His times shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1Tim 6:15).

Dominionism is a fair weather theology that is destined to wither with the blast of real poverty and persecution. It is philosophically bound to find apocalyptic futurism its worst theological nemesis. It requires an overly realized eschatology that emphasizes only the “already” of NT fulfillment, while it neglects or denies the “not yet” of the early church’s well documented expectation of Christ’s post-tribulational return to destroy the Antichrist.

One must remember that even on preterist terms, Christ’s victory over Satan did not relieve the early church of its expectation of a future great tribulation. How then can a kind of dominion be asserted now that could not be asserted then? Is it because that was only the concern of the early church? Can we now safely assure ourselves that nothing of such an apocalyptic disruption need concern us, as we proceed to reclaim the institutions of this world for Christ? The suffering king will reign with His suffering church, but that dominion is of a wholly different kind.

It is well known among historical scholars that the Christian gospel has its roots in the Jewish apocalyptic tradition that flourished in the period between the testaments, and was thoroughly futuristic in its expectation of an apocalyptic end to the present evil age. There was no reading of scripture that opposed the present spiritual truth of the Christian’s ascended position in Christ to the common expectation of suffering and opposition in this present evil age.

The new man in Christ has indeed been delivered from the present evil age (Gal 1:4), or more particularly the power of the powers. Even so, his life in this world continues to be exposed to tribulation, sometimes “great tribulation” (Rev 12:14, 17). This is the tension that remains with the church as a people ‘between the times’. We are sit down with Christ in a finished work, while the structures of this world remain in tact and, in the larger part, under the power of Satan. Restraint is at best momentary.

According to the NT revelation of the mystery of two distinct comings of Jesus, the promised salvation of Israel has been revealed in advance of its future fulfillment to Israel at the post-tribulational day of the Lord. An earnest of that coming day has indeed come, but it is only realized in the “presence of our enemies”. The regenerating revelation of the gospel gives power over the present evil age; it does not end it. Though once and for all defeated, and their rule broken “in Christ” and “in the Spirit,” still, the powers of this age are able to assert their pernicious influence in the world of nature. This will continue until their power is finally removed by the revelation of Christ from heaven. That is the ‘already and not yet’ pattern of NT fulfillment.

Finally, I think this kind of theology is only a symptom of something far more serious. If it goes unchecked, it will exact a heavy toll in days ahead. It shows a serious blindness to the ‘way of the cross’. Where it may not overtly deny, it certainly neglects the cruciform character of the gospel and the nature of the kingdom in its present form. I believe it fails to apprehend “the mystery of the faith”, as a pattern of suffering and death before resurrection and glory (Lk 24:26).

It makes for a great pep rally of religious emotional excitement at all the “boundless possibilities” for the “conquest of faith”, but it ill-prepares its adherents for the shock that will come when this wrong headed presumption concerning the nature of dominion is exposed, not only by apocalyptic events, but by what a friend of mine calls the ‘suddenlies’ of life, yes, even those unexpected intrusions that can turn any Christian’s life into its own “great tribulation”. So it’s very important to distinguish between what has, and what has not been promised to believers, not only in a comparatively free land at this time, but in all lands at all times.

“Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Rev 13:10; 14:12).

These are just some of my objections to something that should not be getting to first base (Acts 17:10-11). That it does get to first base is itself a revelation of an humanistic optimism that has been cultivated in this nation in particular, that with the proper teaching, incentive, and strength of resolve, “nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them” (Gen 6:11).

Yours in the Beloved, Reggie

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