Salvation, and Damnation, From the Same Hand

From the Foreward by Gary North, in He Shall Have Dominion, pages ix-

[My words are bracketed.]

Time to Decide

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So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55: 11, KJV)

The gospel message of personal salvation is this: eternal life is by God’s grace through saving faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ. When a Christian shares this gospel message with anyone, he sends out God’s holy Word. This Word never returns to God empty. Sometimes it saves. Sometimes it damns.

What is the legal basis of this message of eternal life? It begins with history. Jesus Christ, who was both a perfect man and the incarnate son of God, came down from heaven into history, perfectly met God’s standards of righteousness, suffered injustice at the hands of unrighteous men, was crucified, dead, and buried. On the third day, He rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty, from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. Any objections so far? I hope not.

Then what about eternal life? It also begins in history. Those people who believe and publicly confess in this life that Jesus Christ’s representative legal work of redemption is their only legal claim to mercy before God, both now and in eternity, are saved, assuming that they continue in this profession of faith until their physical death. Once a person is saved by God’s judicial declaration of “not guilty” (i.e., justification), he remains saved, but the internal and external evidence of the legal fact of this salvation is the person’s continuing belief in the gospel message. Those who refuse to believe this message are lost. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). God’s grace and wrath both begin in history.

This means that Jesus’ work of redemption in history is two-fold: reconciliation and condemnation. Same work, two effects. Same gospel, two effects. This two-fold aspect of the gospel reflects the two-fold aspect of God’s judgment: blessing and cursing (Lev. 26; Deut. 28).[1] This means that whenever a Christian shares the message of God’s reconciliation through Jesus Christ, he is also sharing the message of God’s condemnation by Jesus Christ. There is no escape from God’s two-fold judgment.

The threat of condemnation is unavoidable. Jesus said: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). If the recipient of the gospel message fails to respond in faith, he is worse off than before he heard the gospel. As in the parable of the two evil servants, the one who knew better will receive greater punishment. “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:47-48). As surely as there is a heaven and a hell, Christ’s gospel reconciles some and condemns others.

[1] Ray R. Sutton, That You May Prosper: Dominion By Covenant (2nd ed.; Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), ch. 4. Sutton is president of the Philadelphia Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church.

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[God demands that you – and I – make a choice.]

The Consequences of Choosing Well

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The Gospel’s Effects in History

When a person is legally reconciled to God, this changes the kind of person he is. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). This transformation is both

judicial and moral. It happens all at once. But its effects do not happen all at once. As in the case of a newborn baby, it takes time in order for the new person in Christ to mature spiritually. It takes time, as the Bible says, to work out the salvation that is ours in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). It is all sanctification – God’s sovereign act of setting us apart from the world morally – but there are three aspects of this sanctification, even though they constitute one process. Theologians speak of definitive sanctification – the complete moral perfection that we receive by grace at the moment when we are saved – and progressive sanctification: the working out in history of the moral perfection that is in principle ours already by grace. There is also final sanctification: the perfection that we receive by grace after the resurrection at the end of history. It is all sanctification. It is all by grace, ordained from the beginning, including our good works:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:8-10).

We can see this “definitive-progressive-final” process in operation in the first chapter of Genesis. God created the world in six days. At the end of each day, He pronounced His work good. “God saw that it was good” occurs repeatedly in the chapter. God’s daily work was good in the morning; it was good all day long; and it was good in the evening. At the end of six days, His work was complete. It, too, was good. More than good: very good (Gen. 1:31). Work completed is better than work just begun. If there were not sin in this world, everything we do would be like that: all good, but getting better all the time. Forever. This is what life will be like after the resurrection for all those saved by grace through faith. From the first things (creation) to the final things (judgment), and everything in between: it would all be good.

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[Choosing life, instead of death, is only the start of our labours on this world. We must be sanctified. The evil in our hearts must be crippled, crushed, killed. The good that the Holy Spirit bring into our hearts must be nurtured, protected, fed, increased.

And, while the expansion of the Kingdom of God begins in our hearts, it cannot end there. It MUST grow outside of our hearts and our heads, to direct and shape our lives, our studies, our families, our businesses, our towns and cities and nations.

The Kingdom of God must fill the earth. And every inch of land, every way of thinking, every action, every dime and dollar that the thieving and lying snake holds must be ripped from his grasp.

All of it.

Fortunately, it need not all be done immediately. Just like the purification of our lives and our civilization, it is a gradual process. Step by step, day by day, man by man, word by word, the Kingdom grows.]

Might makes Right?
No: Right Makes Might!

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Of course, there is sin in this world. There is perpetual conflict in history between good and evil: God vs. Satan, angels vs. demons, covenant-keepers vs. covenant-breakers, eternal life vs. eternal death. The question that we need to get answered correctly is this: Is the principle of evil more powerful in history than the principle of good? Christians know that Satan is surely no match for God in terms of power. History is not some sort of cosmic arm-wrestling match between God and Satan. If it were, God would win ten rounds out often. But the primary issue in history is not power; the primary issue is ethics. This does not mean that history does not involve questions of power. It does mean that questions of power are subordinate to questions of ethics. Might does not, in and of itself, make right. Agreed?

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[Quite a lot of people disagree, actually. Aging Marxists and young Woke Liberals – well on their way on purging their Liberal elders – believe that power in their hands make right. Just as Darwin’s philosophy naturally directs us to. (See: Critical Theory is Certainly Correct and Does Darwinism help produce anarchic nihilism?)

But I will assume that my readers are Christians, not Secularists, and therefore do agree that Might does not make Right.

Therefore, even if Christians have power in a given society, their power does not, by itself, make their actions right. If they use their power unlawfully, in violation of the Laws of God, God Himself will strip those Christians of their power…

(directly/supernaturally, or – more likely, nowadays – by using some handy tool like “logical consequences”, “unforeseen events”, “regrettable miscalculations” or “delusional arrogance”)

…and punish those “powerful” lawbreakers.

Obedience to God, coupled with responsibility discharged well, brings blessings and authority and power.

Disobedience to God, which naturally ties in with irresponsibility, incompetence, and some form of bloated pride (secretly or openly), brings curses and disgrace and powerlessness.]

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But there is this nagging question: Is might in some way an outcome of right, or an aspect of right? Put another way, is might always actively opposed to right? Put yet another way, must right eventually produce might? Or does right eventually produce weakness? By eventually, I do not mean “overnight”; I mean over long periods of time. Put in language of modern economics, do the good get richer and the bad get poorer over time? Or is it the other way around? The Bible has an answer:

But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that Howeth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people. (Lev. 20:24)

And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it (Deut. 31:7)

His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth. (Psa. 25:13)

For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. (Psa. 37:9)

But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. (Psa. 37:11)

For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off. (Psa. 37:22)

Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it. (Psa. 37:34)

And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there. (!sa. 65:9)

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5).

This process of inheritance culminates in final judgment: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). The biblical principle is easy to state: righteousness is the foundation of inheritance. The point is, this process does not apply only to final judgment; it is definitive, progressive, and final. It is therefore historical.

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[The good guys – with “good” defined by God, and not by powerful men – are going to win.

And the bad guys are going to lose.

In general (but increasingly so, with the occasional setback), in time and on earth.

Two steps forward, one step back.

And – later – three steps forward, one step back.]

Victory in History?
To the Law and the Testimony!

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The Link Is No Longer Missing

Dr. Gentry has already defended exegetically the comprehensive implications and applications of Jesus’ Great Commission.[1] In doing so, he has offered the culturally retreatist and defeatist theology of pietism its most detailed exegetical challenge in the twentieth century. He has also documented in exhaustive detail the dating of the Book of Revelation: before A.D. 70.[2] This has removed the most significant criticism of the preterist (past tense, i.e., historically completed) interpretation of the Book of Revelation. The preterists argue that all the prophecies regarding the Great Tribulation were fulfilled with the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.[3] The preterist interpretation was easily criticized by those who argued that the Book of Revelation was written in A.D. 96. This counter-argument can no longer be easily sustained. Gentry demolished it in Before Jerusalem Fell. So far, there has been no detailed published refutation.

Now Gentry comes with an explicitly theonomic case for postmillennialism. No longer is the question of ethical cause and effect stripped out of postmillennialism. God’s Bible-revealed laws and their appropriate sanctions in history lie at the very heart of his discussion of postmillennialism. The reader needs to understand that this book is the first detailed, exegetical presentation of covenantal (theonomic) postmillennialism. It is not just that Gentry argues for the continuing authority of God’s law – what might be called barebones theonomy. It is not just that he argues for postmillennialism – what might be called barebones postmillennialism. What is significant about He Shall Have Dominion is that it links together these two positions by means of a covenantal doctrine of God’s predictable historical sanctions in history.[4] Gentry defends the continuation of God’s sanctions in history as a theologically necessary component of postmillennialism’s doctrine of the comprehensive triumph of the kingdom of God in history. Without this link, there can be no ethics-based Christian philosophy of history. Paraphrasing the philosopher Immanuel Kant, “Theonomy without post-millennialism is impotent; postmillennialism without theonomy is blind.” Theonomic postmillennialism is a unified system.

This is why He Shall Have Dominion is so important. From this point forward, this book will represent the position known as theonomic postmillennialism. All future expositions in the name of this position will have to build self-consciously on He Shall Have Dominion. As the old advertisement used to put it, ”Accept no substitutes!”

[1] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Greatness of the Great Commission: The Christian Enterprise in a Fallen World (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990).

[2] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989).

[3] David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1987); Chilton, The Great Tribulation (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1987).

[4] Chapters 6 and 10.

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[God acts in history.

God acts predictably in history, in the manner that He has already spelled our for us in His law. “As handed down to Moses, and modified by Jesus Christ.”

We now know HOW to win: as a man, as a family, as a nation.

And, we now know HOW to avoid losing: turning away from defeat, disgrace, damnation.

The way of life is open.

So, what are we waiting for?

Let’s win!]

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