The Biblical Structure of History (8): Chapter 5, Inheritance

Gary North – November 01, 2021

The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head (Psalm 110:1–7).

A. Covenant Model, Point 5

Point 5 of the biblical covenant model is succession. There is change over time. People improve their skills. As they extend their dominion in history, others replace them. In the post-fall world, death removes people. They are replaced.

Point 5 of biblical social theory is inheritance. At the death of the testator, the testament identifies the heirs and each heir’s inheritance.

Point 5 of biblical history is the same as point 5 of biblical social theory: inheritance.

B. Analysis

Psalm 110 is quoted directly or referred to indirectly more often in the New Testament than any other Old Testament passage: at least 27 times, according to James Montgomery Boice. The psalm is short and to the point: God (the Lord) told a civil ruler who represented Him in Zion that Zion will be victorious in history. He will rule over his enemies as if they were a footstool, meaning total victory. He will possess political power: “the day of thy power.” Yet this ruler was a priest after the order of Melchizedek, not Levi. He is a priest who exercised civil power.

How could this be? Civil power was through Judah. David was the model. The Mosaic priesthood was through Levi. One thing is certain: no one under the Old Covenant fulfilled this prophecy. Yet it must be fulfilled. “The Lord hath sworn and will not repent.” Therefore, it has to be fulfilled in the New Testament era of history—not the world after the final judgment. No agent of God will rule over the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14–15), i.e., “the heathen” who are enemies of God. This leader will reign over kingdoms as a man who places his feet on a footstool in rest. This is “footstool theology.”

The language of civil power is inescapable. “He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.” This civil rule is international. If this language does not to refer to comprehensive political power, it is meaningless. Also, if it does not refer to history, where death still exists, it is meaningless. It is worse than meaningless. It is deliberately misleading. It conveys a list of prophecies that will never be fulfilled in history.

This civil ruler is identified as a priest after the order of Melchizedek. We know who this ruler is: Jesus Christ. The Epistle to the Hebrews identifies Him. “By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament” (Hebrews 7:22). Chapter 7 is devoted to a discussion of this new priesthood. His is a priesthood after the order of Melchizedek.

If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec (vv. 11–17).

Jesus Christ is the prophesied priest of Psalm 110. “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore” (vv. 26–28).

We also know who sits at the right hand of God: Jesus Christ. “But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?” (Hebrews 1:3). Therefore, part this of the prophecy of Psalm 110 has been fulfilled literally in history. Jesus is the priest after the order of Melchizedek. He sits at God’s right hand. Luke announced: “Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69). Peter wrote of Christ: “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1 Peter 3:22).

What about the remainder of the prophecies in Psalm 110? These will be fulfilled literally as surely as those prophecies that referred to a priest after the order of Melchizedek were fulfilled literally, and as surely as the prophecy of a man sitting at God’s right hand was fulfilled literally. To spiritualize away these literal prophecies is a violation of the biblical hermeneutic. These prophecies did not refer to a spiritual kingdom that has no power over God’s enemies in history. They surely do not refer to a kingdom that is under the rule of covenant-breakers. The kingdom of God at the end of history will not be the footstool of covenant-breakers.

C. 1 Corinthians 15

Paul cited this psalm to justify his theory of Christ’s comprehensive triumph in history.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:20–28).

To understand this passage, we must pay attention to the sequence of the comprehensive victory of Christ in history. First, He rose from the dead. In this sense, He was the firstfruits, which was a mandatory offering every year in Mosaic Israel (Leviticus 23:10–14). His resurrection was literal. Paul insisted on this point: “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (v. 14). Second, there will be a resurrection of those people who have been redeemed by Christ. This resurrection will be literal, just as Christ’s resurrection was literal. It is not figurative. This has to refer to the final judgment. “Then cometh the end” (v. 24a).

We come now to a crucial point in the biblical philosophy of history. The Biblical view of history is linear: creation, development, and final judgment. History is not cyclical. I have argued that this development has two themes: the transition from grace to wrath, which ended in Genesis 3, and the transition from wrath to grace, which ends in Revelation 20. Then comes the end of time: final judgment. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14–15). Revelation 21 and 22 are therefore post-historical.

First Corinthians 15 deals with eschatology: the doctrine of the last things. I have mentioned Paul’s first two points of eschatology in this passage: the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of His people. This brings me to the third point: “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (vv. 24–25). The progressive victory of Christ’s kingdom in history will come through His representative agents, not through His bodily presence in history. Christ’s bodily resurrection was literal. The resurrection of His followers will be literal. The extension of His kingdom in history and rule over covenant-breakers is literal. The fourth point is death. It is also literal. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet” (vv. 26–27). This has to refer to the final judgment.

The only things that are not literal in this passage are Christ’s feet. This language is allegorical. It was also allegorical in Psalm 110. The image of Christ putting His feet on the whole world and then resting is allegorical of His comprehensive rule in history. The imagery makes no sense if the footstool does not represent the kingdoms of this world. If the kingdoms of this world are not represented by the footstool, then the footstool represents the church. Then it is Satan who puts his feet on the footstool. Christians are under his domination. Satan rests victorious. This is not what Paul taught.

The Christian view of history is linear. Humanist historians have made this observation for generations. I am arguing more than this. I am arguing that history has revealed and will continue to reveal an increasing influence of Christianity in every area of life. In other words, I interpret 1 Corinthians 15 literally—except for the feet.

D. Bridegroom and Bride

Matthew 25 is devoted to the final judgment. It offers two parables: the parable of the ten virgins (vv. 1–13) and the parable of the three stewards (vv. 14–30). It ends with a description of the final judgment: the separation of the sheep from the goats (vv. 31–45). Here is the parable of the ten virgins.

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh (Matthew 25:1–13).

It is clear that the bridegroom is Jesus Christ. In other New Testament passages, Christ is described as the bridegroom. John the Baptist was baptizing people when Jesus’ ministry began. His disciples came to him “and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:26b–30). Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25–27).

Christ is the bridegroom. The church is the bride. John wrote of the world beyond the grave: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:1–2). This follows the wedding celebration or marriage supper of the lamb: “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God” (Revelation 19:7–9).

Jesus’ role as the bridegroom of the church is central to His role as Redeemer. God selects the members of Christ’s church. Then He redeems them by grace. “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 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” (Ephesians 2:6–10).

The bridegroom has a bride. The bride is the church. The history of mankind ever since the fall of man has been the story of the purification of the church. This purification is ethical. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:1–2). This is what he meant when he wrote of the church as “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

There is a process of ethical sanctification here. Theologians call this progressive sanctification. This process leads to final sanctification. This will take place at the end of time: the wedding supper of the lamb, which will follow the final judgment.

E. Bride Price and Dowry

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul presented information on the final judgment. This judgment comes only after Christ has extended dominion across the face of the earth. He has subdued His enemies (vv. 24–28). Paul did not say what takes place next. But it is obvious what will take place next. We know from the Book of Revelation what follows: the marriage supper of the Lamb. But this must be preceded by Christ’s payment of the bride price to God the Father. What Paul described is the bride price. It is the whole world, and this world is redeemed. It is the whole world after the last enemy has been defeated: death. This has to be a description of the final judgment. This is the completion of the dominion covenant for history. This is marked by the bride price.

Parts of this section appear in Chapter 22 of Authority and Dominion: “Wives and Concubines.” My discussion is far more detailed there.

1. Ransom as Bride Price

The death of Christ on the cross paid a ransom. “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:5–6). “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18–19). Jesus did not pay this ransom to Satan. He paid it to God the Father. It was paid in full at Calvary. It was definitive.

This definitive payment has led to a progressive expansion of the final inheritance of the church as the church accumulates wealth, especially wisdom, the most valuable of assets. This expansion will continue until Christ’s final payment to God takes place at the end of time (I Corinthians 15:24–28). In the meantime, God is owed all of the productivity of mankind. This is an implication of the dominion covenant. It is taught in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14–30) and the parable of the minas (Luke 19:11–27). These are stewardship parables. They are also what I call pocketbook parables. Jesus taught general principles of ethics by means of economic examples, which people understand. The parables were not limited to wealth. They referred to dominion in the broadest sense.

What has Christ’s payment of the ransom to God got to do with the Old Covenant’s bride price system? It has to do with the recipient of grace. The recipient of the bride price will be the church. The church, meaning all redeemed people, survives in history only because of Christ’s payment of the ransom at Calvary. The church is called the bride of Christ. It is this office of bride that is the basis of the connection between the payment of the ransom and the payment of the bride price.

2. Bride Price and Responsibility

There was a covenantal reason in the Old Testament for this economic obligation on the part of a bridegroom. The father of the prospective bride represented God to his daughter. This covenantal authority before God—his position as God’s covenantal representative to his daughter—had to be lawfully transferred from the father to the bridegroom. By paying the bride price to her father, the bridegroom ritually swore to a lifetime of faithfulness to his wife as God’s representative over her, faithfulness comparable to what her father’s faithfulness to her had been. This is precisely what Jesus swore to God the Father in His role as the cosmic Bridegroom. He paid the price at Calvary. God then transferred all authority over heaven and earth to Christ as His lawful representative (Matthew 28:18–20).

By the payment of the bride price, the groom was also acknowledging that he was capable of being as good a supporter of the girl as her father had been. He needed to assure her family of her future economic protection, thereby releasing her father and brothers from this legal responsibility. His ability to follow through on this covenantal guarantee was revealed by his ability to pay the bride price. The bride price was therefore an economic screening device for the family of the girl. The bridegroom’s ability to pay a bride price was evidence of his outward faithfulness to the terms of God’s covenant. The parents were transferring legal responsibility to a new covenantal head. They were participating in the establishment of a new family. Thus, the in-laws had to serve as God’s covenantal agents in this transfer of authority over their daughter.

The bride price was also a sign of the bridegroom’s future-orientation and self-discipline. Because Jacob came without capital into Laban’s household, he first had to work for Laban as a servant for seven years in order to prove his capacity to lead his own household. To lead covenantally, you must first follow. To rule, you must also have served. Dominion is by covenant, and covenants are always hierarchical.

The bride price compensated the father for the expense of the daughter’s dowry. From a purely economic standpoint, the dowry could have been delivered directly from the bridegroom to the daughter. Why did God require this seemingly unnecessary intermediate step, the payment of the bride price to the father? Because the formal transfer of the bride price to her father pointed to the bridegroom’s requirement of covenantal subordination to her father. The father gave him permission to marry her.

3. Dowry

The church needs a dowry. Every bride does. The language of Ezekiel 16 applies to the church. Israel had been an outcast of gentiles. “And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all. None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born” (vv. 4–5). God adopted Israel.

Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom (vv. 9–13).

Analogously, the New Testament church was the outcast of Israel. The gentiles had been God’s outcasts. The church had no wealth of its own that would satisfy God. The church could not provide its own dowry. Whatever blessings the church has ever had, it has had only on the basis of the grace of God. Jesus Christ paid the bride price to God through His death at Calvary. This is the basis of His marriage to the bride, the church. The marriage supper of the Lamb must be preceded by the payment of a bride price. 

The church is a betrothed wife. The church is not a concubine. The concubine had no dowry. The church does have a dowry. But where did it get this dowry? Biblically, it has to come from the father. But the father gets the dowry from the bridegroom. The payment of the dowry marks the bridegroom as the responsible individual who is now taking responsibility for the bride.

What did the father in the Old Testament do with the bride price? He turned it over to the bride. It was the bride’s protection. In this case, it is the bride’s inheritance. It did not come from the bride. It came from the bridegroom. The bride price for Israel was not paid by Israel’s father. Israel’s father was an Amorite. He had no legal standing to be a covenantal father. He had abandoned his daughter. The same is true of the many fathers of the bride of the church. From all over the world, members have been adopted. Jesus’ payment of the bride price at Calvary was paid to the Father. The Father holds it in trust for the bride. It is held in trust until the marriage supper of the Lamb.

The New Testament’s revelation of Jesus as the bodily incarnation of the Second Person of the Godhead and therefore as the Creator and the Redeemer of Israel is crucial to a proper understanding of redemptive history. The doctrine of the church as the betrothed bride of Christ is the covenantal foundation of the doctrine of the divorce of Old Covenant Israel. Christ is not a bigamist. Therefore, He lawfully divorced Israel.

4. God Divorced Israel

This raises a question. What happened to Old Covenant Israel’s dowry in A.D. 70? Biblically, the promise of the land of Canaan/Israel ended. Neither Christianity nor Judaism has a legal claim to the land of Palestine that supposedly is lawfully grounded in God’s promise to Abraham. The church has a far greater inheritance: the whole earth. Jesus said: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). This means meek before God. This was Jesus’ strategy of world conquest. “And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:25–30). The kingdom is a realm of judgment. It is clearly a realm of civil law. Jesus spoke of thrones.

Old Covenant Israel used the Roman legal system to execute Jesus. Jesus used the Roman legal system to execute Old Covenant Israel. This was fitting. “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” (Matthew 27:24–26). The negative sanctions of the Jews’ self-maledictory oath to Pilate were imposed on Israel in A.D. 70.

The agency of this judgment was the Roman army led by Titus. It surrounded the city, crucified captives, and finally burned the temple. Old Covenant Israel died. This is why it was illegitimate for Medieval Christians to seek revenge against Jews in the name of that oath. That oath was no longer covenantally binding after A.D. 70. Nor was the marriage oath between God and Israel. The adulterous partner was executed by the civil government that God had placed in authority over Israel. Israel rebelled militarily, and it did not survive.

As the victimized husband of Israel, Jesus transferred the covenantal dowry from lawfully divorced and lawfully executed Old Covenant Israel to the church. Paul called the church “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16b). This dowry included the written text of the Old Testament. It also involved an extension of the promise of land to Abraham. The boundaries of this land were extended: the whole world. This was the meaning of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20). (The best book on this is Kenneth Gentry’s The Greatness of the Great Commission, 1992.) On what legal basis did Jesus do this? On the legal basis of His status as the Creator. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods” (Psalm 24:1–2).

F. The Church’s Inheritance

The church is filled with former covenant-breakers. In this sense, the church is no different from what Israel had been. God had adopted Israel (Ezekiel 16). God has adopted the church. This was an act of grace.

The Book of Revelation describes the end of history. It uses the language of a marriage supper. It is the marriage supper of the Lamb. “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God” (Revelation 19:6–9). The remainder of Revelation 19 and Revelation 20 are devoted to the final confrontation between God and Satan, followed by the final judgment. Then comes Revelation 21, the post-resurrection era. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (vv. 1–2). “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (vv. 9–10). This is post-resurrection: “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (vv. 7–8). The language is clear. This is a matter of inheritance. Covenant-keepers inherit; covenant-breakers are disinherited for eternity.

Paul made it clear that this transfer of payment at the end of time is the completion of the bride price. The initial price was paid at Calvary. In other words, title was transferred to God the Father, but title has to be redeemed by the church in history. This is the meaning of the dominion covenant. Through the grace of God, the church buys back the world. But it does so only in the name of Christ. The church works through history to redeem the world, but this is possible only by the grace of God. Jesus has empowered the church, and the Holy Spirit has guided the church.

Everything that the church possesses, it possesses only as a steward possesses anything. In the day of reckoning, the stewards must give an account of their stewardship. All of mankind must do this. We know from the parable of the talents and the parable of the minas that God will impose final sanctions. All that Christians do, they do in the name of God and on behalf of God. Jesus is the property owner who does the final reckoning. He collects what is His, but then He transfers wealth to the profitable stewards. This is post-final judgment. The wealth goes to the stewards. The stewards are members of the church. The stewards are part of the bride of Christ.

The combination of the imagery of the stewards and the imagery of the bride provides us with an understanding of the inheritance. The post-judgment inheritance is the whole world, but a world redeemed. It is a world without the presence of covenant-breakers. It is a sin-free world. This is the eternal dowry of the church.

This dowry is valuable. It is the completed development of the capital that God gave to mankind in the garden of Eden. This is the inheritance of the church and the members of the church, which they will use to extend dominion in the world beyond the final judgment. There will be plenty to do. God is infinite. Men must examine the relationship between an infinite God and the creation. This will be a world of increasing knowledge. But this knowledge must be applied knowledge if it is to be meaningful. It is not knowledge for its own sake. It is knowledge for dominion’s sake. It will not end when sin disappears in the post-judgment world. It would not have ended in Eden if the serpent’s temptation had been rejected by Adam and Eve.

There was lots that could be done. If they instead had participated in a communion meal at the tree of life, that would have been the beginning of the process of dominion. Dominion was not empowered by sin. It was hampered by God’s judgment on sin. In the world beyond the final judgment, the process of dominion will no longer be hampered by God’s judgment on sin. There will be no sin.

The church is the betrothed bride of Christ. The dowry is held in trust by God the Father, but it has been paid by Jesus Christ. It was paid by His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God. Where else could it have come from?

G. Stewardship

Once we understand the economic function of the dowry, and once we understand that the bridegroom pays the Father the money that constitutes the dowry, we begin to understand the importance of eschatology in our understanding of the development of Christendom. The extension of the kingdom of God in history is by evangelism. This leads to comprehensive redemption, meaning the redemption of institutions. It means the transformation of the world through voluntary exchange. The church in the broadest sense does this as God’s steward in history. This is both judicial, meaning trusteeship, and economic, meaning stewardship. It is done through the extension of biblical law into every nook and cranny of the world. It is done through the power of the Holy Spirit to transform and educate sinners: special grace.

The parables of the stewards make it clear that, at the end of time, God will evaluate the performance of every individual. He will evaluate the performance of the two branches of His family: the adopted family and the disinherited family. It is clear from the parables of the stewards that the nonperforming family will not inherit anything. Everything that they possess, which they received from God, is transferred to the most efficient stewards. Clearly, this refers to the final judgment. The parable of the talents is in the section of Jesus’ parables on the final judgment (Matthew 25).

When we combine the two images, meaning the stewardship of the church and Christ’s payment of the bride price to the Father, we begin to understand the nature of ownership in history. At the beginning of history, God granted capital to mankind: the uncursed and undeveloped world. This was the arena of the dominion covenant. This covenant is still in force. Men must develop all aspects of this capital, especially wisdom. Then, at the end of time, God evaluates people’s performance. The church will be the great beneficiary of its own performance in history, under the guidance of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

This reward is indirect. Christ subdues His enemies. Next, He transfers all authority back to the Father. Then the Father transfers this authority of administration back to covenant-keepers. That is the inheritance. That is the transfer of the dowry. Christ’s work in history builds the value of this dowry. He does not keep it. God the Father does not keep it. It becomes the final inheritance of covenant-keepers. It is their capital which they will use to launch the next phase of dominion in the world beyond the final judgment. All of this is eschatological. It is surely economic.

The Book of Proverbs makes it clear that wisdom is the greatest economic asset. “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her” (Proverbs 3:13–15). This tells us that covenant-keepers will gain dominion in history through wisdom and by obedience to the laws of God. To imagine that they will remain the world’s economic losers until the end of time, while covenant-breakers extend the kingdom of mammon by means of its laws, only to see the vast productivity of their program of dominion transferred to covenant- keepers at the end of time, is to imagine that the wisdom of the mammon is the source of wealth.

This is contrary to the explicit teaching of Moses regarding God, “Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:16–18).

In the parables of the talents and the minas, we learn that two covenant-keepers are the productive stewards, and the lone covenant-breaker is the unproductive steward. When the owner returns for a final accounting, he is pleased with the covenant-keeping stewards. He casts out the covenant-breaking steward. The performance of the two covenant-keepers in history was a prelude to their endowment by God after the final judgment.

Similarly, the performance of the covenant-breaker in history reflects his final disinheritance. There is continuity of performance and reward in both groups, not discontinuity. It is not that the covenant-breaker was the productive steward, whereupon the owner transferred his wealth to impoverished covenant-keepers. The opposite is the case. Our understanding of the parables of the stewards should shape our eschatology. Our eschatology should be consistent with the message of the two parables.

The greater the value of the world at the end of time, the larger the dowry inherited by the church. Part of this dowry will be the forfeited inheritance of the disinherited family of man, represented by one covenant-breaking steward. Most of this dowry will be the developed legacy of the adopted family of man, represented by two stewards.

Conclusion

A Bible-based Christian theory of history rests on a presupposition: there is ethical cause-and-effect in history. This is taught in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. God’s blessings come from corporate obedience to biblical law. We can see this in the history of economic development. There is consistency between ethical conformity to the laws of God and economic productivity. There is also consistency between covenant-breaking and long-term impoverishment. We saw this most clearly in the development of the economies of the Soviet Union (1917–1991) and Communist China (1949–1979), both of which led to impoverishment.

Christians need to understand the system of the bride price and the dowry in the Old Testament. It no longer exists in the New Testament. This is because daughters are baptized. Baptism is a mark of covenantal authority in both the family and the civil government. This is why women legitimately have the right to vote. Daughters now have an equal claim with sons with respect to family inheritance. Daughters therefore become covenantally responsible for their parents in the parents’ old age. This was not true under the Old Covenant. Only sons were responsible. Daughters were responsible only for their husbands’ parents. With their greater family responsibility comes greater financial support. Parents supply dowries in the form of college educations for their daughters because they have legal and moral claims on future support from daughters.

This alteration of the dowry system does not annul the eschatology of the church’s dowry. The bride price system will culminate in Jesus’ transfer of the bride price to God the Father at the end of history. God the Father will then transfer this dowry—Christian civilization—to the church. Understanding this eschatological arrangement helps Christians to understand the meaning of the two parables of the stewards: talents and minas. The bride price/dowry system and the parables of the stewards point to the church’s enormous inheritance at the end of history.

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