Did the Charismatic Gifts
End With the Kingdom Age?
Q. I was talking to a man the other day who said that all the charismatic gifts ended with the "Kingdom Age" which he said began with the ministry of Christ and ended with the Apostles. These gifts were given by God to establish the Church and weren't therefore needed in the "Church Age". I have never read of these "Ages" in the Bible. What is the truth of this matter?
Your observation is correct -- the Bible nowhere speaks of two distinct ages or time periods known as the "Kingdom Age" or the "Church Age". These terms were invented by the anti-charismatics to "explain" why the charismatic gifts were no longer amongst them.
If what these people are saying is true then it follows that the message or gospel of the "Kingdom Age" should have ceased to be preached after the death of the last apostle and a message or gospel of the "Church Age" be preached thereafter. Since the "Church Age" suposedly took place after the time of the New Testament we have no way of checking the validity of this claim since it is not covered in the Bible!
I will limit myself in this short reply to your query to only two scriptural passages because they are, in my opinion, enough to lay this "two ages" doctrine to rest. The first is Paul who taught that all the gifts were needed until the Church came to perfection. In Ephesians 4:11ff we are told that, amongst other things, prophets (and therefore the gift of prophecy) is needed in the Body to bring the saints to perfection. Those opposed to modern-day prophecy have normally wriggled out of this scriptural truth by maintaining one of two positions: (1) by claiming that "prophecy" is now, under the New Covenant, only "forthtelling" -- that is, preaching -- rather than "foretelling" (seeing into the future), even though this is certainly an element of the prophet's call, the foretelling aspect was without a doubt present in the New Testament Church (see, for example, the ministry of Agabus - Ac.11:28ff; 21:10ff). (2) The second cop-out is to maintain that perfection is obtained instantly upon receiving Christ as Saviour by virtue of His perfection. And whilst it is true that jurisdictional perfection comes to the believer on the basis of his faith anyone with the least particle of common sense will admit that actual perfection -- which is the product of sanctification -- is nowhere to be found on the earth today even though perhaps some very special Christians are close to it. Were Paul talking about jurisdictional or representative perfection then obviously we wouldn't need ministers at all, except to bring souls to faith in Jesus. Nor would he talk about immaturity (v.14). Maturity and immaturity imply a process as indeed literal perfection is.
The second passage I wish to cite, which is more encompassing that Ephesians 4, is Matthew 24:14 where our Lord Himself declares that "the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Mt.24:14, AV). Now what could be plainer? The Gospel of the Kingdom, brought by Christ and propagated further by the Apostles, is to be preached across the whole planet. Once this has been accomplished, the end of the present age will come. Was the Gospel of the Kingdom taken to the whole world in the days of the apostles? No. Did the end come with their passing away? No. This same Gospel of the Kingdom preached in the New Testament is also to br preached by us until it has penetrated every nation upon the surface of the globe. Has the Gospel reached every nation? No. There are still untaught nations, millions of people who have never heard the Good News of Jesus. And we know that the end has not come yet.
I realise in saying these things that we as New Covenant Christians are breaking a taboo. For nearly a century charismatics and non-charismatics have maintained a sort of uneasy alliance by steering away from such discussions, at least when they are together, for the sake of "unity". We are happy, of course, that these two groups cooperate, since in truth their doctrines are very near one another, but we are less than honest if we pretend these differences don't exist or that they are not worthy of serious examination. To maintain a false position is to be false and we are under a divine edict to repent of all falsehood. Should we then say that since these are secondary doctrines we should be more charitable? But is it charitable to let someone, who denies a gift of the Holy Spiri,t hinder his progression to perfection? Are we not under a commandment to become perfect? (Mt.5:48; Col.1:28; etc.)
The difference between "Kingdom" and "Church" in the New Testament is the difference between the inner, spiritual reality of the presence of Christ and the fellowship of the saints which is created by that reality. Sometimes the words are used interchangeably. The Kingdom is also the theocratic state which shall come to one day be, and its partial manifestation in the Church.
If the "Kingdom Age" has passed on then so has its King, since how can there be a King without a Kingdom? Jesus is our King and He presides today, as in New Testament times, over a Kingdom which, for now, is an inner condition, not belonging to this world system (Jn.18:36). If we say He does not, then we are governed solely by a visible Church or (whatever this may mean) by a fellowship of Christians (the koinônia).
The truth of the matter of that we belong to the "Kingdom-Church Age" and have done since Christ began preaching the Kingdom and established His Church. We are governed (for now) by an invisible Kingdom until He returns to inaugurate the millennial theocratic Kingdom, and by the Church Order established by Christ through His apostles.
For a fuller discussion of the Kingdom and what this term actually means, see the School of the Elders Course, The Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Mark.
This page was created on 8 April 1998
Last updated on 8 April 1998
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