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This modest-sized (just over 200 page) book packs a punch and is a must-read, as relevant today as when it was originally written 30 years ago (recently republished in 2023). Leithart covers a lot of ground here and insightfully diagnoses issues that plague the western church. Don’t ignore the endnotes, either, as they are rich.


1. What is the Kingdom of God

Cautioning against identifying Christianity too closely with American nationalism:

But it is precisely this history that makes the “we ambiguous.” For some American Christians, Neuhaus’s qualified appreciation of American influence verges on treason. Christianity’s profound influence on American life has made it easy for American Christians to think that this nation is something more than a relative force for good. Throughout history some have seen America as peculiarly a “Redeemer Nation,” with a global and even apocalyptic mission. As historian Sydney Mead put it, some have viewed America as “the primary agent of God’s meaningful activity in history.” Such a view contradicts the biblical teaching that the church is God’s primary agent in history. (9)

On how the cultural problem is worse than many imagine:

Our cultural crisis, in short, goes much deeper than moral majoritarians suspect. It is not as if the top floors of the edifice of Christendom need some remodeling. The entire building has collapsed, and now, if it is to be rebuilt at all, it must be rebuilt from the ground floor. The problem is not that America as been the site of a coup that can be corrected by a counter-coup. America is the site of a death, and the only known antidote for death is resurrection. (11)

Three ways Jesus revolutionized the world (19-20):

  1. Revolution in the heavens - Satan has been cast down and Jesus has inherited the nations by his life, death, and resurrection.
  2. Revolution at the sanctuary - Opening the way to the true heavenly sanctuary
  3. Revolution on earth - The establishment of a restored Israel made of Jews and Gentiles with the mission of making disciples of all nations.

What is the kingdom? The Kingdom is where the body Christ is present (physically, sacramentally, or ecclesiastically) (21)

This book is not a summons to retreat from the world, but a rally cry to conservative Christians to engage the world - not as isolated Christians or as an interest group but as the church. It is the burden of this book to stress the primacy of holy war, which, being translated, means the primacy of the Church. (22)

2. I saw Satan Fall

On the original creation mandate:

God commanded two people, a man and a woman, to be king and queeen of the whole creation and toproduce a worldwide race of kings and queens to rule the creation. They and their children were to learn more and more about God’s good creation, to discover ever new uses of the things God had made, to bring the world more and more completely into service to God and man. Over time, they were to build from the raw materials of creation a glorious temple-city on earth as a replica and image of the heavenly city of God…The life of Adam and Eve displays human history in miniature. Human history began in the Garden with Adam and Eve worshipping God, and will end with the church gathered in a glorious temple-city. Worship is the alpha and the omega of human life and history. (25, 28)

On the Old Testament types of the redeemer:

“Types” are like sonograms, the pictures taken of babies in utero. When you look at a sonogram, you can just barely make out the fuzzy shape of a baby. On the right is something that looks like a hand, and on the left something that resembles a foot. Only someone with more expertise can determine the baby’s sex. (34)

Jesus fulfills types of David and Joshua’s conquest by waging a holy war against the serpent.

G.K. Chesterton was font of pointing out that there is often more good theology and ethics in fairy tales than in some thick books of Systematic theology. In “Sleeping Beauty,” we have a wonderful picture of the work of Christ on behalf of his church. In Walth Disney’s animated version of that tale, Prince Philip climbs a jagged black mountain, cuts through deadly thorns with his sword, and grapples with the dragon-witch to rescue his beloved. A more fitting picture of Jesus’ work can hardly be imagined. Jesus appears in the Gospels not as an oriental guru - a proto-Ghandian proclaiming love and nonviolence - but as a princely Love, passionately willing to suffer all things to rescue his Bride from her captor. (35)

3. One Like the Son of Man

While many (e.g. dispensational premillennialists) are waiting for the prophecies of a restored Davidic kingdom to be fulfilled, the New Testament teaches that Jesus came and established his kingdom during his first advent. Citing Psalm 2 and Psalm 110, especially, the book of Acts says that the promised coming of a universal Davidic king was fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus. “For two millennia Jesus has occupied the throne of David, and He is seated there today.” David sat upon the “throne of the Lord” as a shadow, but Christ sits on it in reality. (45-48)

On a dominion greater than the angels:

Adam’s dominion over the animals was thus a type, a mere shadow of the Last Adam’s dominion over bestial men, principalities, and powers, life and death, angels, Satan and demons, things present and things to come, and every other creature. This is not to say that earthly dominion is in any way cancelled out by the coming of Christ. The Bible assumes throughout that human beings are royal creatures, created to rule on earth over the lower creation. Jesus’ heavenly dominion does not cancel or replace the earthly dominion of the First Adam, but rather fulfills it, completes it, beings it to maturity. Adam’s earthly dominion was the alpha point of human dominion. Jesus reveals the omega point: we shall judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3). (53)

He is universal lawgiver:

Every facet and every moment of the life of every person are lived out under the dominion of the last Adam. Our duty is to acknowledge His dominion, demands, and call others to do the same. (55)

He is universal judge:

Christ’s control is as comprehensive as His authority. He is Head over all things (Eph. 1:21-23). It is unbiblical to limit Christ’s reign to “ruling in the hearts of His people.” He does indieed rule in the hearts of his people, but He also rules the heart of Pharaoh. (57)

However, this is not always immediately manifest in the written lives of history:

The more you read of the lives of past and present heroes of the faith, the more you realize their lives often seem to be little more than a tissue woven of frustration and failure. We know by faith in God’s promise that this is not the case. (58)

Christ has been given as head over all things “for the church”:

If Christ is finally to bring His people to the heavenly kingdom and to accomplish His historical purposes for and in them, He must not only rule over the church, but also defeat the enemies that are arrayed against the church. If His rule over the church is to be effective, He must also rule all things. IF Christ is to save the young man in rural CHina, He must control the bureaucrat who grants the missionary his visa. If Christ is to take the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch, He must also govern the persecutors who force Philip to flee Jerusalem (Acts 8:4-8, 26-40). If He is to bring Theodore of Tarsus to Canterbury, He must rule the Arab armies in Syria.(62)

4. In the Heavenlies

Christians have caused a lot of problems when they confuse the reign of the saints with violent rule and worldly power, but it’s no less real:

Though it is indeed quite sensible to keep one’s distance from violent religious movements, too many Christians go to the opposite extreme of denying that Christians should or do rule in any sense at all. Against this, the Bible unequivocally teaches that the reign of the Messiah includes the rule and dominion of His people. IT is entirely biblical to say that those who are united to Christ share with Him in His reign over heaven and earth. He is supremely crowned with kingly glory and honor (Heb. 2:9), but through His suffering He has also brought many sons to glory (Heb 2:10). (67)

The nature of the saints’ unique dominion:

True as all this is, the dominion that Christ gives His people is not first of all cultural, technological, or political. The saints’ unique dominion is not of an earthly character. To echo James, even demons can have a form of dominion (James 2:19). But the scriptures teach that all who are “in Christ” have an authority denied to all those who are outside Christ; only those who are “in Christ” are seated on heavenly thrones. Only those in Christ have access to the real Inner Ring of power and privilege. (72)

Quoting Augustine, on how the barbarian invasions of Rome benefited the Christians:

For even in the likeness of the sufferings [of righteous and wicked], there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing. For as the same fire causes gold to glow brightly, and chaff to smoke; and under the same flail the straw is beaten small, while the grain is cleansed; and as the lees are not mixed with oil, though squeezed out of the vat by the same pressure, so the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked. (77)

In Christ, who has all dominion, the suffering we experience (along with everything else) becomes indicators of God’s favor:

Because we are in Christ, all our experiences - even those which are evil in themselves - become so many pathways to God, so many tokens of His love and favor, so many signposts along our pilgrimage toward His eternal kingdom. (78)

We should be cautious about making spiritual things too “spiritual”:

We must be careful, however, not to misunderstand the nature of heavenly things. In the Bible, heaven is not an airy-fairy, ethereal place. C.S. Lewis was closer to the truth when, in the Great Divorce, he depicted heaven as more solid than earth, not less so. Angels are terrifying creatures and meeting an angel is a life-shattering experience (Judg. 6:22; 13:22). (79)

5. The Torn Veil

The misplaced focus of private worship over corporate gathering, which the Bible gives prominence to:

Many evangelical Christians today think that the really important kind of worship is private and individual. This notion is perhaps one o fthe definitive elements of evangelical Christianity. Many more books are written about deepening one’s individual walk with the Lord than about worshipping God in the assembly of His people. Much more effort is spent thinking about and discussing the structure of one’s “quiet time” than considering questions of the Church’s liturgy. (90)

On the assembly and the true sanctuary:

Practically, then, Christians enter the sanctuary in a special way when they assemble as the church. It is in public worship that the Spirit-glory of God descends, as the triune God meets with His people and offers Himself to them. Jesus, after all, promised to be present in a special way not where one man calls upon Him, but where two or three gather in His name (Matt. 18:20). (92)

How the Bible resists our attempts to approach it with scientific precision:

The more you study the Bible, the more you will find that it cannot be forced into this mold. Ideas and symbols the Bible meld together, overlap, and stretch out in a thousand different directions. THis is not to say that the Bible is irrational or unscientific, or that we cannot make meaningful distinctions. But a moder reader cannot escape the sense that the Bible speaks in a different language than he learned in “Chem. Lab” or Philosophy 101. As theologian Vern S. Poythress has noted, the biblical world view acknowledges the reality of “fuzzy boundaries.” (93)

Quoting Geerhardus Vos on identifying the kingdom of heaven and the assembly are identical:

Peter receives the keys of the kingdom to bind or loose on earth. What he does in the administration of the kingdom here below will be recognized in heaven. Now this promise immediately following the declaration concerning Peter as the foundation rock of the church, it becomes necessary to assume that in Jesus’ view these two are identified. The force of this will be felt by observing that in the two statements made the figure is essentially the same, viz., that of the house. First the house is represented as in the process of building, Peter as the foundation, then the same house appears as completed and Peter as invested with the keys for administering its affairs. It is plainly excluded that the house should mean one thing in the first statement and another in the second. (105)

Leithart adds the helpful addition that the house is both the church and kingdom and also the New Temple.

6. The King’s Table

The conditions of entering the kingdom are regeneration, adoption, forgiveness, and justification. All of these are envisioned in baptism:

All these conditions for entrance into the kingdom are symbolized and sealed in baptism. Those who receive the sign of baptism are legally entitled to receiv the inheritance of the kingdom. We are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, which were for our justification (Rom. 6:1-11). By the Spirit, baptism also seals to us new life (John 1:33; 3:5; Acts 11:16) and cleansing (Matt. 3:1-11), and clothes us with Christ (Gal. 3:27). Baptism is a seal of our adoption. Through baptism, God seals us as sons, co-heirs with Christ of His kingdom. Having crossed through the baptismal waters, we enter the promised sanctuary land to enjoy its bounty. (114)

Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes points to the fact that He is the promised Messianic King:

Feeding the people was a royal act, not a magic act. When Jesus fed five thousand men reclining on the green grass, He was showing Himself to be the promised David, the royal Shepherd who would lead his flock to pasture (Mk. 6:30-44; see Ps. 23:5; Matt. 14:13-21; 15:32-39; Lk 9:11-17). The royal significance of these meals was not lost on the Jewish people. After one meal, “they tried to make him king” (John 6:15). We should understand Jesus’ association with the publicans and sinners in the same way. He showed His royal clemency by eating and drinking with the socially rejected. (120)

7. After the Beast

8. The People of the Kingdom

The church and the kingdom:

The church, moreover, was no afterthought. One of Jesus’ main aims in His first advent was to gather a people, to begin building His church, His worshipping assembly (Matt. 16:13-20), to gather his little flock (Luke 12:2). And He intended this people to be organized as an institution, with designated rulers and definite procedures, a particular form of worship and life (Matt. 16:13-20; 18:15-20). The erection of the church was on of the essential features of the new order of things that Jesus called the kingdom of God. (143)

On how the visible and invisible distinction is overused:

Yet, in the Bible the “visible” church is addressed as if it were identical to the “invisible” church. The “visible” church is described as the spotless virgin bride of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the harmonious body of Christ (Eph. 5:25-30; 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 12:4-31). When Paul addressed the Ephesian church, he addressed the whole church, not some super-spiritual elite, as the elect (Eph. 1:1-11). All members of the “visible” church were counted and treated as saints, as Christians. Besideds, as it has been said, the “visible” church is, in the last analysis, the only one we’ve got. (144)

God’s vision was for the human race to be working together in unity, but not necessarily uniformity:

Not a single megalopolis, but many earthly cities were to result - all of them diverse replicas of the infinitely rich archetypal city of God. God intended the human race to praise Him with a symphony of harmonious voices, not in a monotone. God surrounds himself with a rainbow, not a grey cloak. God, we trust, delights in Gothic architecture as well as Romanesque; He is please with baroque as well as classical music; His people were governed not only only by judges, but later by kings. Like the triune God Himself, the human race and the culture it created was to be a diversity in unity, and unity in diversity (147).

The conflict dividing the human race is radical, comprehensive, and eternal, and it appears very early.

The reason for Cain’s envy of his brother is noteworthy: the issue was worship, liturgy (Gen 4:4-5). This is always the basic issue that divides one part of the human race from the other. Cainites served and worshiped idols; Sethites worshiped the living God (Gen 4-5). As Augustine explained, the two cities are distinguished by their different objects of love - either self or God. Though the conflict among the races of the human race is comprehensive, it centers on the issue of worship.

However, even sinful men retain a desire for a unified race and city:

Men naturally hope and strive to restore the Edenic unity of the human. From the Tower of Babel to the United Nations to recent fantasies of a “New World Order,” people have expended themselves to restore the unity that sin dissolved. But sinners generally seek to improse uniformity upon one another, rather than pursuing harmony. God intended diversity, and sinners produce conflict; God intended unity under his law, and sinful men impose uniformity on each other. (148)

On the kingdom being a combination of Jews and Gentiles, and how this was missed by many:

Though astute students of the Old Testament such as Simeon recognized that the Messiah was coming as a light to the Gentiles (Luke 1:32), many in Israel apparently looked for the restoration of the national glory of the reigns of David and Solomon. It was inevitable that the early Christians, claiming to be the fulfillment of Isreal’s calling, would meet vicious opposition from the Jews. Indeed, the New Testament cannot be understood without the recognition that the church was making precisely this claim. Like the conflict between Cain and Abel and between Judah and Israel, the conflict betweenJews and Christians cenetered on a question of worhsip: SHould Jesus Christ be acknowledged and honored as Lord? (154)

Christ’s visitation on Judea in 70AD was the “coming of the Son of Man in His kingdom:”

With the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus accomplished a revolution on earth. The new people of God was separated finally and completely from the prototypical nation of Israel. During the early history of the church, the new people of God was barely distinguishable from the Jews, Christians worshiped and met at the temple (Acts 3:1, 11; 5:12); they were considered by outsiders to be a sect of Judaism, analogous to the Pharisees or Sadducees (Acts 24:14). When the temple was destroyed, the newness of the CHristian church became clear. When the old covenant types were overthrown, the new covenant realities emerged from the shadows. (157)

If the destruction of Jerusalem is see as the Lord’s divorce of adulterous Israel, how could she be restored to her husband?

Paul gives the answer in Romans 7:1-3. There the apostle writes that a woman is freed from her marriage covenant by the death of her husband. When her husband dies, she can marry another man. Paul was describing how God delivered His faithful bride from her dilemma, how God can be both Just and the Justifier of those who have faith in Jesus, how God could both divorce and remarry Israel. When Jesus Christ, the Husband of Israel, died, Israel was freed to marry with a new husband. But Jesus not only died but also roase again. He is not only the first husband, but the second as well (Rom. 7:1-4). Similarly, as we have seen, Israel herself died and rose again in the judgment of AD 70. The resurrected bride can therefor lawfully remarry her resurrected husband. (160)

9. On Earth as it is in Heaven

In some sectos of evangelical Christianity today there is a lot of talk about “building” the kingdom of God. But Jesus never talked about building the kingdom. He instead used organic images, emphasizing that the kingdom grows. Jesus’ reason for using the seed image was evidently to stress that the growth of the kingdom is God’s work. (172)

Growth of the kingdom is more than just increased church attendance. The church is called to no less than world conquest:

Her mission is to see that every human being brings every created thing into service to God, so that the Adamic commandment in both its royal and priestly dimensions is fulfilled. So the church has a mission, and what a mission! (174)

For early Christians, the cross was a sign of conquest:

Athanasius rejoiced that the gospel of the Crucified was driving away demons, turning vicious barbarians into peaceful worshipers of God. Other church fathers exulted in the triumph of the martyrs, who, like Christ, gained victory through their suffering unto death. The early Church took Jesus at his word when he said of his death, “Now judgment has come upon this world, now the ruler of this world shall be cast out” (John 12:31). (175)

The war against Satan, decisively won by Christ on the Cross is being waged through us (Rev. 12:7-17). This is not simply a spiritual battle against sin:

Battling Satan also means opposing his slaves wherever they may be found, whether in the statehouse, the corporate office, or the pulpit. As more and more people are delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, the kingdom of Satan loses power (Col. 1:13). (176)

The rule of the church over the forces of darkness is real, and has historical consequences:

Jesus came down from the Mount of transfiguration to find His disciples trying to cast out a demon - unsuccessfully. Jesus’ response is worth noting. He did not say that the disciples lacked the power to cast out demons. He did not apologize to the disciples for expecting too much. He did not excuse them in any way. On the contrary, He was angry. He placed all the blame on their unbelief and inaction. If the demon was not cast out, it was the disciples’ fault, not Jesus’ or the Spirit’s: “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matt 17:14-21). (178)

If things are not going as we expect them to on earth, if Satan looks to be winning, it’s not because Jesus was wrong or lied about his victory over Satan:

If Satan is alive and well on planet earth, it is because of our unbelief, our prayerlessness, our cowardice, our unwillingness to fast from the pleasures of this life. If we are entering a dark age, it is because of our lack of training in the weapons of spiritual warfare, or because be have become too enamored of carnal weapons. (179)

“If righteousness is not prevailing on earth, it is only we Christians who are to blame.”

Service is the primary means of how we wage holy war, and service in the sanctuary is the pinnacle of that.

As we exalt the heavenly king on our praises, He fights on our behalf (2 Chron. 20). It is in response to our prayers that He sends His fiery judgment to the earth (Rev. 8:3-5). Singing the imprecatory psalms, the church calls God to intervene to protect her and to destroy her enemies. When the church prays that God will not hear the prayers of her enemies (Psa 109:1-13), she closes the world off from its source of life and belssing. (182)

If the world is winning in it’s attacks, we should first consider whether we have offended the Lord, our only protector.

The world’s attacks on the church, then, are not overcome primarily by direct counterattack. The church’s furst response to legal attacks must not be legal; her first reaction to slander must not be self-defense. THe church’s first response to the world’s hostility must always and ever be abandonment of idols and repentance toward God. Her first response must always and ever be to return to exclusive devotion to her Lord. (183)

Jesus insists on and prays for unity for the one body of Christ in the world, but he have disregarded this command to our own detriment.

The contrast between Jesus’ requirements and the current state of the church is alarming. In America the church is deeply fragmented. Competition rather than love often dominates interchurch relations. The church, like Old Testament Israel, has become a mirror of the darkness of the world. Is it any wonder that the world is filled with chaos and violence? If we wish the nations to be discipled, to be brought to worship and obey King Jesus, we must diligently pursue the implications of our “one baptism.” (191)

10. Into the Political Arena

On Christians in politics, there is some truth to Luther’s point that it’s better to have a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian as a king, because no one wants to be ruled by an incompetent. That said:

The Bible does teach, however, that the God-fearing political leader is superior to his pagan counterpart as a political leader. This is true, first, in the ultimate sense that a godly political leader pleases God…Citizenship in the kingdom affects political action in more specific ways as well. In our day, for example, politicians are expected to be self-confident and to express that confidence in their campaign rhetoric. From a biblical perspective, however, such statements must be condemned as vain, prideful, and foolish…(198)

While pride comes before a fall, as seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s case, the Christian political leader should be carrying humility, Love, Kindness, Self-control, as essential political virtues. This applies to both leaders and all politically active Christians. “Our only real duty is to honor Him; if He is pleased with us, He will give us political victory (if He so wishes). (199)”

We should not draw such a firm dichotomy between faith and political action. They are not the same thing, but they are not dualistic separate, and faith can be expressed in politics.

By faith, the Old Testament saints conquered kingdoms, enforced righteousness, won military victoryies (Heb 11:32-33). It was by faith in the unseen things (Heb. 11:1) that the saints of old exercised godly political dominion. It was the Spirit of God who filled judges and kings with strength to defeat God’s enemies. The same Spirit who gives wisdom unto salvation also gave wisdom to Solomon so that he could judge and lead the people (1 Kings 3:8-9). (205)

11. Against the World for the World

The surprising manner in which Christianity triumphed in the ancient world:

Many Christians, however, abandoned all legal claims and joyfully endured and even sought martyrdom, and there is no evidence of any large-scale “Christianization” agenda. For the most part, Christians simply went about their daily tasks, gathered each Lord’s Day for worship, gave alms to the poor, and showed mercy to slaves. Out of their peacefulness, humility, joy, and mercy, a new world was born. Living with their eyes on heaven, they looked down one morning to find themselves sitting on earthly thrones. It is as cleas as can be: the church did not grasp for dominion, but remained patiently faithful and humbly received dominion. Truly, the meek inherited the earth. (215)