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John 18:36 Does Not Support the Zionist hopes of a Worldly Kingdom

In a recent discussion on Zionism someone commented to me with a quote from the book, The Theocratic Kingdom by George N. H. Peters, were Jesus’words in John 18:36 are reinterpreted as pointing to a possible future Kingdom of Christ on Earth where his followers would fight, Here is what John 18:36 says:

John 18:36:

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

The phrase at the end of Jesus statement, “but now is my kingdom not from hence” is the focal point as explained in the Theocratic Kingdom:

“but now. Peters observes “Will the Savior contradict the predictions of the prophets? No, for He qualifies His language, guarding it, by the “but now,” i.e. at the present time, my Kingdom is not of this world and my servants do not fight, leaving the plain inference that at some future time, just as prophesied, His servants would fight” (Theocratic Kingdom, vol. 2, p. 109).”

There are multiple issues I find with one using this book as a defense of Zionism and the violence that we see already coming with it. The first issue is with the word now in the verse. Nothing is found in Jesus’ statement for the word now to be taken to mean a future worldly kingdom where Jesus’ servant would fight. And nothing there implies a Zionist Kingdom. If any future tense is meant it would mean that Jesus’ Kingdom would soon be established – i.e at the Resurrection and his Kingdom in Heaven, since this is the outcome of what is about to happen to Jesus and this is the purpose of the passion story. And this is the view held by historically by Christians throughout the centuries since Jesus’ death and Resurrection, even those that were quoted by Peters in The Theocratic Kingdom.:

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:
(36) Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world.—The answer of Jesus is two-fold, declaring (1) in this verse, that He is not a King in the political sense; and (2) in John 18:37, that He is a King in the moral sense. By “of this world” we are to understand that the nature and origin of His kingdom are not of this world, not that His kingdom will not extend in this world. (Comp. John 8:23; John 10:16.) In the world’s sense of king and kingdom, in the sense in which the Roman empire claimed to rule the world, He had no kingdom.
Then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.—Better, then would My servants have been fighting. (Comp. John 19:16.) His “servants” are His disciples, who would be in this relation to Him if He were a temporal king, and the crowds such as those who had sought to make Him king (John 6:15), and had filled Jerusalem with the cry, “Hosanna: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel” (John 12:13). One of His servants had drawn the sword (John 18:10), and, but that His will had checked the popular feeling, neither the Jewish officers nor the Roman cohort could have delivered Him to be crucified.

But now is my kingdom not from hence.—That is, “But, as a matter of fact, My kingdom is not from here.” It was proved by His standing bound in the presence of the procurator. The clause has been strangely pressed into the service of millennial views by interpreting it, “But now My kingdom is not from hence. Hereafter it will be.” For the true sense of “now,” comp. John 8:40; John 9:41; John 15:22; John 15:24.

Expositor’s Greek Testament:
John 18:36. But Jesus accepts the allegation of the Jews and proceeds to explain in what sense He is king: Ἡ βασιλεία ἡ ἐμὴ κ. τ. λ. My kingdom is not of a worldly nature, nor is it established by worldly means. Had it been so, my servants would have striven to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But as things are, νῦν, since it is indisputable that no armed resistance or rescue has been attempted, it is put beyond question that my kingdom is not from hence. “The substitution of ‘hence’ for ‘of this world’ in the last clause appears to define the idea of the world by an immediate reference to the representatives of it close at hand.” Westcott. Perhaps this rather limits the reference. Jesus uses ἐντεῦθεν as one who has other worlds than this in view.

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible:
My kingdom … – The charge on which Jesus was arraigned was that of laying claim to the office of a king. He here substantially admits that he did claim to be a king, but not in the sense in which the Jews understood it. They charged him with attempting to set up an earthly kingdom, and of exciting sedition against Caesar. In reply to this, Jesus says that his kingdom is not of this world – that is, it is not of the same nature as earthly kingdoms. It was not originated for the same purpose, or conducted on the same plan. He immediately adds a circumstance in which they differ. The kingdoms of the world are defended by arms; they maintain armies and engage in wars. If the kingdom of Jesus had been of this kind, he would have excited the multitudes that followed him to prepare for battle. He would have armed the hosts that attended him to Jerusalem. He would not have been alone and unarmed in the garden of Gethsemane. But though he was a king, yet his dominion was over the heart, subduing evil passions and corrupt desires, and bringing the soul to the love of peace and unity.
Not from hence – That is, not from this world.

Geneva Study Bible:
{11} Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
(11) Christ affirms his spiritual kingdom, but rejects a worldly one.

Without holding any false intentions on the verse as Peters book does, this verse is universally interpreted to have the plain meaning that Jesus was not a King in the worldly sense and would not have a earthly Kingdom of followers who would war with weapons on his behalf.

Early Christians held the same views of the verse in question:

That Lord walked in humility and obscurity, with no definite home: for “the Son of man,” said He, “hath not where to lay His head; unadorned in dress, for else He had not said, “Behold, they who are clad in soft raiment are in kings’ houses:”. in short, inglorious in countenance and aspect, just as Isaiah withal had fore-announced.  If, also, He exercised no right of power even over His own followers, to whom He discharged menial ministry  if, in short, though conscious of His own kingdom (See John xviii. 36)., He shrank back from being made a king.  He in the fullest manner gave His own an example for turning coldly from all the pride and garb, as well of dignity as of power. For if they were to be used, who would rather have used them than the Son of God? What kind and what number of fasces would escort Him? what kind of purple would bloom from His shoulders? what kind of gold would beam from His head, had He not judged the glory of the world to be alien both to Himself and to His? Therefore what He was unwilling to accept, He has rejected; what He rejected, He has condemned; what He condemned, He has counted as part of the devil’s pomp. For He would not have condemned things, except such as were not His; but things which are not God’s, can be no other’s but the devil’s. If you have forsworn “the devil’s pomp,” In baptism. know that whatever there you touch is idolatry. Let even this fact help to remind you that all the powers and dignities of this world are not only alien to, but enemies of, God; -Tertullian, On Idolatry:

But how will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away ( See Matt. xxvi. 52; 2 Cor. x. 4; John xviii. 36.) – Tertuillian, On Idolatry

so to speak, upon His subjects, but who was to train them and to subject them to laws that were truly from God. And Jesus, knowing this well, and denying that He was a king in the sense that the multitude expected, but declaring the superiority of His kingdom, says: “If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not of this world (SeeCf. John xviii. 36.) .” – Origen, Against Celsus

But that it was not God who gave Him up into the hands of men, the Saviour manifestly declares when He says, “If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews.”( See John xviii. 36.)  For, when He was delivered up to the Jews , He was delivered into the hands of men, not by His own servants, but by the prince of this age who says, concerning the powers which are in the sphere of the invisible, the kingdoms which are set up against men, “All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship Me.”. Wherefore also we should think that in regard to them it was said, “The kings of the earth stood side by side, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.”. And those kings, indeed, and those rulers stood side by side and were gathered against the Lord and against His Christ; but we, because we have been benefited by His being delivered by them into the hands of men and slain, say, “Let us break their bonds asunder and cast away their yoke from us.. For, when we become conformed to the death of Christ, we are no longer under the bonds of the kings of the earth, as we have said, nor under the yoke of the princes of this age, who were gathered together against the Lord. And, on this account, “the Father spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,” – Origen, On the Gospel of Matthew

Wherefore also He saith to Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world” ( See John. xviii. 36 ), that He may not afterwards appear to have employed mere human terror or dominion for the purpose of persuasion. Why then saith the Prophet, “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass”? ( Zech. ix. 9.) He spake of that Kingdom which is in the heavens, but not of this on earth; and on this account Christ saith, “I receive not honor from men. – St. John Chrysostom

Christianity has historically interpreted this verse to mean  that Jesus’ Kingdom is in Heaven and it is a better Kingdom than what the Jews were hoping for. The Jews believed that the Messiah would establish a Kingdom on Earth through military leadership. Modern Dispensational Zionism teaches the same error, believing that Jesus will come back and fulfill this for the Jews one day. But as Jesus shows us through out the New Testament, people tended to be in error when they held literal and carnal views of Scripture and this is not an acceptation.

And when you hear that we look for a kingdom, you suppose, without making any inquiry, that we speak of a human kingdom. Instead, we speak of that which is with God, as can be shown from the confession of their faith made by those who are charged with being Christians, even though they know that death is the punishment awarded to those who so confess. For if we looked for a human kingdom, we would deny our Christ, so that we might not be killed. We would try to escape detection, so that we might obtain what we hope for. But since our thoughts are not fixed on the present, we are not concerned when men cut us off; since death is a debt which must at all events be paid. – Justin Martyr

“I serve Jesus Christ the eternal King. I will no longer serve your emperors. It is not right for a Christian to serve the armies of this world.” ~ Mercellus the Centurion, spoken as he left the army of Emperor Diocletian in 298AD.

Christians could never slay their enemies. For the more that kings, rulers, and peoples have persecuted them everywhere, the more Christians have increased in number and grown in strength. – Origen,

“Nothing is better than peace, by which all war of those in heaven and those on earth is abolished.” – Hippolytus (approx. A.D. 200)

The Christian poor are “an army without weapons, without war, without bloodshed, without anger, without defilement.”- Clement of Alexandria (150AD – 214AD)

None of Jesus’ followers or their successors believed any of His teachings would lead to a world where His followers would fight one day. Books like the Theocratic Kingdom misrepresent Jesus’ words seeking to conform them to their own interpretations that are found no where else in Church history.

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