Majestic Destiny: Kingdom Hope Is Rising. By Curtis H. Tucker. Redmond, OR: Last Chapter Publishing, 2011. 292 pp. Paper, $15.99.
The title and subtitle are intriguing, though a bit vague. Is this book about what eternity will be like? About the Millennium? About the Rapture? The title and subtitle leave the reader wondering.
The eighteen chapter titles give some hints. Chapter 6, for example, is called “Made to Rule.” Chapter 9 is “Kingdom Within Grasp.” Chapter 12 is entitled, “Worth Everything.” Chapter 17 is “Living Motivated.”
Tucker says that eternal salvation is a free gift received by grace though faith in Christ, apart from works (e.g., pp. 7, 21, 24, 27, 46). Yet in multiple places (e.g., Chaps. 9 and 12) he indicates that one must give up everything and work hard in order to get into the kingdom. All through the book the author indicates that kingdom participation and entrance requires perseverance in good works (e.g., pp. 29, 49, 133, 146-48, 174). In reality, that is what the entire book is all about. And yet the book is written from a Free Grace perspective.
If you find that confusing, you probably are not aware of the view that all believers have everlasting life, but only persevering believers will get into the kingdom, with the kingdom defined as the Millennium only (not the Millennium followed by the rest of the eternal kingdom which will shift to the new earth). Tucker holds to the view that entering the kingdom is a reward.
Some readers may be bothered by the fact that there is not a single Scripture cited in the text of the book, and only a handful of Scriptural quotations are given. All of the Scripture citations are found in endnotes.
Clearly the book is written for people who already agree with the Free Grace position. Someone who did not already accept the Free Grace view would not likely find much Biblical evidence to lead him to change his mind.
There are many examples of famous passages in which the author’s interpretation is radically different from both the interpretations of most Lordship Salvation and Free Grace advocates. For the sake of space, I will simply mention a few.
The Parable of the Sower and the Four Soils is typically understood by Lordship Salvationists as teaching that only the good soil is born again. Soils 1-3 represent three types of unbelievers. Zane Hodges, myself, and many other Free Grace writers have suggested that the first soil represents unbelievers and that soils 2-4 represent three types of believers. Tucker suggests that the parable is not about who is born again and who is not. The issue, he says, is not about having everlasting life or going to heaven. The issue is about making it into the kingdom: “To not be saved [in Luke 8:12] is to miss the kingdom. This parable, like the rest here, is not about going to heaven, as many have taught and believed; it is about the messianic kingdom” (p. 166).
He interprets the parables of Matthew 13 in the same way. Take for example, the Parable of the Hidden Treasure (Matt 13:44). There a man finds a hidden treasure, hides it, sells all he has, and buys the field in which he has hidden the treasure. The Lordship Salvation explanation is that we must give up everything to be born again. That is, we essentially buy our own salvation. Most Free Grace writers suggest that the Lord Jesus is the Man in the parable. He buys the kingdom by laying down His life for us. That is, He gave up everything that He might buy the kingdom. Tucker, however, says that we are the ones who buy the kingdom in the sense that we buy the right to enter it and participate in it (p. 173). He doesn’t say where believers who fail to buy the kingdom will be during the Millennium, only that they won’t be in it.
He takes the same approach with the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (Matt 13:45-46). He says, “The glorious kingdom is worth every sacrifice necessary to obtain it” (p. 174).
This is also the way that Tucker understands the Sermon on the Mount (pp. 146-54). Matthew 5:20 is teaching that “The condition for entrance into the kingdom, then, is a practical ‘righteousness [that] surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees” (p. 147). Entering by the narrow way is not entering the kingdom by believing in Jesus Christ. It is entering the kingdom by living a godly life (pp. 146-54). (Remember, of course, that for Tucker entering the kingdom is not the same as being born again.) The broad way that leads to destruction is a path that born-again people may well be on if they are not living godly lives “according to this newfound freedom and motivation” (pp. 153-54). Believers must realize that merely “living a moral or religious life will prove insufficient for [entering] the kingdom” (p. 154). Rather, “good works done the right way are essential for greatness in the kingdom” (p. 153). Of course, in Tucker’s view the only Church-Age people who will enter “the kingdom” (i.e. the Millennium) are those who will be great in it.
I have spoken with several people who have read this book and told me that they really liked it. I have not pressed them on what they liked about it or what they thought he was saying. Recently, however, I did engage one friend who read and enjoyed it. When I asked, I found he had not understood that Tucker was saying that unfaithful believers will miss the Millennium. He was surprised and not a little bothered by that.
Another friend, who is very enthusiastic about this book and who agrees with Tucker’s view, suggested to me that at least half of the people in the Free Grace movement agree with Tucker’s view that unfaithful believers will miss the Millennium. That has not been what I have found in talking with people. I would put the percentage of Free Grace people I’ve spoken with who hold to that idea to be less than twenty percent. That view may be gaining in popularity due to books like this. However, I wonder.***
In my view 1 Thess 5:9-10 is a show stopper for the idea that unfaithful believers miss the Millennium. In the most famous Rapture section in the Bible (1 Thess 4:13–5:11), Paul calls for believers to be watchful and not to be morally asleep (e.g., 1 Thess 5:6-8). Then he says that “God did not appoint us to wrath [i.e., the Tribulation], but to obtain salvation [i.e., deliverance from the Tribulation via Rapture] through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us that whether we wake [lit. watch] or sleep, we should live together with Him” (1 Thess 5:9-10). Even believers who are morally asleep at the time of death or the Rapture will live together with Him forever, starting with the Rapture. No believers will miss the kingdom.
In addition, the idea that the word kingdom is limited in the NT to the Millennium is something that I have not observed. In my estimation the kingdom refers to the fifth and final kingdom of Daniel, the kingdom of the Son of Man, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus (e.g., Dan 2:44, “it [the fifth kingdom] shall stand forever”; Dan 7:27, “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom”). In Daniel there are not six kingdoms. The Lord Jesus only has one kingdom. His kingdom begins with the Millennium and “shall stand forever” since it is “an everlasting kingdom.” The Millennium is not some separate kingdom. It is the first thousand years of the eternal kingdom, as Peter himself plainly says in 2 Pet 1:10-11.
Though I do not agree with Tucker’s viewpoint, I rejoice that he advocates the Free Grace position, and I appreciate his irenic tone. We certainly do not all need to be in lock step on every issue in order to have fellowship with one another.
I recommend this book for well-grounded Free Grace believers. I would not give it to someone whom I was trying to win over to the Free Grace view. Nor would I give it to a newcomer to Free Grace theology. However, for those well versed in these issues, this book is worth having in your personal library.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
***The original version of this review incorrectly suggested that Jody Dillow holds to a kingdom exclusion view. We are sorry for misrepresenting Dillow’s view.