Unger’s Dictionary on the Sermon on the Mount

Last year, for some reason, I read the entire Unger’s Bible Dictionary from cover to cover. It was not thrilling reading. I probably mostly read it to say I read it. Kind of like Mount Everest: instead of climbing it, you read a book about it because the book was there.

I learned very little, mostly because it was about obscure biblical names of people and towns, none of which are distinguishable after reading 1392 pages of them.

What I did learn is that Unger is pretty good until he attempts to explain anything theological. Then he gets, shall we say, peculiar.

One of the entries that stood out to me was “Sermon on the Mount, The.”

Quoting from The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary from 1988, under the heading “Its Application,” we are told this about Sermon on the Mount, The:

“Careful exegesis of the Sermon on the Mount must not confuse it with the era of grace initiated by the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.”

His point is that Sermon on the Mount, The is not for the church primarily. He maintains that “the application to be literally the establishment of the future Davidic Kingdom.” Otherwise known as the Millennial Kingdom.

Putting those things together, Unger is saying that Sermon on the Mount, The is not for the church but for the Kingdom period when Christ literally reigns on the earth and Israel is regathered to their land.

He does concede that Sermon on the Mount, The does have “all-time moral application, and hence its principles are applicable to the Christian.” Nice of him to grant that. He thinks it’s nice for you to be merciful and pure in heart, just don’t expect any blessings from it.

According to Unger, “This discourse gives the divine constitution for the righteous government of the earth [during the Millennial Kingdom].”

The thing I do not understand is that if this is only applicable in the Kingdom where righteousness reigns, why would people need to be told to do these righteous things? Righteousness is already reigning. At what point would a person in the righteous kingdom be blessed for being evil spoken of or reviled? That’s not going to happen there.

At what point would a person be blessed to mourn in the Kingdom if righteousness is reigning, there would be nothing to mourn about?

Unger is not the originator of this interpretation of Sermon on the Mount, The. As far as I know, Lewis Sperry Chafer popularized the idea, which really wasn’t held by anyone until he got famous.

The position has never made sense to me. The idea that Jesus wasn’t speaking to us in actual application seems crazy. Unger lists no verses to prove his point; it’s all theory and speculation.

Quoting some actual verses from the Apostle Paul, who knows more than Merrill F. Unger,

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

The Apostle Paul says people who don’t listen to Jesus Christ’s words and doctrines of godliness are proud, know nothing, like to argue about words, and think that godliness is proved by making respectable amounts of money. Paul says to stay away from these people.

Sermon on the Mount, The says we should give things away, be taken advantage of, and should be content with mourning, persecution, and being merciful.

There’s a reason people try to eliminate the Sermon on the Mount: it’s hard and does not look like fun to your flesh. Anyone who pushes away from the teachings of Christ is listening to their flesh, not the Spirit of God.

Watch out for people who tell you it’s not necessary to listen to Jesus Christ. This is a dangerous error which will have devastating effects as time goes on. The fruit of this teaching will not be pretty. And, one who reads Sermon on the Mount, The and applies it, will clearly understand this point, for here is how it ends:

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
–Matthew 7:16-20

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