In the first post in this series, I introduced this short study on the Gospel of the Kingdom with the question: Did Jesus legitimately offer the kingdom that was anticipated by the Jews, or did Jesus redefine the kingdom?
OLD TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL OVERVIEW
In seeking to understand what the good news about the kingdom that John and Jesus proclaimed was, it is vital to look to Scripture as the source, rather than one’s pre-established assumptions regarding the issue. Particularly, in order to fully grasp the meaning of the kingdom in the New Testament, It is vital to understand what the kingdom was expected to be from the teachings on the subject from the Old Testament. It is only after discovering what the Old Testament has to say about the kingdom, that the teachings of the New Testament (which are set in the context of the Old Testament teachings) will begin to come to light. Thus, we’ll conduct a very brief overview of the Old Testament teaching on the kingdom.
There runs a thread throughout the Old Testament—a recurring theme—which points to the significance of the kingdom. Royal language is employed often throughout the Pentateuch. The theme of the Messiah, using royal language, also seems to link the narrative of the Pentateuch through the major poetic “seams” of the narrative (Genesis 49, Numbers 4, and Deuteronomy 32). The focus of the Old Testament all the way through Chronicles is upon King David. After David, the focus narrows to the expectation of the Son of David—the Davidic Messiah.
The first promise given regarding the Messiah is the seminal promise in Genesis 3:15 of a redeemer who would conquer the enemy—Satan. The information given in this promise is minimal, and will be further developed through progressive revelation. But because it is the first promise concerning the coming Messiah, is must be acknowledged that the promise of the Messiah starts all the way back with Adam and Eve.
The amount of revelation is increased substantially in the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic covenant is the first covenant God makes with a special people (Abraham and his seed); before this point was a dispensation of universal dealings (e.g. the Noahic Covenant was with all mankind). There are several components of the Abrahamic Covenant, which outline what will be fulfilled for the descendents of Abraham, and which are pertinent to the discussion of the future kingdom:
- Nation: “I will make you a great nation” (Gen 12:2).
- Seed: “count the stars . . . So shall your descendants be” (Gen 15:5).
- Land: “To your descendants I have given this land” (Gen 15:18).
- Blessing: “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (12:3).
- Kingdom: “your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies” (22:17).
This covenant is reaffirmed with Issac in Genesis 26:3-4, and with Jacob in Genesis 28:13-15. The Abrahamic Covenant is everlasting (Gen 17:7-19; 1 Chron. 16:17; Ps 105:10), unconditional (Gen. 15:12; 18:19), and immutable (Heb. 6:13-18).
The Mosaic Covenant develops most of these themes further, with the same everlasting, unconditional, immutable nature:
- Nation: “you shall be to Me . . . a holy nation” (Exod 19:6).
- Land: “that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you” (Exod 20:12).
- Blessing: “He will love you and bless you and multiply you . . . You shall be blessed above all peoples” (Deut 7:13–14).
- Kingdom: “and you will be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6).
The land is promised to Israel again in Deuteronomy 28:11 as “the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.” In the Davidic Covenant, these themes are developed and reiterated once again:
- Nation: “That you should be ruler over My people Israel” (2 Sam 7:8).
- Seed: “I will raise up your descendant after you” (2 Sam 7:12); “your house… shall endure before Me forever” (7:16).
- Land: “I will also appoint a place for My people Israel” (2 Sam 7:10).
- Blessing: “let men bless themselves by him; Let all nations call him blessed” (Ps. 72:17).
- Kingdom: “your kingdom shall endure before Me forever” (2 Sam 7:16).
Finally, the New Covenant contains the same elements still:
- Nation: “Shall [not] cease from being a nation before Me forever” (Jer. 31:36).
- Seed: “I will sow . . . with the seed of man” (Jer. 31:27); “the offspring of Israel shall [not] cease” (31:36).
- Land: “The city shall be rebuilt for the LORD” (Jer. 31:38); “it shall not be plucked up or overthrown anymore forever” (31:40).
- Blessing: “I will put My law within them . . . I will forgive” (Jer. 31:33–34).
- Kingdom: “the city will be rebuilt for the LORD . . . And the whole valley of the dead bodies . . . and all the fields . . . shall be holy to the LORD” (Jer. 31:38–40).
Also, the revelation given concerning the physical nature of the kingdom includes the following elements:
- The Messiah will establish an everlasting peace and justice on earth (Isa. 9:7; Micah 4:3–4; Isa. 65:21–22; Ps. 72:4).
- The Messiah’s authority will also extend to international lengths (Isa. 2:2–4; Ps. 2:8–10).
- Zechariah 6:13 reveals that the Messiah will fulfill Israel’s role as a kingdom with a priestly function, when it says that “he will be a priest on his throne.” The Messiah will unite these two offices together in himself.
- The Messiah’s world capitol will be located at Jerusalem (Jer. 3:17).
There are certainly other characteristics concerning the rule of Messiah, but perhaps this sampling is sufficient to demonstrate that the Jews had a very specific and very physical expectation regarding the Messiah (along with certain non-physical expectations as well, such as the giving of a new heart).