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The Kingdom of God As Scripture’s Central Theme: A New Approach to Biblical Theology, Part 1

 

A Brief Critique of Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism

Many unbelievers have been brought to Christ through the Covenantal and Dispensational approaches to Scripture. Many as well have grown in Christ through both of those systems. The problem is that Pentecostals and Charismatics have been primarily stuck with the limitations of either of those two options. Both approaches distort the place of Israel and the church in God’s plan of redemption. Dispensational Theology tends to rigidly separate Israel from the church, while Covenant Theology has the church replacing Israel. Both rob the Jews of their true eternal inheritance. Dispensationalism does so by limiting the inheritance to the Millennium and Covenant Theology by having the church spiritually fulfill the Old Covenant promises to Israel. Dispensationalism and Covenant Theologians have also historically denied the present work of God through signs and wonders as seen in the book of Acts. Both approaches see miracles and the so-called sign gifts as dying out by the end of the first century. The primary failure of both systems is their neglect in placing the Kingdom of God in its proper role and recognizing its primacy.

In spite of what they say, Dispensationalists tend to give their idea of Dispensationalism central place and to allow it to govern redemptive history, rather than the Kingdom of God. Kingdom in actuality becomes a subtheme of Dispensationalism. Thus, for Dispensationalists, the dispensational notion becomes both the central concept and the structure for redemptive history.

Covenantalists, while at times giving lip service to the centrality of the Kingdom of God, do so only in passing and neglect it in favor of their concept of covenant. When they do speak of Kingdom, it is presented from a New Testament perspective, rather than a full orbed biblical theology.9 For Covenant Theologians, the covenantal notion becomes both the central concept and the structure for redemptive history.

In summary, both Dispensational and Covenant Theology fail to recognize the centrality of the Kingdom of God and the relationship of the historical covenants to that grand theme. As a result, both impose a schema upon Scripture that does not do full justice to the development of redemptive history, particularly as it involves both the place of Israel and the implications of the nowness of the Kingdom in Jesus’ ministry, i.e. the place of signs and wonders. However, there is a third alternative, Kingdom of God Theology.

 

The Kingdom of God

To understand the Kingdom of God is to grasp what God has done, is doing, and will do in history in order to submit all creation and all people under his righteous rule. God is a King who has a Kingdom, and His purpose in history is to establish His Kingdom. God’s people throughout the ages, including his church today, have played an important role in the expansion of that Kingdom.

The idea of Kingdom permeates Scripture. Terms that reveal the idea of Kingdom include kingdom, throne, ruler, rule, law, obedience, covenant, nation, promise, blessing, curse, mercy, worship, bow, power, Lord, LORD (Yahweh), Son of David, Jesus Christ (Yeshua Messiah), Israel, and church, to name but a few. When you begin to view Scripture in terms of Kingdom, you will begin to understand the flow of Biblical history and how it all fits together in God’s plan to one day turn this upside-down world right side up. On that day his Kingdom will be here in its fullness. The old things will have passed away and the new will have come—new bodies, new heaven, new earth, and new Jerusalem, yet all without sin. In his Matthew commentary, John Peter Lange correctly observes that “the Kingdom of God embraces the whole history of the world. … The whole history of the world itself is simply the history of the restoration and transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God. … Every new stage in the unfolding and history of salvation is marked by a fresh extension and establishment of the Kingdom of God. …”10

 

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Category: Biblical Studies, Winter 2001

About the Author: David D. Burns, M. Div. served as a pastor for seven years. He presently attends a nondenominational charismatic church and is the father of five home-schooled children, one of which has graduated and is attending college. He has worked over 16 years developing his Kingdom of God Theology and has taught it on several occasions. He is available to do seminars in churches.

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