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

 

  1. As anticipated by the prophets, the Kingdom of God has now come under the New Covenant, but it is not yet here fully.

With the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the New Covenant, the long awaited coming of God’s Kingdom in its fullness is partially realized (Mt. 3:1-2; 11:12; 13:24-43; Luke. 17:20-21; Col. 1:13). The words and works of Jesus are all signs that the Kingdom has come, is still in the process of coming, and is yet to come (Mt. 4:23-25; Luke 11:14-20; 21:31). After Pentecost, the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit serve to demonstrate that the Kingdom of God is continuing to advance with power (Acts 4:29-31; Rom. 15:19; I Cor. 2:4; 4:20).

We presently live during the “already, not yet” aspect of the Kingdom: The Kingdom is here to a much greater degree than under the Old Covenant but not yet fully. This age is an age of tension where the wheat and the tares grow together (Mt. 13:24-30, 36-43). It is an age where we experience the blessings of God in part, but we also endure the suffering of living in a fallen and sinful world as sinful and fallen people who are constantly attacked by the Kingdom of Darkness. It is an age of spiritual power wherein the power of God can be demonstrated through the exercise of his gifts as his people call in earnest upon his holy name and as God himself chooses to reveal himself (Acts 4:24-31). Yet because the Kingdom is not fully present, demonstrations of God’s power are incomplete and partial (I Corinthians 13:8-12), and there are also times when God chooses not to act. Yet, when his power is experienced, they are proof of his presence and of his Kingdom, the fullness of which is yet to come (Hebrews 6:4-5).

 

  1. Under the New Covenant in the age to come, the Kingdom of God will be fully realized.

The final steps in the consummation of the Kingdom of God are initiated with the second coming of Jesus and are completed with the creation of the New Heavens and Earth (Rev. 11:15-18; 19:11-16; Rev. 21-22).

 

This article has proposed that the Kingdom of God is the central unifying theme of Scripture, with covenant being the vehicle by which God progressively works in history to bring his Kingdom into the world. In our next article we will consider some of the passages that serve to demonstrate the central role the Kingdom of God has in both the Old and New Testaments.

May his Kingdom come and his will be done both in our lives and yours.

 

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Part Two will appear in the Spring 2001 issue.

 

Part 2 of The Kingdom of God As Scripture’s Central Theme

 

Notes

  1. Another approach to Biblical interpretation called Kingdom Now Theology is found in some Charismatic circles. The adherents view the church as a manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth. As in Covenant Theology, the church is believed to have taken the place of Israel. The church’s mandate is to convert all of civilization to Christianity. Only after this occurs can the second coming of Christ take place. One of the difficulties with Kingdom Now Theology is its overemphasis on the nowness of the Kingdom. It fails to give adequate weight to the incompleteness of the Kingdom in the present age. They have forged ties with the Reconstructionist movement of the Reformed camp, since their theologies are similar. Like Dominionism or Reconstructionism, Kingdom Now Theology is preterist and postmillennial in its eschatology. See “Is Reconstructionism Merging with Kingdom Now?” News Watch (a column from the Christian Research Journal, Fall 1988, page 5) by William M. Alnor.
  2. Rev. C. I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1945), 5.
  3. Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981), 44-47.
  4. Blaising, Craig A. & Darrell L. Bock, editors, Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church (Grand Rapids; Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 37-67.
  5. Rev. C. I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1945), 996, 1003; Lewis Sperry Chafer, The Kingdom in History and Prophecy (Philadelphia: Sunday School Times Co., 1926), 52-62. Also see Darrell Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism: An up-to-date Handbook of Contemporary Dispensational Thought (Wheaton, IL: Bridgepoint), 297. Bock gives an excellent summary of the progression of dispensational thought. He sees three primary developments which he categorizes as Classical, Revised, and Progressive. This present article makes use of this helpful terminology.
  6. Darrell Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism: An up-to-date Handbook of Contemporary Dispensational Thought (Wheaton, IL: Bridgepoint), 39-46; J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), 433-475.
  7. Darrell Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism: An up-to-date Handbook of Contemporary Dispensational Thought (Wheaton, IL: Bridgepoint), 127-128.
  8. Darrell Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism: An up-to-date Handbook of Contemporary Dispensational Thought (Wheaton, IL: Bridgepoint), 127-128.
  9. Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), 41-54. While not viewing Kingdom as the central theme of Redemptive History, Willem VanGemeren’s The Progress of Redemption (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1988) does discuss its development in both the Old and New Testaments (169-177, 347-355, 460-464).
  10. John Peter Lange, Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Vol. 8: The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), 2-3.
  11. Out of respect for a Jewish friend and the entire Jewish community, I will not dignify the word antisemitism by capitalizing semitism and separating it from anti by means of a hyphen. Antisemitism is an euphemism for hatred of the Jews. In 1879 it was coined by Wilheim Marr, a German anti-Jewish spokesman. It is not directed against all Semites but against Jews only. See Joshua ben David Halevi Ellison, N.D., DD., Ph.D., Christian Antisemitism: Breaking the Cycle (Unpublished manuscript presented at the Blossoming Rose Symposium on Israel XII, Sept. 14-17, 2000, Bridgeman, MI), 3.
  12. Col. 3:11-12, 15 refers to Jews and Gentiles together as God’s chosen people and members of one body wherein there is no inequality.
  13. David D. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1992), 413. See also Ariel & D’vorah Berkowitz, Take Hold: Embracing our Divine Inheritance with Israel (Israel: First Fruits of Zion, Inc., 1999), 103-108; Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1989), 3-16.
  14. Dispensationalists generally apply these passages exclusively to the Millennium and Covenant Theologians generally apply them spiritually to the church in the present age. How can either finite period totally fulfill the eternal promises of God to Israel? God did not wash his hands of Israel at the creation of the church nor will he at the close of the Millennium. The Millennium is only another step, albeit a significant one, toward the Kingdom coming in its fullness.
  15. See my chart showing the parallels of those passages in The Kingdom of God (unpublished manuscript), 126.
  16. Take for example the old form of animal sacrifice and the new form of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The two forms may be different but the principle behind both remains the same: Heb. 9:22: “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (JNT).

 

From the Spring 2001 issue of Pneuma Review
Part 2 of The Kingdom of God As Scripture’s Central Theme

 

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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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