The Kingdom of God: Promises Made (Part 1)
Chances are that if you stepped into a Christian church more than 3 times, you’ve heard what’s commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer,” or as Roman Catholics call it, the “our Father.” There Jesus prays to God, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” If one misses the centrality of the Kingdom of God in the preaching and teaching of the Prophets and Apostles, much of the historical books in the OT and even the gospels become obscured.
God’s overall project of restoring creation is carried out in various stages or phases, with each phase expanding and transforming the previous one. God is working to make the earth full of his glory, just as is the heavenly throne room. His Kingdom breaks into real history in multiple stages. These stages are grounded in real history and mainly through various covenants (the Bible speaks of covenants made with Adam-though this is disputed-Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the “New Covenant”). So, for example, God’s covenant established with Moses is broadened and transformed with the divine promise to Israel’s King David, the promise that his family line would always be on the throne of the nation of Judah (this is known as the “Davidic” covenant).
With Adam, the pattern of God’s kingdom on earth is established. The images of God were to live their lives in obedience to and trust in His loving, guiding word. After the Fall (in Gen. 3), humanity gets worse and worse, finally causing God to judge the world by a flood (Gen. 6). But, God makes a promise (i.e. a covenant) with Noah, saying that he would never again destroy the earth in the same manner. This covenant with Noah was God’s way of stabilizing the stage for the drama of salvation-history. If His kingdom is to come on earth, then we can’t have his images having to start from scratch every so often! Back in Gen. 3, after the God punishes humanity and the snake, God makes a veiled promise to our first parents. The “seed” of the women would crush the “seed” of the snake. Eventually, the “seed” of the woman (i.e. Eve) is passed down to Seth, the godly son of Adam.
As time progresses, we get to Abram, whom God calls out from his family and homeland. The point? God’s kingdom will come through Abram’s, now Abraham, family. From there, we move to Moses and the deliverance of the people of Israel (Abraham’s larger family) from Egypt. God then takes these former slaves and forms them into a nation, and promises them their own land. As we fast forward, we find the establishment of the Davidic kingship. Now, we see God’s plan for his kingdom expand in the direction of an empire, with David’s son of the throne. The loyalty of the nation to God is measure by a couple of things, 1) their faithfulness to the covenant made at Mount Sinai (with Moses), 2) their faithfulness to the temple in Jerusalem (the proper meeting place with God), and 3) their allegiance to the Davidic king (God’s representative).
Unfortunately, the nation of Israel doesn’t honor their responsibilities to the covenants, so God sends them into exile. While in exile God still shows his love through the prophets. The same prophets, Like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, who condemn so much of what the nation was doing are also the ones promising that one day God would restore David’s throne and the Kingdom would be established. This is known we the “New Covenant” spoken of in Jeremiah. This promised covenant will do what the covenant made with Moses could not, it will give the people the power to obey it. The problem is with the people, not the Law.
In out next post we’ll take a look at how this historical build-up is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.