In the beginning God created a garden, and He put man and woman in that garden to cultivate it and to expand it and to build up a world of God-worshippers. Man had one job and he blew it! Ever since the Fall God’s beautiful plan to have a world of faithful people has been lost. Babel was an attempt to build a city that worshipped self. Israel was captured and lost the memory of God time and time again. The monarchy of Israel fell into sin and eventually split and crumbled, and God’s people were once again made slaves. God had appointed men, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon. Each failed to lead God’s people into His desired reality. Then Jesus came and died for their failures, their rebellions, their sins, our sins. And Jesus rose from the dead the victorious King. He conquered death, hell, and the power of sin. He is the King of a new Kingdom, the very Kingdom of God which is still coming! The storyline begins with a vision for a Kingdom of God’s people, and the story ends with a pointer to that Kingdom’s coming.
The Old Testament does not specifically reference the Kingdom of God. But the concept is very much present. In fact, Graeme Goldsworthy writes:
The idea of the rule of God over creation, over all creatures, over the kingdoms of the world and, in a unique and special way, over his chosen and redeemed people, is the very heart of the message of the Hebrew scriptures.
This idea is found in the several key concepts Goldsworthy lists, and in the pattern of Israel’s monarchy and the prophecies of the Old Testament. A quick look at each may help us see how this piece fits into the storyline of Scripture clearly.
The Kingdom first appears in nascent form in Genesis 1 and 2. God creates the world and puts His “vice-regents,” so-to-speak, in charge of that Garden. Adam and Eve are to reflect God’s rule in their dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26). But the Fall altars all of this drastically. Man is now separated from God and under His just judgment. Genesis 4-11 shows just how wicked and corrupt man became. But God calls out Abraham to build from him a great nation which will be God’s people. They are given a promised land and God says “I will be your God and you will be my people.” Goldsworthy says, “Here we see nothing less than the promise of the kingdom of God. Abraham’s descendants are to be God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule.
But this promise doesn’t become reality in Genesis, and in Exodus Israel is in slavery in Egypt. Even after they reclaim the land and are called as God’s people we find Israel constantly at odds with God. Yes Israel has a great king in David, one who is said to be both a King and a Priest. And David represents a great rule in that he is a “shepherd King.” But ultimately Israel finds itself in exile, separated from God. But the prophets come on the scene and hold out hope. They say that human nature will be changed, humanity will perfectly know God’s law and obey it. The covenant with God will be written not on stone tablets but human hearts. And nature will be changed. Ezekiel speaks of it as returning to an Edenic state (Ezek. 36:35; 47:3-12), so does Isaiah (Is. 51:3). But this day waited long after the prophets, for the post-exilic prophets were still pointing towards its future appearing.
In Jesus, however, the whole pictures begins to take shape. In John 2:19-21 Jesus claims to be the Temple of God, the dwelling place of the divine among humanity. Immanuel means God is with us, the rule and dominion of God is dwelling here, now. Furthermore, Jesus announces that in His coming the Kingdom of God has burst onto the scene (Mark 1:15). Matthew even begins his gospel account by identifying Jesus as the “son of David,” (Matthew 1:1). He is the promised heir who would sit on the throne forever. His countless miracles are said to be signs that the Kingdom of God has come near (Matthew 9:35; 12:28). Jesus changes all of this and points to a new reality coming to fulfillment.
This Kingdom is already present among God’s people in small form (Luke 17:21); the Christian has been transferred from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13). But this great Kingdom has not yet fully been realized, it awaits consummation until the return of Christ. The Kingdom of God will reside on a new earth (Revelation 21:1-4), and the royal priesthood of all God’s people will rule on that earth (Revelation 5:10). But it is not yet here, and this is where our part of the story becomes crystalized. We have been redeemed and brought into this Kingdom by the sacrifice of our great King. It is now our task to point people to the coming Kingdom and its threatening King. We are to call men everywhere to repent and to bow to King Jesus. We are Kingdom announcers, sent to make ready the world from the approach of the King. For many it will be a great day when the King returns with His perfect Kingdom, but for those who reject Him it will be dreadful.
How do you fit into the storyline of Scripture, friends? I’ve used the word “story” often throughout this series, but it is not a story in the sense that it is a fictional tale. It is truth, reality, and it is happening all around you. God is rescuing people, redeeming people, and claiming people as His own. He is preparing His Kingdom to come to earth and Christians are pointing men and women everywhere to see and know and love the King. Do you? Be a part of this story before this book of it’s coming closes and it is too late.