Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kingdom of God Overview

I was recently asked to write a summation of what I thought the 'Kingdom of God' was in Scripture. To boot, I was asked to keep it to one page. That's difficult especially considering you could easily write a tome on the kingdom of God in the Gospels alone. Here's was my summation:

I believe that the Kingdom of God is a theme that is pervasive to the whole Bible. To understand the kingdom of God we must begin in Genesis 1 and 2. I believe that God establishes His sovereignty over all creation by creating heaven and earth. God is a high king who establishes His throne in heaven with every intent of fully manifesting it over all the earth. On earth, He begins to establish His reign over creation by placing humanity in the garden of Eden with the command that they subdue the earth. In Genesis 1 and 2, Adam is established as a king, prophet and priest in order to bring creation into submission that God’s glory might pervade all of His creation. Had Adam obeyed he would have achieved victory over the serpent thereby prosecuting God’s reign. Had Adam obeyed he would have been secured in eschatological glory unable to fall (cf. the Reformed concept of the fourfold states of man and the Book of Revelation place the tree of life in heaven). Finishing His creative work, God rested in heaven setting up his vice-regency in man on earth success would have meant things “on earth as in heaven”.

With the fall of man, God begins His eternal plan to manifest His glory in His creation through the vice-regency of humanity. He begins His “mission” to make his own glory known in creation and fulfill on earth the eternal covenant the Father and Son made before creation. This covenant begins to be worked out through a series of covenants made to humans. All of the Old Testament covenants serve as steps towards the coming kingdom of God. For example, in the Abrahamic covenant we see God promising the ‘seed’ of Abraham would bless the whole earth. While it is clear this is fulfilled in Christ alone (e.g. Gal 3), the Old Testament works this vice-regency through Israel. Christ comes as the fulfillment of the true Israelite but as we wait God is constantly manifesting His eternal reign through episodes of redemption and judgment of Israel and judgment upon the nations. In the Davidic covenant we see God’s promising of the vice-regency through the Davidic line. The promise of the New Covenant is the promise of the reestablishment of God’s people and the final eschatological blessings of redemption and reign.

In the New Testament, we see that central to Jesus’ ministry is the coming of the Kingdom. The kingdom is present in the King. Jesus promises that this kingdom will expand slowly, like leaven, and pervade the whole world. Jesus also promises that the Kingdom can only come if the rival kingdom of the god of this age is first bound up. The miracles of Jesus are signs of the kingdom and they serve an eschatological purpose of showing God’s people that ‘the time has come’. Jesus’ death and resurrection secures the kingdom (and citizens for that kingdom) and assures us that Jesus is the ‘New Man’—(e.g. Paul’s Second Adam). The resurrection is proof that God has established Jesus on the Davidic Throne (e.g. Acts 2; Psalm 110:1) and through this person God will judge all of creation (Acts 17). Thus, in Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection the kingdom of God is not postponed but inaugurated. The blessings of the kingdom are presently experienced through union with Christ. At present Christ serves in heaven as our high priest but also reigns at God’s right hand—as the second Adam (cf. 1 Cor 15; Hebrews 2; Psalm 8). This reign assures us that the kingdom of God is already.

When a person becomes Christian they are transferred into the kingdom of God’s Son (Col 1:13). The Holy Spirit is a sign and seal of our kingdom inheritance. The ultimate glory of humanity (our ‘fourth state’) still awaits us however the Holy Spirit is a down payment and seal that we will receive. There is of course a ‘not yet’ that awaits us in the kingdom. This includes our future state, as noted, but also the final victory of God over the kingdom of this age. Christ secures this victory based upon His first coming—the cross, resurrection and ascension—nevertheless it is real victory that still must be enacted. So Christ reigns (presently, now) until such a time as he can turn over the kingdom to his Father (cf.. 1 Cor 15).

The reign of Christ and the summation of that reign will conclude with the triumphant return of Christ to conquer and cast away his enemies, a real earthly presence in a millennial reign, a final judgment, a consummation where God restores all creation and His glory dwells throughout all of His creation. In the final eschatological state, God’s throne/temple/heavenly city descends bringing God’s presence-glory into all creation. Thus, God’s reign becomes manifest on earth rather than in just heaven. We exist eternally in resurrected bodies in the new heavens and new earth. We dwell with Christ as co-heirs. Thus, God’s original intention in Genesis 1 and 2 is fulfilled but it is done in such a way as to bring full glory to the triune God particularly as the Son is the full image of God’s glory and as the Spirit resurrects our bodies into eschatological glory and unites even more fully into fellowship with Christ Jesus.

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