The theme of the kingdom of God permeates the entire Scripture. It traces back in the book of Genesis, where God created the world as the sovereign Creator and put humanity in the garden of Eden (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:7-8). Though there is no explicit text that points to the kingship of God in this passage, yet the idea of having a garden implies that it is in a king’s palace or kingdom setting. Since having a garden is only usual in a king’s place, it proposes a sacred and royal space for a royal figure.
Likewise, Thomas Schreiner, in his lectures,* argues for the presence of creation covenant, which is unilateral from God towards His creation, that portrays the sovereignty of God. This shows a king’s authority over his possession. Another point before moving to the patriarchs is the role of Adam as the first ruler over all the creation. Adam’s dominion portrays God’s rulership as king since man is created according to God’s image. Miserably, Adam, including his sonship, failed to be a good steward to these roles (Gen. 3).
God’s gracious acts abound in the redemptive story of making a great nation out of nothing. God called Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3) and made a covenant with him that he will have massive descendants that will bless not just his nation, but all the nations of the world (Gen. 15; 17:1-8). Here, it is not explicit that Abraham is viewed as a king, but in a clearer sense, as a father of the coming generation. Secular kingship is not that prominent yet in the making of the Israel nation during Abraham’s time until Joseph.
When Israelites were under the rule of Egypt (Exod. 1:8-10), God delivered them from that cursed land then showed them the promised land through Moses (Exod. 14:30-31), later Joshua as his successor. During the journey, God established His covenant with the Israelites, which is seen in the book of Exodus and Deuteronomy (Exod. 19-24). In Deuteronomy, the author–which is Moses–structured it in a king’s covenantal command to his people. This is a prominent view, especially during a war when a king won the battle and takes the land including the people under his rulership. Then, he gives them this kind of covenantal agreement. Here, God makes a covenant to the Israelites and expects the Israelites to obey the conditions which are part of the covenant (also known as Mosaic Laws).
We see that Israelites keep on failing this covenantal relationship (Judges 2:11-13). By the end of the book of Judges, it seems that the nation of Israel is not satisfied with YHWH as their king. The ark of the covenant, tabernacle, and the tent of the meeting were not enough for them to feel and see God’s presence. They long for something more tangible, personal king. The Israelites asked for a king under Samuel’s mediation (1 Sam. 8).
This petition resulted to anointing of Saul as their king (1 Sam. 13:1). I believe that God foreknew that Israel will long for this kingship, since He already included this in His agreement in the book of Deuteronomy. Saul failed to be a king in God’s own heart. Then, Samuel anointed King David as the new king of Israel (1 Sam. 16:13; 2 Sam. 5:1-4), which no one can be compared to him afterward. David began to build the temple of YHWH, however, was only completely built during the time of Solomon.
It was with David when God made an eternal covenant. God promised that He will sustain David’s descendants and one day there will be a king who will reign forever over all nations. Since then, after David’s rulership, the Israelites long for the messianic king who will victoriously reign forever (2 Sam. 7:5-16).
This desire for the messianic king became greatly longed for during the exiles of Israel under the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Rome. No king was enough to fit this covenantal messianic king. Many tried to claim, like the Maccabean revolt, but failed. The journey of Israel was a roller coaster ride. But they continued to hope, especially when the prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, etc., showed them a hopeful vision of the coming messianic king who will rule over them and deliver them from their exile.
To make a point, this messianic kingship and longing for the fulfillment of the prophecies are all fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ and His works (Luke 4:16-21). In the coming of the Son-God incarnate who is Jesus (Phil. 2:5-11)—the inauguration of the new kingdom became a reality. Healing, miracles, liberation from sin, flourishing life, redemption, forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation became possible because of Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus is king.
Yet, in the Second Temple Jewish perspective, people failed to see this messianic fulfillment because they were expecting for a military king (which became more evident in AD 70 Jewish revolt). They did not see the essence of the suffering servant who will embrace the sin of humanity and willingly die on the cross to defeat death and overcome it to bring life to humanity (Isaiah 53:1-9).
Christ’s disciples could see this manifestation, especially when the outpouring of the Spirit was given by the Father and the Son (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). They started proclaiming this new kingdom that is already present. Part of their proclamation is that it only commenced, but not yet completed. This eschatological completion of hope will be fully consummated in the return of Christ, where the kingdom of God in Christ is given to those who will believe in Him, follow Him, and remain in Him.
This kingdom perspective is very clear in Paul’s epistles, in the gospels, and the book of Revelation, that those whom God called, predestined, and chosen ought to live as citizens of heaven. Kingdom citizen manifests a transformed life, guided and empowered by the Spirit (Rom. 8-9). This transformation is only possible for those who have faith in Christ. Faith is given by God and those who have faith will be co-heirs of God’s riches in Christ. (Eph. 1:3-14; 2:4-10).
The church, who is the glimpse and reality of the new covenant members of this new kingdom, longs for the coming kingdom of God. Yet the church can live joyfully in this fallen world because the kingdom is already here at the same time. The kingdom of God is both already-and-not-yet here. This is where Jonathan Pennington* and N. T. Wright calls on Christians to live and participate in the fifth-and-final act of the redemptive narrative; we learn to become the good news.
Soli Deo Gloria!
 Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, God’s Kingdom Through God’s Covenants: A Concise Biblical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 86-91.
 Duane A. Garrett, The Problem of the Old Testament: Hermeneutical, Schematic, and Theological Approaches (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2020), 206-213. “The Sinai Covenant was a single, bilateral covenant between God and Israel.”
 Greg Gilbert, “What Is and Isn’t the Gospel,” Together for the Gospel (Louisville, KY, Spring 2020). Cf. Gilbert, What is the Gospel? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010).
 Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: BakerAcademic, 2008), 13-15, Kindle. Throughout Schreiner’s work, he argued for the biblical evidences of “already-not yet” theme of the New Testament.
 N. T. Wright, Simply Good News (Broadway, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 171.
* Thomas R. Schreiner and Jonathan Pennington, “Lectures in the Theology of the New Testament” (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY, Summer 2020,).
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