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The Kingdom of God: The Central Theme of Scripture

March 13, 2012

I’ve begun listening to a recent TMS lecture series (February 2012) concerning The Kingdom of God. According to the introductory message this series included six parts, of which the web page includes five: an introduction from Richard Mayhue, followed by great lessons from Bill Barrick, Keith Essex, Nathan Busenitz and Michael Vlach. The first two messages have already covered a lot of ground on this very large topic, the one unifying theme of the Bible.

The Bible is filled with the kingdom theme. The Old Testament is saturated: just looking at the “kingdom vocabulary” and the words “king” and “kingdom” and their variations, the Hebrew OT includes 3,154 references – and that doesn’t include the Aramaic portions in Daniel. Many other words also relate to the subject of the kingdom, as for instance judge, ruling, scepter, and palace. Many passages contain just a brief reference, as for instance Exodus 15:18, the last verse in the song of Moses. Other passages do not contain direct kingdom language, yet clearly refer to it, as for instance Psalm 118. About 30% of hymns in the average hymnbook are about the kingdom, which though generally from the erroneous amillennial/postmillennial view at least recognize the immense scope of the kingdom theme.

Over the last few centuries theologians have been quite interested in dividing the Bible into all its parts, examining and dissecting it. Yet that perspective, looking at the trees, loses sight of the overall picture of the forest. When we consider the broad overview of the Bible, what is its central theme? Keith Essex mentions several ideas set forth by theologians, concluding that the kingdom and salvation are the primary two, of which the kingdom is the primary one. He cites two reasons: the canonical order and the theological order of God’s word. The canonical order: The Revelation of the Kingdom both precedes (Genesis 1-2) and culminates (Revelation 21-22) after the teaching of sin and salvation. The theological order: salvation is a means to an end, not the end. We are saved for a purpose, to serve the Savior.

Dr. Mayhue suggests a simple three-point outline for a single sermon about the whole Bible:

  1. The Kingdom Before Sin (Genesis 1-2)
  2. The Kingdom During Sin (Genesis 3 – Revelation 20)
  3. The Kingdom After Sin (Revelation 21-22)

Bill Barrick’s message is especially good, and he further expands on the “mirror image” of scripture: The doctrine of First Things is repeated in inverse order in the doctrine of Last Things. As the earth began so it shall end. March forward from Genesis (OT history), and backward from Revelation (to begin of NT), and see the parallels.

A closer look at these parallels and reverse sequence of events:
Creation == > New Creation
Light ==> God’s Light (Rev. 22)
Man’s Rule (Gen. 1:21) ==> High King’s Rule
Curse of the Fall reversed

Antagonism from Satan:
Creation –> Satan’s freedom
Satan’s rebellion again, and confinement (before) the New Creation
Worldwide global flood judgment after the fall. In Revelation 6-19, global judgment again, before Satan’s defeat.
After global judgment: Old Testament — Babylon
Global judgment in Revelation: Babylon (Revelation 17-18) prior to the global judgment.

Of the first three messages, I’ve especially enjoyed Dr. Barrick’s, for his great delivery including many quote-worthy statements such as this section:

Vice-regents of God are literal, unfallen human beings living & residing on planet earth, possessing physical bodies, and living in a specific location, the garden of Eden. God’s initial mediatorial kingdom is earthly, it is physical, it is real, it is human. We must catch that concept. We read the Bible as though there was no literal Adam and Eve, we spiritualize everything to where we do away with everything physical and everything earthly, as though in the New Testament suddenly all this is transformed and we are to be only spiritually directed, spiritually minded, and there’s only spiritual reality, and the physical reality is just a means of getting where we’re going and that’s it.

That’s not the way scripture approaches it. God’s design was for there to be a literal, human, unfallen, earthly localized kingdom on this planet. And He will not have that program subordinated, skewed, changed, altered or denied. There will come a time when He will establish a new Eden on planet Earth, and place within it a Regent who is an unfallen human being in human form with a human body. And He will reign, and He will fulfill that intent, that God started in the garden of Eden.

To read the scriptures in any other way, is to read it as though there is no truth to God’s promise to restore that which has fallen, to glorify that which is now not glorified. It would be for God to admit defeat and say, ‘I just have to give up. I created man, I created this possibility of having a mediatorial kingdom on earth that’s real, that’s literal, that’s human, that’s localized, that’s earthly, and it failed because man disobeyed. My vice-regents disobeyed the king of kings and Lord of lords. Therefore I give up, the program is canceled. We’ll move on to plan B.’ God’s never had a plan B. It’s all plan A.

  1. March 13, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Amen! Spiritualizing clear, literal passages of scripture leads to hopelessness and confusion.

  2. Richard A. Truman
    March 13, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Thanks for your notes, Lynda. Bill Barrick is an excellent Bible teacher. I took a class on Revelation from him in 1974 in Denver, CO. We also attended the same church there, and years later my wife and I supported him the entire time he was a missionary in Bangladesh. He is a godly man with a wealth of biblical knowledge.

    • March 14, 2012 at 7:44 am

      Thanks, Richard. Interestingly enough, I was also in Denver, CO in 1974, though still a school child going to my parents’ church. I greatly enjoyed Barrick’s message in this lecture series, and the material at his website looks good for further study.

  3. March 14, 2012 at 2:21 am

    How do you know so much about everything going on with TMS?? Thanks for this post!

    • March 14, 2012 at 7:50 am

      Thanks, Jim! I found out about the TMS lectures a few years ago, googling I think, and first listened to their NCT series (also very helpful). The Calvinist Dispensationalists fellowship group on FB is also a nice way I keep informed, since others also like to post links to good resources and especially keep up with MacArthur’s ministries (TMS, Shepherd’s Conference, etc.).

      • March 14, 2012 at 11:45 am

        I see…sometimes I wonder if you are a TMS graduate!

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