Biblical Theology — 5
The Prophesied Kingdom
Last week we learned that at the end of 1 Kings 11, a partial fulfillment of the Kingdom of God (God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule, and enjoying God’s blessing) had been achieved. We saw:
- God’s people — The Israelites
- Live in God’s place — The promised land (Canaan)
- Under God’s rule — The Law; A King
- Enjoying God’s blessing — Safety and a Blessing to All Nations
For purposes of our study of biblical theology (study of the unity of the message of the Bible), we have called this epoch (or age) — The Partial Kingdom.
1 Kings 12 – 2 Kings 25
Soon after Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, comes to the throne, the ten northern and eastern tribes rebel against him and set up their own kingdom under Jeroboam. Israel had been united for 120 years under Saul, David, and Solomon, but now it is divided. The northern kingdom is called Israel. The southern kingdom is called Judah. A few highlights are worthy of being mentioned in these chapters in the Bible:
- The Northern Kingdom
- Virtually all of the northern kings are compared to Jeroboam or Ahab.
- Jeroboam is synonymous with syncretism. Syncretism is the blending of truth and error. It is the watering down of true religion. It is the introduction of heresy into the body.
- Ahab is synonymous with paganism. Paganism is the outright denial of all truth and the worship of false Gods.
- The end comes in 722 B.C. The Assyrians attack Samaria and destroy it. The ten northern tribes will never have a separate existence again.
2. The Southern Kingdom
- The southern kingdom fares no better.
- Even though the temple is in their midst, they turn to other gods. There are periods when they are more obedient to God but the change is insufficient and only temporary.
- The end comes in 586 B.C. when the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and the temple and many are taken to Babylon (the exile).
- The Fulfillment of God’s Promise
- The dismantling of the partial kingdom was in fulfillment of God’s promise.
- God had warned them before they entered the promised land that they would be evicted if they did not obey Him (Deut. 28:25, 63-64; Joshua 23:12-13).
- They rejected His rule and, as a result, they are banished from His presence.
- God’s work among the Israelites was never intended to be the final fulfillment of His gospel promises. It was only to serve as a model.
- God will never rebuild the model again but he will establish the real thing in and through Jesus.
- As we shall see in the rest of the Old Testament, it is the role of the prophets to explain this great truth.
God’s prophets are His mouthpieces, proclaiming His word to others (2 Peter 1:21). The role of the prophets was to enforce the covenant, urging the people to obey it and reminding them of the blessings that followed obedience and the curses that followed disobedience. The prophets warn that the unconditional blessings of the covenant cannot be enjoyed by those who continue to break the covenant. There are 17 prophetic books in the Bible. These books have two dominant themes: judgment and hope.
- Long sections in the prophetic books are devoted to exposing the people’s sin and announcing God’s judgment against it.
- We must not think of the prophets as only predicting what God will do through Christ in the future. They first spoke to their own day; they were “forth-tellers” not just “fore-tellers.”
- The prophets spoke of judgment against the nations, against Israel, and against Judah.
- There is a conditional element to God’s promises — if you obey, blessing; if you disobey; curse.
- There is also an unconditional element to God’s promises — His promise to Abraham (not Israel) was a guaranteed commitment (Gen. 12:1-3).
- Thus, the prophets also proclaim the future of Israel.
Ezra – Malachi
The message of the prophets is something like this: “Do you remember what it was like in the good old days under Moses, David, and Solomon? Well it will be like that again in the future, only much better. There will be a new exodus, a new covenant, a new nation, a new Jerusalem, a new temple, a new king, and a new creation. God will not rebuild the model, the partial kingdom. Rather, He will establish that to which it pointed, the real thing, the perfect kingdom.”
- God’ People
- The remnant — a remnant will be preserved, out of whom God will create a new nation (Is. 10:20-21)
- A new exodus (Jer. 16:14-15)
- The servant — this individual is both the true Israel and the one who dies for the remnant of Israel (Is. 44:1-2; Is. 49:5-6)
- The inclusion of the nations — the servant’s role extends beyond Israel (Is. 49:6; Is. 60:1-3)
- God’s Place
- The promised land — which was first expressed as Eden, and then as the promised land of Canaan, is finally portrayed as a renewed Canaan in a new earth.
- A new temple — a river flows out from this new temple giving life to the world (Ez. 40-48)
- A new Jerusalem (Is. 2:2-4; Ez. 34:11-16)
- The new creation — a new heaven and a new earth (Is. 65:17-18)
- God’s Rule and Blessing
- The new covenant — a covenant that will change His people from within (Jer. 31:31; Ez. 36:26-27; Joel 2:28-32)
- The new king — the salvation of God’s people and the fulfillment of all God’s promises depend on the coming of this anointed one (or Christ, Messiah), the son of David (Is. 9:6-7; Ps. 110:1)
The Return from Exile
In 538 B.C., it looks as if the prophecies of hope are about to be fulfilled. Cyrus of Persia defeats the Babylonians and issues an edict that allow the exiles to return and rebuild their temple. But the restoration of the nation is not the triumphant success that the prophets had promised.
- This is not the new exodus. Only a small number make the journey back to the homeland.
- This is not the new covenant. The people clearly do not have new hearts.
- The is not the new temple. It doesn’t look anything like the new temple Ezekiel prophesied (must less like the old temple).
- There is no king, no Messiah
The Kingdom of God
We see at the end of the Old Testament, that the perfect kingdom is still something in the future.
- God’s people — A remnant; The inclusion of the nations
- Live in God’s place — A new temple; a new creation
- Under God’s rule — A new covenant; a new king
- Enjoying God’s blessing — Blessing to all nations