The New Kingdom

(1 of 8 in a series)

One of the best ways to understand what changed between the Old and New Testaments, between the Old and New Covenants, is to explore, study, and evaluate what exactly Jesus did when He ushered in the kingdom of God.  We often comprehend the meaning of Jesus’ first advent totally around His substitutionary death on the cross.  But we cannot separate Jesus’ delivery of a new covenant, a new arrangement with God that was made true by His death and resurrection from His broad description of initiating the kingdom of God on earth.  The two are inseparable.  When we accept the new arrangement with God that Jesus wrought on the cross as our substitute, when we embrace the gospel message of Jesus Christ, we become citizens of His kingdom immediately in the here and now.

Jesus began His earthly ministry with this proclamation, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mk 1:15).  That Jesus announced the kingdom of God has arrived should be of no surprise to us looking back since we believe that Jesus is indeed the Messiah King promised as the one to come by various Old Testament prophets.  However, in real time 30 AD, it soon became apparent that Jesus was not fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy as His contemporaries expected.  Their familiarity with kings and kingdoms involved political and military might, subjection of populations, and ruling with power.  Since Jesus avoided these power structures altogether, what kind of kingdom could He be proclaiming?  And what is its nature?  One of the more perplexing aspects of Jesus’ kingdom is its secret nature.  This nature is brought into sharper focus as we investigate the Old and New Testament timeline in the announcement of the new kingdom; the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of His beloved Son as it is variously called.

In the Old Testament, proclamation was made loud and clear that a Messiah is coming.  And this Messiah carries with Him a strong political significance.  Quoting the “Messiah” entry in The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, we read, “[The Messiah] is to destroy the world powers in an act of judgment, deliver Israel from her enemies, and restore her as a nation.  The Messiah is the King of this future kingdom to whose political and religious domination the other nations will yield.  His mission is the redemption of Israel and His dominion is universal.  This is the clear picture of the Messiah in practically all of the Old Testament passages which refer to Him.”

In essence, The Messiah was to come with power and bring deliverance, judgment, and restoration.  His future coming was called “the Day of the Lord,” and this proclamation, taking various forms and spokesmen, is a prominent theme throughout the Old Testament.  Joel 1:15, 2:1,11,31, 3:14, Amos 5:18, Zeph. 1:14-16, and Mal. 4:1,5 use this phrase – the Day of the Lord – with various adjectives such as great, awesome, and terrible.  The summary of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah King is that He would appear at the great and awesome Day of the Lord.

With this background of Old Testament prophecy regarding the nature of the Messiah’s coming, we will continue our timeline next post with the arrival of the last of the “Old Testament” prophets; John the Baptist.