In my first post on the topic of the kingdom of God, I mainly took time to look at four varying views on the kingdom. I also shared that the Scripture does not always define certain concepts for us, at least in a technical sense. And this stands true in regards to the kingdom of God. These concepts would have been clear to an Israelite/Jew living in Biblical times, but there is a large historical, cultural and language gap between us and those days. This can leave us caught between a rock and hard place.
But, as we faithfully consider the Scriptures and use other solid theological resources, we can be assured that we will come to a faithful understanding of the kingdom of God, as with any other theological and doctrinal topic.
Before I move on, I would like to suggest a resource by George Eldon Ladd. Though he has passed on now, Ladd was one of the greatest theologians and writers on the topic of the kingdom of God. His short (140 pages), yet helpful, work, The Gospel of the Kingdom, is a really good place to start when studying the kingdom of God. I might suggest some other resources along the way.
So let’s jump into Scripture in order to develop a solid Biblical understanding concerning God’s kingdom. To do this, it might be best to start in the Old Testament.
The Hebrew Word
The Old Testament Hebrew word for ‘kingdom’ is malkûth. In defining this Hebrew word in regards to God’s kingdom, George Ladd, says this:
‘God’s kingdom, His malkuth, is His universal rule, His sovereignty over all the earth.’ (The Gospel of the Kingdom, p20)
This brief statement helps us in our journey of gaining some Biblical insight into the kingdom of God. God’s malkûth, or kingdom, is the reality of His rule over all of the earth. (Note: The Aramaic word, also used in the Old Testament at various times, is very similar – malkûw.)
Here are two passages to consider from the Bible:
Your kingdom [malkûth] is an everlasting kingdom [malkûth],
and your dominion endures throughout all generations (Psalm 145:13)
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honoured him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom [malkûw] endures from generation to generation (Daniel 4:34)
Another Important Hebrew Word
Another very important word to consider when researching the Old Testament on God’s kingdom is the Hebrew word melek, which means ‘king’. Obviously, it is the King who reigns over the kingdom. Therefore, in regards to the kingdom (malkûth) of God, we know that God is the great King. (Note: The Aramaic word, also used in the Old Testament at various times, is the same – melek.)
Here are some passages that speak of God as King:
The LORD is king [melek] forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land. (Psalm 10:16)
The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD sits enthroned as king [melek] forever. (Psalm 29:10)
For God is the King [melek] of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm! (Psalm 47:7)
As you can see, malkûth (kingdom) and melek (king) are two very important words to consider from the Hebrew. And, thus, so far, we have established that God is King (melek) and His kingdom (malkûth) rules over absolutely everything.
Two Revelations of God’s Kingdom in the Old Testament
There are two main aspects of God’s kingdom that would be worthy of our study in the Old Testament:
1) The Eternal Kingdom
The eternal (and universal) aspect of God’s kingdom should already be evident from what we considered above. But let’s peruse a couple of other passages in the Psalms very similar to ones we have already considered:
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.
The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness. (Psalm 45:6)
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations. (Psalm 145:13)
It is verses like these that make us aware of God’s universal and eternal rule from the beginning, even before creation.
Also, it is the Scripture that testifies to the fact that, ‘In the beginning God created…’ (Genesis 1:1). Only the Trinity was involved in the creation of the heavens and the earth – Father (Genesis 1:1; Acts 17:24); Son (John 1:1; Colossians 1:15-16); Spirit (Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4).
Thus, there truly has never been a time when God was not in charge. He is the eternal King!
2) The Davidic-Messianic Kingdom
Though God has always ruled over all of creation, He has still chosen to have a special people submitted to His kingdom rule. In the Old Testament, this people began in Genesis with Abraham, they were called out of Egypt under Moses’ leadership, and were, then, given the torah (law) by which they were to live. Yet, this would all culminate with the forming of the nation of Israel under the Davidic monarch. David, and each subsequent king, was to be an instrument through which God would rule over His beloved people, His treasured possession.
This was all to fulfil these words which God spoke at the foot of Mt Sinai:
4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” (Exodus 19:4-6)
Even so, in his day, David was the messiah (mashiyach in Hebrew), which simply means ‘anointed one’. (The Greek for messiah/anointed one is christos; hence Jesus, the Christ.) Thus, David was a type of Christ, foreshadowing the great Messiah-King that was to come that would rule over God’s people, His treasured possession (see 1 Peter 2:4-10).
Therefore, God had chosen to express His rule through the Davidic king, of which Christ would be the ultimate fulfiller. David, as well as his successors, were to administrate justice and righteousness on behalf of the great King over all.
So, this hopefully gives us some insight into the kingdom rule of God, specifically from the angle of the Old Testament. Yet, there is definitely more to consider along the lines of God’s kingdom rule. I will pick up the New Testament in my next article.