Scholars have debated for years whether or not it is possible to point to a unifying theme that binds the whole Bible together. Many have argued that the search for such a theme is fruitless: it is better just to accept that Scripture contains a number of different threads and then look at them individually without trying to unite them. They warn of the danger of squeezing all parts of the Bible into a mold rather than letting them speak individually in their rich variety. That is an important warning that must be heard. Any unifying theme that is used to help us to see how the Bible fits together must arise out of Scripture itself, rather than being imposed upon it; and it must be broad enough to allow each part to make its own distinct contribution. The theme of the kingdom of God satisfies both requirements.
God’s kingdom was the dominant theme in Jesus’ teaching. He began his public ministry by proclaiming, ‘The time has come . . . The kingdom of God is near’ (Mark 1:15). He taught that his mission was to introduce the kingdom in fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. Although the expression ‘kingdom of God’ does not appear in the Old Testament, the concept certainly does. Graeme Goldsworthy, in his book Gospel and Kingdom, helpfully presents the kingdom as the binding theme of the whole Bible. I am following his lead in this book. This ‘kingdom approach’ is not the only way of looking at the contents of the Bible. Others, for example, prefer a ‘covenantal approach’ and take God’s covenant to be the center around which all the elements of Scripture circle. I hope it will become clear that these two approaches are not contradictory. God’s covenant promises are kingdom promises.
Goldsworthy defines the kingdom as ‘God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule’ (Figure 5).2 That may sound like an overly simplistic definition for such a significant theme in Scripture, but the simple words contain great depth. God longs for human beings to enjoy an intimate relationship with him in his presence. As he is a perfect, holy God, that is possible only as we submit to his loving rule and do not sin. That is life at its best; life as it was designed to be lived.
To live under God’s rule means to enjoy God’s blessing; the two go together. That is what we see at the creation the garden of Eden until the fall. But then human beings disobey God and forgo his blessing. The consequences are devastating not just for humanity but for the whole creation; everything is spoilt. But in his great love God promises to put things right again and re -establish his kingdom on earth. The rest of the Bible tells the story of the fulfilment of that promise: partially in Israel’s history in the Old Testament period, and then perfectly through Jesus Christ. So the Bible is about God’s plan of salvation: his promise to restore his kingdom, and then the fulfilment of that promise through his Son Jesus.
*Taken from God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts. Copyright (c) 2003 by Vaughan Roberts. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com