Study 17: The Great Theme of Scripture

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 22:3-5

We are continuing our study on Hermeneutics: the art and science of Biblical Interpretation.

When reading the Bible, there is a sense in which you are reading a series of books, letters and poems written over a period of about 2000 years by 40 different authors from three continents in three different languages. And yet, there is a single divine voice that speaks without confusion or contradiction proclaiming a central theme.

While there have been many themes proposed for the whole of Scripture, there is one which goes from the first page to the last – and that is kingdom. The two other alternatives, salvation and promise, fail to encompass the opening two chapters of the Bible, since there was no need for God’s saving promises until after the Fall.  In contrast, God’s reign over the universe generally, and over the earth and the descendants of Jacob specifically, encompasses the entire Scripture.

Michael Vlach writes in his excellent book He Will Reign Forever, “The kingdom is a thread that runs from the first chapter of the Bible through the last.  Genesis 1 begins with God as Creator/King of the universe and man as God’s image-bearer who is created to “rule” and “subdue” the earth …. the last chapter of the Bible shows God and the Lamb on the throne and God’s people ruling on the new earth (Rev 22:3, 5).”

The backbone that provides the structure for the kingdom work of God comprises five vertebrae: the five key covenants (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and the New Covenant)

  • “It seems clear that the central focus of biblical theology is the interlocking concepts of kingdom and covenant, and not covenant alone.” (Kenneth Barker)
  • “The kingdom of God is one of the grand themes, if not the theme, of Scripture. As the expression of God’s historical work, therefore, the kingdom of God is really the end of all his biblical covenants.” (Robert Saucy)

The biblical covenants are mile markers along the highway to the ultimate reestablishment of God’s kingdom reign over the earth and the human race.

Vlach writes:
The Noahic Covenant promises stability of nature as the platform for God carrying out His kingdom purposes.  The Abrahamic Covenant reveals that Abraham will be the father of a great nation, Israel, who will serve as the platform for bringing blessings to all nations.  The Davidic Covenant shows that the ultimate King will be a descendant of David who will rule and bless the entire world from Israel.  The New Covenant explains how God will change the hearts of His people and grant His Holy Spirit so they will always obey Him.  Each of these covenants works together in harmony to guarantee that God’s kingdom purposes will be fulfilled. 
The kingdom plan will be carried out through the eternal and unconditional covenants—Noahic, Abrahamic, Davidic, and New.  The Mosaic Covenant was a temporary and conditional covenant that Israel failed.  Because Israel did not keep the Mosaic Covenant, God’s kingdom did not come in its fullness and there is the need for the superior New Covenant, which will enable Israel (and others) to obey the Lord.

The Abrahamic Covenant

Keith Essex notes, “It is recognized by all serious students of the Bible that the covenant with Abraham furnishes the key to the entire Old Testament and reaches for its fulfillment into the New.”

The Abraham Covenant is:

  • The source of patriarchal blessing
    • “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham… Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. (Gen 28:13-15)
  • The reason for the Exodus
    • “So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.” (Ex 2:24-25)
  • Why God forgave them after the golden calf incident
    • “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself”. So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. (Ex 32:13-14)
    • “He has remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac.” (Ps 105:8-9)
  • The reason for Israel’s success in conquering Canaan
    • So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. (Josh 21:43)
  • Why Israel will always rebound from judgment
    • But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham My friend, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, “You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.”  (Is 41:8-9)
    • Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? …. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and unchanging love to Abraham, which You swore to our forefathers from the days of old. (Micah 7:18-20)

Although the Abrahamic Covenant is more often assumed than overtly mentioned after Exodus, at key moments throughout the OT the promises of God to Abraham shine through the storm clouds of Israel’s disobedience, assuring Yahweh’s people of the warmth and light of His ultimate love and blessings.

The Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19-24)

Robert Saucy on its place in God’s overall plan:
“Although the Sinai covenant, like the covenants that followed, is related to the Abrahamic promises, we should note a fundamental difference.  The Davidic and new Covenants are basically elaborations of provisions of the Abrahamic promises, the Sinai covenant, by contrast, being the initial fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise, was added alongside that promise to provide the structure and conditions for its temporal enjoyment.”

Israel’s failure to obey God’s voice was the reason for the destruction and exile of both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel.

  • Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their plans, because they have not listened to My words, and as for My law, they have rejected it also. (Jer 6:19)

The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:9-16)

Kaiser notes: [In God’s promise plan] there was the constant narrowing and making more specific of what the ultimate fulfillment was to be.  It was a sort of election within the election, i.e., a man David from a tribe of Judah, from a nation Israel, from a race of Semites, from the seed of a woman.

As God’s revelation progressed, it became clear that God’s promise to David would be kept, not by a perpetual succession of Davidic kings, but in one Davidic king who would rule perpetually.

  • For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
  • “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

The New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

The inadequacy of the old arrangement to bring mankind to righteous perfection precluded fulfillment.  The new covenant will succeed where the old had failed.  God will finally make his people perfect and bring them into the relationship with him for which they were originally created. 

In both the Old and New Testaments it is the provisions of the new covenant that ultimately provide the solution to the human problem of sin and bring those in the covenant into a final perfect fellowship with God as his sons and daughters. The relationship promised is nothing less than direct, personal fellowship of God with mankind through His Spirit.

For sinners, unhindered participation in the blessings of Abraham requires the internal transformation of the New Covenant.

  • Connected to the Abrahamic Covenant
    • Then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity. The LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply youmore than your fathers.  Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. (Deut 30:3, 5-6)
  • Collaborating with the Davidic Covenant
    • My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. (Ezekiel 37:24-27)

The Ultimate Fulfillment of God’s Covenants

  • In the book of Revelation, the never fully obtained blessings of the Mosaic Covenant are provided. (And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them… Rev 21:3)
  • The promises of the Davidic Covenant are fulfilled through the joint reign of the Father and David’s son, the Messiah. (And one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.” Rev 5:5)
    (There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him …. I, Jesus … am the root and the descendant of David. Rev 22:3, 16)
  • In Revelation, the ultimate purpose of the Abrahamic Covenant is fulfilled, as the lost blessings of Eden are restored.
    (Rev 22:2b.  On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.)
  • In Revelation, the New Covenant promise of forgiveness is fulfilled.
    (Rev 22:17  …And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. (cp. Isaiah 55:1-6)
     

The Abrahamic Covenant reveals that Abraham will be the father of a great nation, Israel, who will serve as the platform for bringing blessings to all nations.  The Davidic Covenant shows that the ultimate King will be a descendant of David who will rule and bless the entire world from Israel.  The New Covenant explains how God will change the hearts of His people and grant His Holy Spirit so they will always obey Him. Each of these covenants works together in harmony to guarantee that God’s kingdom purposes will be fulfilled.

Note!! This exploration is to help you see how the books of Scripture come together, developing a common theme – however, do not use this as an interpretive grid. Instead, notice how the authors keep reaching towards the covenants as they develop various aspects of God’s Kingdom work being done in human lives and history.

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