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Episode 3 - The Gospel of the Kingdom in the Old Testament

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Date: May 16, 2018
Run Time: 8:48
Host: Dr. Gregory R. Perry
Guest: Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.
From the Series: True and Lasting Reform

Program Notes

How does the kingdom of God inform all biblical covenants and Christian discipleship? Dr. Richard Pratt helps us understand this most important theme as we consider:

  • How Jesus saw the kingdom of God in the Old Testament
  • Why God’s kingdom appears even on the first page of Scripture
  • Christianity as the culmination of Israel’s faith

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is Co-Founder and President of Third Millennium Ministries. He served as Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary for more than 20 years and was chair of the Old Testament department. An ordained minister, Dr. Pratt travels extensively to evangelize and teach and has authored numerous articles and books.

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Podcast Transcript

4 THE WORLD PODCAST
Episode 3: The Gospel of the Kingdom in the Old Testament
Guest: Richard Pratt

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we believe every Christian deserves a well-trained pastor. To study Scripture deeply or to learn more about how you can partner with us to provide Biblical Education. For the World. For Free. download our App to your phone or visit our online classroom at Thirdmill.org. And now, your host 4 the World, Dr. Greg Perry.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD: IN JESUS' BIBLE

Welcome back to 4 the World everyone. If you're tuning in for the first time because a friend invited you or your church mentioned us in a weekly email, or you're looking for a new podcast to try on, we're especially glad that you've joined us. I'm your host Greg Perry and our guest again for week three is Dr. Richard Pratt, cofounder and president of Third Millennium Ministries.

So, Richard, last we promised our listeners that you'd be unpacking an important biblical theme over the next two sessions. It's a theme you've been emphasizing as you've been speaking at Reformation celebrations throughout the country and even throughout the world. And that's the theme of God's kingdom, or the gospel of the kingdom of God. To be sure, the gospel writers describe the central focus of Jesus's teaching and preaching as announcing the good news of God's kingdom. But Jesus also said that this message along with his actions fulfilled Israel's Scriptures. Yet I don't find the phrase "the kingdom of God" in the Old Testament. So where did Jesus find it in his Bible?

Richard: One of the earliest times that the Old Testament speaks of God as the King is in Exodus 15 at the crossing of the Red Sea in the Song of Moses there. And he speaks of how God will reign, how he will take his people into the land, he'll take them up to a mountain, he'll plant around this mountain in sort of like concentric circles around this great holy mountain, and from there God will reign forever and ever. He will reign forever and ever. And when you see words like "reign" or that sort of thing, those are references to kingship, the kingship of God. And God is called king many times in the Old Testament, and he's also called other things that are references to kingship, like "father," like "warrior," "savior," "deliverer." These are all terms that people in Bible days, both Old and New Testament, understood had to do with kingship. We don't, because we have made salvation and all those kinds of things a little bit different than what the Bible says, and so we can't quite see it. Now the prophets, like the prophet Daniel does talk about the kingdom, God's kingdom and God's reign over the earth, so it's in that background. But the most important place that Jesus leaned upon and drew from in the Old Testament, as he discussed this idea and preached about the kingdom of God, is Isaiah 52 because there it's not just talking about the reign of God. It says in Isaiah 52:10 and following that our God reigns. So, there's the kingdom of God, the reign of God, but it doesn't just talk about that. It connects the reign of God with the word "good news" — basar in Hebrew, which is like euangelion or good news or gospel in the New Testament. So when the New Testament connects good news, or gospel, to the reign of God or the kingdom of God, it's derived from Isaiah chapter 52.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD: ON PAGE ONE

And yet I've also heard you say that this concept of the kingdom of God is actually on the first page of the Bible.

Richard: Yeah, that's what I mean when I say that it's all over the Bible. And they didn't have to come right out and say many times, this is about the kingdom of God, the reign of God, or God is king because they were so accustomed to thinking that way about both their human empires and about divine empires or gods. They thought of the big gods always as kings, including Yahweh, the God of Israel. And so they would just get glimmers of things that would appear. Genesis 1, for example, when God says, "Let there be light," the picture or the setting that you have there is God in his courtroom in heaven, and it's a royal courtroom, and God is speaking edicts as a great king. And that's why you find it says, "Let us make man in our image," much like in the picture in Isaiah 6 where it says, "who will go for us." This is the way people talk in the councils of and in the courts of royalty in the ancient world.

And kings, to let people know that they were king, had a habit of making statues, images of themselves?

Richard: That's right. They would make images of themselves, set them up throughout their kingdoms. And that's why God says let's make humanity in our image and let them be fruitful and multiple and fill the earth to do it and have dominion over it, it's because he is acting as king establishing his kingdom through his vice regents who are human beings.

Now that would be radically liberating news for the first hearers of that text. They were slaves in Egypt, right?

Richard: Sure would, because in Moses' day they did use the words "image of god" or "sons of god" or "likeness of the gods" in different ways, and there are a few places where you can find an Egyptian text where people in general may be called, may be described as being like the gods. But by and large expressions like "son of god," "image of god," "likeness of the gods," that these were titles reserved for emperors, reserved for great kings.

Only, right?

Richard: Only, yeah. In Egypt, in Canaan, in Babylon, in Assyria they spoke that way of their kings. And so here's Moses giving a very radical — in his day, just utterly radical — point of view, which was the truth, and that is that God did not just make kings his images, he made every human being that came from Adam and Eve his image and his likeness.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD: ISRAEL AND CHRISTIANITY

Now, as a scholar of the Old Testament, you've given a lot of your study and your writing to books like Chronicles and Samuel and Kings. So, what would you say to our listeners about the importance of the kingdom of Israel? Are these books for the Christian understanding of God's kingdom and mission?

Richard: It's very sad the way that Christians today cut themselves off from the Old Testament thinking that it's about Israel and Christianity is a very different sort of faith. The truth is that Christianity is, from the New Testament point of view, the culmination of the Israel's faith, because it is incited, it's begun by the arrival of the great son of David, the perfectly righteous son of David, in whom God had called Israel to put all of their hopes for the kingdom of God spreading to the ends of the earth. The proclamation of the New Testament is that all those things that were hoped for in the Old Testament, like Psalm 72 and the like where it talks about the king of Israel ruling over all the nations of the earth because he was so righteous and so good and so holy, all those hopes that they had for the house of David have actually been fulfilled in Jesus. That's the great message that we have as Christians is that we follow the one king who has been that perfect, that good. So, Christianity is not something contrary to Old Testament Israel's faith. Rather, Christianity is the culmination of Old Testament Israel's faith.

Well, we're going to take some time next time to unpack a little bit more about what Jesus meant about the announcement of God reigning. But thank you for joining us this time and learning a little bit more about what the kingdom of God means in the Old Testament. We'll see you next time on 4 the World.

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we are reimagining biblical education for Christian leaders in a global church. Each week we bring you conversations to cultivate your curiosity about God's word, to inform your intercessions for God's people, and to equip your efforts in God's mission for the world. Our host is Dr. Greg Perry. Our sound engineer and editor is Christopher Russell. Our web designer is Ra McLaughlin. Production assistance is provided by Stephanie Mathis. And I'm your announcer, Cindy Sawyer. Today's podcast was brought to you by The China Partnership and by listeners like you. Thank you.