How did hope for the coming kingdom of God develop through the Old Testament prophets?

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The concept of the kingdom of God is actually not used very often in the Old Testament, which is quite interesting. To understand the kingdom of God, though, you do have to think about, what does kingship mean? Where does it begin? And then, from understanding kingship, and Davidic kingship in particular, that then leads to a concept of the kingdom of God. So, Davidic kingship, way back in the book of Genesis, chapter 17, God promises Abraham that kings will come forth from you. And then, in Genesis 49:10, it talks about Judah, in particular, which is the fourth born son of Jacob, that Judah is going to be the royal line. And, of course, this theme runs throughout the Old Testament, the "tribe of Judah," or the "Lion of Judah." It's especially picked up with David in 1 Samuel 16 when David, who's from Bethlehem, is anointed king by Samuel. This really marks a significant turning point in the story of the Old Testament. But then, what happens is when David does become king — and it takes a good few years before that happens — when he becomes king, God makes promises to him in 2 Samuel 7, and the promises actually concern his son. And here's where the kingdom of God idea comes in.

So, God promises that, "When your days are complete" — in other words, when you've died — God says, "I will raise up your seed after you, and I will establish his kingdom as an everlasting kingdom, and I will establish his throne as an everlasting throne." So, that's in 2 Samuel. So, clearly Davidic kingship is promised by God, and it's going to be this everlasting kingship. But what's interesting is in Chronicles, when the same passage in 1 Chronicles 17, when the same passage is quoted, now you get "my kingdom," God says. When he quotes about David, it's now said to be "my kingdom" and "my throne." So, you see the connection between the Davidic king and the throne. Then in 1 Chronicles 28, when Solomon is anointed king, and David actually quotes it, and David says that, "God has set you as king over the throne of the Lord and the kingdom of the Lord." So, and Chronicles… There's about five other passages that Chronicles mention that. So, what you're starting to see is Chronicles is connecting the concept of the kingdom of God with the Davidic king.

But what the prophets will say that, in view of the failure of the Davidic kings, many of them, that there starts to be this hope that God will raise up a righteous, Davidic king. And Jeremiah is going to say this. And Jeremiah, in spite of the fact that the kingdom is about to come to an end, he says that, as surely as God has made a covenant with his son, that he has established his son on the throne. So, this becomes a very important hope throughout the Old Testament, but especially with the prophets. And they're waiting for God to raise up a righteous, Davidic king.

Just one more comment with this. So, when Jesus turns up and he's hailed, "son of David," — which of course points him back to this Davidic promise, and Matthew's genealogy does the same thing — this king dies on a cross, and it looks like the promise of the kingdom has come to an end. But God had promised David, he said, "I will raise up your seed after you." Now, the term there, "to raise up," in Hebrew, is just an ordinary "qum"; it's an ordinary Hebrew verb. But the Greek is the same word for "resurrect." So, the resurrection of the Messiah is actually the place where his kingship is being established, and this gets picked up in both Peter's sermons and in Paul's sermons in the book of Acts. And they quote, "This Jesus who died on a cross, God raised him up in fulfillment of his promise to David," in 2 Samuel, that he will always have a son to sit on the throne, because Jesus is the only righteous, Davidic king.

Answer by Dr. Carol Kaminski

Dr. Kaminski teaches Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston MA.