The concept of the Kingdom goes back at least as far as the Fall of Adam–and probably farther. The Bible sheds but dim light on the facts surrounding the original cataclysm of Genesis 1: 2, when “the earth became without form and void.” It is believed that Satan was placed over the original creation. Perhaps it was through his medium that dinosaurs and other prehistoric life made their appearance; for they were all patterned after the serpent, and seem more of a grotesque mimicry of God’s creative work than anything else. How long this state of things went on we do not know. Perhaps, as scientists have suggested, it was hundreds of millions of years. At some point Satan decided to ascend into heaven to the throne of God. His ascent created a rent in the universe, and the primitive creation was overthrown.
The firmament (Heb. expanse) was created as a temporary heaven, and is likened to a curtain, or tabernacle. “Who stretcheth out the heavens like a curtain” (Psalm 104: 2; Isaiah 40: 22). Like any tabernacle, it is transitory and will pass away once God’s redemptive plan is complete. That behind this curtain is the throne of God, was hinted at by David (2 Samuel 7: 2), and more plainly stated by Paul (Hebrews 9: 11-12).
After the cataclysm mentioned in Genesis 1: 2, God re-established and re-arranged the physical creation, designing man to inherit the dominion that Satan had forfeited through his fall. Had Adam never sinned, he would have likely become lord over the entire universe. Fallen man has accomplished such great feats of science and engineering as to have walked on the moon. If fallen man can do so much, imagine what Adam would have done had he obeyed God.
Adam was placed over the creation, and would certainly have succeeded Satan, who had the original custody of the Garden Of Eden (Ezekiel 28: 13). But through Satan’s wiles, Adam and Eve yielded to temptation, and what we call the “kingdom” (i.e., dominion over the creation) defaulted to the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4: 4).
From Adam’s fall, God began at once to map out a chosen people through whom would come the Seed that would finally vanquish Satan and restore the kingdom to man. The idea of kingship enters as illustrative of man’s need for a ruler and representative. After the angelic disturbances of the pre-flood world resulted in a race of giants and a general increase of wickedness among men, God decided to cleanse the earth again. Not the heavens, however. Noah and his family were given primacy over the restored earth, but they still did not have that dominion which Adam originally possessed. We can trace Noah’s lineage down to Abraham, the noblest progenitor of Him who would come to restore the ruin wrought by the Fall–Christ, the Seed of the Woman.
When Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedec (Genesis 14: 20), he was really paying tribute to Christ. He saw Christ’s day from afar (John 8: 56), and was glad. In a kind of Davidic parallel, Abraham’s son (i.e. Christ) was also Abraham’s Lord (cf. Mark 12: 35-37). The Battle of The Kings was an anticipative fulfillment of Armageddon. Mechizedec’s coming to meet Abraham with bread and wine was a type of what will happen when the Kingdom is set up on earth.
Unfortunately, the truths concerning the kingdom got clouded during Israel’s stay in Egypt. The famine which had caused Jacob and his whole family to flee to Joseph (another type of Christ) establishes a prophetic outline of future truths involving the close of this age, when the Jews will begin to embrace Jesus as Lord, triggering a massive persecution of Israel by the nations of the world. Right now Christ is Ruler of the Gentiles, as Joseph was over Egypt. But the Gentiles, as Paul has hinted, will some day be cut off from the good olive tree due to unbelief (Romans 11: 21-22).
Israel’s Egyptian bondage and deliverance therefrom were to spell out the doctrine of the kingdom for all who had spiritual enlightenment. Israel’s history, and especially their wandering in the wilderness for forty years, became an object lesson of all redemption-truth. These events in Israel’s history were “ensamples,” or types (1 Corinthians 10: 11).
The kingdom-promise always pointed to the restoration of what Adam lost through the fall. There is no getting around that point in any discussion of the “kingdom.” Adam’s fall set forth the need for a kingdom. But Israel’s failure, as recorded in the pages of Scripture, set forth the need for a king: one who should overcome enemies and lead the way to victory. This took the outline of God’s plan and filled it in with essential detail.
God formally offered the Kingdom to Israel just before the ratification of the Old Covenant. If Israel would be obedient to the covenant, He would make them a nation of kings and priests (Exodus 19: 5-6). God Himself would be their King, and Moses their mediator. The kingdom, as described by the prophets of the Old Testament, was only a vague concept at that point. Although it embraced visions of earthly glory, the Sinaitic “parousia” of Jehovah at Mount Horeb (Exodus 19: 20) cast something of a veil over the promises of the kingdom age. The proximity of Jehovah to the nation as their King under the Mosaic Covenant made them feel the Divine displeasure early and often. This was made clear during the years of wandering.
Before Israel entered the promised land, Moses anticipated that they would ask for a king (Deuteronomy 17: 14-20). But he didn’t say when or how it would come about. He also spoke of the great Prophet who would take his place (Deuteronomy 18: 15), but didn’t give any time-indications as to when they should expect his arrival.
After Moses died, Joshua took over as the nation’s leader. But after his death, the nation began to apostatize, so judges were set up (Judges 2: 16-19). During the rule of each judge, Israel turned to God and did valiantly under his leadership. But once the judge died, they fell back into national sin. Samuel, the last of the judges and first of the writing prophets, tried to solve the problem by making the judgeship hereditary (1 Samuel 8: 1-2). But even his sons failed in their trust (v. 8: 3). Israel was now ready for the next phase in God’s program.
In asking for a king, they were only fulfilling the predicted pattern laid out by the prophet Moses. However, it was really a rejection of the theocracy (1 Samuel 8: 7). Having accepted the terms of the covenant, they had chosen, as some say, law over grace. They were certainly choosing man over God. While these things paint a very unflattering picture of man under law, they direct the way to the Cross, and ultimately to the Crown. It was man that caused the ruin. It was a Man that would restore things.
Saul was tested twice, and failed (1 Samuel 13: 8-14; ch. 15). So the kingdom departed from him (1 Samuel 15: 27-28). There was a transition period during which he still wore the crown, while David was enduring persecutions and hardship. Much as today does sinful man usurp Christ’s dominion which He purchased with His blood (Matthew 28: 18), while His people run for safety. But this only fleshes out the typology in more vivid colors. Abraham had been tested, but he came through with honor (Genesis 22: 15-18; James 2: 21-23). Christians are tested too, and are exhorted to “endure unto the end.”
In Scripture, something is often done twice to establish a thing by God (Genesis 41: 32). The Abrahamic Covenant was twice confirmed with each of the patriarchs to make it sure and certain (Genesis 12: 1-3; ch. 15; ch. 22: 15-18; ch. 26: 1-5; ch. 28: 13-15; ch. 35: 11-12) . Joseph was a savior to his people, but it was the “second time” that they accepted him (Acts 7: 13). Moses had TWO advents to the nation, between which he sought refuge among the Gentiles (Exodus 2: 14-15). His first coming was unsuccessful, but the second proved effective. Esther only revealed Haman’s plot at the SECOND banquet of wine (Esther 5: 8); and it needed TWO written letters to confirm the feast of Purim (Esther 9: 20, 29). More examples could be given. But it is enough to remind the reader that Christ Himself has two advents. The King is only traveling the pathway carved out by kingdom-typology. The two advents establish His mission as the King to whom all the promises point.
The kingdom comes into better focus with David, a “man after God’s own heart.” It was with him that the Davidic Covenant was confirmed (2 Samuel 7). This covenant is the central core of all kingdom truth. It needs no abstract theological treatise to understand it, for it is interpreted by the Old Testament prophets. Psalm 89 is the great exposition of the covenant. It gives the promise of a King–one descended from David himself–whose kingdom will be established for ever. Of course, to be firmly established, it must be a kingdom of righteousness. This was a “given” considering Israel’s covenantal relationship with God. The Davidic Covenant never annulled the Mosaic Covenant. So whoever the King should be, he would have to be a keeper of the law. Again, this was a stipulation laid down by Moses (Deuteronomy 17: 18-19).
The Davidic Covenant promises that Israel will be appointed a place of their own, and move no more; and that the sons of wickedness will no longer afflict them (2 Samuel 7: 10-11). It warns that disobedience within the royal family will be punished, but not to the abrogation of the covenant. Thus, during the whole time of Israel’s defection, the covenant still held good. Nor did the rejection of the King in A.D. 30 result in an abolition of the Covenant. For the King’s work is not yet completed. The King’s throne still has to be placed above all other thrones on earth. He still has to put all enemies under His feet and bring His people back to the land that they may dwell in peace. These are not promises that are subjectively realized through Christ’s present dominion over the universe. As David’s throne was a literal throne set up on earth, so the fulfillment of all provisions of the Davidic Covenant must be literally realized as well.
The New Covenant administration spiritually prepares us to inherit the Kingdom by making Christ the Captain of our salvation. Those who follow Him, approving themselves worthy during this Dispensation, will inherit the kingdom that God hath prepared from the foundation of the world.
As a matter of typology, the kingdom is the the true Sabbath–that which was frustrated by the fall of man. It has been aptly said that Adam’s fall occurred on the sixth day, and that the sabbath was instituted to point to the future kingdom when the Son of Man, who is “Lord of the Sabbath,” will return to take dominion in the earth. The general meaning of Paul’s discourse in Hebrews 4: 3-9, is that the diurnal sabbath was simply a type of the real “rest” that will come once the kingdom is established. His teaching that “Now we see not yet all things put under Him” (Hebrews 2: 8) should make it clear that the sabbath is still future.
In the early centuries of the Christian era, Lactantius, one of the most profound theologians of his time, wrote:
“Therefore, since all the works of God were completed in six days, the world must continue in its present state through six ages, that is, six thousand years. [..] And as God labored during those six days in creating such great works, so His religion and truth must labor during these six thousand years, while wickedness prevails and bears rule. And again, since God, having finished His works, rested the seventh day and blessed it, at the end of the six thousandth year all wickedness must be abolished from the earth, and righteousness reign for a thousand years; and there must be tranquility and rest from the labors which the world now has long endured.” (Divine Institutes, 7: 14)
We could not have said it better ourselves. This is the “Kingdom” in a nutshell. It is for the establishment of this kingdom that we daily pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6: 10).