Covenant Kingdom

By Louis Deboer

The subject of the kingdom of God is the grand theme of the Scriptures. It was the hope of the patriarchs, as Paul says of Abraham, “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God… But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:10,16) Although his descendants would inhabit the earthly Jerusalem, Abraham himself was already looking forward to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the new earth, to the kingdom of God. For Israel, constantly mired in idolatry and apostasy, and struggling under God’s rebuke and his judgments, the hope of the faithful was always in Messiah’s day, and in the kingdom that he would some day establish. This was the hope that was constantly set forth for them by the prophets who gave glorious prophecies regarding and descriptions of that blessed Messianic kingdom. This was the theme of Christ’s preaching and of the disciples he sent out to preach the gospel of the kingdom. This was the great theme of the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul. As Luke records it in Acts saying of Paul,

And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. Acts 19:8

And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Acts 20:25

And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. Acts 28:23

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

Acts 28:30-31

Yet, in spite of all this, there is a disproportionately small emphasis on these matters in many quarters today. The dispensationalists with their dramatic prophetic conferences, wild prophetic schemes, and vastly complex eschatological systems, seem to be the main exception. I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church, an amillennial denomination, and don’t ever remember hearing a sermon on eschatology. Whole denominations are formed based on differences in baptism or church government, matters that take up only a very limited number of Bible passages. Yet, in general, in many denominations there is eschatological liberty and it doesn’t seem to matter very much what one believes concerning the kingdom of God. Yet the kingdom is a theme that runs through all of Scripture, which dedicates more of its text to this subject than any other doctrine. It is to begin to correct this that this book is dedicated.

Nonetheless, in spite of its importance, and its emphasis in the Scriptures, eschatology, the Scriptural study of future things, has long divided the church of Jesus Christ. While different schools of thought can and do claim specific periods of church history as vindicating their particular eschatological beliefs, no position can claim consistent acceptance by a majority of the church throughout its history.  Historic Premillennialists can claim the early church. Amillennialists can claim the Reformation Church. And Dispensational Premillennialists can certainly claim the latter day church (certainly the last century and a half) although this may be a dubious claim as according to their own theory the latter day church will be marked by apostasy, error, and unbelief. And even Postmillennialists have their champions in church history.

Historically, as the doctrines of God, the Trinity, the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, etc. were developed, they were held to by the entire church and dissenters were deemed heterodox and expelled as heretics. Similarly at the time of the Reformation Protestants agreed on soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, and separated from Rome on that and other issues. But, currently, it does not seem likely that as historical theology unfolds that there will ever be unanimity on this issue in the church. And in such a state of affairs, and as we have now been in “the last days” for nearly two thousand years, and as eschatological events are ever drawing closer and closer, it behooves us more than ever to study these things. It behooves us, as we hear spokesmen of competing eschatologies, to be like the Bereans and “search the scriptures to see if these things be so.” And it is to contribute to such an effort that this book is prayerfully directed. May the Lord use it to that end, for his own glory, for the defence of the faith, and for the edification of his elect.