Don Carson | The Gospel Shape of Scripture

Posted By on December 21, 2019


– [Don Carson] Well, it’s a huge privilege
for me to join you here in New England. I was saying to Ben Peays or Ben Peays
actually was saying to me just a few moments ago, the executive director
of The Gospel Coalition, “It is wonderful to watch the coalition springing up with
meetings, and gospel-centered teaching and preaching, and corporate worship
and so on in many parts of the country, and now not least in New England. The topic assigned me,
The Gospel Shape of Scripture is both too easy and too difficult. It’s too easy in that, transparently,
it’s patently obvious and one can turn to many passages of Scripture to show that
the Scripture itself is saturated with the gospel. But it’s difficult, also, in the sense
that one scarcely knows where to begin and end with
a topic that’s sweeping. In one sense, the topic can be simplistic. God, creation, fall, redemption,
you having a new worth. That’s the Bible storyline and it turns
on redemption and the gospel. Mind you, if you put it that way,
you’ve left out much mention of the prophets, and wisdom literature, and the
place of the law, and what apocalyptic literature is doing in there, and all
kinds of other things, but it could also be too comprehensive. If you’re not careful,
you can be in danger of saying that everything in the Bible is the gospel
and then no matter what you touch in the Bible, you say, “Well,
it’s the gospel, it’s the gospel.” And it’s not. In fact, you begin to lose the gospel
as soon as you start saying everything is the gospel. Of course, the title given me,
The Gospel Shape of Scripture, is careful not to identify the gospel with all of
Scripture, but to speak of the gospel shape of Scripture. Which I take to mean that all
of Scripture receives its focus, its shape, its balance, and proportion,
it’s direction from the contribution it makes to what is of paramount importance,
the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, when Scripture is read or
write, you see the gospel not only in those passages that speak explicitly
of the gospel, but in the very shape of the Bible, in the way its narratives,
and themes, and emphases, and different forms of literature,
different voices all hang together. Now, how am I supposed to go about showing
you that in 45 or 50 minutes? Well, the first step is to begin with the
gospel to make sure we’re all on the same page there. The gospel is news. It’s good news, apart from the way those
who do not receive it with faith experience it. It is essentially good news,
and what you do with news is announce it. That’s why there is so much emphasis
in Scripture on preaching, teaching, and bearing witness. What you do with news is announce it. And the substance of this news is the good
news of what God has done in Christ Jesus, supremely through his cross and
resurrection, to call out for Himself, a people of His own name and so transform
them that they are his portion in the new heaven and the new earth. The new Jerusalem, transformed
resurrection existence, the home of righteousness. In other words, the gospel
is a very big category. The gospel is not some little thing that
sneaks people into the kingdom, tips them in, as it were,
and then after that you take all of your discipleship courses. After that, you find out 16 ways to be
happy though married. After that, you find 14 ways to be good
American citizens and raise nice children, and after that you find out what to do
with your money in some nice little course. And so, it’s none of that, none of that. The gospel is the big category,
and under that comes evangelism, discipleship, conformity to Christ,
knowledge of Scripture, and so on. It’s the big category, the good news
of what God has done and as that works out in the power of the gift
of the Spirit, as that works out in the transforming of our minds,
the renewing of our minds, as that works out in God’s providential
ruling of all things to bring about all of His good purposes,
we see this good news transforming the people of God into the image
of God’s dear Son. That’s the first step. Begin with the gospel. The second step. I cannot possibly survey the whole or
attempt a full biblical theology, even a survey would keep you here
for many, many hours. So I have decided to run through large
swathes of Scripture, tracing out one theme and then at the end,
I’ll give you some hints to show you how this theme is tied to a whole lot of other
themes as well and all of them drive in toward the gospel. I’m going to choose the theme
of the kingdom. I do this for two reasons. First, because it’s much more
manageable in attempting a full sweeping biblical theology. The theme of the kingdom is one of about
20 or so that drive through the whole Scripture and which together constitute
the substance of biblical theology. There are another 60 or 70 minor themes,
relatively minor, but about 20 big ones drive through Scripture,
and kingdom is one of them. But the second reason I’ve chosen this
theme is that it constitutes, in part, a response to those today who are arguing
that there are, in effect, two gospels. In one popular writer,
a soterian gospel. Soter comes from the word savior,
that is the gospel that Paul preaches, all about expiation, and propitiation,
and atonement, and things like that. And a kingdom gospel,
that is a gospel where you’re concerned about kingdom ethics, and kingdom living,
and kingdom concern for the poor, and kingdom righteousness. And in Paul, you get the soterian gospel,
and in the gospels, especially the synoptic Gospels, you get
the kingdom gospel. That is an increasingly common view and I
am persuaded it is profoundly mistaken. So, let me begin by trying to track
the kingdom through the Scripture. We’re going to be looking at a lot
of Scripture text this morning, but I’m going to begin by reading
1 passage, 2 Samuel Chapter 7. 2 Samuel Chapter 7, the first 17 verses. 2 Samuel Chapter 7, beginning
at verse 1 and then we shall run right through Scripture. This is the Word of God. “After the King was settled in his palace
and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him,
he said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Here I am living in a house of cedar
while the Ark of God remains in a tent.’ Nathan replied to the King,
‘Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it
for the Lord is with you.’ But that night, the word of the Lord came
to Nathan, saying, ‘Go and tell my servant, David, “This is
what the Lord says. Are you the one to build me
a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I
brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place
with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the
Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my
people, Israel, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?'” Now, then tell my servant, David,
“This is what the Lord Almighty says, I took you from the pasture, from tending
the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people, Israel. I have been with you wherever you have
gone and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great like the
names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people,
Israel, and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own
and to no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them
anymore as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed
leaders over my people, Israel. I will also give you rest
from all of your enemies. The Lord declares to you that the Lord
Himself will establish a house for you. When your days are over and you rest
with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you,
your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for
my name and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be His father
and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with
a rod wielded by men with floggings inflicted by human hands,
but my love will never be taken away from him as I took it away from Saul,
whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom
will endure forever before me. Your throne will be established forever.”‘ Nathan reported to David all the words
of this entire revelation.” This is the word of the Lord. Let me begin with some biblical
distinctions before we attempt to sweep through the Old Testament and a sweep
through the new, and then end with some pastoral theological reflections. First of all, some important
biblical distinctions. Number one, dynamic versus static. There is one word, kingdom,
which covers both what we mean by kingdom and what we mean by reign. So, you can speak of the kingdom of Israel
and you realize that it is a nation-state, with a king ruling over it, with
geographical borders, in the same way that you can speak of the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia today or the United Kingdom. It is a nation. But far more commonly,
kingdom is better rendered reign, and it’s talking of God’s dynamic rule
rather than tracing out the locus. The same word in both in Hebrew and in
Greek covers both meanings and you’ve got to judge which it is by the context. Number two. Sometimes references to the kingdom of God
are equivalent to speaking of His providential sovereignty and sometimes
references to the kingdom of God refer to that aspect of the kingdom
under which there is life. There are many passages
to which we could refer. Consider this passage from Daniel. Daniel Chapter 4 verse 3,
Nebuchadnezzar is speaking. “How great are His signs,
how mighty His wonders. His kingdom is an eternal kingdom,
His dominion endures from generation to generation.” You see, it’s speaking of God’s
sweeping, sovereign reign. You’re in that kingdom whether
you like it or not. You don’t have to enter that kingdom,
by existing, you are in that kingdom. You don’t have to be born again to see or
enter that kingdom, you are in that kingdom, whether you’re a Buddhist
or a Muslim, whether you’re an atheist, a secularist, a Christian,
Jehova’s Witness, it doesn’t matter. You’re in that kingdom. That kingdom is inescapable and many times
that theme surfaces in the Scripture. Think, for example, of this
passage from Psalm 145. Psalm 145, “I will exalt you,
my God, the King. I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol
your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of
praise, His greatness, no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to
another, they tell of your mighty acts, they speak of the glorious splendor
of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works.” And so on. “Your kingdom,” verse 13,
“is an everlasting kingdom and your dominion endures
throughout all generations.” On the other hand, also in Daniel,
but this time now in Chapter 2 verse 44, Daniel interprets to Nebuchadnezzar the
significance of one of his dreams. And he says, Daniel 2:44,
“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom
that will never be destroyed nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms
and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” Now, clearly this is not speaking
of God’s sweeping sovereignty. God’s sweeping sovereignty
doesn’t have to be set up. It’s already there. You can’t speak of God’s sweeping
sovereignty coming. It is invariable. It is inescapable. And that kingdom comes along and crushes
other claimants to majesty. It crushes other claimants to kingship,
and eventually, it becomes the sole dominion, the soul reign. So similarly, in the New Testament,
you can look at the parable of the wheat and the tares. The parable of the wheat and the tares
says that the kingdom is like a man who plants seed, but that the devil comes
in and plants tares, weeds. So you have, in this one kingdom,
wheat, and weeds. I’m getting my dentals mixed up. You’re getting both weed and wheat,
and all of this still remains the kingdom. That is to say, God’s sovereignty is over
the whole lot, over against Jews who expected God’s kingdom
to come with a big bang. God is saying, “No, no,
it’s not going to be like that. It’s going to come in measure now, with
good seed being thrown onto the ground and producing good fruit, but meanwhile,
the devil is still sowing bad seed and only at the end will it
get sorted out.” So here is still a picture
of God’s sovereignty. On the other hand, in John 3,
“Unless you are born again, you cannot see or enter
the kingdom of God.” In that sense, you’re not talking
about all of God’s sovereignty, you’re talking about that subset
under which there is life. After Jesus rises from the dead, he says,
“All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth.” That’s sweeping. But there’s another element in that one
that we’ll come to in due course. Another distinction,
absolute versus constitutional. Now, of course, most of us
in this hall are Americans. So, we’re familiar
with Republican government. We are not too keen on kings. The last one we had, George III,
didn’t work out all that well. And if we think of kingship, therefore,
we tend to think of, perhaps, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, but her majesty Queen
Elizabeth II is a constitutional monarch. She has precisely two legal powers besides
whatever moral suasion she has. And despite the various function she has
as head of state, she has precisely two legal powers. And if she exercised either one of them
without sanction of her Prime Minister, there would be a constitutional crisis,
a national election, and the government would get returned
with an even greater majority. That’s what would happen. So, when we think of kingship,
if we think about it at all, and when we think of monarchy, our minds
tend to gravitate to gold-encrusted carriages at royal weddings, and
the pomp and ceremony, and that sort of thing. But in the ancient world,
monarchy was associated with rule, absolute rule. Think the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
rather than the United Kingdom. And in that regard, then the king is
simultaneously the executive branch, the legislative branch,
and the judicial branch. Now, we’re just not used
to thinking in those terms. We have a nice separation of powers,
but the king in ancient Israel and the King, God Himself,
is the Supreme Court. The King that past passes the legislation. The King rules. That’s what kings do. They reign, they rule, and that is
what you must bear in mind constantly when you understand the
biblical passages that speak of kingship. Last, the last distinction to be made,
which you must bear in mind as you read the various passages. Future versus inaugurated. So, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray,
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s future-oriented. That is, it’s not being done yet. Now, in one sense, God’s reign
is being done perfectly. He is sovereign. You cannot escape His providential reign. Whatever He wants to do, He does. Yet in another sense, in this subset
of the kingdom under which there is life, we’re waiting for that
kingdom still to dawn. It’s being contested now. Oh, in one sense, it’s already here. In another sense, we are
waiting for it to come. It is inaugurated,
but it is not yet consummated. And so, we see Jesus claiming all
authority is his in heaven and on earth and all of God’s sovereignty is
currently mediated through him. But according to Paul in 1 Corinthians
15, he is reigning in such a way that his will is being contested at front after
front, until he knocks down all of his opponents and the last enemy to be
destroyed is death itself. And then this mediatorial function
to his kingdom. That is his rule, exercising all of God’s
sovereignty, to crush all the enemies. Until the consummation arrives,
that mediatorial function will end. There will be no more enemies. And so, Christians have learned to think
of the already and the not yet. In one sense, Christ is already reigning. In one sense, we can be born again and
enter the kingdom and see the kingdom now and in another sense,
we’re still crying with the church in every generation, “Your kingdom come.” Now, unless you remember all of these
polarities all the time, it is easy to make mistakes in the
interpretation of Scripture, but once you bear those polarities
in mind, you see them in passage, after passage, after passage,
the texts slot into these categories and make a great deal of sense. Those are the categories that are simply
assumed and developed again and again. Now, let me run through the
Old Testament rather quickly. Obviously, we’re not going to have time
to probe every Old Testament text, but we’re going to probe a few of them. When I was a boy, we had sword drills,
I think they’re just about gone now, where the aim was to look up passages
as quickly as you possibly can. If you’ve never had a sword drill,
now’s your chance. Begin with creation. Now the word kingdom is not used in
Genesis 1, but what you see is God powerfully reigning by His word. No constitutional monarch, this. God says, “Let there be light,”
and there is light. He rules by His powerful word. He even brings things that did not exist
into being by His powerful word. He reigns. He is already the King
in the very act of creation. Of course, you don’t read too far into the
Old Testament before you find that God sovereignly calls Abraham and constitutes
a new covenant people. This covenant people becomes a national
covenant people in connection with the Exodus. And in Exodus 19, we read these words,
“On the first day of the third month after the Israelites left Egypt,
on that very day, they came to the desert of Sinai. Moses went up to God and the Lord called
to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the
descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel. You yourselves have seen what I did to
Egypt and how I carried you on eagle wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and to keep my
covenant, then out of all nations, you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,
you will be, for me, a kingdom of priests.'” Now, clearly, in that context,
the kingdom is not focusing on God’s reign, although in the
background, is God’s saving reign under which there is life for this people,
but the people themselves are called a kingdom of priests. That’s the locus in which God is
exercising this saving reign. It defines who these saved people are,
and that terminology is picked up and applied to Christians in 1 Peter 2:5
and Revelation 1:6. That says the covenant people of God are
His kingdom, a kingdom of priests. But God foresees a time in dealing with
the Israelites after they have entered into the promised land. He foresees a time when they will have,
when they will need a king, a human king. So, instructions are given
in Deuteronomy Chapter 17 verse 14, “When you enter the land
the Lord your God is giving you and have taken
possession of it and settled in it, and you say, ‘Let us set a king over us
like all the nations around us,’ be sure to appoint over you a king
the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your
fellow Israelites.” This may sound strange, indeed,
that that should have to be specified until you read something of the history of
Europe and then you discover how the royal families of Europe so intermingled that
when one nation was lacking in a king, then it could come from a royal family
from quite another country. Some of the kings of England could barely
speak English, they spoke German, for example, and that is not
to be the way it is in Israel. They are supposed to be true blood
Israelites just as I can’t be an American president. I wasn’t born here. They’ve got to be true-blue
Americans born here. Well, so also the Israelites,
they had to be true blood Israelites and belong to the people without any desire
to bring them to some other sovereignty. “Do not place a foreigner over you. One who is not an Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire great
numbers of horses for himself.” Read tanks. “Must not acquire great numbers
of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them
for the Lord has told you, ‘You are not to go back that way again.’ He must not take many wives
or his heart will be led astray.” Not only because you’re breaking the
initial picture of marriage mandated in creation itself, but because kings
regularly married princesses from other surrounding petty kingdoms
in order to build treaties. But at that point, you’re compromising the
uniqueness of the people of God as Solomon eventually did and started building
temples for his wives in support of their favorite gods and compromised the
integrity of Godly faith in Jerusalem. “He must not take many wives
or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts
of silver and gold,” a kind of anticipation of Lord Acton’s famous
dictum, “All power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. “When he takes the throne of his kingdom,
he is to write for himself on a scroll, a copy of this law.” Now, whether this law refers to the
Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, or just to Deuteronomy,
or some part of it, I’m not quite sure, but there were no printing presses. There were no copy machines,
there were no PDF files. So the only way you made a copy was by
taking out a quill pen and actually making a copy, word by word, word by word. And this king, his first duty is precisely
to do that from a master copy owned by the priests. “He is to write for himself on a scroll,
a copy of this law taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him and he is to read
it all the days of his life.” He’s to have his devotions from it,
and that means it must be written with a certain amount of clarity and it can’t be
scribbled off and completely illegible. It is going to be his reading copy all the
days of his life, “so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God, and follow
carefully all the words of this law and these decrees, and not consider himself
better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign
a long time over his kingdom in Israel.” Now, what’s going on here? Who’s the king? God or this human appointee? Well, what you discover is that those who
act like God in some dimension or another are said to be sons of God. So, Jesus says in the Beatitudes,
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” That’s not telling you how you become
a Christian, make peace and become a Christian. It’s presupposing that God is the supreme
peacemaker, and in so far as you make peace, you’re acting like God and
thus show yourself in some measure to belong to the God family. So, also, if you become king under God,
you show yourself to belong to the God family so far as rulers go,
but that means you’re supposed to do what God wants. What God wants has been disclosed in
Revelation, which is exactly why copying it out and reading it daily
is supposed to be part of the king’s primary responsibility. God reigns with justice, so the king
of Israel is to be a just ruler, a just judge. God provides only good laws and the king
is supposed to enforce those good laws. God rules with equity, and the human king,
in so far as he’s imitating God, also rules with equity and thus shows
himself to be son of God. Now, son of God, in fact,
can be used in quite a lot of different ways just as kingdom can be used
in quite a lot of different ways. But that’s why I read the passage to you
a few moments ago from 2 Samuel Chapter 7, the passage with which I began. When God speaks of His promise to David,
that is the language He uses. “The Lord declares to you that the
Lord Himself will establish a house for you,” 2 Samuel
Chapter 7 verse 11. A house that is a household, a dynasty. There’s a pun here, David wants to build a
house that is a temple for God, but God wants to build a house
for David that is a dynasty. “When your days are over and you rest
with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you,
your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for
my name,” that is, he, the heir, will, in fact, establish the temple,
the house in that sense, “and I will establish the throne
of his kingdom forever. I will be His father
and he will be my son.” Now, this does not mean that this human
king does exactly what God does in every dimension. There are ways in which we are to imitate
God, and ways in which we can’t imitate God, and ways in which we
mustn’t try to imitate God. The texts of Scripture say,
“Be holy for I am holy.” They do not say, “Be omnipotent
for I am omnipotent.” But in so far as this king is exercising
kingly functions, pursuing justice, equity, the mind and will of God,
righteousness, good legislation, all the rest, then he is acting like God. “I will be His father
and he will be my son.” Is that referring to Jesus? Well, not directly because the next line
reads, “When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded
by men with floggings inflicted by human hands.” Jesus doesn’t do any wrong. Texts of Scripture remind us,
again and again, he was without sin. This is a reference to Solomon. What God says is when he does what is
wrong, what happened to Saul won’t happen to him. God destroyed any possibility that
Saul would have a dynasty. But in the case of David’s line,
it would be protected with human temporal punishments, but no more. “My love will never be taken away from him
as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom
will endure forever before me. Your throne will be established forever.” Now, logically speaking,
there are only two ways in which this could be fulfilled. They’re not mentioned here,
but they’re only two. One is to have succession, after
succession, after succession, after succession in the Davidic line,
world without end. And the other is to have, eventually,
a king in the succession who himself rules forever and ever. That’s not mentioned here. But later, Old Testament prophecies
become rich with this vision. For example, in words that we recite every
Christmas season, that we sing with Handel’sMessiah, quoting Isaiah 9,
we read, “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom
for those who are in distress. In the future, He will honor Galilee of
the nations by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan. The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light. On those living in the land of deep
darkness, a light has dawned. For to us, a child is born,
to us as son is given, and the government will be
on his shoulders.” On the one hand, we’re told,
“Of the greatness of his government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom.” This is the Davidic King
in the Davidic line. And on the other hand, we are told,
“He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.” Here is a vision of kingship that
outstrips any mere David, or any mere Saul, any mere Josiah,
any mere Hezekiah. That’s eight centuries before Christ. And then a text like this from Ezekiel. Ezekiel 34, now, six centuries before
Christ, God is against the shepherds of Israel. That is a generic term that covers all
of their rulers, priestly rulers, kingly rulers, the aristocracy, and so on. “Son of man, prophesy against the
shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them,
this is what the Sovereign Lord says, ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who only take care of yourselves. Should not shepherds
take care of the flock?'” And then He berates them
in many, many ways. And eventually, then, God says, verse 10,
“I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock
so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths
and it will no longer be food for them for this is what the Sovereign Lord says.” Get this, about 25 times,
He says things like this, “I myself will search for my sheep
and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered
flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places
where they were scattered. I will bring them out from the nations. I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the
mountains of Israel. I will tend them in a good pasture. I myself will tend my sheep and have them
lie down, declares the sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost
and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured
and strengthen the weak. I will bring justice. I will destroy the strong. I will shepherd the flock with justice. I will judge between one sheep and another
and between rams and goats.” About 25 times. And then He says, “I will place over them
one shepherd, my servant, David, and he will tend them
and be their shepherd.” Which for any thinking person, surely,
must make you ask, “What is the relationship between Yahweh
doing all of this and David?” The only reasonable answer that I can
come up with is the same one that Isaiah came to two centuries earlier. Though in the line of David,
he is also the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father,
the Prince of Peace. And so, you have in Old Testament times
these Adam aberrations of incarnation. If you have not read a good book on the
shepherd theme, I warmly recommend the book by Tim Laniak,
Shepherds After My Own Heart. And recall not only that shepherd often
stands as a metaphor for God and for other rulers, but shepherd is
the word that we know from the Latin root as pastor. One more Old Testament passage. We could cite many more, but one more. Micah Chapter 5 verse 2. This passage becomes important when
Magi come in Matthew Chapter 2 and ask, “Where is he to be born who is
called the King of the Jews? Then the religious and biblical
authorities say, “Bethlehem.” And they quote Micah 5:2. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me,
one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.” So here is an anticipation,
in other words, of a king in David’s line, who is nevertheless identified with
Yahweh Himself, who is eventually coming, not yet here, eventually coming,
reflecting the very reign of God. It’s still a subset under which there is
life of God’s total sovereign reign, which is utterly inescapable and thus
there is this pulsing anticipation along this axis…
there are other axes… along this axis from the
Old Testament to the New, of a coming kingdom, a coming reign,
a coming powerful figure with perfect justice, in David’s line, who is
nevertheless the Everlasting Father, the Mighty God. Then we turn to the New Testament. Here, the references are
thick on the ground. Keep asking this question
in the next few minutes. When does Jesus become king? Keep asking that question as I
run through some passages. When does Jesus become king? So you come to the first chapter of the
New Testament and you stumble across this genealogy. And the whole genealogy is configured
into three 14s, with the central 14 being the years of the Davidic
monarchy under David. Before that, David has not yet
come to the throne. After that, in the third 14, then you
have the years following the exile, when the last Davidic king on the
throne is carted off to Babylon and there is no more Davidic king on the throne
in Jerusalem until you turn to the New Testament pages. In other words, three 14s and the central
one is all about David. Not only so, but those 14 generations
are themselves significant. In English and in most languages today,
we have one sign for letters, so there is an A, and then a B, then a C,
and then another sign for numbers, 1, 2, 3, and so forth. We have separate symbols for letters and
for numbers, but in the ancient world, they didn’t do that. So, an A is an A in literary context,
but it’s one in numeric context so that all letters have number values. That means that it’s possible to look at a
word and calculate its numeric value. We never think to do that in English
unless you’re some sort of small-time code breaker or something like that. But in the ancient world,
it was an obvious thing to do. In fact, graffiti have been found
in ancient Rome that say things like, “I love her whose number is 566.” Now, there could be a lot of people with
the number 566, depending on how the letters add up, but nevertheless,
that’s common in the ancient world. And, you know, there are two ways
of spelling David in Hebrew, but one is daleth vav daleth,
4+6+4. 4+6+4 equals? Fourteen. That might sound strange to us,
but it’s a symbol-laden way that Matthew has of getting across how God has ordained
things to focus on David and his line. The mark of the beast, 666,
is almost certainly some kind of gematria, this way of counting numbers. So already, therefore, in Matthew 1,
the focus is on David and in case we haven’t got it in the list reading
through the genealogy, we’re told 1:17, “Thus there were 14 generations in all
from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the exile, and 14
from the exile to the Messiah.” And then in the following verses
of Chapter 1, “You will give him the name Jesus, for he will save
his people from their sins.” Jesus is the Greek equivalent of Joshua,
which means Yahweh saves. So this Davidic king,
you will give the name Yahweh saves, and that’s placarded right at the front of
the book, which means everything you read in Matthew’s gospel is under this flag,
Yahweh saves, that’s who Jesus is. Yahweh saves. That’s who Jesus is. So when we read the Sermon on the Mount,
we’re supposed to remember these are the words of instruction from Yahweh saves. This is what it looks like when he saves
his people from their sins. And then when you turn to Matthew 8 and 9
and you have this collection of miracles where demons are cast out and the sick are
healed, you are to remember these are the deeds of Yahweh saves,
but now you find more and more things being intertwined. Before we look at how they’re intertwined
in Matthew 8, pause at Matthew 3. There, John the Baptist
begins his preaching. What does he preach
according to Matthew Chapter 3? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven
has come near.” That is, you are on the cusp,
on the very dawning of this arrival of the kingdom and when Jesus,
in Chapter 4, begins his preaching in public, the first words reported of him
in Matthew’s Gospel are, “Repent, for the kingdom
of heaven is near.” The same words, but they mean
something different now. John the Baptist says, “Repent ,
for the kingdom of heaven is near” as the forerunner, but this forerunner
points out who Jesus is. When Jesus says, “Repent, for the kingdom
of heaven is near,” it’s pretty obvious, pretty quickly in this Gospel
that he is the king. Sometimes, explicitly so. When he tells, for example,
the parable of the sheep and the goats. It’s very obvious in the text in Matthew
Chapter 25 verses 31 and following that he himself is the king. So sometimes kingdom of God,
kingdom of heaven, pictures God, the Father as the King, and sometimes he
himself is presented as the King by his own teaching as Matthew has set it all up
according to the genealogy in the introduction right at the very beginning. Then in Chapter 8, where you have these
miracles taking place, where the word of the king is enough
to accomplish anything. You stumble across some
very important things. When he heals, for example,
the servant of the centurion, the centurion says, “Lord,
I do not deserve to have you come under my roof, but just say the word
and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority,
with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes
and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’
and he does it. When Jesus heard this,
he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly, I tell you,
I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.'” Why? Why does he say that? The point is that when the centurion says
to a lowly foot soldier, “Go and do this,” it’s not just
one man telling another man, it’s Rome speaking because through the
chain of command, that centurion has the authority of the Tribune, and the Tribune
has authority all the way back to Caesar, so that when a foot soldier defies the
centurion, he’s defying Rome. And the centurion sees that
as some kind of analogy. When Jesus speaks, God speaks. “You don’t have to come,
you just speak and it will be done. My foot soldiers can’t defy me
because I speak for Rome. The demons, sickness, later on, storms,
anything, it can’t defy you because you speak for God. And then it gets more enmeshed yet. After he has performed these miracles,
we’re told, in verses 14-17, “When evening came, many who were
demon-possessed brought to him and he drove out…were brought to him and he drove
out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken
through the prophet Isaiah. ‘He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.'” Where’s that quotation from? That quotation is from Isaiah 53. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our inequities. And included in the fruit
of all he does, he took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases. Do you see what Matthew is saying
by quoting this passage here? He is saying that when Jesus exercises his
kingly authority to cast out demons and bear our inequities and triumph over them,
he does so in the light of the cross that has not yet taken place. Jesus is not casting out demons
simply as an act of authority. He is doing so as a function of the cross
that is still around the corner. And thus the notion of Jesus’ kingly
authority is now being tied to his suffering servant work. Just as there is effect that flows
onward in history from the cross, so there is effect that flows
backward in history from the cross. So that when Jesus was casting out those
demons and healing those sick people, according to Matthew, it was not merely
a display of power, though it was that, it was also part of the effluent that
came from the cross which was still around the corner. But there are other passages that tied
together Jesus’ kingship and the cross, many of them. Let me pick up one more. Matthew Chapter 20 verse 20. “The mother of Zebedee’s sons came
to Jesus with her sons and kneeling down, asked a favor of him. ‘What is it you want?’ he asked. ‘Grant that one of these two
sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left
in your kingdom.'” She was still thinking of a political
kingdom, a big bang, and there are 12 apostles and it would be nice if my
2 boys had the 2 primary jobs, maybe secretary of state
and minister of defense. You know, “Could you arrange that?” “‘You don’t know what you’re asking,’
Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup
I am going to drink?'” By which he was referring to his cross. “‘We can,’ they answered,”
not having a clue what he was talking about and with remarkable aplomb,
“We can, leave it to us.” “Jesus said to them…” here,
he has to have a twinkle in his eye. “‘You will indeed drink my cup.'” One of them would become
the first apostolic martyr. The other would be banished and end his
life in exile in a little Island. “‘But to sit at my right or left is not
for me to grant, these places belong to those for whom they have
been prepared by my Father.’ When the 10 heard about this,
they were indignant with the 2 brothers.” Not, of course, because they thought they
were wrong, but only because they didn’t get their dibs in first. “Jesus called them together and said,
‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their high officials
exercise authority over them, not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great
among you must be your slave and whoever wants to be first
must be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve
and to give his life, a ransom for many.'” Now it’s this and parallel passages that
have driven many of us to speak of servant leadership. What does it mean? It certainly does not mean that Jesus
loses his kingly authority. This same Jesus says, “You call me
Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am, but then
why don’t you do what I say?” This is not in any sense
stepping back from his authority. What’s the difference between his
authority and the authority of the rulers of this world? It’s this, the rulers of this world,
they may well start off making vast promises about how they want to be the
servant of the people and that they will pursue the good of the people
and so forth. But sooner or later, sooner or later,
because we’re a fallen damned breed, power corrupts, and people,
whether in high positions in companies, or any hierarchy at all,
sooner or later begin to think they deserve to be there. They’re better than other people. And not to be questioned, they, to use
Jesus’ language, lord it over people. By contrast, Jesus, in the exercise of his
reign, seeks their good so passionately, so unqualifiedly that it takes
him to the cross. And thus, for the first three centuries
of the Christian Church, Christians talked with a wry,
ironic smile of Jesus reigning from the cross. And, of course, Matthew plays
with those themes as well. When he describes the crucifixion,
he uses irony again and again. Irony is a figure of speech when it’s at
its purest, which says one thing that means exactly the opposite. “Hail, King of the Jews,”
Matthew 27:27 and following. That’s what the soldiers say to Jesus as
they beat him, put a crown of thorns on his head, laugh at him. “Hail, King of the Jews,” but they don’t
mean that he’s the King of the Jews. They mean he’s a scumbag,
that he’s a disgusting traitor, that he’s weak, and he’s foolish,
and he’s stupid, and he’s condemned. He’s about to be crucified. “Hail, King of the Jews.” They think this is ironic,
barracks-room humor. But while they are using irony to laugh at
Jesus, as Matthew writes this, Matthew knows, and the readers know,
and God knows that there’s a deeper irony for Jesus is the King of the Jews and he
does reign from the cross. And this is how he exercises his reign
to redeem his own people. To pit kingship against
substitutionary atonement is simply blind to the very structures
of the gospel narrative. I wish I had time to tease this
out in the rest of the Gospels. There is Jesus in the light of passages
like Exodus 34, where Yahweh promises to be the shepherd of his people,
Israel, there is Jesus saying, “I am the good shepherd.” And then adding, “This good shepherd
gives his life for the sheep.” Then after he rises from the dead,
he says, “All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth,” all authority,
all of the sweep of God’s sovereignty. But now it’s dawning in some new
mediatorial way that is driving toward the consummation. And under this authority is that subset
of God’s kingdom under which there is life, transformation. New birth. Unless you’re born again,
you cannot see the kingdom of God. So when does Jesus become King? Well, in one sense, he was born a king. “Where is he who was born
King of the Jews?” The Magi ask. In another sense, he begins his kingly
rule when he begins his public ministration,
when the Spirit falls upon him at his baptism, and God, the Father, says,
“This is my son whom I love,” which is picking up language from 2 Samuel 7. It begins there. In one sense, it’s Jesus hanging on the
cross, and in yet another sense, it’s Jesus after the resurrection,
claiming that all authority is his. But although all of these things reflect
Jesus’ role as king, in the New Testament, they cluster more around his death,
burial, resurrection, and exaltation than any other theme. Which is why in the first distinctly
Christian sermon reported on the day of Pentecost,
we read these words, “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you
confidently that the patriarch, David, died and was buried, and his tomb is here
to this day, but he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he
would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come,
he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned
to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life
and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to God’s right hand,”
the right hand of kingly authority and power, “he has received from the Father
the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” Small wonder that we come to the book
of Revelation and read, “The kingdoms of this world
become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he
shall reign forever.” Let me take a couple of minutes to
conclude with some reflections that stem from this survey. Number one, it is folly to set the gospel
of the kingdom over against Paul’s so-called Soterian gospel. The kingdom motif in the gospels. I focused on Matthew. I could have done something similar
with Mark, Luke, or John. The kingdom motif is full of the cross. It’s full of Jesus’ death. The same Jesus who was the king, says
on the night he is betrayed, “This is the blood of the new covenant
shed for many for the remission of sins.” Never pit the kingdom against the cross. But similarly, the apostle Paul
in 1 Corinthians Chapter 6 says that the unclean, the unworthy
will not enter the kingdom. It’s not as if Paul says nothing
about the kingdom. All of it is focused on Jesus
and why he came. Number two, it is important to see how the
kingdom motif is only one theme that can fruitfully be traced through
all of Scripture. Others include sin, tabernacle
temple, priesthood, Passover. “Christ our Passover has been crucified
for us,” 1 Corinthians again. And the Jewish feasts,
John’s gospel shows how Jesus is also the fulfillment, for example,
of the feast of Tabernacles, The Exodus motif, garden, Jerusalem,
covenant, promise, sonship, and more. And had we time, we could trace these out
and discover that all of them are tied to the Old Testament, and to
the Gospels, and to the epistles. And that in being tied to all three,
they bring you to Jesus in the Gospel. We’ve done it very briefly for a small
smattering of references connected with kingdom, but all of these
can be traced through. They are the tendons,
the ligaments that tie together the very books, and themes,
and structures of all of Scripture. And they bring us to Jesus and the gospel. So it is folly to set the gospel of the
kingdom against Paul’s so-called Setorian gospel. Number two, it is important to see how the
kingdom motif is only one thing that can fruitfully be traced through Scriptures. And finally, it is wisdom to uncover how
many of these themes are, in fact, intertwined. So, go back to the passage that
I read at the beginning. 2 Samuel Chapter 7. Clearly, there’s the Davidic king there,
but in 2 Samuel Chapter 6, the temple is brought to Jerusalem. When David becomes King,
he rules in Hebron for seven years. After seven years, he moves
his capital to Jerusalem. And now you have the Jerusalem theme and
for the first time, the tabernacle theme, and the kingly dynasty all in Jerusalem,
all intertwined, and all three of those temple tabernacle, Jerusalem,
and kingship all run through Scripture and become intertwined. And the kingly theme is tied
to the sonship theme. In 1 Corinthians 15, “He must reign
until he has put the last enemy under his feet.” And then when the last enemy is destroyed,
he delivers the kingdom to his Heavenly Father. That is his mediatorial kingship
comes to an end. So you have kingship and mediation. And that’s in a chapter where he is the
resurrected Lord, which is the fruit of his cross at the beginning of the
chapter, the gospel is tied to the cross. “This is the gospel,” he says. “Christ died for sinners and rose
again the third day, according to the Scripture.” All of these things become tied together. All of these gather around the gospel,
and support the gospel, and explicate the gospel. Do you not see? The whole Scripture is
shaped by the gospel. I simply cannot think of a better way of
concluding than by reading these verses. “Praise be to the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms
with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the
creation of the world to be Holy and blameless in his sight. In love, He predestined us for adoption
to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will,
to the praise of his glorious grace, which He has freely given us
in the one he loves. In him, we have redemption through his
blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s
grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,
He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure,
which He purposed in Christ to be put into effect when the times reach their
fulfillment, to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In Him, we were also chosen,
having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in
conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first
to put our hope in Christ might be for the praise of His glory. And you also were included in Christ when
you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him
with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our
inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession
to the praise of His glory. Let us pray.

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 4 comments

  1. The gospel is the center of all Biblical revelation. If you miss the gospel, you miss the point.

    Reply
  2. 2 Tim 3:7
    GOD is Love and Love is GOD. A GOD who Cannot Lie nor Fail! When do you get to the Works of the Lord, Loving your neighbors, your brethren and your enemies? When do you get to letting the Light shine that men may SEE your good works to glory in the Lord? If it IS GOD who is Doing the work in man for the Lords Good will and Pleasure, when do you get to this?
    If so many people who call themselves Christians are Truly Christians. Why would they still NOT Look like Christ, Doing the Works of the Lord (seeing how the Word Christian means Christ-Like) Filled with Love and Understanding, (the Spirit of GOD) knowing that GOD Cannot Fail in HIS work. All trees Will be known by their Fruit. A Good tree CANNOT bare Bad fruit, neither can a BAD tree bare Good fruit (According to the Most High GOD)? When does a person get Transformed into that Righteousness in order to be an Example for the people? That GOD is True?
    God is Not the author of Confusion, this comes from the enemy. Do not let the enemy still from you the Simplicity that IS the Gospel of Christ. So simple a Child Can Understand. Christ sheep knows His Voice and another they Will Not Answer.
    If the Gospel of Christ is the power of (GOD) given to Man for Salvation (by GOD). And Christ commanded His (12) disciples to Preach and Teach ONLY those things that HE had Given to them. (Christ) sent Paul out to Preach and Teach that Gospel of Christ to the Gentiles that was Necessary for them to Believe and be Transformed. (They had NO need for OLD testament explanations because they had No knowledge of that teaching because they were Not under that Covenant) Strictly demanding that IF Any other Gospel be Preached, let them be accursed. Believe Only the Lord our Christ, for the True and Living God has Confirmed that HE sent His Son (with the Truth and Grace) that man might be Saved(Changed) if they would Only BELIEVE the Son!!!

    Reply
  3. I am so thankful for Dr. Carson's teaching – it has been profoundly changing the way I see scripture! Also, I would totally sit for as many hours as would be needed to hear his survey of the entire bible on this particular topic (5:05) hahaha. 😋

    Reply
  4. One God
    One Christ
    One Bible
    One Gospel
    40,000 and growing denominations and cults in that sea of CHAOS we call Protestantism.

    The Truth That No Protestant Wants to Face ~~ https://youtu.be/lw8InFPMTiM

    Reply

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