The Old Testament. Beginning with Genesis 1:1, the Bible portrays God as the Lordand Sovereign over all creation, God Most High ( Gen 14:18 ; cf. Psalm 24:1 ; 93:1 ; 95:3-7 ). Thecentral theme of the covenant God made with Abraham was the promise that the land ofCanaan would be "an everlasting possession" to him and his descendants ( Gen 17:8 ). The landis the gift of God ( Exod32:13 ; 33:1 ; Deuteronomy 1:8 Deuteronomy 1:25 ). Yetit "must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens andmy tenants" ( Le25:23 ). God owns the land and lives among his people in a covenant relationship ( Lev 26:11-12 ; Deut 4:1 ; 6:5-15 ). He is theideal King, the Lord Almighty, over the kingdoms of mortals ( Isa 6:5 ; Jer 46:18 ; Dan 4:25 ).
In Deuteronomy 17:14-20 Moses prophesied that a time would come, following thesettlement of the land, in which the nation would want a king like all the nations aroundthem. He warned them to "be sure to appoint the king the Lord your Godchooses" (v. 15). From the conquest, all of Israel's neighbors had kings. When thePriest-Judge Samuel grew old, the elders of Israel determined that the time had come for achange ( 1 Sam8:4-22 ). Samuel acquiesced to their request, and anointed Saul as their king ( 1 Samuel 10:1 1 Samuel 10:24-25 ; 11:14-15 ).From the anointing of Saul on, the monarchy developed as a secondary institution alongsidethe priesthood and temple cult. One can discern two views of the anointed monarchy in theOld Testament: it was either the gift and servant of God, or it was God's rival and asymbol of Israel's rejection of the reign of God.
In David the Lord found a person after his own heart ( 1 Sam 13:14 ), oneto whom he made a solemn and everlasting promise: "The Lord will establish ahouse for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise upyour offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish hiskingdom Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne willbe established forever" ( 2 Samuel 7:11-13 2 Samuel 7:16 ).When Jerusalem fell in 586 b.c., this promise seemed to end in failure.
After the united kingdom of Israel was divided in 931 b.c., the prophets of the OldTestament increasingly interpreted the promise made to David in spiritual terms, ratherthan in political, terrestrial ones. Isaiah prophesied in the eighth century b.c.:"The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will give birth to a son,and will call him Immanuel" (7:14). His reign would be supranational and everlasting,possessing divine characteristics, restoring peace and justice ( 9:2-7 ; 11:1-10 ).Isaiah's contemporary, Micah, likewise prophesied that he would be born in Bethlehem, buthis origins were "from of old, from ancient times" ( 5:2-5 ). Jeremiahand other later prophets continued to cultivate the hope of a future anointed delivererwho would be the righteous Branch of Jesse ( Jer 23:5-6 ; 33:15 ).
The fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c. intensified the hope of witnessing the kingdom ofGod, but in apocalyptic termsthe anticipation of a divine warrior, a messianic kingwho would appear as God's deliverer ( Zech 9:9-17 ; 12:8-10 ; 14:3-9 ). InDaniel one finds a new distinction. "God is God of gods and the Lord of kings" ( Dan 2:47 ), who is"sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes" ( 4:25 ). Sometime inthe future, however, God will set up a kingdom that will crush all the kingdoms of theearth and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever ( 2:44 ). In Daniel'sapocalyptic vision, he sees a future divine king"one like a son of man, comingwith the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into hispresence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and menof every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will notpass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" ( 7:13-14 ). Davidserved as the definitive authority for Jesus, for he interpreted the promise in other thanhuman terms, "The Lord says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make yourenemies a footstool for your feet'" ( Psalm 110:1 ). Jesusunderstood David to have called the Christ "his Lord" ( Mark 12:36 ; cf. Acts 2:34-35 ; Heb 1:13 ).
The New Testament In the time of Herod king of Judea ( Matt 2:1 ; Luke 1:5 ) and CaesarAugustus who reigned over the Roman world ( Luke 2:1 ), Jesus wasborn. Magi came to Jerusalem looking for "the one who has been born king of theJews" ( Matt 2:2 ;cf. Luke 2:11 ).The genealogies of Matthew 1:1-17 and lu 3:23-38 confirm Jesus' human descent from David,a prominent motif in Matthew. After Jesus fed the 5, 000, the crowd wanted to force him tobecome king ( John6:15 ). Blind Bartimaeus saw what others had missed, as he shouted, "Jesus, Son ofDavid, have mercy on me!" ( Mark 10:46-52 ).Jesus entered Jerusalem like a king, riding on the colt of a donkey ( Matt 21:5 ; Luke 19:38 ; John 12:13 John 12:15 ;cf. Zech 9:9 ).When Jesus was on trial, the high priest questioned him, asking, "Are you the Christ,the Son of the Blessed One?" Jesus responded prophetically, "I am. And you willsee the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds ofheaven" ( Mark14:61-62 ; cf. Dan7:13 ; Zech12:10 ). Similarly, the governor Pilate asked, "Are you the king of theJews?" To which Jesus answered, "Yes, it is as you say" ( Mark 15:2 ).Throughout the balance of the New Testament Jesus is described as the Son of David, aking.
The Kingdom of God (Heaven) The devil tempted Jesus by taking him to a highmountain and showing him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. He promised totransfer his usurped authority to Jesus, if Jesus would bow down and worship him. Jesuscorrected the devil's theology, reaffirming that the Lord alone has power over thekingdoms of the world and he alone is worthy of worship ( Matt 4:8-10 ; Luke 4:5-8 ). GodAlmighty is the Great King ( Matt 5:35 ; cf. 1 Tim 1:17 ).Consistently in the parables of the kingdom, God is understood as the master and owner orthe King.
After receiving the divine anointing at his baptism ( Mark 1:9-11 ),Jesus begins to proclaim the inauguration of the kingdom in Galilee: "The time hascome. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" ( Mark 1:15 ). Thisbecomes the central theme in all that Jesus preaches, and he seeks to define its nature inthe expanded response to Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, myservants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from anotherplace" ( John18:36 ). The disciples, however, persistently misunderstood the nature of the kingdomto the very end. For this reason, Peter rebuked Jesus when he spoke of going to Jerusalemto die ( Mark 8:32 ),and then drew his sword in an attempt to fend off the arresting crowd in Gethsemane ( Mark 14:47 ). Thekingdom remained a mystery, hidden from the understanding of the disciples.
The kingdom is present in the person, ministry, and miracles of Jesus ( Matt 12:28 ; Luke 11:20 ). Jesuslikens himself to the narrow gate ( Matt 7:13-14 ; Luke 13:24 ; John 10:7 John 10:9 ),the one who has the key to open the way for people to enter the kingdom. When he ispresent, the kingdom of God is present ( Luke 11:20 ; 17:21 ; 1 Tim 4:1 ), but itis not a visible, political, or temporal kingdom ( Luke 17:20-25 ).As in the Old Testament, the kingdom is the gift of God ( Luke 12:32 ), butnow the emphasis is on the uNIVersal opportunity open to all who believe ( Matt 16:19 ; 21:43 ; Luke 12:32 ; John 3:3-8 John 3:15-16 ).
The kingdom, on the other hand, is also described by Jesus as eschatological, and willbe consummated at a future time. Frequently, Jesus says, "Repent, for the kingdom ofGod (heaven) is near" ( Matt 4:17 ; 10:7 ; Mark 1:15 ; Luke 10:9 Luke 10:11 ).This reference to time is debated among scholars, as the perfect tense of the Greek verb (engiken)can be interpreted to mean that the kingdom has come at some point in the past and is nowpresent, or it is imminently near and will be realized sometime in the future. There are,however, other statements that are less ambiguous. The disciple is told to pray,"Your kingdom come" ( Matt 6:10 ; Luke 11:2 ), implyingthat the kingdom is not fully realized. In the parables of the judgment, the kingdom willbe a future, eternal inheritance prepared for those who have done the will of God, areward for those who have worked in God's vineyard ( Matt 20:1-16 ) andfor those to whom God chooses to show his mercy. This inheritance is associated with thesecond coming of the Son of Man and the eschatological invasion of his kingdom "withpower" ( Mark 9:1 ).
The motif of Christ as King and the kingdom is less common outside the Gospels in theNew Testament, except in Revelation. As the church grew beyond Palestine and thesynagogues of the Jews, the Gentiles preferred other metaphors to refer to theirrelationship and the supremacy of Christ, such as bridegroom and bride and Christ the headof the body.
"Jesus is King" became the confession of the early Christian community.Nathanael declares, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel"( John 1:49 ).With the same profound meaning, the early church adopted the baptismal confession,"Jesus is Lord!" ( Rom 10:9 ; 1 Col 12:3 ). Thisemphasis upon Jesus Christ the King brought persecution to the church, for Jesus wasviewed as a rival to Caesar and the laws of the Roman Empire. But the church persisted inher belief that Jesus was the "King of the ages!" ( Rev 15:3 ),"King of kings and Lord of lords!" ( Rev 17:14 ; 19:16 ; cf. 1 Tim 6:15 ).
Melvin H. Shoemaker
Bibliography G. R. Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God; W.Bousset, Kyrios Christos; G. W. Buchanan, Jesus the King and His Kingdom; R.Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament; C. C. Caragounis, Dictionary of Jesusand the Gospels, pp. 417-30; O. Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament;idem, The Early Church: Studies in Early Christian History and Theology; R. H.Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology; F. Hahn, The Titles ofJesus in Christology: Their History in Early Christianity; J. Knox, Jesus, Lord andChrist: A Trilogy; C. N. Kraus, Jesus Christ Our Lord: Christology from aDisciple's Perspective; G. E. Ladd, The Presence of the Future: The Eschatology ofBiblical Realism; I. H. Marshall, Jesus the Saviour: Studies in the New TestamentTheology; N. Perrin, Jesus and the Language of the Kingdom: Symbol and Metaphor inNew Testament Interpretation; R. Schnackenburg, God's Rule and Kingdom.
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Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'King, Christ as
'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".