Overview: Old Testament Foundation
In the last section, we began by seeing how much misunderstanding exists because of a failure to see the Bible as a whole, and from its Hebrew origins. The foundation of understanding the Kingdom of God is found in the Old Testament. It was known and understood by the people to whom Jesus preached, because they were familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures. Yet it is largely lost to many Christians who don't know the Jewish background of the coming Kingdom and the promised Messiah.
The first article of this section deals with God's purpose for the earth. From creation on, God had a plan for man, and it included living and reigning on planet earth, not in some ethereal “home beyond the blue.” It also looks at some of the more common questions about various subjects dealt with in Genesis. These include whether or not chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis contradict each other; the difference between the Devil and Lucifer; the fall of man; the other people besides Adam, Eve, and their children; the Nephilim in chapter 6; the destruction of the first heaven and earth and God’s plan of redemption.
The article also deals briefly with the question of evolution, which many Christians consider to be anti-God and contradictory to Scripture. But what if evolution were a tool God used to bring about His creation? The primary objections to such a suggestion are the age of the earth, and whether the death which entered the world through Adam’s sin was upon all creatures or on man only. A Closer Look article called This Old Earth examines these questions in detail.
One other theory that was advanced to try to harmonize the evidence for evolution with Scripture is the Gap Theory, which suggests that the earth we now live on is what God rebuilt after Satan destroyed His original creation. This theory is briefly referred to in the first article, but examined in detail in a Closer Look article called The Gap Theory. It not only has no Biblical proof, but suggests that Satan is powerful enough to destroy God's work, and that God had to resort to a "Plan B."
It is important to recognize that God always intended man to live on earth. He placed man in the Garden of Eden and gave him access to the Tree of Life, without which man would have experienced death just like other animals. It is a common misconception that man had eternal life inherently until he sinned. But this is not what the Bible teaches.
God told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed, they would "surely die." Death in man is the result of sin, and the plan of redemption involves sacrifice for sin, which was ultimately fulfilled by Jesus Christ. In addition, if death is not the penalty for sin, this echoes the devil's original lie, "You shall not surely die," a direct contradiction to what God had said. This is why there are so many belief systems that involve life after death. The devil's original lie is still being told.
The Bible says that when a person dies they are not alive in some other realm of existence, but are unconscious and decaying in the grave, and would remain so unless God resurrects them. The Closer Look article called The State of the Dead shows that this is the Biblical view of death, and examines many Scriptures which deal with this important subject.
As shown in the second article of this section, the promises God made to Abraham are the foundational promises to all who believe, and they include inheriting the earth. God promised Abraham land, descendants, and abundant blessings to all the earth. The descendants of Abraham were to be the chosen nation through which God would make His plan of salvation known. But Abraham never inherited any land during his lifetime. Yet he believed that God would raise him from the dead, and still awaits that fulfillment.
Israel's identity as a nation was tied into their being in the land. But it was only enjoyed as long as they remained faithful to the Mosaic Law. Because of their disobedience and idolatry, they were eventually driven from the land, yet when they turned back to God, He honored His Covenant with Abraham, and restored a remnant of them to the land. The Prophets speak of another restoration in the future as well.
This coming King would also be called God's Son. His rule would extend beyond just Israel. Passages like Psalm 2 speak of God setting His Son, His Anointed One, on His holy hill and giving him authority and dominion over all nations. He will put down unrighteous rule and rescue the oppressed. When Jesus is identified as the Christ, the Son of God, all of this is included in its meaning.
The Messiah would also be the Prophet that Moses foretold would be from the midst of Israel, of their brethren, and like Moses. There was no hint that he would be God Himself coming to earth in human form. That was never a part of God's plan, but was developed as a doctrine more than two hundred years after Christ. This is covered in greater detail in a Closer Look article called Who Is Messiah?
Kingdom In the Prophets
Daniel specifically refers to the Kingdom that God will set up, following the succession of earthly kingdoms. And it is he who refers to one called The Son of Man, to whom the Ancient of Days gives the Kingdom. This is where the title Son of Man comes from, which Jesus most often used to refer to himself. Many visions were given to Daniel which deal with the events that will take place in the end times, just prior to the Kingdom of God being set up. Some of them are understood, others remain mysteries until the time of their fulfillment.
Isaiah and Jeremiah speak of God restoring Israel to their land, out of many nations. Both the house of Israel and the house of Judah would be restored. For this reason we know that the return from the Babylonian captivity was not the final fulfillment. They were returned only out of Babylon, and it was only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. A more complete restoration is yet to come.
A time will come when all nations will gather against Jerusalem, and in that climactic battle, Messiah will return, and a remnant of Israel will turn to him and be saved. Paul refers to these prophecies from Isaiah and Jeremiah especially. Several of the Prophets declared that God would never completely forsake Israel, and Paul addresses this in Romans as well.
When Jesus has put down Israel's enemies, and the faithful dead are raised, he will begin to reign over the remaining nations of the earth. Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, will be the center of a coming world empire, in which Messiah, as God's co-ruler, will administer a perfect government. He will rule with perfect righteousness and justice. The earth will be restored to its former perfection; there will be peace and rest, and no more war; there will be perfect and just judgment; and nature itself will be restored to the way God intended, with peace among the animals. This glorious world is foretold by all the Old Testament Prophets.
When Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God and saying that it was "at hand" he didn't have to define it, because the Jews to whom he preached knew what it meant. But many did not believe that he was the Messiah, because he did not set up the Kingdom immediately, as expected. In the next section, we will look at what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God, and why he didn't inaugurate it when he came the first time.