|This is an opinion article from a user of WikiChristian.|
The following is a 1,000 word theology (Old Testament) essay answering the question: What are the defining features of each of the “kingdoms” as presented by Roberts in each of the eight chapters of his book (800 words)? In 200 words explain your response to Roberts’ argument that the “kingdom of God” is a dominant theme throughout the Bible.
In his book, God's Big Picture, Vaughan Roberts argues that the whole Bible, from start to finish, has the unifying theme of God revealing his purpose to bring about his perfect rule. Roberts divides Biblical history into eight segments, the last seven showing "God's unfolding plan to restore his kingdom" (p22). Referring to Graeme Goldsworthy's book Gospel and Kingdom, he defines the kingdom of God as God's people living in God's place, under God's rule and blessing.
Roberts opens his book showing that God, the eternal triune author and king of creation, made humans as the pinnacle of creation, with 'rest' as the realized goal (pp27-33). This he calls the Pattern of the Kingdom. The man Adam and the woman Eve are God's people, living and working in God's place of the garden. They are under God's blessing of perfect relationships, between each other and with God. This is life as God intended it for us; humans walking with God, in an era of rest.
Genesis 3 recounts the disobedience of the man and woman spoiling God's good creation. Roberts calls this new state the Perished Kingdom. The consequences of this rebellion are a severing of relationships; the complete intimacy between the man and woman is lost, and the closeness of God to his people is broken. God banishes the man and the woman and death, both spiritual and physical, comes upon them (pp37-43). Sin spreads and God grieves.
Following the fall and continued decline of humanity, Roberts demonstrates that God shows glimpses of his amazing grace, with Enoch, Noah, and even Cain as examples. Roberts suggests that this culminates in God's covenant with Abraham, heralding in the Promised Kingdom. Underlying this is mercy, with Abraham chosen not because of his intrinsic goodness but instead because of God's grace. Abraham's descendants are to be God's people, and they are given Canaan as God's place for them. God's blessing is to extend to Israel and all nations through them (pp47-55).
Roberts labels the next period of Biblical history as the Partial Kingdom. He divides its development into four parts, roughly corresponding to particular segments of the Old Testament. Most of Genesis and much of Exodus, relates to God making a people, Israel, for himself (pp60-67). Despite this, God's promises otherwise seem to be fading as these people are enslaved far away from Canaan. Yet, God reveals himself by name and delivers his people. This points to Jesus, and later in 1 Corinthians, Christ is said to be "our Passover lamb". From Exodus to Leviticus, God reveals his rule and blessing with the provision of the Law, to the people he has already saved (pp67-73). Roberts argues that the books from Numbers to Joshua show God bringing the people to his place of Canaan (pp75-78), and furthering his rule and blessing with the development of the monarchy in the books from Samuel to the Chronicles (pp 78-87). He demonstrates that this monarchy points to Jesus, who is the king who fulfils God's promises. This worldly monarchy however ends in disarray as the kings and their people turn away from God, the nation splits up, and invaders conquer the land and exile the people.
As the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were dismantled and exiled, God spoke to the people through his prophets. Roberts calls this era the Prophesied Kingdom. The prophets explain that the unfolding historical developments occur because of God's judgement. Roberts argues that the prophets not only point to contemporary events, but also to God's ultimate fulfilment of his kingdom. The prophets, especially Isaiah, speak of the coming time of Jesus, and the inclusion of the nations into his kingdom. There is a vision of God's place with a new temple and a new creation. There will be blessing through a new covenant through the people's new acceptance of Christ, the king (pp88-104).
The book moves into the New Testament and the coming of Christ, calling this the Present Kingdom. Roberts sees the fulfilment of all the Old Testament coming through Jesus. Jesus succeeds in being holy, where the first man, Adam, and the people of Israel had failed. Jesus is argued to be the true Adam and the true Israel. Likewise, God's place is shown to be in Jesus Christ, who is the true tabernacle and temple. God's rule and blessing is in Jesus, who is the new covenant (pp107-119).
Roberts shows that God's people, the new Israel, are all who are believers in Jesus, both Jew and Gentile. God's place is within the believers, the church, and his rule and blessing is through new birth in the new covenant and the Holy Spirit (pp123-135). These "last days", Roberts calls the Proclaimed Kingdom.
The Bible concludes by looking towards the assured future kingdom, which Roberts entitles the Perfected Kingdom. In this kingdom the old will be gone and there will be a new creation. Roberts sees God's people as the multinational family of believers in Christ, alive in God's new creation, with a temple that is not a building of bricks and mortar. Instead God's presence makes the whole of the new creation the temple. God's rule and blessing will be perfect, beautiful and known to all (pp139-151).
God's Big Picture is clear and concise. I felt Roberts presented an excellent framework for understanding the Bible as a unified text. I agree with Roberts that God's hand is behind all of the Bible, and so it makes sense that there is one overriding theme. He suggests that the Kingdom of God is this theme, which I agree with. However, I believe that this can be stated in a number ways. It could equally be said that the theme of the Bible is that Jesus Christ brings to people the salvation of God, as Roberts also alludes to early in his book (p17). His attempt to divide the Bible into eight kingdoms is useful for understanding how God is bringing about his kingdom. In some ways I feel that this distinction is artificial, and that there is significant overlap between Roberts' kingdoms. Nonetheless, it is a helpful way of showing vertical (historical) links throughout the Bible. Like Roberts though, I do not think an intellectual understanding of these links is sufficient. It is essential that we see, as Roberts puts it, the vertical link between us and God, where we are challenged to grow in our relationship with our God. I have been challenged in this way, and to that end, God’s Big Picture has achieved its aim.
- ↑ Graeme Goldsworthy. Gospel and Kingdom. Exeter: Paternoster, 1981
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