Biblical Theology Articles

Bible Overview 3: The Promised Kingdom & Partial Kingdom (Part 2)

David Gibson


Bible Overview - Handout 3 (DOC)


Joshua 21:43-45 - Why is this only partial fulfilment of the promises to Abraham?

Last week we looked at the promise of the kingdom to Abraham and then we looked at the partial fulfilment of the promises all the way up to the Israelites entering the land of Canaan. And do you remember how we finished? READ Joshua 21:43 - 45. Now I'd like us to start by thinking about this question together, discuss it with the person next to you: why is this only partial fulfilment of the promises to Abraham ...

1. The partial kingdom (Part 2)

The answer is because of what happens in Judges ch 1 - there is still fighting to be done. Now this doesn't contradict Joshua 21; what's happening here is that the Lord has given the whole land to the Israelites, victory is guaranteed, all they have to do is go round and mop up all the little pockets of Canaanite resistance - but look at 1:27, 29, 30, 31 READ and so on. And the result of this is 2:10ff -15 ... now in terms of what we've seen of the Bible's storyline so far, what is the pattern here? God's people, in God's place, rejecting God's rule.

And what happens now is that God raises up Judges - 2:16 but look at what happens straight away. And so what happens now is that we get this repeated note 4 times in the book: "In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" 17:6, "In those days Israel had no king", 18:1; 19:1; 21:25. What's happening here is that big questions are being asked - what is it going to take to bring about God's perfectly realized kingdom? Who or what will be able to make God's people live in God's place under God's rule. And of course Judges is hinting isn't it that it is not going to come about without a king - the people are heading towards monarchy.

17:6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

18:1 In those days Israel had no king.

19:1 In those days Israel had no king.

21:25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

So let's turn to 1 Samuel 8:4,5 - Samuel is really Israel's greatest Judge but his sons who follow after him are wicked, so we get these words in 8:4 - READ. Listen to what Vaughan Roberts says on this: "God is angry with them for their request, not because they want a king but because of their motivation in asking for one. They want a king instead of God rather than a king under God. In their desire to be like the other nations they are rejecting God's kingship over them, which made them unique. They want a monarchy instead of a theocracy" (God's Big Picture, p. 80).

This is important - right from the start of the Bible, as far back as Abraham, we get hints that kingship is not a bad thing, God himself promises that there will be kings among God's people. But the key thing is that the king had to be obedient to God's rule - the king was to be the primary example, the perfect model if you like of God's person in God's place under God's rule. This is what Moses said in Deuteronomy: READ 17:14-20. So this actually tells us how we are to interpret the kings in the rest of the Bible - these words from Moses tell us what to look for in a king. So when we come back to 1 Samuel now and look at Israel's first king Saul, it's interesting to see why God rejects him as king - look at 1 Samuel 15:23 - READ.

Now from here the spotlight switches to David as King, and then to his son Solomon as king. David is a great king - he establishes Jerusalem as his capital city, and he secures peace in the land. The ark which symbolizes God's presence and rule is brought into the city. Israel enjoys peace and prosperity ... still this is only partial fulfilment - why?

For at least two reasons - David himself is not the perfect king (Bathsheba) and because of 2 Samuel 7:8 - 16. Let's look at this together - READ vs 8 - 11. Now what does this remind you of? It's a reaffirmation of the promises to Abraham isn't it. But then look at the next bit - vs 11b -16.

Now there has to be 2 levels of meaning to this doesn't there? On the one hand it has to be referring to David's son Solomon - he is the one going to build the temple, v13, and he is the one who will be punished when he messes up. But the promises also seem to point even beyond Solomon don't they - someone from David's line whose kingdom throne will be established forever. What we're looking for from here on is God's king, the son of David, who will be greater than David or Solomon - and do you remember Jesus' words in Luke 11:31? READ

Now with Solomon's reign, we are really into what we can call Israel's golden age - Israel is living the good life, or we could call it the kingdom life. The temple is built during his reign and listen to what he says at the temple's dedication - 1 Kings 8:56 - 61 - READ. God's people, in God's place, under God's rule. And do you remember the promise to Abraham that all the nations would be blessed? Well there are hints of this in Solomon's reign as we see things like the Queen of Sheba coming to visit in chapter 10 - Solomon's reign causes her to praise Israel's God. God's people, in G's place, under God's rule - being a blessing to the nations exactly like they were meant to be.

But, again, you know what's coming, don't you - even at its best, this is still only partial fulfilment. In chapter 11 of 1 Kings we learn about all of Solomon's foreign wives. God promises judgment on Solomon, but for David's sake he will delay it until after Solomon's death.

But from here on we are into a period of great decline. Effectively it is now a time of civil war - the northern tribes of Israel rebel against Solomon's son Rehoboam and so what we have now is a divided kingdom. It gets a bit confusing - from here on the northern kingdom is called Israel, and the southern kingdom is called Judah - see sheets. There's an outline of OT history on that sheet I've given you, it shows you the division.  (picture of the outline of biblical history - available in Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom)

From here on there are some good kings in both kingdoms but really both kingdoms are into a downward spiral - king after king rejects God's rule and refuses to lead God's people to live under God's rule. So the next big thing on the horizon is the punishment of exile - and you can see from your sheet that the northern kingdom is destroyed in 722 by the Assyrians; the southern kingdom lasts a little longer but is also punished with exile - in 597 the Babylonians take some of the inhabitants, in 586 they come back and destroy the city and the temple.

Now this isn't all just boring history - we need to interpret it theologically. What is happening here? Well the partially fulfilled kingdom is gone, it has been dismantled. The people show very little evidence of being God's people; they are not in God's place, but in exile; they are under God's cursing and judgment, not his blessing - it's as if this is Eden all over again isn't it? From Abraham to Solomon we have had God's kingdom promises partially fulfilled but then the kingdom dismantled through the people's regular rejection of God's rule. But this whole pattern of the partially fulfilled kingdom is like a model of how all the promises to Abraham are going to be perfectly fulfilled. Listen to how Vaughan Roberts describes it:

Within the context of the Bible as a whole, the history of Israel serves as a model. That model of Concorde you made as a child may have been very impressive, but it was not the real thing. It pointed to something bigger and better: the aeroplane itself. In a similar way, the partial kingdom is just a shadow of the perfect kingdom that God will establish through Jesus Christ. It points beyond itself to him. Yes, it was great for the Israelites to be rescued from slavery to the Egyptians, but that rescue is just a pale shadow of the perfect redemption achieved by Jesus on the cross (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7). Yes, it was wonderful for the Israelites to have God's presence in their midst in the tabernacle and the temple, but those structures were just shadows of the one in whom the presence of God was perfectly manifest: ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling [or "tabernacled"] among us' (John 1:14). And yes, David and Solomon were great kings, but Jesus is far greater (Mark 12:35-37; Luke 11:31). God may have rejected his model, but he has not forgotten his promises (GBP, p. 87).

2. The prophesied kingdom

Now when we get to the OT prophets, they are there simply to show that great truth - God has not forgotten his promises. That's the message of the prophets. Now as we come to look at no. 2 on your sheets then, the prophesied kingdom, it's important to see how the prophets are connected to everything that we've looked at so far.

A really helpful way of thinking about the prophets is to imagine them as covenant guard-dogs - God makes a covenant with Abraham, and a covenant at Sinai, and then he provides prophets whose role is very simply to keep the people faithful to the covenant - if you like the prophets bark when Israel begins to stray towards breaking the covenant. So even before we get to the great writing prophets like Isaiah or Amos, we've got prophets like Moses, Elijah and Elisha ... and again what they say is this: here is God's covenant; if you keep it and live under God's rule, all will be well with you; if you break it and reject God's rule, you will face God's judgment. So with the well known prophets Elijah and Elisha, we have a situation where the nation has totally turned its back on God and their entire message is to say to Israel's kings - repent of your idolatry and turn back to God.

Well as we move on from Elijah and Elisha we get into the period of what we call the writing prophets - the prophets whose oracles were recorded - you can see where some of them come on the timeline. Now there is a very helpful way of summing up their message, all the OT prophets can be understood as essentially saying this:

God has rejected the model of the kingdom, but he will never reject the promises of the kingdom

In other words the entire burden of the prophets' message is judgment and grace. The prophets are constantly saying - "if you keep on rejecting God's rule, you will experience God's judgment"; and yet they're also saying "judgment is not the end; God in his grace will still keep the promises to Abraham." Listen yet again to how Vaughan Roberts puts it:

While their history proclaimed the failure of Israel, the prophets proclaim the future of Israel. They speak of good times ahead in terms of action replay: ‘Do you remember what it was like in the good old days under Moses, David and Solomon?' they ask. ‘Well, it will be like that again in the future, only much better.' There will be a new exodus, a new covenant, a new nation, a new Jerusalem, a new temple, a new king, and even a new creation. God will not rebuild the model, the partial kingdom, but he will establish that to which it pointed, the real thing, the perfect kingdom: God's people in God's place, under God's rule and enjoying his blessing. The prophets spoke of the ultimate fulfilment of all three of those kingdom promises (GBP, p. 95).

So what we're going to do now is simply to look at how the prophets prophesy the kingdom - what do the prophets say about the fulfilment of people, place and blessing. But here I'm going to give you two options for group work: you can either look at the prophets in Working it out or you can look at a particular passage in Thinking it through to try and apply all of this thinking. In Thinking it through we're really trying to see what difference this approach to the Bible's storyline makes to how we read and apply it.

1. Working it out ...

The prophesied kingdom

1. God's People

What are the different elements in the prophesies concerning God's people?

Isaiah 10:20-21

Isaiah 44:1-2; 49:3-5; 52:13 - 53:12

Isaiah 49:6; 60:1-3

2. God's Place

What are the different elements in the prophesies concerning God's place?

Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 36:33-36

Ezekiel 40 - 48

Isaiah 65:17-18

3. God's Rule/Blessing

What are the different elements in the prophesies concerning God's rule?

Jeremiah 31:31-33

Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 7:13-14

2. Thinking it through ...

The partial kingdom

You are preparing a Bible study on 1 Samuel 17 - the story of David & Goliath. You have 2 key starting points from the excellent book God's Big Picture (IVP) which you managed to get at half price and which you've been reading daily for weeks on end: (i) the Bible is about God's kingdom (people, place and rule) and (ii) the Bible is about Jesus (Luke 24).

How do these two things influence how you understand 1 Samuel 17 and apply it today?

Week 3 Summary


God's People

God's Place

God's Rule

The pattern of the kingdom

Adam & Eve


God's Word

The perished kingdom

Seth's line


Curse & judgement

The promised kingdom




The partial kingdom

Israel under Moses/Joshua

Canaan Tabernacle

Sinai Covenant

The prophesied kingdom

Remnant of Israel, servant, nations

Restored Land, New Temple, New Creation

New Covenant, New King

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