We’re in the midst of our sermon series titled “Jesus Stories.” The major theme of last week’s sermon was the value of the Kingdom of God. Let’s try to gain a better understanding of this important topic by identifying how the kingdom relates to the overarching story of the Bible. The key is, of course, the gospel.
We should begin with Jesus. Why? In the New Testament alone there are close to 120 references to the kingdom. The majority of those are from Jesus. And, Jesus directly ties the gospel (the specific message about his life, death, and resurrection) to the coming of the kingdom. He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). The coming of Jesus meant the coming of the kingdom. We might say it like this: The gospel is the good news that the kingdom has come!
Yet, there’s a very real sense in which the kingdom has not come. That’s pretty clear from the cursed world in which we live. Jesus confirms it by directing us to pray, “May your kingdom come!” (Matt. 6:10), as though it has yet to appear. What should we make of this?
It’s difficult to find a simple answer. The fact is, Jesus teaches both; the kingdom came when he did, and it’s coming again when he returns. How does this “already-not-yet” concept fit into the overarching story of the Bible?
Let’s start with two perspectives we can deduce from Jesus’ teaching. From a broad perspective, the gospel is the good news of God’s coming kingdom; it reveals the overall purpose and thrust of human history. From a specific perspective, the gospel is the message about Jesus Christ living perfectly, dying sacrificially, and overcoming death triumphantly; it reveals the nature of the kingdom, which is redemptive.
We must always keep the specific good news in context of the broad, and vice versa, because they inform one another. We wouldn’t know about the kingdom if it weren’t for Jesus; but, we also wouldn’t know the significance of Jesus without the kingdom. The thematic thrust of the biblical story is about revealing a specific Savior; but, it’s also about why that Savior is necessary. The “reason” for a Savior is found by looking at the unfolding revelation of God’s kingdom.
If we look at the overall story, a kingdom pattern emerges. First, there are three foundational points to this pattern to which Scripture directs: 1) God is Lord over everything; 2) his people are created to live before him as willing and loving subjects; and 3) the created environment is the place in which God relates to his people.
Then, building on those points:
1) The pattern of the kingdom is established in the Garden of Eden.
2) This pattern is broken when sin enters in.
3) The pattern is reestablished in salvation history in Israel but never fully realized.
4) The same pattern shapes the prophetic view of the future kingdom.
5) The pattern of the kingdom is perfectly established in Jesus in a representative way.
6) The pattern of the kingdom begins to be formed in the people of God through the gospel.
7) The pattern of the kingdom is consummated at Christ’s return.
If, “[The Bible] comprises a single story, telling us how the human race got into its present condition, and how God through Jesus Christ has come and will come to put things right,” then the kingdom is the thematic focus of the story. That is, the story centers around God’s kingdom, rather than centering around mankind. It’s about God setting up a pattern, and fulfilling that pattern through the life and work of Jesus.
You may remember our discussion from a previous blog post that the gospel is at the center of the grand story of the Bible, driving that story toward a redemptive end. Therefore, the coming of the kingdom is also the central unifying feature of the grand narrative. We see that Jesus’ pattern for the kingdom was established in order to usher in an actual kingdom—this is the resolution to the story.
This realized kingdom is the Christian hope. For us, it touches on past, present, and future. Jesus came and established his kingdom-pattern in the past; he is establishing his kingdom in his people now; and one day he will return to bring the kingdom physically to this earth, restoring Creation to its original splendor.
C. S. Lewis, master of imagery, penned this thought:
“And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
May we seek God’s kingdom above all else, and pray that it comes quickly.
 It may need to be noted that a main tenant of biblical theology is progressive revelation. This means the purpose of God’s kingdom was not realized and clarified to humankind until the coming of Christ. Only now can people look back in history and see the thrust of the story. The gospel is the key to understanding the story rightly, but it is only understood, or given purpose, in the context of the whole.
 Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 86.
 Ibid., 88.
 Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters (New York: Dutton, 2009), 37.
 See “The True Story of the Whole World,” posted on December 7, 2012, http://mercyhillgso.com/the-true-story-of-the-whole-world/.
 Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, 86.
 C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle, The Chronicles of Narnia (New York: HarperCollins), 767.