What ties the various (and seemingly disparate) writings of Scripture together into a cohesive whole called the Bible? A couple of things:
- Christians see God as the ultimate author. The scriptures are “God-breathed.”
- Despite the wide range of material that the Bible covers, it has one supreme subject: Jesus Christ.
Beyond these observations, though, is there any particular theme that unifies the various parts of the Bible?
Some scholars have concluded that there are many separate strands running through the pages of the Bible, but warn against trying to force everything into one specific mold.
Vaughan Roberts, following Graeme Goldsworthy, argues instead that there is such a unifying concept: the kingdom of God. If we define the kingdom of God broadly as “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing,” we can spot this concept without much difficulty throughout the Bible.
Roberts explains what the kingdom of God has looked like throughout the years of biblically recorded history. He begins with the Garden of Eden, and ends with the new heavens and new earth. By the end of the book, he has covered every major stage in between:
|God’s people||God’s place||God’s rule and blessing|
|The pattern of the kingdom||Adam and Eve||The garden||God’s word; perfect relationships|
|The perished kingdom||No-one||Banished||Disobedience and curse|
|The promised kingdom||Abraham’s descendants||Canaan||Blessing to Israel and the nations|
|The partial kingdom||The Israelites||Canaan (and Jerusalem and temple)||The law and the king|
|The prophesied kingdom||Remnant of Israel; inclusion of nations||New temple; new creation||New covenant; new king; great blessing|
|The present kingdom||Jesus Christ: new Adam; new Israel||Jesus Christ: true tabernacle; true temple||Jesus Christ: new covenant; rest|
|The proclaimed kingdom||The new Israel: Jew and Gentile believers in Christ||The individual believer; the church||New covenant; Holy Spirit|
|The perfected kingdom||Multi-national family of God||New creation, new Jerusalem, new temple||Throne of God and the Lamb; perfect blessing|
I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical at first of Roberts’ unifying theme. Forcing onto Scripture a structure that isn’t there struck me as unhelpful and unnecessary. But as I read his book, I realized that Roberts wasn’t really forcing his structure onto the Bible. The divisions do really seem to be there.
What we call the divisions is another matter. There are a couple of instances where I think Roberts sacrifices a bit of preciseness for memorability. That is, instead of using the most descriptive word for a heading, he opts for more memorable (i.e., alliterated) word.
I have no problem recommending this book. It seems to be well researched. It’s easy to follow. And it provides a good mental map of how the Scriptures tie together.