Reflections On The Kingdom Of God -- By: Carl F. H. Henry

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 35:1 (Mar 1992)
Article: Reflections On The Kingdom Of God
Author: Carl F. H. Henry

Reflections On The Kingdom Of God

Carl F. H. Henry*

The OT depicts God as Israel’s superlative king and as sole sovereign of the universe and of history. Although it does not use the expression “kingdom of God,” the whole of reality distinct from God gains its meaning and worth in relation to God’s royal power and rule.

That God’s conscious will rules and overrules all existence is a theme that pervades the Scriptures. He is depicted not only as the King of heaven but also as “the King of all the earth” (Ps 47:7), “the King of all the peoples of the earth” (Dan 4:34), “King of the nations” (Jer 10:7). The NT refers to him as “the great King” (Matt 5:35), as “King of the ages” (Rev 15:3), as “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim 1:17) and as “the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (6:15).

The idea of God as King did not first arise as a reflex of Israel’s institution of a human king, because that development is depicted as an outrage that Yahweh at best tolerates. Generations earlier the Hebrews, when delivered from Egypt through the Red Sea, acknowledged that “the LORD is King for ever and ever” (Exod 15:18). Moses refers to Yahweh expressly as King (Deut 33:5). He that is worshiped in Zion is, in the words of Isaiah, judge of the whole world, including “the kings on the earth below” (Isa 24:21). The exodus presaged a future and even greater deliverance, one that would manifest the kingdom of God under the rule of the divine messianic representative (Isa 51:9–11; Hos 2:16–25).

The Bible nowhere settles for a merely general divine superintendency of the universe and of history. Everything is related to God’s concrete plan and purpose and dominion. At the same time one exaggerates the historical factualities if one thinks that Israel’s kings ruled without deviation in Yahweh’s stead and implemented a theocracy that wholly manifested the law of Yahweh in their own laws. God the King was indeed manifest in them, so that in a special sense these earthly rulers could even be called “gods” (John 10:34). But Yahweh wielded his own power over and a...

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