Book Review – Gospel and Kingdom

Straight up, I honestly don’t know where I got this book…but I’m glad I did.  I was looking for one more book to round out the year, by far my best reading year yet! [not counting mandatory seminary reading of course].  I’ve not read anything by the author before, so this was all new territory to me.

My sense was that Gospel and Kingdom was a well known classic that had escaped my radar, and that sense was confirmed. This is a very helpful book to help us understand the centrality of the gospel in the whole Bible, specifically, the Old Testament. [OT]


For any Christian, the question of what do make of the OT is a very prevalent one.  There are things in there that just defy our modern mindset of all sense – unless you understand we are dealing with God Almighty and see them as parts of His overall redemptive plan.

Not only that, but how does the OT apply to us today?  Goldsworthy has written this book to “bride the gap” from the ancient world to the modern man, to build a basic structure to confidently use the OT and the Bible as a whole. [9-10]

Namely, the OT is Scripture and Scripture points to Christ. As Christians, we will always be looking at the New Testament [NT] from the framework of the gospel and therefore we will be driven back to the OT for the gospel foundation of the NT.  Believe it or not, the gospel is alive and well in the OT.  The cross of Christ wasn’t a reaction to an experiment gone wrong.  God’s redemptive plan existed before time, and the OT is the foundation for the gospel made flesh in the NT with Jesus Christ.  [19]

I appreciated how the author brought us back to biblical facts, as opposed to more modern day feelings.  “The core of the gospel, the historical facts of what God did in Christ, if often down0graded today in favor of a more mystical emphasis on the private spiritual experience of the individual.”  [20]  Amazing that was written back in 1981, and that problem has only gotten exponentially worse in Evangelicalism.

So how does one bridge this gap between OT, NT and today?  Goldsworthy helps us by noting “we cannot simply transfer the experiences of the past wholesale to today. We can’t view the OT as a series of events in which to draw little moral lessons or examples for life.”  [25]  I’ve heard way too many moralistic talks on David and Goliath to sadly say this is how many teachers view the OT.

In order to get our arms a bit more around the OT, we need to understand more about what it is.  First, it is history. But not just history – theological history.  A record of God’s own dealings with the world and with men. [41]  The theology controls the writing of the history. the fact that God acts in the history of men and interprets his acts means that these historical events will form a pattern that relates to the purposes of God.  Biblical history is theological history. [42]

Specifically, the OT is the theological history of redemption.  Goldsworthy writes, “the key to the OT is not the part Israel plays, but the part God pays in redeeming a people from slavery and making them his own.” [46] This history is progressive, and incomplete without the NT, and it is to be interpreted.  There is a flow to this interpretation – we begin with the NT, for there we see Christ and believe. The NT then drives us back to the OT, because the OT is the basis of the gospel.  Then, and only then, we see that the NT establishes for us what the OT promises.  This is all fulfilled in Christ.  Indeed, then we can do the work of explaining and applying the OT to our life today.

In this redemption, there is a relationship and certain parameters that need to be clarified, and the author does that well.  God is king and man is his subject.  Man’s sin is his attempt to renounce his creature-hood and to assert his independence of God.  This is the Fall and is the break in the relationship between God and man.   God takes the initiative in restoring the relationship and does so by covenant – originally with Israel to be a people, a land and in relationship with God.  Every later expression of this relationship stems from the original covenant. [53]  The content of the covenant is the Kingdom of God – God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule.  The author then walks us through several kingdom perspectives in the OT.

First, the kingdom revealed in Eden.  God is the Creator and we are his created subjects, made in his image.  Yet, as mentioned, we rejected God’s authority over us for which we deserved judgment and instead Adam and Eve [we] received grace.

Next we see the kingdom revealed in Israel’s history.  God establishing a nation through Abraham, from which redemption would come.  We see again the themes of God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule – and all the ups and downs, and bumps and warts that went with it.  God always acting in faithfulness to his plan and his glory, while continuing to show lovingkindness to Israel and ultimately to us in Jesus.

The kingdom of God is also revealed in prophecy.  Not like the lame word-faith nonsense, but like the actual biblical prophets. This must be overlaid over the history of Israel – the old-order prophets, pointing to the Sinaitic covenant, the pre-exilic prophets, when Israel was invaded by Babylon and lost their land, and the exilic and post-exilic prophets who interpreted the failure of Israel’s kingdom and the hope of an eternal kingdom of God.   This “restored kingdom will be in the context of a new heaven and a new earth, and all this new creation of God will be permanent, perfect, and glorious.” [99]

This brings us to the kingdom revealed in Jesus Christ.  The gospel is a declaration of what God has done for us in Jesus for our salvation. [107] The unavoidable conclusion from the NT evidence is that the gospel fulfills the OT hope of the coming of the Kingdom of God. [108] Each of these kingdom expressions represent the same reality, but expresses it in a different and yet related way. [109]

This is then provides a foundation for how we can interpret the OT.  Each stratum has the same essential ingredients relating to the saving acts of God and the goal to which they lead. Each stratum prefigures the realities of the gospel. Each step is not only a movement in the chronological sequence of revelation, but is a movement in the process of making clearer the nature of God’s Kingdom until the full light of the gospel is revealed. [123]

The author then suggests a helpful method of interpretation, based on that kingdom foundation.  (1) Identify the way the text functions in the wider context of the kingdom stratum. (2) Proceed to the the same point in each succeeding stratum until the final reality in the gospel is reached. (3) Show how the gospel reality interprets the meaning of the text, at the same time, as showing how the gospel reality is illuminated by the text. [126]  The lesson of biblical theology is that no text stands alone, and the whole of scripture is it’s ultimate context. We have to be aware of that in our interpretations and not try and force the text to say something it really isn’t.

The author provides several OT examples of this interpretive method and concludes with a return to the rallying cry of not forsaking redemptive theological history for personal spiritual (mystical) experiences.  Again, I’m struck at how forward thinking this was back then and how painfully relevant it is now.  “The evangelical who sees the inward transforming work of the Spirit as the key element of Christianity will soon lose contact with the historical faith and the historical gospel.” [137]  We risk going astray when we make the Bible, and Christianity about us and our kingdom, and not about God and his.  We would do well to heed the warning and instruction in this helpful book!





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