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The Covenantal Kingdom

by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith

Chapter Four


Introduction to Chapter Four

Eschatology is central to the entire Christian worldview. The debate over the millennium cannot be limited to a particular thousand-year period of history. Neither is it merely an argument over when Christ will return nor a dispute over the interpretation of Revelation and a few other Scriptures. Eschatology deals with the "end of all things" in relation to the process which leads up to the consummation of history. Eschatology deals with the final era of earth history as the conclusion to His story.[1]

What kind of plan would history reveal if the ending had no relation to the rest of the story? In a good story, everything is related to the end and builds up to the end. The beginning really is the "genesis" of what organically develops from a seed and, through the process of growth, becomes a great tree. In God's story of the redemption of the world -- the greatest story ever told -- the end does not just suddenly appear in the sky, unrelated to what has transpired on earth for centuries. It has a definite relation to and is indeed the culmination of history.

The Bible's story can be briefly summarized. It is the story of God's covenantal kingdom. In the first chapters of Genesis we are told of the creation of this kingdom. Then we learn of its ruin by His enemy who leads God's own human son, Adam, to betray Him. But God has a plan to save His covenantal kingdom. He will redeem it from evil and restore it to Himself. From the time of Adam, the history of the world centers in God's plan to provide salvation for His kingdom. When Christ the Messiah comes He recovers what was lost by Adam (Lk. 1:31-33). He wins the decisive victory over God's great enemy Satan (Jn. 12:31), binds the strong man, and proceeds to plunder his goods (Mt. 12:28-29). The rest of history is the story of the covenantal development of God's kingdom until God, by His grace and through His Spirit, accomplishes the purpose for which He originally created man (Gn. 1:26-28).[2]

The key to understanding the Biblical story of God's kingdom is the idea of the covenant. The plan of God, creation, the fall, redemption, the enthronement of the Messiah, and the progressive manifestation of God's saving power until the final end of history -- the entire teaching of the Bible -- is covenantal. The most important doctrine in the Bible for an understanding of God's eschatological kingdom is, therefore, the doctrine of the covenant. Ironically, covenant theologians often fail to emphasize this truth,[3] while dispensationalists, who consider themselves "non-covenantal" in their theology, base their whole eschatology on a misinterpretation of the covenant.[4]


1. "Properly to understand biblical eschatology, we must see it as an integral aspect of all of biblical revelation. Eschatology must not be thought of as something which is found only in, say, such Bible books as Daniel and Revelation, but as dominating and permeating the entire message of the Bible." Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 3.

2. See the extended development of the Biblical story in James Jordan's Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World (Brentwood, Tenn.: Wolgemuth & Hyatt).

3. Neither the amillennial covenant theologian Anthony Hoekema, nor the postmillennial theologian Loraine Boettner, for example, makes any significant use of the idea of the covenant in their discussion of Biblical eschatology. See: Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, and Boettner, The Millennium (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1957).

4. See, for just one example of many, Charles C. Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeau Brothers, 1953).

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