The Kingdom of God in Scripture by Scott Hahn Part 2

Lesson Four:

The Throne of David, His Father


Lesson Goals

  • To see how Luke emphasizes Jesus' lineage as Son of David in the infancy narrative.

  • To see how Jesus appears in public as the Son of David throughout Luke's Gospel.

  • To understand how, at the climax of Luke's Gospel, Jesus takes his place as heir to the kingdom of David.



1 Samuel 21:2-7

Psalm 2

Micah 5:1-3

Luke 1:68-79

Luke 6:1-5

Luke 19:29-40

Luke 22:24-30

Luke 23:35-38



Lesson Outline


I.        Born into the House of David

  • Luke the Master Painter
  • The City of David
  • Why Shepherds?


II.       The Public Career of the Son of David

  • The Baptism of Jesus
  • David and his Band of Men
  • The Chosen Son
  • Pity from the Son of David
  • The Triumph


III.      King of the Jews

  • The New Covenant
  • Kingdom Table
  • Reading Luke


IV.      Discussion Questions

Born into the House of David


Luke the Master Painter


In the previous lesson, we saw how Matthew firmly established Jesus as the Son of David, heir to all the Old Testament promises we looked at in Lesson 1. 


An ancient legend said that Luke was a skilled painter who painted a portrait from life of the Virgin Mary. The legend fits: where Matthew almost piles up evidence of Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and types, Luke makes his point with beautiful images.


Like Matthew, Luke begins by showing us that Jesus had the right genealogical credentials (see Luke 1:26-27).


He is careful to point out that Joseph was "of the house of David" (seeLuke 1:27). Joseph was Jesus' legal father; therefore, Jesus was of the house of David, as the prophets had foretold that the Christ would be.


But Luke gives us what Matthew and the other Gospel writers leave out: the story of the conception and birth of Jesus. He places this too firmly in the context of the Old Testament prophecies concerning God’s covenant with David.


Recall that through the prophet Nathan, God had promised David a dynasty – that his throne would be "firm forever," always ruled by a son, whom God himself would consider His son (see 2 Samuel 7:12-13).


In Luke's account of the Annunciation, Gabriel's words clearly echo and even quote from that promise: "the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever" (see Luke 1:32-33).


In other words, Luke is telling us that Jesus is the long-expected Son of David in whom God’s promise is finally fulfilled.


Even more startling in Nathan's prophecy was the promise that the Son of David would be considered Son of God (see 2 Samuel 7:14, and compare Psalm 2:7).


Again, Gabriel echoes the same language: the child, he says, "will be called Son of the Most High" - a common title for God in the Old Testament (see, for example, Genesis 14:18 and 2 Samuel 22:14, where the title is used by David himself).



The City of David


The nativity of John the Baptist takes up almost as much space in the beginning of Luke's Gospel as the nativity of Jesus Christ. Just as John the Baptist himself had the mission of preparing the way for the Christ, so Luke's story of John the Baptist's birth prepares us to understand who Christ is.


When his son John the Baptist was born, the priest Zechariah sang a hymn of praise to God, Who "has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old" (see Luke 1:68-70).


The horn is a common symbol of strength in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms (see, for example, Psalm 89:18 and Psalm 148:14). David himself called God, "the horn of my salvation" (see 2 Samuel 22:3).


Having told us exactly who the coming King is, Luke carefully locates His birth in Bethlehem.


Bethlehem, the birthplace of David, was where the prophet Samuel first found David and anointed him king of Israel (see 1 Samuel 16:4-13).


When a Roman enrollment sent every man to his home town (see Luke 2:1-3), Mary had to go to Bethlehem with her husband Joseph - "because," as Luke is careful to remind us, "he was of the house and family of David" (see Luke 2:4).


But Bethlehem was more than an ancestral marker for Luke and his audience. The prophet Micah had predicted the birth of a future king in Bethlehem - and something far greater, a child "whose origin is from of old" (see Micah 5:1-3; compare the "Ancient One" in Daniel 7:9 and 7:13).


The familiar picture of the Nativity that Luke paints for us is exactly what the prophet Micah foresaw: a divine King born in Bethlehem and his mother.



Why Shepherds?


Micah also sees the coming King as a "shepherd" - another allusion to David, who a shepherd in the countryside around Bethlehem (see 1 Samuel 16:11).


So as soon as Jesus is born, Luke, the master painter, shows us a field full of shepherds.


This, too, may be a reference designed to stir the hopes of Luke’s readers.


The Lord was Israel’s “shepherd” (see Psalm 23:1 and Psalm 80:2). And God had promised, through the prophet Ezekiel, that He himself would punish Israel’s false shepherds – the rulers and teachers - and replace them with a good shepherd, a new David (see Ezekiel 34), who would gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel.


How fitting then, that the shepherds heard the good news first! Once again, Luke does not speak this directly, but uses evocative language from the Old Testament to show us that the Good Shepherd had arrived.



The Public Career of the Son of David


The Baptism of Jesus


The public career of Jesus began with His baptism - an event that Luke again paints in obviously Davidic colors.


When John baptized Jesus in the Jordan, "a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased' " (see Luke 3:22). The words are intended to remind us of Psalm 2:7 - words originally understood to refer to the Davidic king of Israel.


In case we don't get the point, Luke immediately follows the story of Jesus' baptism with the genealogy of Jesus (see Luke 3:23-38). It's somewhat different from Matthew's (see Matthew 1:1-16), but it agrees with Matthew's in the essential particular: Jesus comes from the line of David (see Luke 3:31).


Luke goes farther back than Matthew did: he carries Jesus' line back through "Adam, the son of God" (see Luke 3:38). In other words, the real founder of the family is God himself. This too may be a subtle confirmation of the prophecy made to David – Jesus, a son of David, like his ancester Adam, is a son of God.



David and his Band of Men


As Jesus' ministry progresses, Luke stresses how much Jesus looks like David. For example, when Jesus' hungry disciples picked a few ears of grain on the Sabbath, the ever-vigilant Pharisees accused them of breaking the law. Jesus responded by telling a story about David.


He recalls the time when David, who had been chosen by God and anointed as Israel’s true king, was on the run from King Saul, who had been rejected by God. Saul, jealous of David and desperate to retain the throne, was out to kill him. With only a small band of faithful followers by his side, David was constantly on the run.


This was the background to the story Jesus recalls - of how David once entered the house of God and "took the bread of offering," sharing it with his companions, even though only the priests were permitted to eat it (seeLuke 6:3-4 and 1 Samuel 21:2-7).


In comparing himself to David, Jesus seems to be deliberately drawing parallels between his situations.


Like David, Jesus is the rightful, God-anointed heir of Israel’s throne. He has even been baptized – which causes the Spirit to come upon Him as it rushed about David (see 1 Samuel 16:12-14).


He, too, is on the run, with only a small band of faithful disciples by his side. And, He seems to say, like Saul, the Pharisees and their allies might rule Israel for now, but their days were numbered.


The Chosen Son


Even geography is used by Luke to signal the Davidic pedigree of Jesus.


To see this, we have to remember the sequence of events by which David’s kingdom was destroyed. The Assyrians first struck in Galilee (see2 Kings 15:29), finally capturing Samaria, the northern portion of the kingdom (see 2 Kings 17:1-6). Then, ultimately, the southern portion, Judah, fell to the Babylonians (see 2 Kings 24:10-15).


Now notice some of the geographic details in Luke's account.


Jesus' ministry begins in Galilee (see Luke 4:14), moves to Samaria (seeLuke 9:51), and finally reaches Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, where a great mob welcomes Jesus as the promised King (see Luke 19:28).


What’s Luke doing here? He is subtly painting a picture, showing Jesus undoing the destruction of Israel, restoring the kingdom in the order in which it was originally destroyed.


Near the end of Jesus' ministry, Luke shows us Jesus transfigured.


The Transfiguration (see Luke 9:28-36), is another vivid picture for Luke of Jesus’ divine and Davidic sonship.


Note that the voice from the cloud reaffirms what the voice had proclaimed at Jesus' baptism: "This is my chosen Son; listen to him" (seeLuke 9:35).


The scene evokes Moses, and Moses himself is there to emphasize the association. The words "listen to him" recall the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15: that a "prophet like me" will come, and the people will "listen" to him.


By showing us Jesus glorified with Moses and Elijah, the two greatest prophets of the Old Testament, Luke shows us that Jesus is indeed the prophet like Moses who was to come.


But the words from the cloud also bring to mind Psalm 2 and Psalm 89 - both of which refer to the Davidic king as Son of God.


At the same time, the voice from the cloud proclaims Him more than a prophet: he is the Chosen One, the Son of God - titles that belong to the rightful King of Israel (see Psalm 89:4).


Pity from the Son of David


By the time He gets to Jerusalem, even the blind can see what Luke wants his readers to see – that Jesus is the son of David (see Luke 18:38).


But there is more the scene of the healing of the blind man on the way to Jerusalem.


If the Son of David is on His way to Jerusalem, it can only be for one purpose: to take his rightful throne as King of Israel, and to make Jerusalem his capital - just as David did.


Recall that in David’s time, Jerusalem was the last part of Israel to be conquered. The Jebusites who held it were sure their defenses were impenetrable - so sure that they taunted David: "The blind and the lame will drive you away" (see 2 Samuel 5:6).


But this time, as David’s son approaches Jerusalem, it is the blind and the lame who welcome him.



The Triumph


And Jesus even enters the city exactly the way the Son of David ought to enter.


When Solomon, the prototypical Son of David, was crowned king, he entered Jerusalem riding on a mule, and the shouts of the people could be heard in the distant hills (see 1 Kings 1:38-40).


The prophet Zechariah saw the future King coming the same way: "a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass" (see Zechariah 9:9).


This is exactly the scene Luke shows us: the King coming into Jerusalem meekly mounted on a colt (see Luke 19:29-40), with the people shouting so that the hills resound with their joy.


"Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord," Jesus' followers shout (see Luke 19:38). The words are from Psalm 118, which is probably a processional liturgy for a kingly triumph.


But Luke's account adds one important word that does not appear in the original Psalm. So that no one could possibly miss the significance of the occasion, Jesus' followers explicitly hail Jesus as King.



King of the Jews


The New Covenant


After David had conquered Jerusalem and established himself there, God established His covenant with David (see 2 Samuel 7).


And with the Son of David established in Jerusalem as King, Luke shows us that it is time for the New Covenant (see Luke 22:20).


The words "new covenant" used in Jesus’ last supper with His disciples, recall the promises of Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 31:31-34).


The day would one day come, Jeremiah had said, when "a righteous shoot to David" (see Jeremiah 23:5) would restore the kingdom to Israel and announce a new covenant.


This is what Jesus announces at the Last Supper.


Clearly, then, the New Covenant that Jeremiah prophesied and Jesus proclaims is not a completely new departure. Instead, it is a renewal of the covenant with David, which is now transformed into something even greater.


And Luke paints the Last Supper as a royal banquet, with Jesus taking his place as King of Israel.



Kingdom Table

The kingdom of David had ministers and governors who sat on thrones at court.


So, too, Jesus says to His ministers and governors, the disciples: "I confer a kingdom on you" (see Luke 22:29).


The word we translate as "confer" is the same Greek word used for "covenant" in the Greek translation of the Old Testament that Luke was familiar with. In Luke's account, the act is more than simply conferring: it is a covenant.


Just as God made a covenant with David, so God the Father makes a covenant with God the Son, and God the Son makes a covenant with His followers.


What Jesus shows us is a perfect picture of the ideal Davidic kingdom, with all the original twelve tribes that made up the Davidic kingdom are gathered together and reunited at the original capital Jerusalem.


It is a grand picture. Jesus, the King, enthroned with twelve ministers, ruling the twelve tribes of the restored Israel.


In fact, the very words of the Last Supper account remind us of the description of Jerusalem at peace in Psalm 122: the tribes all gathered together to give thanks to the Lord, and above them "the thrones of the house of David" (see Psalm 122:4-5).



Reading Luke


Finally, in Luke’s account of the Passion, the list of Davidic titles begins to pile up. Notice that in these final chapters of the Gospel, Jesus is repeatedly called:

The Christ (or Anointed One) of God

The Chosen One

The King of the Jews


The irony, which Luke certainly means for us to see, is that these titles were all hurled as insults as Jesus was dying on the cross (see Luke 23:35-38).


There was even a sign on the cross itself: "This is the King of the Jews." It must have been very funny to the Roman soldiers in charge.


But in fact that sign, placed there in mockery, spoke the truth that Luke has been showing us throughout the book.


All those titles really did belong to Jesus, because He really was the promised Son of David: the Christ, the Chosen One, the King of the Jews.


After He rose from the dead, he appeared to many of the believers. Luke records two of those appearances in detail, and in both of them the message is the same: the prophets had already told us that the Son of David would suffer these things and be raised from the dead.


On the road to Emmaus, two of Jesus' followers meet Him, but do not recognize Him. When they tell him the story of what happened to their Master, He explains everything that happened by interpreting Moses and the prophets (see Luke 24:13-35).


Likewise when He appears to the remaining eleven apostles, He explains that everything happened to fulfill what was written in "Moses and the prophets and the psalms" (see Luke 24:36-49)


The things that happened to the Christ (that is, the Messiah, the Anointed One) were exactly what the prophets had foretold would happen to Him.


That is what Luke's vivid images show us over and over throughout his Gospel: Jesus perfectly fulfilled everything that was expected of the Son of David:


That sign on the cross only proclaimed what all the signs before had already made clear: "This is the King of the Jews."



Discussion Questions

  • Why was it important to Luke to point out that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem?

  • Why were shepherds the first people to hear that the Christ had been born?

  • When the Pharisees rebuke His disciples for picking grain on the Sabbath, Jesus compares himself to David. In what ways does Jesus' situation resemble David's?

  • What is significant about the geographical course of Jesus' ministry in Luke?

  • Whose coronation did Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem resemble?

  • According to Jesus, what is the difference between the kingdoms of the Gentiles and His own Kingdom?

  • What sign was posted on the cross when Jesus was crucified?

  • What did Jesus explain to His followers in both the post-resurrection appearances recounted in Luke's Gospel?


For personal reflection:


Are we "foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke" (see Luke 24:25)? What can we learn from Jesus' own interpretation of the Old Testament Scriptures?


Lesson Five
The Spread of the Kingdom in Acts


Lesson Goals 


  • To understand how Jesus' parting words to His disciples form a map of the ideal Davidic kingdom

  • To see how the structure of the Acts of the Apostles follows that map

  • To see how Luke paints the nascent Church as the Davidic kingdom perfectly restored



Psalm 89:39-52

Luke 22:28-32

Acts 1-2

Acts 13:14-42


Lesson Outline


I.       The Mission

  • The Argument of the Book
  • The Ideal Kingdom
  • The Promise Forgotten?


II.      The Kingdom Restored

  • The Structure of the Book
  • Enthroned in Heaven
  • Twelve Thrones
  • The Prime Minister


III.      The Good News

  • Peter's First Sermon
  • The Dispersion Reversed
  • Preaching the Kingdom Restored
  • The Ends of the Earth


IV.     Discussion Questions

The Mission


The Argument of the Book


In the previous lesson, we saw how Luke's Gospel painted a picture of Jesus Christ as the perfect Son of David, King of Israel.


After writing the story of Jesus' life, Luke turned to the sequel: the establishment of Christ's Church in the world. We call this second book the Acts of the Apostles.


Since in his Gospel Luke had painted Christ as the perfect fulfillment of the Davidic king, in Acts Luke naturally paints the Church as the perfect fulfillment of the Davidic kingdom. The Kingdom will be the theme of the book - a theme laid out by Christ himself.


It will also be the key to the message the Apostles have to bring to the world - the message that the Church is built on. And to spread that message, the Apostles need some preparation.


The kingdom theme begins almost immediately in Acts. For forty days after the Resurrection, Luke tells us, Jesus taught his disciples about the Kingdom (see Acts 1:3).


"Lord," his disciples ask him, "are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (see Acts 1:6).


Perhaps they still expect something mundane from the Kingdom - something that involves expelling the Romans and setting up an Israelite civil authority. Or perhaps, after all Jesus' teaching, they are beginning to understand that the Kingdom Jesus proclaims "does not belong to this world" (see John 18:36).


But Jesus does not give them an answer. It is not their business to know exactly when things would happen, he tells them. They will "receive power" when the Holy Spirit comes. As for when the Kingdom will be restored - that is what they will spend the rest of the book finding out.


What He does tell them is that it will be their business to restore the Kingdom. They will be His witnesses


  • in Jerusalem,

  • throughout Judea

  • and Samaria,

  • and to the ends of the earth (see Acts 1:8).


As we'll see, this forms a kind of program for the whole book. Just as Jesus said, the spread of the Gospel begins in Jerusalem, then moves to Judea and Samaria, and then to the rest of the world.


But more than that, it's also a map of the ideal Davidic kingdom - the kingdom that was promised to the Son of David, but was never fully realized until the coming of Christ.



The Ideal Kingdom


After David had made Jerusalem his capital (see 2 Samuel 5:6-10), he contemplated building a temple to God (see 2 Samuel 7:1-3). But the prophet Nathan brought him an amazing message.


David would not build a temple (see 2 Samuel 7:4-7): that work would be left for his son (see 2 Samuel 7:12-13). But God promised him a greater destiny than he had ever dreamed of.


Instead of David building a house for God, God would build a house for David (see 2 Samuel 7:11). That is, He would promise David that his son would rule after him, and the kingdom of the sons of David would be established forever (see 2 Samuel 7:16).


Psalm 89 puts the covenant with David in poetic terms. The Davidic king will be "Most High over the kings of the earth," God has promised (see Psalm 89:28), and his throne will last as long as the sun and moon (see Psalm 89:37-38).


For a while it had looked as though the promise would be fulfilled very quickly. David himself ruled over Judah (the Judea of the New Testament) and Israel (the Samaria and Galilee of the New Testament), and he conquered large outside territories (see 2 Samuel 8:1-13, 10:6-19). His son Solomon ruled over a considerable empire (see 1 Kings 4:21-24).



The Promise Forgotten?


Yet in Psalm 89 the psalmist wrote almost in despair. Things were going very badly for the kingdom (see Psalm 89:39-46). God seemed to have forgotten His promise (see Psalm 89:50). Instead of an exalted position higher than all other kings, the Lord's Anointed bore the insults of all the nations (see Psalm 89:51-52).


The ideal and the reality seemed to be poles apart. God had promised an eternal kingdom to rule over all the kings of the earth; instead, David's descendants ruled over a tiny buffer state that was constantly in danger of being overrun by the mighty empires around it (see, for a few examples, 2 Chronicles 32:1-19, 2 Chronicles 33:11, 2 Chronicles 36:3-4).


Bit by bit, the sons of David lost everything: the outside territories (see 1 Kings 11:14-25), Israel when the northern tribes rebelled (see 2 Chronicles 10:16-19), then most of Judah, until finally the son of David was shut up in Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 25:1-3). Finally, Jerusalem itself fell (see 2 Kings 25:4-10).


David's kingdom had collapsed like an old hut. Yet it would not lie collapsed forever (see Amos 9:11).


The prophets foretold the destruction of Israel (see, for example, Isaiah 3:1, Jeremiah 15:1-4), and their prophecies came true. But they also foretold a time when the kingdom would be restored.


Isaiah foresaw a time when all the earth would acknowledge the God of Israel (see Isaiah 45:22). Israel would return from exile (see Isaiah 48:20-21). The King of Israel really would rule to the ends of the earth (see Isaiah 49:6-7).


With this history in front of us, we can see now what Jesus had commanded the Apostles to do. He had sent them to restore the kingdom: starting in Jerusalem, then taking back Judah, then Israel, then the ends of the earth, undoing all the destruction since the death of Solomon, until the promise to David was fulfilled completely, as the prophets had foretold that - against all odds - it must be (see, for example, Isaiah 2:1-4,Amos 9:11-12, Zechariah 14:16).


That is exactly what Luke will show the Apostles doing in the rest of the book.



The Kingdom Restored


The Structure of the Book


We can see the pattern first of all in the outline of the book.


Acts begins in Jerusalem (see Acts 1-7).


With the death of Stephen and the ensuing persecution, the Gospel spreads throughout Judea and Samaria (see Acts 8).


With the conversion of Paul (see Acts 9), the scene moves for a time to Damascus - part of David's conquered territory outside Israel (see 2 Samuel 8:6).


Then, with Peter's visit to Cornelius and Peter's vision of the clean and unclean foods (see Acts 10:1-33), the mission to the Gentiles begins in earnest (see Acts 10:34-48).


From there, the Gospel spreads to the great city of Antioch (see Acts 11:19-30), then to Cyprus (see Acts 13:4-13), to Asia Minor (see Acts 13:14-14:28), to Greece (see Acts 16-20), and finally to Rome itself (see Acts 27-28).


Rome was the capital of the Empire that covered most of the known world. In that way, Rome could truly be called the ends of the earth.


Thus the outline of the book itself shows the Apostles restoring the ideal Davidic kingdom in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, following the mandate of Christ himself at the beginning of the book (see Acts 1:8).


In fact, the book itself on a large scale, like Jesus' commission, is a map of the ideal Davidic kingdom, now coming to life in the spread of the Church.



Enthroned in Heaven


As soon as Jesus gives his last orders to the disciples, He is "lifted up" into heaven (see Acts 1:9). As Mark tells us, He is enthroned "at the right hand of God" (see Mark 16:19, and compare Acts 7:55-56).


Luke shows us the divine enthronement of Jesus with an instantly recognizable image: "a cloud took him from their sight" (see Acts 1:9). Throughout the Bible, a cloud is the visible sign of God's presence, hiding the blinding glory of divinity (see, for example, Exodus 13:21, Exodus 16:10, Exodus 40:34, Leviticus 16:2, Numbers 11:25, Isaiah 19:1,Matthew 17:5).


The vision reminds us in particular of the "Son of Man" in Daniel, who is carried to the Ancient One on a cloud (see Daniel 7:13).


Like God the Father, Jesus - God the Son - is now hidden from sight by a cloud. But the heavenly Kingdom has not disappeared from the earth. On the contrary, it is only beginning.



Twelve Thrones


If the true Davidic kingdom was to be restored, that would have to mean all twelve tribes, the descendants of the sons of Jacob (see Genesis 49), united under the King of Israel.


That was what the prophets had foretold: Judah (the tribe that had been loyal to the sons of David) and Ephraim (the prophets' name for Israel, the kingdom of the northern tribes) would be united again under the Son of David (see, for example, Ezekiel 37:15-28).


We remember from the previous lesson how Jesus had given His Apostles "thrones" from which they would judge the twelve tribes of Israel (see Luke 22:30), echoing the description of Jerusalem at peace in Psalm 122: the tribes all gathered together to give thanks to the Lord, and above them "the thrones of the house of David" (see Psalm 122:4-5).


The problem was that there were only eleven Apostles now. Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus (see Luke 22:47-48), had killed himself in despair (see Matthew 27:3-5, Acts 1:16-19).


Peter told the rest that it was necessary for them to have another "witness" to carry on in Judas's place (see Acts 1:21-22), quoting two psalms that curse the enemies of God (see Acts 1:20; the quotations are from Psalm 69:26 and Psalm 109:8).


Matthias was chosen, and from that point on he was numbered among the Twelve (see Acts 1:23-26).


Twelve tribes, twelve thrones: it was necessary to establish the Kingdom properly from the beginning.



The Prime Minister


The Twelve thus took their positions as the King's ministers. Just as David and his successors had had ministers to sit on thrones and judge the people (see, for example, 1 Kings 4:1-19, and compare Psalm 122:4-5), so Jesus, the ideal Davidic King, would have His ministers.


And just as in the original Davidic kingdom, one of those ministers would be the leader of the rest.


David had Joab (see 1 Chronicles 11:6), and every one of his successors had what we today would call a prime minister.


Following that pattern, we see that Jesus, too, had a prime minister.


As soon as He told His disciples that they would sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (see Luke 22:28-30), Jesus turned to Simon Peter and told him that he must strengthen the others (see Luke 22:31-32).


Peter was the "Rock" (which is what the name Peter means) on which Jesus had promised to build His Church (see Matthew 16:18).


All the Apostles were Jesus' ministers, but Simon Peter was the prime minister.


Now we see Peter exercising that authority. It is Peter who announces to the Twelve and the rest of the church in Jerusalem that Judas must be replaced (see Acts 1:15-22), and his decision is accepted without debate (see Acts 1:23-28).


We see him acting as the unquestioned leader at Pentecost, too, when he speaks for all the Apostles in front of the astonished crowds (see Acts 2:14).


Peter speaks for them again before the leaders of the people and the priests (see Acts 4:8). He exercises a healing power like Christ's (see Acts 3:1-12), pronounces God's judgment on Anananias and Sapphira (see Acts 5:1-11), and gains such a reputation that people line up just to be touched by his shadow (see Acts 5:15).


Finally, it is Peter whose word determines the whole future course of the Kingdom on earth. When some converted Pharisees have argued that Christians are bound by the whole law (see Acts 15:5), Peter is the one who interprets the will of God for the rest of the Apostles (see Acts 15:7-11).


James, summarizing the decision of the Apostles, refers to Amos's prophecy about the fallen hut, in which the restoration of the Davidic kingdom comes about so that the rest of the world may also come to God (see Acts 15:14-18).


A kingdom that includes "the rest of humanity" is what God had promised through the Prophets, and the mission of the Church is to be the fulfillment of that promise.


Luke leaves us in no doubt whatsoever: Peter has taken over as leader of the Twelve, just as Jesus had ordained. He interprets the will of God, and he decides the course of the whole Church.


But Peter is only the first among the ministers of the Kingdom. Jesus, as Peter himself will tell us, is still the King.



The Good News


Peter's First Sermon


At Pentecost, Peter's address to the crowd had one central message: the kingdom promised to David had finally arrived, with Jesus Christ as the King.


Peter quoted from David's own words in Psalm 16, where David says that God will not allow His Holy One to see corruption (see Acts 2:27, quoting from Psalm 16:10).


Now David, Peter argued, is dead and buried, and everyone knows where his tomb is (see Acts 2:29).


Therefore, David could not have been speaking about himself. Instead, as a prophet, he foresaw the coming of Christ, who would rise from the dead and sit on the throne of David (see Acts 2:30-31). Christ sits at the right hand of God, just as David had prophesied (see Acts 2:33-34).


The Dispersion Reversed


The result of Peter's sermon was amazing: three thousand people baptized in a single day (see Acts 2:41).


Even more significant was the variety of people who heard the Good News. Pentecost was an important festival in the Jewish calendar, and Jerusalem had filled up with "devout Jews from every nation under heaven" (see Acts 2:5).


There were "Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs" (see Acts 2:9-11).


This is nothing short of a verbal map of the known world, both inside and outside the Roman Empire. From Rome in the west to Parthia (a giant empire that included large parts of India) in the east, from Pontus in the north to Egypt and Arabia in the south, the people of God had come back together to acknowledge Jesus Christ as their King.


All the nations had Jewish populations because, after Israel and Judah were conquered, the Jews had been dispersed throughout the world.


Now "devout Jews" from everywhere in the Dispersion had heard and accepted the message Peter brought them: the message that the Kingdom was restored, and that the perfect King prophesied long ago was now reigning.


In this scene, Luke paints a picture of Israel reunited under Christ as king. It is the news that the Son of David, the Lord's Anointed, the perfect Davidic King, has begun his reign that persuades three thousand people to accept Christian baptism.



Preaching the Kingdom Restored


The Kingdom is restored! This is the message the first Christians preach again and again throughout the book. It is always the Apostles' most effective message. The news that the Kingdom had been restored is what brings thousands of souls into the Kingdom.


Peter's first sermon sets the tone. After the Church is scattered from Jerusalem (see Acts 8:1), Philip preaches the Kingdom in Samaria (see Acts 8:12).


Paul's sermon in Antioch of Pisidia (see Acts 13:14-42) has the same theme as Peter's first sermon, and even quotes some of the same texts from Scripture.


Paul gives a brief summary of salvation history, from the Exodus to David (see Acts 13:17-22), and then announces that Jesus Christ was the promised Son of David who came to save Israel (see Acts 13:23).


He backs up his declaration with quotations from the Psalms (see Acts 13:33Psalm 2:7; Acts 13:35 Psalm 16:10) and the prophets (see Acts 13:34 Isaiah 55:3; Acts 13:41; Habakkuk 1:5).


Paul even makes the same argument that Peter did: that David died and was buried, so the promises could not have been for him (see Acts 13:36); instead, it was Jesus Christ in whom the promises were fulfilled (see Acts 13:37).


Once again, the message is received with enthusiasm, and many of the people who heard it are persuaded (see Acts 13:42-43) - especially among the Gentile "god-fearers" who believe in the True God but have not been circumcised.


Paul preaches the same news about the Kingdom all through Asia (see Acts 19:8-10, Acts 20:25).


When the newly converted Christians are suffering trials, it does not cause them to doubt the news of the Kingdom. Instead, the news of the Kingdom is what comforts and strengthens them (see Acts 14:22).


Not only are the dispersed Israelites being reunited under their true King, but His dominion is also being extended to all the nations of the earth, as God had promised the Son of David (see Psalm 89:28)



The Ends of the Earth


As a narrative, the Acts of the Apostles seems to end abruptly. Indeed, it may well have stopped at what for Luke was the present time.


Paul is in prison - really more of a house arrest (see Acts 28:16) in Rome. He had appealed to the Emperor (see Acts 25:10-12), which was the right of a Roman citizen, a privilege into which Paul was born (see Acts 22:25-29).


We do not know what happens to Paul after that - which seems a very strange lack of resolution by modern narrative standards.


But when we look at the structure of the book, we see that Luke has perfectly completed his program.


Jesus had told His followers that they would be His witnesses "in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (see Acts 1:8).


Now, having stopped at all the points between, here we are at the ends of the earth: Rome, the capital of the world.


Here Paul spends his time teaching anyone who will listen about the Kingdom (see Acts 28:23)


In fact, our very last glimpse of Paul, and Luke's very last words to us, show him still proclaiming the Kingdom. The Acts of the Apostles ends with the news about the Kingdom still ringing in our ears.


The reason we don't know what happens to Paul is this: it makes no difference. That is not the point of the book. The point is that the mission is accomplished. Paul has reached Rome, preaching the Gospel to the ends of the earth.


The Kingdom is restored, and whatever happens to Paul will not change that. Christ the King reigns, Most High over all the kings of the earth. He rules a Kingdom not built on conquest but on persuasion; not held together by force but by love. It is a kingdom infinitely more glorious than Solomon's (compare Matthew 12:42), and it will last forever.



Discussion Questions


  • At the beginning of Acts, who states the argument or program for the whole book?

  • According to the covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7, how long would the Davidic kingdom last?

  • Jesus chose twelve Apostles, and Peter declared that a replacement for Judas was necessary to fill out the number. Why was the number twelve significant?

  • What position did Peter occupy in the newly restored kingdom?

  • What was the theme of Peter's first sermon?

  • Why is it important for us to know where the people in the crowd at Pentecost came from?

  • Why does Luke end his narrative with Paul preaching in Rome?


For personal reflection:


Christ reigns as "Most High over all the kings of the earth." What does that mean for the way we live every day? Is Christ King over everything in our lives, or are there parts of our daily routine where we refuse to acknowledge Christ as supreme?

Lesson Six
'The Key of David': Church and Kingdom in the New Testament
Lesson Goals 

  • To understand the characteristics and identity of the kingdom of God as it is portrayed in the New Testament epistles and the Book of Revelation.  

  • To see how the Church is identified with the kingdom in the New Testament. 

  • To understand how the Church, as it is portrayed in the New Testament, bears the characteristics of the Davidic kingdom.


1 Corinthians 15:24-50
Hebrews 12:18-29
Revelation 1:5-6
Revelation 21:9-13

Lesson Outline
I.      Kingdom and Church
        • Review and Overview
        • The Beloved Son 

II.     The Covenants of Promise 
        • The First-Born
         Kingdom of Priests 
III.    The Key of David
        • The Light to the Nations
         Davidic Kingdom Restored
         The Kingdom Come
Discussion Questions

Kingdom and Church

Review and Overview 

In our first five lessons, we've explored in a detailed way the Old Testament's understanding of the kingdom of God and its significance to the overall narrative unity and meaning of the Bible. 

We've also undertaken a close examination of the gospels of Matthew and Luke, as well as the Book of Acts, in order to consider how the kingdom was understood in the preaching of Jesus and in the proclamation of the apostolic Church. 

In this final lesson, we want to look at the kingdom theme as found in the remainder of the New Testament writings. 

It's true that outside of the synoptic gospels and Acts, explicit references to the kingdom of God are sparse. However, it is clear that these New Testament writings share the same presumption that the kingdom proclaimed by Christ is the restoration of the everlasting kingdom promised by God to the son of David (see 2 Samuel 7). 

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus himself is designated as the messianic offspring promised to David (see Romans 1:3; Revelation 5:5,22:16; Sirach 47:2). Hebrews applies a messianic psalm to Christ, identifying Him as David's anointed son whose kingdom will last forever (see Hebrews 1:8-9; Psalm 45:6-7). 

Christ's resurrection and ascension are described as a heavenly enthronement at God's right hand. In this, Christ is shown to fulfill the messianic promise of Psalm 110:1 (see Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:13). 

He is depicted as ruling from heaven over a restored Davidic kingdom - a kingdom that embraces both Jews and Gentiles (see Ephesians 3:6;2:18-19). 

Christ is said to have dominion and authority over both "those in heaven and on earth" (see Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:18). Furthermore, his rule is for all ages - "not only in this age but also in the age to come" (see Ephesians 1:20-21; Revelation 1:5; 2 Peter 1:11).

The Beloved Son

The core of Christ's gospel - the proclamation of the kingdom - underlies the New Testament writings, even if the term "kingdom" itself is only infrequently used. And in these writings, we're given a richer and fuller understanding of the identity and characteristics of the kingdom. 

The kingdom is closely associated and, in a certain way, identified with the Church. 

Colossians, for instance, uses language that hearkens back to the exodus to describe the salvation that comes in the Church: "He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption" (see Colossians 1:13). 

This passage introduces Colossians' great hymn to the beloved Son, who is described as "the head of . . . the Church" (see Colossians 1:18). 

Thus, the kingdom of the beloved Son and the Church seem to be very nearly identical in the mind of Paul. 

In Ephesians, too, it seems that the terms "Church" and "kingdom" are used almost interchangeably. Jesus is called the head of the Church (see Ephesians 1:22; 5:23) and His dominion is described as "the kingdom of Christ and of God" (see Ephesians 5:5). 

The Covenants of Promise

The First-Born

We find a further association of kingdom and Church in the family imagery used to describe the New Testament community. This imagery shows the early Church seeing deep ties between the covenants of Israel's salvation history and the sacraments of the Church.

Jesus is described frequently as God's "first born" (see Luke 2:7; Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, 18) - a designation that evokes a key theme in God's relationship with Israel. 

God named Israel His first-born son among the nations (see Exodus 4:22;Deuteronomy 32:6; Hosea 11:1; Sirach 36:11). 

This "primogeniture" was closely related to Israel's covenant mission as a "kingdom of priests" (see Exodus 19:6) - to be mediators of the knowledge and true worship of the living God to its "brother" nations.

In His covenant with David, God deepened this identification of Israel's first-born and priestly stature and its mission to reign over all nations - swearing that David's son would be His son, "the first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth," and a "priest forever" (see 2 Samuel 7:12-14;Psalm 2:7; 89:27-29; 110:4; John 7:42). 

In the New Testament, these promises are directly applied to Jesus (see Hebrews 1:5-6; 7:21; Revelation 1:5). Jesus, through His death and resurrection, becomes "the firstborn" of "many children" (see Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:10-13). 

The kingdom is frequently described in the New Testament epistles as an "inheritance" (see Ephesians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 15:20; Galatians 5:21; Colossians 1:12). This inheritance is claimed through faith in the gospel, a faith that finds expression in the sacrament of baptism. 

In the only use of "kingdom" language in John's gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus that entry into the kingdom of God means being begotten by water and the Spirit (see John 3:3,5).

Baptism is how one enters the kingdom and how one enters the Church. Again we see a presumption of the near identity of Church and kingdom.

Through baptism, believers come to share in the national history of Israel, which is also the history of salvation. They become "sharers in the covenants of promise" that God made to Israel (see Ephesians 2:12). 

In particular, they become heirs to the family of God, according to the promise made to Abraham - that through Abraham's descendants all the nations of the world would be blessed (see Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29)

As we looked at in detail in our first lesson, all of Israel's history, including the exodus from Egypt, the covenant made at Sinai, and the establishment of the monarchy under David, can be seen as partial fulfillments of God's covenant with Abraham. 

The ultimate fulfillment of that covenant comes in the blood of Jesus, by which believers are made "children of Abraham" (see Galatians 3:7-9) and "children of God" through the working of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 3:26; 4:6-7). 

The kingdom, then, is understood in a certain sense as a family of God, in which believers are called to conduct themselves worthily as God's children (see 1 Thessalonians 2:12). 

Kingdom of Priests

Here again, we see a tight connection between the early Christian notions of Church and kingdom. The Church, made up of royal sons and daughters of God, Jewish and Gentile, is the new, and true Israel of God (see Galatians 6:16). 

In this, the Church fulfills the original commission and identity given to Israel in the covenant at Sinai. There, God established Israel as a "kingdom of priests, a holy nation" (see Exodus 19:6). 

The New Testament writings apply this description of Israel as a priestly kingdom to the Church (see 1 Peter 2:5-10), in which members share in the priesthood and sonship of Christ (see Revelation 1:5-6). 

In Revelation's vision of the scroll and the lamb, Christ is celebrated as purchasing with His blood "a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on earth" (see Revelation 5:10).

Significantly, this kingdom is made up of people, not only from Israel, but from "every tribe and tongue, people and nation" (see Revelation 5:9). 

The vision itself is filled with images from the exodus and from Daniel's vision of the son of man. As Daniel's son of man receives authority over peoples and nations of every tongue or language, so does the kingdom of priests, the Church, in Revelation (compare Daniel 7:14; Revelation 5:9). 

As the son of man receives glory and honor in Daniel's vision, so does the Lamb in Revelation (compare Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 5:12). And as the holy ones of the Most High possessed the kingdom in Daniel, the kingdom of priests in Revelation is said to reign on earth (compare Daniel 7:22).

Daniel's vision evoked the original calling and purpose of Israel. And so does John's vision of the Lamb. 

In this vision we have a summary of the New Testament understanding: The Church - the restored kingdom of David that encompasses the twelve tribes of Israel and all the Gentile nations - fulfills the prophecy of Daniel and is the heir and successor to the promises of Israel. 

The Key of David

The Light to the Nations

The Church is the fulfillment of the kingdom promised to Israel. This is again stressed in Revelation's final pages.

John sees a vision of the new Jerusalem, the new capital of the new kingdom. The city gates are inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, and the foundation stones are inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles (see Revelation 21:9-13).

The depiction of the kingdom as a temple is similar to the depiction of the Church as a spiritual temple (see 1 Peter 2:5). 

Israel was commissioned to be a light to the nations (see Isaiah 42:6;49:6). The new Israel, the kingdom of the Church, fulfills that commission. As John sees it, the New Jerusalem is illuminated by the glory of God and enlightens the entire world, its light brighter than the sun and the moon. "The nations will walk by its light" and kings of the earth stream toward the light, bringing the wealth of nations to pay tribute (see Revelation 21:22-27). 

John here is evoking the prophecies of Isaiah concerning the new exodus and the restoration of the Davidic kingdom. Isaiah had prophesied that God would one day be an "everlasting light" brighter than the sun and moon (see Isaiah 60:19) and that nations would come to the light bearing their wealth (see Isaiah 60:3,5). 

Isaiah foretold that the gates of the kingdom would be open to people of all nations - a promise that John likewise sees delivered in the kingdom of the Church (compare Isaiah 60:11; Revelation 21:25-26). 

Isaiah also foretold that authority ("the key") over the Davidic kingdom would be turned over to a new royal minister (see Isaiah 22:22). 

Christ applied this prophecy to the apostle Peter, and interpreted the "keys to the kingdom" to mean authority in what He called "my Church" (see Matthew 16:18-19). 

We see the same identification of kingdom and Church in Revelation, which also offers an interpretation of Isaiah's prophecy concerning the keys. Jesus is described as the "offspring of David" (see Revelation 22:16) and as "the holy one . . . who holds the key of David" (see Revelation 3:7). 

The Davidic Kingdom Restored

We are now in the position to see how the Church, as it is portrayed in the New Testament, bears the characteristics of the Davidic kingdom, as we identified them in Lesson One. 

  • First, the kingdom of the Church is founded on a divine covenant (see 1 Corinthians 11:25).

  • The "king" is the son of David, and the Son of God (see Romans 1:3-4).

  • The king is God's "anointed" (see 1 John 2:20). 

  • The reign of God's anointed king is to be eternal (see 1 Timothy 6:16). 

  • At the center of the kingdom is the spiritual Jerusalem or Zion (seeGalatians 4:26). 

  • Worship in the kingdom is centered on the temple of Christ's body, which replaces the temple of Jerusalem (see John 2:19-21Revelation 21:22). 

  • The kingdom is international, drawing worshippers from Israel and from all the nations (see Revelation 7:1-12). 

  • Through the kingdom, the nations of the earth are instructed in the divine wisdom of the son of David (see Ephesians 3:10Colossians 1:28James 3:17). 

  • The kingdom is administered by a royal steward (see John 21:15-19) and various officers (see 1 Timothy 3:3-13), and includes a prominent role for the Queen Mother (see Revelation 12:1-6). 

  • Finally, the worship of the kingdom consists in the offering of sacrifice, especially the sacrifice of thanksgiving, the Eucharist (see Romans 12:1;1 Peter 2:5). 

The Kingdom Come

The kingdom is a present reality for the New Testament writers. It is something that has come into the world with Christ (see Revelation 11:15;12:10). It is an experience and relationship that that believers "share" in (see Revelation 1:9). 

But the kingdom is at the same time something of a work in progress. Paul says that he is working for the kingdom of God (see Colossians 4:11). And he foresees a final day - "the end" - when Christ will "hand over the kingdom to His God and Father" (see 1 Corinthians 15:24-50). 

At that time, Paul says, Christ will have destroyed every sovereignty, authority, and power, and will have conquered the final enemy, death itself. 

Revelation also looks forward to a day when "the mysterious plan of God shall be fulfilled" (see Revelation 10:7). On this day, the kingdom of the world will belong to God and His anointed, a clear reference to Old Testament hopes for a messianic kingdom (see Revelation 11:15; 12:10; Daniel 2; Psalm 2).

Until that day, the New Testament sees the life of the kingdom, the life of the Church, as one of liturgy and anticipation - of worshipping God with a "sacrifice of praise" in union with Christ, who, through His blood consecrates believers as priests of His new covenant (see Hebrews 13:13-15). 

We see this most clearly at the conclusion of Hebrews (see Hebrews 12:18-29), which characterizes the kingdom as both already come and not yet completely here. Believers "are receiving" the kingdom as a divine gift. It is something they now possess, but not yet fully. 

This is a passage that is remarkable for the wealth of Old Testament imagery that it brings together. It seems to describe, in evocative and symbolic terms, the celebration of the Eucharist. 

Believers are described coming to a heavenly Jerusalem to celebrate in a "festal gathering" as an "assembly of the first-born" (see vs. 22-23; compare Hebrews 2:12). The word translated "assembly" is the Greek word ecclesia, the word for "church." The word translated "festal gathering" means religious or liturgical worship (see Isaiah 66:10)

So, we have the Church on earth worshipping in the new Jerusalem, along with the angels and Jesus, the firstborn from the dead and "the mediator of a new covenant." The worship of this Church is a sacrifice of thanksgiving (see Hebrews 12:28) for the "unshakeable kingdom" that believers are in the process of "receiving" (v. 27). 

Discussion Questions

What does the kingdom of God mean in the preaching of Jesus and in the proclamation of the early Church? 

What does it mean to say that Jesus is "the son of David"? 

How does the Church fulfill the covenant mission given to Israel

How does the Church, as it is portrayed in the New Testament, bears the characteristics of the Davidic kingdom?