According to the Bible, there is one triune God revealed in the Old and New Testaments, and it is he—not a mere man or a human government—who is the sovereign ruler with sole authority. Over the past year, we have uncovered this overarching truth through many articles. This extensive look at the biblical materials on government has been necessary to come to some balance on the subject.
The biblical picture is tragic and hopeful at the same time. It is tragic that the mind and heart of mankind is deviously opposed to the rule of God on earth while continuing to seek hegemony over the creation. It is cause for unbounded hope that a new Man has in fact arrived on the planet and has been exalted even now to his rule. It is not the same “blessed hope” of the Puritan vision, but it is the only hope for a shattered world.
Meanwhile, the Christian is admonished to do three things besides what we have shown are his ongoing public and private responsibilities:
- As we wait for the final denouement of history and the arrival of the King, we must “seek the welfare of the city” (Jer 29:7 ESV) where God has sent us “and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
- We must not think that our mission is to overthrow governments. Rather it is to be submissive to appropriate authority, that is, those that reward good and punish evil (Rom 13:1-7; Tit 3:1).
- We must “render to Caesar” what is appropriate to him and “to God the things that are God’s” (Mk 12:17), remembering the question Jesus uses to put his ruling in context. By calling attention to the “image” of Caesar on the coin of tax payment, he reminds his hearers that they themselves are the only “image” of the living God. Thus, they belong wholly to God, and Caesar can claim only what God temporarily allows as Caesar’s. Some things will never belong to Caesar, and what he has now is only on loan.
As we draw this series to a close, let’s reflect on the main themes of God’s authority from Genesis to Revelation.
The Old Testament
Part 1: Creation through Abraham. Read the first article here.
Adam and Eve partnered together to rule over creation, but not other men, until Adam failed to appropriately govern his dominion in the Garden. The pre-flood world became “filled with violence” as the heroic, strong, and self-driven leaders did not govern to an external standard. Mankind’s sinful inner nature invited God’s judgment in the flood—except for one righteous man, Noah. The result was the establishment of local clannish governments to limit further violence and retribution.
Part 2: Pharaoh to Saul. Read the second article here.
Although Joseph was wise and virtuous, his power enslaved his people to Egypt. Israel crumbled under Egypt’s oppression and Pharaoh’s tyranny. Later, Moses redeemed the Israelites and exemplified the theocratic arrangement of how a people ruled by God should live. Yet Israel rebelled against God’s kingship and demanded a human king.
Part 3: Israel’s first kings. Read the third article here.
Samuel warned that a king would take until the people cried out for relief, but Israel did not listen. Their first king, Saul, brought rebellion, witchcraft, and a wayward movement against their “God who saves.” God rejects Saul and replaces him with King David, a man who exemplified a shepherd, prince, and servant.
Part 4: The remainder of Israel’s monarchy. Read the fourth article here.
David’s son, Solomon, pursued policies that glorified himself, his kingdom, and even the Lord’s house—which ultimately broke the kingdom’s unity. Although he was committed to upholding a strong government, he understood power and its limitations. When Solomon’s large government was passed to his heir, Rehoboam, the government grew still larger. Ten of Israel’s twelve tribes seceded from the union and went to war to secure their secession. No attempts at establishing treaty relationships with the great powers of the day saved the kingdom. Later, the Assyrians swallowed up the north (722 BC), and Babylon carried off the south (607-586 BC).
Part 5: Awaiting Israel’s true king. Read the fifth article here.
Despite the failure of David’s monarchy, Israel’s prophets emphasized God as their king. Ezekiel gave a vision of a “prince” who will no longer cheat the people. The Psalms point to the shepherd who will suffer for/with his people. Although the Hebrew Scriptures unrelentingly concentrate on Israel’s failure to live up to the mission she has been given to exhibit justice and righteousness to the nations, God did not forget his people.
The New Testament
Part 1: Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Read the first article here.
The New Testament opens with the announcement that “the kingdom of God/Heaven” is “near.” And it continually witnesses that there is no discontinuity between what went before and what is now being manifest and what will be consummated in the future. It is clear that Jesus and his followers were preaching the Gospel of a theocratic kingdom now dawning on earth.
Part 2: New Testament epistles and the Kingdom of God. Read the second article here.
Paul’s extensive body of work in the New Testament consistently emphasized the rule of Christ over the church, the present world, and the world to come. He taught that Jesus Christ is Lord and head of the church. Other New Testament writers echoed Paul’s words. For example, the writer of Hebrews proclaims Christ’s superiority. Throughout the New Testament, the letters consistently teach of Jesus in light of the prophets who went before him, and that the Kingdom of God has its present manifestation and a future consummation.
Part 3: John’s revelation of Jesus. Read the third article here.
John’s apocalyptic prophecy unveils that heaven’s hero is the only one “worthy” (Rev. 5:2) to bring righteous judgments and rewards, and to inaugurate the age to come. The Lamb’s self-sacrifice implies his love and obedience to the Father, making him trustworthy to receive and exercise unlimited “power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). No prior figure, no matter how heroic, is as worthy as the Lamb.
Part 4: The beast and the Kingdom of God. Read the fourth article here.
Sin dethrones God in the hearts of men and women individually and then proceeds to create political, religious, and cultural structures that make God irrelevant. Elites have consistently justified their activities by asserting some form of divine or moral right to do what they do. It is, therefore, no surprise to see in the Bible’s final prophetic words a picture of a great empire aided by religious perversity and deception convincing nations that government, not God, is the great blesser.
Seek First His Kingdom
The entire biblical record overwhelmingly calls for the faithful to get their own house in order rather than to seek the world’s twisted caricatures and dreamy hopes. For the King and his kingdom are coming, and he promises to “make all things new.”
Editor’s Note: This series was adapted from the IFWE research paper, God and Government: A Biblical Perspective (The Bible and Limited Government) by Dr. Tom Pratt. Read the full paper here.