Sunday, July 12, 2009

David's Throne and the Kingdom of God

This is the sixth argument in a mini-series on why I think the Kingdom of God is not quite here yet.

The first argument was based on the binding of Satan as part of the establishment of the Kingdom, the second was based on the separation of the sheep from the goats, the third had holes in it, and concerned John the Baptist, the fourth draws from the classic Christmas passage in Isaiah, and the fifth continues exploring that passage.

Today's argument again continues exploring the Isaiah passage.
"He will reign on David's throne
  and over his kingdom,
  establishing and upholding it
  with justice and righteousness
  from that time on and forever." (Isaiah 9:7b, NIV)
1. When the KOG has been established, it will be true that "Jesus reigns on David's throne and over his kingdom".
2. It is currently not true that "Jesus reigns on David's throne and over his kingdom" .
3, Therefore, it is currently not true that the KOG has been established.

Why think (2) is false? Because David's throne was destroyed, and Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father at the moment.

"Why not think David's throne, while physically destroyed, became metaphorical and was relocated to the Father's right hand?" one might wonder. Before I answer, let me take a second to show some humility.

I don't have an extremely high degree of certainty that I'm on the right track about the nature and timing of the Kingdom. I have tried to edit the posts in this mini-series to reflect my uncertainty, but I have trouble wording things humbly. This is a flaw in myself and I am sorry. Now, I believe in owning convictions, but I also believe in humility and in being honest about one's varying degrees of certainty concerning different beliefs. And I recognize I haven't and am not currently doing a good job at that, which is my bad.

That said, the reason I am disinclined to think that David's throne, when destroyed, became metaphorical and was relocated to the right hand of the Father, is that David was a literal man and sat on a literal throne and the scriptures take great pains to demonstrate that Jesus is literally his heir and there is nothing in the text that I can find to motivate such abstraction.

Now don't get me wrong, I think the important thing about a throne is the authority that it symbolizes. I'm not saying Jesus will necessarily collect the fragments of the old throne and reassemble it (although, why not?). But it seems like when the throne was destroyed, it was destroyed both literally/physically and symbolically. It wasn't as if the physical throne was destroyed, but the authority that was in place remained powerful. If David's heir was in power, wouldn't he just rebuild another physical throne, so that he would have a place to sit, and a symbol of his authority?

I suppose one could still try to maintain that the prophecy wasn't straightforward and that, though it spoke of things very near and dear to the Jews' daily lives (things they were used to taking literally, eg. "David's thone"), it used them in very abstract ways without textual hints as to its meaning (or one could point me toward textual motivations for an abstract interpretation of this prophecy, or one could argue that I should look in places other than the text of the Bible for understanding).

But I would have to ask 'why?'. Why work so hard to try and force all these things into a picture allowing us to say that the Kingdom of God is now? Are we afraid these things will never come to pass, and so feel the need to show how they are poetic? Are we afraid that prophecies that primarily concern the future have no relevance to us today and feel the need to make everything in the scriptures practical? Is there some other place in scripture that plainly states that the Kingdom of God is present, and so we need to reinterpret all of the Kingdom prophecies in light of this?

I suspect many hold to the latter. Jesus plainly says "the Kingdom of God is at hand" in a couple of places, and "the Kingdom of God is in you" some others.

Stay tuned for posts about what I currently think Jesus meant when He said "the Kingdom of God is at hand" (including meta-commentary on the parables concerning the Kingdom of God), the Lord's Prayer and the Kingdom of God, Mark's account of the wine at the crucifixion and the Kingdom of God, whether I think the Kingdom of God is still at hand, the word "but" and the Kingdom of God, the apostolic understanding of the Kingdom of God, some Jews on MySpace and the Kingdom of God, and some practical alternatives to common rhetoric on the Kingdom of God!

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