Jesus Christ did not found a new religion. He came to fulfil God’s purpose which had been revealed throughout the many centuries of Old Testament times.
Therefore, we cannot properly understand the things he preached about God’s kingdom without reference to the Old Testament roots.
The very first verse of the New Testament reminds us of this fact: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (Matthew ch.1 v.1).
God made promises to Eve, Abraham, David and Mary that relate directly to Jesus Christ as king over God’s Kingdom. These promises also make it clear that:
- the Kingdom will be a literal Kingdom on the earth
- God’s purpose with Israel is closely connected to the Kingdom.
The first three chapters of Genesis record God’s creation of the world, and how Adam and Eve disobeyed God in eating the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The warning against eating the fruit was very clear: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Genesis 2: 16-17).
Adam and Eve failed to heed the warning and the rest is history. So God said to Adam: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:18).
But even in the face of such rebellion and tragedy, God provided a way for humans to escape the prison of sin and death. Eve was given a very special promise. God said to the serpent: “I will make you and the woman enemies to each other. Your descendants and her descendants will be enemies. One of her descendants will crush your head, and you will bite his heel” (Genesis 3:15, New Century Version).
Throughout the rest of the Bible, the literal serpent in the Garden of Eden becomes a symbol of sin. Genesis ch. 3 v.15 is the first promise of a saviour – one who would defeat the power of sin by crushing the head of the serpent. To destroy sin is to destroy death itself (Romans 6:23). This is exactly what Jesus Christ did. He led a sinless life, and was sacrificed for our sins. Because he did not sin, death had no power over him, and God raised him from the dead (Acts 2:24).
Notice it is a special descendant of the woman that was to destroy the serpent’s power. This too is an apt description of Jesus who was the son of Mary, and we are clearly told that she was a virgin. Jesus truly was the “woman’s descendant”.
Abraham lived about 2000 years before Christ. Although he lived in the idolatrous city of Ur in Chaldea, he was a faithful worshipper of God. He obeyed God’s call to leave Ur and travel to Canaan (now Israel).
It is recorded in Genesis chapters 12-22 that, on several occasions, God made promises to Abraham concerning himself, his descendants and the land of Canaan (Israel) to which God had led him. Here is a selection of Bible references about these promises:
Genesis ch.12 v.2-3; Genesis ch.13 v.14-15; Genesis ch.15 v.3-6; Genesis ch.22 v.15-18
Several important points arise from these promises:
- Abraham would be the father of many nations
- All nations would be blessed through Abraham and his descendants
- Abraham and his descendants were promised the land of Canaan (Israel) as an everlasting possession
The New Testament makes important links with this Old Testament background:
- The promise to Abraham: “In you all nations shall be blessed”, is said, by the apostle Paul, to be God preaching “the gospel to Abraham” (See Galatians ch.3 v.5-9).
- When the promises to Abraham refer to a singular descendant (or “seed”), it is a reference to Jesus Christ (see Galatians ch.3 v.16). It is through Christ that the promises will be ultimately fulfilled.
- Paul also explains that through belief and baptism into Christ, we can be counted as “Abraham’s seed”, and therefore heirs of the promises (See Galatians ch.3 v.26-29).
The promises were not fulfilled before Abraham died, (see, for example, Hebrews ch.11 v.13). But we know that he will be in God’s Kingdom (Luke ch.13 v.28). Therefore, the promises to Abraham will be fulfilled in the future when Abraham is raised from the dead and the Kingdom is established on earth.
David lived about 1000 years before Christ. He was chosen by God to be king over Israel. He established Jerusalem as the capital. God made important promises to him concerning the future of the Kingdom.
God’s promises to David are recorded in 2 Samuel ch.7 v.12-17 and include the following important points:
- David’s special descendant (“seed”) would build a “house” (i.e. a special group of people) v.13.
- The kingdom would be established for ever (v.12-13, 16)
- God would be his Father (v.14).
Although the promise was partially fulfilled in David’s son, Solomon, the ultimate fulfilment is in Jesus Christ.
This is confirmed by later references in the Bible, for example:
- The prophecy of Christ’s birth in Isaiah ch.9 v.6-7. Note especially the words: “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom…” (v.7).
- The words of the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary the coming birth of Jesus: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke ch.1 v.32-33).
A prophecy made to the last king of Israel makes it clear that David’s throne will remain vacant “until he comes whose right it is” (Ezekiel ch.21 v.25-27). This is a clear reference to Christ or the Messiah.
The gospel record of the birth of Jesus shows that he was the Son of God through God’s Holy Spirit (Luke ch.1 v.35) and a direct descendant of King David through his mother Mary. Luke presents the proof of his descent from David in the genealogy in Luke ch.3 v.23-38.