In biblical theology, the kingdom of God and the hope of resurrection life are major themes. From my study of Scripture, what has come into focus is the close relationship between the notion of reigning (or the kingdom of God) and the doctrine of the resurrection. In light of this, my purpose in this paper is to trace the kingdom of God and the hope of resurrection throughout Scripture in order to demonstrate how and why they are inseparably linked. As the biblical story unfolds, these key doctrines/themes are closely connected in some significant and interesting ways. In this paper, I will trace these themes through three major movements in the biblical narrative: 1) Creation, Fall, and God’s Promise (Genesis 1-11) (The Failure of Adam); 2) the Old Testament Story of Israel (The Failure of Israel as Corporate Adam) 3) New Testament fulfillment in Jesus Christ (Salvation Through Jesus as the Second Adam and True Israel).
In creation (Genesis 1-2), God gives life to humanity and grants humanity the purpose and privilege of reigning over creation. But with the fall, death comes into the picture and humanity no longer reigns over creation as God intended. Nevertheless, God gives the first promise of redemption in Gen 3:15 when he promises that the offspring of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. This first preaching of the gospel implies means that the curses of the fall will be overturned and God’s creation purposes will be realized. For the purposes of this paper, the first preaching of the gospel implies that death will be conquered and that God’s people will reign with him again.
The Old Testament story of Israel also highlights the themes of resurrection and reign. In light of Israel’s situation in Egypt at the beginning of Exodus, two things come into focus: Israel is not reigning as God intended, and Egypt is a place of death. But with God’s plan to save his people, the story of Israel highlights the themes of resurrection and reign. God will rescue Israel from enslavement and death, establish them as his kingdom, and lead them to the land of promise, a place of life. Although the Lord brings these wonderful blessings to his people, they sadly turn away from him and suffer God’s punishment and exile from the land. Yet even in the midst of this judgment, God nevertheless promises a wonderful restoration for his people in a future new covenant. Linked with the arrival of the new covenant will be the eschatological kingdom of God and the resurrection of God’s people.
With the coming of Jesus Christ, a new age has begun. The New Testament portrays Jesus as “the second Adam” (Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 15:21-22) and “true Israel” (Jn 15:1-7). In light of this, Jesus’ arrival marks not only the beginning of the new covenant but also the dawning of a new creation. Jesus comes as the Messianic king from the line of David, the king who will reign over all creation and bring resurrection life. In this New Testament section, I will trace the themes of “resurrection” and “reign” through the first coming of Jesus (Jesus’ resurrection as enthronement), the age of the church (believers’ spiritual resurrection and present reign with Christ), and the second coming of Jesus that culminates in the new creation (the future resurrection of believers and reigning over the new creation with Christ).
Throughout the paper, and particularly at the conclusion, I will offer some thoughts on why this relationship between “resurrection” and “reign” matters and what difference it makes in the lives of Christians.
Note: For much of the content and research in this paper, I draw upon and follow my work in M. Jeff Brannon, The Hope of Life After Death: A Biblical Theology of Resurrection (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2022). The paper is newly written though, and I have not cut and pasted any sections from the book.