Schreiner, Patrick. “The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross.” In The Short Studies in Biblical Theology Series. Edited by Dane C. Ortlund and Miles V. Van Pelt. Wheaton: Crossway, 2018. 150 pp.
Like father, like son. One of my favorite professors at Southern Seminary is Dr. Tom Schreiner. Whether it be through lecture or through writing, Dr. Schreiner has a tremendous ability to communicate complex truths on biblical theology clearly, concisely, and plainly such that all kinds of people ranging from novices to experts can understand him. His son, Dr. Patrick Schreiner, has the same gift, and he puts it on display in his book about the kingdom of God titled The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross.
The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross is the latest installment in the Short Studies in Biblical Theology series, which aims to “connect the resurgence of biblical theology at the academic level with everyday believers” in such a way that “requires no prerequisite theological training of the reader” (preface). In this book, Schreiner guides his readers to understand that the kingdom of God, defined as “the King’s power over the King’s people in the King’s place” (20), is “the thematic framework” (16) that unites the entire biblical story together in Christ.
Methodically, Schreiner demonstrates how the kingdom concepts of power, people, and place are interrelated throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, the Law revives hope in the kingdom, the Prophets foreshadow the kingdom, and the Writings attest to life in the kingdom. In the New Testament, the Gospels picture Jesus embodying the kingdom, Acts and the Epistles testify to kingdom community, and Revelation culminates with achieving the kingdom goal.
Simply put, Schreiner nailed his goal. In 150 pages, Schreiner clearly, succinctly, and plainly defines, explains, and proves that the kingdom of God in Christ indeed runs through the whole of Scripture as the thematic framework that holds the Bible together as a unified story, as opposed to the Bible being a bunch of randomly collected religious writings. His definition of the kingdom of God, with its alliteration, is easy to remember as one follows the book’s arguments from beginning to end. The book is devoid of highly technical comments and extensive use of Hebrew and Greek. In the one or two places where original biblical languages are used, the discussion is very brief, well-explained, and easy to follow. A footnote with a brief definition of “typologically” would be helpful on page 124 considering that it is a technical term with which “everyday believers” likely aren’t familiar.
Schreiner’s introduction is particularly noteworthy. In the introduction, Schreiner says that we often misconstrue the kingdom of God as simply heaven, the church, or God’s power, all of which are too reductionistic (16-17). Schreiner rightly contends that if we neglect people and place from the idea of kingdom, we will tend to disparage the material world which God created for good, we might truncate the mission of the church which calls us to preach the gospel to people to the ends of the earth such that they believe and submit their lives to the rule of King Jesus, and we misrepresent the fullness of what the Bible teaches about the kingdom (22-23). Rightly understanding the kingdom matters in all kinds of practical ways.
Reading through the book, I kept asking myself, “Does the definition of kingdom need to be explicit about the faith of God’s people?” If the creation kingdom was good while Adam and Eve trusted God (Gen. 1-2), and if the restored kingdom was in process throughout the rest of the Old Testament until Jesus comes and grants faith to his new covenant people through the Holy Spirit so that his people obey his rule, it seems that faith is a vital part of the kingdom of God. God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule was true in the prophets, but God’s people failed to live under God’s rule by faith; hence, the argument that the prophets simply foreshadowed the true kingdom. While the idea of God’s people living by faith is in the book (ex. 113-114), should the definition of kingdom be along the lines of “the King’s power in the King’s place over the King’s people who live by faith in the King’s promises” if without the obedience of faith there is a broken kingdom of God?
The title for the discussion on the Law could be tweaked. The current title is “Reviving Hope in the Kingdom.” The problem is that such a title assumes that there is a kingdom and that the kingdom is broken. In other words, the title starts with Genesis 3 when the Law starts with Genesis 1. Perhaps something like “The Law: Creation, Fall, and Revival of Hope in the Kingdom” would more comprehensively cover the Law’s teaching on the kingdom, which for readers at an introductory level, would be helpful in understanding the whole Bible.
Finally, the discussion on pages 128-130 on the people of God in the book of Revelation is too vague. Eighteen times on these three pages, various images are used to conclude that God’s people will be protected during the last days from “the kingdom of man, the second death, and the wrath of the Lamb” (128). Only once, on page 129, is there any indication of suffering for the people of God. The overwhelming picture is that God’s people will be safe during the last days while the rest of the world suffers at the hand of God. The reality is that, while God’s people will be protected from the second death and the wrath of the Lamb, the people of God will be immensely persecuted by the kingdom of man and the wicked rulers of this world (Rev. 1:5, 9; 2:2-3, 9-10, 13; 3:8-10; 6:9-11; 11:7-8; 12:13-17; 13:7-10; 16:6; 17:6; 19:2). Many Christians will suffer and die; yet, God will raise his people from the dead. God will protect his people for eternal life. He will protect us through persecution, not from persecution; hence the call to endurance (Rev. 1:9; 2:2; 13:10; 14:12). This distinction must be made so that Christians rightly think about what it means for us to live as followers of Jesus in these last days.
All things considered, The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross truly is an excellent, entry-level resource on the kingdom of God. It ought to be required reading for all Christians to help us orient our lives to the biblical story in Christ and away from our piecemealed, me-centric understandings of the Bible as we Christians live as God’s people under God’s power in God’s place in Christ.