While in Bible college I was confronted with what every Bible student is confronted with – Hermeneutics. It was during this class that my eyes were open to proper Bible reading practices. I realized how often I had read Biblical verses outside of their contexts and, therefore, had understood them contrary to their original meanings. I was confronted with Biblical genres, historical context, and literary context. I found more clearly that the Bible is not a compilation of fortune cookie slogans, a road map to life, or a big book of rules. It is a story of God’s working from Genesis to Revelation and it is a beautiful mosaic of his revelation through diverse literary writings. Hermeneutics taught me to read the Bible in light of surrounding context but there was still something missing in my Bible reading. Although I could read individual verses and passages in the context of their more immediate context, I was still missing the much larger context of the overarching story.
It was not until years later after having read through the Bible in its entirety that I began to notice common threads and themes that seemed to run all the way through from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. It was as if I knew the stories of the Bible, but I had not yet made the connection between those individual stories to the one big story that God was weaving together. I started to notice Old Testament promises everywhere even filling my Bible with particular blue highlights over promises that anticipated New Testament fulfillment. Of course, I had learned that Jesus fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies and I had known many of the foreshadowing events in the Old Testament that pointed forward to the saving work of Jesus, but I failed to see just how comprehensive and how connected the whole Biblical story was. I failed to see the significance of threads like blessing and curses, King and Kingdom, the presence of God, and the promises of God to Adam, Abraham, Moses, and David. Seeing these threads from beginning to end revolutionized my Bible reading, brought deeper meaning to already powerful stories, and all the more exalted the glory and the centrality of Christ Jesus in every text of Scripture. As you begin to understand the Bible as a compilation of unique literary genres all working together to tell one big story, you also begin to understand that this God is a God who is moving through history toward a particular end. Biblical theology helps us to realize that we now play a part in this cosmic story that God is writing through his divine sovereignty to save sinful man and to reunite his children to himself in a glorious new creation to come!
As a pastor, I am determined to introduce my church family the grand narrative of the Bible. We currently do a residency program at our church where young men commit to a year of intense study which includes reading on Biblical theology, systematic theology, Apologetics, devotional classics, and Christian ministry. For this year’s dive into Biblical theology, we just completed the King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments
The King in His Beauty Summarized
One of the threads that can be traced from Genesis to Revelation is the theme of God’s Kingdom and the restoration of God’s created order to serve the rightful King and to see his beauty. Thomas Schreiner, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a one-volume biblical theology which traces this theme of King and Kingdom from beginning to end. He writes in the Prologue,
“Scripture unfolds the story of the kingdom, and God’s glory is the reasons for the story… In one sense, God is always the King of kings and the Lord of lords, reigning over everything that happens. But in another sense, God’s rule has been flouted since the fall of humankind, and the Scriptures tell the story of the kingdom regained.” (Schreiner, xiii)
Schreiner progresses through each Biblical book offering a summary of its content and an explanation of how each book contributes to the theme of God’s Kingdom restored. He brilliantly ties Old Testament stories, promises, and foreshadows to the future completion and restoration of God’s Kingdom through the King who was to come. He regularly refers to the cosmic battle between the offspring of the serpent from Genesis 3 and the offspring of promise who would one day totally and entirely crush the serpent’s head. The battle between these opposing forces rages throughout the Old Testament and the decisive victory is one at the cross of Christ. Finally, the fighting ceases with Christ’s final return and the full restoration of God’s Kingdom in the book of Revelation.
The strength of Schreiner’s work is found in the Old Testament theology section. Schreiner draws you into the story and fills in gaps of understanding that even seasoned Christians may have missed along the way of Bible reading. For example, Schreiner’s retelling of the story of Solomon and the rise and fall of Israel’s kingdom puts 1-2 Kings into a larger perspective that many may have been missed even after years of Bible study. God had promised a restoration through Eve’s offspring, a blessing through Abraham’s offspring, and an eternal kingdom through David’s offspring. Solomon, being David’s son, enters into one of the greatest times of prosperity Israel had ever seen. The temple was built, the nation was prosperous, and peace was enjoyed, yet Solomon’s sin plunged Israel down a road of destruction confirming that God’s promises of an eternally restored Kingdom would not be recognized in Solomon’s day. 2 Kings ends with the people of Israel in exile still awaiting the promised King who would be realized fully and finally in the person and work of the true King – Jesus Christ.
The reign of Solomon seemed like a return to paradise; the worldwide blessing promised to Abraham was just around the corner. What we see in 1-2 Kings is a slow devolution, beginning with Solomon. The Edenic-like paradise under Solomon was now a distant memory. Israel, like Adam, was in exile… The promise of Abraham seemed further away than ever. (Schreiner, 190)
There are several points of critique that I have for the book after reading through this resource with four young men who are going through a residency program at our church. Firstly, it was very disappointing to find that Schreiner combined all of the minor prophets into only one chapter in an attempt to summarize their contents by common themes. Small sections of a page or two on each minor prophet would have been far more beneficial for understanding how each fits into the larger story. In the group of young guys I was walking through this material, there were some that were new Christians and others who had been reading the Bible for some time. Neither grouping benefited very much from his summary of the minor prophets. The material was repetitive and somewhat difficult to connect to the Biblical story. I say this with grace of course recognizing the difficulty of covering everything in one volume. Schreiner made a similar move with the writings of Paul again compiling all of Paul’s works into one 40 page chapter where he covered common themes of Pauline theology that fit into the larger story of Kingdom. This was a more beneficial read than the minor prophet summary, but again it would have been more beneficial, for our purposes especially, that each book be addressed in regard to how it fits into the large Biblical narrative. The New Testament section as a whole was surprisingly a little more difficult to follow and did get a little repetitive at times. The sense of repetition, however, may be due to the nature of the task of showing how each book connects with the same theme.
Despite the minor critiques above, The King in His Beauty is a superb resource for connecting the dots of God’s Kingdom from Genesis to Revelation. I, along with a small group of men, read through the book 50 pages a week and completed it in just under four months time. I do not necessarily recommend this approach. This book might be better used by reading the chapter that corresponds with your Bible reading either before you finish or begin a book of the Bible. Consider using the King in His Beauty alongside a chronological reading plan through the Bible in a year and you will be richly blessed by seeing how each book fits into the larger story of the King in His Beauty.