20. The Expansion of the Kingdom – Part Two

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Last session we began by seeing the “The Parable of the Great Banquet” (Luke 14:12-24) as paradigmatic of the time between the ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit to equip His called-out people for this purpose. What began in Jerusalem will now spread to the larger area of Judea, into despised Samaria, and eventually to the ends of the earth as His messengers are sent to gather His people from the hedges and highways so that many may join Him at the banquet.

I. The Narrative of Acts – Part Two

A. “. . . In all Judea and Samaria”

Before looking at how the gospel spreads “in all Judea and Samaria” we need to go back to Jerusalem and observe the means by which the kingdom expands. In Acts 6 a dispute arises between the Hellenists and the Hebrews regarding the care of widows the apostles then appoint seven men “of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” to care to this task so that they could devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” One of these men, Stephen, was seized and brought before the council. Stephen then powerfully proclaims Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel and harshly rebukes their stubborn unbelief. The council is so enraged that they drug him outside the city and stoned him. This brings us to the beginning of chapter 8.

Will someone read Acts 8:1-8? What is the means by which the gospel spreads?

Amazingly we read that God uses persecution to disperse His people, His church, so that they will proclaim the good news of the kingdom as we read “those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). It is also important to see that the gospel was being proclaimed and the church was spreading not only due to the work of the apostles but by the church itself! Everyone who was scattered “went about preaching the word.” And with this we see that Christ’s witnesses went throughout Judea and Samaria.

Among those who were scattered is Philip, one of the seven chosen to serve, will someone read the narrative of Philip’s ministry in Samaria in Acts 8:9-25? What significant event is recorded in this passage?

The Spirit was given to the Samaritans.

Where have we read of this?

The hour that Christ proclaimed in John 4 has arrived. The time has come when the Father is worshiped neither on Mt. Gerizim nor in Jerusalem. The time has come when the Father is worshiped through His Son Jesus the Christ. Furthermore we see the nation of Israel being restored. Last week we briefly looked at Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones and the promise that God will place His Spirit within His people (Ezekiel 37). After this vision Ezekiel is told to take two sticks one symbolizing Judah, the Southern Kingdom, and one symbolizing Joseph, the Northern Kingdom which is later known as Samaria, and unite them as one people under the Davidic King. God is not simply giving His Spirit to the Samaritans He is restoring the Kingdom of Israel.

In chapter 9 an amazing thing is recorded. Saul, who we were earlier introduced to at the stoning of Stephen, is confronted by the risen Christ and told to go to Ananias in Damascus.

Will someone Read Acts 9:10-19 as the Lord speaks to Ananias in a vision?

The Lord informs Ananias that Saul is His chosen instrument to carry His name before the Gentiles. This is in many ways a preview of what is to come as we turn to Acts 10 and the account of Peter and Cornelius. Here were are introduced to Cornelius a God-fearing Roman centurion who is instructed by the Lord to send for Peter in Joppa.

Will someone read Acts 10:9-33? What is the significance of Peter’s vision both within this context and the redemptive narrative of Scripture as a whole?

This vision is significant in that we see Peter abandoning the oral traditions of His people, which he mentions in verse 28, and submitting Himself to the redemptive narrative of Scripture that the Lord is both the Creator of all and the Savior of all and not merely Israel only. Because of this Peter heeds Cornelius’ request and proclaims to them all that he has been commanded by the Lord (10:34-43). And while Peter was proclaiming the Word of the Lord the Spirit is poured out upon the Gentiles and then they are baptized (10:44-48).

Turning back to Joel 2 the day of the Lord is recorded (2:1-11), the Lord’s desire for Israel’s repentance (2:12-17), the restoration of Israel (2:18-27), and the pouring out of God’s Spirit upon the Gentiles and the salvation of all who call upon the Lord (2:28-32).

Will someone read Joel 2:28-32? What covenant promise is God fulfilling in these verses and how is He fulfilling it?

God is fulfilling His promise to Abraham that He will make Abraham a blessing and bless all of the families of the earth in Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). And He is fulfilling it in such a way that the promises made to Israel are now being fulfilled for both Jew and Gentile alike.

Will someone please read Ephesians 2:11-22 as Paul expounds this as it is fulfilled in Christ?

The pouring out of the Spirit upon the Gentiles demonstrates that Christ has broken down the wall dividing Jews and Gentiles and has formed from them one people for Himself. With this the gospel is ready to extend its witness to the very ends of the earth.

B. “. . . To the End of the Earth”

The church in Antioch is first introduced in Acts 11:19-26.

Will someone read that passage for us? How is this church started?

Rather simplistically Luke writes that some men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who were scattered because of the persecution, proclaimed the Lord Jesus. Here we see that church planting in its simplest form requires only four things the Spirit, seed, a sower, and soil.[84]

Where do we see these four essentials in this passage?

  • Spirit:
  • Seed:
  • Sower:
  • Soil:

With this as the foundation it is not surprising to read that it is to this church that the Spirit speaks and says, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). Then we read that, “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3).

There is one last obstacle that must be overcome as the gospel extends itself to the ends of the earth and we are introduced to this conflict in Acts 15:1-3.

Will someone read this passage for us? Will someone read Peter’s response in Acts 15:6-11?

Other obstacles will arise; false teaching and persecution will continue to attack the true gospel and those who live according to and proclaim it and yet this marks a significant turning point as the Apostles stand in one accord and affirm that the gospel must go to the gentiles. The remainder of Luke’s volume records the missionary journeys of Paul and his companions as they proclaim the gospel to the very ends of the earth. Following Luke’s geographical outline Acts ends with Paul imprisoned in Rome “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” Luke is symbolically demonstrating, by means of the extent of the Roman Empire, that the gospel has indeed gone to the ends of the earth.[85]

II. Acts as Eschatology

God has reconciled His people to Himself and to each other in Christ. He has revealed Christ as the fulfillment of the Davidic kingship. The temples in Jerusalem and on Mt. Gerizim have been replaced with Jesus, the new temple. The blessings of the new covenant have come and restored Israel and joined them together with the Gentiles to form one people of God. Yet the prophetic hope remains for a future restoration in which God’s people will dwell in a restored promised land with their God. Indeed as the author of Hebrews writes, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).


How has our study of Acts changed your understanding of how God is fulfilling His promises and expanding His kingdom?

[84] Charles Brock, Indigenous Church Planting: A Practical Journey (Neosho, Missouri: Church Growth International, 1994), 28-42.
[85] Kaiser, The Promise-Plan of God, 321.


19. The Expansion of the Kingdom – Part One

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I can think of no better introduction to acts than to read “The Parable of the Great Banquet” from Luke 14:12-24. It is especially appropriate as we closed last week with tha Passover and Jesus’ promise “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16). This is what we see in Acts and what we still see today. Our places at the banquet have been secured and now God’s servants have gone out and called us, the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame to dine at His table. And to this day He continues to send out His messengers to gather His people from the hedges and highways so that His house may be filled and that we may dine with Him.

I. Acts in Context

Luke’s silence concerning notable events occurring after 62 point to a date of authorship sometime between 60 and 62. Like his gospel account he again writes to Theophilus as he explains,

“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3).

If the gospel of Luke records “all that Jesus began to do and teach” what topic is the book of Acts addressing?

The book of Acts is what Jesus continued to do and teach through the work of the Holy Spirit. Just as we saw the kingdom coming in Jesus we will now see the expansion of the kingdom through the work of the Holy Spirit.

II. Acts in Outline

  • “You will be My Witnesses in Jerusalem” (1:1-8:3)
  • “. . . In all Judea and Samaria” (8:4-12:25)
  • “. . . To the End of the Earth” (13:1-28:31)

III. The Narrative of Acts – Part One

A. “You will be My Witnesses in Jerusalem”

We have already read the opening verses of Acts will someone please read 1:4-5? Will someone else read Jeremiah 31:31-40? What is Jesus saying about this passage in Jeremiah?

He is saying that in a few days it will be fulfilled. The time is coming when God will write His law upon the hearts of His people, when He will remember their sins no more, and when God will rebuild an eternal city for His people (cf. Ezekiel 37). With this in mind their question in verse 6 is completely reasonable.

Will you continue reading to verse 11?

Last week we noted that Jesus responds not by explaining when the kingdom will come but by pointing them to how the kingdom is presently coming. We also noted that just as Jesus came and proclaimed the presence of the kingdom so too are the disciples to go and spread the presence of the kingdom by witnessing to the good news concerning its King.

But what else is interesting about Jesus’ reply?

He does not rebuke them. They are not thinking nationalistic or self-centered thoughts here; if so Jesus would have rebuked them harshly as he has done before. Rather He explains how the kingdom is coming. The book of Acts is still about the kingdom of God and we will see this throughout our study.

What is important about the angel’s words in verses 10 and 11?

Jesus will return and consummate His kingdom.

If we were to continue reading through chapter 1 we would see the casting of lots to select Matthias to replace Judas. Interestingly enough this is the only mention of this selection process in the New Testament. This is because they had not yet been given the gift of the Spirit.

Will someone read Acts 2:1-13? Does anyone know what is significant about the day of Pentecost? Everyone is able to hear in their own language. What is this a reversal of?

The Feast of Pentecost is important for two reasons. First, it was a harvest festival which celebrated the bringing in of the firstfruits and the gift of the Spirit is the firstfruit of the kingdom of God. Secondly, by the time of Jesus it had also acquired a meaning which emphasized covenant renewal and indeed the Spirit had come to fulfill the New Covenant.[83] It is important to understand that the New Covenant is not about God abandoning Israel and replacing her with the church. Rather God has fulfilled His promises to Israel and the result is the church, His called out people.

Furthermore, we see the temporary reversal of the curse at Babel in the speaking of tongues. Just as man had gathered at Babel to make a name for himself and the Lord confused their languages so now we see God overcoming that barrier for the sake of His great name.

In what follows (Acts 2:14-41) we see the first of several sermons in Acts. As we read this there are several questions I want you to consider. First, how is Peter preaching or what is the structure of His sermon based on? Second, what does He call the people to do and why should we be familiar with this?

Peter is preaching the metanarrative of Scripture. He is proclaiming the grand story of Scripture and presenting Jesus as the fulfillment of that story and of God’s promises. In this sense his sermon is primarily evangelistic and he closes by calling the people to repentance. We should be familiar with repentance because of the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus. The repentance called for by Peter is the same repentance called for by John and Jesus. This is not just repentance for individual salvation but the focus remains upon the presence and coming of the kingdom. It is concerned with the preparation of a people for the King who has inaugurated His kingdom and will return to consummate it. These themes remain true for the numerous sermons recorded throughout Acts.

Will someone read Acts 2:42-47? What focuses of the early church do we see in this passage?

Will someone please read Acts 3:1-10 and 5:12-16? Why are these healings significant?

These should immediately remind us of Christ’s words in Luke 4:16-30 as he describe His ministry to those in Nazareth. There is a continuity between the coming of the King to proclaim liberty and heal the afflicted and the expansion of the kingdom by the apostles.

Luke summarizes the expansion of the kingdom in Acts 6:7 saying, “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith”


What can we learn from Peter’s sermon in Acts? Does the modern church’s emphasis upon the kingdom of God match that of the early church? Why does this matter?

[83] Bartholomew and Goheen, The Drama of Scripture, 174.

18. Jesus the Fulfillment of the Promise – Part Two

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Last session we considered Paul’s statement, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (II Corinthians 1:20) and saw how Jesus came not merely to fulfill God’s promises but as the fulfillment itself. We saw that Jesus is the Messianic King, Second Adam, the Faithful Israel, and the New Tabernacle. We will continue our overview of the life of Christ and consider how He is the fulfillment of all God’s promises.

I. The Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ – Part Two

A. Jesus’ Galilean Ministry

Turning to the book of John we begin after the temptation in the desert and find Jesus calling his first disciples. Turning to chapter two we see His first sign of turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana. As a sign this serves to illustrate the newness of Jesus’ messianic mission and serves as a symbol of the messianic age. By this he manifested His glory and His disciples believed in Him. As Jesus continues to travel he arrives in Jerusalem and cleanses the temple an event that both inaugurates and illustrates the nature of His ministry.

Will someone read John 2:18-22?

While no one seems to understand the significance of Jesus words here He boldly claims that He is the true temple. His cleansing of the temple symbolizes His mission to fulfill the temple’s purpose and replace it with an undefiled temple. This theme is expounded upon as Jesus leaves Jerusalem and begins to travel to Galilee. Jesus chose to go out of His way and travel through the despised region of Samaria and eventually He arrives in the town of Sychar and he sits down by a well.

Will someone read John 4:7-26? What is the significance of Jesus’ offer of living water? What is the significance of “this mountain” and Jerusalem as it pertains to worship?

If we were to turn back to Ezekiel’s vision of the new temple (Ezekiel 40-48) we would see that water is to flow from the new temple to nourish the land. Jesus is boldly proclaiming to be the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision and the Holy Spirit is the living water which flows from Him (cf. John 7:37-39). The mountain Jesus is speaking of is Mt. Gerizim, the center of Samaritan worship. As the new temple a time will come when worshipers will neither worship at Gerizim nor in Jerusalem because they will worship in Christ.

With the arrival of Christ in Galilee we turn to the synoptic gospels.

Thinking back to our previous study what was the message that John the Baptist was sent to proclaim?

John was sent to warn the people the King was coming as he cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

Would someone read Matthew 4:12-17 and Mark 1:14-15? What message does Jesus come to proclaim? What accounts for the difference between the messages of Jesus and John?

Jesus comes proclaiming the presence of the kingdom! The King has arrived and He is calling His people to repentance!

What all does this entail? What does He mean by this? If we turn to Luke 4:16-30 we will see how Luke describes the beginnings of Jesus’ ministry and the reaction of those who came to hear Him.

How does Jesus describe His ministry and why do the people react so violently?

The people who heard this clearly understood that Jesus was claiming to be the Lord’s anointed, the son of David, the Messianic King who would liberate God’s people from captivity and proclaim the Lord’s salvation. Unlike John Jesus did not speak as one heralding the coming kingdom, He spoke as the embodiment and fulfillment of the kingdom. This sparked rage in Jesus’ hearers a rage that was compounded when he responded by reminding them of how Elijah and Elisha were not sent to heal Israel but the enemies of Israel. With this they sought to throw Him off of a cliff.

While Jesus claimed to be the Messianic King “in a certain sense Jesus himself is the kingdom of God because he reveals the dynamic and spiritual power of the kingdom.”[81] Not only is Jesus the kingdom of God He is also the fulfillment of the prophetic ministry; as both revealer of the kingdom and the kingdom revealed Jesus is the true prophet. As the kingdom that Jesus was proclaiming was far different than what the people had expected, to the point that they would react violently to its proclamation, we need to look to the Kingdom Parables for a further explanation (Matthew 13:1-52; Mark 4:1-34; Luke 8:4-18).

There is much that can be learned from these parables; however, only a few aspects will be highlighted here. First, the kingdom has both present and future aspects, it is not arriving all at once. Second, the kingdom begins small and grows so that many are blessed by it.

B. Jesus’ Later Judean Ministry

Due to time constraints we will not be looking at Jesus’ later Judean ministry.

C. Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus seeks to prepare His disciples for what is about to occur with His third and final passion prediction (Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34).[82]

Will someone read the passion prediction in Mark?

This sets the tone for everything that follows. Despite the crowds’ seemingly unanimous approval at the triumphal entry they will quickly turn against Him.

D. Jesus’ Death, Burial, and Resurrection

The scene of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem is described in Mark 11:7-10.

Will someone read that passage?

What follows is a type of literary sandwich, also called interpolation, in which the final temple cleansing is set within the narrative of Jesus cursing a fig tree. Just as we noted earlier that the temple cleansing in John serves to symbolize the inauguration of His ministry so too is this event equally symbolic as it symbolizes the consummation of His ministry. Like the fig tree, that was condemned for failing to bear fruit, so too Jesus condemns the temple because it has failed to function as “a house of prayer for all the nations.” Jesus as the new temple will replace this failed temple and He will be “a house of prayer for all the nations.” Over the following days the plot to kill Jesus unfolds as the tension between Him and the religious leaders grows. On the night before his betrayal He gathers with His disciples to celebrate the Passover.

Will someone read Luke 22:14-20? What is Passover? How does Jesus transform the meaning of Passover?

The Passover is the celebration and remembrance of when the Lord passed over those who had placed the blood of the sacrificed lamb upon their doorposts and killed the firstborn of those who did not. Jesus is the Passover lamb through whom we have redemption. Even more Jesus is the fulfillment of the entire sacrificial system if we were to read the book of Hebrews we would see how Jesus fulfills both the role of the priest and of the sacrificial lamb. And with His death, burial, and resurrection He does just that. The forgiveness promised by the prophets and longed for by Israel has been granted in Jesus.

Nevertheless, the kingdom has not fully come and so in Acts 1:6 the disciples ask “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus responds not by explaining when the kingdom will come but by pointing them to how the kingdom is presently coming “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7b-8). Just as Jesus came and proclaimed the presence of the kingdom so too are the disciples to go and spread the presence of the kingdom by witnessing to the good news concerning its King.

II. The Life and Ministry of Jesus as Eschatology

While all of the promises of God are fulfilled in Jesus the tension between the present state and the future realization of the promise that we have noted up to this point continues even after the death of Christ. This is the tension between inaugurated and future eschatology. It has both present and future aspects. While the kingdom has come most fully in Jesus it has not come in its entirety. God’s people still await future fulfillment.


Of all of the Old Testament roles and promises that Jesus fulfills which is the most significant to you and how is this applicable to your life?

[81] VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 353.

[82] The first passion prediction (Matthew 16:21-28; Mark 8:31-91; Luke 9:22-27) and the second (Matthew 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32; Luke 9:43b-45)

17. Jesus the Fulfillment of the Promise – Part One

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The return from exile and the Intertestamental period did not see the fulfillment of the promises. For a period of 400 years God did not speak to His people. Then a voice was heard in the Judean wilderness proclaiming, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mark 1:3). The promised Messiah was coming the time of fulfillment was at hand. Indeed the one of whom the apostle Paul would later write, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (II Corinthians 1:20) was here not merely to fulfill God’s promises but as the fulfillment itself.

I. Introducing the Gospels

We have the benefit of having four complementary accounts of the gospel, literally the “good news,” concerning Jesus the Christ. Of these four accounts three accounts, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are known as the Synoptic Gospels. Synoptic is of Greek derivation and roughly means “to see as one” or “to see together;” this is used in description of these three gospel accounts because they all share a common perspective. Whereas John emphasizes Christ’s Judean ministry Matthew, Mark, and Luke focus primarily on His ministry in Galilee. Very little is said in any of the Gospels about the first thirty years of Christ’s life. Rather they focus primarily on the three years of Christ’s public ministry with the vast majority of their material focusing upon the final week of His life. Furthermore it is important to note that while the Gospels portray a historically accurate presentation of Jesus they are organized theologically rather than chronologically.

A. Matthew

Like the other Gospels the title bears the name of the author. It was written by Matthew, also named Levi, a tax collector to a primarily Jewish audience sometime in the late 50’s to mid 60’s prior to the Jewish revolt in 64 and the fall of the temple in 70. He writes to demonstrate that Jesus is the Jewish messiah, Israel’s long awaited Davidic King, and the fulfillment of promise.

B. Mark

The tradition of the early church holds that John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas and companion of Peter and Paul, committed the preaching of the apostle Peter to writing sometime in the late 50’s. Because of this and other internal factors his intended audience is primarily Gentile believers in Rome. He wrote to demonstrate Jesus as the Lord’s suffering servant, to equip the church to evangelize, and to strengthen their faith before the coming persecution.

C. Luke

Luke a Gentile physician and the traveling companion of Paul wrote to the “most excellent Theophilus,” an unknown Roman individual of importance, sometime between 60 and 61. While addressed to this individual in particular it is understood to address Gentile believers in general as well. Unlike Matthew or Mark Luke’s prologue informs the reader of his purpose in writing,

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1-4).

The overarching emphasis of Luke is that Jesus is the savior of the world and the outworking of this conviction is demonstrated in his second work, the book of Acts.

D. John

While unnamed in the work John, “whom Jesus loved” (cf. John 13:23; 19:26; 21:24), is understood to be the author. His audience was most likely Gentile and he wrote sometime in the mid 80’s to early 90’s from Ephesus. Like Luke he clearly states his evangelistic purpose as follows:

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

II. A Harmony of the Gospels [78]

  • The Birth of John the Baptist (Matthew N/A; Mark N/A; Luke 1:5-25, 39-45, 57-80; John N/A)
  • Jesus’ Birth and Childhood (Matthew 1:1-2:23; Mark N/A; Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-52; 3:23b-38; John 1:1-18)
  • The Ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-20; John 1:15)
  • Jesus’ Early Ministry (Matthew 3:13-4:11; Mark 1:9-1:14a; Luke 3:27-23a; 4:1-13; John 1:19-4:44)
  • Jesus’ Galilean Ministry (Matthew 4:12-18:35; Mark 1:14b-9:50; Luke 4:14-9:62; John 4:45-7:9)
  • Jesus’ Later Judean Ministry (Matthew N/A; Mark N/A; Luke 10:1-17:37; John 7:10-11:54)
  • Jesus’ Journey to Jerusalem (Matthew 19:1-20:34; Mark 10:1-52; Luke 18:1-19:27; John N/A)
  • Jesus’ Death, Burial, and Resurrection (Matthew 21:1-28:20; Mark 11:1-16:20; Luke 19:28-24:53; John 11:55-21:25)

III. The Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ – Part One

In what follows we will examine various periods of Jesus’ ministry both canonically, allowing the emphasis of each Gospel to be heard, and redemptive-historically, allowing the text to speak to the relationship between the Old Testament and Jesus, the promise and the fulfillment.[79]

A. The Birth of John the Baptist

The birth narratives of both John the Baptist and Jesus in Luke 1:1-2:52 from a strong link between the Old Testament and New Testament presenting the continuity between the promise and the fulfillment.

Will someone read Luke 1:5-17? Will someone else read Malachi 3:1-5, 4:1-6? What similarities do you see? What is the role of this prophesied messenger?

This messenger is coming to prepare the way of the Lord and to call His people to repentance. He is preparing God’s people for the coming of their Messianic King.

B. Jesus’ Birth and Childhood

Alongside the birth of John the Baptist the birth of another is foretold. Matthew begins with a genealogy working from Abraham to Christ. His intent is to present Jesus as the Davidic King and the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises, specifically those to Abraham and David. A quick reading of Matthew’s narrative reveals that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (2:1-12), fled from Herod’s persecution to Egypt (2:13-15), and then returned to Nazareth after the death of Herod (2:16-23). Upon His return from Egypt Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1.

Would someone read Hosea 11:1 for us? Is Matthew reading Hosea out of context? If not then what does he intend by this quotation?

Matthew is presenting Jesus as the true, or faithful, Israel. Jesus is the true people of God and Matthew is deliberately structured his Gospel to note how His story parallels those whom He now represents. This is the first of many reoccurring themes which we will examine.

Luke continues to establish continuity between the promises and the fulfillment as Jesus is brought to the temple in accordance to the Mosaic Law (Luke 2:22-38; cf. Leviticus 12:1-8).

Will someone read Simeon’s prophecy in Luke 2:29-32? What is clear at this point in Luke’s Gospel?

That Jesus is the source of salvation for both Jew and Gentile. The promised Messiah is not merely King over Israel but the whole earth.

Luke’s genealogy comes later in the narrative (3:23b-38) than Matthew’s. Another important distinction is that Luke begins with Jesus and works back to Adam. Why is this?

Just as Matthew intends to present Jesus as the faithful Israel Luke points to Jesus as the true, or second, Adam and the fulfillment of the Adamic Covenant. As Jesus is now represents Israel He also represents the new humanity.

John’s Gospel goes back even further. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3). “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). John presents Jesus as not merely the fulfillment of the prophetic word but as the eternally-existing Word, the Creator-God, who became flesh and dwelled, or tabernacled, among His people. Just as God’s glory dwelled among Israel and was demonstrated before the nations in the tabernacle so now God’s glory is made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ. The former meeting place of God and man has been replaced by Jesus Christ.

C. The Ministry of John the Baptist

John’s ministry across the Gospels is presented as one who has come to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God, or kingdom of heaven, and the coming king is pictured both in terms of judgment, as one who will separate the wheat and the chaff, the righteous and the unrighteous, as one who holds his axe at the roots of a fruitless tree, and in terms of grace as the one who will gather the righteous to himself. Whereas John baptized with water Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

D. Jesus’ Early Ministry

Jesus’ ministry begins in continuity with what has come before as He the true Israel and second Adam submits Himself to the baptism of John. “John baptizes in the Jordan River because it was here that, more than a thousand years earlier, Israel entered the Promised Land to become God’s light to the nations. John’s return to this place signals a new beginning for Israel.”[80]

Would someone please read Matthew 3:13-17? What should this language immediately remind us of? Where have we read of the promise of sonship?

These words should immediately remind us of the Davidic Covenant (II Samuel 7:8-16). Jesus is the prophesied one who is both the descendant of David and the Son of God.

Jesus is then led, by the Spirit, into the wilderness to be tempted for forty days.

Where have we seen this before? What events in redemptive history should this remind us of?

As Matthew is structuring his Gospel to parallel the life of Christ and Israel this should immediately point us to Israel’s rebellion and the forty years spent wandering in the wilderness. However, where Israel failed Jesus as faithful Israel succeeded. Likewise Adam succumbed to temptation in the garden and now Jesus, the second Adam, overcomes the serpent’s temptations.


This is only the tip of the iceberg. What are your thoughts thus far and how does your understanding of the Old Testament shape your understanding of Jesus?

[78] This outline reflects the geographic structuring of Mark and Luke and is adequate for harmonizing the gospels; however, the texts of the individual Gospels themselves should be allowed to set their own priorities when outlining.

[79] For more on this see VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 335-36.

[80] Bartholomew and Goheen, The Drama of Scripture, 133.

16. The Exilic Hope, Post-Exilic Disappointment, and the Intertestamental Period

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The glory of Yahweh has abandoned the temple, Jerusalem has been destroyed, and both Israel and Judah have been carried off in to exile. Will they repent and God renew His covenant promises to them? Will the return from exile be the final exodus whereby God fulfills all his promises and establishes His eternal kingdom? Or will Judah continue to be plagued by the sins that have beset them throughout their history?

I. The Exilic Hope

The prophetic message during the period of the exile was one of judgment mingled with hope.[72] Their message of hope centered on several issues all of which focus upon the renewal of the covenant promises.

A. Reconciliation with God

Throughout Scripture God promises that if His rebellious people would turn to Him in repentance then He will return to them as their God and will gather them as His people (II Chronicles 7:13-14; Jeremiah 30:8-22; 31:1; Ezekiel 34:30-31).

B. Return to the Promised Land

Furthermore, they are also promised a return to and the expansion of the promised land (Isaiah 54:1-3; Jeremiah 30:3; Ezekiel 34:11-16).

C. Reestablishment of Davidic Kingship

There is also an emphasis upon the renewal of the promises of the Davidic Covenant with particular emphasis placed upon the rule of the Davidic King (Jeremiah 23:5-6; 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23-24).

D. Rebuilding of the Temple

Also included in the emphasis upon the renewal of the promises of the Davidic Covenant is the promise that a new temple will be built within a New Jerusalem and that God’s glory will return and He will dwell among His people forever (Ezekiel 40-48).

E. The New Covenant

However, the most significant occurrence during this time is not the prophetic word concerning covenant renewal but the promise of a new and better covenant whereby the people will be indwelt by the law of the Lord and will dwell with Him in an eternal city (Jeremiah 31:31-40).

II. Post-Exilic Disappointment

A. Ezra-Nehemiah in Context

Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book that was later divided “around the end of the fourth century A.D. because of the main characters who carry the story line in each.”[73] Ezra is the most likely author of Ezra-Nehemiah and is also the author of I and II Chronicles, which again was originally one volume. Unlike Chronicles which retells Israel’s redemptive history for the purpose of demonstrating continuity between the post-exilic community and their past. The book of Ezra-Nehemiah records events that occurred within the lifetime of its author and so it is written within close proximity to the events themselves. This two-volume work, Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah “renewed the sense of destiny, as the idealization of the Davidic Monarchy is transformed into a community given to the law of Moses, to separatism, and to the temple worship through the dynamic leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah.”[74]

B. The Message of Ezra

The Babylonian captivity comes to a close when Cyrus, king of Persia, conquerors the Babylonians in 539 B.C. One year later, 538 B.C., Cyrus issues a decree that the exiles should return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4). Among this first group of exiles is king Zerubbabel a descendant of David, whose leadership was recognized by Judah despite Cyrus having appointed Shesbazzar as the ruler over Judah (1:8). Chapters 3-6 then s the rebuilding of the temple, opposition to this task, and the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah who exhort the people to resume their work of rebuilding the temple.

Would someone read Ezra 3:10-13 for us? Does the temple described here resemble the one described in Ezekiel?

Those who had seen the former temple were right to weep because the new temple paled in comparison to the one built for Solomon; however, the rest of the people were right to shout for joy because the Lord is faithful (Isaiah 53). Nevertheless, this temple, though its building was sovereignly orchestrated by Yahweh, is not the coming temple toward which Ezekiel directs our attention.

Then in 458 B.C. Ezra and numerous others return to Jerusalem (7-8). Upon Ezra’s return the situation in which he finds Judah, as well as his response, is described in 9:1-5.

Will someone read that for us?

Ezra’s profound humility is seen in his prayer as he concludes his prayer,

“And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape? O LORD, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this” (9:13-15).

The book then ends with the people’s repentance and abandonment of sin.

C. The Message of Nehemiah

The book of Nehemiah begins with Nehemiah in Babylon receiving news that Jerusalem’s walls had been destroyed and its gates burned (Nehemiah 1:1-4). Nehemiah was the cupbearer of the Persian king Artaxerxes (1:11) and he used this opportunity to plead that Artaxerxes would allow him to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls. The king allowed him to return to Jerusalem in 455 B.C. (2:1-8). Just as with the building of the temple there was opposition (4:1-14) and yet in only 52 days the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt (6:15-19).

Would someone read that passage for us? Is there anything that stands out in this account?

The nations perceived that Jerusalem’s walls were rebuilt with the help of God. Perhaps God will begin to fulfill his covenant promises and begin to bless the nations.

Just as in the exodus from Egypt the exodus from Babylon and rebuilding of the walls is followed by the reading of the Law (8:1-8). On the first day of the seventh month Ezra stood on a platform before the people and read aloud the Law while the Levites stood amidst the people and “gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (8:8). They gathered again on the twenty-fourth day of the same month and stood to confess their sins and then an unknown individual leads the assembly in a profound prayer recounting both the history of redemption and confessing their sins as a people (9:5-37). They then covenant together in keeping the laws of Moses (9:38-10:39). Nehemiah then left Jerusalem and returned to continue his service to Artaxerxes (13:6-7; cf. 1:6). When he returns to Jerusalem he finds them neglecting the Levites, ignoring the Sabbath, and intermarrying with foreign women. The Old Testament closes on a low note as Nehemiah prays, “Remember them, O my God, because they have desecrated the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites. Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; and I provided for the wood offering at appointed times, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good” (13:29-31).

“The problem is that although the structure of the kingdom portrayed by the prophets is there in outline, the substance is not. There is no glorious return, no magnificent temple set in the midst of the regenerated earth. It is clear that the people have still not undergone that spiritual transformation that makes them perfectly the people of God. There is no magnificent reign of the Davidic prince.”[75]

III. The Exile and Return as Eschatology

The first section “I. The Exilic Hope” clearly lays our an eschatology for this period as these great hopes do not find their fulfillment during this time but await future fulfillment. Rather than summarize that material here we will direct our attention toward Ezekiel 34 where the LORD both rebukes Israel’s failed leaders as well as offering hope for the future.


What can we learn from the exilic and post-exilic period? How has our study through the Old Testament deepened your understanding of God?

Excursus A: The Intertestamental Period

I. Chronology

At the close of the Old Testament in 400 B.C. Judah was under Persian rule. During this time “the original concept of Torah, denoting ‘instruction,’ or divine guidelines whereby people might live righteously before a holy God, gradually gave way to the Persian concept of dat, or unalterable, incontrovertible decrees that formed a rigid legal system.”[76] Because of this change an oral tradition was developed that stood equal to the Torah. Furthermore the destruction of the temple led to the creation of Synagogues during this period. In a succession of battles between 334 and 331 B.C. Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and Judah fell under Greek control.[77] The influence of Greek culture and language eventually led to the creation of the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament. When Alexander died in 323 B.C. the empire was divided between the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria. Judah fell under the control of the Ptolemies until 198 B.C. when it fell under Seleucid control. Under the Selucids Antiochus IV Epiphanes established an altar to Zeus in the temple and in 167 B.C. the Maccabean revolt began and lasted from 166 to 142 B.C.; Israel was finally free from Syrian rule. The descendants of Judas Maccabeus formed the Hasmonean dynasty, the Hasmoneans also occupied the position of high priest, and they ruled until 63 B.C. when Pompey I brought them under Roman rule. Rome ruled Judea indirectly through the last of the Hasmoneans and then later through the Herodians. During the Intertestamental Period the Jews experienced pressure both politically and culturally which led to various forms and degree of syncretism between Jewish culture and the various cultures they encountered. These massive theological and cultural shifts set the stage for the New Testament.

II. Cultural Developments

A. The Common People

The majority of the Jews lived outside of Jerusalem during the Intertestamental Period. Rather than return to Jerusalem they settled throughout the Roman Empire. Furthermore, the majority of them were not a part of any religious sect and their practice and theology varied.

B. The Essenes

This group arose to help support the Maccabean revolt and many later chose to withdrawal from Jerusalem to form their community at Qumran. They lived communally, were fervent in prayer, and dedicated themselves to studying the Torah as a substitute for the animal sacrifices within the corrupt temple system. While they withdrew from Jerusalem the firmly believed that Yahweh would subdue both the Gentiles and corrupt Jews and that they would be given a prominent position in the messiah’s kingdom.

C. The Pharisees

Like the Essenes the Pharisees were originally associated with the Maccabean revolt and later separated do to compromise within the Hasmonean Dynasty. They were the leaders of the synagogues where they taught and interpreted of the law. This interpretation took the form of an oral tradition that was viewed as possessing authority equal to that of the Torah

D. The Sadducees and the Priests

They were a group of aristocratic Jews who had come to power due to their cooperation with the Romans. They controlled the temple and taught the law there. Together with the Pharisees they formed the Sanhedrin. They differ from the Pharisees in that they hold only to the Torah and rejected the rest of Old Testament Scripture as well as doctrines not found in the Torah.

E. The Zealots

They were political revolutionaries who were eager to overthrow the Roman Government. At times various groups of these revolutionaries rose up against Rome and their rebellions were quickly crushed.

[72] See chapter 15 for a list of pre-exilic, exilic, and post-exilic prophets.
[73] Mark Dever, The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), 389.
[74] VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 288.
[75] Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 196.
[76] VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 317.
[77] MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, 1089.