Covenant and Kingdom
Jesus answered … ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me’ ” (vv. 4-6).- Matthew 11:1-6
Amos 9:11-15 anticipates the restoration of David’s line and the reestablishment of God’s people in the Promised Land. Despite the glory of this promise, however, the messianic prophecies of the old covenant go far beyond the restoration of David as king over Israel. Other important messianic passages such as Daniel 7:13-14 reveal that the Davidic king would reign—along with the Israel of God (see 2 Tim. 2:12a)—over the whole world.
These promises gave the ancient Israelites hope as they suffered in exile, and they also tended to foster an expectation for a militaristic and political kingdom. This expectation was not entirely out of place, for promises of a worldwide reign lend themselves to such an interpretation. However, much Jewish interpretation in the period leading up to the birth of Christ was one-sided, emphasizing the political nature of the kingdom of God at the expense of the spiritual. That is why so many Jews were unprepared for Jesus when He came preaching the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15).
Few things are taught more clearly in the New Testament than the fact that Jesus brings the kingdom of God. However, He brought it in a manner that many of His contemporaries were not expecting. It did not come all at once with a crushing display of military might; rather, it began small, with only a handful of disciples, and even now continues to grow to fill the whole earth (Matt. 13:1-32). This kingdom is the fruit of the covenant of grace, which finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Today’s passage teaches that Jesus fulfills the restoration prophecies that are part of the covenant of grace. Our Lord’s description of His ministry in Matthew 11:1-6 draws from Isaiah 35 and its promise of the glory of restored Israel. Notably, Jesus does not quote Isaiah 35:4, which predicts the vengeance of God in the restoration. His point is that there will be an extended period of time during which the kingdom becomes present in the new covenant administration. First, the Lord will show mercy and bring healing so that people will be drawn into His kingdom, and then vengeance—the final consummation of this kingdom and destruction of His enemies—will come after this period of growth.
Christ Jesus has brought the kingdom, and we now await that final day of judgment. At that point, our bodies will be made alive in the resurrection of the dead, and our foes and the enemies of God will be cast down forever (1 Cor. 15:20-28).
If we are in Christ by faith alone, we already enjoy new spiritual life, and this spiritual life will one day bear fruit in renewed physical life. In the new covenant, God restores the cosmos, and we will one day enjoy an embodied existence in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 21). Christ kept the covenant of works to this end—that we might enjoy eternal life as a gift of the covenant of grace. Let us never cease to rejoice and to praise our Lord for this blessing.
Passages for Further Study