Some Progressive Covenantalists do make a stronger connection between land and kingdom than I found in Kingdom through Covenant. Oren Martin indicates that there is a geographical component to the consummated kingdom. Martin summarizes kingdom as “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule” (Bound for the Promised Land, 42). Martin says, “[T]he entire world will become God’s kingdom and his people’s inheritance. An important link is forged, then, between inheritance, the Promised Land and the kingdom of God” (Ibid., 137).
I agree with Martin’s conclusion that the land theme and kingdom theme are connected because the “entire world will become God’s kingdom.” In fact, I think Scripture explicitly develops the kingdom theme in this way such that (1) the extension of the land theme to cover the entire world doesn’t primarily depend on typology and (2) the specific promises to the nation of Israel are not lost in the expansion of the theme to the entire world.
My argument is that the expansion of the kingdom from the borders of Israel to the entire world is explicitly stated in the Old Testament itself.
Land Promise Extended in the Pentateuch
In Genesis 22 God promises that Israel will possess the gates of its enemies (22:17). This is followed by the affirmation that all the nations will be blessed by Abraham’s seed (22:18). These are not contradictory ideas. The rule of the Messianic King over Israel’s former enemies can be viewed as a great blessing to those nations (Robert Saucy, Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, 231-34; cf. Kingdom through Covenant, 399-400). From this latter perspective there is a close connection, then, between Abraham’s seed possessing the gates of its enemies and all the nations of the earth being blessed in Abraham’s seed (22:18).
A similar extension of the land promise may be found in Genesis 35. Along with the reaffirmation of the land promise, Jacob is promised, “a nation and a company of nations shall come from you” (35:11) Land is likely implied in this promise (Mathews, Genesis, NAC, 2:622). Likewise kings rule over land, so land is also likely implied in the promise, “and kings shall come from your own body” (35:11). Gentry argues that goyim does not properly apply to the twelve tribes since they were not “politically and socially structured entities with government.” Nor does the divided kingdom of two nations constitute a “company of nations” (Kingdom through Covenant, 292-93). Thus, he argues that this is a promise of the bringing in of the Gentiles. The difficulty with Gentry’s view is that the kings are said to come, “from your loins” (lit.). “From you” stands in parallel with this phrase. This would indicate that the nations and the kings come from Jacob in physical descent. Further, it seems that the tribes of Israel could legitimately be said to be “politically and socially structured entities with government.” The tribes had their elders; they were not without government. Gentry could maintain his case, however, by arguing that an intentional distinction is meant between the kings who come by physical descent (“from your loins”) and the nations that are related to Jacob in a more generic “from you.” This is possible, and it would be the universal blessing aspect of the promise to Abraham that would be alluded to by this distinction. It would also be an early instance of implied extension of the land promise.
Jacob’s blessing of Judah establishes that a son of Judah will reign over Israel. Not only will the tribes of Israel be subject to him, but the peoples will also obey him (49:10) (Mathews, 2:896; Wenham, Genesis, WBC, 2:478). The earth over which this king from Judah will reign is one of abundant fertility. A donkey can be tied to a choice vine with no concern that it will eat the vine. And while no one would actually wash clothes with wine rather than water, the imagery of doing so highlights again the abundant fertility of the land (Wenham, 2:79; Mathews, 2:896-97; McKeown, Genesis, THOTC, 186). This is a land in which the curse has been removed. This is an explicit indication that the land promise will extend beyond the borders of the Promised Land to encompass the entire new creation.
If these interpretations are correct, then at the end of the toldedth sections that focus on Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph/Judah are promises that extend the land blessing beyond the confines of Israel’s land. The means by which the land promise is extended is the extension of the Judaic king’s sovereingty to encompass the entire world.
This is part of a sereis of posts on Progressive Covenantalism and the land theme in Scripture.