In my humble estimation, there is an important element missing in most discussions of covenant theology, whether past or present. That element is the relation between kingdom and covenant. Discussions of covenant theology swirl round and round because they tend to be somewhat abstract. The terminology used in such discussions has not always helped either. For example, the terms "administration" and "covenant community" are frequently nebulous in their meaning. The theme of kingdom and covenant helps to concretize and clarify these words. It also helps to get to the core of questions like "is the Abrahamic Covenant, in its substance and essence, in continuity with the Covenant of Grace," "is the Mosaic Covenant a covenant of works," and "what's new about the New Covenant?" Relating Kingdom to Covenant is not simply a helpful method of organizing the data of the debate, or a "well it just works" solution, but rather it is a scriptural and theological reality which demands incorporation into considerations of covenant theology. So then, what is the relation between kingdom and covenant? Simply put, covenants are kingdom administration. A kingdom cannot function or exist apart from a document or commitment that establishes its boundaries, its constituent members, and that which it offers (blessings or curses). Covenants play this role precisely. Covenants establish the boundaries of the kingdom-realm, the members of the kingdom-people, and the duties/privileges of the parties. By way of covenant, every party involved in a kingdom can know how to act and what to expect. Thus kingdoms manifest themselves in visible forms through the terms of their covenant. Covenants are kingdom administration. Does this fit the biblical data? Human history begins with a kingdom and a covenant, the Kingdom of God and the Covenant of Works. God placed Adam in the garden as representative king over creation and commissioned him to guard the purity of the garden and to fill the earth with godly offspring. The Kingdom of God was to take shape through Adam and his posterity, and the Covenant of Works defined the way in which that would be done: through perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience. The eschatological Kingdom of God was set before man from the very beginning, and the Covenant of Works was its charter. Adam, having transgressed the covenant, and as the federal representative of humanity, made it impossible for man to inherit the Kingdom of God through the Covenant of Works. As a result, his guilt and corrupted nature are immediately imputed to every single human being that is ever conceived in this world. However, even at the fall, the eschatological Kingdom of God was opened to man again through the promise of one who would keep the Covenant of Works and destroy the curse of sin and death. This is possible, of course, through the Covenant of Grace. The terms of entrance into the Kingdom of God are not in any way altered, but rather a new federal head was provided, one to whom man could be united by faith. This sets up the rest of history as containing those who are the offspring of Adam and those who are the offspring of the new federal head. Both sets of individuals are in relation to the Kingdom of God, some as its enemies and strangers through Adam, and others as its sons and citizens through Christ. Fast-forwarding through history, one comes to the covenant made with Abraham. What is promised to Abraham through this covenant is a kingdom. The kingdom promised to Abraham has its boundaries, membership, and blessings defined by the covenant. It will be a kingdom in Canaan, comprised of and ruled by Abraham's descendants. That kingdom will be a fruitful and peaceful land for Abraham's people. God, in making this covenant, swore his own oath to Abraham that these promises would be realized and that this kingdom would be attained. The Kingdom of Israel began to take shape through this covenant. Fast-forwarding again through history, one comes to the covenant at Sinai. The Mosaic Covenant was made with the Abrahamic people and in light of the Abrahamic promises. God explicitly told the Abrahamites that they were not receiving this covenant because they were such wonderful people; rather, they were stubborn while God was merciful. Nevertheless, this covenant helps the kingdom to take further shape by introducing the law by which the kingdom will be governed. God had made promises to Abraham, which he would realize apart from merit, but the extent to which the Israelites enjoyed those blessings and remained in those blessings depended upon their obedience of the law. The people were in by grace through Abraham, but they had to stay in by works through Moses. The Kingdom of Israel was a Kingdom governed/administered by the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants. God, being holy, cannot simply wink at sin. Thus, one would expect the Mosaic Covenant to immediately disqualify the Israelites, especially given their idolatry with the golden calf. However, the Mosaic Covenant's priestly sacrificial system makes provision for the failings of the people with regard to the law. This is not to say that sins were actually forgiven, but that within this system, the terms being set by God, typological holiness could be maintained. Furthermore, God, as the supreme Lord of the covenant, has the right to be gracious in his execution of the covenant curses. When Israel entered Canaan to take possession of the Promised Land, God delivered the land into their hands, but they failed to enjoy it to the fullest because of disobedience. The biblical record is careful to say that God kept his end of the bargain. He made good on all of his promises (Josh 21:43-45). The failure of the Israelites to drive out certain inhabitants was purely the result of their law-breaking. When the kingship arose, another covenant further specified the way in which the kingdom would be governed. In fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise of Judean kings, and under the supervision of the Mosaic laws concerning kings, the Davidic line took up office over Israel. The king, too, was under the law, even required to make his own copy and to study it. Under Solomon, the Kingdom of Israel bloomed to be a nation whose number was like the sand of the sea, whose borders stretched the boundaries promised to Abraham, and whose kingship was Judean. The people enjoyed rest and peace in the land. However, in the Davidic Covenant God expressed the fact that the King must obey the law or suffer discipline. This is the record of the Kings, and this is precisely what happened to Solomon in 1 Kings 11:11. Thus the Kingdom of Israel took its final shape, governed by the triplex of the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants. This established the king as a federal head of the Mosaic Covenant. The Abrahamic people are blessed by the Mosaic Covenant blessings insofar as the Davidic king keeps the law. The ensuing fracture and failure of the kingship and the kingdom is entirely attributed to the disobedience of the king and the people. The testimony of the prophets shows that unless Israel repented and obeyed, they would lose the Abrahamic blessings. As God's kingdom lawyers, the prophets prosecuted the nation using the Mosaic Covenant's stipulations and sanctions. To put one example to the fore, Jeremiah 11:1-8 shows the connection between disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant and how it affected the Abrahamic oath. As the nation saw the kingdom falling apart, they began to look forward to a Davidic king who would keep the law, who would restore them to the land, and who would rule them in righteousness and justice. However, their fundamental error was to fail to recognize that the Messianic King and his Kingdom would not be a confirmation or restoration of the Kingdom of Israel. The eschatological Kingdom of God was not the Kingdom of Israel. Centuries passed before John the Baptist appeared on the scene and began preaching that all must repent because the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. The Messianic King, Son of God and Son of David, was born in Bethlehem, and when he came onto the scene he began to preach the gospel of the Kingdom, to teach about the Kingdom in parables, and to demonstrate the power of the Kingdom in miracles. What becomes clear is that this Jesus was the seed of the woman, and that he was manifesting in history a clear picture of the Kingdom of God, an eschatological Kingdom of perfect righteousness (Matt 4:17). The Jewish people, including Jesus' family and disciples, thought that Jesus' message was about the Kingdom of Israel even into the testimony of the Acts of the Apostles. However, this was their fundamental error, and it was not until the Apostles came to understand the true nature of the kingdom that they began to go forward and preach the gospel to all mankind without regard to the boundaries of the Kingdom of Israel. Jesus Christ inaugurated the eschatological Kingdom of God and the New Covenant in his own blood through his sacrificial propitiatory death on the cross. This Kingdom is everything that the Kingdom of Israel was not. It is a Kingdom of people circumcised in heart, a Kingdom with an eternal inheritance, a Kingdom with a perfect King, a kingdom with a perfect Priest, a Kingdom with a perfect Prophet. In comparison to the Kingdom of Israel, it is entirely new and thoroughly eschatological. The Kingdom of God is rooted in the Covenant of Redemption. In Luke 22:29 Jesus says “And I covenant to you, as my Father covenanted to me, a kingdom.” It is the great doctrine of the Pactum Salutis that unites redemptive history. It was God’s decree from before the foundations of the world to give a Kingdom to his Son, but it was the Son’s duty to become incarnate and to win the Kingdom people through his own life and death. The terms by which this transaction takes place between the Father and Son are found in the Covenant of Redemption. The terms by which man enters into this agreement are found in the Covenant of Grace/The New Covenant. Where do we see Christ redeeming the elect unto himself and constituting them as a kingdom? It is in his death. The New Covenant is coterminous with the Covenant of Redemption because it is simply the Covenant of Redemption actualized in history, from the viewpoint of man. The teaching of the Kingdom of God agrees with this in its entirety. Christ is promised a Kingdom, Christ came to establish that Kingdom, and Christ rules over that Kingdom forever. The Kingdom of God takes visible form in the church. In fact, the Kingdom of God is the church. Thus, just as the Kingdom is governed by the New Covenant, so also the church must be. Because the Kingdom of God is a realm ruled by Christ in which all enjoy regeneration, forgiveness of sins, imputed righteousness, and sonship/citizenship, no credible claim can be made to the Kingdom apart from profession of faith. A claim to the church is a claim to the Kingdom of God. We are not talking about an earthly temporal kingdom but the eschatological Kingdom of God. Thus enrolling in the visible church is saying "I have an eternal inheritance in the Kingdom because I am a son of the Kingdom. I bow to the King and trust in him to preserve me forever." Because the visible church exists between the advents of Christ, and because it exists in the world, it will never be a pure assembly. But it should be as pure as possible. The church is the bride of Christ. To join the church is to claim betrothal to the Son of God. On the one hand, someone who admits a non-professor into the church's membership is knowingly smearing mud on that which should be utterly pure. On the other hand, anyone who claims absolute perfection among their membership is saying that the consummation has already occurred and the bride is adorned for her husband. We must be willing to accept Simon Magus' profession and equally willing to excommunicate him. Likewise, we must be willing to accept those whose faith is as small as a mustard seed or whose faith is childlike, of course including children themselves. If the New Covenant is a source of administration for the Kingdom of God, the church, one would expect it to tell the church how it should be governed. It is not silent in this regard. Members join the church through baptism, thus professing faith and repentance, claiming for themselves the King and benefits of the Kingdom. The impossibility of infallibly declaring that a baptismal candidate is regenerate does not make baptism subjective. Baptism objectively is a means of grace to the elect and a means of judgment to the reprobate. We must not play the agnostic when it comes to church membership. If Christ's death made his people a kingdom, and if baptism signifies (among other things) union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection, then baptism is a claim to the kingdom, a claim to the church. Baptism says "I will be raised sinless unto eternal life in the consummated Kingdom" just as the Lord's Supper says "I will eat at the marriage supper of the Lamb in the consummated Kingdom." No one can enter the Kingdom of God and later leave it. The Kingdom of God is circumscribed by regeneration. The New Covenant is unbreakable. Either Christ made you a part of his Kingdom through his death or he did not. At no time was an apostate ever united to Christ or made a partaker of any of his benefits. They may have been enlightened, they may have been affected by the common operations of the Spirit, they may have sprouted with counterfeit faith, and they may have been considered to be a child of God, but ultimately all was a lie. Nevertheless, apostates are held accountable for their lies and false claims. If a spy is discovered in a kingdom, he is not released because he belongs to another kingdom. He is answerable to the King and is punished accordingly. The warning passages of scripture serve the purpose of causing the sheep to persevere and declaring retributive judgment on the goats. In a Kingdom where no one can betray the King, warnings against betrayal are ultimately directed towards those spies and impostors who clothe themselves in sheepskins. Just as it is incumbent upon ministers to preach the gospel indiscriminately, so it is incumbent upon them to warn all indiscriminately. All men must be made to know the price of rejecting the gospel of the Kingdom and thus its King. If you have been patient enough to read thus far, please allow me to drive the point home. What does this mean? 1. It means that the New Covenant defines the boundaries, membership, and blessings of the Kingdom. While some may think that the New Testament lacks information as to what the New Covenant actually entails, there is an incredible amount of data to be reaped from the teachings of Christ concerning the Kingdom of God. 2. It means that the New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace. If the Covenant of Grace is the only way to attain the eschatological Kingdom of God, if Christ is the federal head of that covenant, if the New Covenant is the way to attain the eschatological Kingdom of God, and if Christ is the federal head (and thus King) of that covenant, the two are absolutely identical. The Covenant of Grace is the retroactive New Covenant as its blessings are appropriated by believers who look beyond Old Testament types to Christ. 3. It means that there always has been and always will be only one means of salvation, one means of attaining the Kingdom of God, that is through Christ, through the New Covenant. All saints prior to Christ believed in Christ and were united to him by the Spirit by virtue of their faith in that to which the typological covenants pointed. They had faith in the promises of the serpent-crushing seed, the blessing to all nations, the prophet like Moses, the King greater than David, faith in Christ himself. 4. It means that anyone who is not united to Christ by true faith remains united to Adam and can lay no claim to the Kingdom of God and the church. In Colossians 1, Paul says that we are not transferred to the Kingdom of the beloved Son until we are freed from the domain of darkness. This comes through redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 5. It means that the Kingdom of Israel is not the Kingdom of God, thus the covenants that governed the Kingdom of Israel cannot be used to govern the Kingdom of God. They are types and shadows that served their purpose, but are now abrogated. A return to these covenants violates the teaching of the New Testament, especially epistles like Galatians and Hebrews. That which is moral transcends any covenant. That which is ceremonial and positive ends with the termination of its covenant. The Old has been abrogated. The type should not be used to shape the antitype. 6. It means that the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants are not, in their substance and essence, administrations of the Covenant of Grace. They are not manifestations or governing documents of the eschatological Kingdom of God. They are types and shadows of it. Any theology of the covenants that equates the Covenant of Grace in substance and essence with these covenants by consequence equates the substance and essence of the Kingdom of Israel with the Kingdom of God. This is the error of the Jews, the pre-ascension apostles, and many dispensationalists. 7. It means that there is no danger in affirming the Mosaic Covenant to be operating on a works principle because attainment of the eschatological Kingdom of God is not its purpose, nor is it immediately in view. Perfect personal perpetual obedience remains the standard of entrance into the Kingdom of God, however this is kept by Christ. Thus the moral law abides in full in the Kingdom of God as a means of returning thankful service, not as a means of obtaining God's favor. The Christian is not in by grace and out by works. 8. It means that a covenant cannot be differently administered from time to time. It is illegitimate to say "a covenant under different administrations." A covenant is already an administration of a kingdom, thus a covenant tells its members exactly what must be done. A covenant cannot be differently administered unless the terms of the covenant change, in which case you actually have a change of covenant, not simply a change of "administration." The term "Administration" needs to be equated with the word "Covenant." Change the administration and you change the Covenant. Change the covenant and you change the kingdom. Saying that the Covenant of Grace was differently administered in the times of the law and the gospel is to say that the Kingdom of God was administered differently in the times of the law and the gospel. That is precisely why most paedobaptists insist on denying that the Mosaic Covenant has a works principle in relation to its blessings. How could the Kingdom of God require obedience to inherit its blessings? As has been noted previously, Kingdom of God is not the Kingdom of Israel. 9. There can be no such thing as an "external and internal administration" in one covenant. Those terms, by definition, mean "external and internal covenant." In Israel one could be a member of the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of God, but this was the result of being born into the Abrahamic Covenant and being reborn into the New Covenant. The two are not mutually exclusive, but neither are they two circles of one covenant. The Kingdom of God does not have an “external circle” or “external administration” because it does not have an “external covenant.” Christ is the King of the Kingdom of God, the federal head of the New Covenant. “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom 8:9). 10. A "covenant community" is a "kingdom people." The "kingdom people" are defined by the "kingdom covenant." The New Covenant defines the kingdom people as those whom Christ constituted as a Kingdom through his death. I have attempted to keep this as short as possible by excluding extensive quotations from scripture and Reformed theologians. I can provide both if asked. Whether or not you agree with all of these conclusions and assertions, I hope that you recognize the value and necessity of incorporating the theme of the kingdom into covenant theology, namely the fundamental distinction between the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of God and that covenants are kingdom administration.