The Davidic Covenant
Second Samuel 7:8–16 records a covenant established by God with David, wherein God made three major promises to David. First, God promised that David’s “house” (his physical line of descent) would endure forever (v. 16; cf. 2 Chr. 21:7; Ps. 89:3–4, 36). Second, God pledged that David’s “kingdom” would never pass away permanently (v. 16), guaranteeing that; although that kingdom might not function at all times, it would always have the potential of being restored to its full role. Third, God promised that David’s “throne” (the ruling authority that David exercised) would never pass away permanently (v. 16), assuring that a royal descendant of David would always be available to exercise ruling authority when circumstances permitted (cf. 2 Chr. 7:18; Ps. 89:3–4; Jer. 33:17).
God did not specify any conditions in the Davidic Covenant when He established it; thus, it is unconditional in nature, totally dependent on the faithfulness of God for the fulfillment of its promises.
The Major Issues of the Davidic Covenant
The genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 indicated that Jesus Christ is a physical descendant of David. The angel Gabriel announced that God would give Jesus the throne of His ancestor, David; that He would reign over the house of Jacob forever; and that His kingdom would never end (Lk. 1:31–33). Peter declared, “God had sworn with an oath to him [David], that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne” (Acts 2:30). Isaiah prophesied concerning the Messiah, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even forever” (Isa. 9:7).
Through these significant statements, the Bible indicates that God’s three major promises to David in the Davidic Covenant are fulfilled ultimately in Jesus the Messiah. The major issues related to the Davidic Covenant are when and how God’s promises to David will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Some have proposed that Christ is fulfilling these promises now (during this age, before His Second Coming) in His present rule over the church or human hearts as He sits at God’s right hand on the throne of God in heaven. According to this view, the kingdom over which Christ rules in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant is solely a spiritual kingdom, and the throne of David is the throne of God in heaven. Others believe that Christ will fulfill these promises in eternity future after the present earth has been destroyed at His Second Coming. According to this view, the future Kingdom of God foretold in the Bible, over which Christ is to rule, will never be a reality during the present earth’s existence. It should be noted that these two views agree that Christ will never reign over a literal, earthly, political kingdom on the present earth.
By contrast, a third view asserts that Christ will fulfill these promises in the future when He returns to earth in His Second Coming and establishes and reigns over a literal, earthly, political kingdom for a thousand years on this present earth and for eternity on the new eternal earth.
The Distinctiveness of the Throne of David
Contrary to the first view, several biblical facts indicate that the throne of David cannot be equated with the throne of God in heaven. First, several descendants of David have sat on his throne, but only one of his descendants, Jesus Christ, sits on the right hand of God’s throne in heaven (Ps. 110:1; Heb. 8:1; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22).
Second, David’s throne was not established before his lifetime. By contrast, because God has always ruled over His creation, His throne in heaven was established long before David’s throne (Ps. 93:1–2).
Third, decades after Jesus ascended to the throne of God in heaven, He drew a clear distinction between His throne and God’s throne in heaven (Rev. 3:21). Because God promised to give to Jesus the throne of David (Lk. 1:31–33), it can be concluded that Jesus’ throne is David’s throne. Thus, the distinction that Jesus drew between His throne and God’s throne indicates that the throne of David and God’s throne in heaven are not the same.
Fourth, David’s throne was on earth, not in heaven. By contrast, God, whose throne is in heaven, exercises His ruling authority in and from heaven (Ps. 103:19; Isa. 66:1; Mt. 5:34; 6:9–10).
The Future Fulfillment of the Covenant
The Scriptures indicate that God’s promises to David in the Davidic Covenant will be fulfilled by Christ in the future in conjunction with His Second Coming. First, Jesus declared that He would sit on His throne, judge the Gentiles, and send believers into the kingdom in conjunction with His glorious Second Coming (Mt. 25:31–46). Thus, He put His throne and kingdom at the time of the Second Coming rather than before it.
Second, Zechariah 14:4 and 9 indicate that the Messiah will be King after His feet touch the Mount of Olives when He comes in His Second Coming and destroys the armies and rulers of all the Gentile nations of the world (cf. Ps. 2; Rev. 16:12–16; 19:11–20:6).
Third, according to Psalm 110:1–2 the Messiah is to sit at the right hand of His Father in heaven until it is time for Him to rule. Thus, the Messiah’s rule as King will not begin until after His present session with the Father in heaven.
Fourth, Jesus stated that He would sit on the throne of His glory as the Son of man when the earth is regenerated (restored to its pre–fall condition after the curse of man’s sin is lifted from it, Mt. 19:28; cp. Rom. 8:18–22). Such a regeneration of the earth has not yet happened, and Peter indicated that it will not happen until Israel, as a nation, has repented and Jesus returns and is physically present on the earth (Acts 3:19–21).
The Earthly Fulfillment of the Covenant
The Bible indicates that Christ will fulfill God’s promises to David in the Davidic Covenant by reigning over a literal, earthly kingdom on this present earth. First, according to Zechariah 14:4 and 9, after the Messiah’s feet touch the Mount of Olives at His Second Coming, He will be “king over all the earth.” Thus, He will rule not just over the church or individual hearts yielded to Him but over all the earth (cp. Ps. 72:8; Dan. 2:35, 44–45; Zech. 9:10).
Second, Jeremiah 23:5–8 promised that when the Messiah, a righteous branch of David, reigns as King, He will execute judgment and justice “in the earth.” During the days of His rule the people of Israel will “dwell safely” and will “dwell in their own land.” The language of this passage implies that Christ will rule over all the earth.
Third, in Daniel 7 the kingdom that God will give to the Messiah, the Son of man, when He comes with the clouds of heaven (vv. 13–14) is described as “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven” (v. 27). The expression under the whole heaven indicates that Christ’s kingdom will be on the earth (cp. Rev. 11:15).
Fourth, the prophets foretold dramatic changes in nature during the Messiah’s reign (cf. Acts 3:19–21), such as abundant production in wilderness and desert areas (Isa. 35:1–2; 41:18–20; 51:3); a tame animal kingdom that is vegetarian in diet (Isa. 11:6–9; 65:25): healing of all diseases and deformities (Isa. 29:18; 33:24; 35:5–6); and restoration of longevity of life (Isa. 65:20–22).
Fifth, the chronological order of future events presented in the Book of the Revelation indicates that Christ will reign for a thousand years on this present earth after His Second Coming but before this present earth is destroyed, before history is concluded, and before eternity future begins (Rev. 19:11–21:1). Revelation teaches that after the thousand-year reign of Christ, Satan will lead a revolt of the unsaved people on the earth against the rule of Christ and His saints (20:7–9). Several factors in this passage indicate that this revolt will take place on the earth. Satan will deceive the nations located “in the four quarters of the earth,” the rebels will go up “on the breadth of the earth,” and divine judgment will come “down from God out of heaven.”
The Political Fulfillment of the Covenant
Scripture indicates that Christ will fulfill the Davidic Covenant by reigning over a kingdom that is political in nature. First, Isaiah 9:6–7 states that when the Messiah sits on David’s throne ruling His kingdom, the government will be upon His shoulder, and the increase of His government will have no end. The word government implies literal political rule.
Second, when the Messiah reigns, He will exercise control over international relations, resulting in peace among the nations (Isa. 2:4; Mic. 4:3).
Third, during the Messiah’s reign His capital city, Jerusalem, will be the legal center of the world. Out of it will issue forth the law by which the nations of the world will be governed (Isa. 2:1–3; Mic. 4:1-2).
Fourth, just as David functioned as supreme judge over the affairs of his subjects, so the Messiah, when He reigns as the branch of Jesse and David, will function as supreme judge over the affairs of His subjects (Ps. 72:1–4, 12–14; Isa. 11:1–5; Jer. 33:14–16). He will protect the poor, needy, and meek, punish the oppressors, and execute the wicked. These are the functions of a political government (Rom. 13:1–7).
The Certain Fulfillment of the Covenant
The certain fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant is emphasized several times in the Bible. In Psalm 89:28–37, God declared that His covenant with David will stand fast, that He will fulfill its promises in spite of disobedience by David’s descendants, and that He will not permit His faithfulness to fail. God said, “My covenant will I not break, nor will I alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David” (vv. 34–35).
In Psalm 132:11, God asserted that He will not turn back from what He has sworn to David; and in Jeremiah 33:20–21, He stated that just as people cannot break the day and night cycle that He has established, so His covenant with David cannot be broken. In addition, God declared that He will set up a righteous descendant of David to rule as king (Jer. 23:5–6: 33:14–17), and He later stated His intention to fulfill the promises of the Davidic Covenant in Jesus Christ (Lk. 1:31–33). In all of these assertions, God never stated any conditions or left any doubt concerning the covenant’s fulfillment.
In light of the biblical facts examined, it can be concluded that Jesus Christ will fulfill God’s promises to David in the Davidic Covenant in the future (after His Second Coming to the earth). He will do this by establishing and reigning over a literal, earthly, political kingdom for a thousand years on this present earth, just as His ancestor David reigned over a literal, earthly, political kingdom on this present earth.