Jeremy Treat is Pastor for Equipping and Theology at Reality LA in Hollywood. This book is his PhD dissertation written under the supervision of Kevin Vanhoozer at Wheaton College with guidance from Douglas Moo. The foreword was written by Michael Horton. This treatise comes with excellent credentials.
Treat’s quest in this book is to reconcile and harmonize two key New Testament themes that have often been separated – the kingdom of God and the atonement accomplished by Christ – and to do so using two methodologies that have also tended to be split apart – biblical theology and systematic theology. He sets the question before himself in the opening page of his introduction: “This book seeks to provide an answer to the following basic question: What is the biblical and theological relationship between the coming of the kingdom of God and the atoning death of Christ on the cross?” (p. 25).
After an introduction which lays out the question and defines key terms, the book is divided into two sections, corresponding to the two methods used.
Part I is Biblical Theology and contains five chapters. Chapter 1 is an overview of the Old Testament motif of “victory through sacrifice,” beginning with the protoevangelium of Genesis 3:15 (the seed of the woman who crushes the serpent’s head but whose heel is bruised in the process). Treat rightly argues that the grand narrative of Scripture, from Adam to Israel, is the key narrative context for understanding the coming of the kingdom of God. Chapter 2 focuses on the Suffering Servant in the prophecies of Isaiah. Chapter 3 is a magisterial tracing of the theme of the crucified King in the Gospel of Mark. Chapter 4 is a more exegetical examination of several key passages in two New Testament books that show the interlocking nature of the cross and the kingdom: Colossians and Revelation. Chapter 5 is a summary of Part I. Here Treat summarizes his thesis: the kingdom is telic, and the cross is central. In other words, the kingdom is the telos or goal of God’s purpose in creation and redemptive history, but the kingdom comes through the atoning death of Christ. The cross is the pivot-point or hinge that effects the shift from the old age under the reign of sin, death, and Satan to the new creation or the eschatological kingdom of God.
Part II is Systematic Theology and contains five chapters. Chapter 6 deals with two topics related to Christology: the two states of Christ (the humiliation and the exaltation of Christ) and the three-fold office of Christ (prophet, priest and king). Treat argues that an over-compartmentalization of the two states of Christ has misled theologians into thinking that the kingly office of Christ begins with his exaltation, thus missing the reality that Christ reigns on the cross (as demonstrated in his earlier survey of Mark’s Gospel in Chapter 3). Chapters 7 and 8 deal with the conflict in contemporary theology between those who advocate a Christus Victor theory and defenders of the penal substitution theory of the atonement. In a nutshell, he argues that both motifs are necessary and essential for a right understanding of the kingdom, but that they must be seen in their proper relationship and order: the penal substitutionary death of Christ is the means by which Christ accomplishes his victory over Satan, delivers us from Satan’s power, and effects the transition of the ages that inaugurates the kingdom of God. Treat summarizes this as “Christus Victor through penal substitution.” Chapter 9 is a critical examination of Jürgen Moltmann’s theology of the kingdom of God. Chapter 10 is a conclusion.
One thing I liked about the book is that Treat does a particularly good job of interacting with N. T. Wright’s thought. Although Treat is appreciative of Wright and is in some ways even in agreement with Wright on the main point (that Jesus brings the kingdom by way of the cross), he also sees the areas where Wright’s theology is lacking and in need of correction. Treat focuses on presenting his thesis in positive terms and avoids undue polemics. Nevertheless, if you read the footnotes carefully, you can see the points where Treat takes issue with Wright or would want to tweak Wright’s thought in a more orthodox direction. For example, he writes: “Although Wright acknowledges some form of penal substitution, it plays little role in his telling of the story of redemption or connecting kingdom and cross. I see penal substitution (as integrated with Christus Victor) being essential for relating kingdom and cross.” (p. 247 n1). For more criticisms of Wright, see Treat’s comments on pp. 29 n25, 132 n9, 133-34, 138 n36.
I highly recommend this book. In terms of his success in answering his question (What is the relationship between the kingdom and the atoning death of Christ?), I think that Treat has nailed it.