Though I would not claim that “kingdom” is the center of biblical theology, Merrill’s does persuasively argue for the centrality of “kingdom” to biblical theology.
The resurgence of the biblical theology movement of the past thirty years or so has given rise to a host of issues attendant to that discipline, including the search for a center, or organizing principle, around which the biblical data might be ordered. . . . It is the thesis of this article that such a center does exist and that it lies in the concept of the kingdom of God, the only concept broad enough to encompass the diversity of biblical faith without becoming tautological. . . . Theology must make a statement about God (the subject) who acts (the verb) to achieve a comprehensive purpose (the object).
If this is the case, not only would one expect that statement to be the interlocking and integrating principle observable throughout the fabric of biblical revelation, but he would also expect it to be enunciated early on in the canonical witness in unmistakable terms. Hence, Genesis should most likely provide the seed-bed in which the anticipated proposition is to be found. And a careful reading of that book of beginnings reveals a statement of purpose that is so striking in its clarity and authority that there can be little question it is the very formula we seek to establish the Bible’s own theological center: ‘Then God [the subject] said, “Let Us make [the verb] man [object] in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule [purpose] over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky. . . .” God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Gen. 1:26-28).
The theme that emerges here is that of the sovereignty of God over all His creation, mediated through man, His vice-regent and image. Thus Genesis, the book of beginnings, introduces the purposes of God, which remain intact throughout the Old and New Testaments despite the sin of man and the impairment of his ability to be and do all that God had intended. The failings of His creation—a major theme of human history and of the Bible itself—are unable to frustrate the ultimate purposes of God, for the language of eschatology is replete with the overtones of redemption and salvation that bring about a renewal of all that God desired to do in creation. There will be a new heaven and new earth wherein dwells righteousness (Rev. 21:1; cf. Isa. 65:17; 66:22).
Eugene H. Merrill, “Daniel as a Contribution to Kingdom Theology,” in Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost, ed. Stanley D. Toussaint and Charles H. Dyer (Chicago: Moody, 1986), 211-12.