New Testament

Israel’s Future Kingdom

Studying the end times is important to do for a variety of reasons. First, it gives you an eager expectation and longing to see God’s will accomplished. Second, it provides the stimulation to live in a difficult life now as you wait for your hope to be fulfilled in the future. Third, it gives a sense of peace to the believer, knowing that Jesus is in fact in control of all of history, and He will return.

A significant subject in discussing the future is the role of Israel. What awaits them in the future?

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As the title indicates, I believe the Bible clearly teaches a special kingdom for Israel in the future that coincides with the promises of the Old Testament. Acts 3:19-21 speaks to this issue clearly:

[19] Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; [20] and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, [21] whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.

Acts 3:1-10 describes Peter and John healing a lame man, which caused all the Jews who were gathered together in the temple to surround them in amazement (v. 11).

Peter then proclaims that they [the Jews] had put to death their Messiah, but that God had raised Him from the dead (vv. 12-16). Peter acknowledges that the Jews had acted in ignorance, just as the prophets had foretold the Messiah must suffer (vv. 17-18).

It is in light of all of this information that Peter extends the opportunity for Israel to “repent and return” (v. 19). Peter then gives two motivations (two purpose clauses) which give the reasons why Israel should repent.

[1] so that your sins may be wiped away

[2a] in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord

and

[2b] and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you

It is important to recognize that the second purpose (2a and 2b) are governed by one purpose conjunction, meaning they are both a part of the same purpose. Thus, Peter is saying that if Israel “repent and return,” then their sins will be wiped away and “times of refreshing” will come along with the coming of the Messiah.

Jesus is further described as the one “whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things.” This Messianic descriptor is an allusion to Psalm 110:1 where David says the Messiah sits at God’s right hand until it is time for Him to conquer His enemies. When that time comes, the Messiah will come and bring about the “times of refreshing” and the “period of restoration.”

The “period of restoration” is a unique phrase, but is similar to Acts 1:6 where the Disciples ask, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” The verb and noun forms “restoring/restoration” in Acts 1:6/3:19 are cognates (the same word as verb and noun) indicating that the subject of restoration in both places is the kingdom for Israel. 

Notice the implication of Peter’s message. He is entreating the people of Israel to repent and turn to their Messiah so that the Messiah will return and bring Israel’s kingdom with Him! This is an important realization because this demonstrates that the New Testament did not change the Old Testament expectation of a real, tangible Israelite kingdom. Rather, Peter claims that his message is in line with what “God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (v. 21b).

There are a variety of Old Testament texts which are the basis for Peter’s call for Israel’s repentance. For example, Hosea 14:1–7 calls for Israel to return to their God (v. 1), which then will result in God healing and restoring His people (vv. 4–7).  Similarly, Zechariah 1:3 petitions the people to turn to the Lord so that He would return to them. Further, there seems to be an underlying notion in the prophets that for the Lord to prosper His people Israel there must be repentance which will result in divine forgiveness (cf. Joel 2:12–13; Mal 3:7).

Speaking of the future, Zechariah 12-14 says that God’s Spirit will be poured out on Israel  so that  they will repent and mourn over their past sins (Zech 12:10). Subsequent to this renewal of Israel’s heart, the Messiah will come and rescue Jerusalem and set up His kingdom over the other nations (Zech 14).

How does this apply to us? First, we realize God is not done with Israel yet. They are in a time of hardening during the time of the Gentiles (cf. Luke 21:24). We look forward to a national repentance that will result in Jesus coming back. Second, we are not now in the Messianic kingdom. We await a real rule on this earth by our real king, Jesus. Amen, come quickly!

photo credit: yanivba via photopin cc

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs the Bible Sojourner podcast.

12 Comments

  • Joe Elledge

    Again, I hope you will explore the implications of a literal, to the day fulfillment of the Fall Feasts by Christ at His return. Since Christ fulfilled the spring feasts to the literal day, wouldn’t He do so again with the fall feasts? What would such a literal, “to the day” fulfillment look like? Some messianic Jews, for example, believe that the final Feast of Trumpets (a.k.a., “The Last Trump”) will be “the rapture”. What would such a consummation of earth’s history over a literal 15 day period look like? What implications would it have for the end time role of the then living ethnic Jews? Are there any historical events from the Old Testament that would pre-figure the events of such a literal, 15 day period? The conquest of Jericho? The Exodus? I am struggling with this myself. My only conclusion at this point is our Christian eschatology has not adequately considered the implications of such a literal, final consummation of earth’s history over a 15 day period. God bless.

    • Peter Goeman

      Thanks, Joe. I look forward to exploring this more. I tend to shy away from the “to the day” fulfillment patterns that are often presented. I also have a couple articles I’m working on which will give my viewpoint of what events are types or prefigurements of Christ. Hopefully those will be out soon.

  • Pam

    Jesus offered the Kingdom to the Jews during His earthly ministry (i.e., 3.5 years of his pre-resurrection incarnate life). He was the King. He had the authority to do this. Are you suggesting that here – post-Mt 12, post death/burial/resurrection, post ascension – that He, again, through His Apostles, makes a legitimate offer of the Kingdom to the Jews; such that, if they were, even then, willing to accept it, He would have established it (as in the days of His earthly ministry)?

    • Peter Goeman

      Thanks for the insightful comment and question, Pam. I do think that this statement by Peter is the same kingdom that Jesus offered when He was on the earth, being offered by His representatives in Acts 3.

      • Pam

        If that is the case, then when – according to your thinking – did He/His representatives cease offering this kingdom to the Jews? Ever? Is the “Gospel of Christ” the “Gospel of God”? Is the message we preach, as Christians, fundamentally the same as that which was preached by John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Twelve BEFORE the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord?

        • Peter Goeman

          According to how I understand Scripture, the message of the Scripture is constant throughout. The term, “gospel” we have made a technical term usually referring to telling people about the life of Jesus (specifically grace, faith, and other salvation matters). However, the Bible writers use “gospel” in a more broad sense referring to the whole grand storyline of the BIble. Thus, the gospel of Christ and of God are equal, both entailing the complete picture from Creation (Gen 1) to Restoration (Rev 22).

          The message of Christ and of the Apostles never changed as well. There was never a “stop” for the offer of the kingdom for the Jews. The offer remains today, under the conditions of repentance and putting their faith in Jesus, their Messiah. What Matthew and Luke/Acts point out (among other books) is the transition in focus to the “time of the Gentiles” because of Israel’s current rejection of their Messiah. Paul says it similarly in Romans 11, saying that hardening has come upon the Jews for the salvation of the Gentiles, yet in the end, the Jews will come back.

          The message we teach in our churches should be fundamentally the same as Jesus and the Apostles. However, we need to understand the “big picture” of the Bible in order to get that message right. And I think the Bible is clear in the big picture, that Israel retains a place in God’s plan at the end of this age, when they will repent and God will give them their promised kingdom. Right now, the kingdom is “on hold” as it were. But, it is not eternally revoked. Does that make sense?

  • Jason

    Good post Peter, if my memory serves me accurately, some people think the Lord offers the restoration of nation Israel here, do you think God offered to restore the nation here (or even in Matthew)?

    • Peter Goeman

      Yes you are right, Jason, some people do think this is a genuine offer of the kingdom to Israel here. I would agree with that. I think Peter is genuinely telling them that if the nation repents then the kingdom will come at that time. They do not repent, and we now await a future repentance of Israel. I also think a similar thing happens in Matthew. What do you think?

      • Jason

        Peter, I don’t see it in Matthew. In fact, the way I hear it explained requires a person to harmonize John and Matthew in a way I’m not sure Matthew or John intended. Matthew has 5 discourses he has thematically placed in his book. I think the “offer” requires looking at Matthew in a more historical – linear fashion than Matthew intended.

        Those discourses seem to be lessons he taught multiple times to his disciples and the people. Jesus traveled and taught, I’d suggest he taught the same lessons multiple times to different people. This also benefits the disciples because the key to learning is? repetition.

        Matthew from the beginning states his book is about making disciples, so there is a didactic characteristic regarding the book. He centers his teaching on Christ’s actions and words all of which drive to the cross. In the beginning of Matthew, he seems to even state Jesus came to save his people for his sins.

        Because of the purpose of Matthew and his 5 didactic messages I would say the timing in Matthew and purpose stand as major obstacles to the “offered Kingdom” view.

        But yesterday I got to thinking, this is a brainstorm aloud, so don’t cry heretic please, but often I hear people reject the offer view because they say Christ would then no longer die and the other nations would be shut out of salvation. But I’m not sure that is true. Is it possible Israel is restored and could have played an active role as missionaries? Is it possible Christ still dies?

        So far I’d answer my own questions with, Yes, Christ still dies. All the Gospels make sure we know Christ is going to die in accordance with Scripture (Isaiah 52-53, Deuteronomy 18, and many others).

        The nation Israel’s restoration would set up a kingdom on earth. Their function would still be evangelism. Now this did not happen so this is conjecture and I really don’t like living in “what if / could have” land in theology, but I’m not sure Israel’s restoration would have meant spelling doom for the rest of the world in Acts.

        Of course this is contingent on whether or not the kingdom was really offered? Much study has driven me mad Festus.

        • Peter Goeman

          Some good thoughts, Jason. I honestly have not seen it explained as a harmonization of John and Matthew. Do you have any blog links or articles where someone does that?

          When I trace the overall picture of Matthew I see the kingdom emphasis all over Matthew’s outline itself. Check out this article by Vlach and see what you think. http://www.pre-trib.org/data/pdf/Vlach-TheKingdomPrograminM.pdf

          As far as your “possible-heretical speech”… ;) I personally don’t put too much weight on theological “what-ifs.” Meaning that I think there can be a legitimate offer of the kingdom, and God at the same time knows they will reject it. I don’t think possibility thwarts God’s sovereign purpose. But, I will admit I’m not a philosopher :) I just try to look at what the Bible says :) You definitely have given my mind much to ponder though! Now you probably have driven me mad…

          • Jason

            Peter, John and Matthew’s harmony was explained to me in Theo 4. I think it is quite common though John 6:60 is a normal verse thrown into defending the “kingdom offer”. I personally do not see it in Matthew. Jesus came to die and teach to His people. He will come again for His kingdom.

            I’m with you on the what if statements, was just thinking through some principles too regarding the kingdom. When the Millennial Kingdom is in full force, the Jewish nation will evangelize as they were always intended to do :)

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