Hermeneutics,  New Testament,  Old Testament,  Theology

Should We Expect a Future Kingdom for National Israel?

It is becoming increasingly popular to discount a future kingdom for geopolitical Israel. But both Old and New Testaments speak of a time when Israel will be restored as a national kingdom, with the Messiah ruling from Jerusalem. Passages such as Psalm 72:1–20, Isaiah 2:1–3, 11:1–9, 65:17–25, Zech 8:4–5, 14:16–19 are but a few of the passages which teach a future kingdom for Israel that is distinct from the eternal state.

Although the Old Testament is very clear when speaking of a future kingdom for Israel, some biblical interpreters believe that the New Testament tempers our expectation for a future kingdom for Israel. Yet, there is no reason to deviate from what is clearly laid out in the Old Testament.

flag of Israel representing a hope for a future kingdom

The General New Testament Expectation of a Kingdom for Israel

Rather than adjusting the expectation of a future kingdom for Israel, the New Testament confirms what the Old Testament told us to expect. Jesus himself tells the disciples that at a future time, “when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne” the disciples “will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt 19:28). It is difficult to make the twelve tribes of Israel refer to the church.

Also, just in case someone wonders when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne. The timing is specified in Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.” This is a reference to Christ’s Second Coming (cf. Matt 25), and thus the kingdom will be established when Christ returns with the angels and sits on His throne.

Luke 19:11–27 is a parable given by Jesus to counteract those who “supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (v. 11). Jesus says how the nobleman (symbolizing the king) must go away to receive the kingdom, and then he comes back to establish it at a later time. This discussion of the delay of the kingdom was important since the disciples likely shared the optimism of their culture that the Messiah’s arrival would immediately relieve them from their Roman oppressors.

Having spent over three years with Christ prior to His death and resurrection, and then 40 days listening to Christ teach about the kingdom of God, the disciples had one question: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). After all Jesus’s teaching and instruction, the disciples still expected the Old Testament prophecies to accurately be fulfilled and a kingdom to be restored to Israel. Importantly, even after the Apostles are granted the Holy Spirit this expectation does not change.

Acts 3 and the Post-Pentecost Expectation of the Israelite Kingdom

Some interpreters chalk up the Acts 1:6 question about the kingdom of Israel as a failure to understand Jesus’s teaching. However, looking at Acts 3 quickly dispels us of that notion. In this chapter we have a post-Pentecost, Spirit-inspired sermon about a future kingdom for Israel.

[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
[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 description 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 clearly links 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).

Peter’s Reliance on the Old Testament Prophets

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 of Israel at a future time 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.

Why write articles like this? Because studying these kinds of issues are important. First, it gives us an eager expectation and longing to see God’s will accomplished. Second, it provides the stimulation to live in a difficult life now as we wait for our hope and God’s promises 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. And may He 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 and Youtube channel.


  • Eugene Henson


    I realize that you have been steeped in Dispensational teachings, but what you have proposed above is not the Biblical view of the kingdom of God. Isaiah 2:2 begins with “In the Last Days…”. So when were the “Last Days” and the “Last Days of What?”

    Peter and the other Apostles tell us in the NT that THEY were living in the Last Days. See Acts 2:15-21, I Cor 10:6-11, Heb 1:1-2, James 5:1-3, and I John 2:18. There are many more. Who should we believe, you or the writers of the NT?

    You wote this concerning Psalm 110:1, Jesus is further described as the one “whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things.” This Messianic description 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.”

    Psalm 110:1 doesn’t say that “the Messiah sits at Good’s right hand UNTIL it is time for Him to conquer His enemies.” It says this… The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

    Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father on HIS throne NOW making His enemies His footstool. The Apostle Paul clarifies this in I Cor 15:20-26… But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.

    In verse 25, Paul says that He “Must Reign” UNTIL He has put all enemies under His feet. The Greek verb for “reign” is Present, Active, Indicitive. That means Christ was reigining on the Throne of God in the First Centry. Christ was making his enemies His footstool then and has been doing so for nearly 2000 years.

    Christ hands over the kingdom to the Father at His Second Coming. Messiah is reigning NOW!

    Do you actually think that God the Father will allow Jesus to be humiliated for 1000 years while the Jews make inferior animal sacrafices at a rebuilt Temple? The NT makes it clear that those sacrafices were SHADOWS of the real sacrafice which is Christ. Jesus was humiliated ONCE. He is now exalted above every other name. He will never be humiliated again.

    Have you ever asked yourself the question, which throne did God promise to seat a descendant of David on? Was it David’s throne in Jerusalem, or was it God’s throne in heaven? Peter answers this question very clearly in in sermon in Acts Chapter Two. “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. “And so, because he was a PROPHET and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” ’ “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:29-36)

    Peter clearly equates the fulfillment of this promise made to David with the Resurrection and Ascention of Christ to sit on God’s throne. Peter then also brings up Psalm 110:1 to tie it all together.

    Contrary to what you believe, we are living in the Kingdom. Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is sitting on God’s throne, ruling and reigning over all things. To say otherwise takes away from His glory.

    Grace and peace to you.

  • Rex Amend

    Hi Peter,

    I don’t know if you’ll remember me (I live in Cheyenne, WY – I thanked you for the podcast and thepersonal encouragement that there is still dispensational scholarship in the next generation etc.), but it was nice meeting you at the 360 conference.

    I’m teaching MacArthur’s Fundamentals of the Faith for a Sunday school class and just covered spiritual gifts. Your article “The Link Between Eschatology and Spiritual Gifts” caught my eye, but I get a message [414Request-URI Too LargeThe request URL is over the maximum size allowed!] that prevents the article opening. Might you be able to send the article to my email or repair the link?

    Thanks for all you do.
    Rex Amend

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