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The restoration of the kingdom to Israel: a summary

Todd asks a question in respect of an old post on the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6-8).

Is the restoration of Israel, then, during a future Millennium? If so, how do Gentiles fit into this, and where is the Church during this time? Is the kingdom of Israel different than the Church, the heavenly Zion? Will Hagar, Jerusalem below, and her children, have their own kingdom, or will they return to Sarah and submit to her?

To bring it all up-to-date, here’s a brief summary of my understanding of the future of Israel as seen from the perspective of Jesus and Paul, with a few links to the relevant posts.

1. I think that the best way for evangelicals to read the New Testament is to factor in the limitations imposed on Jesus and his followers by historical perspective. The story is unfolding behind and ahead of them as they speak, but there are natural horizons to prophetic vision.

2. Jesus saw things largely in terms of the restoration of Israel, under very different conditions, following the inevitable catastrophe of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. He did not envisage the inclusion of Gentiles , but he did expect the nations to come and celebrate the establishment of YHWH’s new kingdom.

3. Paul shared that hope, but he also had to reckon with the incorporation of a growing number of Gentiles who believed that God had raised his Son from the dead and had given to him a future rule over the nations. Because they believed in this new “political” future, these Gentiles were justified, their sins against the living God were forgiven, they received the Holy Spirit, they became part of the covenant community, and they waited for the Son from heaven to deliver them from the wrath to come.

4. Paul could not be certain, though, that his people as a nation would ever repent of their rejection of Jesus and rebellion against God, and turn and call on his name as Christ and Lord. His hope was that the inclusion of Gentiles would make the Jews jealous, but this was looking less and less likely. He was deeply frustrated by the disbelief he encountered in the synagogues of Asia Minor and Greece.

5. In the end, he could only express the hope that they would repent and believe after the wrath of God came upon Jerusalem, as a consequence of judgment, but he did not live to see if this would be the case.

For an extended treatment of this theme see my book The Future of the People of God: Reading Romans Before and After Western Christendom (Wipf & Stock, 2010).

6. Israel as a nation did not change its mind about Jesus, and therefore was not restored; it was excluded from the “kingdom” of Jesus’ rule over the nations of the Greek-Roman world, cast into the outer darkness, where there was wailing and gnashing of teeth.

7. But this and the history of modern Israel are beyond the horizon of New Testament eschatology. It’s part of the continuing story of the people of God—the thousand year period between the defeat of pagan Rome through the testimony to Jesus and the final renewal of creation—but it was not predicted or interpreted in scripture.

8) So what about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel? When Jesus makes the statement, only Israel is in view. By the time the kingdom was restored (as the rule of Jesus over the descendants of Abraham and eventually over the nations), very few of the original branches were still attached to the rich root of the patriarchs, and the olive tree had become almost entirely an engrafted entity. The kingdom was restored to something that was no longer Israel.

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