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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.

Comments

A fascinating summary, a lot of which I agree with. Where I don’t, I’m sticking to my responses in the first two links, which didn’t draw out any comment.

3. is a major area of divergence of opinion. I think Paul in the NT shouts it from the rooftops: the Gentiles are included as the new covenant people of God on equal terms with believing Jews, by believing in Jesus’s atonement for their sins as well as the Jews’.

I also think (4.) that Paul makes it quite clear that God’s covenant with his people, preceding but including Jews, has not failed. If Romans 11, the conclusion of this argument, had been about failure, in full knowledge of a less than national turning to the messiah Jesus, why would he have ended with a doxology? “All Israel” would be saved, and the mechanism is described in that chapter, even though national salvation had been ruled out earlier in the argument. Not all descended from Israel are Israel.

6, 7 & 8 agreed with, I think!

The summary is good, and the links helpful - if only in reminding me how I responded when I disagreed.

3. is a major area of divergence of opinion. I think Paul in the NT shouts it from the rooftops: the Gentiles are included as the new covenant people of God on equal terms with believing Jews, by believing in Jesus’s atonement for their sins as well as the Jews’.

Where’s the problem? I don’t disagree with this.

I also think (4.) that Paul makes it quite clear that God’s covenant with his people, preceding but including Jews, has not failed.

Paul seems to leave the repentance and reintegration of defiant Jews open:

And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. (Rom. 11:23)

The salvation of national Israel, as he knew it, was conditional upon them not continuing in their unbelief. Otherwise they will be burnt in the fire of God’s judgment.

Isn’t that why we have the quotation from Hosea:

As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (Rom. 9:25–26)

But if you only mean that God’s commitment to the promise made to the patriarchs has not failed, which is what Paul says (Rom. 9:6-7), then I agree with you. It’s significant that Paul takes it back to Abraham, not to Moses.

In 3. you have the Gentiles justified by believing in “this new political future”. I see Gentiles being justified by believing in Christ’s death on the cross as atonement for sin for them, as well as Jews. Isn’t that the difference?

As evidence for which you cite…?

Romans 3. The argument is addressed to Jews and Gentiles v.9, v.19b. The righteousness through the faithfulness of Christ is “to all who believe. There is no difference, for all….are justified….through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus….a sacrifice of atonement….the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus….Is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles also?

Then the whole of Romans 4, about Gentiles as the people of God by faith, leading to Paul’s inclusive for us….for us….our….our….setting out Jew and Gentile as one people by faith in God who delivered Jesus to death for sins and raised him for justification.

That really is it for tonight.

We’ve gone over this before, several times, as I recall. But here’s another attempt to address the traditional reading of Romans 3:21-26.

So, does the supposed rebirth of modern Israel have any significance other than some believing and repenting to become part of the Church?

I don’t think we can say that the rebirth of modern Israel was predicted in scripture. Jews may see things differently, but the New Testament leaves first century Israel with a stark choice: believe that YHWH has vindicated his chosen and anointed Son by installing him as king at his right hand, or face the devastation of the war against Rome and exclusion from his future kingdom. That’s as far as it goes.

But that doesn’t mean that the rebirth of modern Israel is insignificant. It’s just that we are left having to determine for ourselves—albeit in light of the preceding narrative—what it means. That will not be an easy task.