The promises of God that relate to Israel’s future are basically bound up in three covenants:
The Abrahamic Covenant
The Davidic Covenant
The New Covenant
Within the Old Testament, the Kingdom is promised over and over again to Israel.
When you look at the texts in which God makes promises to Israel, there is also a corresponding negative promise.
When you obey Me, when you follow Me, when you truly worship Me, I'll bring you the Kingdom.
When you don't, I'll punish you.
Did the promises of punishment and the promises of chastening and the promises of judgment on Israel come to pass literally? Yes!
They were all fulfilled in the actual, literal nation of Israel.
Should we imagine that the promises of blessing are figurative?
"All the curses are literal, but all the blessings are figurative” – wrong!
Gen 12:1-3 – The Abrahamic Covenant – 5 times, “I Will” – unilateral, unconditional, sovereign Covenant.
Gen 13:14 – forever!
Gen 15:7 – God says, I’m going to make a promise (a Covenant).
The Jews have never had the land, yet.
Gen 17:19 - an everlasting Covenant.
Gen 22:15-17 – a promise after the offering of Isaac.
Gen 26:24 – God reiterates His promise to the subsequent patriarch (Isaac).
Gen 28:13-15 – then to the next patriarch (Jacob).
Notice that God kept making promises to sinful patriarchs.
A land, a seed, and a world-wide blessing is promised.
This covenant is challenged by the world today.
Exodus 19:5-6 – The Mosaic (Law) Covenant
The Mosaic Covenant is a conditional, bilateral agreement between God and the nation Israel.
Ex 24 – a blood ceremony to affirm their commitment.
The result: they did not obey the law.
Gal 3:15 – Paul – the law does not invalidate a Covenant previously made by God. It was made by a promise, not by their keeping it or not.
Rom 3:3,4a – Paul – “If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? May it never be!”
A covenant is a covenant and it is irrevocable.
This concept is illustrated in a book like Hosea. Hosea marrying a prostitute, she’s sold naked in the market place, and he buys her back. This is a symbol of God buying back the prostitute Israel because He made a Covenant.
Ezekiel 16 – God’s unconditional love for Israel. See v.28-29, 53, 60
Deut 7:6 – God keeps His Covenants
Deut 9:4 – God is doing what He is doing because He promised and not because Israel deserves it.
The Mosaic Covenant provides Israel with the conditions and regulations necessary to maintain unbroken occupancy of the land.
Ps 132:13 - The Davidic Covenant – an extension of the Abrahamic Covenant.
2 Sam 7:10-13 – the author is talking about the coming Messiah who would establish David’s kingdom forever. (Is 9:6-7, Lk 1:32-33)
2 Sam 7:16 – Out of your line is going to come a King with an everlasting Kingdom.
2 Sam 23:5 – God will do it!
Promised = House (progeny), Seed, Kingdom
In 1 Chron 17:11-14 the covenant is summarized.
The Davidic Covenant extends the Abrahamic Covenant.
Ps 72 – the reign of the great King, who will come and establish peace. It describes the Kingdom. David is celebrating the wonderful promise of the King.
Ps 89 – Psalm of the King, celebrating the Covenant made with David (v.1-4). Loving kindness will be built up forever. A Covenant has been made and He will not break it off or violate it (v.30-37).
This covenant is unilateral, unconditional, irrevocable - it is a grant that can never be taken away.
One could say that this covenant is challenged by the ‘Church’ today.
Jer 31:31 – the Abrahamic Covenant and the Davidic Covenant depend upon one other covenant – The New Covenant.
This is a covenant not like the Abrahamic or the Davidic covenants.
Israel broke those covenants.
The Abrahamic Covenant made promises. The Davidic Covenant made promises. They’re unilateral, unconditional, and irrevocable. How do you get to the fulfillment of those promises?
Recall that the Mosaic Covenant only demonstrated that Israel can’t qualify for the blessings of the Abrahamic and the Davidic covenants – because they can’t keep the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant only curses them.
You have to come to the New Covenant. It is different from the Mosaic Covenant.
v.33 – Made with the house of Israel and He will put His law within them.
This is a covenant that states that one day, He will change their hearts and write His law inside of them. And then He will be their God and they will be His people.
It is an unconditional, unilateral, sovereign, gracious, irrevocable covenant.
v.34 – has this happened yet?
v.35 – “If this happens, then…” – this has not happened yet!
God has not changed His mind.
v.37 – these things cannot be done.
This one verse alone refutes Replacement Theology.
God is not going to cast off Israel, even for what they have done.
The book of Jeremiah was written while Israel was under divine punishment, while their disobedience was severe.
The New Covenant is not a reward for their faithfulness. It is given in spite of their unfaithfulness.
We, by faith, are of the promises made to Abraham. We, by faith are children of Abraham. We will take part in all of these promises also because we are grafted in. We will be in the Kingdom. (Gal 3, 4)
We are all saved by the terms of the New Covenant.
We will also receive the blessings of the glorious reign of Christ on Earth on David’s throne.
He has written His law on our hearts as well. (Rom 2, Heb 10:16)
God, however, is not finished with Israel. (Romans 9, 10, 11)
The Church has not replaced Israel.
Ezekiel 36:24-38 – the terms of the New Covenant are repeated.
Israel’s apostasy does not cancel the Covenant.
Zech 12:10 – New Covenant language – they will look upon me whom they have pierced.
Zech 14:9 – the Lord will be King over all the Earth.
The Jews await a Kingdom…
The Lord Jesus Christ, early in His ministry, made an offer; He made an offer to be the King. If Israel would acknowledge Him as King, it would have their much-anticipated Kingdom as promised to the Jews throughout the Old Testament.
The cross works out of the rejection and rebellion against Jesus being King. Here’s where there’s a split in theology and why people, those who tend to be in the Reformed theological camp, get very nervous when they hear somebody like me talking this way. They get nervous because in their eyes Christ came to die, period. That was His whole mission, to come and give atonement. With that we don’t quarrel. What the Dispensationalist is saying, however, is that it wasn’t a straight line to the cross. Jesus arrived at the cross as a result of cause-and-effect, cause-and-effect, cause-and-effect, and part of the cause-and-effect was that He was rejected by the nation of Israel, clearly taking place in Matthew 12, and it was that rejection that propelled Him to the cross.
If you stop to think about the history laid out for us within Scripture, you think of the fact that it starts with creation - God offered a sinless environment to man. What did man do with it? He trashed it. So we have the Fall. Had man not trashed the environment and had he not rebelled, would Christ have had to have died? So you see that the set up for the crucifixion works out of a genuine situation of cause-and-effect in Eden.
Then we have the Flood. You get to the Flood and Noah has an ark of a finite size. Suppose when Noah preached during the 120 years and everybody believed. Would the ark then have become necessary? Cause-and-effect.
It’s speculation, but the point we need to realize is that in every one of these historical junctures there’s a pattern that you want to see, and it’s that pattern that occurs in the Gospels. So what occurs in the Gospels isn’t new, it’s just a repeat of the same sort of pattern. God presents a positive option to the human race and the human race always rebels against it, which of course God predestined. As a result of the rebellion against His positive offer, we move to the next step in His plan. Granted, from all eternity God set this up to get to the cross; that’s a given, He did that. But it’s by means of these things, these events, this cause-and-effect, that we get to the Cross. So we want to recognize how this works out in the Gospels.
Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
[Mat 3:1-2 NASB]
Here is where the Gospels begin - they don’t begin with Jesus - all four Gospels begin with John the Baptist. Why do the Gospels begin with John the Baptist? In the Old Testament history who chose the kings? Did the kings come upon the scene and anoint themselves? No, there were king-makers. The prophets were the king-makers. Who ordained the kings? It was the prophets. How did they ordain the King? Well what did Samuel do to David? He anointed him with oil in 1 Samuel 16. That’s the anointing, that’s Mashach (to anoint) and it is the root to the Hebrew word Mashiyach, from which we get our term “Messiah.”
What does the word Messiah mean? The word Messiah means the anointed one. Who was the anointed one? The one the prophet had chosen to be king. That’s the background.
So now comes the prophet, the king-maker, and in Matthew 3:2 what is the message of the king-maker? The message isn’t “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” for He’s going to atone for your sins – that’s not the message here at this time in history. It’s true that John the Baptist knew that the Messiah would suffer, he knew that from the Old Testament and there was some type of primitive understanding that somehow the Messiah would die, that’s true. But there’s an offer being made here to the nation of Israel. John the Baptist says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” it’s here, it’s at hand; it doesn’t mean it’s come, it means it is at the door, so to speak, it’s near here.
So the nation is called to repent because Israel was operating on its own program that involved a bunch of religious works and an apostate religious system. John the Baptist recognized all that and his message was to the house of Israel, to change their attitude and their ways and he challenged them on the basis of Scripture to prepare themselves for the promised Kingdom.
We need to recognize that here in verse 2, within the early chapters to all four Gospels really, John the Baptist never defines what the Kingdom is and that’s critical to understanding the New Testament. The New Testament never stops to define the content of the Kingdom, which means one thing. It means the Kingdom must have been known. Where did the Jews find out the content to the word “Kingdom” from? From the Old Testament. That’s where they got the content for what the Kingdom is.
“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” he says in verse 2. In verse 3, we have confirmation of this train of thought. For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS,
‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!’”
What was Isaiah prophesying about? The kingdom; the ideal kingdom that would surely come. So when you see the Old Testament quote in verse 3, that tells you that John the Baptist was communicating what any Jew of his day would have understood from Isaiah’s writings. What did Isaiah talk about? He talked about a regenerated cosmos, he talked about Jerusalem being the everlasting temple, he talked about making straight the crooked paths – the fact is that the Jews looked forward to a Kingdom and a rebirth of nature and all things contained within. So John the Baptist is stating, by his use of Isaiah’s writings, “this is it, the Kingdom is at hand – get ready!”
So the point is that it wasn’t necessary for John the Baptist and then Jesus to go into great detail about the nature of the Kingdom. Everybody at this time knew what the Kingdom was. John the Baptist was preaching about a major event in world history, the long anticipated culmination of Israel’s reason for existence. That’s what is meant here in the beginning of Matthew, chapter 3; “Repent, for that kingdom is at hand,” the last hour of history is near.
At the end of Matthew chapter 3, we have Jesus’ baptism. In Matthew chapter 4, we have Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the desert.
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me."
[Mat 4:8-9 NASB]
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
[Mat 4:17 NASB]
Notice what Jesus does. What is His first message? His message is “Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Again, the same message, the prophet and the King have the same Gospel, the same message, to the same people, over the same issue, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Where this is even more profoundly expressed is within the Synoptic Gospel of Mark:
Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
[Mar 1:14-15 NASB]
Mark records the preaching of this “Gospel.” Now it is at this point within this discussion that a very important factor needs to be stressed. This discussion is in no way suggesting that there are or that there were two different ways of salvation. My use of the term “Gospel” (Gr. euaggelion) simply means “good news.”
When the disciples were sent out they preached the “good news” that the Kingdom of God was at hand. That was a specific message to the nation of Israel that was understood and expected via covenant by every Jew at this point in history. We, Christians, preach the “good news,” which includes the finished work of Christ. This does not suggest that there is one Gospel for the Jews and one Gospel for Gentiles. Indeed, the nature of the good news was different when it was an offer of the Kingdom to Israel compared to when the salvific work of Christ was completed, but salvation has always been by one means - Christ’s finished work was anticipated before it was accomplished, but it is now remembered ever since it was accomplished - that being faith.
This Gospel of the Kingdom, at this point in history, is a message of urgency at the end of Israel’s history. Though as profound as it is to imagine that if the nation of Israel had accepted Jesus’ offer, history as we know it would have concluded roughly 2,000 years ago, this Gospel is not the good news that the Christian declares today:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
[Rom 1:16 NASB]
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
[1 Cor 15:1-4 NASB]
The death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the Christian’s Gospel. Again, the nature of the “good news” was contextually different when it was an offer of the Kingdom to Israel, but salvation has always been by faith (Rom 4:3, Gen 15:6, Hab 2:4, Gal 3:11, Heb 11, Eph 2:8-9). People are not saved today by the preaching of a Gospel centered upon a coming Kingdom. A person is saved by their acceptance (belief) in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That said, the original Gospel, the good news, the offer that Jesus made to the nation of Israel for the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenants did not have as its content the death, burial, and resurrection of their awaited Messiah.
Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
[Mat 9:35 NASB]
Later on in Jesus’ ministry, He started to pick up heavy resistance from the “establishment” (the Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, and ultimately the Nation). Jesus sent out His disciples, and they ultimately confirmed that the Nation was rejecting Christ’s offer:
These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
[Mat 10:5-7 NASB]
So halfway through Jesus’ ministry He’s commissioning the disciples, and He says in verse 5 “do not go to the Gentiles, do not go to the Samaritans.” We can conclude that in addition to two contexts of “good news”, Christ gave two distinct commissions to His disciples. When He initially gave them the Gospel, He commissioned them to go to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel“ but not to the Gentiles and the Samaritans - Matthew 10:5-7. Later, in conjunction with the full Gospel, He commissioned them to preach to all creatures - Mark 16:15 - and to make disciples of all nations – Matthew 28:18-20.
Further in Matthew’s communication of the Gospel, chapter 10, verses 9 and 10, we read that Jesus also commanded distinct preparations for the ministries of the disciples. When He commissioned them to preach the Gospel to Israel, He ordered the disciples not to take money, a bag, two tunics, sandals, or a staff. However, when it became obvious that Israel would reject Jesus and His Gospel of the Kingdom and when the Gospel was about to become complete, Jesus commanded the disciples to take a purse, a bag, and even a sword - Luke 22:35-38.
At the end of the four Gospels, when it’s all said and done, and Christ’s finished work has been realized and He’s risen from the dead, now all of a sudden the rules have changed; now we’re doing something different. What is going on in Matthew 28 is not the same as what is happening in Matthew 10. Here He says I don’t want you to go to the nations, I don’t want you to go to the Gentiles, I don’t want you to go to the Samaritans. Verse 6 of Matthew 10 basically states “I want you to concentrate your ministry efforts on the house of Israel.” So this is a Jewish topic, not a “Christian” topic at this time in history.
Matthew 10:7 captures for us the message of John the Baptist; it was the message of Jesus, and it’s the message of His disciples at this time in history. This is not a message to the Gentiles and it is not the complete Gospel that we know today. This is a Gospel that was projected during the time of Jesus’ ministry to the house of Israel exclusively. We can call it a special announcement that the kingdom was right at their door.
"Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
[Mat 11:11 NASB]
"And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.
[Mat 11:14 NASB]
Here is one of the dilemmas of the Gospel. In Matthew 11:14, notice what it says, this is where John was in prison and he was kind of doubting things and Jesus said in verse 11, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist,” and then in verse 14 He says, “And if you care to accept it,” the it being italicized (you have to supply the object of the verb) and what “it” is is the Gospel message of “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” - if you will accept this Gospel, then John is Elijah and the prophecy has been fulfilled in John the Baptist.
"Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.
[Mal 4:5 NASB]
What was the Old Testament prophecy? That Elijah would come and then there’d be the Kingdom. So if the Kingdom is going to come in Jesus’ day, you’ve got to have Elijah there? Well who’s the Elijah figure? He says if you accept it, John is the Elijah figure. But the Nation doesn’t accept it.
And He answered and said, "Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands."
[Mat 17:11-12 NASB]
The idea is that Jesus is saying that Elijah is coming but he’s already come. There’s a contingency stated here. God offers the Kingdom, He offers John the Baptist, John the Baptist could have been Elijah, but the Nation, in rejection and rebellion, turns away. So we have this negative volition toward the Lord Jesus Christ that sets up the cross.
That leads to the First and Second Advent. After Christ has died and risen again, we’ve got the First Advent and the Second Advent split apart. But in splitting them apart, now we’ve got an age in-between; we have an inter-advent age that is caused by the rebellion of Israel and because it wouldn’t accept Him, the Kingdom is postponed, it’s still waiting for its fulfillment, but it hasn’t come yet.
What I have just outlined is a highly offensive representation to those who subscribe to the Reformed/Covenant Theology camp. They will ask “did Jesus come to die on the cross?” Yes, He most certainly did. The cross was not a peripheral act and if He hadn’t died on the cross we would not have salvation. Reformed Theology is correct soteriologically. When they say “you’ve got to make the cross of Christ the center of Jesus’ ministry,” they are correct. Thus, their idea of Dispensationalists is that when we argue that when Jesus was actually inviting Israel into the Kingdom prior to the cross, prior to being rejected, and then the cross comes in because of the rejection, they think that we’re saying that that is “Plan B.” They’re thinking the cross is sort of an after-effect of this rejection, that if Messiah had walked into Israel and said “accept Me as your King and you can have your Kingdom,” there would never have been a cross. In that, they are correct.
What bothers the Reformed Theologian’s mentality is the fear that God has decreed something and that it goes to waste. They demand that “Israel’s rejection of Christ marked the end of that Nation’s position in God’s plan and hence the Kingdom promises to it. That was fundamental, it was part of the decree to go to the cross, and that decree to go to the cross meant that Christ had to be rejected. If Christ had to be rejected the Nation had to be ended; that was it, it’s over, period.” The idea that Jesus made a genuine offer to bring the Kingdom to Israel prior to the Cross and that Israel rejected this offer, but will one day still receive the Kingdom, is repulsive to Reformed Theology. Proponents of this theology believe that this approach makes the Cross a mere “Plan B” in history because it results from the negative side of a choice.
Such theology, however, forgets that very similar “offers”, “rejections”, and “Plan B’s” have occurred in past history. As I mentioned earlier, in Eden the offer to man to dominate and subdue the Earth was rejected and brought about our present fallen mortal history with the need for the Cross (the result of a negative choice). What if Adam and Eve hadn’t have disobeyed? Would Jesus have had to go to the Cross? Then didn’t Jesus go to the Cross because of a negative decision on Adam and Eve’s part? So there’s a clear-cut case, right there. Next case: In the centuries after the flood the offer to build a new civilization was rejected and resulted in the calling out of a counter-culture in Abraham (the result of a negative choice). Nimrod and all the people apostatized in Noah’s family, they destroyed civilization, they paganized it; as a result of a negative choice God had to call Abraham.
The next case: after Mt. Sinai what did God offer Israel? Entrée into the land. Did they take the entrée into the land or did they wait forty years and try it again? They waited forty years and tried it again, so there was an offer and there was a negative choice involved and it resulted in God’s plan. Immediately after Mt. Sinai the offer of Canaan to Israel was rejected and resulted in a second miraculous invasion under Joshua (the result of a negative choice). In the days of Samuel the offer of a politically simple theocracy was rejected and resulted in the rise of the monarchy and it was this monarchy that defined the role of Messiah (the result of a negative choice).
Each of these examples, and there are others, could be similarly criticized as bringing about “Plan B’s”, but that is the clear pattern of God’s working in history. Luke 18:31-33, however, clearly indicates to us that the Cross was not “Plan B” – it was prophesied in the Old Testament and it was God’s plan before the foundations of the Earth were laid. So when Dispensationalists talk about Christ offering Himself, offering the opportunity of the Nation to inherit the Kingdom, we’re doing nothing else than anybody would have done in any of the other passages within Scripture - it’s the same argument.
Jesus gave two distinct messages of good news for his disciples to preach. The content of the first Gospel was “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Paul defined the second Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. An examination of these Gospels indicates that their contents were different. This was made quite apparent within Matthew’s Gospel, as we have seen. After the disciples had been out for some time preaching the first Gospel, they returned to Christ to report on their ministry. Matthew records:
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.
[Mat 16:21 NASB]
The language indicates that although the disciples had already been preaching one message of good news up to this point, Jesus had never told them about His coming death, burial, and resurrection. Therefore, the first Gospel contained nothing concerning Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. Peter’s negative reaction to Jesus' new teaching emphasized the distinction between the two messages very strongly:
Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You."
[Mat 16:22 NASB]
If Peter had already been preaching Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection he would not have reacted so negatively when Christ referred to these coming events. As we proceed further within the four Gospels, we see clearly the expectation that the Jews held for the coming Kingdom:
Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;
[Luke 17:20 NASB]
While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.
[Luke 19:11 NASB]
Luke 19:11 records that the disciples still “supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.” The destruction of the temple that Jesus spoke about within His Olivet Discourse (Mt 24:2) did not fit the eschatological scheme the disciples envisioned, so they asked the Lord for clarification. Jesus addressed their questions in reverse order, describing the prophetic sign of His coming (actually a series of signs) in Matthew 24:4-35 and then addressing their question about the timing of these events beginning in Matthew 24:36. When they asked about His coming (Gr. parousia), they did not envision a second coming in the far-off future. They were speaking of His coming in triumph as Messiah, an event which they no doubt anticipated would occur at that present time.
All of this expectation for the Kingdom led up to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Jews thought the Kingdom was coming and they thought it was coming then and there. Post-Cross, post-resurrection, post-rejection, Acts 1 records for us that during the forty days after His resurrection, Christ spoke about a very important subject:
To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.
[Act 1:3 NASB]
Verse 6 then records a very telling question that was on the minds of the disciples:
So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?"
[Act 1:6 NASB]
The disciples were not asking the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ “why have you canceled the Kingdom?” The disciples had just received 40 days of instruction regarding the Kingdom of God. After 40 days, the disciples had but one question – “is the Kingdom coming now?” The question was not “why did you cancel the Kingdom?” or “why is the Kingdom now spiritual and not for Israel?” Jesus must have affirmed to the disciples during those 40 days that the Kingdom promised to Israel was indeed still coming. The only question was “when?”
Jesus’ response to His disciples is recorded in Acts 1:7 –
He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;
[Act 1:7 NASB]
Jesus’ answer was that it was not for them to know the timing. Notice that Jesus did not say “where did you get such a bizarre idea about a Kingdom?” Jesus did not correct them in any way or suggest that the Kingdom was not coming. Jesus only told them that they did not need to worry about the timing. This was the perfect opportunity for Jesus to correct their theology, but that was not needed.
There is a Kingdom coming. It has been postponed during the Church Age. Israel has been set aside while Christ focuses His attention upon the building of His Church. Israel is currently apostate, has rejected their true Messiah, and is experiencing a partial hardening (blindness) until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Rom 11:25). Israel, however, will never be forsaken by God. These and all other Biblical distinctions must not be ignored, watered-down, or explained away if an exposition of the Biblical philosophy of history and a proper understanding of Biblical Eschatology and the coming Kingdom, with Christ reigning as King, is to be appreciated correctly.
Thus far we have reviewed the emphasis that the Bible places upon the Kingdom. We have reviewed why it is that our personal eschatology matters. We have looked at the differences found between Reformed Theology and Dispensational Theology. We have looked at the covenants, the binding contracts that God made with the nation of Israel. And we have surveyed the message and the offer that our Lord Jesus Christ made to the nation of Israel during the first half of His ministry. Throughout this presentation thus far, we have emphasized a clear distinction between Israel and the Church. Unfortunately, within a growing segment of the Church today, that distinction is blurred, misrepresented, and quite often denied.
The distinction between Israel and the Church must be understood if we are to get our Eschatology correct.
Israel and the Church:
One of the pillars of Dispensationalism is its recognition of the distinction between Israel and the Church:
Different origins, missions, and destinies.
Call of Abraham (Gen 12) vs. Pentecost (Acts 2)
Israel is a nation, it has an army, it has a language, borders, and a culture.
The Church is made up of Holy Spirit indwelt members from many nations, speaking many different languages and it crosses borders. The Church is what we can call a “voluntary association.”
Replacement Theology (also known as Supersessionism) essentially teaches that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s plan.
Once Israel crucified their Messiah, that was it – Israel was cut off and all the promises to her went to the Church.
Adherents of replacement theology believe the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel.
All the different views of the relationship between the Church and Israel can be divided into two camps:
either the Church is a continuation of Israel (Replacement/Covenant Theology), -or-
the Church is completely different and distinct from Israel (Dispensationalism/Pre-Millennialism).
“Replacement” views deny Israel its place in God’s programs of both history and salvation:
This makes God a liar.
This “attitude” lays the foundation for Christian Anti-Semitism.
This belief cripples evangelistic efforts towards the Jews.
As seen within our review of the Covenants, a Kingdom has been guaranteed to Israel. It has not come yet, but it is on our near horizon.
We have a Jewish Bible, a Jewish Messiah, Jewish Apostles, and we’re awaiting a Jewish Kingdom.
If you replace the Jews with the Church, then you inevitably view the nation of Israel as just a bunch of Jews causing trouble in the Middle East and you don’t see them for what they are – prophecy being fulfilled.
If you replace the Jews with the Church, then you blur the line between the two groups and you can fall prey to the idea that the Church has kind of a political identity of some sort, that it is more like a nation than a voluntary association.
Such a mentality has led to national churches – Lutheranism, the Church of England, the Presbyterian Church in Scotland (to a degree), the Congregational Church in New England under the Puritans, etc.
These were more political institutions than they were churches.
So the point is that this theology is not just a little nuance; this theology breeds certain attitudes and actions.
The massive apologetic power of the existence of Israel today, as an ethnic people, in their own land, as a pure ethnic race is unheard of in history and must be appreciated.
The Jews being back in their land can be considered the #1 modern proof to the truthfulness of the Bible today.
Despite the rebirth of the nation Israel and the Jews being back in the land, the Jews occupy only a fraction of what was promised to them and they continue to await their promised Kingdom.
The Return of Christ to Rule for a literal 1,000 years (Rev 20):
1,845 references in the Old Testament, within 17 books.
318 references in the New Testament, within 23 books.
You can read about the Kingdom in chapters such as: 2 Samuel 7, Psalm 2, Isaiah 2, Isaiah 11, Isaiah 35, Isaiah 40 to 48, Jeremiah 23, Jeremiah 33, Ezekiel 34, Daniel 2, Daniel 7, Hosea 3, Joel 3, Zephaniah 3, Zechariah 14.
For every one prophecy of Christ’s First Coming there are eight regarding His Second Coming.
Remember: if the Jews were sitting there listening to the Lord Jesus Christ speak and He was talking about the Kingdom, what Kingdom do you suppose they had on their minds? A: The Kingdom that they had read about in their Bible (our Old Testament).
The New Testament calls the Kingdom:
The regeneration. (Mt 19:28)
The times of refreshing. (Acts 3:19)
The times of restitution. (Acts 3:21)
And the dispensation of the fullness of times. (Eph 1:10)
If you just read the book of Revelation, you're going to come up with what is known as a Pre-Millennial view of the Kingdom.
Everything up to chapter 20 is Pre-Millennial.
Chapter 20 is Millennial.
Chapter 21 is Post-Millennial, the new Heaven and the new Earth, etc.
Most of what we know about the Millennium is not from Rev 20, but from Isaiah 65 and other OT passages.
Three views of the Kingdom within Christendom today:
Post-Millennialism – Christ will come after the Millennial Kingdom.
Christ will return in a glorious Second Coming, not to establish His Kingdom, but rather after His Kingdom has been established by the Church.
The Church will have an increasing influence upon the world.
The Church will capture nations, leaders, religions, ideologies, etc.
The % of unbelievers to believers will grow in the direction of there being more believers.
Once the Church has established dominance, then Christ will return.
We, the church, will bring about on the world a period of righteousness, Christ will not be here literally, only spiritually working through His church, and by His power in His church He will triumph over the world of men, He will triumph over the world of demons, and He will bring about through His church a Kingdom.
Post-Mill’s believe that things are going to get better.
They believe there will not be a literal 1,000-year Kingdom – it is just metaphoric for “a long time.”
There will be no literal fulfilling of the promises made to the nation of Israel within the Old Testament Covenants.
Israel forfeited all its promises, forfeited all its privileges, forfeited all the things that God declared in Covenant that He would give to them in the future.
Israel has, therefore, been permanently set aside.
This view is based on a combination of literal and non-literal interpretation of Scripture (hermeneutics) and it totally ignores the chronology of the Book of Revelation.
Today’s form of Post-Millennialism is found in:
Social Gospel movements
The Seven Mountains Mandate
The NAR – New Apostolic Reformation
Amillennialism – There will be no Millennial Kingdom.
The alpha-privative in the Greek language means a negative.
All “Kingdom” talk in Scripture is speaking to the eternal state or it is identified with the Church (spiritually).
Q: If identified with the Church, what happens to Israel?
Apostle John was writing about a long time in which the Church flourishes on Earth.
Referring to a “spiritual” kingdom – the rule of Christ over those who belong to Him, while on Earth.
Some believe all references are speaking to Heaven.
There will be no 1,000-year reign of Christ on Earth.
Everything just stays the same and then Christ comes.
The kingdom is now...the kingdom is the church age.
When Christ comes, everything ends immediately.
No Kingdom on Earth, ruled by Christ before He gets here and no Kingdom on Earth, ruled by Christ after He gets here.
No literal fulfilling of the promises made to the nation of Israel within the Old Testament Covenants.
Israel forfeited all its promises, forfeited all its privileges, forfeited all the things that God declared in Covenant that He would give to them in the future, and they forfeited by their disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant, by their apostasy from true religion, and by their rejection of their Messiah.
Israel has, therefore, been permanently set aside.
All the promises of a Kingdom to Israel will be fulfilled in the Church within the Church Age right now.
The Church is the Israel of God - there's no future for Israel - God will never revive Israel - they'll never be redeemed as a nation - they'll never go back into a Kingdom - there never will be a real throne in Jerusalem - that's all figurative - everything is fulfilled in the Church.
Amillennialists take the Book of Revelation and make it describe the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Preterism), or they would just make it figurative, a non-literal interpretation of Kingdom passages.
Note that to place “A” in front of a word, the alpha-privative, is to tell us what you don’t believe in. It is a denial of something.
What other category of theology, except Atheism, starts with the alpha-privative and labels itself as believing in something that does not exist?
The Amillennialist has to tell us why they don’t believe the passages of Scripture that speak to the Kingdom.
Amillennialism is found in:
The Catholic Church
Most Protestant denominations
Pre-Millennialism – there will be a literal Millennial Kingdom.
Prior to that Millennial Kingdom, Christ returns.
He will return to an increasingly wicked Earth.
He will come in fiery judgment.
He will judge all the ungodly of all the Earth.
At that time Satan is bound for a literal thousand-years.
He will then establish His rule and His Kingdom forever.
The Kingdom is set up on earth in the city of Jerusalem on the throne of David.
The first phase of His eternal-rule will be His reign on this Earth, lasting 1,000 years (stated 6 times in Rev 20).
All of this is based on a literal interpretation of Scripture. A literal hermeneutic.
In summarizing these three predominant views, we ask the questions, “is the future triumphant Kingdom to be inside mortal history or is it essentially the eternal state?” After Christ came and was rejected, the controversy became more complex because of the rise of the Church and its relationship to the Kingdom and Israel. “Was the Church a ‘spiritualized’ version of Israel and the Kingdom (the Amillennialist view)?” Or, “was it actually a nation-like entity replacing Israel that was to conquer the world and bring into existence a physical-political kingdom to hand over to the Messiah (the Post-Millennialist view)?” Or, “was the Church a ‘new body’ distinct from Israel which somehow prepared the way for the yet-to-be-realized Kingdom (the Pre-Millennialist view)?” The debate rages on between theologians, but unfortunately, the average Christian spends little time studying this subject area and thus limits the hope and the joy promised to them within Scripture.
"Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. "Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. "Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
[Luke 12:36-38 NASB]
The Olivet Discourse: As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
[Mt 24:3 NASB]
Four disciples ask about His Return -
Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Peter's brother).
This was a private briefing described in the Synoptic Gospels
Remember the concept of Progressive Revelation when studying the Olivet Discourse.
Matthew 24:1 – 25:46 (most extensive within Synoptic Gospels).
Parallel passages are found in Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36.
Luke 21 has pieces of the Olivet Discourse, but it is a different audience, under different conditions.
Three questions are found within v.3:
When will these things happen?
The destruction of the temple – A.D. 70 – (Preterism).
What will be the sign of Your coming?
What will be the sign of the end of the age?
Jesus points the four disciples to the prophet Daniel (Mt 24:15).
“Abomination of Desolation” is found in Dan 11:31 and Dan 12:11.
“Abominations” and “Desolate” are found in Dan 9:27.
Daniel’s Seventy Weeks:
The Scope Dan 9:24 (490 year prophecy concerning Israel)
The 69 Weeks Dan 9:25 (Contiguous)
The Interval Dan 9:26 (A 2,000 year gap)
The 70th Week Dan 9:27 (ToJT, The 7-year Tribulation period)
Hebrew = shib‘iym (shiveem) shabuwa` (shavu-a)
Shib‘iym (shiveem) is a numeral, translated as seventy.
Shabuwa` (shavu-a) represents a period of seven – either days or years.
In Gen 29:27-28 it speaks to years.
“Immediate context” – Dan 9:2 = years.
70 “weeks” = 490 years
“for your people and your holy city” = the Jews/ Israel, and Jerusalem
Artaxerxes Longimanus in the year 445 BC (Neh 1:3, 2:1-8) to Jesus’ Triumphal Entry (AD28-32).
The street, the plaza, and at least the footings to the wall, if not the wall itself, had been built by the end of the first seven weeks.
The city is built; it is functioning economically and militarily.
A Jubilee year?
62 weeks later, Messiah is cut-off, after His Triumphal Entry.
“The people of the prince who is to come”
Traditional European Antichrist Theory
Islamic End Time Theory
From “Messiah the Prince” (v.25) to “even to the end” = the 2,000 year Church Age.
“he” = “the prince who is to come”
The coming political leader, the Antichrist, is detailed in Daniel 8.
A covenant will be established or ratified for 7 years.
Middle of the week = 3.5 year mark.
The start of “Great Tribulation” (Mt 24:21).
Notice what is implied by the phrase “he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering” – see Mt 24:15 and 2 Thes 2:1-4
The Temple will be rebuilt by the mid-point of Daniel’s 70th Week.
Daniel’s 70th Week – specifically pertaining to the Jews, Israel, and Jerusalem
The Time of Jacob’s Trouble - (Jer 30:7)
The Birth Pangs of the Messiah (Dead Sea Scrolls)
(God’s) Day of the Lord (Wrath) – (Is 13:9,13, 1 Thes 5:2)
The Day of the Lord:
Strongly related to God’s rule of the earth and, therefore, to His sovereign purpose for world history and specific events within that history.
Refers to God’s special interventions into the course of world events to judge His enemies, accomplish His purpose for history, and thereby demonstrate who He is – the sovereign God of the universe.
There have been several “Days of the Lord” in history in which God demonstrated His sovereign rule by raising up several nations (human instruments often engaged in war) to execute His judgment on other nations (Amos 5:18-20, Lam 1:12, Ezek 7:19, etc.).
There are four usages of the term “the Day of the Lord” within Scripture:
OT - God’s intervention in history through human instruments or miracles.
Daniel’s 70th Week / the Tribulation period (Broad sense / Night).
Christ’s Second Coming (Narrow sense – Rev 19:11-21, Joel 3, Zech 14).
Phrased as “the great and terrible day of the Lord.”
It is the climax of the whole period known as “the day of the Lord.”
Christ’s literal rule for 1,000 years (Broad sense / Light).
1 Thes 5:1-11 – the Apostle Paul referred to a “Day of the Lord” that was future beyond the time when he wrote his epistle.
It describes sudden, inescapable destruction upon the unsaved of the world.
It is further discussed within the Apostle Paul’s second epistle to the church at Thessalonica, chapter 2 (v.1-4).
Daniel’s 70th Week (the Tribulation): "Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.
[Dan 12:1 NASB]
Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.
[Jer 30:7 KJV]
A seven-year period of time.
It begins with a covenant being created or ratified.
The Antichrist is identified at the point of this covenant being enforced.
The common thread within Scripture is the “Abomination of Desolation”:
Direct Reference: Dan 9:27, 11:31, 12:11, Mt 24:15, Mk 13:14
Implied: 2 Thes 2:3-4, Rev 13:3-8, Rev 11:1-2
At the mid-point of the Tribulation period, the Antichrist breaks the treaty, enters the temple in Jerusalem, and declares himself to be God (Dan 9:27, 2 Thes 2:4, Rev 13).
This begins the “Great Tribulation” – Mt 24:21
3.5 years, 42 months, 1260 days
Time, times, and half a time (Dan 7:25, 12:7; Rev 12:14)
This duration of time is so specific within Scripture that the honest student cannot allegorize it…
The 42 months refers to the reign of the Antichrist, specifically, the last half (3.5 years) of the seven-year Tribulation. At the beginning of that time period, the Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel and set up “the abomination that causes desolation” (Mk 13:14; cf. Dan 9:27) - an act that links the Antichrist to Antiochus Epiphanes, who similarly defiled the temple. The Antichrist will then turn his attention to the genocide of the Jews (Zech 13:8). During that persecution, Israel (the woman of Rev 12) will be protected by God in the wilderness (Dan 11:41). Also during that troubled time, God will send two witnesses to perform miracles and proclaim the truth of Christ in the face of the Antichrist’s lies (Rev 11:1-14).
Though Daniel’s 70th Week is a worldwide event, its focus is upon Israel (“Jacob” – Gen 35:10).
37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 "For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'"
[Mat 23:37-39 NASB]
The Purpose of all History
How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…
The Tragedy of all History
…you were unwilling. "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!
The Triumph of all History
…you will not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!