What Does the New Testament Teach About the Restoration of Israel?

By Jan Willem van der Hoeven

Jesus was asked by His disciples whether He would restore the kingdom to Israel at that time, to which He replied:

"It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:6-8)

Jesus' answer implied that although the time of favour for Israel was at that moment to pass over to the Gentiles, there would be a time when God would restore again the "kingdom to Israel." This truth is clearly taught throughout the Scriptures; after the fullness of the Gentiles is brought into the kingdom of God, He will again give His ancient people, the Jews, another time of grace and favour.

There are a number of verses in the New Testament which further spell out this principle. Peter, speaking to the Jews, said:

"And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." (Acts 3:20-21)

Later in the book of Acts, James says:

"Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up." (Acts 15:13-16)

It is clear from these verses that before "restoring the kingdom to Israel" and building "again the tabernacle of David," God would turn in grace to the Gentiles and call out of them a people unto His name. After this God promises to return and build again the tabernacle of David.

This agrees with two other passages which state that when the fullness of the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled, Jerusalem will again be restored to Jewish sovereignty.

"…Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (Luke 21:24)

In Romans 11:25-26, Paul declares:

"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part if happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob."

Here the same point is stressed: the completion of God's purposes with the Gentiles marks the beginning of His renewed grace to the people of Israel. After the time of the Gentiles has been fulfilled, after the fullness of the Gentiles has come into the kingdom, then all Israel will be saved - the "times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." (Acts 3:19)

This agrees with the many Old Testament passages which clearly refer to an eternal purpose of God for His ancient people - eternal promises that will be fulfilled to them, not just in a temporary way as if they were only God's example from ancient times for the "Church Age," but fulfilled practically, literally and completely.

Paul, in his fundamental chapters 9, 10 and 11 of the Epistle to the Romans, teaches these same principles concerning the Jewish people:

"I say, then, hath God cast away His people? God forbid?" (Romans 11:1)

It is obviously the plan of God to receive them back in mercy:

"For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." (Romans 11:29)

There are many Old Testament prophecies, which have not yet had their fulfillment, and cannot in all honesty be explained away as having been spiritually fulfilled through the first coming of Christ. The New Testament also makes clear reference to prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled. Only in the light of these New Testament verses do the as yet unfulfilled Old Testament prophecies make sense. For example, it was spoken by Simeon at the birth of Jesus:

"For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel… Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel… " (Luke 2:30-34)

It should be evident from such verses that Jesus would be first a light to the Gentiles and cause the fall of many of His own people, but afterwards He would become the glory of Israel and cause the rising again of many in Israel. Such New Testament promises underline that all the glory God has promised through the prophets for Israel in the latter days will indeed be revealed:

- The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. (Isaiah 11:6)

- The people shall beat their swords into ploughshares. (Isaiah 2:4)

- The nations shall come up to Jerusalem to learn the ways of the Lord. (Isaiah 2:3)

- The Lord will be King in Jerusalem and reign on His holy hill. (Psalm 2:6)

- Israel will be back in her land that God promised her as an everlasting possession. ((Isaiah 11:10-12)

- Righteousness and peace will flow like a might river from Jerusalem and cover the earth like the seas. (Isaiah 11:9)

- The Lord will become the glory of His people Israel. (Luke 2:32)

These are but a few of the prophecies, which have not yet been fulfilled, but are promised by God. As Jesus said:

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in now wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matthew 5:17-18)

This emphasizes that everything the prophets foretold will be fulfilled, not just convenient portions of it. Jesus Himself states that He will see to it that all the prophecies will come to pass before any of God's word is removed. This includes those prophecies, which were not fulfilled by Jesus' first coming.

It therefore is right, in the light of these clear New Testament passages, to expect a literal fulfillment of all that has been promised through Israel's prophets concerning her future,

"Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?… For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" (Romans 11:12-15)

What a wonderful time in which to live!

Recognizing this truth brings the apostle Paul to great joy. We Gentiles can also share in that joy, for in Christ we are allowed to inherit with Israel all these biblical promises which are yet to be fulfilled.

"For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." (2 Corinthians 1:20)

Not for nothing did Christ teach us to pray: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

It is difficult to see how the first coming of Christ could have fulfilled all the promises, which clearly have been made by God. The prophets foretold that there would be a day on earth, under the reign of the Messiah in Jerusalem with His nation, when:

1) All wars would cease.

2) Each man would live "under his own fig tree in equality and justice.

3) The child would play with the viper so that there would be harmony between mankind and the animal world (no more killing of the whales).

4) Nature would be fully restored; the trees would "clap their hands" and the Dead Sea water would become sweet.

The Jewish people know that these are to be the fruits of the coming of the messiah, and thus find it difficult to believe that He has already come since these things obviously have not yet been fulfilled. We believe, of course, that the messiah has come once; and we join Paul in rejoicing at the restoration of Israel, for we know that it signals the return of the Messiah and the fulfillment of all the prophecies, for:

"When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory." (Psalm 102:16)

For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counselor? Or who have first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto Him again? For of him, and through Him, and to Him are all things: to Him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:32-36)

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