Saturday, October 27, 2012

When Will The Kingdom of Israel Be Restored?

Mosaic of the Twelve Tribes of Israel
Jesus is the Messiah. He came to restore Israel as an everlasting kingdom with a plan that fulfilled and superseded all Messianic understanding. The Cross, however, wasn’t exactly what the Jews had in mind, but it was necessary to fulfill God’s promise. Why? The answer resides in building the perfect nation.

As the Bible clearly shows, the history of ancient Israel is one of God forming the Jewish people, they falling into sin and disarray, God restoring them, they falling into sin and disarray again, and so forth. God’s timeline for sending the Messiah tried the Jews, and they repeatedly despaired while awaiting his arrival: “What have you done to us bringing us out of Egypt?” (Ex 14:11). In the meantime, many Jews turned to the false gods of foreign countries for comfort (Ex 32:8), which God likened to adultery (Deut 31:16; Judg 2:10-17; Ezek 16:14-63), and disciplined their unfaithfulness with periodic dispersions, disappearance of the Ark (Jer 3:16), and two temple destructions.

God bless the Jewish people. Pope John Paul II, in a 1986 meeting at Rome’s Jewish synagogue, called them “our elder brothers” in the faith of Abraham. They are the original People of God. To quote Jesus, "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22). They hold the roots of faith that point all children of Abraham towards Jesus, but they have systemic difficulties accepting Jesus as Messiah. Their difficult history with God, however, is a microcosm of humanity and a mirror for ourselves.

Humanity is generally “stiff-necked” (Ex 32:9). It doesn’t matter if you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or atheist; you “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Sin is sickness in the soul. Sin predisposes you to being unfaithful to God. This is an obvious obstacle to establishing an eternal kingdom. Why would God want you as an eternal citizen if you can’t remain eternally faithful? Why would God want to restore the Kingdom with people who would inevitably fall away? How many times must He restore it? Even if all of Israel’s worldly enemies were destroyed, one enemy would remain and again drag the Kingdom to ruin: sin.

The Kingdom cannot appear until sin has been destroyed in its fullest. The fulfillment started with the Messiah’s death on the Cross -- the spotless Lamb offered to God -- on the feast of Passover. His perfect sacrifice merited the forgiveness of all sins and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit onto all who believe. Since then, He was resurrected, ascended into Heaven, taken His seat at the right hand of God, and intercedes for us as High Priest until the Kingdom is finished construction. How is He constructing it? Soul by soul. For any man and woman who believes and stays “faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ” (Heb 3:14). Die in His grace and you will become the next eternal citizen in the Kingdom of Israel.

Before Jesus departed from the earth, the apostles asked, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6) No timeline was given. Just as ancient Israel was tempted to despair awaiting the coming of the Messiah, so must Christians struggle alike awaiting the return of the Messiah. When all is completed, Jesus will descend from Heaven with all his citizens (Matt 25:31; Mark 14:62; 1 Thess 3:13) and rule over the perfect eternal nation. Faithlessness, sin, and death will never be seen again. The promised Kingdom of Israel is not from below but from above.