Many of the prophecies that God gave were directed at the coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. His birth to a virgin, His sinless life, His substitutionary death, His literal resurrection, His exaltation, all of these are promised in the Old Testament and they came to pass historically. It is no change in the nature or character of Scripture that there are predictions about the future and the final end of world history. When we consider the great coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, there are many elements to the prophecy that are very clear, unmistakable, unambiguous and precise.
For example, the Bible predicts the Rapture of the church, in the twinkling of an eye and gathering them into heaven after they have been changed in the process. Those that are dead rising first. Those who are alive being caught up with them to be with the Lord. The Bible predicts a future time called the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, the time of Tribulation, also called the seventieth week of Daniel. The Bible tells us that during that period of time, there will be horrible things happening in this world because the judgment of God is then released. The Bible predicts the final appearance of the last Antichrist and the false prophet, who will attempt to displace Christ, to seduce the whole world into his false religion. The Bible also predicts the death, destruction and damnation of the final Antichrist.
The Bible predicts the final battle against, the battle of Armageddon. The battle is followed by the return of Jesus Christ and it ends when Christ comes triumphantly with His saints in His Second Coming to judge the ungodly, to destroy them. The Bible talks about the Kingdom, the establishment of the Kingdom when Christ returns. This Kingdom will have unique characteristics laid out in great detail in Scripture in the Old Testament, as well as in the New. It will be a Kingdom centered in Israel and Jesus will reign from Jerusalem.
The Bible predicts the final Kingdom lasts a thousand years, during which Satan and all demons are bound, and peace, justice and righteousness will prevail across the earth. The Bible then predicts the eternal judgment of the ungodly and their being sent into the Lake of Fire. The Bible then predicts the creation of the new heaven and the new earth.
Those are just general categories of eschatological areas that are laid out in Scripture in detail. The study of last things. If you are faithful to a straightforward reading of Scripture, you need not be confused at all.
Interpret all prophetic eschatological texts the same way you interpret everything else. Do not change the rules of interpretation. Secondly, interpret all the promises and covenants with Israel normally and literally. Take all the texts at face value. Let Israel be Israel and God’s promises to Israel valid and to be fulfilled.
The Old Testament laid out promises to Israel. Israel is God’s elect, God promised them a great nation, a great land, great blessing, a king, a kingdom, salvation, redemption, peace, righteousness. And we, the church, will share in that fulfillment by participating in the great blessing, in the great Kingdom and in the great New Covenant of salvation through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Strangely, however, there is a widespread and deep seated idea in Christian theology that Israel by unbelief and rejection of Christ has thereby forfeited all the promises and covenants. This dominates Reformed theology, though they are the protectors of divine election and divine sovereignty. The idea is that the church has replaced Israel and all the promises to Israel are to be fulfilled in the church spiritually now and in heaven. Messiah will not establish an earthly Kingdom and sit on a throne in Jerusalem. This view is called Amillennialism.
To support their denial of the Kingdom, they reject the plain sense of Scripture. But no mandate from God appears in Scripture to do that. Now that is what we have been looking at all along. The Old Testament is millennial, as we saw in Zechariah 12, 13 and 14 among many other passages. The Jews of Jesus’ day, were also millennial as we saw in Luke 1, 17 and 19. Jesus was Millennial. Jesus believed in and taught the coming Kingdom for Israel, as clear from Acts chapter 1 verses 3 through 7.
That takes us to the question of whether the Apostles and those associated with them were Amillennialists. Acts chapter 3 is very straightforward and uncomplicated on what the Apostles taught.
First of all, let us consider Peter, the leader of all the Apostles. In the middle of verse 12 he says, “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Why do you gaze at us as if by our own power and piety we had made him walk?” Peter and John just made a lame man walk. Peter then says in verse 13, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered up and disowned in the presence of Pilate when he had decided to release Him, but you disowned the holy and righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you but put to death the prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.” You killed the Messiah and you cannot deny it.
Was this an interruption in the purpose of God? Was this a breach that God had not expected or planned for? Not at all! Verse 18, “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled.” This is not leading God into Plan B but it was the plan from the beginning. Verse 19, “Repent therefore and return that your sins may be wiped away in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,”…times of refreshing…that is a promise of the future Kingdom, refreshed by peace and righteousness and salvation. “And that He may send Jesus the Christ appointed for you.”
In other words, if you repent and return to God, your sins will be wiped away and the Kingdom will come because Jesus the Christ will return. Verse 21, follow Peter’s words. He had just ascended. “Whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things.” That is the Kingdom, when all things are restored to a condition similar to what they were before the Fall. He is going to send Christ from heaven when it is time for the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. He goes all the way back to Moses who said, “The Lord God shall raise up for you a prophet like Me from your brethren, to Him you shall give heed in everything He says to you.” Nothing has changed.
You rejected Christ and killed the Prince of Life. You disowned the holy and righteous One. But if you repent and when you repent and return, your sins will be wiped away, the promised times of refreshing will come because Jesus Christ will return who is only in heaven until the period of restoration, the very period spoken of by God through the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.
In verse 25, Peter closes out his sermon by saying, “It is you who are the sons of the prophets,” now listen to this, “and sons, implied, of the covenant which God made with your fathers saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” He is saying you disowned the holy and righteous one, the Messiah, but you are still the sons of the Abrahamic Covenant which He restates, in which God said to Abraham, “In your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” and so forth, “For you first God raised up His servant and sent him to bless you by turning everyone of you from your wicked ways.”
Peter is affirming that nothing has changed in terms of God’s Covenant promise. Christ will come and bring the time of refreshing, the period of restoration which was promised by God through the mouth of the prophets from ancient time. He will come and you will give heed to Him. He will come because you are the sons of the Covenant, that means you belong to that Covenant, and everything promised to Abraham originally will come to pass. God will raise up His servant. He will turn you from your wicked ways. This all happened after the church has already been established in chapter 2, but that does not cancel God’s promises to Israel.
In Chapter 15 of the book of Acts, Peter could have said, “God is finished with you, the Kingdom is cancelled or you are now blended into the church of Jew and Gentile. There’s no future for the nation.” He does not say that. You are still the sons of the prophets and of the Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant is still in place. We hear from James in Acts 15, pick it up at verse 13, Paul and Barnabas have just come back from visiting the Gentiles and seeing how God had brought salvation to them. After they had stopped speaking, James answered saying, this is James, the brother of our Lord, “Brethren, listen to me. Simeon…that’s the old name of Peter…has related how God first concerned himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name.” Now we could say this is an indication, James could say, that it is over for the Jews..
That’s not what he says. God has taken from among the Gentiles a people for His name. This is true. The gospel is now being preached to the Gentiles. Verse 15, however, “And with this the words of the prophets agree. The words of the prophets agree.” The prophets always said God would save the nations. Israel was never the end of God’s salvation work, they were the means. It was through Israel that the world was to learn about the true and living God and put their trust in Him. We start in verse 16 to see language that comes right out of several Old Testament passages. This is what James says. “After these things I will return and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen. And I will rebuild its ruins and I will restore it.”
What is the tabernacle of David? It is the house of David. What is the house of David? Jewish people and the Messianic Kingdom. “I will rebuild the tent, the tabernacle of David which has fallen.” After what? “After these things.” What things? After God has gathered out from the Gentiles a people, He will return, rebuild the tabernacle of David, fulfill all Messianic promises with regard to the Messiah as David’s greater Son and King, rebuild its ruins, restore it in order that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord.
And all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.
In other words, there will be Gentile salvation, there will be a rebuilding then of the house of David, the Jews, with their King, with their Messiah, with the Kingdom, and from that Kingdom again salvation will extend across the nations of the world. It will happen in the Tribulation when Israel believes, a hundred and forty-four thousand Jews are saved, twelve thousand from every tribe, they spread over the earth and they preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and an innumerable number of people are saved from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. God has not set them apart or aside permanently, but only until He has gathered His Gentile church.
In Luke 21:24, the Lord says that Jerusalem is trodden down only until the times of the Gentile is complete. In Hebrews chapter 6 verse 13, “For when God made the promise to Abraham since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself saying, ‘I will surely bless you, I will surely multiply you.’” When God made the promise in Genesis 12 and then repeated it in 13, 15, 17 to Abraham, God swore by Himself.
John wrote the Revelation and in chapter 7 describes the hundred and forty-four thousand, twelve thousand from every tribe. John describes salvation hitting the city of Jerusalem in chapter 11 under the power of two witnesses. He describes the establishing of the Millennial Kingdom in the great vision of chapter 20. Peter didn’t introduce Amillennialism. James did not introduce it. The writer of Hebrews did not introduce it. John did not introduce it. Maybe Paul introduced it. Let us go to Romans and find out.
Romans chapter 2 talks about the sinfulness of the Jews. They were Jews outwardly but not inwardly. Circumcised spiritually but not spiritually, concerned about praise from men and not praise from God. And so the question comes up in chapter 3, what advantage then is it to be a Jew? What’s the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. They were stewards of Scripture. “What then,” verse 3, “if some did not believe? Their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?” You could not speak more directly to the issue. Verse 4, “May it never be. No, no, no, no, let God be found true though every man be found a liar.”
Let us get a little deeper into this. Capter 9 gives us good insight into God’s understanding of the apostasy and defection of Israel. In the opening it is clear that Israel is not saved even though they have the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the temple service, the promises, the fathers and from them Christ has come, humanly speaking, as a Jew. But Paul has nothing but sorrow and grief in his heart for them because even though they have all that, they are not saved. Then you come to verse 6, “But it is not as though the Word of God has failed.” No, “For they are not Israel who are descended from Israel, neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but through Isaac your descendants will be named.” God makes choices. Not all the children of Abraham are the children of promise. Abraham had a son named Ishmael, he was not chosen as a son of promise. “Only the children of promise, verse 8, are regarded as descendants.” And then he goes on to talk about Isaac. And even when Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau, verse 13 says, God said, “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated.”
So what we’re learning here is the unbelief of Israel is not outside the plan of God. God never included all Jews as children of promise…never. Even among twins, one was loved and one was hated. And so we say in verse 14, “Is there injustice with God?” He is God. Said to Moses, “I’ll have mercy on whom I have mercy, I have compassion on whom I have compassion,” and in that sixteenth verse, “it doesn’t depend on man who wills, or the man who runs but on God who has mercy.” Verse 18, “He has mercy on whom He desires. He hardens whom He desires.”
Therefore, to believe in divine election, divine sovereignty and divine choice and come up with Replacement theology is a bizarre twist. God did not choose the generation of Jews living at the time of Jesus. They did not believe, He did not show them mercy. Therefore, their unbelief could not have the power to thwart His plan to cancel His promises.
That leads us in to chapter 11 verse 1. Has God rejected His people? No. Chapter 10 ends with the fact that they are a disobedient and obstinate people. This is a perfect place to inject Replacement Theology, right here. BUT … down to verse 8. “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not, ears to hear not, down to this very day.” This is sovereign. God has done this.
And then in verse 11, “I say then, they didn’t stumble so as to fall, did they?” Did they stumble for the moment so as to finally and permanently fall? No!
Verse 11 tells you, “By their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” In God’s purpose, God gave them a spirit of stupor so they would not believe in order to turn to the Gentiles to gather His church. But that’s not the end. End of verse 11, “To make them jealous.” Jealous of what the Gentiles, as true believers have. Some day that will happen. In verse 12, Paul says, “If their transgression be riches for the world …, how much more will their fulfillment be?” What does that word “fulfillment” tell you? That God is not finished with them at all. If so much good can come out of their unbelief, what is going to come out of their belief? Verse 17 and 18, “Branches were broken off and you, the church, the Gentiles, like a wild olive branch were grafted in to the stock of blessing … But don’t be arrogant.” Verse 19, “You will say then, branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” They were broken off for their unbelief and you stand by your faith. “But don’t be conceited but fear, for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.”
The church in the end is going to become apostate and God is going to save Israel and graft them back in. Verse 23, “If they do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted in for God is able to graft them in again.” Down to verse 25, “I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation that partial hardening has happened to Israel.” Why does he say partial? Because Paul himself is a Jew and the Apostles were all Jews. The early church was Jewish. There are even now thousands and thousands of Jewish believers. Hardening has happened partially to Israel only until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Exactly what Jesus said in Luke 21:24. “And…verse 26…thus all Israel will be saved, just as it is written in the Old Testament.” Isaiah 59:20, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob and this is My covenant with them when I take away their sins.” Nothing has changed.
The Covenant is still in place. This Covenant being referred to here is the Covenant made to David, the Davidic Covenant, of a great King who would come and deliver them. It is also the New Covenant given to Ezekiel and to Jeremiah, a Covenant of salvation when God takes away their sins. Romans 3:28, “From the standpoint of the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. They are enemies so that you would be given the gospel, but from the standpoint of God’s election, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.” Who are the fathers? The patriarchs to whom the promises were given.
The setting aside of Israel is partial, passing and temporary. It is indeed purposeful to bring about salvation through the church. And so this great section ends in verse 33 to 36, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments, unfathomable His ways, for who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor, or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again, for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things to Him be the glory forever. Amen.”
This is a celebration of the fulfillment of God’s purpose. Nothing is changed. They are still the sons of the prophets and of the covenant. They are still headed for the Kingdom, the fulfillment of all the promises given to Abraham, given to David and given in the New Covenant. As Gentiles now who have been brought to salvation by the mercy of God, we will inherit with them all the promises to Abraham and to David and have already begun to inherit the promises of the New Covenant because our sins have already been forgiven. The Holy Spirit has been planted in us, stony heart has been removed, we have been given a transformed nature, a heart of flesh.
Listen to the vision of Daniel 7. “I kept looking…verse 19…in the night visions and behold, with the clouds of heaven, one like a Son of Man was coming,” He is seeing the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. “He came up to the Ancient of Days, God the Father, and was presented before Him.” “And to Him was given dominion, glory and a Kingdom.” This is the Son receiving His Kingdom from the Father. “That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away, His Kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” Here is Daniel’s vision of the Messiah coming to take His Kingdom and it is a Kingdom that involves people of every nation and language.
To say that God has made promises to Israel is not to say that the ultimate Kingdom is isolated to Israel, it is the place where those promises will be fulfilled to His people but they will also embrace all who belong to God. We will all be there.