Premillennialism in the Old Testament (Part 3)
Written by: Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum Posted on: 10/06/2006
IV. Israel in the Messianic Kingdom
Israel within the period of the Messianic Kingdom is a major theme of the Old Testament Prophets. Indeed, it was the high point of Old Testament prophecy and every writing prophet with the exception of Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Malachi had something to say about it. The latter two did make reference to the Second Coming and the Tribulation, which, in the wider context of the Prophets, implied a kingdom to follow. To spiritualize and allegorize away such a great amount of Scripture is to confuse the whole science of interpretation. There is no reason to spiritualize any of these prophecies any more than there is reason to do so to those prophecies dealing with the First Coming of the Messiah such as the virgin birth, the birth in Bethlehem, His death, or His physical resurrection, etc.
Because of the amount of revelation available on Israel in the Messianic Kingdom, this chapter will be divided into eight major divisions: First, the four facets of the final restoration of Israel; second, other characteristics of Israel's final restoration; third, the Millennial Mountain of Jehovah's House; fourth, the Millennial Temple; fifth, the millennial system of priesthood and sacrifice; sixth, the millennial river; seventh, the Millennial Israel; and eighth, the Millennial Jerusalem.
A. The Four Facets of the Final Restoration of Israel
There are four primary facets to Israel's final restoration, with each being based on a specific covenant. Each of these covenants are fully developed in later prophetic revelation. This section will survey each covenant as it relates to Israel's final restoration along with the prophetic development of these covenants.
1. The Regeneration of Israel
a. The Basis: The New Covenant
The first facet of Israel's final restoration is the national regeneration of Israel. The timing of this regeneration has already been discussed in Chapter 14, The Campaign of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Jesus the Messiah. This section is concerned with the development of that motif. The basis of Israel's final regeneration is the New Covenant, in Jeremiah 31:31-34.
The announcement of the New Covenant begins with a declaration that it will be a Jewish covenant, for it will be made with both houses of Israel (v. 31). It will be in sharp contradistinction with the older Mosaic Covenant (v. 32). Of the five Jewish covenants, the Mosaic was the only conditional one. Although God had been faithful in keeping His terms of the covenant, Israel had not been so faithful, resulting in the Mosaic Covenant's being broken. For while the Mosaic Covenant showed the standard of righteousness which the Law demanded, it could never impart to the Jew the power to keep it. But that problem will be rectified in the New Covenant (v. 33) through regeneration, which will provide the internal power necessary to meet and to keep the righteous standards of God. The result of the New Covenant will be a total national regeneration of Israel (v. 34). Jewish missions and Jewish evangelism will not be needed in the Messianic Kingdom because every Jew will know the Lord, from the least to the greatest. The sins of Israel will be forgiven and forgotten. While there will be Gentile unbelievers in the Kingdom, there will not be Jewish unbelievers in the Kingdom. To a man, all the Jews will believe. There will be no need to tell a Jew to "know the Lord" because they will all know Him.
It is upon this New Covenant that the first facet of Israel's restoration, the regeneration of Israel, is based.
b. The Prophetic Development
That Israel was to undergo a national regeneration is not confined to the words of the New Covenant alone. Some passages were already discussed under the Campaign of Armageddon. But there are many others. Isaiah 29:22-24 makes a promise to the patriarch Jacob. Although for most of Jewish history Jacob would have been ashamed of the waywardness of his descendants, when the national regeneration comes, he will have much to be proud of.
Another passage is Isaiah 30:18-22. According to this particular passage, the regeneration will be a result of the judgments of the Great Tribulation, which will be God's discipline upon the nation of Israel in order to correct them. It will be by way of the judgments of the Tribulation that Israel will come to a saving knowledge of her Messiah.
Later, in Isaiah 44:1-5, the prophet wrote that it was God Who chose Israel from the very beginning (vv. 1-2), and Israel has yet to become the chosen vessel which she was ordained to be. God will pour out His Spirit upon the entire nation (v. 3) with the result that Israel will begin to bear fruit (v. 4) and will remain ever loyal to her God (v. 5). Later in this chapter, in verses 21-23, Isaiah emphasized the removal of Israel's sins.
Israel's everlasting salvation and freedom from shame is emphasized in Isaiah 45:17.
The two other Major Prophets also spoke of this final regeneration. Jeremiah 24:7 records that when God regenerates Israel, He will give them a heart to know the Lord. With this regenerated heart, they will be able to return to God with an undivided heart. At the time of Israel's regeneration, her sins will no longer be found, according to Jeremiah 50:19-20.
Ezekiel also emphasized that future regeneration of Israel in Ezekiel 11:19-20. At the time of Israel's regeneration, they will be given a new heart and a new spirit as their human spirit will be reborn (v. 19). The result of this work of God on the heart and spirit of man will be an ennoblement to walk in and to keep the righteous standards of God.
Later, Ezekiel 36:25-27 repeats aspects stated earlier and then adding some more information of his own, Ezekiel further describes the coming regeneration. All of Israel's sins will be cleansed (v. 25). A regenerate heart and spirit will be given so that Israel can walk in newness of life (v. 26). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit will indwell the Jews so that they will be empowered to walk in the commandments of the Lord (v. 27).
The regeneration of Israel is also a prominent theme in the Minor Prophets. Hosea, who spoke a great deal about God's punishment for Israel's sins, did not fail to speak of Israel's regeneration. One such passage is Hosea 1:10-2:1. Though judgments will decimate the ranks of Israel, nevertheless, the time will come when Israel will increase tremendously in population (v. 10a). Even though for a long period of time they were Lo Ammi (not my people), they will once again become Ammi (my people), the people of God (v. 10b). When the reunification comes, they will be God's people who have obtained God's mercy (1:11-2:1).
Hosea not only begins his book with Israel's regeneration, but he also ends with it in Hosea 14:4-8. Israel's backslidings will all be thoroughly healed (v. 4), for only then will Israel receive the manifold blessings of God (vv. 5-7). All worship of other gods will cease when the regeneration comes (v. 8).
That this regeneration of Israel will be a result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the point of Joel 2:28-32. Once the Holy Spirit is poured out on all Israel, then they will call upon the Name of the Lord. God will respond to that call by delivering and saving them.
The national regeneration of Israel will result in the total forgiveness of Israel's sins, according to Micah 7:18-20. God's loyal love for Israel will cause Him to pardon and to pass over the sins of Israel when He will return to them in all compassion (vv. 18-19). He will do so on the basis of the Abrahamic Covenant (v. 20), especially as it is developed in the salvation aspect of the New Covenant.
Another prophecy that spoke of Israel's regeneration is Zephaniah 3:9-13. Throughout the dispersion, the Jews will begin to call upon the Name of the Lord. It is important to note that regardless of where the Jews are, they will respond, so that the regeneration will indeed be total.
2. The Regathering of Israel
a. The Basis: The Land Covenant
The second facet of the final restoration of Israel is the regathering of Israel from all over the world. This is based on the Land Covenant of Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20. Traditionally, this covenant has been known as the Palestinian Covenant, for it largely concerns the Land that for centuries was called Palestine. It was an appropriate term at the time it was coined, and even Jews called the Land "Palestine." This is now an unfortunate term for two reasons. First: it was a name given to the Land by the Roman Emperor Hadrian after the second Jewish revolt under Bar Cochba (A.D. 132-135) for the purpose of erasing any Jewish remembrance of the Land as part of his policy to "de-judaize" the Land. Second: due to the historical events in the Middle East in the twentieth century, the name is associated more with Arabs than with Jews. For these reasons (and others), the author prefers to call it "the Land Covenant." However, it should be noted that in other writings it is still called the Palestinian Covenant.
The passage begins with a clear statement that the Land Covenant is distinct and different from the Mosaic Covenant (29:1). The former is eternal and unconditional, while the latter is both temporal and conditional. Moses then records in summary form the forty years of wilderness experience leading up to the point of being about to enter into the Promised Land (29:29). But before entrance into the Land can occur, another covenant needs to be made in order to warn them of things to come (29:10-13). They are warned against turning away from the Lord (29:14-21). Then the passage proceeds to state that they will do exactly that, resulting in the dispersion out of the Land into the Gentile nations to endure a long period of many persecutions (29:22-29). But this dispersion out of the Land is not going to be permanent, because eventually there will be a regathering, as described in Deuteronomy 30:1-10.
After the long period of persecution described in chapter 29, there will ultimately be the regeneration of Israel as the people return to the Lord (vv. 1-2). Following the regeneration of Israel will be the regathering from all over the world (v. 3), so that even if Jews should be found in the uttermost parts of the heavens, they will nevertheless be returned (v. 4) and brought back into the Promised Land (v. 5). But this regathering will occur only after the regeneration of Israel (v. 6), at which time the punishments previously applied to Israel will now be applied to the Gentiles (v. 7). Although curses may fall on the Gentiles, there will only be blessings for Israel (vv. 8-9) because they will totally return to the Lord (v. 10). The Land Covenant ends with some further admonitions, warnings and promises (30:11-20).
b. The Prophetic Development
The regathering of Israel, following the regeneration, is another high point of prophetic revelation to be found in many of the Prophets. In Isaiah 11:11-12:6, the final regathering is described as the second of two worldwide regatherings of Israel. Although many commentators identify the first regathering as the return from the Babylonian Captivity, that could hardly be described as a worldwide regathering. The first regathering is the one in unbelief prior to the Great Tribulation, and this has been happening since 1948. The first regathering is in unbelief in preparation for judgment. The regathering described in this passage is the second one (v. 11a), in faith in preparation for the millennial blessings. This regathering is not merely local, from the nations of the Middle East (v. 11b), but from all over the world (v. 12). Isaiah then goes on to develop certain characteristics of Israel's final regathering. First: the unity between Israel and Judah will be restored (vv. 13-14). Ephraim's envy of Judah will cease (v. 13), an envy that developed over the placing of the House of God in Judah (Ps. 78:911, 67-68). This unity will enable them to overcome their opponents (v. 14). Second: the final regathering will be accompanied by miracles (vv. 15-16). The tongue of the Egyptian Sea, the Gulf of Suez, will dry up, while the Euphrates will be smitten and split up into seven smaller streams so as to make it easy to cross. As a highway was made for Israel at the Exodus, there will likewise be one again in the final regathering. Immediately after the Exodus, Israel sang the song found in Exodus 15:1-18. In the same way, after the final regathering, Israel will sing the song found in Isaiah 12:1-6. The song is in two stanzas. In the first stanza (vv. 1-3) Israel gives a thanksgiving to God for turning away anger (v. 1). They now realize that salvation is in Jehovah (v. 2) Who has poured out the waters of salvation freely (v. 3). In the second stanza (vv. 4-6) they wish to make known God's deeds to all the world, so they give thanks (v. 4), sing (v. 5) and shout out loud of God's goodness (v. 6).
Later, in Isaiah 27:12-13, the emphasis in this passage is on the totality of the regathering, for every Jew one by one will be brought back into the Land of Israel. As in the previous Isaiah passage, the key locality of the regathering will be from the Middle East nations since, as a result of the fall of Israel in the middle of the Tribulation, the majority of the Jews will be located in this vicinity and it is here that they will have suffered the most. And so the Jews will be taken one by one out of Egypt and Assyria (modern Iraq). Jews are still to be found in various Arab countries suffering tremendous persecutions. But in the regathering they will be rescued from the land of their enemies. The regathering will be from all over the world, but with special emphasis on the Middle East nations.
The magnitude of the final regathering of Israel is described in Isaiah 43:5-7. As far as locality is concerned, the regathering will be worldwide, and to emphasize the fact, all four points of the compass are mentioned (vv. 5-6). Then the magnitude is illustrated by the usage of three words: created, formed and made (v. 7). These three words were used interchangeably in the creation account of Genesis 1-2. Hence, from God's perspective, the final regathering will be on the magnitude of the original creation.
The comparative magnitude of the final regathering with previous works of God is something Jeremiah also pointed out. In Jeremiah 16:14-15, it is compared with the Exodus. Throughout Jewish history, the Exodus has been considered the high point of Jewish history, but after the final regathering this will change (v. 14). In the future it will be the final regathering of the Jews that will become the high point of Jewish history (v. 15).
Later, in Jeremiah 23:3-4, the prophet stated that from all over the world the Jews are to be regathered into the Land, where they will produce much fruit (v. 3). Furthermore, God will provide righteous leaders who will feed the people with righteousness, justice, and understanding (v. 4). Then there is another comparison with the Exodus in Jeremiah 23:7-8.
One other passage in Jeremiah that speaks of the regathering is found in 31:7-10. Following the regeneration of Israel (v. 7) all the Jews will be regathered, regardless of their state of health and regardless of their location (v. 8). There will be no hindrances whatsoever to the regathering (v. 9), for the same One Who was able to scatter them will also be able to regather them (v. 10).
Ezekiel picked up the same motif in Ezekiel 11:14-18. The same God Who scattered Israel (v. 14-16) has every intention of regathering them back into their own Land (v. 17) so that regenerate Israel can cleanse the Land of all pollution (v. 18).
Later, the prophet restated this doctrine in Ezekiel 36:24:
For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land.
The Minor Prophets were not remiss in speaking of the regathering. One such prophecy is in Amos 9:14-15. The emphasis of Amos is on permanency. Israel is to be regathered in order to rebuild the Land (v. 14). In the final regathering, God will plant them in the Land so that they will never again be uprooted and dispersed out of the Land (v. 15).
The Prophet Zephaniah, whose whole theme was one of judgment, closed his book with a promise of the final regathering in Zephaniah 3:18-20. The judgment meted out against Israel is the result of her sins (vv. 18-19). These judgments will not have a destructive effect, but a corrective one. Once correction takes place, the regathering will indeed occur, and the final regathering will cause Israel to be a name and a praise among the Gentile nations (v. 20).
The final prophet of the Old Testament to speak of the regathering is Zechariah, in 10:8-12. As Zechariah portrayed the final regathering, he saw it in terms of hissing, which is the call of a shepherd for his sheep (v. 8a). The regathering will be a result of the redemption and regeneration of Israel (vv. 8b-9). While the regathering is to occur from around the world, there will be a special emphasis upon the Middle East nations (vv. 10-11). Once all the Jews are regathered, they will never again depart from the Lord (v. 12).
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