the Christian life

The Future of Israel
by Carol Berubee

Is the Church "spiritual Israel"? We will examine the Biblical proof that Israel has a future that is distinct from the Church. While within the Church there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, there remains a distinction in the world that will carry over into the millennial reign of Christ.

Look at Acts 1:6-7. At this time, the disciples had witnessed the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua. After His resurrection, the disciples saw Him many times over the course of forty days and they all believed, even Thomas, that He was the Messiah and God in the flesh. Now here in Acts, He commands them to stay in Jerusalem to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit which had been promised to them (John 14:26, 15:26). And then they ask Him, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"

The disciples had asked if the Lord was going to restore the kingdom to Israel when the aforementioned baptism of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled. Would the kingdom be ushered in at that time, the time of the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost? Yeshua answers them by saying, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority."

The disciples fully expected God to restore the kingdom to Israel and the Lord does not dispute that expectation. He simply says that it is not for us to know just when it will occur. Our Lord does not deceive us or try to trick us. When He answers the disciples, He clearly assents to the fact that the kingdom will be restored to Israel but it is not for us to know exactly when. If the Church is the kingdom, or if the kingdom was ushered in at the inauguration of the Church, then the Lord would have said that the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost would be the initiation of the kingdom. Instead, He keeps the two events separate: first, the Spirit coming at Pentecost; second, the kingdom restored to Israel at some unknown time.

To put it another way, if the Church at Pentecost was the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the future of Israel, why does Yeshua say that knowing when the kingdom is to be restored to Israel is outside the bounds of inquiry? He had already told them that the Holy Spirit would come "not many days from now" (Acts 1:5) and that the disciples were to wait in Jerusalem. Here He tells them the timing of the baptism of the Spirit, but then tells them that the timing of the restoration of the kingdom is not for them to know. These are clearly two separate events. Further, the birth of the Church at Pentecost did not signal the beginning of a "spiritual Israel" that would put an end to Israel as a nation.

Yeshua came to offer the kingdom to Israel, but they rejected Him as their king; hence, no kingdom, but then His subsequent death. He said He came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24), but then He says that He leaves them desolate (Matthew 23:38, Luke 13:35). And notice in Matthew 23:39 and Luke 13:36 that our Lord says that they (the Jews) will see Him again only when they say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" He is saying that He will once again be with His people, the Jews, at His second coming. Then He says that He has sheep of another fold -- the Gentiles (John 10:16). Our Lord does not contradict Himself. If He said that He only came for the lost sheep of Israel, how can He then say He has other sheep? He came to Israel to present the kingdom, but upon His rejection, He opened the way for Gentiles to receive everlasting life (but not an earthly kingdom).

But then what of the prophecies concerning Israel's everlasting peace (e.g., Isaiah 11:1-12, 12:1-6, 24:23, 40:10-11, 54:1-14, 60:1-9 & 19-20)? The prophecies spoken by God through His prophets must come true; therefore, Israel must be restored and the everlasting peace must commence (e.g., Jeremiah 3:14-18, Ezekiel 28:25-26, Hosea 6:1-2, Joel 3:16-21, Obadiah 1:17-21, Zephaniah 3:9-20). In these prophecies, we see that there is to be a literal fulfillment here on earth, complete with a Temple being built in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40ff). That has not yet occurred. But with the Church in heaven, who will live on earth?

Jews who are brought to faith in a future tribulation period will not only serve Christ in Jerusalem, but will lead Gentiles to that great city to worship the King (Zechariah 8:20-23). There is a distinction, then, between Jew and Gentile on earth in the millennial kingdom, a kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital. If Israel is now the Church and there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile -- if God is done with Israel as a people -- then there can be no fulfillment of Zechariah 8.

There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile in the Church, the Body of Christ, and there is no distinction this side of the Cross in how anyone - Jew or Gentile - is saved, but there is a distinction between Jew and Gentile in the Tribulation and Millennial Kingdom. In the Tribulation period, 144,000 Jews -- 12,000 from each tribe -- will be saved unto a distinct position (Revelation 7 & 14). There will also be many Jews saved (Ezekiel 37, Zechariah 12-14). As well, many Gentiles will come to believe in the fast-approaching appearance of Christ to set up His kingdom of peace and righteousness in which He will rule with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9, Revelation 19:15). Many Jews and Gentiles will survive the tribulation period in faith and will enter into the Millennial Kingdom on earth. This is when the kingdom will be restored to Israel. The disciples had no idea when this would occur but they knew it must occur according to the Scriptures.