Meditorial Kingdom Debate - Restoration View 1

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Part Five - Theological Debate of the Meditorial Kingdom
Restoration View – Part One

 

In the last two segments of our study, we looked at the theological debate that centers on how the Meditorial Kingdom of God is to be fulfilled (see Bible Study Aids/Kingdom/Part 3 & 4). We noted that the main premise of this position is based on a belief that the covenant that God made with Israel concerning her land, blessings, and future Kingdom was a conditional covenant. Since Israel did not live up to her conditions by rejecting Jesus as their Messiah, the covenant was nullified and God replaced Israel with a new people, the Church.

On the other side of this debate is the Restoration view. It is the main premise of this position that the covenant that God made with Israel concerning her land, blessings, and future Kingdom was an unconditional covenant. An unconditional covenant has no conditions laid upon it in order for it to be fulfilled. When God made His covenant with Israel, He determined to keep it regardless of whether Israel fulfilled her part of the agreement. In other words, the fulfillment of the covenant totally rested upon God’s power and faithfulness. Therefore God’s covenant with Israel is as much in effect today as it was when He first gave it. Nothing has transpired that has changed God’s commitment to fulfill His promises to Israel. God will therefore restore His Chosen People to the land of Canaan, restore their hearts to worship Him only, and will given them a literal millennial Kingdom of peace, health, and prosperity. With this in mind, the Church is not a replacement of Israel but a temporary substitute until God’s chastisement of Israel is complete and the nation is ready to be restored both spiritually and physically.

The Historical Development of the Position

The roots of the Restoration position can be traced as far back as Abraham, as God made His unconditional Covenant with Abraham and his descendants forever (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:8-20). This covenant was reconfirmed many times throughout the OT to the Patriarchs, to Kings, and to many of God’s prophets. This we will cover in detail next time. 

The complete fulfillment of this covenant in the form of a Millennial King and Kingdom was offered to the Jewish people at the time of Jesus First Coming as John the Baptist went forth with the message, “repent for the Kingdom is at hand” (Matt. 3:2-3). Likewise our Lord and His disciples declared the same message validating it with the miracles foretold by the OT prophets (Matt. 4:17; 10:7; Mk. 1:15; Luke 10:9-11). Daniel’s 70 “week” prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27) indicated that from the time the Messiah was cut off, the Kingdom would be less than one generation (18-20 years) away from its fulfillment (Matt. 24:34). The fact that our Lord agreed with Daniel’s prophecies is seen in the Lord’s own words in the Olivet Discourse.

Matt 24:15-16, “"Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place."

The message that the Kingdom was at hand continued on into the early years of the Church. In Acts 3, having healed the lame man, Peter began to speak to the Jewish crowds in the temple about this very matter.

Acts 3:18-26, “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.

In essence Peter was declaring that if the nation of Israel had been willing to repent and receive Jesus as their Messiah (Christ) and Savior, God would have immediately begun the last period of Daniel’s prophecy and ushered in the Kingdom promised in the Covenant of God.

The record of Acts and the history of the early Church tell us that the nation of Israel continued to reject Christ’s offer of the Kingdom. It is for this reason God finally postponed His offer and rescheduled it for a much later time. In the meantime, He would administer His chastening hand upon the Jewish people until they were ready for the receive the King and His Kingdom. God’s work on the earth would not lag during this time for He chose to carry it out through the Gentile dominated Church. This is what Paul indicated in the last chapter of the book of Acts.

Acts 28:23-29, “So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: "The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying, 'Go to this people and say: ‘hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you will see, and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them."' "Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!"

This rejection of the Kingdom at the Lord’s First Coming was forecasted by our Lord Himself when He gave the Olivet Discourse to His closest disciples. He indicated to them the time leading up to the actual literal fulfillment of the Kingdom, would be the period foretold by Daniel 9:27. It would be a terrible seven year period of unspeakable horrors but through it all God would finally brings His people to the place of finally accepting Him as their Messiah, Savior, and King.

Luke 21:20-24, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Jesus made two important points in this statement. First of all, Israel was not going receive Him as Christ (Messiah) at His first Coming and therefore Israel would have to undergo great persecution during a period known as the “times of the Gentiles.” Secondly, when that period was over, God would fully restore Israel back to the land, heal the people, and usher in a Kingdom that would last for over 1000 years. 

Though the Church had been selected by God to carry out His work on earth as a temporary substitute for Israel, the Church continued to teach that God would eventually restore Israel as He foretold in His covenant with her. The apostles taught that Israel’s restoration was still valid and binding in spite of their present rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. For example Paul writes about Israel’s Covenant relationship with God in Romans.

Rom 10:16-21, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: "Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world." But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: "I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation." But Isaiah is very bold and says: "I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me." But to Israel he says: "All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people."

Rom. 11:1-11, “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, "Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life"? But what does the divine response say to him? "I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.”

Rom 11:25-27, “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins."

This belief in the restoration of Israel is also seen in the book of Revelation. In Rev. 7:4-8, John records that God will seal (give complete protection) 144,000 Jewish men; 12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel. God’s purpose in doing so is not only to guarantee a remnant to establish a Kingdom, but also to have a group of missionaries who will go forth to preach the gospel to all the world (Matt. 24:14). John goes on to tell us that these 144,000 are the “first fruits to God and to the Lamb” (Rev. 14:1-5. The “first fruits” are always the first of a harvest to become ripe enough to pick. They imply that many of the same kind will follow after them. God is indicating here that that these Jewish men are the first of many Jews who will turn to the Lord during this time of Tribulation. John continues the idea of a restored Israel in Rev. 12. In this chapter we learn that Satan and his fallen angels are cast out of heaven and they come to earth in great anger toward God. They vent this anger by seeking to kill the “woman” who is clearly in this chapter a reference to Israel. John tells us that as Satan seeks to annihilate all of the Jews, God will give them a special protection that will preserve them through to the end of the Tribulation. 

It is therefore very clear from the teachings of the Apostles as recorded in the New Testament as well as Church History that the early church fully recognized that it is role was to be a stand in for Israel until God brought Israel to a point where she was ready to receive her King and His Kingdom. In light of this the early Church also taught that when God was within 7 years of completing His work in the hearts of His people He would rapture or remove the Church out of this world. This complete removal of all true Saints of God will encompass more than just those alive at Christ’s Coming. It will also include all who were a part of the Church in the past and died before Christ’s return. This is what Paul speaks of in 1 Thes. and 1 Cor.

1 Thes 4:13-18, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

1 Cor 15:51-53, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

Therefore the Lord will first raise dead the dead Church Saints, then He will transform all the Saints into the glory of His image (1 John 3:2). As this is happening, the Saints will ascend rapidly into the air to meet the Lord where He will escort them to His Father’s home, Heaven, where they will dwell for a period of 7 years. This all will take place so quickly, that the first sign the world will have that something has happened is that we are suddenly missing. 

Finally, the early Church and the apostles taught that God would establish a literal, physical 1000 year Kingdom here on the earth as He promised to His Chosen People, Israel. In this Kingdom, the Church Age Saints will rule and reign with Christ. This truth is clearly born out in several NT passages.

Luke 22:29-30, “And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

1 Cor 6:2-3, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?”

2 Tim 2:11-12, “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.”

Rev 1:6, “and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Rev 5:10, “And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign onthe earth."

Rev 20:4-6, “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”

The Historical Preservation of the Position

The Restoration position has been attached by the Replacement camp as being something new to the Church, unheard of until the mid 1700s. However as we have seen, the Restoration position was the position of the First Century Church and the position taught in the New Testament. The question then should be asked, how was this position almost lost to the Church? Church history speaks of the Restoration position was the position of the whole Church during the first two centuries of the Church’s existence. Though in the later half of the Second Century there was a movement away from the Restoration position by the Western Church, yet the Restoration position held on as the dominate position of the Eastern Church as late as the end of the Fourth Century. From the Forth Century on, this position continued on in small remnant groups which were know by various names. The common thread that ran through each of these groups was a commitment that the Church should conform to the pattern set forth by the Apostles in the New Testament. 

By the close of the Fourth Century, the church as a whole adopted the Replacement position, developing into what is known today as the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, as it moved ever increasingly away from the New Testament Church pattern, it began to routinely persecute the Restoration remnant groups often to the point of torture and even execution. However, God continued to raise up others groups to carry forth His message that the Church needed to return to its New Testament roots. The testimony of these groups and the message of the New Testament spoke so powerfully against the perversions that had crept into the Roman Catholic Church that in the Council of Valencia, 1229, the Bible was put on the forbidden book index for all laymen. This decree of the Church later led to the persecution and execution of many in the 14th, 15th, and 16th Centuries who sought to translate the Word of God into the language of the people.

With the rise of the Protestant Reformation, one would have thought that these remnant groups would have finally had the freedom to grow and flourish but such was not the case. The Protestant reformation brought the gospel back to the Church but it still clung to the Replacement theology of its predecessor, the Catholic Church. Therefore these remnant groups found themselves persecuted by both the Catholic and the Protestant Churches. It was only when the concept of freedom of religion began to take a foot hold in England and in the Colonies of the Americas that the remnant groups finally had the opportunity to flourish forming denominations such as the Baptist Church. As this moment began to grow, so did its convictions that the Church needed to pattern itself after the NT church pattern. Since the NT church held to the Restoration position therefore that position’s teaching on future events began to attract a great following particularly in North America. It gained the name of Premillennial and many Bible Colleges and Seminaries embraced and taught it to many generations of pastors who then taught it to their congregations.

The Summary of the Development of the Position

It is therefore clear that God has not forsaken Israel and still is going to fulfill all of His promises made to Israel. The timing of the coming of Christ and His Kingdom has much to do with the progress Israel makes in its journey back to God. For over 1900 years God has used the Gentile nations to persecute and even kill the Jewish people in order to bring Israel to repentance and restoration. In the last century we have seen the fruit of the chastening work of the Lord as many new Christian ministries to the Jews are flourishing and many among the Jewish people are open to dialogue with Bible believing Christians. With change going on in the heart of the people and with their reestablishment in the land of Canaan, it causes one to wonder if the time is drawing close for the Lord to fully restore Israel and usher in His Kingdom. The question that we should be asking ourselves is, are we ready to met Christ when He returns to take His Church from this world. If we are not a part of this rapture of the Church, we are doomed to go through the worse 7 years this world has ever experienced since the time it was first created (Matt. 24:21).