The Hope of the Ages-Part 5

By: Dr. Michael Stallard; ©2000
This article focuses on the biblical passages which tell of a future spiritual restoration for the nation of Israel

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THE HOPE OF THE AGES—Part 5

This article is the fifth in a multi-part series outlining the Bible’s message of prophetic hope as it pertains to the future of this age, the Church, the nation of Israel, the Gentile nations of the world, and the created universe. Specifically, it will continue to address the future hope for the nation of Israel as outlined in prophecy. In Part 3 it was noted that Israel’s future hope focuses on three elements: (1) a land, (2) a kingdom, and (3) spiri­tual as well as national restoration. While the last two articles dealt with the promise of a land and a kingdom, this article will outline in brief the future spiritual restoration of the nation of Israel.

It is important that Bible students emphasize these spiritual dimensions of Israel’s future as well as its national land and kingdom hopes. God’s gracious provision for that nation includes individual elements for its citizens that deal with forgiveness, life, and enablement for obedience. Several passages from both the Old and New Testaments discuss and confirm these future promises for the nation.

One of the earliest occurrences of a promise of future spiritual deliverance of Israel is given in Deuteronomy 30:1-6. Moses had outlined divine blessings and curses that would come upon the Israelites based upon their obedience to the law given at Mount Sinai and in the Mosaic legislation (Deut. 28). The list of curses included the scattering of the Israel­ites throughout the nations of the world (Deut. 28:64-65). However, Moses predicted that after such judgment a returning of Israel to God and a resultant restoration to the land would take place for the chosen nation. It is in this context, that the significant statement in verse six is given: “Moreover, the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.” The imagery of the words “circumcise your heart” implies that God would work in the individuals of the nation to produce in them a new, devoted heart that would be enabled to follow Him with the result of life or abundant blessing. This pas­sage does not by itself reveal anything about the timing of this work of God, but as we look at other prophetic passages below, it is clear that this work is begun at the Second Coming of the Messiah Jesus.

One of the earliest of the prophets to speak to this issue was Joel (eighth century B. C.) whose words reflect the earlier notions of Deuteronomy. In Joel 3:1-2, God says He will “restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem” as well as judge the nations of the world for mistreating Israel. The historical context of this restoration is the “great and awesome day of the LORD” judgments (Joel 2:31-32). The key spiritual promise associated with this predicted restoration is the promise that God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28). Isaiah, another eighth century prophet, alludes to the spiritual dimensions of a coming kingdom for Israel in at least three passages. In 32:15-20, the prophet envisions a time when the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon the nation with the result that justice and righteousness will spread though the land bringing peace and prosperity. In Isaiah 44:1-8, the prophet talks of the future kingdom as a time when God would bring both physical and spiritual blessing through his Spirit. The result is that all in the nation will know the Lord (v. 5). In Isaiah 59:19-21, the same truth is put forward but now is tied to the idea of a cov­enant between God and the nation. The nation will have the Spirit put upon it in conjunction with the words of God and the resulting obedience of the people. That the future kingdom is in view is verified by the promise in the passage that this covenant would last forever (v. 21).

More details are given in two other key prophetic books associated with the Babylonian captivity. Jeremiah 31:31-34 points to a future day when God will make a “new” covenant with the nation of Israel which will supercede the old Mosaic covenant which was broken. This “new” covenant shall last forever (see v. 34). This new covenant will consist of several elements: (1) God will write His law within the hearts of the people; (2) God will be God in the life of Israel and Judah; (3) there will be personal knowledge of God; (4) there will be forgiveness and cleansing from sin. All in the nation will know and follow the LORD. In Ezekiel 36:26-38, the exilic prophet describes the same promises of God, but adds the specific fact that God will put His Spirit into every man for the purpose of empowerment for obedience (v. 27). In this way, Ezekiel reaffirms the earlier prophecies of Joel and Isaiah while the nation was languishing hopelessly in exile in Babylon. What is intriguing about Ezekiel’s outline of these new covenant promises is that these future guarantees are embedded in a section discussing the regathering of Israel back to the land and the details of kingdom, includ­ing temple ceremonies, priesthood responsibilities, and land allotments (Ez. 37-48).

The New Testament also supports this future spiritual restoration of the nation of Israel. Acts 3:19-21 speaks of the “times of refreshing” and the “period of restoration” which are associated with the Second Coming of Jesus. Romans 11:25-27 promises that the nation of Israel will be saved when the time of the Gentile domination is complete. This salvation includes the removing of ungodliness from the nation and is called a “covenant” with the people under which they will receive forgiveness of sins. In addition, Hebrews 8:6-13 highlights the new covenant pledge by God cited in Jeremiah 31:31-34. The main point for the writer to the Hebrews appears to be the replacement of the old covenant (Mosaic Covenant) for the nation. Then in Hebrews 10:16-17, the putting of God’s laws on the hearts of the people and the granting of forgiveness are emphasized.

Consequently, both the Old and New Testaments envision a time, correlated with the Second Coming of Christ and the start of His earthly kingdom, when the nation of Israel will received spiritual blessings of a new covenant which will grant them empowerment for obedience far beyond anything ever experienced before as the Spirit is poured out upon the nation. Along with this divine enablement comes forgiveness and the personal pres­ence of God. Such provisions occur co-extensively with the land and kingdom promises cited in earlier articles. Indeed, the future prospect for the nation of Israel looks bright, but can only be brought to pass by the personal presence of the nation’s Messiah, Jesus Christ.

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