One of the most basic questions every Jew had during their dispersions & captivities is “When will Israel be restored?” This was the very question that the disciples asked Jesus in Acts 1:6, just before He ascended into heaven. Jesus had been talking with them about the Kingdom of God and so they naturally were thinking that it was time for the resurrected Jesus to re-establish Israel with preeminence. Interestingly Jesus did not rebuke them for asking the question, nor did He imply that it was a crazy idea. Jesus simply replied, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). If indeed the idea of a restoration of Israel were an outlandish idea, then the response of Jesus would be guilty of misleading the disciples. The response of Jesus actually implies that there is a day coming when Israel will be restored with preeminence.
Old Testament Promises
The idea of Israel having preeminence in the world comes from several Old Testament passages. Following is just one of the many number of prophecies that Israel would have prominence in the world and that the Messiah would reign with authority. (See also Ps 72:1-20, Is 11:1-9, 24:21-23, 65:17-25, Zech 8:4-5, Zech 14:16-19)
Isaiah 2:2-4: “It shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (See also Micah 4:1-3)
In this passage which is repeated in Micah 4:1-3, amazing things will be happening in the “latter days” concerning Israel. These prophecies indicate that “Mount Zion will tower in prominence above all others, and the nations of the world will stream to Jerusalem to learn to walk in the ways of Yahweh. The word of the Lord will go forth as the Messiah rules from Jerusalem, judging between nations of the world and rendering decisions for the people. As a result of this righteous reign of the Messiah, the nations will live in peace, and never again will they prepare for war” (Matt Waymeyer, 2016, Amillennialism and the Age to Come. Woodlands, Tx: Kress Biblical Resources, page 23).
Two Major Positions & Hermeneutics
Interpreting Scripture can at times be daunting especially when it comes to eschatological issues (eschatology is simply the study of the last things). One particular option that some scholars have presented to explain eschatological events is a simple model known as the “Two-Age Model”. This model or grid by which interpretative decisions are made has its foundation in the very words of Jesus in the New Testament. Several times Jesus refers to what appears to be two successive ages, “this age” and “the age to come”. There are many places in Scripture which mention these ages separately (i.e. Matt 13:39, Rom 12:2, Eph 2:2, Heb 6:5), while there are a few which explicitly mention both ages together (Matt 12:32, Mark 10:30, Lk 18:30, 20:34-35, Eph 1:21). Theologically this view is typically known as amillennialism, since it denies the idea that there is a thousand-year reign of Christ between this age and the age to come. Hermeneutically, this position is forced to interpret most of the passages mentioned above allegorically. Following is a diagram of the Two Age Model:
At first glance this model seems to be adequate until you begin reading these Old Testament passages that describe what appear to be a reign of the Messiah on the earth.
If these passages (listed above) are read literally (not allegorically), they clearly do not describe any events of past or present history (“this age”), nor do they describe heaven (“age to come”). Furthermore, the clear description of a thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth in Revelation 20 reveals that this two-age model is not a sufficient model without clarification. Notice that six times the Apostle John references a “thousand year” reign of Christ.
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. Then I saw thrones and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also, I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth”… (Revelation 20:1-8).
As Waymeyer states, rather than using this two-age model as an interpretive grid, “the best way to honor the divine authority of every passage, as well as Scripture as a whole, is to trace the doctrine of the coming kingdom throughout biblical revelation. This means starting in the Old Testament and progressively moving through the entirety of Scripture – from Genesis to Revelation – allowing each passage to make its own unique, contextual contribution as it builds upon previous revelation” (Waymeyer, page 11). As revelation of God is progressively given, all relevant passages must be sought to be harmonized, so that no one passage is silenced or twisted.
Harmonizing all of the pertinent passages, the logical conclusion is that there must be an intermediate stage that occurs between this present age and the age to come. Theologically this view is known as pre-millennialism. This intermediate stage is not a separate age but rather an initial phase of the “age to come”. The natural and literal reading of all of the pertinent passages logically leads one to conclude that there must be an intermediate stage, which is known as the millennial Kingdom. Following is a diagram describing the “age to come” more succinctly with the intermediate state known as the millennial Kingdom:Waiting for the Return of Christ
Jesus told the disciples that the “Father has fixed by His own authority” the times and seasons surrounding the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel (Acts 1:6). He told them that it was not for them to know these things. While we should not get too bogged down in eschatological debates, the finishing of the canon of Scripture and the progressive revelation of God has given us enough information to put some of the pieces of the puzzle together. It appears that the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel will not occur until the return of Christ and the beginning of the intermediate stage, or the millennial Kingdom. When Christ returns He will set up His throne on the earth and all prophecies will come to pass. We certain don’t know when Christ will return, but we wait with eager anticipation. And when the Messiah comes again to the earth the second time, we know for sure that He will restore the Kingdom of Israel on the earth with incredible preeminence.