article is the fifth in a multi-part series outlining the Bibleís
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 Israelís 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 Israelís future as well as its national land and
kingdom hopes. Godís 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 Ezekielís 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 Godís 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
nationís Messiah, Jesus Christ.