In part five we saw the New Creation in Christ. This consists of believers from a faithful remnant in Israel and those faithful Gentiles called into Christ. In Christ, God has unified the faithful from both covenants, reaching back even beyond Abraham, the father of the faithful. We also saw in 1 Corinthians 15:22-26 that the scope of Christ’s work is wrapped in his desire to complete the Father’s will and deliver the kingdom to him at the end of the age.
In this article we want to focus on several key events that occur as Yeshua the Christ returns to establish his kingdom on earth. This is an enormous subject and is beyond the scope of this article. However, with an understanding of the process involved, we can recognize the role several groups of people play in working with Christ to achieve his goal.
For a more in depth look at Christ’s return, see my book . . .
The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View
Christ Establishes His Earthly Kingdom
Returning to 1 Corinthians 15 we can see that most of the chapter, including verses 22-26, develops around a contrast Paul makes between death and Jesus Christ as the source of the resurrection from the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
He is showing a fundamental component of God’s work to establish an everlasting kingdom; the Godhead’s power over death. Though an enemy, called the last enemy, death will not hinder any from experiencing the reality of this first phase of Christ’s kingdom.
23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
Not only is Christ the doorway to life beyond the grave, he’s the doorway to the final phase of that everlasting kingdom; the age to come. All must pass through Christ in order to have any part in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. With that in mind we can begin to see the need and purpose for what Paul describes must come first:
- To establish the firstfruits of the new creation, a kingdom of priests to rule with Christ. (1 Peter 2:9-10; Romans 8:18-23, 29-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Hebrews 5:7-10; James 1:17-18)
- To establish dominion over all the nations of the earth along with powers and dominions in heaven. Bringing into subjection all God’s enemies. Christ’s work will ultimately bring all intelligent beings to his feet and all will recognize his Lordship. However, not all will voluntarily surrender to that Lordship. (Psalm 8; 72; Daniel 4; 7:13-14, 19-27; Micah 4:1-5; Matthew 13:41-43; 24:27,30; Ephesians 6:12-13; Philippians 2:9-10; Colossians 1:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 1:7; 19:11-20:6; 22:12)
- To reestablish Israel, God’s chosen people, as an earthly, model nation and the central place from which he rules. His promise of a future kingdom includes an earthly realm and a Davidic king. (Daniel 2:44; Hosea 3:5; Isaiah 11:10-16; 31:4-9; 65:17; 66:22; Jeremiah 30:8-10; 31:31-34; Ezekiel 34:22-24; Micah 2:12-13; Zechariah 8:11-13; 14:1-11; Romans 11; Hebrews 8)
- Once completed, this earthly phase of the kingdom is transformed and handed over to God the Father. (Fourth Gospel(1) 18:36; Luke 4:42-44; 19:11-27; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Revelation 21:1-4)
I’ve inserted number three even though Paul doesn’t mention it in 1 Corinthians 15. In Romans 11, he has already shown that God is able to graft Israel back into the olive tree when they are led into belief. Scripture indicates that this will occur when he establishes his kingdom on earth.
Before disobedient Israel can come to experience the kingdom they must first come to know and accept their “King of Righteousness;” the Son of God. They must be willing to let go of their righteousness and embrace instead God’s righteousness in Christ Jesus his son (Romans 10:1-4). We know that God will accomplish this in them (Joel 2).
Though they were put to shame and brought upon themselves correction from the Lord, his people will be called to return to him and he will show them mercy and grace as they’ve never seen before. Clearly their harsh and severe correction was meant for their redemption and restoration. Does this fit with what Paul described earlier as an underlying presupposition about the work God and Christ are engaged in? Read again Romans 11.
Romans 11:25-27, 32
25 Lest you (Gentile Christians) be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
It appears that Israel’s disobedience leads ultimately to God’s mercy and the new covenant – fulfilling Romans 11:32. Here’s the important perspective to keep in mind. God doesn’t view our experience on earth in the same way that we view it. When taken as a whole, all of Israel’s experience will produce fruitful results. Just as Christ suffered as the sin of the world prior to being crowned with all authority, so likewise will Israel’s disobedience and suffering lead to salvation and glory. Much of this was prophesied in the past. Like any mystery should, it went hidden and unnoticed.
Genesis 22:17-18 – Regarding God’s promise to Abraham:
17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
This, in your offspring occurs in two forms:
- Primarily in Christ, the Redeemer of the world. He descended from Israel (Jacob) and Judah. In him the world is redeemed through sin and death (Galatians 3:7-14; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
- In addition, the opportunity for the nations (Gentiles) to experience salvation comes through the disobedience of Israel. (Romans 11:11-12)
The implications of what scripture is saying are significant and substantially different than what is claimed by traditional Christianity regarding the righteous judgment of God. This topic too is beyond the scope of this article and is addressed elsewhere.
Is the Repeated Condemnation Taught by Many
Considered to be God’s Righteous Judgment? Discover more.
Until the Fullness of the Gentiles Has Come In
That leaves us seeking to answer the question Paul led us to when he claimed in Romans 11:25-26 – a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, . . .
When is the time of the Gentiles fulfilled and all Israel saved?
The Faithful Remnant
Recall that the faith they share in the Lord is the glue that binds some in Israel with those Gentiles called and led to Christ. Let’s look again at Ephesians 2 where Paul connects the faithful Gentiles at Ephesus with the commonwealth of Israel.
- We are saved by God’s grace and mercy
- We are God’s creation, created through Christ for good works
- Prior, we were Gentiles in the flesh, called uncircumcision
- Different from that called circumcision, namely the children of Israel
- Aliens to the customs and covenant of the promise
- Without God (not a people), afar off (from God)
But through Christ:
- Brought near by his blood
- He is our peace
- He makes both uncircumcision and circumcision one
(chosen of Israel one with chosen of Gentiles)
- He breaks down the wall that separates them
- Abolishing the enmity between them
- He reconciled both in one body with God
- Preaching peace to those afar off (Gentiles) and to those near (Israel)
- Enabling both to draw nearer, by one Spirit, to the Father
- No longer foreigners or strangers
- Fellow citizens and children of the household of God
Paul is again showing the unity of the faithful in Israel, those not cut off by disbelief, with the faithful Gentiles at Ephesus (Romans 11). Those Gentiles called by God are brought into the commonwealth of Israel and made one with them (vs 14-16). Together, these now form the household of God; a temple to God in Christ Jesus (vs 17-22).
This binding of the faithful in Israel with the faithful Gentiles represents Christ’s initial work to be the source of salvation for the world. Recall that the faithful being called now are considered the firstfruits of salvation. They are the kings and priests who reign with Christ in his earthly kingdom for a thousand years (Romans 8:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10; Revelation 1:5-6; 5:9-10; 14:4). These are the first, not the only fruit of Christ’s work and that of the Holy Spirit.
The Unfaithful Remnant
Now we must turn our focus to that portion of Israel that was cut off due to unbelief. In order to understand when the time of the Gentiles is over, we must determine when Israel’s unbelief is turned around. Let’s begin by seeing a relatively recent example of that unbelief and the correction associated with it.
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
Luke’s account of the abomination and destruction of the temple and Jerusalem is spoken of in greater detail than Mathew’s and Mark’s account. Each of the authors describe this event as though it’s something those in the surrounding region of Judea could see approaching. It’s a direct answer to their question regarding every stone of the temple being thrown down and was fulfilled when the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed in their lifetime (vs 5-7).
Notice that Luke mentions the prophetic relationship of this event occurring in Jerusalem; for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written (vs 22). He’s referring to the prophecies against the southern nation of Judah located at Jerusalem. More on that in a moment. Luke’s description of this event doesn’t end there. It continues. More importantly, Luke indicates the duration for all this distress; from the time the temple is destroyed until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (vs 24). That results in distress for this people, beginning from that point in time and continuing to some time in the future when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
We can see some clarification of this by noticing the connection between the times of the Gentiles and the mystery of God. This is partly reflected in Paul’s discourse on the contrasting purpose and relationship between Israel and the Gentiles (Romans 11). He also touches on the future promise for Israel.
Romans 11:25-32 (Part of the mystery of God)
- Israel’s stumbling was for the benefit of the Gentiles – that they might hear and receive the calling of God (vs 11-24)
- Until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in
- They (Israel, including the Jews) are made enemies of the Gospel for your sake
- Yet all Israel will be saved
- The Deliverer will take away their sin (future tense)
- You, who are now faithful to Christ, were once disobedient – bur received mercy from God
- They too, (Israel, including the Jews) being disobedient now – will also receive mercy
Verse 32 – For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
Since scripture doesn’t directly provide a clear ending for the time of the Gentiles we must infer it from the connection to the mystery of God. The time of the Gentiles is completed when the mystery of God is fulfilled. Scripture provides this timing in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John. In Revelation 9, the fifth and sixth trumpets are sounded. Chapter ten is among those chapters that form an interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets.
5 And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven 6 and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, 7 but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.
Notice that it’s around the time when the seventh trumpet is sounded that the mystery of God is fulfilled and completed. This is just prior to the final woe of God’s wrath, executed by Jesus Christ as he descends from the heavens with his army on white horses (Revelation 19:11-16) to fight his final battle with the nations (Revelation 19:17-21).
Let’s return to Luke’s unique account and notice he doesn’t use the term tribulation. He also directly connects the great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. Notice that in Luke’s account, though it’s rendered to Gentiles, it is focused on the Jews in Jerusalem and surrounding Judea; this people. The distress mentioned (vs 23) is of a compulsive nature and the Greek transliteration (anagke) is not used once in the New Testament for tribulation, though they have similar meaning. As noted earlier, the time span for the distress experienced by the Jews begins with the abomination and desolation (destruction) of the temple in Jerusalem, which occurred in their lifetime, and ends just before Christ descends to earth to intervene on Jerusalem’s behalf.
The challenge for modern readers, whether of the pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation perspective, is their reliance on viewing prophetic events described in the New Testament only through the lens of Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks prophecy. If we remove that lens and let the natural reading and prophetic nature of the Seventy-Weeks prophecy do its job, it successfully describes and fulfills the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. – just as Christ warned. As it was in the time of Daniel’s captivity; a time of correction, so it is again for Judah and Jerusalem from the time of their destruction and dispersal until the time of the Gentiles is completed.
Is There a Third Temple to be Built in Jerusalem? Discover more.
Let’s return to Luke’s account and review the additional characteristics of the distress he mentions. From that point in their history, has the following occurred for the Jews?
- They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations.
I think we can say that this has clearly been the history for the Jews since the destruction of their temple in A.D. 70. It can certainly be seen as wrath against this people.
- Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles.
This too has been evident since the days of the Roman empire until just this century, when a portion of the land of Israel was reclaimed by the Jews. Jerusalem has changed hands multiple times since, and all of them by other nations – Gentiles.
- For there will be great distress upon the earth.
Has the scope of death been expanding since this day? Certainly. Again in this last century alone more have died in our First World War than all those in previous wars combined. Add to that the Second World War and the countless wars since and one can see ever-increasing levels of death and destruction. What of the enormous death-counts of the socialist regimes in the former Soviet Union, in China, Korea, and in Cambodia? Combined these claimed the lives of over 140 million people(2) just in this last century.
It’s not unreasonable to say that Luke’s discourse on the time period since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem has been essentially satisfied. Does this equate to the expectations of many scholars and commentaries who look to this reference as pointing to the time of the Great Tribulation? No on both accounts. Nor am I making that correlation. If anything, I‘m pointing out that Luke’s account isn’t meant to reflect the time period of the Great Tribulation as most understand it. It is meant to reflect what scripture has already prophesied up until that point – the destruction of the temple and the further scattering of the Southern Kingdom (Judah).
This doesn’t in any way eliminate the Great Tribulation. That 3-1/2 year period, described in Revelation 13:5-8, is when the beast power, acting in the spirit and authority of Satan, is allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. That period of time immediately precedes the return of our Lord. What we’ve shown here is his that return, of and by itself, does not end the time of the Gentiles as many claim.
It’s not until the wrath of God is nearly completed and all those willing to repent have, that the sounding of the seventh trumpet releases the seven vials of wrath poured out on the unrepentant – those willing to die for the lie (Revelation 9:20-21). It is these who are truly deceived who gather with the beast and the false prophet to make war with the Lamb at a place called Armageddon. For Christ and his redeemed firstfruits, the outcome of this battle is a primary step in subduing the nations of the earth and the powers of Satan.
Now Christ can begin the process of healing the nations, beginning with Israel at Jerusalem – the place from which he will rule the world in righteous judgment. As I outlined in the fifth article, it is at this point that the benefactors of all Christ’s work, up to that point in time, can come forward. Who are these earthly benefactors?
- First will be restored Israel who have their sins forgiven and receive the new covenant. They will be an example to the world during Christ’s 1000-year reign.
- He together with his priesthood of saints will then lead the world into obedience to the truth.
In both cases, this leads to the fulfillment of Paul’s claim in Romans 11:32.
32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
- Due to the dispute over the authorship of the Fourth Gospel, traditionally attributed to John, I will refer to this book as the Fourth Gospel. I have concluded on the side of such authors as J. Phillips (ISBN13: 978-0-9702687-3-0) who has shown conclusively John could not be the sole author and instead attribute primary authorship to Lazarus – the disciple whom Christ loved.
- From historian Scott Manning’s article, Communist Body Count: https://scottmanning.com/content/communist-body-count/