This is the fourth article in a series that looks at Israel’s expectation for the tribulation, the end of their exile, and the establishment of an everlasting kingdom centered around them. As outlined in the introductory article, these expectations are derived from the writings of Jewish scribes and commentators during the Late Second Temple Period.
In this article we’ll look at two of the expectations that show the tribulation preceding two important events familiar to New Testament authors; an eschatological kingdom and a final judgment.
- The tribulation precedes the final judgment
- The tribulation precedes the coming of an eschatological(1) kingdom
The Kingdom and Judgment Follows Tribulation
A primary theme that is highlighted in these two expectations and runs through all fourteen is that the expected tribulation occurs before the advent of the Messiah. Keep in mind that this claim would be true for those in Israel who’ve overlooked the first advent of the Messiah, Yeshua the Christ. I’ve covered this in some depth in previous articles in this series(2).
Aside from that, the occurrence of a period of tribulation for Israel and Judah before Messiah’s advent is completely in alignment with what Christ taught, the Holy Spirit inspired through revelation, and biblical authors recorded in scripture. However, because many modern Christians are taught to disconnect the work of Christ in the church from what he’s doing in Israel and Judah, it’s easy to discard the insight and continuity provided in scripture and understood by Late Second Temple scholars regarding the tribulation and events which follow it.
Yet I claim, as New Testament writings reveal, without understanding the relationship between Israel and Judah and Gentile believers, one is left viewing the work of God in Christ from a purely Gentile perspective. There are many reasons why this proves ineffective, but a primary reason is that it blinds Gentile believers to the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! (Romans 11:32-36)
Understanding the relationship between Israel and the Church of God is vital to understanding the full scope of the work of God in Christ now and in the future. This becomes more evident when one compares the description of the kingdom of God expected by Israelites and the millennial reign of our Lord on earth expected by Christians. It’s also evident in the timing proclaimed by both – the advent of the Messiah. The significant difference in their expectation is that one sees it as Messiah’s first advent, while the other sees it as his second. This significance grows when we realize the initial rewards afforded them according to which expectation they hold to.
Want to learn more about the relationship between Israel and the body of Christ? Read more.
Called into a Physical Kingdom
We’ve already shown briefly that Israel and Judah’s current tribulation comes as a means of correction(3), a correction that doesn’t end until the Messiah sets foot on the Mount of Olives. We must not forget that Israel as a nation(4) was originally called to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:4-6), and the Apostle Paul reminds us that the calling and election of Israel is irrevocable (Romans 11:28-32). God has not completely rejected his people (Romans 11:1-2a), and intends to provide the means of salvation to all (Romans 11:25-27). For the majority of Israel and Judah, those still dwelling in unbelief, will not be confronted with that means of salvation until our Lord descends to the earth to intervene on behalf of Judah and Jerusalem(5) (Zechariah 14:1-4). It’s at this time that their expectations for the kingdom, which they glean from the Old Testament prophets, begin to manifest. An office of rulership was established in Abraham by the promise that he and his descendants would possess the gates of their enemies.
- This righteous rulership comes as a blessing to the nations
- This ruling house was established through faith
- It is passed on through Isaac and Jacob (Israel) and given to Judah, from whom it will not depart (Genesis 49:10)
The Son of Man, a descendant of Judah, is clear evidence of this connection and continuity of faith. The prophets of old anticipated this righteous king and ruler.
- He is the source of righteous judgment (Isaiah 16:3-5; 26:7-9)
- He is the source of rescue and comfort (Isaiah 51:1-3,12-16; 52:7-10; 66:10-14)
- He brings salvation to those who follow him (Isaiah 25:6-9; 45:14-17,22-25)
- He is ruler (Isaiah 9; 11)
- He is the servant of the Lord (Isaiah 40-55)
- He will free them from captivity (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Clearly this occurs in spite of Israel’s disobedience as Paul declares in Romans 11. Zechariah also declared that it is the faithfulness of God which will accomplish this. It will not come by the might or the righteousness of the people, but by waiting on the Lord in the midst of their suffering (Zechariah 10:9-10; Lamentations 1-3). In his faithfulness the Lord will ultimately lead them to salvation (Lamentations 3:22-26).
As king, the Lord will use his power to:
- Judge foreign nations (Isaiah 2:1-4)
- Deliver his people from calamity (Isaiah 31:4-9)
- Restore his people to their land (Jeremiah 16:14-15; 30; 33)
The king will ultimately assert his authority over all nations of the world (Zechariah 12-14; Malachi 4:1-6).
Called Into a Glorious Kingdom
The expectations of the faithful remnant in Israel and Judah are aligned completely with those of New Covenant believers of which they are a part (Romans 11:2b-7). They too have been called to be a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:9-10), but the kingdom they’re called to is a glorious and heavenly kingdom (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12; Romans 8:16-17,29-30). This kingdom, inaugurated by the Messiah, has gone unseen by the world since its inception through the covenant of faith with Abraham.
Unbeknownst to the saints of old, their calling included greater blessings and the seed of a new creation through God’s Holy Spirit. These blessings were hidden throughout the ages, but revealed in the Messiah, the Son of Man, and his faithful disciples since. To them and through them, the mystery of God for the new creation in Christ is made manifest, and will be revealed to the world when our Lord comes a second time to establish his kingdom upon the earth.
Interested in Christ’s kingdom-building work now and in the future? Read more.
During this earthly Kingdom of the Son, both his glorious and redeemed servants, and the restored remnant of Israel and Judah called into covenant with him, will rule the nations of the world for 1000 years with Christ. Together they will work to bring all nations into the obedience of faith. Only after all the enemies of God have been destroyed will the son hand over the kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:22-26). In order to complete that kingdom, all must be confronted with the righteous judgment of Christ. This includes all those dead in the grave.
Final Judgment for Israel and Judah
Israel’s perspective on future judgment focused primarily on the disobedient nations who oppressed them. As a whole, their own self-righteousness prevented them from seeing the judgment they were under as a result of their own idolatry and faithlessness. Christ’s own indictment of the unfaithful in Judea was that if they had known the Father, and that is who they actually worshipped, they would have recognized the son (Fourth Gospel 8:12-20).
When the son establishes the rulership of that kingdom on earth, he begins by redeeming and glorifying a faithful remnant from Israel, the 144,000, as an example to the rest (Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5). This faithful remnant of Israel experienced the righteous judgment of Christ through faith; a righteous judgment which leads to eternal life (Fourth Gospel 3:16-21).
Yet there is a time spoken of by the prophets and confirmed by Christ himself when the unbelieving in Israel will know him and they will know the Father (Jeremiah 23:3-6). When we look at the details of how that awareness and knowledge of God and his Christ comes about for Israel, we can see that God’s righteous judgment exists to reveal who and what he really is.
8 Thus says the Lord:
“In a time of favor I have answered you;
in a day of salvation I have helped you;
I will keep you and give you
as a covenant to the people,
to establish the land,
to apportion the desolate heritages,
9 saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’
to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’
They shall feed along the ways;
on all bare heights shall be their pasture;
10 they shall not hunger or thirst,
neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them,
for he who has pity on them will lead them,
and by springs of water will guide them.
11 And I will make all my mountains a road,
and my highways shall be raised up.
12 Behold, these shall come from afar,
and behold, these from the north and from the west,
and these from the land of Syene.”
13 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted.
14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
17 Your builders make haste;
your destroyers and those who laid you waste go out from you.
18 Lift up your eyes around and see;
they all gather, they come to you.
As I live, declares the Lord,
you shall put them all on as an ornament;
you shall bind them on as a bride does.
19 “Surely your waste and your desolate places
and your devastated land—
surely now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants,
and those who swallowed you up will be far away.
20 The children of your bereavement
will yet say in your ears:
‘The place is too narrow for me;
make room for me to dwell in.’
21 Then you will say in your heart:
‘Who has borne me these?
I was bereaved and barren,
exiled and put away,
but who has brought up these?
Behold, I was left alone;
from where have these come?’”
22 Thus says the Lord God:
“Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations,
and raise my signal to the peoples;
and they shall bring your sons in their arms,
and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.
23 Kings shall be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you,
and lick the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”
Because the grace of God is greater-than the sin of man, he will lead the descendants of Israel through their correction, or even death, and into his righteous judgment which leads to life.
- (vs 1-11) Joel introduces the Day of the Lord. Up until that time their correction has come in part from the nations, in part from the wrath of Satan, and finally the Lord himself will correct them. Ultimately this correction is not for their destruction but for their redemption; to lead them to repentance (Ezekiel 33:11, 17-19; Jeremiah 3:6-12; Ezekiel 34:28-31).
- (vs 12-17) In the midst of the Lord’s correction is the call to repentance – to return to the God of their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They’ve witnessed that the gods they’ve followed were not able to save them (Jeremiah 3:12-13).
- (vs 18-27) Yet the Lord is full of grace and extends mercy to his people. He will bring them back to their own land and bless them. This is the greater exodus spoken of in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 3:14-18; 23:1-8; Ezekiel 34:11-24; 37:20-28).
- (vs 28-31) Finally, the Lord will make a new covenant with them. With his Spirit he will write his law on their hearts; and they will be his people, and he will be their God (Ezekiel 37:11-14, 22-28; Isaiah 61:5-11; 62).
- (vs 32) All those who call upon the name of the Lord Yeshua will be saved. These the Lord will call from among the survivors.
This process involves a second exodus, a greater exodus, not out of Egypt, but out of the world; from all the nations where the Lord dispersed them. Then they will know that he alone is the God who saves. He will give them a new heart and a new spirit so they will carry his law in their hearts faithfully. In this new covenant they will find the same hope offered to their brethren, the firstfruits of salvation. This is a hope that leads to life eternal for those willing to surrender to the obedience of faith and the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
Not only will there be an exodus for the descendants of Israel from the world, but there will also come an exodus from the grave (Isaiah 26:1,16-19; Ezekiel 37:11-14). These too will be confronted with the righteous judgment of Christ and be given the opportunity to enter into a new covenant with him; a new covenant which leads to life eternal.
Final Judgment for the Nations
God’s judgment upon the nations, which occurs at the return of our Lord with his appearance in the heavens, comes in two forms. First there is the wrath of God which serves to punish the wicked and disobedient. This includes especially those nations to whom he dispersed Israel and Judah, because the nations treated them with cruelty and shame. To each of these nations God has prepared humiliation and destruction as payment for their pride and arrogance, but this doesn’t mark their final end. (Ezekiel 36;1-7; 35)
Yet through all God’s wrath a call to repentance is echoed around the world as his angelic servants watch continually for the repentance of the proud. This call to repentance, which began in the seven churches(6) and continues through to the fifth bowl of God’s wrath, reveals an underlying purpose behind his wrath; to lead the proud and wicked to repentance, but they would not relent. (Revelation 9:20-21; 14:6-13; 16:10-11)
In the final battle of the nations against our Lord’s army their fate is certain – death (Revelation 19:17-21). Though the Beast and the False Prophet, who are possessed by the spirit of evil (Revelation 16:13-14), are cast into the lake of fire, their army is destroyed and the birds are gorged on their flesh.
The Resurrection to Judgment
Yet even for them death is not the end. For it is given for all men to die once and then the resurrection to judgment – Christ’s righteous judgment (Hebrews 9:27). In the final days of our Lord’s reign on earth a time of judgment is declared – the Great White Throne judgment.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.
Let’s review the nature of this final judgment. Recall that Christ’s goal is to harvest those willing to surrender to the obedience of faith. This was the fruit of his work in Israel and Judah, as well as the fruit of his work with the Gentiles. All those now acclaimed righteous (Revelation 20:4-6) were called out of disobedience, and mercy was poured out on them (Romans 11:32). They were unique only in that they were the firstfruits of salvation, but being the first implies there are others to follow. In what way would Christ’s righteous judgment for those now resurrected differ from the judgment extended to disobedient Israel and Judah?
- The great white throne of God is the seat from which all judgement is ultimately administered.
- The dead, small and great in stature, are raised from the sea, the grave, from death – and stand before the throne.
- These resurrected dead are judged by the books that were opened. Other scriptures clearly indicate these are the books of the gospel by which men are judged(7).
- The outcome of this judgment is to determine who’s name is to be written in the book of life and those who will choose life in the covenant with Christ.
- Those rejecting Christ and his gospel will not find their names in the book of life and will ultimately be destroyed in the lake of fire. The final judgment of the law of sin and death is the second death.
Those in this latter resurrection are obviously resurrected to flesh and blood since the lake of fire consumes them and they die a death from which there is no hope of a future resurrection. If they were resurrected with a spirit body, like the righteous as some suppose, the second death would have no power over them (vs 4-6).
When all is said and done what is God left with? Those who’ve chosen life over death are given life – everlasting life. Those who’ve chosen death over a life in Christ are destroyed in death – the only penalty for their sin (Ezekiel 18:4,20; Romans 6:22-23), but a second and final death which is permanent and everlasting. Lastly, even death and the grave are cast into the lake of fire – signifying there is no further purpose to either of them (vs 15).
When viewed from a larger context, the covenant which started with Abraham does in fact blossom into a blessing for the nations. Israel and his descendants were called into a covenant which was not intended for them alone. The Messiah, whom they failed to recognize, killed, and rejected, was the very source of God’s reconciliation for the world. Rather than being the only people called into reconciliation with God, Israel and his chosen descendants were just the first. However, only a faithful remnant in Israel and Judah would respond to the truth in Christ. To make them jealous, grace would also be offered to the Gentiles that they too might glorify Christ in the appointed time.
The tribulation experienced by Israel and Judah as a whole was a result of God’s judgment upon them for their idolatry and unfaithfulness, but it wasn’t to be their final state. Christ died for their disobedience just as he died for ours. God would ultimately lead them through correction and even death to reveal himself as their only source of life. This would include a new covenant in Yeshua, the Christ. In a relationship with Christ, they can now grow in his righteousness through faith just as we have. Though they won’t have a part in the first resurrection, the result of Christ’s righteous judgment will still lead them to eternal life.
If we look deep enough, we can see the same pattern of redemption for disobedient Israel being applied to the disobedient nations as well. Whether dead or alive, all will be judged by Christ’s righteous judgment. For those willing to surrender to the obedience of faith, they can hope for a future glory in the kingdom of God. For those unwilling to surrender to the truth and obedience to Christ, their fate is death. As God’s command to Adam promised – in dying you shall surely die. Their death will be a final death from which there is no hope of resurrection.
After all God’s enemies have bowed down to the Son of Man, then, and only then, does the son hand the glorified kingdom over to the Father. What is spoken of in Revelation 21 is then fulfilled – And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
There is much more to learn about each of these topics and links have been provided to related articles. Those tagged with Read more lead you to related channel questions and their basic answers. Those tagged Discover more are part of a more in-depth study program. Any tagged with Learn more address methods, processes, and resources which can aid your approach to learning. All are free resources to assist you in gaining a more unfiltered view of God’s word.
To discover more about the plans Christ has for his body of believers, for the descendants of Israel and Judah, and for the world, read my recent book –
The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View
At the close of each article, the relevant presuppositions that support it will be cited. This enables the reader to gain a clearer and deeper understanding of the context. To learn more about presuppositions, see the About page.
- God is proactive and purposeful in all that he does. (Matthew 13:34-35; Ephesians 1:3-14; Hebrews 1; 1 Peter 1:18-21)
- The work of Jesus Christ and the will of God unites the faithful of the first covenant with the faithful of the new covenant. (Ephesians 2; 3; Romans 5; 8; 9; 10; 11)
- The grace of God is greater-than the sin of humanity (Romans 5)
- God and his Christ are involved in a redemptive work for humanity.
- A key method in God’s redemptive work involves the offering of reconciliation, redemption, and salvation to eternal life – all through belief in Yeshua as the Son of God.
- Entering into belief in the Son of God we leave behind the state of being under God’s wrath, which exists to humble the proud and correct the deceived. (Fourth Gospel 3:36; Romans 1:18-32; 9:21-23; Isaiah 2:6-22)
- All will have the opportunity to receive God’s righteous judgment and be led into the truth of Yeshua, the Christ, but some will not surrender to truth. (1 Corinthians 15:22-26; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-13; Fourth Gospel 12:44-50; Romans 2:12-16; 11:32; Revelation 20:14-15)
- The divinity and supremacy of the Son of God – the creator and finisher of all things. He alone is given authority to judge in righteousness according to the will of God (Fourth Gospel 1:1-5; Psalm 96:10-13; Isaiah 11:1-5; Acts 17:30-31; Romans 2:5-11; Revelation 5; 19:11-16)
- God’s redemptive work on humanity’s behalf is to save them from the second death, not the first death. The death spoken of in God’s command to Adam – in dying you shall surely die does not refer to spiritual death, but the second death – which results in separation from God and from which there is no hope of resurrection. (Genesis 2:16-17; Fourth Gospel 3:16-21; 5:24; 6:40; 17:1-3; Romans 5; 6; 1 Corinthians 15:19; Hebrews 9:25-28; Revelation 20:6)
- Meriam Webster defines eschatological as: a) concerned with the final events in the history of humanity, b) beliefs concerning death, the end of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humanity.
- For an in-depth and thorough discussion of the tribulation, its timing, and its relationship to Israel, Judah, Gentile believers, and even the world, see my recent book: The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View.
- See the articles in this series; Part-1 and Part-3 for details.
- When I refer to Israel, like the authors of Scripture, I’m referring to the descendants of Jacob (renamed Israel). This does not fit the description of the modern nation of Israel, which consists of people from many assorted nationalities. In the near future, God will call to himself, for a specific purpose, descendants from all twelve tribes as part of his kingdom-building process (Romans 9:4-5; 11; Revelation 7:4-8).
- The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View, Gerard Majella (2021), Chapter 4 – Does the Time of Jacob’s Trouble Span the Great Tribulation and God’s Wrath?
- The subject of continued repentance is raised eight times within these seven church judgments (Revelation 2; 3).
- The dead are judged by those things written in the books. These are the very books by which all who are to dwell in Christ are judged – the gospel, the scriptures, the word of God (Fourth Gospel 12:48; Romans 2:16).
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