"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32 . . . . .


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Friday, April 16, 2021

The MILLENNIUM: REIGN of the MESSIAH - Part Four: Continuing the New Testament Examination

~ by James Fire

Having looked into the four Gospel accounts for Scripture regarding the Millennium and related subject matter, let’s move along to the book of Acts and see what we can learn there!
There is of course the very prominent verse found in the very first chapter of ACTS:

ACTS 1:6
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

The kingdom of Israel is part and parcel of what the Davidic Covenant is all about; to understand what this covenant entails check out this TTUF article:

At the time of Christ, Israel was not a kingdom; there was no Jewish king descended from the royal lineage of David officiating over the nation, there was no throne. Israel was a dusty, dirty province in the Roman Empire, despised and downtrodden – not even a glimmer of her former glory under King David.

Yet with the coming of the Messiah, the very Son of David, the kingdom couldn’t be very far behind; the angel Gabriel told Mary that GOD was going to give Jesus the throne of His father, David (LUKE 1:32-33)! The apostles knew this, hence this question they posed to the risen Christ.

And what did Jesus answer? 

Did He discard the very idea of a ‘kingdom of Israel’. Did He point out that since He was rejected of the nation, to the point of being crucified, therefore any such promises to Israel were null and void? 

Did He say that the church would replace Israel as the focal point of the kingdom? Some suggest that MATTHEW 21:43 states this very idea, and we will address this later in this article.

In all actuality, none of the above; this is what He said:

ACTS 1:7 
And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

In other words, the time for the kingdom of Israel is in the Father’s care; it’s something that He Himself is supervising and will relegate all kingdoms beneath that of His Son’s, Who will assume rule over all the world (REV 11:15) at the appointed time. It is He Himself that will bring about the Kingdom, not Israel, not the church – especially not the New Apostolic Reformation cult (DAN 2:44).
For an insightful look into the N.A.R. cult, check out Part One and Part Two of this interview with Keith Gibson, author of Wandering Stars and T.A. McMahon of The Berean Call.

Until that time, the LORD gave His mandate to the apostles and to the church at large:

ACTS 1:8
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

We share the Gospel to see people saved from many things: hell and eternal death, from the holy judgment of GOD that will consign souls there who have refused the Gospel; we are saved for an eternal relationship with the LORD and for work in His kingdom, bringing other souls to the saving knowledge of Jesus the King and offer them entrance into the kingdom by the shed blood of the LAMB!

This sometimes becomes obscured in the presentation of the Gospel: yes – forgiveness of sin and granting of eternal life is central, but with the point being they are being made citizens of the everlasting Kingdom that shall have no end!

Once the LORD gives them their directives in waiting in Jerusalem for the arrival of the Holy Spirit Who will baptize and empower them to become “witnesses” (read that faithful witnesses unto death if need be; the very Greek word witness is ‘martos’ from which we get the word martyr.) there appears two angels that tell them that the manner in which they saw the LORD Jesus leave, is the same manner in which He will return – coming down upon the Mount of Olives where He ascended:

3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.  4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.

Prior to the LORD’s touchdown on Olivet, He deals with those nations that will come against Israel, being led by the anti-Christ (ISA 63:1-6), He shall establish His righteous reign of the Millennial Kingdom, a fulfillment of the Davidic as well as the other covenants that were made to Israel!

 8 And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. 9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one. 10 All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses. 11 And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited (see also ZECH 14:16-21).

The day of Pentecost comes, and Peter ably points to Scripture for an explanation of what was seen in Jerusalem in that day and goes further to present the opportunity to repent during this time of “refreshment”- the offer of eternal life through Christ, in preparation for the arrival of Christ at His Second Coming and the inauguration of His Kingdom (“restitution of all things”):

ACTS 3:18-21
18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. 19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; 20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: 21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

Dr. Albert Barnes makes this worthy, albeit lengthy contribution in commentary on this passage:
“…the design of Peter in this discourse… was to encourage them to repentance; to adduce arguments why they should repent, and why they might hope in his mercy. To do this, it was needful only to assure them that they were living under the times graciously promised by God, the times of refreshing, when pardon might be obtained.  
“The main inquiry therefore is, what did Peter refer to by the times of refreshing, and by the restitution of all things? 

“Did he refer to any particular manifestation to be made then; or to the influence of the gospel on the earth; or to the future state, when the Lord Jesus shall come to judgment? 
“The idea which I suppose Peter intended to convey was this: ‘Repent and be converted. You have been great sinners and are in danger. Turn from your ways, that your sins may be forgiven.’ 
“But then, what encouragement would there be for this? or why should it be done? Answer – ‘You are living under the times of the gospel, the reign of the Messiah, the times of refreshing. This happy, glorious period has been long anticipated, and is to continue to the close of the world; the period including the restitution of all things, and the return of Christ to judgment, has come; and is, therefore, the period when you may find mercy, and when you should seek it, to be prepared for his return.’ 

“In this sense the passage refers to the fact that this time, this dispensation, this economy, including all this, had come, and they were living under it, and might and should seek for mercy. It expresses, therefore, the common belief of the Jews that such a time should come, and the comment of Peter about its nature and continuance. 

“The belief of the Jews was that such times should come. Peter affirms that the belief of such a period was well founded--a time when mercy may be obtained. That time has come. The doctrine that it should come was well founded and has been fulfilled. 
“This was a reason why they should repent, and hope in the mercy of God. Peter goes on, then, to state further characteristics of that period. It should include the restitution of all things, the return of Christ to judgment, etc. And all this was an additional consideration why they should repent, and turn from their sins, and seek for forgiveness. The meaning of the passage may, therefore, be thus summed up: 

"Repent, since such times shall come; they are clearly predicted; they were to be expected; and you are now living under them. In these times; in this dispensation, also, God shall send his Son again to judge the world; and all things shall be closed and settled for ever. Since you live under this period, you may seek for mercy; and you should seek to avoid the vengeance due to the wicked, and to be admitted to heaven when the Lord Jesus shall return." 

“Times of refreshing. The word rendered refreshing--anaquxewv--means, properly, ‘the breathing, or refreshment, after being heated with labor, running, etc. It hence denotes any kind of refreshment--as rest, or deliverance from evils of any kind. It is used nowhere else in the New Testament, except that the verb is used in 2 Tim 1:16, "Onesiphorus oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain." He administered comfort to me in my trials. It is used by the LXX. in the Old Testament nine times: Exod 8:15, "But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite," i.e. cessation or rest from the plagues; Hos 12:8; Jer 49:31; Psalm 69:11, etc.

“In no place in the Old Testament is the word applied to the terms of the gospel. The idea, however, that the times of the Messiah would be times of rest, and ease, and prosperity, was a favorite one among the Jews, and was countenanced in the Old Testament. See Isa 28:12, "To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing," etc. They anticipated the times of the gospel as a period when they should have rest from their enemies; a respite from the evils of oppression and war, and a period of great national prosperity and peace. Under the idea that the happy times of the Messiah had come, Peter now addresses them, and assures them that they might obtain pardon and peace.”
 ACTS 4:10-12
10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

In the ancient world, a cornerstone was essential in order to raise up a building; it ensured that the right angles of the construction were accurate. It was the basis for the entire building.
The LORD Jesus Christ is referred to in the above text “as the head of the corner” and “the stone”, which is another way of saying corner stone (See the three-part article FMF). The cornerstone is mentioned in PSALM 118:22; ISAIAH 28:16; MATT 21:42; MARK 12:10; LUKE 20:17 as well as EPH 2:20; 1 PET 2:6-7.

The LORD Jesus was asked a question by “the chief priests and the elders” about the authority that Jesus spoke and taught with, and where it came from (MATT 21:23-27); then He spoke a parable (MATT 21:28-32) and then another (MATT 21:33-41). In the first parable he spoke of those who have repented and believed the Gospel, as opposed to these religious leaders (vs. 32). In the second parable He spoke about a vineyard and the unfaithful stewards that wanted it for themselves, and not render the fruits thereof to the owner, or even the owners son, but rather killed the son in order to steal it.

The vineyard is symbolic of Israel (See ISAIAH 5), and this is a nation that GOD raised up from one man – Abraham. Yet these religious leaders acted as though the people lived to serve them, rather than GOD, essentially stealing the people for themselves, rather than surrendering them to the LORD their GOD which was their ministerial duty.
It’s immediately after this second parable that the LORD Jesus asks the following:

MATTHEW 21:42-44
42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD'S doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes'? 43 Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.

He is speaking regarding the kingdom of GOD in relation to nations – Israel the unfaithful nation, and another nation that will bear fruit, that being the church (1 PET 2:9) and in the two verses prior the apostle speaks of the cornerstone in Zion (vs. 6 aka “the house of David”), and this stone is established for “…you who believe”. And to those who are “disobedient” the LORD Jesus Christ is “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (vs. 7). 

This is “a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (that is, the fruits of the kingdom)” – the church.

Now let’s get back to: 

Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

Since it was prophesied that Israel would reject the Messiah – and fulfilled in the days of Jesus, GOD’s program for Israel was brought to a temporary halt, and this began the time for the church. GOD’s blessings upon the body of Christ, the ekklesia (“church”). This would provoke the Jews to jealousy (ROM 11:11,14) but even Paul points out that Israel’s fall that produced blessings for the Gentile (church) can’t be compared to the blessings for us saints when Israel returns in her fulness (ROM 11:12,15). GOD is well able to restore the nation to a place of acceptance (ROM 11:23-24).

A careful study of ROMANS 9, 10 and 11 will render proper understanding of Israel’s future held in keeping by the Father (ACTS 1:7).

Paul the apostle stated that Israel is in a state of unbelief but will eventually come to faith in their Messiah (review ROMANS Ch. 9 through 11; esp. ROM 11:20-32). In either case, the church or Israel – all are built upon the foundation of this stone, representing Jesus Christ denotatively and the kingdom of GOD connotatively.

“Zion” has ever been the symbol for the kingdom of Israel (PSALM 2:6-12). And this cornerstone is connected with the church as well (EPH 2:19-22).
This kingdom is represented at its greatest pinnacle during the Millennial Reign of Christ on the Earth (the old, not the new – that’s afterwards!), where the LORD Jesus Himself is honored as the central focus of worship as well as the Supreme Potentate Who will reign at this time!

In ACTS 15 there is the Council at Jerusalem where the issue of whether or not the Gentiles have to observe the Law and be circumcised (essentially be converted to Judaism first and then complete the salvation process by accepting Christ). The conclusion is that Gentiles do not need to do any such thing; salvation is by faith alone, believing on the LORD Jesus Christ whether Jew or Gentile (ACTS 15:11).
Then the (unasked) question arises, What then will become of Israel? Does Israel even have a future then?

The elder James answers this in the affirmative:

ACTS 15:13-16
13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: 14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:

“The tabernacle of David” is representative of the kingdom of Israel – and again, there can be no kingdom without a King (Jesus) and no King without a kingdom (the nation of Israel). This shall be realized when Christ returns and establishes His righteous reign over the world, ruling from Jerusalem that will become the capital of the world!

ACTS 28:23-28
 So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. 25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: "The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 26 "saying, 'Go to this people and say: "Hearing you will hear and shall not understand; And seeing you will see, and not perceive; 27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them”. 28 Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!

Notice that Paul testified of the kingdom of GOD as it pertains to Jesus Christ and doing so from “the Law and the Prophets” – that is to say, the canon of Old Testament Scripture. No where in the Old Testament is the phrase “the kingdom of GOD” found, but the kingdom is spoken about, but in terms related to “Zion” (PSALM 146:10; ISAIAH 2:3) and “the city of David” in alignment with the son of David, the Messiah. “The kingdom of Israel” that the apostles enquired about, which we addressed at the beginning of this article.

So then by preaching Christ in reference to the kingdom of GOD, and addressing both from the Old Testament, it can only mean the Messianic kingdom or as some suggest “the kingdom [from] of heaven”. This is the stone cut without hands, that destroys the world empire of the last days (feet [and ten toes] of clay and iron; DAN 2:33) that becomes a mountain (a symbol for a ‘kingdom’) that fills all the world, ergo the Messianic Kingdom established in the Millennium!
Paul (in the text above, starting from vs. 26) as well as the LORD Jesus Christ (MATT 13:4-15) quote from: 

ISAIAH 6:9-13
 9  And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' 10 "Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed." 11 Then I said, "Lord, how long?" And He answered: "Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, The houses are without a man, The land is utterly desolate, 12 The LORD has removed men far away, And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. 13 But yet a tenth will be in it, And will return and be for consuming, As a terebinth tree or as an oak, Whose stump remains when it is cut down. So the holy seed shall be its stump.

Because Israel rejected the LORD by supplementing their worship of YHWH with the false gods of the surrounding pagan nations, and the fact that they continued to oppress their poor brethren, and continued to rule unjustly (for all of these, see ISAIAH chapters 2 and 59) and disregarded the sabbaths for the land (EXOD 23:11) that judgment came, and it began with the hearts of the people and their refusal to hear the word of the LORD from every prophet sent to them (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Amos, Joel, etc.).

This led to the land being laid waste by Babylon and Israel’s subjugation to various Gentile empires (“the times of the Gentiles”; see LUKE 21:24). So when the LORD Jesus quoted Isaiah 6 and the apostle Paul did so as well, they were referring to the judgment upon the nation and that it’s continuing and will culminate during the reign of the Beast. He will ultimately seek to destroy Israel, and that’s when the Messiah will return, and He – the LORD Jesus Christ – will inaugurate His reign, and the judgment upon Israel (“the time of the Gentiles”) will be over with!

Until that time, we Gentiles by the grace of GOD have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and receive Christ as LORD and Savior – and for the last 2,000 years, the church has been predominantly Gentile – and when “the fulness of the Gentiles” is completed, then the LORD will once again turn to Israel (but not “until” this fulness occurs – see vs. 25) and bring about their salvation:

ROMANS 11:25 -27
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.

For more on the Millennium, check out Matthew McGee’s commentary on The MILLENNIAL KINGDOM REIGN of JESUS CHRIST 

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