If you ask most Christians why Jesus died on the cross, they will most often quote John 3:16, affirming that, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The idea is that the “good news” of the Bible is summarized in that Jesus died on the cross so that anyone who believes in Him can go to heaven after they die.
Of course, when Christians say these kind of things, they are not wrong. This is certainly part of the good news. But the Gospel is far more than just John 3:16 and being saved from hell. The Gospel, as it was proclaimed by Jesus and the Apostles, is an extension of the good news that was proclaimed throughout the Old Testament. So what else beyond merely going to heaven after we die is entailed when we speak of God’s good news for mankind?
The simple answer to this question is found in the phrase, “the restoration of all things.” Shortly after Pentecost, when Peter preached God’s good news to the crowds, he specifically spoke of the “the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:21). What is this period, what were the prophets speaking of, and what exactly will be restored?
The period being spoken of is the age of the Messiah, after Jesus returns and establishes His kingdom. As to what will be restored, Jesus will not only restore the Earth, but also the Kingdom of Israel. Within the grand unfolding plan of God are His many promises not only to restore Eden, a glorious garden-paradise, but also to restore the Jewish Kingdom to a glory far greater than during the days of King David or Solomon.
Let’s consider just a few of the passages that speak of these days. In the prophecy of Isaiah, we are told that during the messianic age, in partnership with Jesus, the righteous will actually renovate the Earth: “Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations; and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations” (Isaiah 61:4). Elsewhere, the prophet Amos speaks of the days “when the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine.” Under the rule of Jesus, God’s people will, “plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit” (Amos 9:9-15). The prophet Zechariah says that “‘In that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree'” (Zechariah 3:10).
In speaking of those days, the prophet Ezekiel describes a river that will run southward, out of Jerusalem, turning the Dead Sea into a fresh water lake, teeming with life:
It will come about that every living creature which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi to Eneglaim there will be a place for the spreading of nets. Their fish will be according to their kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea, very many. (Ezekiel 47:9-10)
When is the last time any Christian you know declared the good news that in the age to come, after we die, we will be able to fish? I don’t know about you, but for me, this is truly good news!
The Scriptures also affirm that after Jesus returns, He will set in place a new global leadership structure. From God’s perspective, the primary purpose of every position of leadership is to serve others. Yet today, I think it is fair to say that many if not most politicians seek and maintain positions of authority not primarily for the purpose of truly serving others, but to secure greater wealth, power and control. This is a problem that is common throughout the world. How will Jesus respond to this when He returns? Psalm 110 tells us that Jesus will literally kill unrighteous rulers and politicians throughout the Earth: “The Lord is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses, He will shatter the chief men over a broad country” (Psalm 110:5,6).
Not only will Jesus’ return be accompanied by his execution of a host of wicked, self-serving politicians and dictators throughout the world, but He will also replace them with those who have proven themselves to be faithful and humble leaders: “Well done, my good servant! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities,” He will declare (Luke 19:17). When I think of how many throughout the Earth groan under the weight of oppressive government, I rejoice at this profoundly good news. Genuinely humble servant leaders will assist Jesus in governing the new world. Hallelujah!
Yet as wonderful and glorious as these descriptions of a restored Earth are, they are only part of the picture. Beyond a restored and glorified garden paradise, the Scriptures also speak of a glorified, restored Kingdom of Israel. If we neglect to proclaim either of these two dimensions of the coming messianic age, we are simply not proclaiming the complete Gospel message that was declared by God’s “holy prophets from ancient time.”
After Jesus rose from the dead, His disciples asked Him about the time that He would restore the glory of the Jewish kingdom, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6-7). In no way did Jesus rebuke his disciples for their question. Instead, He assured them that at the proper time, according to the time set by the Father, He will return and restore the Kingdom of Israel. The Scriptures are brimming with references that testify to this reality. At the onset of the Gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that the son she would bear would forever reign on the restored throne of David:
“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:31-33 emphasis mine).
The throne of David, we must understand is not a vague reference to the rule of Jesus. This is the restored Jewish royal monarchy.
Later, as Jesus spoke to His disciples, He told them of the time after He returns when they would assist him in judging the 12 tribes of Israel:
“Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28-29).
The restoration of all 12 tribes in the age to come shows that indeed we are looking forward to a fully restored Kingdom of Israel. Though few Christians discuss this aspect of the Bible, the Scriptures in both the Old and New testaments are brimming with descriptions of the coming kingdom of God.
When we take a real hard look at the way the Christian church has related to the Jewish community throughout most of church history, it is no surprise that a failure to recognize this critical aspect of the good news – namely the coming restoration of the Kingdom of Israel – often accompanied the horrific mistreatment of the Jewish people by Christians. In my most recent book, “When a Jew Rules the World,” I carefully lay out the case for why the Christian church must reclaim the fullness of the Gospel as it was proclaimed by Jesus and the apostles. In doing so, we will accomplish much. First, we will proclaim a message that most Jews – those who are far more Old Testament literate than many Christians – will relate to, understand and receive far more naturally. Second, we will be much better equipped to avoid the great errors and sins of our forefathers with the long history of Christian persecution of the Jewish people. And finally, we will prepare our hearts to receive Jesus at His return with hearts full of joy and understanding as we all together exclaim with fullness of joy: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” (John 12:13).