Introduction to the Messianic Kingdom

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Characteristics of the Kingdom From the Jewish Writings

Regarding the nature of the future happiness and blessedness for which all pious Israelites were looking, opinions differed, but all agreed that the blessings were to be national blessings, that God was to establish his kingdom, and that in that kingdom, and in it alone, the promised bliss was to be realized. Other peoples might sometimes be thought of as sharing in the national happiness, but only as they recognized the God of Israel and observed his law and became incorporated into the elect race.

The apocalyptic writers of the Kabbalistic literature pictured that serenity best. Not only were the Jews to be freed from all foreign domination and to be raised to a position of supremacy over all the earth, the Messianic age, the age of the kingdom, was to be a period of unexampled fruitfulness, of unmeasured health and prosperity, of unbroken peace and joy.

But more than that, it was to be a time of perfect holiness and righteousness, when law and temple service should be observed with scrupulous and unvarying exactness, and all should be pure and upright in God’s sight. Upon this feature of the coming kingdom the greatest stress was naturally laid, and it was widely believed that such perfect and permanent holiness would be secured through the influence of the Messiah, who would then be poured out upon the faithful and would guide and control all their activities.

Other characteristics of this “perfect” age included the impure animals become pure for consumption and living waters coming out of Jerusalem. Medieval Judaism refined messianic speculation considerably. For Maimonides, the King Messiah will not be obliged to perform miracles. As for the Biblical marvels predicted for the kingdom, the miracle of the lion lying down with the lamb merely means that the Gentiles will be at peace with Israel.

Rabbi Moses ben Joseph di Trani called the Mabit (16th century) argued that in the messianic age all men will acknowledge the law of Moses as the true religion and the miracles accompanying the arrival of the Messiah will be so powerful as to convince the greatest skeptic. According to one rabbi named Louis Jacobs, the doctrine of the Messiah is one of the most distinctive of Judaism’s teachings and it involves the basic conviction that human history will be fulfilled here on earth. Since God will not abandon His world to moral chaos, eventually He will intercede directly to halt tyranny, oppression and the pursuit of evil. Sooner or later the Messiah will be sent by God to redeem Israel and usher in a new era of bliss like that of Adam and eve in the Garden of Eden.

Some Rabbis perceived time as being divided into three eras: a mythical time past, when everything was perfect and Eden-like, and when bread growing on trees could be consumed without labor; the reality of time now, the era of historical time in which we live, when we get our bread with difficulty so that we are lucky to have any food at all; and a hoped-for time to come, a messianic age at the end of days when paradise would return just as in the days of the Garden of Eden.

So the Jewish writings speak of a time of perfect peace, with Messiah performing miracles, the animals at peace and the worldwide experience of health and prosperity.

Within The Bible

The Messianic Kingdom will be the final fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham.  God had promised Abraham a land and a seed.  The seed promise was fulfilled with the birth of Isaac and ultimately in the person of Christ.  Paul says in Galatians 3:16.

“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.'”  

The land promise, never before fulfilled, will be fulfilled in the Messianic Kingdom.  In Genesis, God says to Abraham, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates (Genesis 15.18).  This land is an everlasting possession.  God declares to Abraham, “And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17.8).

The chief characteristics of the Mosaic system were law and obedience.  The chief characteristics of the present system, the Church age are belief and grace.  The chief characteristics of the Messianic Kingdom will be peace and righteousness cf. Isaiah 2.1-5, Isaiah 11.1-10, Jeremiah 23.5-8.  Other characteristics are long life, perfect environment, and wealth.

During this period the New Covenant will be completely established with the House of Israel and the House of Judah where Israel will become a nation of priests.  This covenant will be fundamentally different from the Mosaic Covenant, which Israel could not obey.  God will write his laws upon their hearts rather than on stone cf. Jeremiah 31.31-37.  The Church has been the benefactor of this covenant since Jesus announced it at the Last Supper. The Jews will realize it during the millennial reign as it comes to its complete effectiveness.

There are many verses in the Old Testament prophesying the Messianic Kingdom.  The Jews had long awaited it. Some Old Testament references to the Kingdom are listed below.

  1. Isaiah 52:1 Jerusalem will be pure and no longer trodden down by the Gentiles. (Uncircumcised and unclean ones)
  2. Isaiah 60:3 Gentiles with their leaders will serve the Jews
  3. Psalm 15:1-5 People in the Kingdom will possess a kind of righteousness
  4. Isaiah 11:6-9 Universal peace will be prevalent and the world’s animals will be at peace with each other and be vegetarians
  5. Isaiah 65:17-25 Here Isaiah describes the Millennial Kingdom’s new heaven and new earth. This is a renovation. This is not a description of the eternal order, which will be a complete new order.
  6. Micah 4:1-5 Jehovah’s house becomes a center of attention, with Messianic teaching, the absence of war and universal peace

It was this kingdom that John the Baptizer proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3.2).  Jesus proclaimed the same message that John had begun, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4.17).  Even while the nation of Israel rejected their Messiah and the kingdom the disciples expected it even after his crucifixion. Right before his ascension, the disciples said, “And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1.6).  Jesus replied that he could not reveal this knowledge.  His answer affirmed the prophetic Scriptures.  He just could not reveal the timetable.  All the prophecies in the Old Testament related to the Messiah’s first advent have been literally fulfilled, therefore we can expect that the prophecies related to the Messiah and his Kingdom will be fulfilled literally also.  Some New Testament references to the Kingdom are shown below.

  1. Mark. 1:15 – “the kingdom of God is at hand”
  2. Luke. 17:20,21 – “the kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed… behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst”
  3. John. 3:3 – unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God
  4.  Romans. 14:17 – “the kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”
  5. Matthew. 3:2; 4:17 – “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”
  6. Matthew. 5:3,10 – “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”
  7. Matthew. 5:19,20 – “enter the kingdom of heaven”
  8. Ephesians 5:5 – “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God”
  9. Colossians. 1:13 – “the kingdom of His beloved Son”
  10. II Peter. 1:11 – “eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”
  11. Matthew. 6:33 – “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…”
  12. John. 18:36 – “My kingdom is not of this world/realm”
  13. Acts 20:25 – “went about preaching the kingdom”

As Jesus taught His apostles to pray: Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. It is coming. (Matthew 6:10) He let them know that the Kingdom would come upon earth, it would mirror God’s heavenly Kingdom and it was sometime yet future to the time of the Sermon on the Mount and as we have seen yet future to Acts 1:6-7. With the world in increasingly worse turmoil we can say that the Kingdom has not yet arrived and it is still yet future to us.

Subsequent posts will provide greater detail regarding the Messianic Kingdom.


Daniel E. Woodhead