The Kingdom in the Prophets

The promise of land and blessings to Abraham and his descendants was not completely fulfilled by the kingdom of Israel. They lived in the land for a time, but they did not keep God's covenant, and so they were divided and ultimately driven out of the land. The northern kingdom (Israel) was defeated by Assyria and scattered, and the southern kingdom (Judah) was taken captive to Babylon. Yet God had promised to establish David's throne forever.

During the Babylonian captivity, Daniel prayed, confessing that Israel and Judah had deserved what had happened to them. He asked the Lord to turn His anger from Jerusalem and once again allow His face to shine on the sanctuary, for His own name's sake (Daniel 9). Daniel understood from Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10) that the Babylonian captivity would be 70 years (Daniel 9:2). In response to his prayer, it is revealed to him that another seventy, this time seventy "sevens" were determined, "to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy" (Daniel 9:24). This prophecy will be examined in detail in another article, but for now the point I want to demonstrate is that the return of the people to their land after the Babylonian captivity was not the final fulfillment of the prophecies.

Jeremiah 16:10-15 says that the reason for Israel's great calamity was that they continued to serve idols. But in the same breath God promises to restore them to their land. He makes a similar prophecy in Jeremiah 23.

Jeremiah 23:
1 Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.
2 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.
3 And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.
4 And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.
[see NASB]

God did restore them to their land after the captivity in Babylon, but that was not the complete and final fulfillment of this prophecy or of God's plans. Verse 3 says the remnant would be gathered out of "all countries" (the reference in Jeremiah 16, above, says, "from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them") yet the return after the 70 years of captivity was only out of Babylon. In verse 4, "neither shall they be lacking" is rendered in the NASB and the NRSV as "nor will any be missing." Yet only Judah was returned from Babylon. The ten northern tribes of Israel were scattered into many nations, and have yet to be returned. But the next verses describe such a return.

Jeremiah 23:
5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
7 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
8 But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.
[see NASB]

When God raises up the righteous branch of David, that is, the Messiah, he will reign as king. At that time, both Judah and Israel will be saved and restored to the promised land, with peace and prosperity. (See also Ezekiel 37:15-28; 39:25-29; Hosea 3:4-5; Joel 3:16-21; Amos 9:11-15). At that time God will no longer be primarily known for bringing Israel out of Egypt, but for bringing all the scattered "seed" or descendants of Israel from out of all the heathen nations to which they had been driven. This specific statement was also made in Jeremiah 16:14-15. There are many instances in which an Old Testament prophecy is partially fulfilled in its immediate future, but is in fact a type of a further, ultimate fulfillment. The return of Judah to their land after the Babylonian captivity was only a partial fulfillment of the prophecy. One of the verses referenced above, Amos 9:15, said, "I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land." But the Jews were driven out of their land again, after they rejected the Messiah. Yet Isaiah speaks of God restoring a remnant of His people "a second time."

Isaiah 11:
10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
11 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.
12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
Jeremiah 32:
36 And now therefore thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence;
37 Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely:
38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God:
39 And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them:
40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.
41 Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.
42 For thus saith the LORD; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them.
Isaiah 10:
20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth.
21 The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God.
22 For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness
[see NASB]


Paul refers to this prophecy of a remnant of Israel being saved in Romans 9:27.  He goes on to describe how the remnant would be saved by accepting Jesus as their Messiah.  However, most of them are blind to that truth, although a number of them have believed, especially in the first century Church (Romans 11:8-10). Nevertheless, Paul says that the blindness is temporary, "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in" (Romans 11:25). Jesus refers to a time when Jerusalem would be trodden down of the Gentiles in Luke 21:24, and Revelation 11:2 links it with the Great Tribulation, i.e. the specific period of "forty-two months" mentioned in other prophecies (see Future Events). Jerusalem has been under the control of the Gentiles since the time of Daniel, as illustrated by his visions of the successive Gentile empires. But a time will come when it will be trodden underfoot, and Israel will turn back to God, at which time the Gentile kingdoms will be subdued by God's Kingdom.


Matthew 23:
38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Zechariah 12:
8 In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.
9 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
Revelation 1:
7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
Romans 11:
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
[see NASB]

This fits with the prophecies that God will never completely forsake Israel (Psalm 94:14; Isaiah 54:5-10; Jeremiah 31:35-40; 32:37-40; 33:23-26; Micah 7:18-20). The promise that God would establish David's throne to a restored Israel is further elaborated on in all of the Prophets, expanding it to encompass the whole world. The focus of the new kingdom will be the throne of the Lord in Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 3:
16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.
17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.
18 In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.
[see NASB]

Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, will be the center of a coming world empire, in which God's vice-regent, or co-ruler, will administer a perfect government. "A throne will even be established in lovingkindness, And a judge [literally, an administrator] will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; Moreover, he will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness" (Isaiah 16:5, NASB). The New Living Translation words it this way: "Then God will establish one of David's descendants as king. He will rule with mercy and truth. He will always do what is just and be eager to do what is right." It is in that way that "the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem" (Isaiah 24:23).

A famous scripture in Isaiah describes the purpose of the Messiah's birth. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder...Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:6-7).

God's king would be perfect and just in his judgments, and he would rule over not just Israel but the whole world. "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion…thy King cometh unto thee … and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth" (Zechariah 9:9-10). God's righteousness will encompass the earth by way of this kingdom centered in Israel.

Micah 4:
1 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
[see NASB]

In Daniel, we are given a vision of future events, including a succession of world empires that would dominate Israel following Babylon. But the last one would be replaced by God's kingdom on earth. "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Daniel 2:44).

Daniel 7:
13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
[see NASB]

Not only will there be a great world empire ruled by God's king, but the saints are given a part in ruling with him.

Daniel 7:
18 But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever

27 And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
[see NASB]

In Daniel it is also revealed that the establishment of the kingdom would be preceded by a Great Tribulation, and then the resurrection of the dead.

Daniel 12:
1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
[see NASB]

There are many more details in the prophecies recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. These are only a small sampling. The earth will be restored to its former perfection (Isaiah 65:17; Psalm 96:10-13). There will be peace and rest, and no more war (Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:3). There will be perfect and just judgment (Isaiah 11:1-5), and nature itself will be restored to the way God intended, with peace among the animals (Isaiah 11:6-8). "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). This is indeed good news, which is what the word "gospel" means.

The Prophets proclaimed not only God's judgment on the wicked, but also the good news of the coming kingdom of God, when wickedness would be no more. The hope of Israel throughout the Old Testament was the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham and David, specifically the coming righteous rule of God through His Messiah. Jesus preached the "Gospel" or "Good News" of the coming Kingdom of God. He declared that the reason he was sent was to preach the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43). Because Israel was quite familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures, when he came preaching that Gospel, he did not need to explain what he meant, because they knew from the Scriptures what the coming Messiah was all about, and they knew that he was coming to set up God's Kingdom on earth.

Many of them did not believe that he was that Messiah, but there was no question in their minds about what the purpose of the coming Messiah was. As followers of Christ, we should be as knowledgeable about his purpose and function, why he came, and what he accomplished. When he proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand, what did he mean? With the foundation from the Hebrew Scriptures, it will become clear what Jesus was preaching, when we consider his words in the next section.

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Mark Clarke