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Thy Kingdom Come: early Jewish views of the Messianic Kingdom

[The following article is an excerpt from a commentary on Psalm 1 that I am preparing. This began with preparations for a series I preached on Psalm 1 that extended 10 weeks. I originally planned to write what was supposed to be an article, but when the introduction expanded beyond 50 pages I decided it would have to be an ebook. This is an Excursus from the introduction of the book.]

Excursus: The Eschatological Kingdom

Multitudes of passages from the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures indicate a future restoration of the kingdom of Israel.

A number of passages in Isaiah also predict and describe the visible earthly kingdom promised in the Davidic Covenant. Isaiah predicted the reign of Messiah “on the throne of David and over his kingdom” (9:7). In other places he described some of the characteristics of that kingdom (chaps. 11; 24-25; 54; 60-61).

Other significant Old Testament promises concerning the Davidic kingdom include Jeremiah 23:5-6; 30:8-9; 33:14-17; 20-21; Ezekiel 37:24-25; Daniel 7:13-14; Hosea 3:4-5; Amos 8:11; and Zachariah 14:4-9.1) Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology, Victor Books (Wheaton, IL: 1986), p. 495

Dwight Pentecost also notes many other passages of the regathering of Israel citing Isaiah 27:12; 43:5-7; Jeremiah 12:15; 24:6; Ezekiel 20:42; 28:25-26: Hosea 12:9; Joel 3:1; Amos 9:14-15: Micah 4:6; Zephaniah 3:20; Zechariah 10:10.2)J.. Dwight Pentecost, Thing To Come, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI: 1958), p. 504-505

Restoration of Israel

The Messianic hope in the first century was driven with the expectation of the Davidic Covenant being realized (Luke 1:31-33; 24:21). Jesus Christ taught He would fulfill this regathering when He returned (Matthew 24:30-31); and His disciples anticipated it to have occurred immediately after His resurrection (Acts 1:6). Many Jewish text linked the Messiah’s coming and Israel’s restoration together. A commentary on Genesis from the Dead Sea Scrolls states: “The scepter [shall not] depart from the tribe of Judah… [xlix, 10.]. Whenever Israel rules, there shall [not] fail to be a descendant of David upon the throne (Jer. Xxxiii, 17). For the ruler’s staff (xlix, 10) is the Covenant of kingship, [and the clans] of Israel are the divisions, until the Messiah of Righteousness comes, the Branch of David. For to him and his seed is granted the Covenant of kingship over his people for everlasting generations which he is to keep… the Law with the men of the Community for… it is the assembly of the men of…” (italics, brackets, and ellipsis in original, 4Q252 V, 3-4).3)The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004, p. 494

Other ancient Jewish apocalyptic text describes, “this is Messiah whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will arise from the posterity of David… For first he will set them living before his judgement seat, and when he has reproved them, he will destroy them. But he will deliver in mercy the remnant of my people, those who have been saved throughout my borders, and he will make them joyful until the end comes, the day of judgement…” (4 Ezra 13:32, 33-34)4)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 550 2 Baruch states: “all will be delivered into the hands of my Servant, the Anointed One…. And the holy land will have mercy on its own inhabitants and will protect its inhabitants at that time…. When the nations are moved and the time of my Anointed One comes, he will call all nations, and some of them he will spare, and others he will kill. These things will befall the nations which will be spared by him. Every nation which had not known Israel and which has not trodden down the seed of Jacob will live. And this is because some from all the nations have been subjected to your people. All those, now, who have ruled over you or have known you, will be delivered up to the sword.” (2 Baruch 70:9; 71:1; 72:2-6)5)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 645 This is reminiscent of Christ words of dividing the nations as sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-32).

The Psalms of Solomon reveals more particular wording relating to the concept depicted within Psalm 1, identifying the purging of Gentiles out of the land and driving out sinners from the Jewish inheritance in order to gather the holy people in once again. “See, Lord, and raise up for them their king, the son of David, to rule over your servant Israel in the time known to you, O God. Undergird him with strength to destroy the unrighteous rulers, to purge Jerusalem from gentiles who trample her to destruction; in wisdom and in righteousness to drive out the sinners from the inheritance; to smash the arrogance of sinners like a potter’s jar; to shatter all their substance with an iron rod; to destroy the unlawful nations with the word of his mouth; at his warning the nations will flee from his presence; ad he will condemn sinners by the thoughts of their hearts. He will gather a holy people whom he will lead in righteousness; and he will judge the tribes of the people that have been made holy by the Lord their God.” (Psalms of Solomon 17:21-26)6)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p 667

Beatitudes Expressly Eschatological

As will be discussed further in the commentary proper, Psalm 1 begins with the word “blessed.” This marks it as a beatitude, which is repeatedly found in conjunction with the hope of an eternal kingdom in ancient Jewish sources. 1 Enoch 58:2-4 reveals this: “Blessed are you, righteous and elect ones, for glorious is your portion. The righteous ones shall be in the light of the sun and the elect ones in the light of eternal life which has no end, and the days of the life of the holy ones cannot be numbered. They shall seek light and find righteousness with the Lord of the Spirits. Peace (be) to the righteous ones in the peace of the Eternal Lord.”7)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 39 This is reminiscent of Daniel 12:3-4 wherein, the righteous will shine as the firmament and as the stars forever. The Psalms of Solomon express blessings upon those born in the days of the kingdom. “Blessed are those born in those days to see the good fortune of Israel which God will bring to pass in the assemble of the tribes. May God dispatch his mercy to Israel; may he deliver us from the pollution of profane enemies; The Lord Himself is our king forevermore.” (Psalms of Solomon 17:44-46)8)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p 669

These days are described in the book of Jubilee 23:26-30 as men having extended life as part of this blessing. “And in those days, children will begin to search the law, and to search the commandments and to return to the way of righteousness. And the days will begin to increase and grow longer among the sons of men, generation by generation, and year by year, until their years approach a thousand years, and to a greater number of years than of days. And there (will be) no old men and none who is full of days. Because all of them will be infants and children. And all of their days they will be complete and live in peace and rejoicing and there will be no Satan and no evil (one) who will destroy, because all of their days will be days of blessing and healing. And then the LORD will heal his servants, And they will rise up and see great peace, And they will drive out their enemies, and the righteous ones will see and give praise, and rejoice forever and ever with joy. And they will see all of their judgements and all of their curses among their enemies.”9)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p. 102 This is clearly expressing what is written in Isaiah 65:19-20 as well as Satan being bound during the Millennial period in Revelation 20:1-5, which is also linked with a beatitude (Revelation 20:6).

The early church fathers further expected a similar kingdom. Irenaeus (A.D. 125-202) writing after the Jew were dispersed out of their land in A.D. 135 by emperor Hardrian, spoke of Israel returning to their land in the end times with their Temple rebuilt in order for the antichrist to desecrate it prior to Christ’s return. “But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom, that is, the rest, the hallowed seventh day; and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance, in which kingdom the Lord declared, that many coming from the east and from the west should sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.[Matthew 8:11].” (Irenaeus, Against Heresy 5.30.4)10)Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Bk 5, Chap. 30, para. 4; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA, 2012) Vol. 1, p. 560 Irenaeus further expressed what he heard from early men such as Polycarp and Papias, who allegedly reiterated what they heard from the apostle John: “The predicted blessing, therefore, belongs unquestionably to the times of the kingdom, when the righteous shall bear rule upon their rising from the dead; when also the creation, having been renovated and set free, shall fructify with an abundance of all kinds of food, from the dew of heaven, and from the fertility of the earth: as the elders who saw John, the disciple of the Lord, related that they had heard from him how the Lord used to teach in regard to these times…” (Irenaeus, Against Heresy 5.33.3)11)Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Bk 5, Chap. 30, para. 4; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA, 2012) Vol. 1, p. 562-563 he then referenced the writings of Papias, who stated, “The days will come in which vines shall grow, having each ten thousand branches, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in each true twig ten thousand shoots, and in every one of the shoots ten thousand clusters, and on every one of the clusters ten thousand grapes, and every grape when pressed will give five-and-twenty metretes of wine. And when any one of the saints shall lay hold of a cluster, another shall cry out, ‘I am a better cluster, take me; bless the Lord through me.’ In like manner, [He said] that a grain of wheat would produce ten thousand ears, and that every ear would have ten thousand grains, and every grain would yield ten pounds of clear, pure, fine flour; and that apples, and seeds, and grass would produce in similar proportions; and that all animals, feeding then only on the productions of the earth, would become peaceable and harmonious, and be in perfect subjection to man.” (Papias, Fragment 4)12)Papias, Fragment 4; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA, 2012) Vol. 1, p. 153-154

Though there was commonly a blurring of the Scriptural distinction between the Millennial Kingdom and Heavenly Kingdom that comes to earth after the Great White Throne judgement as being depicted chronologically in Revelation 20:1- 21:2; the major elements were discernible in these early Christian authors.

Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God

Some theologians have drawn a distinction between the phrases “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God.” The term “kingdom of heaven” is only used by Matthew which indicates a Jewish root to the term; while “kingdom of heaven” is used by the other gospel writers. Matthew himself uses both terms. It is evident that Mathew uses the two terms interchangeably as in Matthew 19:23-24: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Furthermore, noting the parallel passages between Matthew’s gospel and the other synoptic gospels shows the phrases were used interchangeably.

“Kingdom of Heaven” “Kingdom of God” “Kingdom of God”
Matthew 5:3 Luke 6:20
Matthew 10:7 Luke 9:2
Matthew 11:11 Luke 7:28
Matthew 13:11 Mark 4:11 Luke 8:10
Matthew 13:24 Mark 4:26
Matthew 13:31 Mark 4:30 Luke13:18
Matthew 13:33 Luke 13:20
Matthew 19:14 Luke 18:16
Matthew 19:23 Luke 18:24


The Lord Jesus Christ also used these terms synonymously when teaching His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10); showing that the kingdom of God was to be prayed for as the kingdom of heaven coming to earth. This kingdom coming to earth is described in Revelation 21-22 although the word kingdom is not used. It is instead called “New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:2), “holy Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:10; 22:19), “the holy city” (Revelation 21:14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23; 22:14). This city is obviously implied to be understood as a kingdom since there is a throne present (Revelation 21:5; 22:1, 3) from which God and the Lamb reign (Revelation 22:5). Jesus Christ identified Himself as “the root and the offspring of David” (Revelation 22:16) revealing Himself as the king in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. This city is the kingdom which comes from heaven to earth (Revelation 21:2) fulfilling the request Christ taught His disciples to pray (Matthew 6:10).

In the end, Christ is to deliver up the kingdom to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24), making it the “kingdom of God” after the millennial kingdom after “death is destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). Death is the last enemy which is destroyed immediately before the kingdom is revealed descending from heaven (Revelation 20:13-21:2). The Millennial kingdom does have death (Isaiah 65:20); so it cannot be considered the kingdom of God. Furthermore, Paul says flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50); so the “natural [i.e. fleshly] body” must first be “raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44) as the “corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:53). All this shows that the kingdom of God is the same as the kingdom of heaven which come from heaven to earth after the Millennial kingdom and this kingdom is only inhabited by resurrected saints.

The phrase “the heavens” is used as a name for God in the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 32:20 cf. 2 Kings 19:15; Isaiah 37:15, 16; Daniel 4:23, 26) and carries this same sense on occasions in the New Testament (Matthew 21:25; Mark 11:30, 31; Luke 15:18, 21; 20:4, 5; John 3:27). Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is interchangeable with the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23-24).  Matthew specifies the kingdom with the epithet “of God” or “of heaven” to distinguish it from “the kingdom” as a general designation for the nation of Israel which is to be restored but would for a time remain unregenerate (Matthew 8:11-12). “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Note how Christ here expresses that gentiles will be in the kingdom of heaven but the “kingdom [of unregenerate Israelites] shall be cast out into outer darkness…” This is obviously after the Millennial kingdom as all living Jews at the time of the Millennium’s inauguration will be saved (Zechariah 12:9-10 cf. Romans 11:26).

When will the Kingdom Come?

A number of ancient Jewish sources indicated that the Kingdom would come at a time fix by God’s sovereign plan. 4 Ezra 4:33-37 states:

Then I answered and said, “How long and when will these things be? Why are our years few and evil?” He answered me and said, “You do not hasten faster than the Most High, for your haste is for yourself, but the Highest hastens on behalf of many. Did not the souls of the righteous in their chambers ask about these matters, saying, ‘How long are we to remain here? And when will come the harvest of our reward?’ And Jeremiel the archangel answered them and said, ‘When the number of those like yourselves is completed; for he has weighed the age in balance, and measured the times by measure, and numbered the times by number; and he will not move or arouse them until that measure is fulfilled.’”13)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 531

This thought is reiterated in 4 Ezra 7:74, stating, “For how long the time s that the Most High has been patient with those who inhabit the world, and not for their sake, but because of the times which he has foreordained.”14)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 539 These passages portrays a similarity to Revelation 6:9-11 which also implies a fixed time of how long the Tribulation period would last.

In a commentary on the book of Habakkuk found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the fixed time of the ending is again expressed. Commenting on Habakkuk 2:3 it expounds:

For there shall be yet another vision concerning the appointed time. It shall tell of the end and shall not lie (ii, 3a).

Interpreted, this means that the final age shall be prolonged, and shall exceed all that the Prophets have said; for the mysteries of God are astounding.

If it tarries, wait for it, for it shall surely come and shall not be late (ii,3b).

Interpreted, this concerns the men of truth who keep the Law, whose hands shall not slacken in the service of truth when the final age is prolonged. For all the ages of God reach their appointed end as he determines for them in the mysteries of His wisdom.15)The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Trans. Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics (London, England: 1962, 2004, p. 513

However, there also existed an element of teaching that did not reject God’s sovereignly planned timing but reconciled it with the necessary repentance of Israel. Jubilees 1:15-18 relates Psalm 1 language of God transplanting Israel back into their land to establish His kingdom and rebuild the Temple when the people repent. “And afterwards they will turn to me from among the nations with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their might. And I shall gather them from the midst of all the nations. And they will seek me so that I might be found by them. When they seek me with all their heart and with all their soul, I shall reveal to them an abundance of peace in righteousness. And with all my heart and with all my soul I shall transplant them as a righteous plant. And they will be a blessing and not a curse. And they will be the head and not the tail. And I shall build my sanctuary in their midst, and I shall dwell with them. And I shall be their God and they will be my people truly and rightly. And I shall not forsake them, and I shall not be alienated from them because I am the LORD their God.”16)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p. 53 This is a very interesting passage considering consensus scholarship date the text to second century B.C. when the second Temple existed and the people were present in the land. It seems to expect a future destruction of the Temple and dispersion of the people in order to have the sanctuary rebuilt and the people regathered.

 The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs is another second century B.C. document (though a number of suspect passages have assumed Christian interpolations) that expresses repentance of Israel will cause the Lord to usher in His kingdom. The Testament of Judah explains that the Jewish people would be persecuted by gentiles “until you return to the Lord in integrity of heart, penitent and living according to all the Lord’s commands. Then the Lord will be concerned for you in mercy and will free you from captivity under your enemies.” (Testament of Judah 23:5)17)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 801 The Testament of Zebulon 9:6-9 also relates “Your enemies will take you captive and you shall reside among the gentiles with all sorts of sickness and tribulation and oppression of soul. And thereafter you will remember the Lord and repent, and he will turn you around because he is merciful and compassionate; he does not bring a charge at wickedness against the sons of men, since they are flesh and the spirits of deceit lead them astray in all their actions. And thereafter the Lord himself will arise upon you, the light of righteousness with healing and compassion in his wings. He will liberate every captive of the sons of men from Beliar, and every spirit of error will be trampled down. He will turn all nations to being zealous for him. And you shall see [God in a human form], he whom the Lord will choose: Jerusalem is his name. You will provoke him to wrath by the wickedness of your works, and you will be rejected until the time of the end.”18)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 807

The Testament of Dan 5:8-13 again, identifies repentance causing the Lord to act. “Accordingly you will be lead off with them into captivity; there you will receive all the plagues of Egypt, and all the evils of the gentiles. Therefore when you turn back to the Lord, you will receive mercy, and he will lead you into his holy place, proclaiming peace to you. And there shall arise for you from the tribe of Judah and (the tribe of) Levi the Lord’s salvation. He will make war against Beliar; he will grant the vengeance of victory as our goal. And he shall take from Beliar the captives, the souls of the saints; and he shall turn the hearts of the disobedient ones to the Lord, and grant eternal peace to those who call upon him. And the saints shall refresh themselves in Eden; the righteous shall rejoice in the New Jerusalem, which shall be eternally for the glory of God. And Jerusalem shall no longer undergo desolation, nor shall Israel be led into captivity, because the Lord will be in her midst [living among human beings]. The Holy One of Israel will rule over them in humility and poverty, and he who trusts in him shall reign in tuth in the heavens.”19)The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1983), Vol. 1, p. 809-810 This text refers to the Lord’s salvation arising from the tribe of Judah and Levi which implies the two messiah view which is found in a number of Dead Sea Scrolls as a messiah from Judah who reigns and a priestly messiah. Other Jewish traditions express a dying messiah from the tribe of Ephraim known as Messiah Ben Joseph.20)See David Mitchel, Messiah Ben Joseph, Campbell Publications (Newton Mearns, Scotland: 2016).

These passages from the Psuedepigrapha reflect a number of passages from Scriptures that mention the necessity of Israel’s repentance for the end time kingdom to come (Deuteronomy 4:30-31; Hosea 14:1-7). Hosea 3:5 places this time of repentance in the latter days with David as king who is apparently resurrected to reign under the Messiah (cf. Ezekiel 34:23-24, 37:24-25). Zechariah 12:9-12 places Israel’s repentance in conjunction with their reception of Jesus Christ at His return being in agreement with Ezekiel 36:24-28 setting their repentance with the regeneration of the entire nation. Peter also preached this message to the Jews, concluding that all the prophets are in agreement with his message: “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; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: 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. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:19-23) He also indicated that Jesus Christ was crucified and ascended to heaven for the purpose of giving repentance to Israel (Acts 5:30-31). Paul implied that Israel’s lack of repentance was in God’s plan to allow the gentiles an opportunity to repent and be grafted in to this salvation which will also place Israel’s repentance at the end prior to the kingdom being established (Romans 11:19-27).21)For a discussion on Romans 11 see, Heath Henning, “The Rapture: God’s Judgement on Christians,” December 10, 2016; https://truthwatchers.com/view-rapture-gods-perspective/   As John Walvoord wrote:

The purpose of allowing Israel’s failure is revealed as an act of mercy to the Gentiles….

It is clear that he is not talking about individual Gentiles or individual Israelites, but rather to each entity as a group. Today is the time of Gentile opportunity while the Israelite promises are suspended. The day is coming when the present time of Gentile blessing or fullness will come in and then Israel’s hour of blessing will follow.22)John Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, Zondervan (Grand Rapid, MI: 1959), p. 187-188



Heath Henning
Heath Henning
Heath heads the Set Free addictions ministry on Friday nights at Mukwonago Baptist Church and is involved in evangelism on the University of Wisconsin Whitewater campus, offering his expertise in apologetics at the weekly Set Free Bible Study every Tuesday evening. He currently lives in East Troy, Wisconsin with his wife and nine children. Read Heath Henning's Testimony

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