Summary: There was a common belief at the time of Jesus that the Messiah's kingdom would be a physical kingdom, and that it would include all of Israel (and no Gentiles). Is this belief true that was believed then and today?
There was a common belief at the time of Jesus that the Messiah's kingdom would be a physical kingdom, and that it would include all of Israel (and no Gentiles). The disciples asked Jesus in Acts 1:6, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?"
The disciples are showing in their questioning of Jesus that they are among those who held such a belief. The question must be raised, "was this common belief true?" This must be asked, because there are religious groups today who still believe some of these things. They would disagree with the belief that the gentiles would not be part of the Kingdom, but they still agree that God will set up a physical Kingdom on the earth which will include all of the Jews.
So is this belief true? My answer to the question is, “no.” I believe this belief was (and still is) based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the kingdom and what Old Testament prophecy says about the Kingdom of the Messiah. My argument is as follows (I will support with scripture shortly):
1. The Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would be a King over the Kingdom
2. The Old Testament prophesied that this Kingdom would come at the time of the Roman Empire
3. Jesus Himself said that His kingdom is not a physical kingdom of this world, thus it is a spiritual kingdom
4. The throne of David, which the Messiah would sit on, is not spoken of in scripture as being on earth, but in Heaven.
5. Christians are referred to in scripture as citizens of the kingdom now, and they are also referred to as Israel/descendants of Abraham.
To deny any of these points would bring one in contradiction to scripture. Let’s examine what the Bible says about each point:
1. THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHESIED THAT A GOD-MAN WOULD BE A KING OVER GOD’S KINGDOM.
I believe that everyone who calls themselves a Christian would agree on point #1. It was clearly prophesied in the Old Testament that God would raise up a man (who is also God) who would sit on the throne as both King and Priest.
This is the promise that God gave to David in 2 Samuel 7. God promised to build David a dynasty. This dynasty would include the Messiah. God says that He “will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (v13).
Later in Isaiah 9:6-7, God says that a child would be born who would be given the government and that the increase of it “would have no end.” The Messiah would sit “upon the throne of David” and reign “from that time forward, even forever.”
Also, in Psalm 45:6-7, God speaks to His King about His throne. He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. 7 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy above Your fellows” This passage speaks of someone who is God (who is king) being anointed by His God. (This prophecy is quoted in Hebrews 2 where we are told that it spoke of Jesus.)
2. THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHESIED THAT THIS KINGDOM WOULD COME AT THE TIME OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
We are given a prophecy in Daniel 2 which shows when the kingdom of the Messiah would spread over the whole world. Daniel sees a vision of a statue which consisted of
• A head of gold
• Chest and arms of silver
• Belly and thighs of bronze
• Feet of iron and clay
The prophet Daniel interpreted the king's dream in Daniel 2:36-45. He prophesied that each of these four parts represented a kingdom. This is spelled out in the text.
"You, O king, are a king of kings...you are this head of gold. But after you shall arise another kingdom, inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron... 44 And in the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed..."
So the "head of gold" is identified in this passage as being the kingdom of Babylon. Babylon was the first of the successive world empires.
The second kingdom that followed Babylon, though not named in the text, is named elsewhere in the book of Daniel. In Daniel 5:26-31, Daniel told the Babylonian king Belshazzar that "Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians."
What about the third kingdom? In Daniel 8, we find the vision of the ram and goat. To make a long story short, a male goat with one horn obliterated a ram with two horns. In verses 20-23, it says, "The ram which you saw, having the two horns - they are the kings of Media and Persia. And the male goat is the kingdom of GREECE. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king. As for the broken horn and the four that stood up in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power." Historically, the Grecian empire conquered the Persian empire. We also know that the Grecian empire was led by a famous king, Alexander the Great. However, Daniel prophesied that the first king would be broken and the Grecian kingdom would be divided four ways. We know, historically, that Alexander died at an early age, following which, his kingdom was split and given to his four generals.