Kingdom of God Q&A: Question Two
Practically what differences are there, will there be, between a restored Israel and Gentile believers. Aren't both believers? Aren't both a part of The Church? What are the practical differences?
Yes, both restored Israel and Gentiles who have trusted Jesus the Christ are believers. No one will enter the Kingdom of God without having trusted in Christ. Specifically, they must trust in His atoning work – His life, death, resurrection, and ascension to the eternal throne in victory (Eph 2:8-9). Jesus Himself said that one must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). He also said that only those who do the will of the Father would enter (Matthew 7:21). This requirement applies to all who enter the kingdom. Therefore, regarding salvation, there is no distinction.
The NT teaches that all Jews and Gentiles who trust in Christ in this age are part of the church, the bride of Christ. At the end of this age, Jesus will come to take us into Heaven (1 Thess 4:16-17), and we will return with Him at His second coming (Revelation 19:14). The question remains about OT and tribulation saints. As always, we need to look to Scripture to understand the role of each group in the upcoming kingdom. In Matthew 19:28, Jesus says:
"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.
Jesus promises that His men will judge the twelve tribes of Israel with Jesus sitting on the throne of David. In other words, the twelve apostles will reign with Christ judging Israel in the kingdom. In other words, Israel will exist as a nation during that time. Revelation chapters 19 and 20 help us better understand the church and Israel in the Millenial Kingdom.
Revelation 19 starts with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, which occurs in Heaven before Jesus's second coming (Rev 19:1-11). After this heavenly feast, Christ will return from Heaven to strike down and rule the nations (Rev 19:11-19). He will defeat the beast and the false prophet and throw them into the Lake of Fire (Rev 19:20-21). Then, He will bind Satan and throw him into the abyss for 1000 years so that he can no longer deceive the nations (Rev 20:1-6). These events set the scene for the Millennial Kingdom, where Jesus will reign for 1000 years (Rev 20:4).
Jesus allows three groups into the Millenial Kingdom. Revelation 19:14 reveals that the church will be a part of the armies that return to reign with Christ at His second coming (cf. 19:8). We will rule the nations with Christ (Rev 2:26-27; 3:21). Revelation 20:4 shows that a group of those who died as martyrs will also reign with Christ. These are the martyrs which John described in Revelation 6:9-11. They will be resurrected to reign with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom. Lastly. Matthew 25:31-46 portrays the judgment of the nations. These are those alive at the end of the tribulation period. Jesus will allow the righteous ones to enter the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world. At that judgment, He will condemn the unrighteous to eternal fire.
I will attempt to put these thoughts together. There are multiple groups whom Christ will grant entrance into the kingdom – the church, the martyrs, and the righteous who are alive at the end of the tribulation. Everyone enters based on Christ's atoning work. Yet, everyone seems to have their unique function in the Millennial Kingdom. Jesus will rule from the throne of David (Matthew 19:28; 25:31) while the church will reign with Him judging the nations (Rev 2:26-27; 3:21). The twelve Apostles will rule the tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28). As such, we only see glimpses of how each group will function, yet their ethnic and functional distinctions seem to remain.
On the other hand, I don't take it that there will be any first or second-class individuals among these groups (Matthew 19:30). When The Millennial Kingdom gives way to the New Heavens and the New Earth, everyone will serve God as His bondservants (Revelation 22:3-4). Yet, the nations will be present (Revelation 22:2).