Redemptive-Historical Survey: 12 | Return from Exile (LDBC Recap 4/17/16 Pt. 2)

Explanation

logo-lake-drive-baptist-churchOn Sunday, January 24th, 2016, I began a Core Seminar on Redemptive History & Biblical Theology at my church, Lake Drive Baptist Church. During the course of this series I’ll be sending out emails recapping lessons and directing recipients to resources for further study.

Rather than just share these recaps with my church family, I’ve decided to share them here on the blog for anyone else who might be interested. I will be posting them occasionally over the next couple of months on a weekly basis or so.

See previous posts:

Recap/review

We complete this week’s recap by surveying the role of the return from exile in redemptive history.

Overview of Biblical material

Ezra, Nehemiah

  • Judah returns from exile in three waves:
    • 70 years after Judah’s exile, the Persian (recall that Persia overtook Babylon) King Cyrus sent some exiles, led by Zerubbabel, back to Jerusalem. (538 BC)
    • With Ezra in 458 BC.
    • With Nehemiah in 445 BC.

See Isa 44:28 and Jer 29:10-14.

  • Despite opposition from the non-Jewish inhabitants of Judea, the wall and temple were rebuilt under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

Cf. Esther (the events in Esther occur during this time, but relate to life in exile) as well as the post-exilic prophets—Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

Role within redemptive history

We summarized the role of the return from exile in redemptive history as follows: God brings many of his people back from exile. However, this is clearly not the ultimate realization of the new-creational kingdom of which the New Covenant spoke.

As always, we can break this summary down into the following observations.

  • God is faithful to his covenant-bound, new-creational kingdom people and purposes. The return is based on God’s covenant faithfulness.

See Neh 1:4-10; cf. Lev. 26:39–42; Deut. 4:29–31; 30:2-4.

However…

  • The realization of the eschatological (end-time) new-creational hopes is still future.

This is made clear by the following things:

  • No ultimate Davidic king.
  • No kingdom.
  • No poured out Spirit and new hearts with God’s law written on them (à the people are still disobedient).
  • No reunification of the divided kingdom.
  • In fact, Israel (i.e., the northern kingdom) never really returns from exile.
  • Not even all of Judah is returned.
  • They are still under the power of foreign nations even in their own land.

In other words, the hope and expectations of the final, end-time new-creational kingdom age associated with the New Covenant have clearly not arrived.

As such, any glimmer of fulfillment (like the rebuilding of a temple and the return to the Promised Land by some [but note: not all] Jews) must be seen as only anticipating a full realization and fulfillment of God’s new-creational kingdom. The restoration that does occur only anticipates, therefore, the ultimate fulfillment.

This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the conviction of the Jewish people during the intertestimental-period (i.e., the time between the Old and New Testament) was that the these eschatological (end-time, age to come) hopes were still future. This is also a conviction shared by the New Testament. The New Testament saw these hopes as yet unfulfilled prior to Christ beginning to fulfill them in his first coming.

We see this lack of fulfillment of the new-creational kingdom further evidenced by the following examples.

  • Disappointment at the building of the second temple under Zerubbabel (see Ezra 3:10-13; cf. Haggai 2:1-9).
  • The people’s sense of affliction even after the exile (Neh 9:36-37). In other words, the people still sense that they are in bondage even after they return. In some sense, they are still in exile even as they are in their own land!

In other words, the exile (which, remember, is very much a spiritual, not just a physical, geographical dilemma), with all of its new-creational kingdom denying features, still lingers. The exile continues in some sense–especially spiritually. The complete fulfillment of the new-creational kingdom and end of exile is still future.

Thus, the Old Testament ends on this note, a note that is longer for fulfillment. Per the order of our English Bible’s, the Old Testament literally ends on a note of such hope with these words from Malachi that anticipate a New Elijah (John the Baptist) and this age of new-creational salvation (Jesus).

Malachi 4:5-6 – “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

We conclude with our summary: God brings many of his people back from exile. However, this is clearly not the ultimate realization of the new-creational kingdom of which the New Covenant spoke.

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