We've been looking at all the things the prophets said God would do in the new covenant. And in one sense, all these promises were fulfilled when the Lord restored His people from Babylon and brought them back into their land. But like every other manifestation of the Covenant of Grace, there is a dual fulfillment to these promises. When the prophets looked ahead and spoke of Israel's restoration, they knew it would include all the things we've mentioned, but they also knew that behind these things there was so much more: “Jesus Christ, and the gospel of sinners' salvation through faith in him, was preached to the Jews in their captivity.” All these promises ultimately looked forward to Jesus and the gospel. There was indeed a partial fulfillment in Israel's restoration from Babylon, but this deliverance God wrought for His people points to a greater deliverance yet to come.1
A) JESUS AND GOD'S PLACE: Earlier we mentioned that Israel's exile points us to the exile Jesus endured at the cross. Isaiah 53:8 tells us that “He was cut off out of the land of the living” for the sins of God's people. Here, Isaiah was speaking of the Servant of the Lord. Sometimes when Isaiah used this phrase he was referring to Israel in the corporate sense, speaking of God's people as a whole; but there were other times when Isaiah used this same phrase, “Servant of the Lord”, to describe Israel as a particular individual. Well, the prophet Isaiah foretold both exile and restoration for Israel; and when he did so, he wasn't only speaking of God's people as a whole, corporately; he was also looking forward and speaking of the Christ. Jesus is not only the second Adam; He's the second Israel. And as such, not only would He be cut off out of the land of the living; He would also be brought back in again: If the exile is a picture of Jesus' death, the restoration points us forward to His resurrection.2
There's also more that we can learn from Israel's exile and restoration. We saw earlier that the exile of Israel points us back to the exile of Eden. When Adam sinned, he was cast out of the garden; and all humanity along with him. Because of Adam's sin, every one of us are born into a state of spiritual exile; alienated from God and cut off from His presence. But if Israel's exile to Babylon teaches us about our ruin in Adam, then their restoration to the land teaches us about our redemption in Jesus. Israel was utterly powerless to deliver themselves; they were as helpless and hopeless as dead men in their graves (Ezekiel 37). But God would do for them what they could not do for themselves: They were as dead men in Babylon, but God would raise them up from the dead, deliver them from their captivity, and bring back to the land of promise. And is this not exactly what God has done for us in Christ? For just like Israel, we were dead in our sins, but God, being rich in mercy, “even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ. . .and raised us up with Him. . .” (Ephesians 2:5-6). And again, just as the Lord rescued Israel from Babylon, “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. . .” (Colossians 1:13-14). Truly, the temporal redemption God wrought for Israel when He brought them back from exile was always meant to point us forward to the eternal redemption He would accomplish for us in Christ.3
Lastly, Israel's being gathered home to their land from exile points us forward to the day when Jesus will gather His people home to glory. God's people lived as exiles in Babylon; they had to stay there many years, but it was never their true home. They longed for the day God had promised, when He would “bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land. . .” (Ezekiel 34:13), where the Lord himself would feed His flock and “lead them to rest” (34:15). Ezekiel declares that when God had gathered His people home, “They will live on the land” that He gave to Jacob; “they, and their sons and their sons' sons, forever. . .” (37:25). And so, the rest that God was promising to give His people was an eternal rest. Though in some ways God did these things for His people when He brought them back into their land, these promises can only find their ultimate fulfillment in Christ, on the day when He gathers us home to eternal glory. Peter writes that we live as exiles here on earth (1:1; 2:11); he even refers to Rome as Babylon (5:13). Like Israel, we are exiles in Babylon. But just as Israel looked forward to a promise of restoration, we look forward to “the restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21), when the Lord will gather His people out of this present “Babylon” in which we live as exiles, and bring us home to our eternal rest in the new Jerusalem.4
B) JESUS AND GOD'S PRINCE: In the exile, the Davidic king had been dethroned; but when the Lord brought Israel back to their land, He told them: “I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd.” (Ezekiel 34:23-24). A shepherd-king would lead God's people in the restoration. Jeremiah refers to this same king as “a righteous Branch” whom the Lord would “raise up for David” (23:5-6; 33:14-16). Along with being called a Branch, Ezekiel speaks of this Davidic king as God's servant: “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. . .and David My servant will be their prince forever.” (37:24-25). In the restoration, God would raise up a shepherd-king for His people Israel. He would be called “a branch”, He would be called God's “servant”; and He would be a descendant of David. Later, the prophet Zechariah tells us he wouldn't only be a king, but “a priest on His throne” (7:13).
When God brings Israel back to their land, He raises up a man named Joshua to help shepherd His people. Joshua is the high priest (Haggai 1:1), and at one point God instructs Zechariah the prophet to make a crown of silver and gold, set it on Joshua's head, and tell him: “Behold, a man whose name is Branch. . .” (Zechariah 6:12). Joshua is a priest, and he's called the branch, and yet he can't be the shepherd-prince God was promising, because he was neither king nor a descendant of David. There is another man during Joshua's day named Zerubbabel; he was appointed the governor of Judah, and not only was he a descendant of David (Matthew 1:12), but the Lord calls Zerubbabel His “servant”, and even tells him that He would take Zerubbabel and make him like a signet ring (Haggai 2:20-23). But Zerubbabel was only Judah's governor—not their king; he was never called “the branch”; and he certainly wasn't a priest. And so, though Joshua and Zerubbabel both reflect some of the traits of the shepherd-king God had promised, neither one of them is able to meet all the qualifications entirely.
The Lord explicitly tells Joshua that he and those with him were “symbols” of the shepherd-king who was yet to come (Zechariah 3:8). In other words, Joshua and Zerubbabel were just pictures and types of the true shepherd-prince that God was going to raise up for His people: He will be one shepherd, not two; He will be both priest and king; He will unify God's people into one flock (Ezekiel 37:21-22); and He will reign as their prince forever (Ezekiel 37:25). Ultimately, these things are only fulfilled in Jesus: He is the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). He is the seed of David and yet our High Priest (Psalm 110:1-4); He reigns as king, yet He is “a priest on His throne” (Zechariah 6:13). He gathers both Jews and Gentiles into His fold, making them “one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16). And it's He who will reign as shepherd-prince over God's people forever.5
C) JESUS AND GOD'S PEOPLE: After Israel had been sent away to exile, the Lord declared that He was going to make a new covenant. We may tend to think this new covenant would also be with a new people. Now that Israel had been sent away to Babylon, God can start afresh with a people who will worship and serve and follow Him instead of constantly turn away from Him. But that's not what God does. In Jeremiah 31, the Lord tells us that He would make this new covenant “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (verse 31). It was a new covenant, but God was going to make it with the same people; and He tells us why in verse 34: “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” The new covenant would be associated with forgiveness; indeed, the new covenant would be a covenant of forgiveness. As the Lord also told His people through the prophet Ezekiel: “Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, so that you may remember and be ashamed and never open your mouth anymore. . . when I have forgiven you for all that you have done. . .” (16:62-63). This is what God did for His people in the restoration. When He brought Israel back into their land, He was pardoning them for everything they had done.
God's promise to forgive Israel's iniquities was partially fulfilled in the restoration, but ultimately, the forgiveness God alludes to here is the outworking of what He would accomplish for us in Jesus. The Hebrew word that's translated here in Jeremiah 31:34 as “forgive” [Hebrew salah ] is the word used to represent the effect or result of atonement in the Levitical sacrifices. We read over and over again in Leviticus: “Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven.” (4:31). There's a connection here: Forgiveness happens through atonement. And so, when the Lord declares that He will forgive Israel's iniquity, we're pointed forward to the atoning work of Christ. And this is what our Savior himself taught the night before His sufferings. For when Jesus took the cup, He gave it to His disciples, saying: “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28). God could forgive Israel their iniquities, and He can forgive us ours, because He “has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” (Isaiah 53:6).6
God would forgive His people in the new covenant, but He would also change them. He would do a mighty work for them in atoning for their sins, but He would also do a supernatural work in them in changing their hearts. After God had brought His people back to their land, He tells them: “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.” (Ezekiel 36:25). There's a very real sense in which God did this for His people in the restoration. God's people struggled deeply with idolatry over the course of their entire history; from the days of the patriarchs, and in the desert under Moses, through the time of the judges, to the kings, all the way up to the exile. God's people can't seem to shake their addiction to idols. But when God restores Israel to their land, it seems as though they're all at once entirely healed. We read no more of Israel's idolatry. They're not perfect; they still have other struggles—but their idols are gone.7
And this is what God does for us in Jesus. The work God did in His people when He brought them back to their land is meant to point us to the work God would do in His people through Jesus in the new covenant. There's a sense in which the Lord did these things for Israel in the restoration, but the ultimate fulfillment of these promises is the work God would do in His new covenant people in the days following Jesus' death, resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Whereas Israel suffered from a chronic unbelief and apostasy all their days leading up to the exile, God would perform a large-scale change in His new covenant people, for He would give them “a new heart” and put “a new spirit” within them (Ezekiel 36:26). So that, the Lord wouldn't only forgive them—but He would completely change them, giving them new hearts with new desires; this is called regeneration. And then He would put His Spirit within them, causing them to walk in His statutes (Ezekiel 37:37); this is a process called sanctification. God even promises their perseverance, for through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord not only says to His people: “I will not turn away from them”, but also: “I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.” (32:40). God was not saying that His people would be perfect. They wouldn't. But in the new covenant, they would be changed.8
So then: God wouldn't just save His people from the punishment of their sin (forgiveness), He would also save them from the power and pollution of their sin (regeneration and sanctification). And once He claims them as His own, He'll never let them go (perseverance). Many of the other new covenant promises we've been looking at (IE: Place, Prince) are veiled: Jesus is there but we still have to open up the outer husk to get to the gospel seed. But here, what God would do for His people in the new covenant is described with such gospel clarity it's almost as if there's no outer husk at all; the seed has already burst through the shell. In God's promise to forgive His people and give them new hearts, it's as if the shadows are giving way to the substance; the types and pictures are giving way to the reality.
D) JESUS AND GOD'S PEACE: The exile was the ultimate covenant curse, but in the restoration, God would bring about a cataclysmic reversal of the curse of sin. Instead of famine, there would be abundance; instead of drought, showers of blessing. Ultimately, this reversal of the curse is meant to teach us all that God would do for us in and through Christ. Earlier we saw that the exile symbolizes Jesus' death. So, it's only fitting that when the exile was complete, God abolished the curse from His people and began pouring out His blessing upon them. Until Jesus was exiled for our sins, we lived under the curse. But in and through Jesus' exile at the cross, we've come out from under God's curse and entered into His favor and blessing. Paul says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'—in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles. . .” When Adam sinned in the garden, he brought God's curse upon all of us; and we became the rightful inheritors of the covenant curses of famine, pestilence, and the sword; and ultimately, death. But at the cross, Jesus took God's curse for sin on our behalf; and in His resurrection, He reversed the curse, since “the resurrection is the ultimate reversal of the curse of sin.” So that, now, in Jesus, instead of being inheritors of God's curse, we're ever and only recipients of His blessing. Paul says in Romans 8 that as believers, we may still face “famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” (v35), but in Jesus these things no longer come to us as curses for our sin, but rather as hidden blessings from the hand of our loving heavenly Father.9
So, the reversal of the curse teaches us about the blessing God lavishes on His people in Jesus. This is true for us as individuals, as we mentioned, but it's also true for the church corporately, as a whole. In fact, when God promised to reverse the curse in the restoration, He wasn't making that promise to individuals as much as He was to the entire people of God, collectively. God was promising to pour out His blessing on the whole corporate church. Now, God did this, to a degree, when He brought Israel back to their land. But after just a few short years, God is already telling His people: “because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. I called for a drought on the land” (Haggai 1:10-11). And later, God even says to His people: “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me. . .” (Malachi 3:9). We're left asking: What happened to God's promise that He would annihilate the covenant curses from His people and pour out His blessing on them? The answer is that though these things were partially fulfilled when God brought His people back to their land; ultimately, this promise of blessing looks past Israel's day and ours to a day yet to come. Here again, Israel's restoration points us forward to the restoration of all things. Jesus began to reverse the curse with His death and resurrection, but it's not until the new heavens and new earth that He brings this work to completion. It's true, as we said, that the resurrection is the ultimate reversal of the curse of sin. But though Jesus has been resurrected, it's not until He establishes the new heavens and the new earth that we as God's people receive the “redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). It's then, in the New Jerusalem, that Scripture tells us: “There will no longer be any curse” (Revelation 22:3).10
E) JESUS AND GOD'S PRESENCE: In the exile, the temple had been destroyed. But when God restored His people, He promised that He would set His “sanctuary in their midst forever” and that His “dwelling place” would be with them (Ezekiel 37:26-27). These two Hebrew words that Ezekiel uses to describe God's presence are significant. The Hebrew word that's translated “dwelling place” in verse 27 (mishkan) is the same word used for the Old Testament tabernacle. God was promising that His tabernacle would be among His people. And the Hebrew word that's translated “sanctuary” in verse 26 (miqdash) is most often used to refer to the temple. God's temple had been destroyed in the exile, but here, the Lord is telling His people it would be raised up once again, and in such a way that this time, it would endure forever. In one sense, God did these things for His people when He brought them back to their land. He assures His people that He's dwelling among them (Haggai 2:4-5); and He leads them in rebuilding the temple. But even this temple doesn't last forever, as Ezekiel promised. And the reason is that ultimately, these promises only find their true fulfillment in Christ.
It's when Jesus came into the world that Scripture tells us: “the Word became flesh, and dwelt [Lit. tabernacled ] among us. . .” (John 1:14); for Jesus himself was and is God's dwelling place among His people. And Jesus isn't only God's tabernacle, He's also God's temple. For indeed, in His life, Christ tabernacled among us; but in His death and resurrection, He was made to pattern Solomon's temple. The temple of Solomon was destroyed; but it would be rebuilt once again. And is this not exactly the pattern our Lord followed in His death and resurrection? Indeed, as Christ told the Jews: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). And John tells us explicitly that “He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (2:21). Jesus' body is God's temple; destroyed, as it were, at the cross; but after three days raised up once again. And though Solomon's temple was rebuilt, it didn't last. But Jesus, having been raised from the dead, ever abides as God's Sanctuary in the midst of His people forever (Ezekiel 37:26). Indeed, Moses' tabernacle and Solomon's temple were always meant to point us ahead to God's true and lasting Sanctuary: “Immanuel. . .God with us.” (Matthew 1:23).11
Earlier we mentioned that Joshua and Zerubbabel were two men that God used powerfully after He brought His people back to their land. We also noted that both of these men reflected many of the traits that would characterize the coming Shepherd-king that God had promised to send; and indeed, it was for this reason that Scripture refers to Joshua and those with him as “symbols” of the Messiah who was yet to come (Zechariah 3:8). But there's another way that Joshua and Zerubbabel prefigured Christ that we haven't mentioned yet. At one point, God instructs Zechariah the prophet to make a crown of silver and gold, set it on Joshua's head, and say: “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord. . .and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.” (Zechariah 6:12-13). Zechariah is placing the crown on Joshua's head, but he's speaking of someone else. And yet, as he does, we learn another important way that Joshua was a symbol of the Christ who was yet to come: He will build the temple of the Lord. Joshua was one of the men who rebuilt the temple in the days of the restoration. And so was Zerubbabel, for the Lord declares in Zechariah 4:9: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it.” And when Joshua and Zerubbabel rebuilt the temple after God had brought Israel back to their land, they were acting once again as symbols, prefiguring the work of the coming Messiah. For these two men rebuilt Solomon's temple in the days of the restoration; but Christ would set about the work of rebuilding the temple of the Living God.12
Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:18, “I will build My church. . .” And so, in once sense, Christ is building His church. But in another sense, He's rebuilding it. Jesus is building His Church, just as Solomon built the temple of the Lord at the height of Israel's kingdom. But it's also true that Jesus' Church is something that's being rebuilt, as the temple was in the days of Joshua and Zerubbabel. Think about it this way: At the very beginning, God had built all humanity after His image (Genesis 1:27). All the glory and splendor of Solomon's temple couldn't have compared to mankind formed after the image of God. Humanity was like God's temple, carved with His own hand. But it wouldn't last; Adam's sin brought destruction to all of us. Like Solomon's temple at the exile, we became the ruins of what we once were. But now, in Christ, God is re-building humanity. For Jesus has drawn near to the fallen ruins of Adam, and He is now re-creating us after His glorious image once again (Colossians 3:10).
In Ezekiel 37:26-27, God had told His people: “I will. . .set My sanctuary in their midst forever. My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.” The final way this promise reaches its fulfillment is in the new Jerusalem. When the Apostle John sees a vision of the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 21, he hears a loud voice from the throne, saying: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them. . .” (verse 3). Later in the same chapter, John writes more about this city, telling us: “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (verse 22). In one sense, God dwells among us now, in and through His Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16). But in another sense, as Paul writes: “while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. . .and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). There's a very real sense in which as long as we remain pilgrims on this earth, we're absent from the presence of the Lord. This is partially because even the earth itself has been affected by Adam's sin. Paul tells us that “creation was subjected to futility” and “the whole creation groans. . .” (Romans 8:20,22). It seems even creation was made after the pattern of the temple. For the earth was formed by God to be a house for His glory; and though our world is now desecrated and devastated by sin, the day is coming when “the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption. . .” (Romans 8:21). The day is coming when the Lord will rebuild the earth itself; when this earth and its works will be burned up and our God will build “new heavens and a new earth. . .” (2 Peter 3:10,13); and the whole earth will be filled with His glory (Habakkuk 2:14).13
1 The quote is from Francis Roberts, p1101. Roberts goes on to summarize some of the particular ways in which Christ is set forth: “1) This covenant assured them of their return from Babylon to Zion, from captivity to liberty; and under that as a type, of the everlasting redemption of God's elect by Christ, out of their spiritual bondage under sin, and Satan. 2) This covenant assured them of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, with greater glory than formerly; and therein typically of the building of His new city, and new spiritual temple, of both Jews and Gentiles, with surpassing spiritual glory. 3) This covenant assured them of pardon and cleansing, of justification and sanctification from all their idols and former uncleannesses. 4) This covenant assured them of a rich confluence of choicest spiritual blessings, from the saving influence of His Holy Spirit. 5) This covenant assured them, that David [namely], Jesus Christ the true David of God, should be their Prince and King forevermore. 6) This covenant assured them, that the Lord would be their God, and they should be His people, and that His tabernacle should be with them, yea He would set His sanctuary in the midst of them forevermore.” (pp1102-03). And again: “The Jews' deliverance from Babylon, was a reviving of their dead bones, an opening of their graves, and a bringing them as it were out of their graves in Babylon. So the elect's deliverance from their spiritual bondage, is their spiritual reviving and resurrection. . . The Jews were so delivered from Babylon, as that they were cleansed from their idols, detestable things and transgressions. And the elect are so delivered from their spiritual thraldom, that they are 'washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.' The Jews delivered from Babylon, were called to build the temple of God (Ezra 1:1-3). So the elect being redeemed and actually delivered from their spiritual thraldom by Christ, 'are built up a spiritual house, as living stones. . .' The Jews delivered from Babylon, came into their own land, the land of Canaan, their typical rest. So the elect are redeemed by Christ out of their spiritual bondage, that at last they might return into the true Canaan, heaven itself, the eternal rest promised to God's people, where they shall 'sit together with Christ in heavenly places.'” (Roberts, pp1124-25).
2 As Clowney notes: “God's Servant was to be identified with Israel, and called by the name of Israel, yet He would also be distinguished from Israel, for He would bring back and restore those who would be preserved of Israel, and be God's light to the Gentiles.” (p202). Isaiah may also give us a glimpse of Jesus' “restoration to the land” later in the same chapter. After Jesus had endured the exile of the cross in Isaiah 53:8, God declares in verse 12: “Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great. . .” To receive an allotted portion can mean inheriting or coming into possession of a land (cf. Joshua 13:7). So, Isaiah may well be using the same imagery of exile and restoration here, telling us that the Messiah would be exiled at the cross, but that after death, He would be brought back into the land once again. There are also other parallels we can draw between the restoration and the resurrection is that the exile was completely shocking for God's people, even though they had been told about it in advance. The only thing that seemed to surprise them more was when God brought them back to their land again—even though this was also precisely what the prophets had said would happen! In the same way, Jesus' death was shocking for His followers, even though He had predicted it from the very beginning. The only thing that seemed to astonish Jesus' disciples more than His death was His resurrection—though, again, this was precisely what Jesus had told them would happen.
3 Roberts emphasizes this truth over and over again in his discussion of Israel's restoration to the land. He says: “Most, if not all [of Isaiah's] sermons after [Chapter 40 insist] upon their Babylonian captivity. . .and under this type [lead] them on further, to the great spiritual deliverance of God's people out of the woeful and more than Babylonian bondage under sin, Satan, [and] wrath, by the Messiah. . .” (p1089). And again: “This wondrous redemption of the captive Jews from Babylon had a spiritual mystery in it, shadowing out the greatest and spiritual redemption of God's elect from the bondage of sin, Satan, death, [and] hell, into which they were implunged by the Fall of the first Adam, and out of which they should be restored by Jesus Christ the last Adam.” (p1121). And later, “there is a notable analogy, or proportion between the Jews deliverance out of the Babylonian captivity, and the elect's deliverance from their spiritual captivity, for. . . there they were in as helpless and hopeless a condition, in reference to their deliverance, as dead bodies and dry bones in a grave. So the term from which the elect were delivered by Christ, is a state of sin, and a state of misery, under curse, wrath, death, [and] Satan; they being 'dead in trespasses and sins', 'under the power of Satan', and 'children of wrath, even as others'. The Jews deliverance from Babylon, was a reviving of their dead bones, an opening of their graves, and a bringing them as it were out of their graves in Babylon. So the elect's deliverance from their spiritual bondage, is their spiritual reviving and resurrection. . .” (p1124). And, “Hence, the great and wonderful redemption of captive Jews from Babylon to Canaan, was an eminent type of Christ's greater and more wonderful redemption of captive sinners from sin to grace; from Satan to God; from death to life; from hell to heaven. . .The Jews of old might notably spell out their spiritual redemption from sin and misery, in their corporal redemptions from Egypt and Babylon. These were to them, not only mercies, but mysteries; not only restorations for the present, but instructions also for the future.” (p1207). He concludes: “God in this covenant aimed at a higher end and advantage to His people than their present consolation; even their and their seeds' eternal salvation. And therefore under their corporal redemption from Babylonian bondage to Canaan's liberty and rest, He represents typically their spiritual redemption from sinful and hellish bondage to heaven by Jesus Christ.” (p1219). For, again: “Those promises about deliverance from captivity in the earthly Babylon, and the restoration of the captive Jews to their earthly Canaan, did chiefly intend spiritual mysteries; [namely] Christ's redemption of His spiritual captives from the bondage of sin and death, to life and heavenly glory. . .” (p1224). In his discussion of this truth, and aside from the things already quoted, Roberts also gives several reasons for taking our redemption in Christ to be the fulfillment of Israel's restoration from exile, including these three: 1) “The promises of God touching His people's deliverance from Babylon's captivity, are jointly proposed and intermixed with His promises of restoring His elect from spiritual captivity (cf. Isaiah 49; Daniel 9:2,24), which notably insinuates thus much to us; that in their redemption from Babylon's thraldom, God typed out their redemption from spiritual thraldom; and in that, they were especially to lift up their eyes to this.” Indeed, “Isaiah. . .assures the Jews of their deliverance by Cyrus. . .out of their sad Babylonian captivity (compare Isaiah 39-40 to 49:2) [and] he carries and raises them hereupon to behold and expect a far greater deliverance by Jesus Christ the Messiah, from spiritual captivity under sin, Satan, [and] wrath. . .” 2) “Unto God's covenant of promises for return of His people the Jews from Babylonian captivity, there are immediately annexed precious promises of the Messiah, for effecting and full completing thereof. And therefore after the Lord had largely expressed his covenant touching their return from Babylon (Jeremiah 32:26ff and 33:1-15), He presently adds: 'In those days, and at that time' ([namely] even in the days and time of this covenant with the captives, and before the expiration thereof) 'will I cause the branch of righteousness to grow up unto David'. . .In which expressions, the restoration of Israel, both from the Babylonian, and spiritual captivity, is ascribed to Christ, as to be accomplished by him fully and finally.” 3) “Israel's redemption of old from Egyptian bondage, was a plain type of the elect's redemption by Christ from spiritual bondage, as the mystery or sacrament of the Passover then. . .does unquestionably evince; . .much more, this greater redemption of the Jews from Babylonian bondage. . .was a type also of the elect's restoration by Christ from spiritual captivity. And therefore it is very observable, that when the Lord had promised, to gather his dispersed flock out of all countries, and to raise up to David a righteous Branch for saving Judah and Jerusalem, even 'The Lord our Righteousness', He presently adds, '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; 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.' By which he gives us to understand. . .[that] as Canaan whither they were to be brought, was a type of heaven, the eternal rest, so, both Egypt and Babylon, whence they were delivered, were types of their spiritual bondage and misery under sin, Satan, [and] death; and their redemption from Babylon was a type of their spiritual redemption by Christ, as well as their redemption from Egypt, and in some regards a more eminent type.” (see pp1121-25).
4 We quoted Roberts earlier: “The Jews delivered from Babylon, came into their own land, the land of Canaan, their typical rest. So the elect are redeemed by Christ out of their spiritual bondage, that at last they might return into the true Canaan, heaven itself, the eternal rest promised to God's people, where they shall 'sit together with Christ in heavenly places.'” (p1125). The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible likewise says (on Amos 9:15): “The promise is made that once the restoration of God's people has reached its culmination, they never need fear exile again. . .The early returnees failed to reach this stage of restoration, and Israel was subjugated time and again. The New Testament explains, however, that this permanent possession of Canaan will take place when Christ returns and gives to his people, Jews and Gentiles alike, permanent possession of the entire new earth (Revelation 5:9-10; 21:1-7), of which Canaan was simply a type (Romans 4:13).” Robertson notes: “Some might insist that 'literal' fulfillment of new covenant prophecy requires the return of ethnic Israel to a geographically located Palestine. Yet the replacement of the typological with the actual as a principle of biblical interpretation points to another kind of 'literal' fulfillment. The historical return to a 'land of promise' by a small remnant 70 years after Jeremiah's prophecy encourages hope in the final return to paradise lost by the newly constituted 'Israel of God.' As men from all nations had been dispossessed and alienated from the original creation, so now they may hope for restoration and peace, even to the extent of anticipating a 'land of promise' sure to appear in the new creation, and sure to be enjoyed by a resurrected people.” (p300).
5 On Ezekiel 34:23-24, Roberts notes: “David [is] their shepherd, prince, and king forever. Christ is the true David; of whom David himself was but a type” (p1109). And again: “Christ is a second David; yea, the only true David.” (Roberts, p1206). On Joshua and Zerubbabel as being types of Christ, Roberts says: “[Christ] shall not only, as a 'branch of righteousness, grow up' to David (Jeremiah 33:15-17), but also. . .He should descend of David by Zerubbabel, a special type and forefather of Christ; as that passage of Haggai (2:21-23), being solidly understood, does intimate; for it is chiefly applicable to, and intended of Christ the true Zerubbabel.” (p1217). The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible says on Haggai 2:23: “Zerubbabel was God's chosen representative to accomplish his work. Isaiah spoke of a greater servant who would come, one whom Zerubbabel foreshadowed (Isaiah :10). Jesus is the perfect descendant of Zerubbabel (Matthew 1:2) and the final, royal Servant of God (Acts 4:27,30).” And in its Introduction to Zechariah, it says: “Zechariah spoke both to Israel's immediate future and to the distant future in Christ. As with most prophecies of Israel's restoration after exile, the predictions he made had immediate significance for Zerubbabel the son of David, for Joshua the high priest and for Jerusalem. At the same time, however, Zerubbabel was only the continuance of, not the end of, the Davidic line. Joshua was also a continuance of the priestly line and was 'symbolic of things to come' (3:8). As a result, what was said about Zerubbabel and Joshua anticipated what the final son of David, the Messiah, would one day accomplish in full measure.” And again, on Zechariah 4:14: “Together [Zerubbabel and Joshua] foreshadowed the Messiah, the great Anointed One, who would unite the offices of priest and king into one person. . .” And lastly, on Joshua as “the branch” in Zechariah 6:12: “the immediate context makes it clear that this term refers to Joshua, the high priest. On the other hand, Zechariah had earlier stated that Joshua and company were symbols of things to come later (3:8); that is, that their actions were at best the initiations of blessings and judgments that would take place with the coming of the great Son of David. Thus it is not surprising that the term refers to the Messiah as well (see 3:8). Isaiah used it (Isaiah 4:2), as did Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-16), as a title for the Davidic descendant who would rule on David's throne. . .The work of Joshua (as well as that of Zerubbabel) foreshadowed the work of Christ, our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14; 7:24; 9:11) and our King (Matthew 22:41-46; Hebrews 1:8).” On Christ unifying His people, Roberts notes of Ezekiel 37:21: “Literally, they were thus united, at their return, under Zerubbabel, a son of David, and type of Christ; spiritually, they were thus united under Christ himself. . .that being a type and shadow of this.” (p1123). And again, on Ezekiel 37:15-17: “When Solomon was dead, the kingdom which was united and one, as the nation one under David and Solomon, was divided into two in the days of Rehoboam. . .This division occasioned constant enmity between Judah and Israel. . .Now in this covenant God promises to unite this divided nation and kingdom into one, under one King David. . .So that thereby, the miseries of their divided state should be removed; and the ancient happiness of their united state, as in the time of David and Solomon, should be restored. This covenanted union of these two sticks, these two kingdoms into one, has a twofold accomplishment; literal, and mystical: 1) Literally this was fulfilled, when Judah was returned from their captivity in Babylon. . .[for it is] very probable that about the same time many of the dispersed of Israel came back from Media, Persia and other places of dispersion. . .and joined themselves to them of Judah. . . 2) Mystically and Typically this union of these two kingdoms has its accomplishment, partly in the uniting of the Gentiles (typed by the kingdom of the ten tribes dispersed into pagan countries) to the church of the Jews under one shepherd Jesus Christ [Ephesians 2:13; John 10:15-16]. . .partly, in the gathering together, uniting and perfecting all the elect in one mystical body of Christ [Ephesians 4:12-13]. . .partly, in the day of judgement, when Christ shall gather corporally all His elect. . .up into his heavenly kingdom with himself to be ever with the Lord.” (Roberts, p1115). Rhodes draws out the implications that Israel's shepherd is both God and “David” when he says of Ezekiel 37:24-25: “David is back as king, and this time it's forever. . .Notice that the king is also called a shepherd. Earlier in Ezekiel, God has already given a long speech about these shepherd-kings. On the whole, they've been doing a duff job, so God announces, 'I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God' (Ezekiel 34:15). God will come as Shepherd-king. But didn't he say that David was going to fill that role? He did: 'I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David.' One king only. And it's God. And David. But one person. Beginning to get the picture?” (Chapter 7).
6 We've intentionally not addressed the question of whether or how the forgiveness God would bestow in the new covenant is different than the forgiveness He had extended to His people in the old covenant. We'll come back to this in our study of Jeremiah 31. Here we're just showing that God fulfilled this promise partially in the restoration but ultimately in Christ. Roberts notes: “Remission of sins is a most sweet and comfortable blessing. . .This blessing is more often spoken of, than well understood; and yet it's better understood by many, than experimentally enjoyed.” (pp1448-49). Again he says: “How excellency do God's gratuitous mercy, and His justice meet in this great blessing of remission of sins! His gratuitous mercy, in that He remits freely, without any desert of the sinners, yea against all his desert; His justice, in that He remits righteously, upon expiation made by Christ's blood, and satisfaction given to God's justice. . .by His death.” (p1450). And again: “[God] flings away all His people's sins into the depths of the sea. . .as the Egyptians were all swallowed up in the Red Sea, and never troubled, terrified or afflicted Israel any more after that day. . .so their pardoned sins shall be all drowned in the sea of God's mercy and Christ's merit forever; they (though never so huge an army) shall never trouble, terrify or afflict them any more to their condemnation; in that sense they shall never be found any more at all. . .” (p1456). Lastly, “The Lord God forgives sins to all His sincere federates, most freely, most fully, and finally. Freely, without, yea contrary to all their desert; fully, without exception of any one sin of theirs; and finally, without all revocation or annulling of pardon once vouchsafed.” (p1489).
7 As Roberts says: “No covenant dispensation so [thoroughly] cured God's people of Judah and Benjamin of their idolatry, of their stony hardness of heart, and other evils; as did this covenant dispensation under their captivity.” (p1093). And again, of Ezekiel 37:23: “This has reference to God's cleansing them by regeneration and sanctification, from the power and stain of sin, especially of idolatry, set forth here in three words: idols, detestable things, transgressions. Though formerly they were extremely addicted to idolatry, yet after their return from captivity, they should be thoroughly reformed from that sin; they should be given to idolatry no more.” (p1127). And again, Roberts writes: “The family of Terah, Abraham's father, beyond the flood, worshipped other gods in Chaldea before Abram was called into Canaan. The family of Jacob, while with Laban, and afterwards, [was] tainted with idolatry. The Israelites served strange gods in Egypt, even the idols of the Egyptians. When they were newly brought out of Egypt, and had solemnly covenanted with God against idolatry, while Moses was in the Mount with God, they idolatrously trespassed in the golden calf which Aaron made. . .In the days of the Judges they served the gods of the heathens. . .In the days of the Kings, Solomon encouraged, and shared in the idolatry of all his strange wives (1 Kings 11:6-8). Jeroboam set up the idolatrous calves in Dan and Bethel, whereby he made Israel to sin (1 Kings 12:28), to the end. And what shall I say? Time would fail me to tell of their idolatry, in the days of Ahab, Jehu, Hoshea, Manasseh, Amon, and of others till the very Babylonian captivity. Yea, they were very idolatrous even under their captivity. But now after they were brought out of Babylonian captivity, how did God wean them from their idolatry, detestable things, and prevaracations! I read not, that I remember, of any their idolatries afterwards. They after that defiled themselves with their idols no more.” (p1128).
8 As Roberts notes: “These captive Jews had the Spirit of God before, and under their captivity; but God promises a more plenary endowment of them therewith, after their return from Babylon (Ezekiel 36:27).” (Roberts, p1131). And as we quoted Roberts earlier: “The Jews were so delivered from Babylon, as that they were cleansed from their idols, detestable things and transgressions. And the elect are so delivered from their spiritual thraldom, that they are 'washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.'” (p1124). Roberts describes this change in the following ways: “More particularly, this newness of heart and spirit is the new creation or new supernatural frame of the whole soul, heart and spirit in part, wrought by the Holy Ghost, according to the image of God. The nature of it, as a new creation or new supernatural frame. The subject of this newness is the whole soul. The degree of it is imperfect—but in part. The author of it, is the Holy Ghost. The pattern according to which this great new work is fashioned, is the image of God. . .This is a transforming renovation from the corrupt image of Adam, to the pure image of God; from the old to the new man.” (pp1134-35). On the new heart and new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26): “These two words, heart and spirit. . .when they are mentioned jointly and applied to man, as they are diverse times in this prophet, then (as Calvin has well noted) they are put for mans whole soul and all the faculties thereof, [namely], the spirit, for. . .the mind and understanding. . .the heart. . .for the. . .will and affections. . .By spirit, therefore I understand here all the upper faculties, the intellectuals, chiefly seated in the head; by heart, all the lower faculties of the will and affections, chiefly seated in the heart.” (pp1131-32). On the one heart and one way of Jeremiah 32:38-40: “By heart, understand all inward principles and religious dispositions in the whole soul; by way, all outward expressions and practices flowing from those principles. . .the Jews had formerly been a very divided people in heart and way. . .[and still there are] men [who] walk most unworthy of the calling wherewith they are called. . . like boat-men, looking one way but rowing another.” (p1160,61,69). Roberts on how this change would be complete but not perfect: “Though these new supernatural principles and qualities are implanted in the whole soul and every part thereof, yet are they. . .incomplete in every part; as an infant has all the parts of a man, but none of them [completely] perfect. . .Perfection of degrees is reserved for the world to come. . .They that talk of their gradual and complete perfection in this life, are in a dream or fond delusion. [But] though these new endowments of the new heart and spirit [are] imperfect and incomplete, yet are they growing and increasing daily towards perfection. Our inward man is renewed day by day. . .Living trees grow and increase, when dead trunks decay and rot.” (pp1136-37). And again: “Every part is in some measure renewed, though none completely.” (Roberts, p1142).
9 The quote is from Ligon Duncan; we referenced it earlier in section II.2: Overviewing the General Themes. In speaking of how God now, in Christ, turns curses into blessings for His people, Francis Roberts cites 1 Corinthians 3:21-22: “all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death. . .” and says this: “In and through Jesus Christ, the malignity, venom, poison, and mischief of death is removed; yea turned into great advantage unto God's covenant people. Not only the world, and life, but death also, with things present and to come, even all things are theirs, and they are Christ's, and Christ is God's. Death is theirs for good as well as life. . .What? Death theirs? Were it not better for them, death were not theirs? No. Death is their friend, not their foe. . .Of carnal men, it may be said, they are death's; they are death's slaves. . .But of Christians it may be said, death is theirs; theirs to serve them, to befriend them, to do them good. . .” (Roberts, p1553).
10 It may be tempting to say that these promises of reversing the covenant curses, though left unfulfilled in the days of Israel's restoration, find their fulfillment in the new covenant church. This may be true to a degree, in that there would be a much greater effect of the gospel on the hearers in the new covenant as compared with the old; and thus, whereas God was forced to send corporate judgment to a largely apostate church in the old covenant, the church of the new covenant would be marked by following her Lord, and thus, corporate blessing. But Jesus also disciplines His church in the new covenant, as we see clearly in Revelation 2-3. Indeed, Jesus' words here mirror very closely God's words of rebuke to Israel after the restoration in Haggai 1-2 and Malachi 3. So that though there may be a degree of change in this respect from the old covenant to the new, the change is one of relative comparison rather than stark contrast. Perhaps there is less judgment on the whole for God's new covenant church, if you compare it with the old. But then again, we might argue, on the other hand, that judgment will be more severe for new covenant churches, since we have greater light than the old (Hebrews 10:29). So again, it seems that the main application here directs us forward to the complete annihilation of the curses in the new heavens and the new earth.
11 The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible notes on John 1:14: “The verb translated 'made his dwelling' means 'made his tent' or 'tabernacled.' This language recalls Israel's tabernacle, which served as the place of God's presence on earth in the days of Moses (Exodus 40:34-35)—Jesus fulfilled that purpose in his incarnation.” And again, on Zechariah 6:13 it makes this note: “Jesus began to fulfill the rebuilding of the temple through the resurrection of his body (Matthew 12:6; John 2:18-21). . .”
12 As Roberts had said: “This covenant assured them of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, with greater glory than formerly; and therein typically of the building of His new city, and new spiritual temple, of both Jews and Gentiles. . .” (p1102). The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible notes on Zechariah 3:8: “As important as Joshua and his associates were to the life of Israel at that time, they were not the final set of temple servants. They foreshadowed the coming Servant (the Messiah), who would fulfill their task perfectly. . .” And on Zechariah 6:13: “Joshua worked together with Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple. This action foreshadowed the work of the Messiah. As the King of God's people, the Messiah would also build the temple.”
13 The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible brings all these aspects together when it notes on Zechariah 6:13: “The New Testament explains that Jesus began to fulfill the rebuilding of the temple through the resurrection of his body (Matthew 12:6; John 2:18-21), continues to fulfill it in the church (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-22) and will ultimately fulfill it in the purification of the new heavens and the new earth as the dwelling place of God (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-3,22).” And again in Ezekiel 40:1: “Christ came as God's final temple in his first coming (John 2:19); the church is now the temple (1 Corinthians 3:9-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-22) and in the new heavens and the new earth there will be no temple because the whole earth will be filled with his presence (Habakkuk 2:14; Revelation 21).”