Kingdom Prolepsis: Living in the Future, Now

Towards the end of May, my family and I attended First Fruits of Zion’s 2015 Shavuot Conference at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, Wisconsin. As always, it was a great delight to be part of such a well-organized, well-researched and well-presented event. The lectures and discussion that took place over the course of our week-long stay helped clarify and articulate many of the concepts that we have had in our minds over the last several years revolving around Messianic Judaism. One of the primary concepts I took home from the conference is that the goal of Messianic Judaism is to become a prolepsis of the Messianic Kingdom. What does that mean? Let me explain.

First, let’s define the term. According to the basic definition, prolepsis is “the representation of a thing as existing before it actually does.” In other words, it’s when an element — a concept, an event, etc. — represents something before it actually exists.

How does this relate to Messianic Judaism? According to a new definition proposed by Boaz Michael, “(Ideal) Messianic Judaism is the Judaism of the Messianic Era — practiced today.”1 Let me say that again:

(Ideal) Messianic Judaism is the Judaism of the Messianic Era — practiced today.

I think this is the best definition of Messianic Judaism to date. But you may not recognize its brilliance at first. Let me attempt to explain this concept further.

In the Messianic Era, the LORD will be worshipped in perfection. All tongues and tribes will worship the LORD as one people. This means that there will be a single mode of worship expressed in various ways by various people, but one mode or means, nonetheless. That means will be as the Scriptures describe; it will be a Jewish mode of worship. Zechariah 14 is a good example of this: It describes how all the nations will come up to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot (the feast of Tabernacles). In addition, Isaiah 66:23 says that the nations will observe the new moons and Sabbaths:

From new moon to new moon,
and from Sabbath to Sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me,
declares the Lord.

Ezekiel 41–48 describes the restoration of the Temple and sacrificial worship. The list goes on. Whatever happens, it won’t look like a Gentile church service. The mode and expression of worship will be Jewish in nature. Messianic Judaism seeks to experience this aspect (among others) of the Messianic Kingdom in our present world. When we focus in on these things, we become a proleptic manifestation of the coming Kingdom. Would you like to be a part of this infusion of the Messianic Era into our present reality? I see at least three areas in which we can experience Messianic prolepsis: Sabbath, Prayer, and being a Messianic Gentile. Let’s take a very brief look at each of these three topics.

Sabbath

Those who understand the Sabbath only from a cursory reading of the Bible, or from the perspective of academia, can see only one of the multidimensional aspects of the Sabbath. Those who have begun keeping the Sabbath as a day to cease from one’s own labors can tell you of its hidden merits and virtues. It’s the difference between looking at a photo of your great-grandmother and sitting with her in her kitchen as she begins to prepare dinner and tell you her childhood memories. The Sabbath is a dimension in time unlike all other moments of the six days of the week. It stands alone as queen over the remaining days, a palace or cathedral in time, as Abraham Heschel termed it. The Sabbath is a safe place, a haven from the other six days of the week when we get the life wrung out of us. The Sabbath is a twenty-five hour period of spiritual regeneration by which a person becomes transfixed not on himself, but on The One.

In Hebrews 4, the author takes an aside from his argument about those who are foolishly rejecting Yeshua to make a comparison between the Sabbath and the world-to-come. He likens the weekly Sabbath to a rehearsal for and a foretaste of the world-to-come:

For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” … So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:4, 9–11)

He reminds his audience that just as God ceased from his labors on the seventh day, His people are to both imitate His actions and anticipate His eternal rest. When we experience the beauty and majesty of the weekly Sabbath, entering into holy time and space, we experience a prolepsis of the coming Kingdom.

Prayer

Rather than waiting for Yeshua to return and the Messianic Kingdom to be established on the earth, followers of Yeshua should be working towards making the future hope of the Kingdom a present reality in our daily lives. After all, Yeshua taught his disciples to daily pray for the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom on earth. In the Avinu, the “Our Father,” he taught them to pray, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In other words, “Bring your Kingdom now!” As a matter of fact, in his book, First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer, Aaron Eby has shown the connection between the prayer for the coming Kingdom and the request for bread. Rather than asking for our “daily”2 bread, the better translation is that we request “the bread of tomorrow” — that is, the bread of the Kingdom.

Eby points out that the church father Jerome’s comments on Psalm 136:25 (“he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever”) give us insight into the original Hebrew behind Matthew’s version of the Avinu:

The Hebrew Gospel according to Matthew reads: “Give us this day tomorrow’s bread,” in other words, the Bread that You will give us in Your kingdom, give us this day.3

Through praying the Avinu each day, we anticipate the advent of the Messianic Kingdom on earth. By adding this prayer to our daily liturgy, according to the instructions of the Apostles (Didache 8:2–3), we create a continuous, daily pattern of praise. Therefore, when we join our hearts, minds, and voices together with all of Israel in prayer at the appointed times each day, we experience a prolepsis of the coming Kingdom.

Messianic Gentiles

In the time of the Master, when the Jewish people looked at the Scriptures for a glimpse of the Messianic Kingdom, they did not perceive the inclusion of Gentiles into the family of God as part of this process. Jeremiah 31 (vs. 31–34) and Ezekiel 36 (vs. 25–29) both promise a time in which a new covenant is made with both Israel and Judah and the hearts of the Jewish people will be made new. They will flee from their sin, follow after the Lord, walk in His ways and keep all of His commandments. But all of these promises were for the Jewish nation. The Apostles did not foresee an application for Gentiles and were taken aback by their inclusion into the fold of the elect:

And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. (Acts 10:45)

However, they later realized that this was a promise foretold of the prophets:

Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. (Acts 15:7–9)

The Apostles based their conclusion regarding Gentiles off of the prophecy put forth by Joel:

And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit. (Joel 2:28–29)

James, however, goes a step further and says that the inclusion of the Gentiles is a step in restoring the fallen tent of David:

Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, “After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.”
(Acts 15:13–18)

He bases his understanding on the Septuagint reading of Amos 9:11-12, which elevates the Gentiles to a status of the elect, “who are called by my name,” a title generally reserved for Israel alone. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the Apostolic decree, Gentiles are welcomed alongside the Jewish people as co-heirs of the Messianic promises. Therefore, when Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles worship together in unity, we experience a prolepsis of the coming Kingdom. Will you join us in drinking from the wine of the Messianic Kingdom in this age, or will you wait for its arrival?

  • 1. Boaz Michael, The Vision: A Messianic Jewish Hashkafah (May 21, 2015):.
  • 2. The Greek is ἐπιούσιος (epioúsios) — a word that does not exist outside of the Gospels and the Didache.
  • 3. Aaron Eby, First Steps in Messianic Jewish Prayer (Marshfield, MO: First Fruits of Zion, 2014), 116.

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