The first article in this series demonstrated that the great dilemma of Israel (and all humanity) can be summed up in the word exile, which stands for our alienation from God and the death that results. As of the end of the Old Testament, Israel was still in exile. But in the second article, we showed how Jesus brought exile to an end for Israel and all nations through His death on the cross. Jesus’ climactic experience of judgment means that no more wrath or curse is due to God’s people for their sin. Since Jesus addressed the reason for exile—sin—the kingdom of God commenced in His resurrection. The astonishing claim of the New Testament is that the long-awaited kingdom has already been inaugurated in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Now, in this final article, we ask: Since Jesus has accomplished the end of exile, how should we understand the church’s status in this present time? We will argue the following:

  1. The church, in union with Christ, is already enjoying the end-times restoration blessings Jesus has bought us.
  2. Yet our experience of restoration is not complete. There is a “not yet” element, a sense in which we can still be said to be in exile. However, our exile is fundamentally different from the situation of Israel before Jesus’ coming.
  3. By our repentance, the church enters more and more into the blessings of restoration.
Restoration Glory for the Church

Jesus, as the true Israel, has passed from exile to restoration because of His resurrection from the dead. He thus is the first recipient of all that God promised to Israel.1 Jesus has received the Spirit (Acts 2:33), the throne of David and of God (vv. 30–31), and everything else that the prophets promised for the kingdom of God.

The essence of our salvation is becoming a partaker of this kingdom, just as Jesus promised: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). We receive the kingdom by our union with Jesus the King, a union that happens because the Spirit indwells us and gives us the gift of faith (Eph. 1:13; 2:8; 3:17). This union with Jesus the true Israel means that we, the church, are the true Israel as well (Gal. 6:16; Rev. 3:9). No longer must we keep the old covenant to be “Israel.” Now, all that matters is becoming united to the Jesus through our faith in Him alone (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Phil. 3:9).

By this union, everything that Jesus has through His resurrection becomes ours too (John 15:9; 17:22). He transfers us out of exile, out of the kingdom of darkness (Rom. 5:1–2; Col. 1:13), and into the restoration that has dawned in His resurrection. Building on the previous article’s list of restoration realities that dawned in Jesus’ resurrection, we now show how the NT assigns these blessings to the church as well.

What Christ Achieved

Who We Are Now in Union with Him

Christ decisively defeated our enemies—Satan, sin, and death.

We are more than conquerors (Rom. 8:37).

Christ atoned for our sin on the cross and was declared righteous in His resurrection.

Our sins are forgiven and we are righteous (Jer. 31:33; Col. 2:13–14). We are reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10).

Christ broke our bondage and led us out in a new exodus.

We are no longer slaves of sin, but now have the freedom of being able to obey God (John 8:36; Rom. 6:18; Gal. 5:1).

Christ was circumcised (“cut off”) on the cross.

We now are circumcised in our hearts (Rom. 2:29; Col. 2:11).

Christ absorbed the curse of exile in Himself and entered end-times heavenly blessing.

We are now under God’s covenant blessings, not under His covenant curses (Gal. 3:10, 13).

Christ ascended to God’s throne, ruling as David’s son.

We now reign together with Him as sons and heirs (Gal. 4:7; Eph. 2:6; Rev. 20:4).

Christ entered the end-times “land” of the new creation.

We are there with Him by faith (Eph. 2:6; Heb. 12:22).

Christ founded the end-times temple.

As living stones, we are joined to Jesus the cornerstone in a living temple (Eph. 2:20; 1 Peter 2:5).

Christ was ordained as High Priest and inaugurated end-times worship.

We are ordained as priests through the Spirit and through baptism, and we participate in this perfect worship, offering ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1; 1 Peter 2:5).

Christ, as the light to the nations, commissioned the Great Commission. (In addition to Isaiah 2:1–4, see the use of “preach the good news [gospel]” in 40:9; 52:7; 60:6; 61:1.)

We are now spreading the gospel of the kingdom (Acts 8:4; Phil. 2:15) as the light to the nations (Acts 13:47; cf. Isa. 49:6).

Christ reunited Jew and gentile in Himself.

We are now one with God’s people, having been reconciled to one another (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:14–15; Col. 3:11).

Christ received the Spirit to the uttermost.

We have had the Spirit poured out on us, sealing to us our inheritance (Acts 2; Rom. 5:5; 8:9, 15; Eph. 1:13–14).


In sum, Jesus the true Israel received the restoration kingdom when He rose from the dead. When we believe in Him, we become part of the true Israel and begin enjoying the restoration blessings that Jesus Himself enjoys. First Peter 2:9–10 is a great example of how all these end-of-exile blessings belong together as one redemptive package: “But you are [now, because of Christ] a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light [darkness is a metaphor for exile and light is a metaphor for restoration; see Isa. 9:2]. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

But Exile Continues

As glorious as these blessings are, we enjoy them only in a partial manner in this present time. We are truly united to Christ, but we still live in the old creation, with old creation bodies and with hearts that have not yet been perfected in holiness. Therefore, as decisive as Jesus’ death and resurrection were, exile still continues for us in some sense. The restoration kingdom is here, but it has not yet been consummated. The NT teaches us how to hold both of these truths together as we strive to balance the “already” and the “not yet” of God’s redemptive work in this present age.2

First, the NT teaches us to use the term exile for ourselves. For example, 1 Peter 2:11 (which comes just after the glorious passage just cited above) says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (emphasis added). Other NT passages use similar language for the church: we are called “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:1; cf. 1:17; Heb. 11:13) and the “twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (James 1:1). To be at home in our bodies means we are away from the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6, 8). We long to see Jesus, but do not see Him now (1 Peter 1:8). We are pilgrims on our way to Zion (Heb. 4:11), and our present location is “Babylon” (1 Peter 5:13).

Jesus, as the true Israel, has passed from exile to restoration because of His resurrection from the dead. He thus is the first recipient of all that God promised to Israel.

Second, the NT emphasizes that suffering is the norm for the church, and it prepares the church to suffer the travails of exile in manifold ways:

  • Our bodies break down (2 Cor. 4:16). Things in this old creation fall apart and are subject to futility (Rom. 8:20).
  • We are assaulted by sinful desires and fears all day, every day (1 Peter 2:11).
  • Though the devil has been decisively defeated and his power is broken, he still prowls and seeks to devour us (1 Peter 5:8; cf. Eph. 6:12).
  • As citizens of a heavenly country (Phil. 3:20), we are aliens among the people of this world, living in a land that is not our own and having no share with them in it (2 Cor. 6:14–16). This exile leads to estrangement, even in our own households (Matt. 10:36–37; 1 Peter 3:1–6). People are surprised and offended that we do not share their love of this world (1 Peter 4:4).
  • Our glory is hidden to this world: we are considered the scum of the earth (1 Cor. 4:13). The people of this world malign us (1 Peter 4:4) and persecute us (2 Tim. 3:12).
  • Until our death, we are to take up our cross (i.e., share in Jesus’ “exile”) (Matt. 16:24). Indeed, we will have no portion in the coming glories unless we first share with Jesus in His sufferings (Rom. 8:17; 2 Cor. 1:5; Phil. 3:10).

We must never forget that for everything we endure above, Jesus endured it first. Union with Christ means not only union with His resurrection and the blessings that come with it but also union with His death (Rom. 6:4–5; Phil. 3:10).

When we put the two points of “restoration glory for the church” and “exile continues” together, we come to a paradoxical conclusion: the restoration has arrived, but it is also future. Jesus has brought the kingdom and has decisively entered that kingdom through His resurrection. But some things remain future:

  • Peter says, “Heaven must receive [Jesus] until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3:21). We are awaiting a Savior from heaven (Phil. 3:20; 1 Peter 1:5), who will come and make us sharers with His glory (Col. 3:4; 1 Peter 5:6).
  • We have yet to judge the world with Jesus (Matt. 19:28 [the “new world” in this passage = the restoration kingdom]; 1 Cor. 6:3; Rev. 20:4). Sin still runs amok in this world.
  • Until Jesus returns, we in the church will continue to sin and have not yet attained to perfect holiness (Phil. 3:12; 1 John 1:8).
  • The end-times temple is not yet complete, and Jesus has not yet gathered all the elect from the four corners of the earth (Matt. 24:14).
  • Our corporate worship at the heavenly Zion is intermittent (one day per week), not uninterrupted. We are present with Christ only in our spirits, not yet in the body (2 Cor. 5:6).

The “fall” in Genesis 3 is marked as the beginning of exile, since Israel’s exile is a shadowy picture of the more fundamental exile of all humanity that began with Adam’s sin.

But even as we insist that exile continues, we must recognize that our exile is not the same as the exile experienced by Israel at the end of the OT. Our exile has been transformed by the work of Christ and the arrival of the restoration. Here are some differences between the exile of Israel and the exile of the church:

  • We no longer suffer because we are cursed. The wrath of God is no longer upon us (compare Ezra 9:15 and Neh. 13:18 with Rom. 8:1).
  • We suffer not because of the sin of Israel, as during the exile of Israel, but because of our union with Christ. Just as Jesus suffered because He obeyed the Father (Phil. 2:8), our sufferings for the sake of Jesus come in response to our obedience. Indeed, 1 Peter insists that we should strive to suffer only for obedience (1 Peter 2:20; 3:17).
  • Our sufferings together with Christ are no longer a matter of shame, but are part of our glorious conformity to Christ. “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14; see Rom. 8:29).
  • Even in our sufferings, we are rejoicing “with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:6, 8). Indeed, we rejoice because of our sufferings. “To the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:13; cf. Matt. 5:11–12; James 1:2).
  • Our sufferings are the path not to shame but to glory: Jesus left us “an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). We are to “humble [ourselves] under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt [us] at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6).

In Israel’s time, “exile” was a metaphor for alienation from God, but now “exile” has a new meaning. For the church, “exile” refers to our ongoing sufferings with Christ in the old creation as we await Christ’s return. We are in “exile” insofar as we do not yet enjoy the fullness of all the restoration glories that Christ presently enjoys in heaven.

The Transition from “Not Yet” to “Already”: Repentance

As those united to Christ, we are in two places at once: seated with Him in heaven and yet also in exile here on earth. However, part of the joy of this present age is that our situation is not static. Even now, our exile is abating and our restoration is becoming more and more a present reality. Day by day, Christ is renewing us (2 Cor. 4:16).

Christ absorbed the curse of exile in Himself and entered end-times heavenly blessing.

Recall that repentance was the requirement that God had decreed for Israel’s exile to end (Deut. 30:1–3; see Lev. 26:40–42; Jer. 3:14, 22). Yet as we saw in Ezra–Nehemiah, Israel was incapable of wholehearted and whole-souled repentance (see part 1 of this series). Now, because of Christ’s resurrection power and the gift of the Spirit who circumcises our hearts, we are able to repent with genuine grief for our sin and a true resolve to obey (Acts 11:18; Rom. 2:29; Titus 3:5). Our repentance not only marks the beginning of new obedience for us; it also is God’s means of continuing to usher in end-times restoration realities. For example:

  • Every time a sinner repents and becomes a disciple of Christ, the kingdom grows. Another exiled person has been gathered to the people of God, a slave to sin has had his heart circumcised and his sins forgiven, and the Spirit is poured out on another individual. These are all end-of-exile, restoration realities.
  • Every time a Christian repents of any sin, our holiness increases, our witness becomes more consistent, the glory of Christ shines brighter in us, and our joy increases. These also are end-of-exile, restoration realities.

Ultimately, the repentance of the church is the last thing needed for the Savior to return. Peter declares, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you” (Acts 3:19–20, emphasis added).

But even as the church’s repentance is the last step before Christ returns, the Scriptures still emphasize that God brings His kingdom, for every act of repentance is a gift of God. Hence even as Peter calls us to repent, he reminds us that “God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways(Acts 3:26, NASB, emphasis added). God will get all the glory for the perfection of His kingdom.


We are living in the overlap of the ages: exile and restoration overlap in this present time. As Christians, are we exiles? Yes and no. Yes, in that this old creation world is not our home, and we presently share the sufferings of Christ. No, in that we are no longer alienated from God, suffering His wrath for our sins.

What does this mean for us? How should we live now in light of this epic story of exile and restoration?

First, we should remember that we are exiles who do not belong to this world:

We should consider ourselves dead to this present world with its passing lusts (Gal. 6:14; Phil. 3:8; Col. 2:20; cf. 2 Tim. 4:10).

  1. We should expect suffering as a basic part of our identity as Christians, instead of being surprised by our sufferings with Christ, as though something strange were happening to us (1 Peter 4:12).
    1. We are blessed and honored to share with Jesus’ sufferings (Matt. 5:11–12; 1 Peter 3:14; 4:14). Indeed, both His sufferings and ours are instrumental for bringing exile to a complete end (Acts 14:22; Col. 1:24–29; 2 Cor. 1:6).

Second, we should remember that we are restored:

  1. We should rejoice at the incomparable blessings showered on us through the new exodus. We are living in the epic, long-awaited final period of God’s great story.
  2. We should consider ourselves truly forgiven, truly treasured, truly transformed by Spirit, and truly free from sin. Because we trust God’s Word, we should live as though these things are true even if we do not always feel like it.

Third, we must remember that repentance is the way forward:

  1. We should get serious about calling all people to repent and join the new exodus toward the heavenly Zion while there is yet time.
  2. We should get serious about our own repentance, giving no provision for the flesh.

Finally, we should read the whole Bible as one unified book. The OT is your story, Christian. The whole Bible is an end-of-exile story, a story about Christ bringing us from exile into restoration through repentance. Praise the Lord.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on exile. Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on exile and was previously published on June 21, 2021. First post. Second post.

  1. For a similar idea, see Richard B. Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology, 2nd ed. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987), 114–43. ↩︎
  2. Our eschatological scheme attempts to balance the victorious optimism of postmillennial teachings with the reality of suffering emphasized by amillennial teaching. With Greg Beale, we prefer the term “inaugurated millennialism” for our approach (The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1999], 973). ↩︎

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