The LORD in the previous verses has spoken through the prophet to plead with Israel to return to Him. It will require them to put away their idolatry, to renew their hearts and their lives in Him. The LORD even says, “I am married to you.” (v.14). The promise is for them when they return. The problem is they have not yet returned to Him. They one day will; by God’s own promise and assurances.
“Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,’ says the LORD, ‘that they will say no more, ‘ The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore. At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers.” Jeremiah 3:16-18 (NKJV).
If you will note this promise is conditional upon their return to Him, from their state of a backsliding heart. I have stated it before and will state it again here, though this is not my own: I think Charles H. Spurgeon has been credited with this statement, “God will not allow His children to sin successfully.” The southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel, since the reigns of Rehoboam and Jereboam, are the children of God, or the nation of God’s choosing. If you will read all of the Old Testament from the Exodus through the book of Malachi, you will find God’s hand of correction, and discipline on the two kingdoms. In them we have examples of what the Christian’s life should be like and God’s discipline upon us when we rebell and sin against Him.
The LORD’s words spoken through the prophet are spoken as an already completed thing. It is completed in the mind of God. When God says something is going to come to pass it is as good as done. You will notice that He says, “When you are mutltiplied and increased in the land…”. It is an already decided and an already accomplished event; it just needs worked out in the people’s hearts and lives. There would be coming a time when the people were going to be carried away to Babylon, and in 70 years they would return. It this return they would return as one nation once again, but this promise has much more prophetic influence that just that fulfillment. The children of the nation of Israel, are still missing the ark of the covenant; they are even looking forward to the return of the ark of the covenant.
Even when Cyrus king of Persia made proclamation for the “house of the LORD” to be built in Jerusalem, and after Nehemiah was given permission to go and rebuild the wall of the city of Jerusalem, the people were still in bondage to a foreign power. Even in the day of Jesus they were still under the powers of the Roman government. Since the Babyloninan captivity they have not really been free. In our day, though they are supposedly a free nation, they are still under the rule of Gentile governments. The United Nations and the United States of America are pretty much their ruling nations.
There will come a day when Messiah reigns in Jerusalem. That it the time and the day they will no longer be depending on the representative power and presence of the Lord, ie., the ark of the covenant; but they will have the real, full, and glorious power and presence of the LORD in person. He will be their king. How is it that some Christians want to take these promises and spiritualize them, and make them for the church? This promise has not happened yet. It has not been fulfilled. It is yet to be fulfilled and to the letter. The amillennialist would have us believe that these events have already occured and the promise is fulfilled in the Church. The thing is this prophecy had nothing, has nothing to do with the Church. It has to do with the people of Israel. It is dealing with a real people, in a real land, with a real city of Jerusalem; not a figurative one.
The children of Judah and Israel did come back from Babylon, after seventy years, just as Jeremiah had prophesied; but they have never had free rule of the land. It has been ruled by other nations for centuries. When, however, Jesus sits as king on “The Throne of the LORD, then will all the nations be gathered into it. It won’t be so that they can rule, but so that they can worship the King. Jerusalem will be The Throne of the Lord.
-by Tim A. Blankenship