A literal return of King David is a tenant of much of the modern religious thought today. Purveyors of premillennial doctrine, such as David Jeremiah, teach that King David will return in the flesh to rule alongside Jesus during the thousand year reign on earth.

The prophets have much to say about David’s reign. However, there is one verse in particular that gets held up as the proof-text for King David’s return. Jeremiah, a prophet that lived about 500 years after David, had this to say in Jeremiah 30:8-9:

And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.

This certainly seems to indicate that King David will return to reign again in the flesh. But this is not the only passage we have to consider on this topic. So, will King David return in the flesh to reign again?

how Scripture answers "Will King David return to reign again?"

The notion (from one verse) that King David will return in the flesh is put to bed immediately1 and repeatedly2 in the early days of the church. David’s body had “seen corruption”1,2. Jesus had risen without seeing bodily corruption1,2 and it was He that fulfilled the promise originally given to David3 by God and recalled by the prophets4,5,6,7,8,9,10 until “the last days.

All of this requires the Bible student to consider the single phrase in Jeremiah 30 through a different lens.  But then when considered with other statements from Jeremiah4,5 about David’s return, it’s clear that Jeremiah isn’t meaning a literal reincarnation of David in 30:9.

And if the additional prophets’ statements3,4,5,6,8,9 and inspired, New Testament writers’1,2,3,6,9,10 confirmations weren’t enough (and they are), we have the similar instance of Elijah11. In this case, the prophet Malachi said that Elijah would be raised, but multiple New Testament passages confirm this was not meant as a bodily raising of Elijah.  Just like John the Baptist was to Elijah11, Jesus was to David – “a man after my [God’s] heart, who will do all my will.” (Acts 13:22)

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1
Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
Brothers, I say confidently that our patriarch David has died and was buried, and his tomb is with us until now.

The very first gospel sermon given on the day of Pentecost by Peter.  His main message is focused on telling the crowd that the man they had just crucified (Jesus) had risen (vs 23-24) and “God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne” (vs 30).  He quotes David’s own prophetic words (vs 25-28) that incorporates a contrast that Peter makes throughout – Jesus’s body did not “see corruption” (vs 27, 31) while David’s body is in the tomb even to “this day,” the implication being that David’s body has seen corruption.

How does it inform?

A central proof to Peter’s message that Jesus was raised and He was the One to be followed was that David was dead, buried and not coming back.

*If David were to return, why is Peter even making this point and not mentioning David’s return? That would be at least negligent on his part if not outright false teaching.

Does it apply? Yes

2
Therefore he says also in another psalm, ‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’ For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.
Therefore, God says in another psalm, “You will not let your Holy One see corruption.” For after David served God’s purpose in his own generation, he died and was buried and saw corruption.  But Jesus, whom God raised, did not see corruption.

Paul’s gospel sermon while in the synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia on the Sabbath day.

How does it inform?

Paul makes the exact same point in his sermon that Peter was making1, but even more succinctly. Jesus’ body did not see corruption and was raised; David’s body saw corruption [and won’t be raised].

*Like Peter, Paul is also leading his listeners astray by not at least mentioning David’s literal return if that were the case.

Does it apply? Yes

3
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
When you [David] have passed, I [God] will raise up a descendant from your seed and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
A key passage of the Old Testament when God, through the prophet Nathan, makes His covenant with David. David wants to build the temple of God in Jerusalem, but God tells him not to – that his son will do it.  It’s an inescapable example of prophetic dualism.

In fact, we can plainly see this distinction in the very next verse (14): “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. [true with both Solomon and Jesus] When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, [true with only Solomon]”

How does it inform?

God’s promise to David – that he would have a descendant to reign forever – is foundational to and fulfilled in Christ and the establishment of His kingdom (the church) in the first century. David’s physical, immediate son Solomon did in fact build the temple in Jerusalem. In this physical sense, the promise is fulfilled. However, because of his disobedience, Solomon’s throne/kingdom did not last forever (1 Kings 11:11-12).

It’s in the spiritual sense that the promise is completely and finally fulfilled in Christ (also hinted at in 1 Kings 11:13). Jesus (also David’s son; Matthew 1) established His kingdom and throne that will last forever, building as it were the house of God. This is what the angel says to Mary (Luke 1:31-33) and further confirmed by other inspired writers (Acts 2:22-36, Acts 13:30ff, Hebrews 1:5-14).

Does it apply? Yes

4
In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
In those days, at a later time, I will cause a righteous Branch to come forward from/for David and he will execute justice and righteousness in the land.

This section of Jeremiah (chapters 30-33) stands out from the preceding and following chapters where a historical account is given.  These chapters make several references to “days that are coming” and includes frequently quoted/referenced passage in

31:31-34
that’s interpreted for us by New Testament writers.

How does it inform?

Jeremiah speaking about a rising up not of David himself but “for David” (e.g. on his behalf); a “righteous Branch”. An oft-made refrain from Jeremiah5 and other prophets6,8.

As this verse and those around it (14-26) include some of the same statements and thoughts in 31:31-34, it would be difficult to conclude anything other than “In those days” referring to Jesus’ coming.

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

5
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
God declares a time is coming when He will raise up for/on behalf of David a righteous Branch who will reign wisely as king, and will execute justice and righteousness in the land.
God through Jeremiah pronounces judgement on King Coniah (or, Jehoiachin).  He only reigned in Judah three months before being sent in exile to Babylon.  He never returned, as God predicts (22:24-30).  He then condemns leaders (“shepherds”) and the [false] prophets of the day while inserted this brief (vss 5-8) vision of “days [that] are coming.”
How does it inform?

A repeated thought from God through Jeremiah4 about a “righteous Branch” coming from/on behalf of David (not David himself) that will reign as king.

Does it apply? Yes

6
In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

In that time the root/descendant of Jesse shall stand as a signal/sign for the all people – of him shall the nations/Gentiles inquire and his resting place will be glorious.

Isaiah chapters 11-12 serve as a near continuous vision of things/events/signs “in that day”. In fact, chapter 11 begins with a near identical statement to vs 10 – “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” (11:1)

Qualifiers that jump out as familiar New Testament themes include:

  • descendent of David to emerge (11:1),
  • God’s Spirit will be on Him (11:2),
  • He will judge the world (11:3-4),
  • He will be a “signal” to the nations/Gentiles that with gaiters to Him along with the Jews (11:12),
  • The people “will draw water from the wells of salvation” (12:1-3),
  • God will be in their midst (12:6)
How does it inform?

Isaiah connects the “root” with the “Branch” (from Jesse/David) and further Jesus confirms He is this “root” (Revelation 22:16) and Paul quotes this verse as pertaining to the first century (Romans 15:12).

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

7
And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.
I will establish over them my servant David.  He will be a shepherd to feed them.  And I will be their God, and David will be a prince among them.  I, the Lord have spoken.

In this entire chapter, God through Ezekiel is contrasting the spiritual leaders of his day (“shepherds”) that were leading the people astray with a shepherd that God would establish “a covenant of peace” (vs 25).  While these verses point to David being this shepherd, notably vss 11-16 repeatedly state that God in the first person (“I, myself”) will do these things and more.

How does it inform?

Given the multiple statements from God prefaced by “I, myself”, it seems clear that “my servant David” is used figuratively (unless a risen David is God Himself).

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

8
And say to him, Thus says the Lord of hosts, Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.
Say to him [Joshua, the son of Jehozadak] the Lord of hosts says, ‘Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.”

Zechariah prophesied to those Jews that returned to the land after the seventy years of Babylonian captivity.  In this immediate context, God is telling Zechariah to crown Joshua the priest in a ceremony ushering the imminent building of the temple in their day.

How does it inform?

It is difficult not to imagine that these words and circumstances are not another example of prophetic duality. Fulfilled in Zechariah’s day with the physical priest (Joshua) and temple, these words can also apply to Jesus and His ultimate station and duty3 as priest and king (Hebrews 7-8).

Does it apply? Possibly

9
In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name, declares the Lord who does this.
In that day I will raise the fallen booth/tent of David and repair/rebuild it as in the old days, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all nations/Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord who brings all this to pass.
James cites this passage in Acts 15:16-17 as evidence for his conclusion to extend the hand of fellowship to the Gentiles.  (A controversy had arisen among converts that Gentiles must essentially become Jews first, before becoming a disciple of Christ.  Church leaders determined from Scripture that this was false.)
How does it inform?

Amos prophesies about the “booth of David” that will be raised. James confirms for us this is fulfilled in his day (the first century; Christian or church age).

Does it apply? Yes

10
Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

In the latter days the children of Israel will return to seek me (God), and David their king, and they will come in the fear the Lord (obedience) and to his goodness.

Most of the first three chapters of Hosea are about God’s instruction to Hosea to take a wife (a prostitute) and have children, giving them specific names (“No Mercy” and “Not My People”).  It was all a ‘real-life’ enactment to graphically illustrate what the relationship of God to His people had become (1:2).  The disobedience of the people is elaborated on in most of chapter 2.

Specific reference and the broader application of the children’s names are referenced in the New Testament by both Paul (

Romans 9:25-26
) and Peter (1 Peter 2,
esp vs 10
).  As a result, we can definitively apply this as being fulfilled in Jesus’ day and the first century onward.

Additionally, in these first three chapters we see the common prophetic phrase “in that day” repeated several times, especially as we draw to the close of chapter 2 and into this text with its derivative “in the latter days”.  In addition to a return to the Lord and David as their king, we find Hosea divulging this time to be when:

  • the peoples’ betrothal to God (2:16, 19-20),
  • a new covenant made that brings peace to the land (2:18) – e.g. a “covenant of peace” (Ezekiel 34:35),
  • the idea (again) that they will be God’s people and He will their God (2:22).
How does it inform?

The immediate and broader context in Hosea along with inspired writers’ application to first century times all but require “David” to be interpreted figuratively (e.g. Jesus Christ).

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

11
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.

Malachi’s prophecy to those that returned from Babylonian/Persian captivity around 450 BC.  Jesus does not quote this verse, but explicitly states in the Gospels that John the Baptist was the “Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:14, Mark 9:11, Luke 1:17).

How does it inform?

Jesus said that it was John the Baptist that was the “Elijah who is to come”. Elijah was literally named in prophecy but he actually represented John the Baptist.

Does it apply? Yes

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