Jesus said that when you give to the poor and needy, “‘you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.’ When one of those who reclined at table with Him (Jesus) heard these things, he said to Him, ‘Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!‘” (Lk. 14:14-15 ESV) Or as the NLT puts it, he said, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”
In this passage, it is assumed that dining in “the kingdom” happens at “the resurrection”. Furthermore, both of these realities (“the resurrection” and “the kingdom”) describe their recipient in terms of being “blessed” (cf. Mt. 5:3-12). From the previous chapter in Luke, this is the time when “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets” are literally raised from the dust and “people (Gentiles) will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God” (Lk. 13:28-29, cf. Mt. 8:11). Later at Passover, Jesus told His apostles that they will “eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Lk. 22:30). And according to Mt. 19:28, all this will happen at “the regeneration” (NASB) or “the renewal of all things” (NIV).
So, have these things been fulfilled? More specifically, has the blessing of the resurrection already happened?
Paul warned otherwise: “Hymenaeus and Philetus… who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.” (2 Tim. 2:18)
When will these things be fulfilled?
Following the ascension of Jesus and giving of the Holy Spirit, Peter gives us insight into this question in his second sermon: “Heaven must receive Him (Jesus) until the time comes for God to restore everything [cf. Acts 1:6-7], as He promised long ago through His holy prophets.” (Acts 3:21)
Why have these things not been fulfilled already?
Until the time Jesus descends out of heaven to swallow up death and prepare a global feast (Is. 25:6ff), the Lord is calling all the families of the earth to repentance that they might be blessed and participate in that wonderful feast: “The master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.'” (Lk. 14:23)
There is a “mystery” at work in the delay of the promise. In agreement with the very words of the prophets (Acts 15:13-19), God is working to include the Gentiles: “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Eph. 3:6) We who were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope [think: resurrection, Acts 26:6-8] and without God in the world… have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph. 2:12-13)
Through faith in the bloody sacrifice of Jesus, the “new and living way” opened up for Jew and Gentile alike, we have been acquitted of our sins, “justified by His blood” (Rom. 5:9), and forgiven our debt (Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:14), “our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:20-22). Now we are included in the promise of the resurrection and the kingdom feast, as Paul so eloquently put it: “so that we being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:7).
The “hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20), the “hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:23), the one and only “hope to which He has called you” (Eph. 1:18, cf. 4:4) is to attain the promise of that feast by faith in Jesus, being “found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith… in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil. 3:9-11)