A Biblical Survey of the Kingdom: the Gospel of the Kingdom – Part 3

Matthew 3 John the BaptistThe theme of Matthew’s Gospel is Jesus Christ as King and the Kingdom of God.  Matthew wrote of the offer of the King and the kingdom He brings, mysteries and parables about the kingdom and Israel’s rejection of the King and thus the kingdom.  The Jews were expecting a literal, earthly and Davidic kingdom, fulfilling the covenant promises and the words of the prophets.  No new definition of the kingdom is ever given.  If the kingdom now suddenly meant something else, then surely the apostles or Jesus would have provided it.

We begin with John the Baptist and his core message as it is summed up in Matthew 3:2:

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

While the other Gospel writers used the name Kingdom of God, Matthew usually preferred to use the synonym: Kingdom of Heaven.  The Greek eggizo (eng-id’-zo) translated above as at hand, means to bring near or to approach (cf. Matt. 2:1).  Thus, the kingdom was said to be near not here.  This may come off as obvious, and yet the mistake of conflating the two is so often made, resulting in significant interpretive errors.  Many Jews believed that they would inherit the kingdom in virtue of having Abraham as their father (Matt. 3:9).  But if the people were to receive the kingdom they had to repent, turning from their sins in anticipation of the Messiah.  After John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus took over preaching the same message (Matt. 4:17).

With the context in mind, consider the Lord’s Prayer anew.  Jesus provided it as a model for how His disciples were to pray (cf. Luke 11:1-4).  Every petition in the prayer relates to the kingdom, with the first three concerning its coming.  Matthew 6:9-10:

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The reverence for God’s name and the kingdom in Israel are directly linked.  When the Israelites were scattered among the nations, it profaned His name (Ezek. 36:19-21).  This is why the second petition of the prayer is for the kingdom to come.  The LORD’s name will be fully vindicated before the nations when the Jews are back in the Promised Land, partaking in the New Covenant and enjoying a personal relationship with Him (Is. 29:22-23; Ezek. 36:22-38).  The kingdom will be manifested on the earth, just as it is currently so in heaven.

William James Durant, the eminent 20th century historian, came to the same understanding, writing:

What did he mean by the Kingdom?  A supernatural heaven?  Apparently not, for the apostles and the early Christians unanimously expected and earthly Kingdom.  This was the Jewish tradition that Christ inherited; and he taught his followers to pray to the Father, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.[1]     

The Messiah commissioned the apostles to preach the gospel of the kingdom in Matthew 10:5-7:

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 

The apostles were ordered to limit their ministry to the Jews only.  They could not preach on the kingdom to the Gentiles or even to the Samaritans, who had some Jewish blood.  Even though people from every nation would be able to enjoy the kingdom, its coming was solely dependent upon Israel’s response.

As Jesus and His apostles preached, the message started to be rejected.  Jesus changed His tenor in response, denouncing those cities where His miracles had been done but yet not responded to with repentance (Matt. 11:20-24).  The Pharisees made things irreparable, when as leaders of Israel, they attributed the Spirit’s work through Jesus to Satan (Matt. 12:22-24).  Such blasphemy against the Spirit was so severe that Jesus said it could not be forgiven, either in the current age or the one to come (Matt. 12:31-32).

THE KINGDOM’S MYSTERY AGE

In transitioning to chapter 13, the great Matthew scholar Stanley Toussaint commented:

The die is cast. The religious leaders have openly declared their opposition to their Messiah. The people of Israel are amazed at the power of Jesus and His speech, but they fail to recognize Him as their King. Not seeing the Messiahship of Jesus in His words and works, they have separated the fruit from the tree. Because of this opposition and spiritual apathy, the King adapts His teaching method and the doctrine concerning the coming of the kingdom to the situation.[2]     

Matthew 13 opens with the words that same day, connecting it to Jesus’ rejection via the unpardonable sin in the previous chapter (v. 1).  Jesus now began to work from the position that He had been rejected as King Messiah.  This rejection would only grow until it culminated in Him going to the cross.  Subsequently, the kingdom was no longer available to Israel at this time.  No longer would Jesus preach on the nearness of the kingdom.  He still continued to teach on the kingdom, but readjusted the focus toward its mysteries.

Matthew 13:10-11:

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

These newly presented teachings on the kingdom were mysteries, meaning that they were never clearly disclosed to any of the prophets (cf. Col. 1:26).  A previously unknown period in the overall prophetic program of the kingdom was being revealed (cf. Eph. 3:4-6).  This is the current age, one between the First and Second Coming.  The fact that this period was hidden from the prophets is precisely why their teachings on the two comings of Jesus are intertwined.  The parables were for the concealing of the truth from the unbelieving multitudes and for the revealing of the truth to those few who did believe (v. 11).

The parable of the sower is on the gospel of the kingdom (vv. 3-8; 18-23).  Those who heard and understood were empowered to bear fruit (v. 23).  The next six parables were for the purpose of teaching on this mystery age as it relates to the kingdom’s future fulfillment.  In this new era, the wheat, representing the sons of the kingdom, would grow among the tares, representing the sons of the Devil.  Only when it ends will the tares be separated from the wheat, to be gathered and burned (vv. 24-30; 36-43).  Both those who truly know Jesus and those who merely say they do are grouped together, just as a dragnet catches good and bad fish.  Angels will remove the wicked from among the righteous and throw them into the furnace (vv. 47-50).  Sin, typified by leaven (cf. Ex. 12:15; Matt. 16:6; 1 Cor. 5:6-9), would continue to increase in the interim (v. 33).

Big things have small beginnings.  The mustard seed, small like Jesus’ ministry, would ultimately bring forth the long awaited Kingdom of God (vv. 31-32).  The kingdom had been hidden for hundreds of years, ever since the Shekinah departed the temple.  Those Jews now blessed enough to stumble upon this treasure should be willing to sacrifice everything for it (v. 44).  Likewise, the Jews who were actively looking for the kingdom and found it should have been eager to sell all they had for this pearl of great price (vv. 45-46).  No amount of wealth, possessions or attachments could ever match the value of inheriting the kingdom.

Jesus later alludes to the current age in Matthew 22:41-45:

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.”  He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”

In quoting Psalm 110:1, Jesus proved from Scripture that the Messiah was both the descendant of David and his divine lord.  This verse also prophecies the very timetable of the kingdom that the New Testament reveals.  After His rejection, Jesus ascended to the Father to sit at His right hand (cf. Acts 2:33; Heb. 1:3; Rev. 3:21).  During this period the enemies of Jesus are permitted to continue (cf. Is. 42:3; Matt. 12:20). Their rebellion will end with the Messiah returning to the earth to inaugurate the kingdom (cf. Rev. 19:15).

THE KINGDOM POSTPONED

With His rejection as the Davidic King firmly established, Jesus severely chastised the scribes and the Pharisees for almost the entirety of Matthew 23.  At the same time, He lamented over the people of Jerusalem, saying the following in verses 37-39:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!  See, your house is left to you desolate.  For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

What a yearning desire Jesus had to shelter His people!  Jerusalem’s house seems to refer to the temple, the Davidic Dynasty and the people as a whole.  The nation was to become hollow, absent the Messiah, until they finally attributed the Messianic blessing to Jesus (v. 39; cf. Ps. 118:26; Zech. 12:10).

The kingdom’s postponement is made most obvious in Matthew 25:31-34:

Matthew 25 Sheep and Goats“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Jesus is quite clear in saying that He will not sit on His throne until He comes again.  This unmistakable event has the Messiah coming in full glory and surrounded by angels.  He will separate the saved from the unsaved, bringing those who love Him into the then established kingdom.  Nothing like this happened at Pentecost, in 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem or at any other point in history thus far.  Put simply, the kingdom will only begin when Jesus returns to make it happen.  You cannot have a kingdom without a king.

[1] Will Durant, Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944), 564-565.

[2] Stanley Toussaint, Behold the King: A Study of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2005), 156.

Comments

  1. “For the kingdom of God is among you [because of My presence].” Luke 17:21b (Amp)
    “So we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us; we [as Christ’s representatives] plead with you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God.” 2 Cor. 5:20 (Amp)
    “What is the Kingdom of God?”
    http://www.gotquestions.org/kingdom-of-God.html
    “What is the Gospel of the kingdom?”
    http://www.gotquestions.org/gospel-of-the-kingdom.html

    • Matthew Ervin says:

      Luke 17:21 does not teach that the Kingdom was inaugurated. Jesus was simply saying that when the kingdom comes you don’t have to look for where it will be. For it will be incredibly obvious, an event none could miss. The verse further teaches that the kingdom was in the midst of the pharisees in that because the king was there, all the elements for its inception were present.

      Thank you for the 2 Corinthians verse as it supports this point. Believers are ambassadors in this world because they are not currently in their own kingdom. Ambassadors represent their kingdom in other lands.

      I encourage you to read the first two parts and see how the Bible itself defines the kingdom. Also read how Daniel defines the Kingdom here: http://appleeye.org/2016/01/14/the-kingdom-according-to-the-prophet-daniel/
      Then await the next installments that continue to look at its progression and deal with verses, that when used out of context, support kingdom inaugurated now thinking.

      The problem with gotquestions is that there are so many different people writing that often you can find articles to suit your opinion. Case in point, here is one that supports mine: http://www.gotquestions.org/premillennialism.html
      It does have the benefit of using some genuine exegesis.

      In Messiah,
      Matthew

      P.S. Be wary of the using the amplified version. It literally adds words to the real Bible.

Leave a Reply