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Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

“THE STONE THAT THE BUILDERS REJECTED”

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN MATTHEW’S GOSPEL

by

Mark K. Perry

The Kingdom of God: 342, 4:00 P .M .

Dr. Rolland D. McCune

July 23, 2008


“THE STONE THAT THE BUILDERS REJECTED”
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN MATTHEW’S GOSPEL

Introduction

Possibly one of the most interesting comparisons of the four gospels is how they begin.

While Mark records John the Baptist bursting onto the scene, preparing the way for the coming

Messiah (Mark 1:4, 7–8), Luke begins his “orderly account”1 of Jesus’ life and ministry with the

announcement of John the Baptist’s birth to Zechariah (Luke 1:5). John starts at the very

beginning: eternity past when only the Triune God existed (John 1:1). Matthew begins his gospel

with a genealogical record of Jesus lineage, starting with Abraham (Matt 1:2). These differences

in introduction demonstrate the different purposes of each writer as he penned his gospel.

From beginning to end, Matthew’s work is a “royal gospel,” focusing on the kingdom of

God and its messianic Ruler, the “Son of David.”2 From the magi’s search for the one “born king

of the Jews” (Matt 2:2) to Pilate’s charge, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Matt 27:37),

Matthew portrays Jesus as the Messiah, the Davidic King, come to the nation of Israel offering

the kingdom the prophets foretold. In fact, a familiar refrain in Matthew’s gospel is “This was to

fulfill what the Lord has spoken by the prophet” (Matt 1:22; 2:5, 15, 17, et al.). No other gospel

emphasizes to this degree Jesus’ royal credentials, his ministry to the nation of Israel, and his

precise fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

1
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
(W heaton, IL: Crossway, 2001).
2
D. Edmond Hiebert, An Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospels and Acts (Chicago: Moody Press,
1975), p. 44.

1
2

Statement of Purpose

These emphases suggest that the kingdom of God is an overarching motif in Matthew’s

gospel, affecting what and why he wrote. This paper will trace the kingdom of God through

Matthew’s gospel, seeking to connect that theme with Matthew’s purpose in writing his gospel.

The Gospel of Matthew

Matthew’s gospel, which appears first in our New Testament, is unique for many reasons.

It is the longest gospel and the most Jewish. It shares a great deal of similarity with the other

synoptics, yet its emphasis is unique.3

The Writer

Although the book itself does not mention the author’s name, church tradition dating

from the earliest days holds that Matthew, the disciple of Jesus, wrote this gospel.4 As a tax

collector (and probably a dishonest one), Matthew gratefully acknowledged God’s grace in

calling him to be a disciple (Matt 9:9). In fact, the name Matthew means “gift of God,”5 and he

uses that name for himself while the other gospels use his pre-conversion name, Levi (Matt 9:9;

cf. Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27–28).6 Matthew’s background as a tax collector shines through in his

description of Jesus’ answer about paying tribute to Caesar (Matt 22:15–22), his account of Peter

3
This paper will not discuss or interact with the issue of Markan priority or source documents. For a concise
summary of the issue, see Ed Glasscock, Matthew (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997), pp. 17–21.
4
D. A. Carson, “Matthew” in volume 8 of EBC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), p. 17; Hiebert, NT
Introduction, pp. 48–50.
5
Glasscock, Matthew, p. 23.
6
Hiebert, NT Introduction, pp. 59–60.
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and Jesus paying the temple tax (Matt 17:24–27), and the specific amounts he records in Jesus’

parable of the unforgiving debtor (Matt 18:23–25).7

The Recipients

The testimony of church history as well as the internal evidence of the book indicate that

Matthew wrote this gospel to Jewish Christians living in the land of Palestine, probably around

A .D . 61–64. The Jewish connection is clearly indicated by the number of direct Old Testament

quotations (54),8 with even more allusions to Old Testament ideas and wording. However, the

recipients were not just Jews, but specifically Jewish Christians.9 While Matthew’s gospel does

have an evangelistic thrust, presenting the person and work of Jesus Christ, Origen (quoted by

Eusebius) claimed that the gospel of Matthew “was prepared for the converts from Judaism.”10

This understanding fits the kingdom theme of Matthew’s gospel.

The Purpose/Occasion of the Gospel

Matthew’s gospel answers a question raised by Jewish Christians: “If Jesus came as the

Messiah prophesied by the Old Testament, why are we not now in the kingdom?” Thus Matthew

undertakes the explanation and answer of where the kingdom of God is now. This overriding

theme and purpose guides Matthew’s selection of material—John said that if everything Jesus

said or did was recorded, there would never be room for all of it (John 21:25).

7
Ibid.
8
Kurt and Barbara Aland, eds., Novum Testamentum Graece (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1994), pp.
888–889).
9
Hiebert, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 62.
10
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6:25:4.
4

During the time of the gospel’s writing, the church was in its second generation, thirty

years removed from the events of the life of Christ. Many Jews, Christians and unbelievers,

would not be personally familiar with the events of Jesus’ life and death. Matthew wanted his

readers to see that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the King of the Jews. The obvious objection of a

Jewish believer to that claim would be, “Where then is the kingdom the Old Testament

promised?” Pentecost summarizes:

Matthew wrote not to prove to the Jews that Jesus actually was the Messiah—as his Gospel is
so frequently interpreted. Rather, he wrote to explain why—after the true Messiah came and
was introduced to Israel by the appointed forerunner and authenticated Himself and His offer
of the kingdom by the miracles that He performed—the kingdom He came to establish was
not instituted in fulfillment of the covenants and promises. In his Gospel Matthew traced the
nation’s response to Christ’s offer of Himself and His kingdom and he showed that the
kingdom failed to be established, not because it was not a legitimate offer by a legitimate
Messiah, but because the nation knowingly rejected Jesus as Messiah and spurned His offer
of the covenanted kingdom.11

This is in fact the very question Jesus’ own disciples asked him on the cusp of his

ascension: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Jesus’ response

to this question is telling: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by

his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you

will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”

(Acts 1:7–8). Williquette summarizes the significance of this exchange nicely:

First, the kingdom in question had once existed. Second, the kingdom in question was not
then in existence. Third, the question concerned the time, not the nature of the kingdom.
Fourth the time of the kingdom in question was eschatological. Fifth, the nature of the
kingdom was not merely abstract. Sixth, the disciple’s [sic] question was perfectly
appropriate. This seems apparent from the fact that Jesus did not reprimand or correct them.
Seventh, Jesus never indicates that His view of the kingdom is anything but eschatological.12

11
J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1995), p. 265.
12
Scott W illiquette, “Is There a Present Form of the Kingdom?” (unpublished paper, Detroit Baptist
Theological Seminary, 1991), pp. 33–34.
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It is reasonable to assume that second generation Christians thirty years later might have

that same question: if Jesus was the Messiah the Old Testament promised, where is the restored

kingdom the Old Testament prophesied the Messiah would bring? Matthew gives the answer in

three parts: first, Jesus was the Messiah, the King of the Jews, foretold by the Old Testament

writers. Second, Jesus came to the nation of Israel offering the kingdom, but third, Israel rejected

the King and refused his kingdom.13 This explains the current absence of the kingdom: God’s

kingdom program is in abeyance until the King returns a second time in judgment.

Matthew clearly delineates Jesus’ messianic credentials (Matt 1–2) and chronicles Jesus’

open proclamation and explanation of his kingdom program (Matt 3–10). He details the Jewish

leaders’ rejection of the King and his kingdom (Matt 11–16) and Jesus’ private explanation of his

return to Heaven, from where he will one day return with his kingdom in power and glory to

judge the nations (Matt 24–25). Therefore, Matthew’s purpose in writing his gospel is oriented

toward an understanding of the kingdom of God. He demonstrates to Jewish Christians first that

Jesus was the Messiah, the Davidic Ruler promised by the Old Testament prophets. Second, he

shows why the true King came yet did not establish the kingdom.

The King’s Credentials (Matthew 1:1–2:23)

The first two chapters establish the credentials of Jesus of Nazareth. In the first verse,

Matthew makes a bold statement about Jesus: he is the Christ, the son of David, and the son of

Abraham. Working deductively, Matthew’s first two chapters put forth the supporting arguments

for this claim.

13
Joseph A. Fitzmeyer,“Anti-Semitism and the Cry of ‘All the People,’” TS 26 (Dec 1965): 670.
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A Royal Lineage (Matthew 1)

Matthew’s gospel opens with “the book of the genealogy” (bivblo~ genevsew~) of Jesus

of Nazareth, proving that his lineage is in order to be the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of David.

The title “Son of David” does not refer merely to the fact that Jesus was David’s descendent, but

that he was the messianic Ruler promised by the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam 7:12–16). As a

descendent of David, he is also a “son of Abraham,” Abraham’s seed through whom God

promised to bless all the nations of the world (Gen 12:1–2).14

Beginning then with Abraham, Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy through David,

described not insignificantly as “the king,”15 Solomon, and the kings of Israel up to the captivity.

The line continues through Zerubbabel, and down to Joseph, described as “the husband of Mary,

of whom Jesus was born” (Matt 1:16). The passive verb ejgennhvqn stands in contrast to the

active verb (ejgevnnhsen) which occurs throughout the genealogy. Instead of stating that “Joseph

was the father of Jesus” in keeping with the pattern of the passage, Matthew says that Jesus was

born “out of Mary” (ejx h|~).16 The reason for this variation is twofold: first, as Matthew goes on

to explain (Matt 1:18–25), Joseph was the adoptive father, but not the biological father of Jesus.17

However, as his adoptive father, Joseph passed on this right to rule as David’s son.18 Second, the

line of Jeconiah was cursed by God (Jer 22:24–30), but since Jesus was technically Mary’s son

and not Joseph’s, he was not under this curse. Therefore, this genealogy establishes the legal

14
Carson proposes the possibility that Matthew is setting the reader up for the final verses of his gospel
where Jesus sends his disciples out to make disciples of “all the nations” (see Carson, “Matthew,” p. 62).
15
Richard Vinson,“‘King of the Jews’: Kingship and Anti-Kingship Rhetoric in Matthew’s Birth, Baptism,
and Transfiguration Narratives,” RevExp 104 (Spring 2007): 252; Carson, “Matthew,” p. 66.
16
Herman C. W aetjen,“The Genealogy as the Key to the Gospel according to M atthew,” JBL 95 (1976):
217.
17
Glasscock, Matthew, p. 39.
18
W aetjen,“Genealogy as Key to Matthew,” p. 217.
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right of Jesus to accede to the throne of David. He is the rightful King of the Jews, the Son of

David.

Jesus’ birth was divine in every way: it was announced by an angelic messenger to

Joseph, who explained that Mary’s pregnancy was truly from God, and not the breach of morality

it might have seemed. The angel addresses Joseph as a “son of David” and gives him instruction

to name the baby Jesus (a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew [¾vu/hyÒ —Joshua). This virgin birth

continues the connection to the Old Testament Matthew has been establishing: “all this took

place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet” (Matt 1:22).19 Matthew’s point is clear:

the coming of Jesus was in exact accordance with Old Testament prophecy.

A Royal Birth (Matthew 2)

Having given the royal pedigree of Jesus and his supernatural conception, Matthew

passes over his birth in Bethlehem with one phrase20 and focuses instead on Herod, the king

appointed by Rome (Matt 2:1). Herod receives “wise men” (mavgoi) from the east who have

come to pay homage to the newborn “king of the Jews” (Matt 2:2). This chapter continues two

themes Matthew introduced in the first chapter: the emphasis on Jesus’ kingly character and the

close ties Jesus’ birth had with Old Testament prophecy.

This chapter also focuses on geography. Without mentioning how Mary and Joseph came

to Bethlehem, Matthew answers an objection raised later against Jesus’ messianic claims: how

could a Galilean be the Messiah (John 7:41–42)? France notes, “Chapter 1 has been geared to

19
For an extended discussion of how the virgin birth fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy, see R. Bruce Compton,“The
Immanuel Prophecy in Isaiah 7:14–16 and Its Use in Matthew 1:23: Harmonizing Historical Context and Single
Meaning,” DBSJ 12 (2007): 3–15. For an opposing viewpoint, see S. V. McCasland, “Matthew Twists the
Scriptures,” in The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts, G. K. Beale, ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), p. 146.
20
Vinson, “King of the Jews,” p. 258.
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showing Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, the son of David, by means of his name and genealogy.

Chapter 2 is now providing a geographical argument for the same point, and at the same time

extending it further to show that his mission is wider than even the ideal extent of Israel.”21

Matthew uses four fulfillment quotations in this chapter to record the geographical movement of

Jesus. First, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Davidic city, and the prophesied birthplace of the

Messiah (Matt 2:5–6; cf. Micah 5:2). It was to Bethlehem that Herod sent the distinguished

foreign visitors with their lavish gifts for the young Jesus.22 Second, after being warned by an

angel in a dream, Joseph fled with Jesus and Mary into hiding in Egypt, staying there until the

death of Herod. In this sense, God called his Son back from Egypt, just as he had brought his

people Israel out of Egypt (Matt 2:15; cf. Hos 11:1). Third, Herod’s slaughter of the children in

Bethlehem was likened to the mourning in Ramah as the Israelites were taken away into captivity

(Matt 2:17–18; cf. Jer 31:15). France suggests that an understanding of the context of Jeremiah

31 throws fresh light on this quotation, since it proclaims the joy of the restoration from

captivity.23 This is analogous to the joy felt with the coming of God’s Messiah to restore the

kingdom.24 Finally, the fourth quotation explains why Jesus was known as a Nazarene (Matt

2:23).25

21
R. T. France,“The Formula-Quotations of Matthew 2 and the Problem of Communication,” in The Right
Doctrine from the Wrong Texts, G. K. Beale, ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), p. 120.
22
Glasscock notes that Matthew’s focus on the mavg oiwas not that they were kings, but Gentiles,
demonstrating the universal impact of Jesus’ birth (Matthew, p. 51).
23
France, “Quotations of Matthew 2,” p. 128.
24
Carson, “Matthew,” p. 95.
25
To say that this is a difficult passage would be an understatement. It seems clear the point that Matthew is
making: the Messiah, although born in Bethlehem, would call Nazareth home. See Maarten J. J. Menken,“The
Sources of the Old Testament Quotation in Matthew 2:23,” JBL 120 (2001): 451–468.
9

The Kingdom Proclaimed and Explained Openly (Matthew 3:1–11:1)

In the first half of his gospel, Matthew presents the Son of David, Jesus of Nazareth,

publically announcing the kingdom of God and explaining his claim to be the Davidic King. In

fact, Jesus’ message is summarized in Matthew 4:17, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at

hand.”26

John the Baptist Prepares the Way (Matthew 3)

In the third chapter, Matthew introduces Jesus’ older cousin, John the Baptist, who

appears in the wilderness around Judea preaching the arrival of the kingdom of God. Again,

Matthew’s constant appeal to what “was spoken by the prophet” is heard (Matt 3:3; cf. Isa 40:3).

John the Baptist came as the forerunner of the Messiah and his kingdom.27 Matthew’s description

of John’s attire and appearance would immediately remind a Jewish reader of the Old Testament

prophet Elijah (Matt 3:4; cf. 2 Kgs 1:8).28 Matthew’s attention to the Elijah connection is

significant because of Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah’s coming would precede the Day of the

Lord (Mal 4:5–6).

John’s message was one of repentance: turning to God from sin demonstrated by a

renewed obedience to the Law (Matt 3:8), the prerequisite for the restoration of the prophetic

kingdom (Mal 4:6). Those who submitted to John’s baptism were demonstrating obedience to his

command to repent in preparation for the coming Messiah. Jesus, however, since he was sinless,

26
It should be noted that although Matthew prefers the term “kingdom of heaven,” this is synonymous with
the term “kingdom of God” (Matt 19:23–24; cf. Mark 10:23–25). Any conclusions about the kingdom of God based
on a supposed difference between the two terms is grasping at semantical straws. See the discussion in Carson,
“Matthew,” p. 100.
27
Mark Saucy,“The Kingdom-of-God Sayings in Matthew,” BSac 151 (Apr–Jun 1994): 177.
28
R. Bruce Compton, “Gospels,” unpublished class notes, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2007, p.
54; Glasscock, Matthew, p. 71.
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did not need to repent. Rather, his baptism demonstrated once again who he was and the purpose

for which he had been sent. The presence of the Holy Spirit “coming to rest on him” was a clear

messianic reference to Isaiah 11:2, “The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him.” As the voice

from heaven stated, he was the Son of God, a term indicating both his deity and strongly alluding

to his role as the Davidic ruler: “You are my Son” (Ps 2:7).29 Thus, Jesus’ baptism is yet another

kingdom display.

The King Defeats the Devil (Matthew 4)

Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, Matthew records Jesus going into the wilderness to

be tested for forty days.30 These three testings also have kingdom overtones. The first temptation

came as a challenge to his God-given mission as Son: would he use his power to satisfy his own

needs? Jesus responded that his very life was to do the Father’s will (Matt 4:4–5). The second

temptation challenged Jesus regarding the proclamation of his kingdom: would he use his power

to “dazzle” the people? Jesus responded that God was not to be put to the test. The final

temptation challenged Jesus in the timing of his kingdom: would he be willing to forego

suffering and rejection to enjoy his kingdom reign immediately?31 Again, Jesus responded that

God alone was worthy of worship and obedience.

Having completed his testing, Jesus began his kingdom ministry. The geographical

location of his ministry fulfilled Old Testament prophecy (Matt 4:14–16; cf. Isa 9:1–2).32 His

message called for the spiritual conditions that the kingdom required: repentance, just as John

29
Compton, “Gospels,” p. 57; Glasscock, Matthew, p. 78; Vinson, “King of the Jews,” p. 262.
30
Compton and Carson both point out the parallel between the children of Israel’s failure upon being tested
for forty years in the wilderness and the Son of God’s victory in his testing for forty days in the wilderness
(Compton, “Gospels,” p. 59; Carson, “Matthew,” p. 112).
31
Glasscock, Matthew, pp. 88–89.
32
Carson, “Matthew,” pp. 116–117.
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had called for.33 That Jesus was offering the genuine kingdom of God prophesied by the Old

Testament is supported by three proofs: his teaching ministry (Matt 4:23; cf. Isa 2:3), his

miraculous healing ministry (Matt 4:23–24; cf. Isa 35:5–6), and his ministry to all of

geographical Israel.34 The kingdom of God was at hand: “In truth, the long-awaited Kingdom of

Old Testament prophecy had come so near to the men of that generation that they had actually

seen the face of the King and also had witnessed the supernatural works, which were the

predicted harbingers of His Kingdom.”35

The Requirements for the Kingdom (Matthew 5–7)

The prominence of the Sermon on the Mount discourse in Matthew’s gospel cannot be

overemphasized. Furthermore, in this “crown jewel” of the book, it is the kingdom of God that is

front and center. In fact, the sermon begins with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the

kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3). It should be noted that Jesus’ instruction was primarily for his

disciples, although there were others in the audience (Matt 5:2).36 It deals with prerequisites for

entering the kingdom as well as standards for kingdom living. In Compton’s words, the Sermon

on the Mount

gives the ethical standard not only for those who are anticipating entrance into the kingdom,
but for kingdom life as well (Matt 5:19–20). Because it assumes the kingdom is imminent
and because it is addressed to Jews who are under the Law, the sermon has direct application
for Jesus’ audience and for those who will be living in the tribulation period. At the same
time, because the sermon gives the standards for kingdom life, it must be directly applicable
for those living in the kingdom as well.37

33
Saucy, “Kingdom-of-God Sayings,” p. 179.
34
Ibid., pp. 179–181.
35
Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom (W inona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 2001), p. 273.
36
Glasscock, Matthew, pp. 101–102.
37
Compton, “Gospels,” p. 63.
12

This discourse describes the kingdom of God and its various aspects. McClain has

delineated six elements of the Old Testament mediatorial kingdom that are reflected in the future

prophetic (millennial) kingdom.38 The stated difference of the New Covenant from the Old

Covenant involves a supernatural internalizing of God’s law (Jer 31:31–34). Similarly, this

discourse takes the aspects of the Old Testament mediatorial kingdom and shows them to be the

external outworking of a supernatural internal change. For example, while the physical act of

murder was forbidden in the mediatorial kingdom, the internal sin of anger is supernaturally dealt

with in the prophetic kingdom (Matt 5:21–26).

Notice how Jesus internalizes the requirements of the mediatorial kingdom. The spiritual

basis for the kingdom is repentance (Matt 3:2; 4:17), because only the “pure in heart will see

God” (Matt 5:8). Morally, God’s Law must be obeyed not just externally, but from the heart: not

only must physical immorality be avoided, but the lust of the heart must be dealt with summarily

(Matt 5:27–30). Socially, God will meet the needs of the poor through the generosity of others,

but those gifts will be given not for self-aggrandizement, but secretly for the glory of God (Matt

6:1–4). Liturgically, worship cannot be a hypocritical façade, because it will come from a pure

heart before God and others (Matt 5:23–24). The political climate of the coming kingdom of God

will be based on the assumption that all will be regenerated, so retaliation and punishment are

inappropriate (Matt 5:38–40). Physically, God will provide every need and hunger, nakedness,

and poverty will be eliminated (Matt 6:25–34). At the close of his sermon, Jesus describes how

outward obedience demonstrates the heart (Matt 7:15–20).

38
The six elements are spiritual, moral, social, ecclesiastical (or liturgical), political, and physical (McClain,
Greatness of the Kingdom, pp. 286–303).
13

Those who heard Jesus’ discourse were amazed at how he taught and applied the Law

with authority (Matt 7:28–29), dealing with internals and not merely externals. Indeed, he taught

the Law as one who did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matt

5:17). The King came “fulfilling all righteousness” (Matt 3:15) and satisfying every one of the

Law’s demands. While the Mosaic Law demonstrated man’s inability and sinfulness, it pointed

out the Son of Man’s perfection and holiness.

The Kingdom Miracles (Matthew 8–9)

In the next few chapters of his gospel, Matthew continues to marshal support that Jesus

was the messianic Ruler, the Son of David. As mentioned earlier, the prophets spoke of

supernatural miracles of healing that would accompany the coming of the kingdom of God:

“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the

lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Isa 35:5–6a). Matthew

catalogs several of Jesus’ miracles in chapters eight and nine to demonstrate that Jesus’

messianic claim was in complete order with the Old Testament prophecy (Matt 8:17–18; cf. Isa

53:4). Each miracle recorded by Matthew seems to have some special significance. Jesus

demonstrated his royal claims by healing a leper (Matt 8:1–4), significant because leprosy was

both a physical disease and a moral defilement under the Mosaic Law (cf. Lev 14). He

recognized the faith of a Gentile solider and healed his servant (Matt 8:5–13). He calmed the Sea

of Galilee, a supernatural and undisputable act (Matt 8:23–27). He cast demons out of two men,

demonstrating his superiority to evil spirits (Matt 8:28–34). He reversed the effects of disease by

healing a paralytic (Matt 9:1–8) and raised a girl from the dead (Matt 9:18–26). He healed two

blind men who demonstrated their faith in his messianic credentials (Matt 9:27–31), two men
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who “were able to ‘see’ more than those who had sight.”39 He healed a demon-oppressed mute

man (Matt 9:32–34).

Running below the surface of Matthew’s kingdom miracle theme is a surprising

undercurrent: Israelites who knew the Old Testament and were ostensibly looking for the

kingdom of God saw these undeniable demonstrations of kingdom power but refused to believe.

After Jesus cast the demons out of the maniacs, the Gadarenes (like the demons) begged him to

leave them alone, apparently more put out by the loss of their pigs (Matt 8:34).40 The scribes

silently and arrogantly questioned Jesus’ credentials and accused him of blasphemy (Matt 9:3).

The Pharisees complained about Jesus’ ministry to social outcasts (Matt 9:11) and his refusal to

follow rabbinic traditions of fasting (Matt 9:14). Finally, although “Never was anything like this

seen in Israel” (Matt 9:33), the religious leaders began to attribute his supernatural authority to

demon possession (Matt 9:34). The kingdom of God was at hand, but Israel was rejecting her

king.

The Kingdom Missionary Program (Matthew 10)

On the heels of Jesus’ command to pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest field (Matt

9:38), Jesus commissioned his twelve closest disciples to go out and continue his ministry of

preaching (Matt 10:1). This should not be confused with the disciples’ initial calling to follow

Jesus; this was a new responsibility.41 Jesus’ instructions were clear: the disciples were to

minister only among the Jews, the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:5–6). This

distinction proves that their message was not a “salvation” message for all but a summons to

39
Compton, “Gospels,” p. 80.
40
Carson, “Matthew,” p. 219.
41
Glasscock, Matthew, p. 219.
15

Israel to repent and accept the promised Old Testament kingdom. They were to proclaim the

same message Jesus and John preached: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 10:7; cf. 3:2;

4:17). That the kingdom was “at hand” (h[ggiken) indicated that the King had arrived offering

the kingdom.42 Their preaching was accompanied with the same kingdom miracles that Jesus had

performed in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Matt 10:8).

Jesus’ commands to the disciples not to take extra money or clothing should be

understood as stemming from their role as royal emissaries (Matt 10:8–15). As heralds of the

king, they shared his authority and provision. However, as Jesus also explains, their identification

with him would also bring great persecution (Matt 10:16–25). Jesus concludes, “So have no fear

of them” (Matt 10:26). As his representatives, they could proclaim the King and his kingdom

boldly, because although their identification with Jesus would guarantee persecution, God would

vindicate their truthfulness in the end, the worst their opponents could do would be to take their

physical life, God was intimately acquainted with the details of their life, and he would be in

complete control and care for them (Matt 10:26–31).43 The acceptance of the kingdom of God as

it was proclaimed would not be universal: the response to the kingdom would divide families and

come between relationships (Matt 10:34–36). However, love and devotion to God would

supercede family ties for those who were truly worthy of the Messiah and his kingdom (Matt

10:37–39). Although they would be persecuted for their faith in Jesus, they would be ultimately

and eternally rewarded (Matt 10:40–42). With these words, Jesus sent out his disciples to

proclaim the coming of the King and his kingdom (Matt 11:1).

42
Ibid., p. 223. See Stanley J. Toussaint, and Jay A. Quine, “No, Not Yet: The Contingency of God’s
Promised Kingdom,” BSac 164 (Apr–Jun 2007): 138.
43
John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World (W heaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), pp. 120–124.
16

The message of the kingdom of God, proclaimed openly and freely to the nation of Israel,

was this: Jesus of Nazareth was the promised messianic Ruler come from God. The nation must

repent and accept Jesus as their king. Saucy summarizes:

For Matthew, then, the antecedent of Jesus’ original message and ministry is clear. In every
way Jesus’ “gospel about the kingdom” was the gospel of the Old Testament prophets. In
word and miracle, proclamation and raising the dead, the longed-for promise for Israel was in
the dawn of fulfillment. For the kingdom the implications are apparent. Matthew’s vital
connection between the ministries of John and Jesus, coupled with their literal fulfillment of
the Old Testament at all other points physical and spiritual, warrants a similar conclusion for
the kingdom: the kingdom message of John, Jesus, and the disciples in Matthew 1–10 was
the same kingship of Yahweh called for in the Old Testament. This included not only the
dynamic rule of Yahweh’s sovereignty, but also the sphere or realm of a restored nation of
Israel in which this rule would be exercised.44

The Kingdom Rejected and Explained in Parables (Matthew 11:2–20:24)

The first part of Matthew’s argument has been made: Jesus of Nazareth was the promised

Messiah, the Davidic Ruler. This was proven by his fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and

his miraculous works. As Jesus answered John the Baptist’s disciples, he did the works the Old

Testament prophesied the coming King would do, and everything about his person and ministry

fulfilled the Old Testament (Matt 11:2–6). Now Matthew’s burden is to show why the kingdom

of God is now in abeyance: the nation of Israel repeatedly and officially rejected both the King

himself and his offer of the prophesied kingdom.

General Rejection of the King (Matthew 11)

In contrast to the generally positive tone of the first section, Matthew’s description of the

growing opposition to Jesus and his ministry sounds an ominous note. This is not to say that

44
Saucy, “Kingdom of God Sayings,” pp. 181–182.
17

there was no previous opposition (cf. Matt 9:34), but now the dissent began to grow, culminating

in full-blown rejection of Jesus and his ministry.45

Jesus’ aside to the crowds about John the Baptist indicates that John was not merely a

prophet, but the “messenger” predicted by Malachi who would officially precede the Messiah,

yet another affirmation of His kingship (Matt 11:7–11; cf. Mal 3:1). Should the nation accept the

King and his kingdom, John the Baptist would be “Elijah,” the forerunner of the Day of the Lord

(Matt 11:13–14; cf. Mal 4:5). However, Jesus indicted the people for their rejection of both John

the Baptist and himself (Matt 11:16–19). Israel had witnessed the mighty works of the Messiah,

but they failed to repent, the basic demand of the gospel of the kingdom: “Repent, for the

kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt 11:20–24; cf. 4:17).46 For those who did not reject the

kingdom, Jesus thanked the Father for revealing his person to those who believed on him.47

Those who saw Jesus’ works and believed that he was the Son of God did not reveal superior

character or intellect; rather, they demonstrated the gracious election of God (Matt 11:25–30; cf.

16:17).

The Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12)

Chapter twelve outlines the zenith of the nation of Israel’s rejection of her Messiah,

culminating in the unpardonable sin, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.48 The main

antagonists of Jesus were the religious leadership of Israel, the scribes and Pharisees. They

confronted Jesus and his disciples for plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath (Matt 12:1–8)

45
Glasscock, Matthew, p. 241.
46
McClain, Greatness of the Kingdom, p. 311.
47
Carson, “Matthew,” p. 274.
48
For an extensive treatment of this concept, see W illiam W . Combs,“The Blasphemy against the Holy
Spirit” (unpublished Th.D. dissertation, Grace Theological Seminary, 1985).
18

and opposed him when he healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath in a synagogue

(Matt 12:9–14). Jesus’ miracles fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecies that the Messiah would enjoy the

blessing of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of the theocratic anointing.49 His healing miracles pointed

directly to the Holy Spirit’s work, as those so well-versed in the Old Testament Scriptures should

have seen. However, instead of acknowledging the work of the Holy Spirit, they attributed it to

Satan!50

As Matthew had mentioned earlier, the Pharisees had previously accused Jesus of casting

out demons by Satan’s power (Matt 9:34). As Jesus cast the demon out of a blind and mute man,

the people were wondering, “This cannot be the Son of David, can it?” (Matt 12:23).51 The

Pharisees’ response was that Jesus cast out demons by the power of the prince of the

demons—effectively attributing the Holy Spirit’s work to Satan. Jesus responded that to assert

that Satan was undermining his own kingdom was foolish (Matt 12:26). Furthermore,

“approved” Jewish exorcists cast out demons—by whose power did they cast out those

demons?52 (Matt 12:27). The conclusion should have been unmistakable: Jesus of Nazareth was

performing undeniable kingdom miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit in clear fulfillment of

the Old Testament, demonstrating that “the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt 12:28).53

49
Rolland D. McCune, “Systematic Theology II,” unpublished class notes, Detroit Baptist Theological
Seminary, 2001, pp. 171–173.
50
McClain, Greatness of the Kingdom, pp. 314–315.
51
The rhetorical question mhvt i ou|t ov~ ejs tin oJ uiJo ;~ Dauivd indicates some doubt on the part of the crowd
about whether or not Jesus actually was the Messiah. See Glasscock, Matthew, p. 268 and Carson, “Matthew,” p.
288.
52
W illiam W . Combs, “Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit,” DBSJ 9 (2004): 74–75.
53
Much ink has been spilled in various attempts to coerce some present form of the kingdom of God out of
this verse. The verb e[f qasen could be translated “has come to” [you]. In other words, Jesus’ miracles provided an
unassailable case for his role as the Davidic Ruler. By rejecting the King, they were rejecting the kingdom of God,
and worse, ascribing its power to demons. In the words of Saucy, “Jesus, then, in Matthew was not simply the Herald
of the kingdom; He was also the Bearer of the kingdom, and His ministry would thereby chart the course of the
kingdom” (Saucy, “Kingdom of God Sayings,” p. 184).
19

This was not just slandering a man of God, but blaspheming the Holy Spirit and his miracle-

working power, a sin that carried eternal ramifications (Matt 12:31–32).54 The religious leaders

had not accidentally or mistakenly rejected the Messiah; rather, they were demonstrating by their

actions the evil of their hearts (Matt 12:33–37).

Not only was Jesus rejected by the people and their leaders, his own family turned away

from him (Matt 12:46–50; 13:53–57).55 The kingdom of God was offered with all of the

attending signs and miracles, and still the people of Israel refused to repent. This is Matthew’s

answer to his readers’ question, “Where is the kingdom now?” “Why was the kingdom said to be

near and then after Matthew 12 was never again announced as being near in Jesus’ ministry? The

answer is that Israel rejected Jesus as the Messiah.”56

The Kingdom Parables (Matthew 13)

After the culmination of this rejection by the religious leaders, Jesus’ teaching of the

kingdom of God took the form of parables. Glasscock observes, “Chapter 13 seems to mark a

shift in the public ministry of the Messiah, demonstrating that a judgment has been passed

against this ‘evil and adulterous generation’ (12:39). This judgment is seen in the teaching of

parables. . . .”57 In response to his disciples’ question about their purpose, Jesus said that the

parables accomplished two ends: first, they revealed truth about the kingdom of God to his

disciples, and second, they concealed the truth from those who had rejected the King and his

54
Combs, “Blasphemy Against the Spirit,” pp. 92–93.
55
Saucy, “Kingdom of God Sayings,” p. 183.
56
Toussaint and Quine, “No, Not Yet,” p. 138.
57
Glasscock, Matthew, p. 281; cf. McClain, Greatness of the Kingdom, p. 322.
20

kingdom (Matt 13:10–13). This again was in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Matt

13:14–15; cf. Isa 6:9–10).

In the parables that Matthew records, Jesus sets forth the mystery of the kingdom of

God;58 that is, the kingdom of God will be in abeyance during an interregnum, the period of time

between its rejection and future acceptance.59 Here Jesus not only changes the method of his

teaching (parables) but also introduces new content to his message.60 First, the fact that the

kingdom of God was being rejected was not due to some defect in the kingdom itself or even in

the proclamation of the kingdom message. Rather, the problem was the “soil” of the hearts of

those who heard the message (Matt 13:3–9; 18–23). This was the very reason he was speaking in

parables.61 Second, during the interregnum, the time period until the “close of the age” (Matt

13:39), the children of the kingdom (believers) and the children of the evil one (unbelievers) will

exist side by side (something that cannot be said about the kingdom62). It might be difficult to tell

professors from possessors during that time, but all will be sorted out and the children of the

kingdom will enter into the kingdom of God (Matt 13:24–30, 36–43, 47–50).63 “The Jews knew

judgment would precede the arrival of the kingdom (Ezek 20:33–38). Thus if the kingdom was

near, so was judgment! But in Matthew 13 the Lord Jesus explained that a new age would

intervene before the coming of that judgment.”64 Third, although the kingdom’s coming was

humble and inauspicious, and Israel rejected and despised her Messiah, his second coming to

58
See Saucy, “Kingdom-of-God Sayings,” pp. 189–193 for a summary of different interpretations of ta;
musthvr ia th`~ basileiva ~ tw`n oujr anw`n .
59
McClain, Greatness of the Kingdom, p. 321; Toussaint and Quine, “No, Not Yet,” p. 139.
60
McClain, Greatness of the Kingdom, p. 324.
61
Toussaint and Quine, “No, Not Yet,” p. 139.
62
Ibid., p. 140.
63
McClain, Greatness of the Kingdom, p. 325.
64
Toussaint and Quine, “No, Not Yet,” p. 139.
21

establish his worldwide kingdom would be “in power and great glory” (Matt 13:31–33; cf.

24:30). Finally, those to whom God revealed the glory of his coming kingdom would give up

everything to enter it (Matt 13:44–45). As Jesus had previously told his followers, “Whoever

loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter

more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:37; cf. 38–39).

Clearly, a new age would take place before the kingdom came as prophesied, initiated by

Israel’s rejection of the King and his kingdom. The significance of the kingdom parables for

Matthew highlights the differences between Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God before and

after his rejection.65

Continued Opposition by the Pharisees (Matthew 14–16)

Matthew continues to document the growing tide of opposition to Jesus and his ministry.

He recounts the death of John the Baptist, murdered by Herod the tetrarch (Matt 14:1–12). This

was not only a travesty of justice, but also the rejection of the official kingdom messenger. Jesus

apparently grieved not only for John, but also for the nation of Israel who was rejecting her king

(Matt 14:13).

Matthew also records two miraculous feedings of great multitudes. In two similar

instances, Jesus fed 5,000 men along with their families from just five small loaves of bread and

two fish. The result was that all were satisfied and there were twelve baskets of leftovers (Matt

14:14–21). A second time, he fed 4,000 men with their families from seven loaves and “a few

small fish.” This time there were seven baskets remaining after all had their fill (Matt 15:32–39).

These miraculous feedings were kingdom miracles: one of the prophesied kingdom blessings was

65
Saucy, “Kingdom-of-God Sayings,” p. 193.
22

an abundance of physical food for the nation (Ezek 34:29; Amos 9:13).66 Jesus was once again

demonstrating that he was the promised Davidic Ruler.

Furthermore, his continued miracles of healing prove the same. Jesus literally abolished

the effects of disease and sickness in entire regions by his healing power (Matt 14:34–36). Not

only were the recipients of these miraculous healings blessed, those who observed glorified God

(Matt 15:29–31). Again, Matthew points out the faith of a Gentile. A Canaanite woman

professed her faith in Jesus as both divine and the messianic Ruler: “O Lord, Son of David”

(Matt 15:22). His ministry to her points out once again the blessing of the Messiah to Gentiles

who exercise saving faith in him.

It is at this point that Matthew brings us to Peter’s confession and Jesus’ announcement

of the coming church. In response to Jesus’ question as to who people thought he was, Peter

responded that he believed Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God (Matt 16:16). This was the

correct response, gained not by intellect or power, but by the gracious illumination of God (Matt

16:17).67 Furthermore, Jesus announced a new program for the future: “I will build my church,”

and in that church, the apostles would play a foundational role (cf. Eph 2:20). This church, or

assembly of believers that was still forthcoming, would enjoy a role of ruling authority (the “keys

to the kingdom”) in the coming kingdom (cf. Rev 5:10).68

Private Explanation (Matthew 17–20)

Whereas the previous chapters relate Jesus’ teaching to the multitudes, Matthew now

records another phase of Jesus’ ministry: the private explanation of his teaching to the disciples.

66
McClain, Greatness of the Kingdom, p. 238.
67
Glasscock, Matthew, p. 340.
68
McClain, Greatness of the Kingdom, pp. 329–330.
23

The parables were designed to hide truth from the people but teach it to his disciples, although

they required further explanation. Jesus repeatedly took his disciples aside, carefully and frankly

explaining to them what Israel’s rejection of the kingdom would mean.

Jesus had told his disciples, “There are some standing here who will not taste death until

they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matt 16:28). Immediately, Matthew records

the transfiguration of Jesus, something of a preview, or a taste of the glory of the coming

kingdom of God.69 This supernatural display featured several elements with kingdom overtones.70

First, this display of kingdom power was tangibly felt: they heard the voice and they saw the

brightness. It was not a “spiritual reign of God in man’s heart,” but a literal, physical

phenomenon. Second, the presence of Moses with Jesus is significant, since Moses was the

mediator of the covenant at Sinai, the initial constituting of the Old Testament kingdom. Once

again, it seems clear that the kingdom of God which Jesus proclaimed would be a restoration of

the Old Testament theocracy. Elijah was also an Old Testament character who was prophesied to

be the precursor of the Messiah (cf. Mal 4:6) and one who performed many miracles as a prophet

calling the people back to God’s Law. However, Jesus eclipses them all. It is also significant that

in this “kingdom in miniature,” there were together resurrected Old Testament saints (Moses and

Elijah) as well as living church-age saints (Peter, James, and John). This display, recorded by

Matthew, points out once again the fact that the kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus Christ was

the genuine Old Testament prophetic kingdom, rejected by Israel, but coming to be restored once

again in the future.

69
Ibid., p. 336.
70
Ibid., p. 337.
24

Jesus takes time once more to teach his disciples what kind of person will gain entrance

into the kingdom of God. It is a person who has humbled himself like a child before God (Matt

18:1–4). It is a person who has received God’s forgiveness, and as a result, forgives others as

well (Matt 18:15–35). It is a person who exercises child-like faith in Jesus (Matt 19:13–15). It is

a person who is willing to give up all to follow Jesus (Matt 19:16–22). It is a person who receives

divine enablement—“With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt

19:26). Finally, it is a person who enjoys the gracious election of the Master (Matt 20:1–16).

In this section, Matthew has shown the nation of Israel’s rejection of her Messiah and

Jesus’ announcement of a new age before the coming of the kingdom. From this point on, Jesus

continues on a collision course with Jerusalem (Matt 20:17–19).

The Kingdom Officially and Finally Rejected (Matthew 21:1–27:66)

Matthew’s gospel records in great detail this official and final rejection of the Davidic

King and his kingdom. The Pharisees had already demonstrated their rejection of Jesus by

attributing his kingdom power to Satan and Jesus had already proclaimed the new church age

before the coming of his kingdom, but this final week before his crucifixion was an official and

final rejection of Jesus by the nation of Israel. In Jerusalem, a majority of the nation of Israel

would be gathered for the Passover. All Jewish males age twenty and up were required to attend,

so there would have been thousands on hand. McClain summarizes:

The combination of all these circumstances—the important word of the Seventy, the personal
follow-up ministry of our Lord, the raising of Lazarus, the Passover celebration, and a general
expectation that some kind of an announcement would be made about the coming of the
Kingdom (Luke 19:11)—both by conscious design and providentially, worked together to
assemble in Jerusalem an impressively large and important section of the nation to witness
25

the regal entrance of Christ into the city to offer Himself as the King of Israel (Luke
19:38–40).71

The Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21)

The entire scene of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem highlighted his messianic

qualifications.72 Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey’s colt, a kingly symbol (cf. 1 Kgs

1:33), in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, which Matthew quotes. The people clearly understood the

royal significance of Jesus’ entry, spreading their coats and waving palm branches, which spoke

to his royalty. In fact, the multitudes quoted directly from Psalm 118: “Hosanna to the Son of

David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt 21:9).

These were clear references to messianic passages (Ps 118:25–26). The Pharisees’ protest points

out that they knew exactly what the people were ascribing to Jesus: that he was the Davidic

Ruler, the Messiah (Matt 21:15). Jesus’ response to the Pharisees (“Out of the mouth of infants

and nursing babies you have prepared praise”) shows that he was no longer proclaiming the

kingdom of God from Old Testament Scriptures or by doing mighty works. Rather, he was

demanding a verdict from the nation of Israel (Matt 21:16–17).

Jesus’ actions during his final week demonstrated his fulfillment of all prophetic

requirements, showing he was exactly who he claimed to be. For a short time, the nation of Israel

enjoyed a sampling of the blessings of the kingdom. For example, the Davidic King was in the

temple (Matt 21:12; cf. Mal 3:1), the Word of Yahweh was going forth in instruction (Matt

21:23; cf. Isa 2:2–3), the Messiah was healing the people (Matt 21:14; cf. Isa 35:4–6), the false

71
Ibid., p. 346.
72
See McClain’s detailed explanation in Greatness of the Kingdom, pp. 346–354.
26

leaders, the “greedy shepherds,” were cast out (Matt 21:12–13; cf. Ezek 34:1–10), and even the

children were singing praises to the king (Matt 21:15; cf. Ps 8:1–2).

Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem proves that this was a crisis in the history of Israel. Her king

had come and she was about to reject him: “How often would I have gathered your children

together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 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!’” (Matt 23:37–39). Finally, Jesus’ weeping over his city of Jerusalem

shows that he knew the people would finally and officially reject him and put him to death.

Kingdom Teaching (Matthew 22–25)

Following his royal entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus was in the temple teaching the people

(Matt 21:23). The religious leaders challenged his authority, but Jesus exposed their fear of man

with a question about John the Baptist’s ministry (Matt 21:24–27). Jesus proceeded to give three

“parables of rejection,”73 in which he explained what the nation’s rejection of the kingdom of

God would mean. In the first, the parable of the two sons, Jesus taught that genuine repentance

and faith produces obedience (Matt 21:28–32). The condition of the kingdom of God was

repentance (cf. Matt 3:2; 4:17), and since the nation of Israel refused to repent, God would allow

those who would repent to enter the kingdom.74 In the second, the parable of the tenants, Jesus

taught that the ones to whom God offered his King and kingdom (the nation of Israel) had

rejected it. However, this did not mean the kingdom would be canceled.75 Rather, it would be

given to others who demonstrated a heart of faith and repentance producing righteousness (Matt

73
Toussaint and Quine, “No, Not Yet,” p. 140.
74
Glasscock, Matthew, pp. 420–421.
75
Toussaint and Quine, “No, Not Yet,” p. 140.
27

21:42–46). The leaders understood clearly that Jesus was referring to them, and continued

seeking for a way to arrest him. The third, the parable of the wedding feast, teaches that the

blame for the kingdom’s abeyance rested squarely on the unbelieving nation of Israel. The

wedding was prepared, but the guests were neither ready or willing to attend. Again, the wedding

was not called off, but others who were willing were invited in their place (Matt 22:1–14).

Another exchange with the Pharisees is noteworthy, and Matthew records it as such.76

Here Jesus actually stumped the religious leaders with a question that they, even with their vast

knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, could not answer.77 His question was

straightforward: how could David’s descendent be greater than David himself? Appealing to

Psalm 110:1, Jesus points out that David called the Messiah his Lord.78 “It would be inconsistent

with views of patriarchal protocol to address a mere descendent in such a manner.”79 The

conclusion was obvious: the Messiah must be more than a mere mortal. With a question, Jesus

left the Pharisees with a need to reevaluate their assumptions about him.80 Interestingly enough,

they eventually indicted Jesus for blasphemy because he said, “You will see the Son of Man

seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt 26:64). After this,

the leaders did not dare to ask any further questions (Matt 22:46).

In chapter 23, Matthew records Jesus’ scathing woes on the Pharisees and scribes, the

religious leaders. In spite of their positions of spiritual privilege and authority, they had abused

76
It seems that many such confrontations between Jesus and his opponents took place; however, Matthew is
selecting specific examples because of their significance and appropriateness to his theme.
77
This incident recalls to mind the record of Jesus at the age of twelve, asking and answering questions in
the temple (Luke 2:46–47).
78
For a treatment of the interpretation of Psalm 110:1, see John Aloisi, “W ho Is David’s Lord? Another
Look at Psalm 110:1,” DBSJ 10 (2005): 103–123.
79
Glasscock, Matthew, p. 440.
80
Ibid.
28

those positions to their own destruction, as well as the nation’s (Matt 23:1–15). They had

emphasized scrupulous law keeping, but had ignored the internal heart of obedience stemming

from faith (Matt 23:16–28). Therefore, they were guilty of despising God’s Word and rejecting

God’s messengers (Matt 23:29–35). Because of this, they would be subject to God’s chastening

and judgment: the great Tribulation (Matt 23:36–39).

This judgment is described in the following chapters, often called the Olivet Discourse.

Understanding Matthew’s explanation of the literal, Old Testament kingdom being offered by

Jesus, rejected by Israel, and now in abeyance until the Second Coming of Christ seems to offer

the most sense of this passage.81 Two points should be kept in mind as one works through these

chapters. First, all that Matthew has said regarding the nature of the kingdom of God must not be

jettisoned at this point. The kingdom of God offered by Jesus is the Old Testament prophetic

kingdom, not the New Testament church. Second, one must remember that this discourse

answers the disciples’ questions, prompted by Jesus’ prophecy that the disciples’ generation

would see the destruction of the temple, which took place a few years later in A .D . 70 (Matt

24:1–3).82 First, they asked, “When will these things [the destruction of the temple] be?” (Matt

24:3). The rest of the discourse as recorded by Matthew answers the other two questions (which

are actually one and the same) about “the signs of [Christ’s] coming and of the close of the age”

(Matt 24:3).83

81
It must be admitted that interpretations of this passage are myriad. See Carson, “Matthew,” pp. 488–495
for an overview of the interpretative questions and views. Carson notes, “Resolution turns on two issues. First, how
are the various ‘signs’ presaging Christ’s return to be related to an ‘imminent’ return?. . . Second, on what is the ‘any
second’ view of imminency based and how well does it withstand close scrutiny?” (p. 490).
82
McClain, Greatness of the Kingdom, pp. 363–369.
83
John F. W alvoord, “Christ’s Olivet Discourse on the End of the Age: Prophecies Fulfilled in the Present
Age,” BSac 128 (July–Sept 1971): 206–207.
29

Therefore, in this discourse we see five groupings: signs during the first half of the

Tribulation period (Matt 24:4–14), signs during the last half of the Tribulation (Matt 24:15–28),

the coming of Christ (Matt 24:29–31), illustrations of watchfulness (Matt 24:32–25:13), and the

post-tribulation judgments (Matt 25:14–46).84

Regarding the signs of Christ’s coming and the close of the age, Jesus said the current age

would close with the Tribulation, part of the prophesied Day of the Lord. During the first three

and a half years of the Tribulation, Jesus told his disciples that false messiahs would rise up and

deceive many people. It would be a time of national unrest and natural disasters, but this was not

the end of the age (Matt 24:5–8). The disciples of Christ would be persecuted, and the

persecution would become so severe that professing Christians would betray other Christians. In

a time of apostasy, those who persevere until the end (the glorious appearing of Christ) will

demonstrate the genuineness of their faith (Matt 24:9–14).

The second half of the tribulation period, known as the Great Tribulation (Matt 24:21),

would also be accompanied by signs. The centerpiece of these signs would be so clear and

obvious that it would “serve as a signal to Israel to flee to the mountains.”85 The “abomination of

desolation” prophesied by Daniel (Dan 9:27) defiling the Holy of Holies would signal the

beginning of the Great Tribulation (cf. 2 Thess 2:4). Jewish believers should flee immediately, as

persecution greater than any previously known would rapidly ensue. False messiahs would again

seek to gain a following, but the coming of the true Messiah would be unmistakable (Matt

24:15–28).86

84
I am indebted to the class lectures of Rolland D. McCune for the outline of this section.
85
John F. W alvoord, “Christ’s Olivet Discourse on the End of the Age: Signs of the End of the Age,” BSac
128 (Oct–Dec 1971): 318.
86
Ibid., p. 326.
30

Following the tribulation, the second coming of the Messiah would take place. It would

be preceded by supernatural signs in the heavens and on the earth (Matt 24:29–31). These signs

were given by Christ so his followers could be ready. Just as one can know the yearly cycles of

trees,87 he can be ready for the second coming of Jesus Christ (Matt 24:32–35).88 For those who

are not ready, Christ’s coming in judgment will be a terrible surprise, just like the flood swept

over the people in Noah’s day (Matt 24:36–51). To illustrate the implications of this judgment,

Jesus gave three parables.89

The first dealt with ten virgins in a bridal party. As they awaited the arrival of the

bridegroom, they all slept, but when they were awakened, only five of them were prepared. They

were invited to enjoy the bridal feast while the others were excluded, just as Christ would judge

mankind at his Second Coming, inviting the elect to enter the kingdom and banishing the lost to

eternal punishment (Matt 25:1–13).90 In a similar way, each of the three servants in the parable of

the talents knew their master would return, but two were ready and one was not (Matt 25:14–30).

The significant difference is that the unwise virgins missed the bridegroom’s coming and were

excluded from the wedding party, while the unprepared servant was judged and punished at his

master’s return.91 This highlights the nature of Christ’s judgment that will take place at the end of

87
John F. W alvoord, “Christ’s Olivet Discourse on the End of the Age: How Near Is the Lord’s Return?”
BSac 129 (Jan–Mar 1972): 22.
88
The difficulty of the phrase, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (M att
24:34) is noted by almost every commentator. See for example Neil D. Nelson,“‘This Generation’ in Matt 24:34: A
Literary Critical Perspective,” JETS 38 (Sept 1996): 369–385. For an answer to the preterist position, see Stanley J.
Toussaint, “A Critique of the Preterist View of the Olivet Discourse,” BSac 161 (Oct–Dec 2004): 483–486.
89
Robert L. Thomas, “Jesus’ View of Eternal Punishment,” TMSJ 9 (Fall 1998): 148.
90
These parables are meant by Jesus to communicate one main idea about his Second Coming: when he
comes, those who are ready will enter the kingdom, and those who are not will be excluded. Every detail of the
parable simply cannot be pressed for meaning or application. For an example of this kind of overreaching
interpretation, see John F. W alvoord, “Christ’s Olivet Discourse on the End of the Age: The Parable of the Ten
Virgins,” BSac 129 (Apr–June 1972): 99–105.
91
John F. W alvoord, “Christ’s Olivet Discourse on the End of the Age: The Parable of the Talents,” BSac
129 (July–Sept 1972): 206.
31

the tribulation. Those who have exercised saving faith will enter the kingdom, while those who

are unprepared will be judged.

Just as Jesus will judge the nation of Israel (cf. Ezek 20:34–38), he will also judge each

Gentile92 based on his treatment of faithful Jewish disciples of Christ,93 a demonstration of

righteousness that flows from genuine faith in him (Matt 24:31–46).94 Those who are his true

disciples will enter the kingdom, while those who are not will go into eternal punishment (Matt

24:46). Thus, the tribulation will be a winnowing of the nation of Israel and the Gentiles,

exposing those who are not prepared to enter the kingdom, and showing those who are. The

tribulation, the first stage of the Day of the Lord, will be marked by clear signs, as will the

coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ admonition to his followers is to be ready.

Matthew’s detailed inclusion of this discourse is significant, considering his discussion of

the kingdom of God. By showing that the kingdom will be preceded by unmistakable signs,

Matthew proves to his readers that they have not “missed” the kingdom of God. It is still future,

and those whose faith is in Jesus of Nazareth will enter the kingdom.

Last Evening with Disciples (Matthew 26)

Jesus’ final days with his disciples show once again that he was the King of the Jews,

rejected by the nation of Israel, and even by his own closest followers. Matthew records that an

unnamed woman anointed Jesus’ head with precious ointment (Matt 26:6–13). Instead of

92
John F. W alvoord, “Christ’s Olivet Discourse on the End of the Age: The Judgment of the Nations,” BSac
129 (Oct–Dec 1972): 307–309.
93
Thomas, “Jesus’ View of Eternal Punishment,” p. 156.
94
W alvoord, “The Judgment of the Nations,” pp. 312–313; Thomas, “Jesus’ View of Eternal Punishment,”
p. 153.
32

rebuking her, Jesus affirms his regal character by allowing her to proceed, noting that she has

prepared him for burial.

As they were eating the Passover together, Jesus instituted the ordinance of the Lord’s

Supper. As he gave his disciples the cup, he said, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of

the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt 26:29).

Rejection of the Messiah has been a theme of Matthew’s gospel, and here he records

Jesus’ betrayal by one of his own. Judas Iscariot actually initiated the betrayal, going to the

priests and asking how much they would pay him to betray Jesus (Matt 26:14–16). Betrayed by

Judas and brought before the Jewish religious leaders to be indicted, Jesus refused to respond to

their attempts to bait him into testifying against himself.95 However, when asked under oath if he

was the Messiah, he responded that he was and that having rejected the Messiah, they should be

looking for him to return from heaven in judgment (Matt 26:64; cf. Dan 7:13–14).96

Trial and Crucifixion (Matthew 27)

Israel’s ultimate rejection of her Messiah culminated in the murder of God’s Anointed.

Many have accused the New Testament of anti-Semitism, but such is not the case here. Matthew

is recording the events that took place.97 In the words of Peter, looking back on the event, “This

Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and

killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). In their zeal to be rid of the Messiah, the Jewish

leaders lynched Jesus in a gross miscarriage of justice. Alone and condemned by the “shepherds”

95
Glasscock, Matthew, p. 515.
96
Carson, “Matthew,” p. 555.
97
Carson points out that modern scholarship has been “embarrassed into making irresponsible judgments
against the historical evidence, as a sort of atonement for past injustices. It is easier to blame the Romans, who are
not present to defend themselves, than to face the survivors of the Holocaust with unpleasant historical realities”
(“Matthew,” p. 552).
33

of Israel, who should have welcomed and received him, Jesus was sent to Pilate, the Roman

governor who was required to approve any execution. Even one of Jesus’ closest disciples, Peter,

forsook him in that dark hour (Matt 26:69–75). Pilate knew the Jewish leaders were destroying

Jesus because of jealousy (Matt 27:18), but for the sake of political expediency, he authorized the

execution (Matt 27:24). At this point Matthew again highlights the rejection of the Jewish nation.

Pilate tells the crowd (tou` o[clou), “I am innocent of this man’s blood” (Matt 27:24). However,

Matthew records that “all the people” (pa`~ oJ lao;~) respond, “His blood be on us and on our

children!” (Matt 27:25). Matthew’s switch in wording is significant, because his use of oJ laov~

clearly refers to the Jewish nation—they were the ones who condemned Jesus to death.98 Even

the soldiers who crucified him mocked and rejected him, dressing him in royal apparel and

pretending to bow to him, calling out, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (Matt 27:27–31).

If Matthew’s readers had any doubt why Jesus did not establish the kingdom at his first

coming, the message is clear: Jesus was completely rejected. His people rejected him, his family

refused to believe him, his disciples fled from him, Roman soldiers mocked him, and even

common criminals who were crucified with him mocked his claims (Matt 27:44). The events

surrounding the death of Jesus also support Matthew’s kingdom theme. At his death, the veil of

the temple tore in two,99 demonstrating the end of the Old Testament mediatorial kingdom (Matt

27:51).100 Dead saints were raised and seen in Jerusalem, a foretaste of the resurrection of those

98
Fitzmeyer,“Anti-Semitism and the Cry of ‘All the People,’” p. 668–669.
99
For an interesting discussion of this phenomenon in Jewish literature, see Robert. L. Plummer, “Something
Awry in the Temple? The Rending of the Temple Veil and Early Jewish Sources That Report Unusual Phenomena in
the Temple Around A . D . 30,” JETS 48 (June 2005): 301–316.
100
Daniel M. Gurtner,“The Veil of the Temple in History and Legend,” JETS 49 (March 2006): 112.
34

saints in the kingdom (Matt 27:52–53; cf. Dan 12:2–3). Even the Roman centurion assigned to

oversee his execution exclaimed, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matt 27:54).101

Thus Matthew details the nation of Israel’s complete rejection of her Messiah. Jesus came

as the prophesied Davidic Ruler with the kingdom of God, but the nation of Israel refused the

kingdom and murdered the King. Was this the end of the story?

The King’s Authority (Matthew 28:1–20)

Matthew’s closing chapter sums up the significance of Jesus’ ministry and death for his

Christian readers. Jesus was the King of the Jews, and although rejected and crucified by Israel,

he rose from the dead, demonstrating undeniably that he was who he claimed to be: the Son of

God.

His Resurrection

The religious leaders of Israel attempted to avoid any further “trouble” from Jesus of

Nazareth. They had requested and received a guard to secure Jesus’ tomb (Matt 27:62–66).

However, early on the morning of the first day of the week, and angel rolled back the stone from

the doorway, revealing an empty tomb (Matt 28:1–6). Jesus was alive! Yet the stubborn unbelief

of the Jewish leaders persisted, revealing that they refused to believe in Jesus, even though they

had said, “Let him come down from the cross, and we will believe in him” (Matt 27:42).102 Now

Jesus had triumphed over the cross, and the leaders, bent on rejecting him, paid the soldiers to

101
Glasscock, Matthew, p. 541.
102
Carson, “Matthew,” p. 591.
35

spread the story that Jesus’ body had been stolen while they slept, a myth that persisted “to this

day” (Matt 28:11–15).103

His Commission

In contrast to the deceitfulness of the Jewish leaders, Matthew presents the obedience of

the disciples to their authoritative King.104 As Messiah and King, Jesus commissioned his

disciples once again before ascending to heaven. He said to them, “All authority has been given

to me” (Matt 28:18). On the basis of that authority, Jesus sent his disciples and the Church that

he would build to all the nations to make them his disciples. In contrast to his first commission to

go only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:6), this commission is inclusive.

Because Jesus had been given all authority, they were to go to all the nations,105 teaching them

all that he had commanded. Furthermore, Jesus would be with them always (pavsa~ ta;~

hJmevra~).106 This task was to be carried out “to the end of the age,” when the King would return

from heaven to judge the world and set up his kingdom (Matt 28:20).

Thus Matthew has come full circle: Jesus was the Davidic Ruler prophesied by the Old

Testament. He came offering the kingdom of God to the nation of Israel. However, the nation

rejected and ultimately crucified him. Therefore, the kingdom is currently in abeyance, during

which time Jesus is building his Church, calling out a people for his name from among the

nations. But he will return to judge the world, fulfill God’s promises to Israel, and set up his

kingdom where the righteous “shall shine like the brightness of the sky above” (Dan 12:3).

103
Justin Martyr ( A . D . 100–165) reports in Dialogue with Trypho that this report was still circulating in his
time (Glasscock, Matthew, p. 551).
104
D. Edmond Hiebert,“An Expository Study of Matthew 28:16–20,” BSac 149 (July–Sept 1992): 339.
105
Ibid., p. 350.
106
Amy-Jill Levine, “‘To All the Gentiles’: A Jewish Perspective on the Great Commission,” RevExp 103
(2006): 147.
36

Conclusion

Saucy summarizes the message of the kingdom of God in Matthew’s gospel:

First, at the beginning of Jesus’ career He proclaimed and offered to Israel the restoration of
the rule of Yahweh in their land, which would bring His peace and righteousness, and
through which they would be a blessing to the rest of the world. This kingdom of which He
spoke is physical, glorious, and powerful, compelling the wicked either to repent or to feel its
wrath. Second, Israel, however, would not have it. They saw the signs of its nearness, heard
the voice of its forerunner prophet, and rejected the King and His kingdom (Matt 11–12).
Third, in response to their hardness of heart, Jesus withdrew His offer of the full
manifestation of the Old Testament prophesied kingdom (Matt 13:11–17). It was taken from
them and given to another until it will appear in the future.107

The kingdom of God, then, is the underlying theme of Matthew’s gospel. It is forefront in

the minds of his readers, Jewish Christians. They are wondering where the kingdom is now, if

Jesus was the Messiah. Matthew’s response is straightforward: Jesus of Nazareth was the king of

the Jews, the Son of David, the Messiah. He came offering the kingdom of God to Israel, but the

nation rejected him and the kingdom. Therefore, the kingdom of God is now in abeyance for an

unspecified time during which the gospel is to be proclaimed throughout the world and Jesus is

building his Church. Following the end of that age, Jesus will come again in power and glory,

judging his enemies and setting up the prophesied kingdom of God.

107
Saucy, “Kingdom-of-God Sayings,” pp. 196–197.
37

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