By Luther W. Martin
The first book of the New Testament, was written by Matthew, a resident of Capernaum. At this time, the Roman government had established a custom-house at Capernaum, and Matthew, a publican, had been appointed as a resident deputy (portitor), a collector of taxes, for the Romans. Portitors were not popular among their own people; they seemed to have “sold out” to their conquerors by collecting taxes for Rome from their own kinsmen, the Jews. Alexander the Great through his military conquests several centuries before Christ, had spread the Greek language throughout the Mediterranean World. Now, Rome had conquered the “civilized” world, and had forced Roman laws (civil and military), as well as politics, throughout its territories. And, although the koine Greek, was the language of politics, commerce, and even religion; it would be several centuries before the Latin Language would begin its ascendency.
Matthew Wrote To Convince The Jews About Christ
It is not known whether Matthew’s biography of Christ was the first to be written, or not. Some scholars have thought that it preceded Mark and Luke. In any event, Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s biographies of Christ are called “synoptic gospels,” because they generally cover the same sequence of events in the life of Christ, while John’s biography of Christ approaches the subject from a different perspective.
As a tax collector under Herod Antipas, Matthew possessed a fluent ability in Aramaic or Hebrew Languages, as well as the commonly spoken koine Greek. Like most of the Jewish people, Matthew eagerly awaited the coming Messiah and King; and anticipated the establishment of a kingdom, that would be military, and political; and would possess such strength, that it would conquer all of its neighbors.
The Book of Matthew serves as a vital connection between the Old and New Covenants. Beginning with the very first verse, it is designed to interest the Jews: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” because the Jews had long heard and read from the Old Testament prophets, how their King would be a descendant of King David . . . harking back to the “glory days” of Israel and Judah, in their expectations!
The Gospel according to Matthew, would also provide a relationship between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ; and this would prove to be particularly applicable to the Jews. Mark’s biography of Christ, would be written in a style and manner to appeal to the Romans, and Luke’s biography would be directed toward the Greeks. This would leave John’s “spiritual” biography, with its different approach from the other three biographies, to bring to completion, the Heaven-inspired record, described as: “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn. 20:31).
Matthew’s Record Has Some Peculiarities
One unusual aspect of Matthew’s biography of Christ, will be listed: although there are some others.
Of the four biographical books, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, only Matthew uses the expression “Kingdom of Heaven” and it is used in thirty-one verses! Neither Mark, Luke nor John make use of the expression “Kingdom of Heaven! “
Matthew does use “Kingdom of God” five times; but the term “Kingdom of Heaven” emphasizes a connotation that had a special appeal to the Jews . . . for whom Matthew’s biography, was especially written!
Ever since the prophet Daniel had written: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:44); the Jewish people had been looking for, and longing for, the prophetic kingdom! In fact, the very last question asked by the Apostles of Jesus, just before he ascended into heaven, was: “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
The expressions “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God,” are synonymous, they refer to the same thing; but specify some different aspects and characteristics concerning this “kingdom” that would also be designated as the Lord’s ekkiesid. the called-out assembly, community, or church (called out of the world; called away from carnality qnd worldliness).
May I suggest that by using the term “Heaven” to the Jews, who were so all-wrapped-up in their thoughts of an. earthly, political kingdom, that inspiration was stressing the heavenly or spiritual make-up of this kingdom! Jesus said: “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12) So, it appears that the “Kingdom of Heaven” was used in contrast to earthly kingdoms.
A kingdom, possesses several attributes: (a) A king, as its ruler and law-giver – Christ! (b) The subjects; citizens who are obedient to the King – Christ I (c) The statutes or laws, as issued by the King – Gospel of Christ, contained in the New Testament! (d) The territory (scope) of this kingdom; the minds of men! “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or, ‘See there!’ For, indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21), rather than a geographical realm.
Christ also proclaimed: “My kingdom is not Of this world! If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews” (Jn. 18:36). Thus, Christ left no question as to the nature of his kingdom! It was spiritual or heavenly! This, I believe, is why Matthew exclusively used the expression “Kingdom of Heaven” in writing to these earthly-kingdom-anticipating Jews!
Matthew’s biography of Christ’s life, was specifically for instructing the Jews of the first century, A.D. In the 24th chapter of Matthew, the destruction of Jerusalem was predicted and described. This event took place in 70 A.D., when the Roman Legions over-ran Palestine.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 3, pp. 84-85
February 2, 1989