By Larry Ray Hafley
From Illinois: “Matthew 21:42-44-Verse 43 says, ‘The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.’ To what nation did he refer?”
To ascertain the answer to the question, we must: (1) observe the context; (2) determine who the “you” is – “shall be taken from you” (?); (3) understand the nature of the kingdom of God.
Jesus is addressing “the chief priests and the elders of the people,” Jews (Matt. 21:23). He upbraids them for not believing John the Baptist who came unto them “in the way of righteousness” (Matt. 21:32). He then reveals that their rejection of John is typical of their history. Jesus accomplishes this by means of a parable (Read Matt. 21:33-44). Old Testament prophets had been sent unto the nation of Israel to call them to repentance, but the prophets had been beaten and murdered (Vs. 35, 36; Cf. 2 Chron. 36:15, 16; Neh. 9:26; Acts 7:51, 52). The householder in the parable sent his son, the counterpart of whom is Jesus. The husbandmen killed him as the Jews were to kill Christ (Matt. 16:21; Acts 2:22, 23). What will the Lord do to those husbandmen? “He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen. Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matt. 21:41-43). The “you” is the unbelieving Jewish nation.
The Jews must repent or perish” (Lk: 13:3). Moses was told of a prophet who would come. That prophet was Christ (Deut. 18:15-19; Acts 3:22, 23). “Every soul which will not hear that prophet, (Jesus) shall be destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:23). In other words, “if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (Jno. 8:24). If the Jews would not hear and reverence the Son of God, they were to be “miserably” destroyed (Cf. Matt. 21:41; Acts 3:23). Romans 11:20-23 is a divine commentary on Matt. 21:41-43 and Acts 3:22, 23. Because of unbelief the Jews were broken off. All who do not continue to God’s grace shall likewise be “cut off” and “destroyed form among the people.”
The “nation” in Matthew 21:43 is NOT: (1) an earthly nation or country; (2) all Gentiles; (3) all believing Gentiles, excluding Jewish believers. This can be seen from the fact that the kingdom of God was never given to a fleshly nation; it was never given to all Gentiles; it was never given to Gentiles, excluding Jewish believers. To whom, then was the New Testament kingdom given? When we find to whom the kingdom was given, we will find the nation.
Christians, the saved, constitute spiritual Israel, Abraham’s seed, a holy nation. “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit; not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Rom. 2:28, 29). “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. . . . And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:26, 27, 29). “For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of god and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3).
Those redeemed “by the precious blood of Christ,” who “have in obedience to the truth purified (their) souls,” who “have been born again . . . through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:18-23), these “as living stones” are built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:). “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet. 1:9, 10).
The saved, therefore, are the nation to whom the kingdom has been given. This includes “both” Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:11-18). All who believe and are “obedient to the faith” are “reconciled unto God in one body,” the church (Rom. 3:22; 6:7, 18; Eph. 2:16), “for there is not respect of persons with God.” The kingdom of God is “not of this world” (John 18:36). It is not an earthly, fleshly nation. It is not “eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). The saved, those whom He has washed from their sins in his blood are “made . . . to be a kingdom” (Rev. 1:5, 6). “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28).
Truth Magazine, XX:2, p. 2
January 8, 1976