This Kingdom of God, offered to the Jewish nation, lest the purpose of God fail, is to be given to others who are adopted.
PROPOSITION 59. This Kingdom of God, offered to the Jewish nation, lest the purpose of God fail, is to be given to others who are adopted.
This Kingdom is incorporated by covenant promise with the seed of Abraham; that seed is chosen, but refusing the Kingdom on the condition annexed to it, now, that the Divine Purpose revealed in the covenants may not fail in its accomplishment through the unbelief and depravity of the nation, another seed must be raised up unto Abraham, to whom the Kingdom, in a peculiar sense (as will be explained hereafter), is to be given.
Obs. 1. In Matt. 21, after the chief priests and scribes and elders manifested their opposition to Him, and after He had told (v. 31) them, “Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you” (i.e. in view of their repentance and faith, they became heirs of the Kingdom), then He gives the parable of the wicked husbandmen, who not only rejected and killed the servants, but finally even the heir (v. 33–46). When the Jews answered Christ’s question concerning what the lord of the vineyard would do in such a case, He accepts of their reply (condemnatory of themselves), and shows that He (the Stone) has been rejected, and adds: “therefore (i.e. on account of their refusing to receive Him), I say unto you, the Kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” Now let the reader carefully consider: (1) The Kingdom of God taken from them. This Kingdom belonged exclusively to them (comp. Props. 24, 29, 31, 49, 54, 55). It was theirs by covenant relationship; but, having made themselves unworthy of it, the tender was withdrawn, and it was to be given to others. (2) The Kingdom was to be given to a nation, a people, who, by the fruits resulting from obedience through faith, should show themselves worthy of it.
Obs. 2. Additionally, in this declaration of Jesus, we have—(1) the Kingdom which is taken from them is one, which, it is taken for granted, that the Jews comprehended, viz. the covenanted Kingdom, the only Kingdom that they were acquainted with, thus corroborating our position. They well understood its force and propriety, and appreciated its application to themselves, saying, “God forbid.” (2) They expected to receive this Kingdom solely in virtue of their national relationship without observing the condition of repentance annexed to the offer. (3) They were not to receive the Kingdom within their reach, appertaining to them, owing to their great wickedness in rejecting and even killing, as a culmination of rebellion, the Heir Himself. (4) Another people was to receive it. This at once opens some interesting questions, which, if we desire to appreciate the Divine Purpose and to prevent its assuming the changeable aspect of human-plans diverted and altered by contingencies, demand on our part due consideration. We now merely suggest them, leaving following Propositions to bring them out in detail. The Kingdom of God is expressly covenanted to the seed of Abraham (but to the faithful, obedient seed); now how can the covenanted promises respecting the Kingdom in this line be carried out into realization when the nation embracing that seed is rejected? Is this rejection final and perpetual, or is it removable and temporary? Can the nation or people who are to specially receive what the Jewish nation then lost by its non-repentance, obtain it without any reference to the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, i.e. without, in some way, becoming, by adoption, or engrafting, or incorporation, the seed of Abraham? Remember that God confirmed his promises by oath, and that He is faithful—not given to variableness or change—and, therefore, unless these questions can be satisfactorily and consistently answered, so that the promise still runs in the covenanted Abrahamic line, there would be a sad and unwarranted deficiency somewhere.
Obs. 3. This already teaches us that to preserve the solemnly pledged faithfulness of God, this people, to whom the Kingdom is to be given, must in the very nature of the case, stand closely related to the Jewish race. They cannot be gathered out or selected, as multitudes now vainly imagine and foolishly boast, without any regard whatever to the old covenanted line. They must be, if God is sincere and mindful of His oath, adopted as Abraham’s seed (comp. Props. 29, 30, etc.).
Obs. 4. John the Baptist had already foreshown that the wisdom and power of God would be amply sufficient to carry out His own covenanted purpose, even if the nation would reject Christ. When the Pharisees and Sadducees also came to his baptism, after denouncing them with his prophetical spirit as “a generation of vipers,” and urging them to repentance, he (Matt. 3:9) adds: “And think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our Father; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Here are several suggestive ideas that we ought, by all means, to keep in mind: (1) that standing in the covenant relationship (being “children of the Kingdom”) as the mere natural offspring or descendants of Abraham without repentance and obedience is not sufficient. To insure the Kingdom in their case, both are required; for the Theocratic ordering calls for moral preparation (e.g. Rom. 2:28, 29) as well as for union with the Fathers to whom the covenant was given. (2) That God is abundantly able to raise up children unto Abraham, so that, if necessity required it, they could be raised up even from stones. (3) That God would perform so miraculous a creative act rather than leave His covenant promises unfulfilled. (4) But even when this would be done, the covenant relationship would be sustained in their being, by adoption, the children of Abraham. (5) Hence, the promises are recognized as given to Abraham, and to inherit with Abraham it is requisite to come into covenant relationship with him.[*]
Note. This evinces how carefully the covenant relationship is constantly guarded, and that the current views respecting it being immaterial, whether we are related to Abraham or not, are sadly defective. It also has become fashionable for recent commentators, as a concession to rationalistic criticism, to make “these stones” to mean “the Romans” or “the hard hearts of the heathen,” “for a stone has manifestly no life;” just as if the power of God which gave life to the dust of the earth could not bestow life to “these stones” present. This implies doubt concerning God’s power, and is unworthy of a believer.
Obs. 5. The reader will observe that this removal of the Kingdom is a national one. (It necessarily is such because identified with the nation.) Various writers have fallen into gross mistakes on this point, and quote the passages relating to it as if all the Jews that ever lived had forfeited and lost their right to the Kingdom. The fact is, that the believing portion who had died will yet receive it, the believing portion who now accept of it will likewise obtain it, and the Gentiles who by faith are engrafted will also receive it. This will be plainly proven, as we proceed in the argument.
Obs. 6. Another mistake into which many fall must be corrected, viz.: that the Kingdom being taken from them, it will never be given to the nation again. Now here we must ask the indulgence of the reader, for a number of things which serve to explain this remarkable language are reserved for separate propositions, and, therefore, no decided and satisfactory explanation can be presented before passing over these. This much, by way of preliminary, may be stated: (1) that those then addressed, the nation as existing down to the present day, cannot (excepting individual believers) inherit the Kingdom in the higher sense (intimated by giving) of Kingship and priesthood, co-heirship with Christ; (2) that the nation, as such, by its wickedness, forfeited the high position of rulership with Christ, which individual believers will receive from Him at its ultimate re-establishment; (3) but this does not prevent the final restoration of the nation to its covenanted position in order to secure (a) the establishment of the Theocratic-Davidic throne and Kingdom, and (b) the special bestowal of this Kingdom to this very nation gathered out; (4) hence, Jesus, whilst directly asserting the forfeiture of a high privilege, does not add, as many suppose, that the nation itself shall never again enjoy the blessings of the Theocratic Kingdom, but in a subordinated position; (5) for this Scripture must be interpreted, not isolated, but in connection with others relating to the same subject.
Obs. 7. This removal of the Kingdom from the nation on account of sinfulness, and its contemplated bestowal upon individual believers (as rulers in it) rebuts the argument of the Duke of Somerset (Ch. Theol. and Mod. Skep., ch. 18), in that he attempts to affirm that “the book of Acts bears false witness against a Christian apostle,” owing to Paul’s language to the Jews at Rome, when some of them refused to believe in the Kingdom under Jesus Christ as he expounded it to them out of the law and prophets. But we see (Acts 28:17–31) the accuracy of the writer of Acts and the exceeding propriety and delicacy of Paul’s representations, contrasting the same with the covenanted relationship of the Jews to this Kingdom, to the language of Jesus, the Master, respecting their rejection of it and its bestowal upon others, and to the apostolic desire that His brethren after the flesh might also inherit—in the higher sense—this Kingdom. There is a beautiful and most delicate consistency in Paul’s conduct; for, giving the Jews the precedence (for the reasons given by us), after an appeal to the Scriptures during a whole day, he honorably, as his character of apostleship demanded, referred them, because of their unbelief, to what had previously been predicted of them, and then turned to the Gentiles. There was no deception in the case, but an open, frank statement of the real facts as they existed. According to the Duke (who totally misapprehends the nature of the Kingdom preached) Paul ought to have told the Jews that they were mistaken concerning the Kingdom, that Christ had established another one, a spiritual one, etc., and not pretend that he was in unison with them in the hope of the same Kingdom when really he was in opposition to them. Paul could not do this, simply because it would have made his message discordant, instead of its being, as it is, in happy correspondence with the truth (comp. Props. 44, 70, 71, 72, 74).[*]
Note. The Duke’s reasoning has force only if we adopt the prevailing modern views of the Kingdom. If Paul entertained the spiritualistic notion of the Kingdom, then, as the Duke observes, neither his conduct nor speech can be commended. But if Paul believed in the Kingdom, as covenanted and indicated in our argument, then he is not open to the Duke’s strictures and corrections. The objector in the charge of “dishonesty,” forgets that the death of Jesus only confirms the covenant promises (Prop. 50); that the kingdom was not the disputed point, but whether Jesus was “the Christ” through whom the Kingdom should eventually appear; that the giving of the Kingdom to others does not change the covenants respecting it or its nature; that, therefore, Christianity is not a “subversion of the Jewish religion,” but an elevation of it (the typical, non-essential elements being necessarily removed), showing how the covenants, the Theocratic ordering, the presence of God, etc. can and will be secured. The Duke’s reasoning, consequently, has force only with such who place Paul in a wrong position.
Obs. 8. The Kingdom had come nigh to the nation (in the tender of it, in the person of the Messiah, and in covenant relationship leading to the restrictive preaching), and the nation, therefore, must have sustained a peculiar, special relation to it, or else it could not have been taken from them. To be taken from them is indicative of the nation’s having a claim upon it (as we have all along demonstrated). Now, preliminary to following Propositions (93–104) it may be well for the reader to notice in this connection that what was taken from them could not be “the church,” or “the Christian dispensation,” or “God’s reign in the heart,” or “the Gospel,” or “spiritual reign” (see usual meanings given to Kingdom, Prop. 3), so prevalently defined to be the Kingdom of God. For none of these things were taken from the Jews as can be abundantly shown; for they, in this respect, stand precisely upon the same footing as the Gentiles. This dispensation was commenced at Jerusalem, the Gospel was first preached to the Jews, and for some time the Church largely embraced Jews as believers. It was by express command that the Gospel should first be offered to the Jews, Luke 24:47; Acts 13:46; Acts 3:19, 21, etc. The gospel with its blessings is just as freely offered to the Jews, and the privileges of the Church just as graciously extended to them as to the Gentiles. Hence it follows: that the Kingdom of God taken from them is not the gospel, or admission into the Church, or enjoyment of Church blessings, or the privileges of this dispensation, because none of these things were taken from them. What they lost is the Kingdom itself, just as covenanted, and not the after provisionary appointments to still secure the Kingdom in the future. Is it not surprising that so plain a feature is so much ignored?[*]
Note. Let the reader observe the inconclusive and inconsistent interpretations of numerous commentators (as e.g. Lange, Barnes, Scott, etc., loci.), for it was not taken from the Jews to be believers, the peculiar people of God, true members of the N. Test. Church, etc., as evidenced by the facts presented. This only proves the correctness of our position, viz.: that that which is taken from the then existing nations, is a peculiar, distinctive honor and privilege—that of special rulership—which now will be bestowed upon believers gathered out of all nations.
Obs. 9. This taking away of the Kingdom from the nation to whom it belonged as a covenanted right, and thus giving it to others, serves to explain the phraseology of Luke 11:20, “the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” The offer and the taking it away shows that the nation was indeed nigh to it, if it had only known the day of its gracious visitation. So also the phrase, “the Kingdom of God is among (or within) you.” Luke 17:21 indicates the same fact, for as many critics have noticed the word rendered “among,” may mean “within,”* and, therefore, in strict accordance with the circumstance that the Jewish nation is an elect (Prop. 24) nation, and that the Kingdom is a covenanted (Prop. 49) one, and that, in view of this, was “within” it, connected and identified with it (through the Theocratic-Davidic throne and Kingdom, Prop. 31), and hence, tendered among all the nations of the earth, to this nation alone (Props. 54, 55). The phrase “children of the Kingdom cast out” likewise indicates this same relationship, implies that they stood in close connection with the Kingdom, that they rejected it, and that it was withdrawn from them. For such phraseology cannot be used respecting the Gentiles, all the wicked, but only of those who, in some special manner, stand related to the Kingdom by promise or otherwise.
Obs. 10. Two things additional are suggested by the words of Jesus. (1) What unspeakable honor, power, and glory would have resulted to the Jewish nation, if it had accepted the simple but necessary Theocratic condition of repentance annexed to the offer of the Kingdom. Instead of the fearful judgments of God, the overthrow and dispersion of the nation, the terrible persecution of centuries, the long and bitter Gentile domination treading down the beloved city, etc., it would have taken rank as the first of the nations of the world, and it would have been exalted as the centre of Theocratic influence, power, and dominion. This is seen by what will occur when the saints inherit the Kingdom, and by what will even yet take place when “the times of the Gentiles” are ended, and the nation is restored. (2) The mercy extended to the Gentiles; the grace of God tendering the first place in this Kingdom (i.e. its kingship and priesthood) to those who were not in covenanted relationship, but who now, through the unbelief and fall of the nation, are brought into it through repentance and faith. What a prize grace offers to us Gentiles!
Obs. 11. There is a remarkable agreement between this taking away of the Kingdom from the nation and giving it to others, and the predictions relating to this matter. Thus e.g. when this Kingdom was offered to the Jews, its proclamation was heralded by “the time is fulfilled.” In this, as numerous writers have noticed, there is an evident allusion to the seventy weeks of Daniel (ch. 9:20–27). Having seen the result of this offer, we find it also foreshown in this very prediction; for instead of a Kingdom and great glory described as pertaining to the nation, we have the Messiah cut off, the destruction of the city, desolations determined “even until the consummation,” or for a certain period of time. Thus do the facts, as they exist to-day, tally with the previously given predictions.