The Kingdom Is Not Given To the Church

July 23, 2015

Dr. Randy White | Pastor
First Baptist Church, Katy, TX

**This article was previously posted by Dr. Randy White HERE and is used by permission.

Matthew 21:43 says much, and much that has been said about it is wrong.

Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43, KJV).

For generations preachers and theologians have used this verse as a proof-text to show that the Kingdom of God has been taken from Israel and given to the church. This has been taught so often that it goes almost unquestioned by pastor and people alike.

The prophesied removal of the Kingdom from the nation of Israel is unquestioned. Commentaries are all over the map (mostly the wrong map) about the nature of the Kingdom which would be removed. This article focuses on the nation to whom the Kingdom will be given.

The Greek word translated nation is ethnos, a familiar word to most English speakers because it is the root of our word ethnicity. King James translates as gentiles (93 times), nation (64 times, including Matthew 21:43), heathen (5 times) and people (2 times). In the NASB, it is used 161 times and translated as gentiles (93 times), nation(s) (67 times), pagans (1 time), and people (2 times, including Matthew 21:43 and Acts 8:9, where it is clearly Samaritan people). As you can quickly see, the word has a wide range of interpretation but only one real meaning, which pertains to a “race, nation, or people group” (Strong’s). The interpretation is based on context, but cannot go beyond the meaning of the word. Whether the ethnos are a nation, a group of people, or Romans or Greeks, ethnos implies, by necessity, that they are ethnically based.

The Futility of Commentaries
I have an almost disdain for commentaries, chiefly because they are filled with the common drivel so easily available in pop-theology. One commentary after another gives the same syrupy flow of nothingness, failing to honor the text and often contradicting themselves through the course of the commentary. Further, good Bible study can be accomplished with thorough study of the words and cross-referencing Scripture, making the commentary all but useless. As I thumbed through commentaries on hand, here is what I found from Matthew 21:43 (all emphasis mine)–

The “nation” referred to is, of course, none of the particular “nationalities” of the world, not even the Gentile people as a whole. Believing Jews, “Israelites indeed,” are not excluded. It is the great ideal nation of the good, the godly, the Christlike, the Christian, the believing. (Morison, James. Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew. London; Glasgow: Hamilton, Adams & Co.; Thomas D. Morison, 1870. Print.)

But the use of ethnos (“a people”—a collective singular) suggests more than simply the appointment of new leaders; it envisages a new community of disciples who perform the works God commands. Jesus is not so much foreshadowing the shift of God’s activity from Jewish to Gentile realms as anticipating the replacement of Israel by the church, which will unite both Jew and Gentile. (Blomberg, Craig. Matthew. Vol. 22. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992. Print. The New American Commentary.

So, in the place of the old covenant people there would arise—was it not already beginning to happen?—“a nation producing its fruit,” a church international, gathered from both Jews and Gentiles. (Hendriksen, William, and Simon J. Kistemaker. Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. Vol. 9. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001. Print. New Testament Commentary.)

The Jewish leaders were attempting to keep what was not theirs (power and control of the people, self-elevation, ill-gained wealth) instead of leading Israel according to the will of its master. Therefore, the kingdom would be taken away from them. Soon the church would take over operations (as announced in 16:18–19; 18:18–20), giving glory and service to God and producing spiritual fruit for him. Two thousand years of church history have proven that even the church does not do this perfectly. But the new covenant, sealed by Jesus’ blood, allows God to work through the imperfect church to accomplish his perfect plan. (Weber, Stuart K. Matthew. Vol. 1. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000. Print. Holman New Testament Commentary.)

Jesus is emphatic that Israel’s leaders have forfeited their privilege of experiencing God’s saving presence (=kingdom), and now God’s blessings are extended to a new people composed of all ethnic groups, comprising a new, holy nation under the sovereign rule of God (cf. 1 Peter 2:9). It would seem that such language has its fulfillment in the appearance of the church. (Chouinard, Larry. Matthew. Joplin, MO: College Press, 1997. Print. The College Press NIV Commentary.)

An explicit interpretation of the outcome of the story is provided in verse 43: The promise of God’s reign that has heretofore been part of God’s covenant with Israel will now be offered to a more worthy people, that is, to a people that responds to Jesus and his message (the church). (Gardner, Richard B. Matthew. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1991. Print. Believers Church Bible Commentary.)

Surely these six common and popular commentaries are enough to display two very disturbing issues:

  1. Commentators have no problem ignoring the clear meaning of words like ethnos when such words do not fit their preconceived notions.
  2. Commentators (even the conservative ones) are undeniably adherents of replacement theology, and even a disdainful perception of Israel and a vaunted valuation of the church (“a more worthy people.”

What Does the Biblical Text Say?
The Kingdom would be taken from Israel, again, undoubtedly. It would then, someday, be given to an ethnos that produces the fruit of the Kingdom. Here are the problems with considering the church to be this ethnos that receives the Kingdom promises:

  1. The ethnos to whom the Kingdom will be given is singular, not plural. The text does not say that the Kingdom will be given to ethnicities but to an ethnos. The singular form of the word is used only seven times in the New Testament. Of those seven, five are unquestionably a reference to the Jewish nation (Acts 24:2, 10, 26:4, and twice in Romans 10:19).
  2. The church is not an ethnos, and making it an ethnos would, in other circumstances, be an action met with animosity by the same theologians who do so in this verse. Being “neither Greek nor Jew…Barbarian, Scythian” (Colossians 3:11), the church has no ethnicity, but is rather one body, which is the body of Christ. Frankly, if the Holy Spirit led Matthew to use the word ethnos to refer to the coming church, then the Holy Spirit is a poor linguist. I believe it was Mark Twain who said, “the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”
  3. The church, as the body of Christ, was completely an unrevealed mystery as Jesus spoke in Matthew 21. Paul is emphatic that the “dispensation of the grace of God” given unto the gentiles was “the mystery” which, “by revelation he made known unto me” and which, “in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men.” This mystery, specifically, was “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” This same mystery, “from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God” (Ephesians 3:2-9). Therefore, either the church is an unrevealed mystery in Matthew 21 or Paul is mistaken in Ephesians 3.
  4. The Scripture is unbelievably clear that, while God’s Kingdom focus with the nation of Israel would be removed from them, it would also be restored. Israel today has a “blindness in part” and such a blindness will happen, “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” When the times of the gentiles are completed, the “cast away” nation shall be “received” again (Romans 11:15-32).

Matthew 21:43 gives prophecy both of the casting away and the receiving of the Jewish nation, for it is the Jewish ethnos itself who will receive the Kingdom and the fulfillment of all its promises. The Kingdom was removed from Israel in the book of Acts, and is restored to Israel in the book of Revelation. It is the ethnos of Jews in Revelation who, through the instrumentation of the Tribulation, have come to Christ and are producing the fruit of the Kingdom. Having received Christ as both Savior and Messiah, the future Jewish nation will receive the Kingdom, as promised.

The Matthew prophecy is not a challenge linguistically or theologically; provided that a preconceived notion has not so clouded your thinking that you are unknowingly performing eisegesis (reading into Scripture) rather than exegesis (reading out of Scripture.)

As for me, I look forward to the blessed hope of the rapture, when the non-ethnos church will be snatched away, and God will once again deal exclusively with the ethnos of the Jews. I know that this day will, and by necessity must come, because, “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29).

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John Gregory

Beautiful! The true interpretation at last!
Bless You!

Randall Cofield

“The church is not an ethnos,…”

1 Pe. 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (ethnos), His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

This is a stunningly uninformed article.

    Les

    Randall, amen!

    Scott Shaver

    “Stunningly uninformed” by what perspective and who’s theological filter?

    You guys the early warning radar?

    Another excellent essay by Randy White.

    Bill Mac

    Randall: I agree with your take, especially in light of that verse and the fact that ethnos is translated generically as Gentiles most of the time, but I think your parting shot was a little harsh.

      Randall Cofield

      You are right, Bill Mac. I didn’t realize this article was using a Dispensational Pre-Mill hermeneutic until after I has posted, and I over-reacted. That being said, I still totally disagree with the OP.

      Norm, feel free to strike my rather harsh final statement in the comment above.

    Jon Estes

    Good word Randall.

    Loud silence from the author in dealing with the passage you cite.

    I guess if I believe differently (the way he states history has interpreted and many great theologians have interpreted — all of which, being men, could be wrong… just as the author of the post probably is) I am proclaiming the Holy Spirit is uninformed.

    Sheeesh…

      Randy White

      The “loud silence” comes from the fact that I haven’t followed this blog. The article is a repost.

      I see that others have given the perspective on Peter’s epistles related to Israel. Such a perspective is not something that can be resolved in a comment thread, so I’ll leave it at that.

Jim P

Dr. White,

Your article leaves no room for discussion. When that stand is communicated in an article it’s inferred, the author is strident about the position, and the proverb ‘iron sharpens iron’ is forfeited at everyone’s expense, yours included.

Jim Poulos

    Scott Shaver

    Perhaps not designed to leave room for discussion?

    A coherent statement of the obvious is what it appears.

    Scott Shaver

    If we’e using the biblical imagery of metallurgy as rationale for your point, Jim P:

    I have concerns about any high carbon composition of half the “iron” in question.

    Some of it may need a little more time in the crucible to burn off dross.

      Jim P

      And someday, maybe the Amen Corner will to learn to think for themselves, Scott:

        Andrew Barker

        Jim P: I’m sure Les will give his “Amen brother” soon enough ;-)

          Scott Shaver

          Andrew:

          I thought he was talking to Les. I don’t use “Amen” in blogging. Not impressed with “the language of Zion”.

          Jim P

          Andrew:speaking on behalf of others is not cup of tea.

        Scott Shaver

        Jim P.

        I just did “think” for myself. That’s what pricked and prompted your response. I’m surprised you would encourage such. A fundamental axiom for high Calvinism is that you can’t have folks “thinking” for themselves.

phillip

1 Peter 2:9…
But ye (Peter is writing to Jews) are a chosen generation (race), a royal priesthood, an holy (set apart) nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light

Exodus 19:5-6. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL.

Matthew 24:14 (this is tribulation ground)…..And this gospel of the kingdom (not the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection) shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all (Gentile) nations; and then shall the end come.

Zechariah 8:23
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; `In those days (these prophetic days that are still out there) it shall come to pass (its going to happen), that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations (Gentiles), even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew (remember what Exodus 19:6 says, they shall be a Kingdom of priests), saying, `We will go with you: (why?) for we have heard that God is with you.'”

Come, Lord Jesus.

    Randall Cofield

    “(Peter is writing to Jews)”

    Peter is writing to the church-at-large, both Jew and Gentile, as is evidenced by 2:5, 4:17, 5:2, 13, and 14.

    Indeed, I Pe. 3:10 states:
    who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

    …which is a paraphrase of Hosea 1:10, of which Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says:

    Ro. 9:22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
    23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
    24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, **but also of the Gentiles?**
    25 As He says also in Hosea: **”I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.”**

      phillip

      Galatians 2:7-9…..
      But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision (the Gentiles) was committed unto me (Paul), as the gospel of the circumcision (the Jew) was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision (the Jew), the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles: And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me (Paul), they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen (Gentiles), and they unto the circumcision (Jews).

      Hosea 1:10….
      Yet the number of the children of Israel (no Gentiles in that group) shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them (the children of Israel), Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.

        Randall Cofield

        Ga 3:29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

          phillip

          1 Peter 1:1….
          Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to (apostle to whom?) the strangers (foreigners, newcomers, or outsiders) scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia

          Galatians 2:8a….
          For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision (Jews)….

          1 Peter 1:1….
          Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia

          James 1:1…
          James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

          Peter and James are writing to Jews/Israelites and there are no Gentiles in this group. Gentiles have never been scattered. But the Israelites/Jews have been.

            Randall Cofield

            Ga 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
            Ga 3:29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Sean

I totally disagree with almost everthing Dr. White has said, but we must remember his dispensational hermeneutic colors how he reads and interprets Scripture.

He writes, “The Kingdom was removed from Israel in the book of Acts, and is restored to Israel in the book of Revelation.”

In fact, at Pentecost, Israel was regathered as the people of God–they chose 12 apostles to complete the symbolism and the prophecies from Joel became a reality as they were united together in one language and 2000 were saved on that day. Pentecost was Israel reconstituted so that as the body of Christ they could go out from Jerusalem in the power of the Spirit to the Gentiles.

In addition, one has to see the church removed from the earth after Revelation 4 to get the dispensational view of the pretribulation rapture. Revelation never mentions a pre-trib rapture and shows how the Asia Minor churches struggled in their time and how we as the church will continue to struggle in our day until Christ comes back.

Peter is not writing to Jews, he’s writing to elect Gentiles in Asia Minor.

In addition, the church is now Israel fulfilled or completed (not replaced) the church does not replace Israel, it is the new Israel of God made of both Jews and Gentiles into one new man. (Ephesians 2:11-22)

Dispensationalism comes to the BIble with a presuppositional template that there must be two plans of God–one for ethnic Israel and another distinct plan for the church. Until this can be proved exegetically, historically and contextually in the entirety of the Bible, the dispensational hermeneutic is a house of cards. I don’t fault Dr. White from expressing his views, but I think he is very biased.

I think the entire purpose of SBCTODAY recently is to garner more readers by putting provocative posts from hyper-dispensationalists and vehement anti-Calvinists.

    Scott Shaver

    “I think the entire purpose of SBCTODAY recently is to garner more readers by putting provocative posts from hyper-dispensationalists and vehement anti-Calvinist.”

    Shaun: I for one am an Amillenial, vehement, anti five-point/soverign grace type, so your spectrum of suspicion may need some adjustment. Light-heartedly, I take offense at being lumped in with my premillenial friends. :)

    If, as you suspect, the entire purpose of SBCTODAY recently is to “garner more readers”, I applaud them in their success. Increased readership means increased transmission of shared ideas, convictions and encouragement among the “brethren” and also serves to help folks better understand the addition of theological prisms like “Unconditional Election” to an otherwise simple message of repentance and faith in Christ.

    An analysis of “provactive” would also be true if it rings the bell of those trapped in that false theological prism. Hence the wasp-like swarm of neo-calvinist comments appearing on these
    threads just as soon as an article or essay is posted :o

      Lydia

      “: I for one am an Amillenial, vehement, anti five-point/soverign grace type, so your spectrum of suspicion may need some adjustment”

      Me too.

    Scott Shaver

    “Dispensationalism comes to the Bible with a presuppositional template ….”

    Kind of like Calvinism and unconditional election?

    Andrew Barker

    Sean: The sudden influx of activity in this blog was due in no small part to the actions of one rather young seminary student, who’s probably still wet behind the ears, who posted a link on the CFDD Facebook page. I think the law of unintended consequences has operated with a vengeance. :)

    I’m not sure what a hyper-dispensationalist look like but I see God using Israel to bring salvation to the world and I think Israel still has a role to play. But that’s generally not so important to me as getting the basics of the Gospel message right. Which is where I differ from Calvinists. I know what they look like and generally I don’t like what they preach. So this site is anti-Calvinist? Well it’s certainly more Gospel than Coalition!

      Sean

      What’s CFDD?

        Andrew Barker

        Sean: Calvinists’ Favour Divine Determinism?

Randall Cofield

Amillennialists in hermeneutical lock-step with a Dispensational Premillennialist? Is this some kind of alternate universe?

    Lydia

    “Amillennialists in hermeneutical lock-step with a Dispensational Premillennialist? Is this some kind of alternate universe?”

    Lockstep? If you have studied the historical trajectory to 1948 and are a determinist, what is the problem? The land promise does not have to include salvation.

      Randall Cofield

      Lydia, I’m not aware of any Amillennialists who view the Kingdom of God as a mere plot of promised dirt in the Middle East.

        Lydia

        “Lydia, I’m not aware of any Amillennialists who view the Kingdom of God as a mere plot of promised dirt in the Middle East.”

        I don’t view a plot of land as the kingdom of God. What a strange response. Why would a land promise be reneged? A rainbow reminds me of another promise. Same rainbow is there for a Muslim.

          Randall Cofield

          Title of OP: “The Kingdom Is Not Given To the Church”

          Scott: “I for one am an Amillenial, vehement, anti five-point/soverign grace type”

          Lydia: “Me too.”

          Randall: “Amillennialists in hermeneutical lock-step with a Dispensational Premillennialist? Is this some kind of alternate universe?”

          Lydia: “Lockstep? If you have studied the historical trajectory to 1948 and are a determinist, what is the problem? The land promise does not have to include salvation.”

          Randall: “Lydia, I’m not aware of any Amillennialists who view the Kingdom of God as a mere plot of promised dirt in the Middle East.”

          Lydia: “I don’t view a plot of land as the kingdom of God. What a strange response.”

          Title of OP: “The Kingdom Is Not Given To the Church”

          If the Kingdom of God is neither promised land or salvation, of what does the Kingdom of God consist in your estimation?

Tyler

It amazes me that even after Christ’s return that they think there will be some sort of ethical divide. It truly amazes me.

    Randall Cofield

    I’m with you there, Tyler. And this in spite of Paul’s declaration that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, but in Him we are all one. Instead of rightly dividing the Word, Dispensationalism tries to divide the people of God. Can’t be done.

      Scott Shaver

      Lydia:

      Your barking up a dead tree. You obviously know a little more about the implications of their theological prism than they do themselves.

Clif Springer

Thank you for your commentary on the commentaries;-) In my old age I have realized that an awful lot of stuff in those commentaries is there because an editor and an agent were calling for pages to be filled up by a deadline. I have learned that by dealing with a passage without reference to any theological system and using basic linguistic analysis, after stripping away the chapter and verse divisions, I am quite capable to equipping my folks without using commentaries. However, I appreciate the work of A T Robertson, Thayer, etc. more than ever.

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