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ISRAEL IN LATER MATTHEW

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  Leave a comment

Dispensationalism has a heavy investment in Israel’s future glory as a geo-political entity. But in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus appears to warn Israel of her judgment, not her glory. In yesterday’s article we saw how the early portions of Matthew showed this. Let us now look at the case against Israel in the later sections.

In Matthew 12:43–45 the Lord speaks of the seven-fold demonization of Israel in “this generation.” In Matthew 13:58 he performs no miracles in Nazareth due to their lack of faith. In Matthew 15:7–14 he rebukes the rabbis in Israel for neglecting God’s word and teaching falsely, according to Isaianic prophecy. In Matthew 16:4 he once again speaks of Israel as an evil and adulterous generation.

In Matthew 16:21 Jesus teaches his disciples that Israel’s chief priests will kill him. In Matthew 16:28 he notes that some of his followers will live to see the kingdom come with power. In Matthew 17:10–13 Jesus declares John the Baptist to be Elijah, whom the Jews do not recognize as such and therefore kill him, just as they will kill Jesus.

Matthew 19:28 the Son of Man will come and the apostles will sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. In Matthew 20:18–19 Christ once again prophesies that the chief priests will condemn him to death.

In Matthew 21:12 he casts out the moneychangers and overturns their tables — as prophetic theater showing the soon overthrow of the temple. In Matthew 21:19–21 he curses the fig tree and speaks of throwing “this mountain” into the sea, as signs of judgment on Israel (“this mountain” probably points to the temple mount). In Matthew 21:33–43, 45 the parable of the landowner shows God taking the kingdom from the Jews and crushing them. In Matthew 22:2–7 pro-phesies the AD 70 burning of “their city,” Jerusalem.

In Matthew 23 Jesus pronounces seven woes upon the Pharisees. In Matthew 23:34–36 first century Israel will be judged for the righteous blood shed in the land. In 23:36–38 he laments the temple and declares it desolate. In 24:2–3 he leaves the temple and prophesies its destruction. In 24:16 he notes that his followers are to flee Judea, because in 24:34 “this generation” will experience judgment.

In Matthew 26:3–5 the chief priests and the High Priest counsel Jesus’ death. In Matthew 26:47 the High Priest secures Jesus’ arrest. In 26:57 the High Priest tries Jesus, even bringing in brings false witnesses (26:59). In 26:63–64 Jesus warns that the High Priest will see him coming in judgment.

In Matthew 27:1 the High Priest confers with others to kill Jesus. In vv 15–21 the chief priests encourage the crowd to seek the release of the robber Barabbas, instead of the innocent Messiah Jesus. In v 25 the people call his blood down upon themselves. While he is dying on the cross in vv 39–40, the people mock him for declaring the destruction of the temple. In vv 41–43 the scribes, elders, and chief priests deride him as he dies. In Matthew 28:11–15 the priests assemble after the resurrection to bribe the Roman guards at Jesus’ tomb, directing them to claim that his disciples stole his body.

Then finally in Mt 28:18–20 the Lord gives the Great Commission — which directs his followers to take the gospel to “all nations,” rather than limiting their ministry to Israel as previously (10:16–17; 15:24). Here we see God turning from the Jews to the world.

Matthew’s picture certainly does not suggest any distinctive favoring of racial Israel in the future. In fact, it appears as strong evidence against such a viewpoint. It would seem that dispensationalists would be wise in avoiding Matthew’s Gospel, rather than emphasizing it.

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

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