An Introduction to the
Postponement of the Kingdom
Essay Question: “If you were explaining to a Jew living during the time of Matthew proofs that Jesus came to fulfill the Davidic covenant and why the kingdom was postponed, what would you write? Please cite specific references from Matthew.”
A Theocratic Kingdom was promised to Israel from her scriptures. Some of the promises of that kingdom were that an eternal seed of David would reign as king on an eternal throne as Messiah (the anointed one) in the city of David (Jerusalem). In fact, all promises of the kingdom relied on this seed. Without such a seed, no kingdom can be present. If that seed were to die, resurrect and ascend to heaven to sit on the Father’s right hand, the kingdom can be postponed until another advent so chosen by the Father. The perpetuity of the seed is not affected if that seed were put to death, seeing as the seed has ascended to the Father. The timing of the kingdom is, however, affected. Since the Jews did not accept the kingdom offer, it is postponed until they do. The kingdom is conditioned upon Israel’s repentance and acceptance of her king. Such a rejection of the Kingdom was a mystery to the Old Testament scriptures, though required by it, which is a reason for such postponement.
If I wanted to show that this seed “came to fulfill the Davidic covenant”, I would write that this seed’s lineage is legitimate to fulfill that covenant. Which it is written: “[Matthew describes Christ’s] ancestry (1:1-17) to show His right to the throne”. I would take great concern about how I express the place that Messiah would reign from—the place the Davidic covenant promised. It is attested that Matthew peculiarly expressed “of Jerusalem as ‘the holy city’ and ‘the city of the Great King.’” It is known that intertestamental writings such as 4 Ezra, Psalms of Solomon and the Qumran write of the requirement of Messiah’s lineage to be Davidic. It was not uncommon during that time that the Jews expected the Messiah to be of Davidic lineage. Therefore, I would constantly refer to Christ as that very son of David throughout my book, which it is attested: “[Matthew] constantly refers to Christ as ‘the Son of David’ (1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9, 15; 22:42, 45).” I would give the required credentials for this king: which Matthew did. In the primitive chapters of the gospel, Matthew gives the “virgin birth [to show] that He possessed the legal right to the throne.” I would include God’s approval placed on the Messiah at His baptism, which Matthew does (Mt. 3:13-4:11): God’s very voice from heaven bearing witness. I would include “the witness of [Christ’s] victory over Satan (4:1-11), where His moral right to rule is established”. I would surely show that His “[r]egal authority is demonstrated in His being able to bring men to obedience (4:12-22)”, that “[t]he credentials of the King are presented by Him (4:23-25)” and that “[t]he pronouncements of the King (5:1-7:29) demonstrate regal authority.” To top it off, I would be sure to include the event of Christ’s birth with the star linked to His birthplace (Mt. 2:1-10). During this first century setting, the Numbers 24:17-constellation-passage was a very important passage in determining who the Messiah was:
Messianic interpretation of Numbers 24:17 is widely attested in traditions dating to the first century and earlier (T. Jud. 24:1-6; CD 7:20; 1QSb 5:27-28; 1QM 11:4-9; 4Q175 1:9-13; possibly Philo Vit. Mos. 1.52 290; Praem. Poen. 16 95; Orphica 31 = Aristobulus frag. 4:5).
“Simon ben Kosiba’s nickname bar kokhba ('son of the star') apparently was inspired by this passage.” Matthew uses the star above the Messiah to show the Jews that our Lord is the Messiah—the legitimate candidate of the son of David to fulfill the Davidic covenant.
I would also take great interest in the very Old Testament kingdom promises that that king came to fulfill, and devote much of the book to showing how this seed of David is the king that these Old Testament kingdom promises promised. Of which it is also attested: “an interest in the OT kingdom promises runs throughout this gospel” and “no other Evangelist has so fully developed the idea that Christ and his kingdom are the fulfilment of all the hopes and aspirations of Israel...” For example, George Peters writes:
[The miracles of Christ] are so related to the kingdom that they cannot be separated from it without mutual defacement. Thus it is represented by Jesus Himself (Mat_12:28), “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto (or as some, upon) you.” Here we have, 1. The relationship existing between the kingdom and miracles; that without the latter the former cannot be revealed. 2. That miracles are a manifestation of possessed power, which Jesus will exert when He establishes His kingdom. 3. That the miraculous casting out of devils, or Satan, is an event connected with the kingdom, and its accomplishment through Jesus is thus verified as predicted, e.g., Rev_20:1-6:4. That the miraculous casting out of devils by Jesus is a premonition, anticipating, foreshowing, or foreshadowing (Greek, Lange, Com. vol. 1, p. 223, conveys idea of anticipating, etc.), like the transfiguration, of the kingdom itself. The miracles then are assurances vouchsafed that the kingdom will come as it is predicted. The miracles of Jesus are so varied and significant in the light of the kingdom that it can be readily perceived how they give us the needed confidence in its several requirements and aspects.
Accordingly, I would definitely be including the miracles of Christ which the OT promised for this kingdom (Mt. 4:23; 9:35). I would specifically include the teaching of Christ that He came to fulfill the law and the prophets (Mt. 5:17-18): which, in comparison to other gospels, is omitted. I would not write that the kingdom would be changed at all by Christ’s second advent, since this would mean that Christ did not come to fulfill the Davidic Covenant. Since Matthew never writes of such change, this further proves that Jesus came to fulfill the Davidic Covenant. “Since this kingdom was the subject of an irrevocable covenant it was unthinkable that it could be abandoned.” Not even a rejection of Messiah would allow for this. Matthew includes this reasoning, narrating from the words of the Lord, in his gospel (Mt. 21:33-46).
To do due justice to the Davidic covenant, the kingdom is not forsaken and is inaugurated at the second advent of Messiah. Matthew 24:29, called by George Peters “one of the most decided and expressive passages” of when the Messianic kingdom is to be set up, is included by Matthew to show when the Messianic kingdom would be set up: at Christ’s second advent.
“The house is left desolate” until He comes again, when its fallen, desolate condition will be removed. One of the most decided and expressive passages is that of Mat_24:29, where, after delineating the Jewish tribulation running down through an allotted “times of the Gentiles” we come to the language “immediately after the tribulation” (not before, but after it) certain events such as the open Advent of the Son of Man and the gathering of the elect, will take place, which in many places (as e.g. Matthew 25, Daniel 7, II Thessalonians 5, etc.) are associated with the setting up of the Kingdom. Such a portraiture of the course of events is in harmony with the general and uniform testimony of the Prophets, who almost invariably contrast this Kingdom with a previously endured tribulation by the Jewish nation which has finally ended through special Divine interposition (as e.g. Zechariah 14, etc.), and the nation enjoys the blessedness of covenants fully and gloriously realized.
Indeed, the language of the passage of the Second Advent is much in tune with rabbinic doctrine of the day:
Sound the great horn for our freedom; lift up the ensign to gather our exiles, and gather us from the four corners of the earth. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who gatherest the banished ones of thy people Israel.
Compare verse 31 (ESV):
And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
This further proves that Matthew is writing “for the converts from Judaism” who were familiar with such prophecies or doctrines of Messiah.
To answer what I would write if I were to prove to a Jew in the mid-first century, how Christ came to fulfill the Davidic covenant, a question or two might first need to be answered. Such questions may already be coming to mind as you read these first three pages: what is the Davidic covenant? What does it promise? “To summarize…the Davidic covenant promised David four eternal things: an eternal house, or dynasty, an eternal throne, an eternal kingdom, and an eternal descendent.” One of the arguments against Jesus’ right to Messianism may be that since He died, He is not a legitimate candidate. It was this reason that Maimonides writes that Simon ben Kosiba lost his right to Messianic candidacy. It was this reason that Trypho the Jew also objects to Christ’s Messianism. Matthew writes, however, that after Christ dies (Mt. 17:22-23), he ascends to heaven (Mt. 25:14). His perpetuity is not abandoned. Therefore, Christ’s right to the Davidic covenant is still intact. In fact, it was this very parable referenced, viz. Matthew 25:14-30, that converted a biblical scholar towards premillennialism.
Another reason why Simon ben Kosiba lost his Messianic candidacy is because He was not able to overthrow the Romans: the kingdom of Messiah did not come, therefore Simon ben Kosiba could not have been the Messiah, so the argument goes. This argument is similarly found to be Trypho’s:
Trypho said, “These and such like Scriptures, sir, compel us to wait for Him who, as Son of man, receives from the Ancient of days the everlasting kingdom. But this so-called Christ of yours was dishonourable and inglorious, so much so that the last curse contained in the law of God fell on him, for he was crucified.”
If I were to prove to a Jew therefore, during this time period, that Jesus is the Messiah and came to fulfill that role in the Davidic Covenant, I would write that the kingdom will come, but Messiah has to be killed first (Mt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; 26:53-54). I would write the reason why the kingdom did not come (Mt. 21:43; cp. 21:9), and how it can come (Mt. 23:39). I would write about what Christ said about His advent (Mt. 24), and that Christ will receive the kingdom on this advent (Mt. 21:38, 42; 24:29; 25:31—more on this reference of Matthew 24:29 below).
The kingdom could not come while the land was under gentile dominion. This was already a given. The kingdom was postponed ever since the “times of the Gentiles” began. George Peters has rightly written:
So long as ‘the city of the great King,’ and so long as His land, His by inheritance…as David’s Son, is under Gentile dominion, it is simply impossible for the Kingdom to exist; and it is folly to argue, with the light of the Davidic covenant and prophetic announcements relating to it, that the Messianic Kingdom has been set up. This Jewish tribulation, these times of the Gentiles, this gathering out of an elect, the nonfulfillment of “these things,”-these, and a multitude…, of considerations, show that it is thus postponed.
So on a side-note: the Jewish hope of Messianic overthrow of Gentile power was justifiable.
This leaves us with the question, why didn’t the kingdom come when Christ came: which has already been somewhat inadvertently, indirectly answered with Christ’s death in the preceding paragraphs. And so, in further answer to the Essay question, I would, to prove why the Kingdom was postponed, be sure to write that the king is needed for the kingdom (Mt. 23:39), and that the land belongs to the Abrahamic seed (Mt. 21:38). Which Matthew, as has been shown by reference, does. Repentance and belief were also needed (Deut. 30:1-2—more on proving the “belief” requisite below).
It is at the point of Jewish conspiracy of Christ’s death that the kingdom is declared as “not nigh”—postponed further. Matthew shows this in his gospel. George Peters argues this, and even cites Matthew’s gospel as a proof text:
IF, INDEED, THE COVENANTED DAVIDIC KINGDOM IS OFFERED, AND THAT TENDER IS REJECTED THROUGH UNWILLINGNESS TO REPENT, THEN IT FOLLOWS, FROM THE FOREKNOWLEDGE LODGED IN JESUS, THAT IT IS REASONABLE TO EXPECT SOME SUCH PROCEDURE. THE STATEMENT …[THAT “Jesus, toward the close of His ministry, preached that the Kingdom was not nigh”] IS ABUNDANTLY CONFIRMED. JUST SO SOON AS THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE NATION MET IN COUNCIL AND CONSPIRED TO PUT JESUS TO DEATH, THEN, RELEASED FROM THE FIRST PART OF HIS MISSION, HIS STYLE OF PREACHING ALSO CHANGED. INSTEAD OF PROCLAIMING THAT THE KINGDOM WAS NIGH TO THE NATION, HE NOW DIRECTLY INTIMATES AND DECLARES THAT IT WAS NOT NIGH. MAT 21:43, “THE KINGDOM OF GOD SHALL BE TAKEN FROM YOU AND GIVEN TO A NATION BRINGING FORTH THE FRUITS THEREOF,”...
Clearly the kingdom was “offered in the person of the king”. “The rightful king was present and all that was required was repentance on the part of the nation and a reception of Christ as the theocratic Messiah”. Since the king was conspired against and such conspiracy was brought to fruition, the kingdom was postponed. It will begin with the second advent of Christ.
Another proof of Matthew’s composition proving to the Jews the postponement of the kingdom is that of his distinct portrayal of Jewish attacks against Messiah. Matthew wrote His gospel, more so in comparison to the others, to get remorse from the Jewish recipient for the death of Messiah. If the very reason that the kingdom is postponed is because of this death, then we know why Matthew composed his gospel as he did. “In no other gospel are the attacks against Jesus portrayed as strongly as here.” Matthew, being himself a Jew, writing to a Jewish audience, wants the nation to repent so that the kingdom can come. Judas’ remorse and suicide is distinctive to Matthew (Mt. 26:14-16; 27:3-10). If they feel remorse for the death of Christ, they are closer to that kingdom (Zech. 12:10). In writing as he does, Matthew wants to show the Jews that the kingdom was postponed because of their rejection of Messiah. He uses remorse as a convincing argument.
I would also be sure to include that the kingdom was offered in sincerity (Mt. 23:37), since this would verify the faithfulness of God to His covenants. It has been before offered this way to the Jews: “That the Kingdom would have been established had the nation believed, is evident from Deuteronomy 32, 2Ch 7:12-22, Isa 48:18, Psa 81:8-16, etc.” They would then be without excuse even to the witness of even their own Old Testament scriptures. I would write that repentance was needed to bring about that kingdom (Deut. 30:1-2; Mt. 3:1-2; 4:17) and that the kingdom was offered so long as the king allowed—which withdrawal rested on Jewish conspiracy of His death (which has already been shown). “It is worthy of notice, that Christ only openly predicted His sufferings and death toward the close of His ministry, Mat 20:17-20, Joh 12:32-34, etc.”
Matthew 21:38 then plays a significant role in explaining why the kingdom was postponed. The Jewish leaders killed Christ. It was the Jewish leaders’ fault. It has already been shown how Christ preached that the kingdom was postponed after the conspiracy of His death. This was very much instrumental in why Christ proclaimed the kingdom as postponed. It has also already been shown that so long as the king was present, the only requisite was repentance and belief to be brought the kingdom.
Another reason why the Jews could not accept the kingdom was because the New Covenant had not been inaugurated. This obstacle even existed way back in the garden with Adam’s disobedience, where a kingdom was offered to even he. Matthew narrates Christ showing this obstacle of depraved human condition even in the sermon on the mount, when Christ says that the requirement of righteousness of entering that kingdom needed to exceed the Pharisees (Mt. 5:20). Lewis Sperry Chafer writes:
Will not the exalted demands of the Sermon on the Mount be more easily obeyed when earthly conditions are changed, as they will be? The Church will be removed and Israel advanced to a position above all the nations of the earth with Jehovah's Law written in their hearts and the Spirit poured out on all flesh. Satan will be bound and in the abyss; the present world-system will have been destroyed; the bondage of corruption now resting upon creation will be lifted; and Christ as the glorified Son of David will be reigning on David's throne out from Jerusalem and over the whole earth.
George Peters writes:
The Theocracy was not simply preparatory but initial, in the sense of its being a real Kingdom of God, which was established in order to show forth to the nations of the earth the distinguished blessings flowing from it. Had the Jewish nation been faithful to its engagements to the Supreme King, had the subordinate rulers obeyed the Supreme Will, then the nation would-as promised-have multiplied its blessings, enlarged its advantages and power, secured a supremacy over all other people, and become the benefactors of the race in disseminating the knowledge and truth of God. The place of its manifestation geographically considered (centrally located), the form of government, the special promises given to it, the King at its head, etc., evidence this, but, alas! depraved human nature forbade its realization.
And so, If I were Matthew, I would include how Christ was the rightful party to begin inauguration of that very New Covenant (Mt. 26:28).
I would also include that the kingdom was postponed so that salvation may be wrought. The death of Messiah was crucial in such salvation. Matthew includes this reasoning in Mt. 21:42.
And lastly, I would include that the reason why the kingdom is postponed is so that the mysteries of the kingdom of which one, the Gentile receipt, may take place. This is even shown subtly in the beginning chapters of Matthew. George Peters rightly remarks:
To strangers, as to the woman of Samaria, the Centurion, Zacchaeus, [Christ] revealed from the first more concerning the future purposes of God pertaining to the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles, than He did to His own disciples before the conspiracy of the Jews, thus evincing both His Divine foreknowledge and His wonderful tact in keeping His disciples in the most favorable position and mental condition to preach the offer of the Kingdom.
The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven deal with “truths about the prophesied kingdom that had never before been revealed, truths related to the rejection of the kingdom as personified in the King.” One of the mysteries is that of Gentile inclusion into the Kingdom. The revelation of this mystery was a demand that the OT scriptures yearned for. Although “the Old Testament predicted a period of Gentile salvation”, it never revealed how this would take place, seeing as the Abrahamic seed was the only revealed way of salvation. George Peters writes:
The Kingdom being given to the nation, and this being based on covenants and promises confirmed by oath…the participation of the Gentiles in the covenanted relationship (and through this, to an inheriting of the blessings of the Kingdom), must depend…upon their being, in some way, adopted as the seed of Abraham. Precisely here was the mystery, which baffled even the apostles until specially enlightened.
And writes further, that this mystery of Gentile adoption was never addressed in the OT, but “either taken for granted or directly mentioned in immediate combination with the Jewish nation” and that “the mode of incorporating these Gentiles is left for future revelation [standing from the OT point of view].” And so, Matthew’s gospel narrating the rejection and death of Christ with numerous fulfillments of prophecy (Mt. 26:31, 54, 56; 27:9-10), was yearned for and demanded from the OT scriptures. It is this death that allows for the Gentile inclusion into the body of Christ and the kingdom. Such a postponement of the kingdom, therefore, was also demanded by the OT scriptures, and Matthew makes such a case. “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled [if My crucifixion were deterred], that [My crucifixion] must be so?” (Mt. 26:54, ESV).
Jewish objection to this may be that the scripture never mentions two advents of Messiah. Matthew wrote his gospel, however, as we have seen, to fill that void that such an objection makes. Without the two advent realization of Messiah, no belief can be made on the Messiah.
Unbelief has not yet been able to explain the anomaly presented in these two Advents. The last (Second), which is spoken of in the most eulogistic terms, it may ascribe to human desire and consequent Oriental imagination, but it is completely at fault with the First Advent. For it cannot show how it is possible for Jews, with Jewish expectations and hopes (based on covenant promise), to describe a Messiah coming in humiliation, rejection, suffering, and death.
The prophets purposefully, in the foreknowledge and wisdom of God, did not mention or write of two advents to throw the blame of Christ’s rejection on the nation. Matthew also wrote his gospel to show the fulfillment of scripture that in its entirety implies or necessitates such a twofold advent of Messiah: the first advent followed by a rejection. This has already been addressed in the previous paragraph.
A Theocratic Kingdom was promised to Israel from her scriptures and covenants. Some of the promises of that kingdom were that an eternal seed of David would reign as king on an eternal throne as Messiah in the city of David. In fact, all promises of the kingdom relied on this seed. Without such a seed, no kingdom can be present. If that seed were to die, resurrect and ascend to heaven to sit on the Father’s right hand, the kingdom can be postponed until another advent so chosen by the Father. The perpetuity of the seed is not affected if that seed were put to death, seeing as the seed has ascended to the Father. The timing of the kingdom is, however, affected. Since the Jews did not accept the kingdom offer, it is postponed until they do. The kingdom is conditioned upon Israel’s repentance and acceptance of her king. Such a rejection of the Kingdom was a mystery to the Old Testament scriptures, though required by it.
 Pentecost, J. D. Things to Come. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1958. Chap. XXVI, II, A, 1.
 Schaff, P. HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. Vol. 1, Ch. 12, 80. The Style.
 Evans, C. A. & Porter, S. E. Dictionary of New Testament Background. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000. pp. 701-702.
 MacArthur, J. The MacArthur Study Bible. Nashville, Tennessee, USA: Thomas Nelson, 2006. p. 1357.
 Pentecost, J. D. Loc. cit.
 Pentecost, J. D. Op. cit., Chap. XXVI, II, A, 2.
 Evans, C. A. & Porter, S. E. Op. cit., p. 699.
 MacArthur, J. Op. cit., p. 1357.
 Schaff, P. Op. cit., Vol. 1, Ch. 12, 80. Character and Aim of the Gospel.
 Peters, G. The Theocratic Kingdom. Redding, California: Pleasant Places Press, 2005 (Original work published 1884). Prop. 7. Cited by J. Dwight Pentecost. Op. cit., Chap. XXVI, I, F.
 Schaff, P. Op. cit., Vol. 1, Ch. 12, 80. Peculiar Sections.
 Pentecost, J. D. Op. cit., Ch. IX, IV, A, 2.
 Peters, G. Op cit., prop. 66, obs. 3.
 As cited by Barrett, C. K. The New Testament Background: Selected Documents. New York, USA: Harper Torchbook ed., 1961 (first pub. London, S.P.C.K., 1956). p. 163.
 Eusebius. Ecclesiastical History. 6:25.
 Couch, M. Dictionary of Premillennial Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996. pp. 86-87.
 Evans, C. A. & Porter, S. E. Op. cit., p. 1114.
 Justin Martyr. Dialogues. Ch. XXXII.
 Cf. Peters, G. Op. cit., prop. 58, obs. 4.
 Evans, C. A. & Porter, S. E. Op. cit., p. 700.
 Justin Martyr. Loc. cit.
 Peters, G. Op cit., prop. 66, obs. 1.
 Peters, G. Op. cit., prop. 58.
 Pentecost, J. D. Op. cit., chap. XXVI, I, H.
 MacArthur, J. Op. cit., p. 1358.
 Schaff, P. Op. cit., Vol. 1, Ch. 12, 80. Peculiar Sections.
 Peters, G. Op. cit., prop. 57, obs. 4.
 Peters, G. Op. cit., prop. 58, obs. 5.
 Chafer, L. S. Dispensationalism. Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1951. 4.36. Bold emphasis added.
 Peters, G. Op. cit., prop. 26, obs. 2. Bold emphasis added.
 Peters, G. Op. cit., prop. 58, obs. 5.
 Couch, M. Op. cit., p. 233.
 Pentecost, J. D. Op. cit., Chap. IX, IV, A, 6, f-g.
 Fruchtenbaum, A. Israelology. San Antonio, TX: Ariel Ministries, 2001 revision (Original work published 1989). p. 553
 Cf. Peters, G. Op. cit., prop. 29, obs. 2.
 Peters, G. Op. cit., prop. 30, obs. 5. Bold emphasis added.
 Peters, G. Op. cit., prop. 30, obs. 4.
 Peters, G. Op. cit., prop. 30, obs. 3.
 Such was Trypho’s objection. Cf. Justin Martyr. Loc. cit.
 Peters, G. Op. cit., prop. 34, obs. 9.
 Peters, G. Op. cit., prop. 34, obs. 1.
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