Hermeneutics

The Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew (Part 7)

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The Image and the Great Tribulation

It is usual for Dispensationalists to divide the seventieth week of Daniel 9; a week that lasts for seven years, into two halves of three and a half years each. There are good reasons for this which we shall discuss, but this clean division is not as apparent when one concentrates solely on the Olivet Discourse. The passage continues like this:

Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. (Matthew 24:15-22)

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The Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew (Part 6)

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The Olivet Discourse (Pt. 1)

Coming at last to the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25, although the main descriptive section comes in Matthew 24 with an addendum at the end of Matthew 25, before which are two parables.

Matthew 24:1-2 belong on their own. They provide the setting for the discourse that follows in that they refer to the glories of Herod’s temple.1 Jesus does not even acknowledge the great work, which by His time was famous throughout the Empire. Instead, He predicts its devastation, which came upon it in A.D. 70.

In the verses that come next some are tempted to keep within the first century setting of the opening two verses, but I think this is plainly mistaken. Verse 3 is critical to what will follow:

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)

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The Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew (Part 5)

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The Parables of the Kingdom (Pt. 2)

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

The other five (or six) parables are shorter. The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matt. 13:31-32) speaks of the “kingdom of heaven” beginning almost imperceptibly like a tiny seed but growing until it becomes a tree that can hold bird’s nests. Does this depict positive or negative growth? The wheat or the tares? It is hard to say, but I side with the majority who see it as positive growth.

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The Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew (Part 4)

This is from the first draft of my book The Words of the Covenant: New Testament Continuity. Read the series.

The Parables of the Kingdom (Pt. 1)

In any study of the Kingdom “the parables of the kingdom,” seven (or eight depending on one’s reckoning) of which are located in Matthew 13 are critical. Although this is not a Bible commentary, it is important to take a look at these parables because they provide important information about the progress of God’s Kingdom program.1 We should remind ourselves that although the majority of OT texts refer to the eschatological Kingdom, there are verses such as Psalm 103:19 which declare, “The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” There is then a sense in which God has a kingdom up in heaven (naturally enough), but this is not the same as the one on earth described in such vibrant terms by the Prophets; the eschatological Kingdom. As we have seen that Kingdom is very much part of the theology of Luke.

Prior to chapter 13 Matthew has employed the term “kingdom of heaven” in a futuristic sense. It is something ahead (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 5: 3, 10, 19-20; 7:21; 8:11; 10:7; 11:11-12). In several instances the passages plainly speak of the coming new aeon (Matt. 5:19-20; 8:11), but I submit that all the references ought to be taken in that way. However, things change in Matthew 13.

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The Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew (Part 3)

This is from the first draft of my book The Words of the Covenant: New Testament Continuity. Read the series.

Interpreting Matthew 10

Jesus dispenses power to vanquish demons and sicknesses to His disciples in Matthew 10:1 in preparation for them going throughout Israel heralding the impending Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 10:1-10). The wonders they are to perform in the sight of their countrymen demonstrate the unsuitability of putting new wine in old wineskins. The Kingdom they are preaching as “at hand” will introduce a new aeon; one that will outdo this aeon as a combine-harvester outdoes a scythe. The miracles should not be seen as only sins that attract attention, but as portents of the kind of realm the Kingdom of God will be.

But it is a striking fact that Matthew tells us that this powerful witness was to be confined.

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:5-8)

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The Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew (Part 2)

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The Kingdom to Come in the Lord’s Prayer

We are accustomed to treat the so-called “Lord’s Prayer” within our own “Church” context. And no wonder, for the guidance and hope it supplies are a great boon to the spiritual life. But if we situate it in its setting in the Sermon on the Mount we have to allow that it signified something a little different for the disciples, especially Matthew 6:10:

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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The Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew (Part 1)

The Kingdom of Heaven?

Matthew 3 begins with John the Baptist proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:1-2). It has him calling Pharisees and Sadducees “a brood of vipers” (Matt. 3:7), which hardly matched the exalted spiritual status they gave themselves. Later in this Gospel we see Jesus calling Pharisees (and scribes) hypocrites and “fools and blind” (Matt. 23:13-19). In Matthew the religious leaders get called all kinds of names. Modern scholarship has tried to correct these Matthean malapropisms, and we do know of Pharisees who became followers of Jesus (Acts 15:5). All in all though, the portrait the Holy Spirit has left us in the first Gospel does them no credit at all.

After the temptation of Jesus, which I shall look at from Matthew’s perspective soon, we find Jesus immediately preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). This is of interest because it means there is a direct continuity between John’s preaching and Jesus’ preaching.1 There was therefore a large swell of expectation of the “kingdom of heaven” in the early days of Christ’s ministry wrought by the attention-grabbing efforts of the two men.

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