Chapter 5

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Written to the Church

or to the Jews? (Part I)

 

 

 

Do the gospel of Matthew, chapters four through nineteen of Revelation, and the end–time prophecies of Daniel pertain to the Church or to the Jews?

 

They pertain to the Church. Most Christians believe that the gospels, as well as the epistles, apply to them. They also associate Daniel with Revelation in that they contain the same prophetic message about the Church in the end–time. Yet, there is a widespread teaching that these portions of Scripture are not primarily for or about the Church, but about Israel. It is necessary to show that these passages pertain to the Church; otherwise, all evidence from them that the Church will go through the Great Tribulation will be irrelevant.

This chapter (Part I), discusses the gospel of Matthew. The next chapter (Part II), discusses chapters four through nineteen of Revelation and the end–time prophecies of Daniel.

 

How do we know Matthew’s gospel concerns the Church and not primarily the Jews?

 

It is significant that the word “church” is recorded three times in Matthew’s gospel (16:18; 18:17), yet not once in the other gospels—which is unusual if it, among the gospels, were intended primarily for the Jews.

The gospel of Matthew is meant for “whosoever,” not for any select nationality. The words “whoso” and “whosoever” are emphasized more in this book than in any of the other gospels (forty–two times). Jesus said, “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” ( 7:24). In addition, He frequently used the words “every one,” “any one,” “any man,” “all,” and “every man.” Jesus meant the entire Book of Matthew to be for everyone, which includes chapters twenty–four and twenty–five on the end–time: “Whoso readeth, let him understand” (24:15).

Furthermore, all the sayings of Jesus in the gospels and His teachings as reflected in the epistles are not treated piecemeal. For example, the apostles preached “the words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:3) and “the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you” (1 John 1:5) without making any distinction between the gospel of Matthew and the other three gospels.

Moreover, “all things” written in Matthew’s gospel are meant for “all nations,” not for Jews only. Notice that this gospel ends with Christ’s command to go and teach all nations to observe all things He has commanded (28:20). Jesus told His followers that the Holy Spirit shall bring “all things” to your remembrance, “whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26). “All things,” all Jesus’ teaching, surely includes His sayings in the Book of Matthew.

Finally, Matthew’s gospel harmonizes perfectly with Mark, Luke, and John. The gospel of Matthew records more than one hundred and twenty events of Christ’s ministry. At least thirty of these are recorded in all four gospels. In addition, eighty–five of these events are recorded in at least one of the other gospels, which include major themes such as the ministry of John the Baptist, the Sermon on the Mount, Christ’s discourse on the Second Coming, His teaching on the Holy Spirit, about eight of the parables, the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, the denial by Peter, the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Great Commission. Because Matthew’s gospel also includes these major themes, we should not single it out as pertaining to the Jews in particular. The sayings of Jesus are unified, whether they are found in Matthew or the other three gospels. They are for all, Jew or Gentile.

 

Do Matthew 24 and 25 pertain to Israel but not to the Church?

 

The argument that these chapters concern only the Jews is not valid, for three reasons:

1. Matthew 24 and 25 were not addressed to the Jews, but to the disciples, the foundation of the Church. In the preceding chapters, the Jews reject Christ; therefore, He sorrowfully rejects them. Three parables bear out this fact: the parable of the two sons (21:28–32); the parable of the householder (21:33–46); and the parable of the marriage feast (22:1–14). Then, in the near context of these parables, Jesus solemnly states, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. . . . Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” ( 23:37,38). He does not later revoke these words.

Immediately after making this pronouncement against the Jews, “Jesus went out, and departed from the temple [the Jews]: and his disciples came to him. . . .” (Matt. 24:1). Thus, Jesus was addressing His disciples about His coming and the end of the world; He was not addressing the Jews as a nation. Although He foretold that the buildings of the temple would be destroyed (which took place during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D.), this is no reason to conclude that His teaching about the Second Coming and the end of the world applies only to the Jews and has nothing to do with the Church. (See Matt. 24:2.)

2. Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 24 and 25 agrees with the epistles, which are clearly written to the Church. It is also recorded in the gospels of Mark and Luke.

3. In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus refers to the Church at least seven times, without using the word “church.” It is dangerous to assume that since the word “church” is not mentioned, these chapters pertain to Israel. After all, the words “ Israel” and “Jew” do not appear either. In fact, the word “church” is not found in Mark, Luke, John, Second Peter, First and Second John, and Jude, which are clearly written for the Church’s edification. The writers simply use other terms, which is also true of Matthew.

 

How is the Church represented in Matthew 24 and 25?

 

By carefully comparing these chapters with other scriptures, we see the Church referred to as:

His disciples (24:1)—They are described as the foundation of the Church in Ephesians 2:20. They will preach the gospel in all the world (Matt. 24:14).

“His elect” (24:31)—These are Christ’s elect, His Church, which is composed of both Jew and Gentile believers. “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect. . . .” (Matt. 24:31). If “his elect” is the nation or a remnant of Israel, as some claim, then we would have to assume there will be a special coming of Christ for “Jews only,” which even some of those who equate the elect with Israel are not willing to admit. In the New Testament the Church is designated as God’s “elect” (Col. 3:12). See Chapter Eleven.

They who are commanded “to watch” (24:42,43; 25:13)—Throughout the New Testament, the command “to watch” is given to the Church, not to Israel.

They who will go “out to meet him” (25:6)—According to Paul, they who “meet the Lord” are those who are “in Christ,” the Church (1 Thess. 4:16,17). The five wise virgins represent the Bride, the Lamb’s wife, the glorious Church without spot or wrinkle (Matt. 9:15; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25,27; Rev. 19:7).

In the parable of the marriage feast (Matt. 22:1–14), the nation of Israel had been invited to the wedding, but “would not come” (v. 3). It had the opportunity to be the Bride of Christ, but refused. The invitation was then given to all (vs. 8,9). Jesus concluded this parable with the words, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (v. 14). The called are those who were invited to the wedding feast; the chosen are those who accepted the invitation, the Church. She will go out to meet her Bridegroom when He comes. See also Matt. 8:10–12; Luke 13:24–30; 14:15–24; John 1:11,12.

The “good and faithful servant” (25:21)—This servant represents the Church; those who are ready for their Lord. Jesus contrasted His servants and the Jews who were ready to crucify Him. “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews” (John 18:36). See also Isa. 65:12–15; John 12:26; Rev. 22:3

“The sheep” who inherit the kingdom and enter life eternal (25:33,34,46)—Only to His Church would the Lord Jesus say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (25:34). See also 1 Pet. 1:4; Rev. 21:7. The sheep represent the Church because they follow Christ and hear His voice. To unbelieving Jews, Jesus said, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life” (John 10:26–28). See also Matt. 10:5–15. Repentance and believing the gospel is the only way for individual Jews to be saved (Mark 1:15).

“My brethren” (25:40)—Jesus declared in Matthew’s gospel that His brethren are they who do the will of His Father ( 12:50), and He identified the brethren with His Church (18:15–17). The term “brethren” is synonymous with the saints (Col. 1:2), the elect (1 Thess. 1:4), and the Church (1 Thess. 1:1,4; Heb. 2:11,12). Moreover, Jesus made a distinction between His brethren and the Jews: “Jesus saith unto her . . . go to my brethren. . . . The disciples were assembled [behind shut doors] for fear of the Jews” (John 20:17,19). See also Acts 14:2; 17:5,6; 1 Thess. 2:14–17. The truth of Matthew 25:40 is also illustrated by Matthew 10:11–15,40–42 and Hebrews 6:10. See Chapter Twelve.

In summary, the Church, in Matthew 24 and 25, is represented as Christ’s disciples, His elect, they who are commanded to watch, the five wise virgins, the good and faithful servant, the sheep, and His brothers.

 

In Matthew 24:24, is the use of the Jewish term “Christ” or “Messiah” an indication that the events of this chapter pertain to Israel and not to the Church?

 

Not at all! The same warning of false Christs and false prophets is given to the Church.

“Even him [the man of sin], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9).

“And he [the false prophet] doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast” (Rev. 13:13,14).

 

Does the term “kingdom of heaven” mark Matthew’s gospel as being exclusively for the Jews?

 

Although the phrase “kingdom of heaven” is found only in Matthew’s gospel (thirty times), this by no means establishes that this gospel applies exclusively to the Jews. In fact, the terms “kingdom of heaven” and “ kingdom of God” mean the same thing. They are used interchangeably, not distinctively, as illustrated in the following chart:

     
Descriptions of the Kingdom Kingdom of Heaven Kingdom of God
     
Relates to the Church Matt. 16:18,19 Acts 14:22,23
Was taken away from Israel Matt. 22:2–8 Matt. 21:43
Is eternal Matt. 19:16 with 23 Matt. 19:16,24
Is universal Matt. 8:11 Luke 13:29
Is for “whosoever” Matt. 5:19; 18:4 Mark 10:15
Is at hand Matt. 4:17 Mark 1:15
Contains “mysteries” Matt. 13:11 Luke 8:10
Is present Matt. 23:13 Luke 17:20,21
Is future Matt. 7:21–23 Mark 14:25
Has qualifications for greatness Matt. 11:11 Luke 7:28
Pertains even to little children Matt. 19:14 Mark 10:14
Comes with healing and peace Matt. 10:7,8,13 Luke 9:1,2
Has a Holy Spirit baptism Matt. 3:2,11 Acts 1:3–5,8
Requires true righteousness Matt. 5:20 1 Cor. 6:9,10
Is associated with joy Matt. 13:44 Rom. 14:17
Rewards the persecuted Matt. 5:10 2 Thess. 1:5,10
Comes not with open show Matt. 13:11,31,44 Luke 17:20,21
Is coming with glory Matt. 25:14 with 31 Luke 21:27,31
Shuts door on the unprepared Matt. 25:1,10,11 Luke 13:25,28
Will be purged of the wicked Matt. 13:24,40–42 Luke 13:28
     
The kingdom’s terms of entrance are:  
     
Repentance and faith Matt. 4:17 Mark 1:15
The new birth Matt. 18:3 John 3:3,5
Conversion with childlike humility Matt. 18:3 Luke 18:17
Poverty of spirit Matt. 5:3 Luke 6:20
Keeping the commandments Matt. 19:17,23 Luke 18:19–25
Doing the will of the Father Matt. 7:21 Matt. 21:31,32
Trusting in God, not in riches Matt. 19:23 Matt. 19:24
     

In addition, Scripture records more than seventeen different terms for God’s kingdom that include, for example, “My Father’s kingdom,” “My kingdom,” and “the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Obviously, there are not seventeen different kingdoms of God! Moreover, when speaking to the rich young ruler, Jesus used the terms “kingdom of heaven, “ kingdom of God,” “eternal life,” “life,” “heaven,” and “everlasting life” (Matt. 19:16–29). He also used the various terms when he spoke with Nicodemus: “ kingdom of God,” “heaven,” “eternal life,” and “everlasting life” (John 3:5–16).

Clearly, the “kingdom of heaven” and the “ kingdom of God” are the same eternal kingdom. It is the eternal inheritance of all true believers. The phrase “kingdom of heaven” cannot be used to suggest that Matthew is a gospel to the Jews.

 

Objections Answered

 

Won’t 144,000 Jews be converted during the Tribulation and preach “this gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 24:14) with regards to a future millennium?

 

Not one scripture indicates that 144,000 Jews will be converted during the Tribulation, nor that there will be a future millennium after Christ’s return. The following five reasons show that Jesus ordained the Church, consisting of Jews and Gentiles, to preach the gospel of the kingdom until His return at the end of the world:

1. The kingdom and its mysteries are given to the Church, not to Israel (Matt. 13:10–15). Israel rejected the gospel; therefore, Christ took the kingdom from Israel and gave it to the Church—“a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matt. 21:41,43). The mysteries of the kingdom are hidden from the nation of Israel in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa. 6:9; Mark 4:11,12; Col. 1:26,27). See also John 15:16; 1 Pet. 2:9; Matt. 13:11,12; 16:18,19; 18:18; Luke 12:31,32; Acts 13:44–46; 28:23–28; Isa. 65:1–16.

2. Jesus commissioned the Church to preach the gospel to the end of the age (Matt. 28:19,20).

3. Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to empower the Church to witness His gospel and to seal the Church “unto the day of redemption,” which is the day of His coming. See also Luke 24:48,49; John 15:16,27; Acts 1:8; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39,41; 13:31,32; 22:14,15; 23:11; 26:16,22; 1 Pet. 5:1; 1 John 1:2.

4. The Church, not Israel, is Christ’s fruit–bearing branch. Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

5. The Church is responsible to patiently preach the gospel until Christ’s return because He delays His coming for the sake of the unsaved. “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth” (James 5:7). The Father is waiting for His gospel to be spread “in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14). The Lord will not come until the harvest, which is the end of the world (Matt. 13:30,39; 2 Pet. 3:9,10).

 

Doesn’t the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 24:14) differ from the “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24)?

 

There is absolutely no difference between the “gospel of the kingdom” and the “gospel of the grace of God.” They are the same. The “gospel of the kingdom,” in simple terms, is the “gospel of Jesus Christ” that calls men and women to repentance and faith. It is the same “gospel of the grace of God” that Paul “received of the Lord Jesus” and testified of “both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks” (Acts 20:24,21). This is seen in the following comparison of the preaching of Jesus and of Paul:

   
Jesus
Paul
   
“The gospel of Jesus Christ” “The gospel of the grace of God”
“Preaching the gospel of the kingdom” “Preaching the kingdom”
“Repent . . . and believe” “Repentance . . . and faith”
(Mark 1:1,14,15)         
(Acts 20:24,25,21)         
   

Just as there are many biblical terms for God’s kingdom, so there are many terms for the gospel, such as “the gospel of peace” (Rom. 10:15), “the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13), “the glorious gospel of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4), “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), “the everlasting gospel” (Rev. 14:6), “this gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14), and many more. Yet we know there is only one gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul strongly affirmed this truth not once but twice: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8,9).

 

Isn’t “this gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 24:14) about a future earthly kingdom?

 

“This gospel of the kingdom” is not about a future earthly kingdom for the following three reasons:

First, in this discourse (Matthew 24 and 25), Jesus showed that “this gospel of the kingdom” is the gospel of a heavenly kingdom, not a future, earthly one. Just as the righteous “inherit the kingdom prepared . . . from the foundation of the world” (25:34), so the unprepared go “into everlasting fire” (25:41). It may seem in the following first three instances that the righteous will be rewarded in an earthly kingdom, but when comparing them to the eternal punishments and to related Scriptures, we see that Jesus spoke of a future eternal kingdom—heaven.

   
Eternal Reward in Heaven
Eternal Punishment in Hell
   
He shall make him ruler over all his goods—Matt. 24:47. Cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth—Matt. 24:51.
   
And they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut—Matt. 25:10. Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not—Matt. 25:11,12.
   
I will make thee ruler over many things: things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord—Matt. 25:21,23. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth—Matt. 25:30.
   
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world—Matt. 25:34. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels—Matt. 25:41.
   
The righteous into life eternal—Matt. 25:46. And these shall go away unto everlasting punishment—Matt. 25:46.
   

Second, throughout the New Testament, the hope of the gospel is identified with a heavenly kingdom:

“We preached unto you the gospel of God. . . . his kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:9,12).

“The Lord stood with me . . . that by me the preaching might be fully known. . . . and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:17,18).

“The everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. . . . be established in this present truth” (2 Pet. 1:11,12).

“The hope which is laid up for you in heaven . . . the gospel” (Col. 1:5).

Finally, everything about this glorious gospel is heavenly. It prepares people’s hearts so they might live an abundant life in Christ here on earth and inherit the kingdom of heaven for eternity.

The gospel has come because our Lord Jesus Christ “came down from heaven” (John 3:13).

The gospel is preached with “the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven” (1 Pet. 1:12).

The gospel message is repentance. When heeded, there is “joy in the presence of the angels” in heaven (Luke 15:7,10).

The gospel gives faith, which is necessary for entrance into “the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:10,11).

The gospel, when obeyed, will cause men’s names to be “written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

The gospel, when disobeyed, will exclude men from heaven (2 Thess. 1:7–9; Rev. 22:14,15).

The gospel motivates us to “give thanks” to God, our Father in heaven (1 Thess. 1:1–5).

The gospel demands sacrifice, but great will be our “reward in heaven” (Mark 10:21,29,30; Heb. 10:34,35).

The gospel also gives “hope which is laid up for you in heaven” (Col. 1:5).

There should be no doubt that “this gospel of the kingdom” refers to a heavenly, eternal kingdom, not to a future earthly one.

 
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