By Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry Jr
Yet in Scripture Christ’s kingdom is pan-ethnic, rather than Jewish. While on earth Christ forthrightly teaches that God would soon set aside national Israel as a distinctive, favored people in the kingdom. As I show in ch. 7 on hermeneutics (pp. 174–76), Matthew draws a gloomy picture of Israel’s condition and prospects. In Matthew 8:11–12, in the context of the Gentile centurion’s faith, Matthew records Jesus expressly teaching that the “sons of the kingdom shall be cast out” while “many from the east and west” shall enjoy the Abrahamic blessings. In Matthew 21:43 he parabolically teaches the rejection of national Israel when he says: “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.” In Matthew 23–24 he prophesies the removal of Israel’s beloved temple, declaring that it will be left “desolate” (Mt 23:38) during the great tribulation (Mt 24:21) when men should flee Judea (Mt 24:16). He emphatically notes that “all these things shall come upon this generation” (Mt 23:36; 24:34).
Postmillennialism believes that racial Jews will enter the kingdom in great mass in the future (Ro 11:11–25). The hermeneutical rub comes when dispensationalists distinguish Jew from Gentile and exalts the Jew over saved Gentiles, along with turning back redemptive history by re-engaging “the weak and beggarly elements” of the sacrificial system. As I noted previously Isaiah 19:19–25 expressly teaches that Gentiles will enter the kingdom on an equal footing with righteous Jews: “In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth” (v 23). Here the former enemies receive an equal share of God’s favor. In Zechariah 9:7 God speaks of his future favor upon other enemies of Israel. He refers to Ekron, one of the five chief cities of Philistia (Jos 13:3; 1Sa 6:16): “I will remove their blood from their mouth, and their detestable things from between their teeth. Then they also will be a remnant for our God, and be like a clan in Judah, and Ekron like a Jebusite.” This (former) Philistine enemy will be like “a clan in Judah.”
Israel’s demise from dominance directly relates to her covenantal failure: she crucifies the Messiah, the Lord of glory. Jesus makes this point in his parable of the householder (Mt 21:33ff). Although the Romans are responsible for physically nailing Christ to the cross (Jn 18:30–31), when covenantally considered the onus falls squarely on those who instigate and demand it: the first century Jews. The biblical record repeatedly affirms that the Jews seek his death (Mt 20:18–19; 26:59, 66; 27:1; 27:11–25; Mk 10:33; 15:1; 14:64; Lk 18:32; 23:1–2; 23:22–23; 24:20; Jn 18:28–31; 19:12, 15). In doing so they commit the most heinous sin of all time; their leading role in this becomes a constant refrain in the New Testament: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross” (Ac 5:30; cf. Ac 2:22–23, 36; 3:13–15a; 4:10; 5:28; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27–29; 26:10; 1Th 2:14–15).
The New Testament-era church is not a distinct body of God’s people for a time; rather it is the restructured body of God’s people for all time. This new covenant church is one with the Jewish forefathers, being grafted into the Abrahamic root and partaking of its sap (Ro 11:17–18). Because of the redemptive work of Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek . . . for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). In Ephesians Paul emphasizes this. Though in the past the Gentiles (Eph 2:11) were “strangers to the covenants of promise” (2:12), Christ has brought them “near” (2:13) by breaking down the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile through redemption (2:14–15). This makes one people out of two separate peoples (2:16–17), who worship one God (2:18). This makes the Gentiles “fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (2:19) in that they are built upon one foundation (2:20–22).