Understanding The Bible
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BY THE AUTHOR
Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
Edited by Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
THE FIRST COMING OF CHRIST (after Dr, Lincoln)
THE MANIFOLD PURPOSES OF THE INCARNATION
"To proclaim, to announce, to offer the promised kingdom (cp. Dan. 2:34,36,44; 7:23-27; Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 6:10; 10:7).
To reveal the Father unto men, John 1:18; 14:9; Matthew 11:27.
To leave us an example in suffering that we should follow His steps, 1 John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21. Christ not an example for unsaved, but for the believer.
To put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5; John 1:29.
To destroy, through death, the devil and his works, Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8.
To provide the foundation for the church by His death, 1 Corinthians 3:11; Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:20.
To become the son of David, after the flesh, in order to
come ultimately to reign over Israel regathered, repentant, and redeemed,
Luke 1:31-33." (Thiessen)
TWO OUTSTANDING ASPECTS OF HIS FIRST COMING ARE THUS SEEN TO BE:
The offering of the promised Kingdom to Israel (sections 1 and 7 above) CHRIST THE LION
The offering of Himself upon the cross to redeem the world
from the condemnation of sin and to establish His church (sections 4 and 6
above) CHRIST THE LAMB
THE TRANSITIONAL CHARACTER OF OUR LORD'S EARTHLY MINISTRY
The Question Stated:
The Old Testament, as a revelation of God, is a book of and for the nation Israel. Excepting Genesis, chapters 1 to 11, and possibly the book of Job, it has to do primarily with that nation. Other peoples are mentioned only as they touch the history of Jehovah's chosen nation. They have a national hope and are promised a King, a Kingdom, and a land.
The Epistles have no national aspect (Ephesians 2:llff.). The calling and vocation (Hebrews 3:1; Philippians 3:20) of the church is heavenly. It is formed from people of all (1 Corinthians 12:13; Colossians 3:11) nations, who are taught that they are pilgrims in this world (1 Peter 2:11; John 17:14) and who are warned that they will have to suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12; Acts 14:22) from the world. The calling, vocation, hope, and destiny of Israel and of the Church are therefore widely different.
What is the explanation of this change? Why did God turn in the Church promises from His Old Testament purpose? What special position is manifest in the Gospels and the Acts?
He did not turn away from that purpose, arbitrarily, abandoning it.
There was a proclamation that the promised kingdom was "at hand." This constituted an offer of the kingdom.
Israel blinded and "knowing not what they were doing, " rejected the King and accepted responsibility for His death, 2 Corinthians 3:13-16; Luke 23:34; Mark 15:12-13; John 19:15; Matthew 27:25.
By Divine prerogative, the fulfillment of the Kingdom was put in abeyance, Matthew 23:37-39; Acts 1:6-7, cp. Luke 19:41-44.
Foreknowing their rejection of Him, Christ continually had in view His Church purpose which until then was unrevealed, Matthew 16:17-20.
His death, requested by the leaders in Jewry, was the conclusive and definite proof of the rejection of Him by Israel as a nation; it was, at the same time, the rock and foundation upon which His Church was to be built.
Therefore, as the earth life of our Lord was a period in which a definite purpose of God -- that of the Kingdom on earth through the nation Israel-was proclaimed as being "at hand" for fulfillment, but which was rejected by unrepentant and blinded Israel and so postponed, and meanwhile the foundation was laid for another hitherto unrevealed purpose -- the calling out of the people to become the members of His body, the Church. The God-appointed means to His death was through the rejection of the Messiah who offered Israel her kingdom. It follows that the Gospels and the Acts are the record of a transitional period, the truth and principles
either peculiar to the one or
the other purpose, or
applicable to both will be found in these books.
PROMISES OF A KINGDOM FOR ISRAEL IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
|Abraham||Genesis 12:1 - "A land ... a great nation ... thy seed"
Genesis 13:5 - "All the land ... thy seed."
Genesis 15:5, 7 - "Thy seed ... this land."
Genesis 17:5-8 - Father of many nations ... kings ... thy seed ... all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession."
|Isaiah||Genesis 26:3 - "This land ... thy seed ... the oath."|
|Jacob||Genesis 28:13 - "The land ... thy seed."
Genesis 49:10 - "The scepter ... Judah ... Shiloh."
|Balaam||Numbers 23:21 - "A king ... "
Numbers 24:7, 17 - "His king ... his kingdom ... Star ... Scepter.:
|David||2 Samuel 7:4-17 - "A place for my people Israel ... that
they may dwell ... and move no more." v. 10
"Will make thee an house," v. 11
"The throne of His kingdom forever," v. 13
"Thy kingdom shall be established forever," v. 16
|The Psalms||Psalms 2:3-9 - "My King upon Zion ... the uttermost parts
of the earth for thy possession"
Psalms 22:27-28 - "The kingdom ... the governor..."
Psalms 24:7-10 - "The King of Glory."
Psalms 45:1, 6 - "The King ... thy throne ... thy kingdom."
Psalms 47:2 - "A great King over all the earth."
Psalms 48:1-2 - "Mount Zion ... the city of the great king."
Psalms 67:2-7 - "Thy way known upon earth," v. 2
"The earth shall yield her increase," v. 6
"Govern the nations of the earth," v. 4
"All the ends of the earth shall fear Him," v.7
Psalms 68:16-17 - "The hill ... the Lord will dwell in it forever."
Psalms 72 - Outline, New Scofield Ref. Bible, p. 634
Psalms 89:34-37 - "My covenant ... his throne ... established forever."
Psalms 132:11, 13 - "The Lord hath sworn ... will I set upon thy throne ... the Lord hath chosen Zion ... for his habitation."
|Other References||Isaiah 2:1-4; 4:1-6; 9:6-7; 25:6-12; 32:1-20; 35:1-10;
40:1-11; 42:1-7; 59:20-21; 61:1-62:12
Jeremiah 23:1-8; 33:1-26
Ezekiel 37; especially 11-14; 21-22; 24
Daniel 2:44-45; 7:13-14
Obadiah 1:17, 21
Typical of the nation Israel:
2. When out of God's will a disturbing element
3. Cast into the sea of nations
4. Meanwhile the Gentiles turn to God
5. Israel preserved in the sea of nations
6. Israel restored to the Lord
7. Now obedient, Israel a blessing to the nations
Micah 4:1-8; 5:2
Zechariah 2:10-13; 6:12-13; 8:1-8; 20-23; 14:1-21
With such an array of "Kingdom texts," which included the promise of a reigning Messiah in a specific land on this earth, it is no wonder that the prophets were at a loss to know what the portions speaking of His sufferings could mean as to "what" and "when" (1 Peter 1;11).
Much profit would result from a diagram showing the kingdom promises arranged to show chronological development.
It is important to note that, according to 1 Peter 1:12, the
solution of this dilemma was not accorded unto the prophets of old!
IN THE N.T. GOSPELS THE PROMISED KINGDOM WAS PROCLAIMED AS "AT HAND" AND THEREBY OFFERED UNTO ISRAEL.
Christ lived during His earthly life on Jewish ground
He came when a certain "time was fulfilled," Mark 1:14-15. ("Time fulfilled, kingdom of God at hand.")
He was born under the law, i.e., during the period or Dispensation of the Law, Galatians 4:4.
He was a minister of the circumcision, Romans 15:8-12.
He declared that He had not been sent but to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel, " Matthew 15:24, and before His resurrection instructed His disciples to go only to such, Matthew 10:6.
Matthew's record of Christ's life on earth presents clearly
the double aspect of our Lord's mission as Messiah.
The very first verse of Matthew's gospel implies that Christ was to fulfill, first, the Kingdom Promise made to David, and then, the Universal Redemption Promise made to Abraham. Everywhere in this book of Matthew the Kingdom Purpose is evident:
The Kingdom "at hand," Matthew 1-10
He was born King as David's Son (1:1).
He was born of a virgin in fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 (Matthew 1:23). To "save His people (Israel in first view) from their sins," v.21.
He was born in Bethlehem of Judea as King of the Jews in fulfillment of Micah 5:2 (Matthew 2:2).
Herod feared Him as King and sought to kill Him (2:3, 7,13).
His forerunner, John the Baptist, preached the Kingdom "at hand" (3:2).
He resisted the temptation to become King of Kings or of "all the kingdoms of the world" when these things were offered to Him by the devil (4:9).
He, Himself, then began to preach that the kingdom was "at hand" (4:17; 9:35).
In the Sermon on the Mount, He sets forth what the subjects of the Kingdom should be (chapters 5-7).
In chapters 8 and 9, He shows His divine kingly power over all bodily ills, over the elements of nature, over wicked spirits, over human wills, and over death itself (8:3, 13, 15-16; 9:6, 22, 30, 35; 8:26-27; 8:16,32; 9:9,25).
The king then sends forth His disciples to preach the kingdom which was "at hand, " and this to the members of the nation of Israel only, for to that people alone were the kingdom promises given (10:5-10).
The Kingdom seen as rejected, Matthew 11-12
And despite the fact that His humble condition and manner of presentation had caused the perplexed John the Baptist to question whether He was the King, He assured His discouraged disciple that He was indeed the promised One (11:3-6).
He introduces the conditional "if" (Matthew 11:14) with respect to the prophecy about Elias who was to come, implying that Israel must "receive" Him and the offered Kingdom in order that the fulfillment might be accomplished without delay (11:14).
But Israel received not the good news of the Kingdom, and "they repented not" (11:20). So, their rejection of Him is foreseen and judgment upon them is predicted (11:21-24), and the Lord's message becomes one of personal invitation and promised blessing to the individual (11:28-30).
In view of their evident rejection of Him, He disregards the validity of their rabbinical interpretation of the Sabbath (12:1-3) He, the greater than David, must certainly be permitted a legitimate use of the Sabbath, if David is permitted a special concession as God's true king (1 Sam. 21:3-6). Christ is Lord (king) over the Sabbath! (Matthew 12:3, 8)
The name of the "gentiles" is brought in (12:18-21), implying a widening sphere of blessing.
The King next announces His forthcoming death and
implies that the abiding relationship with Himself is higher than a
blood connection (12:40,46-50).
The following quotation from Dr. Barnhouse on Matthew 11 and 12 is in line with what has been set forth in the foregoing points:
"The break was complete. He would go on preaching and teaching, healing the sick and raising the dead, but -- His face was now set for Jerusalem. From all eternity He had known that He would come to die. The honest presentation of the Kingdom was to work out in His rejection and He could say in truth, "The Son of Man came -- to give His life a ransom for many* (Mark 10:45). The dispensation of law would not come to its final end until He cried: 'It is finished' (John 19:30), but already the hammer had clicked into place, ready to strike the hour."
His Own Received Him Not, p. 173
The "Mysteries" of the Kingdom while its realization is in abeyance, Matthew 13
Then, on that same day, v. 1, He announces "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (v. 12) to. His disciples. This represents a phase of the Kingdom hitherto unrevealed (v. 11-17, 35, 51-52) and is parallel with the present age in which we now live.
A Glimpse of the Church (16:18) before the final rejection of the King, Matthew 14-28, (and instructions to his disciples, 26:2-5,14-16,17-25,47-5b, 59, 66-68; 27:1-2,11-14,18,27-31,35-43).
Later a prophetic reference is made regarding the future church - (16:18) and "from that time forth" the Lord began to tell the disciples of His coming death and resurrection (16:21). See 17:9, 23; 20:19,28; 21:39; 26:2,12,18,24,28.
Nevertheless, He is transfigured (17:1-3) before three of His disciples to show them what will be seen when the Son of Man comes in His kingdom (i.e., the character of the Kingdom) (16:28).
He offers Himself to Israel as King in fulfillment of Zech. 9:9 (21:5).
He weeps over Jerusalem (23:37); foretells the setting aside of the nation (23:38-39); declares that Jerusalem (Lu. 21:20-24 with Matthew 24:1-2) will be destroyed; announces the future great tribulation for the disciplinary punishment of Israel (Matthew 24:9-26); and foretells His coming in glory for His elect out of Israel (Matthew 24:27-31; 25:31-46). By means of three parables (fig tree, 24:32ff.; ten virgins, 25:lff.; talents, 25:14ff.) He warns of the postponement and delay in the final setting up of the Kingdom, and finally warns as to the ultimate punishment of the Gentiles for their treatment of "His brethren" (Matthew 25:41-46).
Finally, He is betrayed
(Matthew 26:48-49), and after He
declares under oath, first before the high priest and all the council
(26:63-66), and later before Pilate (27:11), that He is "the Christ" and
"the King of the Jews," in derision He is crowned with thorns as "King
of the Jews, " and, at the end. He is crucified, also as "Jesus the King
of the Jews" (27:27-31;
The Old Testament Scriptures in numerous passages (cp. D
above) had given the Israelites a definite conception of an earthly kingdom
which the God of heaven would set up through an heir of the Davidic dynasty.
In the Old Testament the earthly kingdom only was known. No instruction was
ever given to Israel to lead them to expect any other character of kingdom,
and (1) first the Baptist (3:2), (2) then the Lord Jesus (Matthew 4:17), and (3)
lastly the disciples (Matthew 10:7), came with a message limited to the nation
Israel. saying: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." The simple, sane,
stable, satisfying interpretation of all this is that the long-promised
kingdom was being announced and offered to Israel. On the other hand, the
King having been slain, having risen and ascended to heaven, the disciples
no longer preached "the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
God's principle of procedure, everywhere apparent, is "to
the Jew first" (Romans 1:16; 2:9-10; Mark 7:27, Syrophenician woman; Acts
13:46; John 1:11). In keeping with this principle, it is to be expected that
He, who was by human generation the "son of David, the son of Abraham," and
"a minister of the circumcision," should go to the chosen people of God to
offer the kingdom and thus confirm the promises made unto the fathers"
The fact of Christ's primary mission to the nation of Israel is seen by a comparison of certain significant texts:
Mt. 10:5; 15:24, 26, etc., show that before His rejection and death Christ limited His ministry, and that of His disciples, to Israel.
But after His death, as Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; etc. show, His ministry through His disciples was to go to the ends of the earth without respect to races of men or to national boundaries.
The former preaching was that of "the gospel of the kingdom" (Matthew 4:23; 9:35); by His prophetic declaration, we know that at a future date "the gospel of the kingdom" will be preached "in all the world for a witness unto all nations" (Matthew 24:14). The cross will also be preached in that future day, because it is now a historical fact and is the basis for Israel's redemption and its realization of the kingdom promises.
The second preaching
(Matthew 28:18-20, etc.) is that which
blossomed into the present declaration of "the gospel of the grace of God"
"The Messianic Hope" (An outline suggested by an article by Dr. Ford C. Ottman).
The Old Testament "Messianic Hope" Isaiah 9:6-7
(cp. point D, above) 2 Samuel 7
The Hope Unchanged in the New Testament Luke 1:31-33
The Apparent Collapse of the Hope Matthew 27:37; Luke 24:21
The Divine Explanation of the Cross as 1
related to the Messianic Hope Luke 24:26
The Disciples Inquiry as to the Hope Acts 1:6
The Renewal of the Messianic Hope Acts 1:11
The Final Realization and
Consummation Revelation 19:11-16
of the Messianic Hope Revelation 11:15.
The Annunciation to Mary is clearly a Messianic Promise and
a confirmation of the Davidic Covenant which secures unto Israel a King. a
throne, and a Kingdom (Luke 1:30-33).
Likewise, the prophecy of Zacharias, at the time of the
birth of John the Baptist, is a kingdom Promise (Luke 1:67-79). Verses
Matthew 21:4-9 is declared to be the
fulfillment of Zech.
9:9. This act of the Lord Jesus was clearly the official offer of Himself as
King. "sitting upon an ass."
It has been shown that the kingdom announced as "at hand" was the Kingdom of heaven promised to Israel. In Matthew 13:11, reference is made to "the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven." "The mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven, " which are set forth in seven parables to be understood by the discerning disciples, manifest the hitherto unrevealed condition of the kingdom during the period of rime that the realization of the kingdom purpose is held up or postponed.
a. As shown under 8, Zacharias had prophesied that the "Horn of Salvation in the house of David"--the Lord Jesus--would "redeem his people" in the sense of "delivering them out of the hands of their enemies" (Luke 1:69, 68, 71, 74).
The disciples had expected the Lord Jesus to do this (Luke 24:21).
Their hope reassured by the resurrection Of Christ, they were still wondering as to the time of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6).
Christ had consistently refrained from declaring the time of His return and the establishment of the kingdom (Matthew 24:36.42,44: 25:1.3; etc.).
It would appear that possibly the Lord answered in the particular terms of Acts 1:7 because of the appeal which was still to be given by Peter to Israel (Acts 3:19-21).
Before the high priest (Matthew 26:63-66) and
Before Pilate (Matthew 27:11-12) He witnessed by oath to His Messiahship.
c. And from Luke 23:1-3, we see that the priests summarized their accusations against Him, evidently in line with the general understanding of the burden of His ministry, by saying that He had announced Himself as Christ the King.
The request of the sons of Zebedee and of their mother shows what was the expectation of two of the more discerning of the disciples (Matthew 20:20-21).
And the reply of the Lord, v, 22-23, was not a censure of the thought of the kingdom; rather, in view of the opportunity which was still open for Israel to accept the offer of the kingdom, His reply was enigmatical because of the Lord's divine knowledge of the "fortunes of the Kingdom, " as set forth in parables of the mystery (Matthew 13).
Proof that the kingdom message proclaimed during the earthly ministry of Christ was distinct from the gospel of the grace of God proclaimed today is the ignorance of the disciples concerning God's purpose in the cross and the resurrection of Christ (Matthew 16:21-22; Mark 16:9-14).
The disciples who proclaimed the kingdom message had no understanding of God's purpose in the Church until after Pentecost (Acts 1:6-8; 10:1-48). Doubtless, because of their expectation of the kingdom, and of their ignorance as to the place of the cross in the program of God, the Lord told His disciples that there were things to be revealed later to them that they could not bear, i.e., until they realized His actual resurrection (John 16:12).
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