the weblog of Alan Knox

The kingdom of God will be taken away from you

Posted by on Nov 2, 2009 in definition, scripture | 24 comments

A few weeks ago, in our continued study through Matthew, we discussed the three parables of Matthew 21:28-22:14. In each of these parables, Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God. In particular, he talks about God taking the kingdom of God away from one people and giving it to another people.

For example, in the second parable – often called “The Parable of the Tenants” – Jesus concludes:

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. (Matthew 21:43 ESV)

Matthew then tells us that the chief priests and Pharisees understood that Jesus was talking about them. They understood that Jesus was saying that they would no longer part of the kingdom of God.

Of course, this is not the first time – nor the last – that Jesus would speak of the “kingdom of God” in the Gospel of Matthew. He began by announcing that the kingdom of God had come near, and he even sent his apostles out to proclaim the coming of the kingdom (Matt 4:17; 10:7). Jesus told several parables to help people understand what the kingdom of God would look like and how citizens of the kingdom of God would live.

But, what does it mean that God would take his kingdom away from some people and give it to other people?

The easy – and often heard – answer is that God was taking his kingdom away from the Jews and giving it to the church. But, there’s a problem with this view. You see, when Jesus spoke this parable and for some time after that the church was made of Jews. The apostles were Jews. The 120 followers in Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension were Jews. The 3000 that were added on the day of Pentecost were Jews. It wasn’t until the Spirit led Peter to Cornelius’ house that Gentiles were added to the church.

So, the kingdom was not taken away from Jews and given to the church (as if it was given to non-Jews). Instead, the kingdom was taken away from all Jews and given to a subset of Jews… a remnant, if you will.

And, this should be a familiar theme to those who are familiar with the Old Testament prophets. While God might send death and destruction and famine and war and pestilence against his people, he always promised to keep a remnant safe. While most of Israel and Judah might turn away from God, he always promised that there would be a remnant that would remain faithful.

And, this last point can help us understand what it meant for God to take away his kingdom from one people and give it to another people. God did not take his kingdom away from the Jews and give it to non-Jews. God took his kingdom away from a disobedient people and gave it to an obedient people. In fact, this is exactly what the first parable of Matthew 21:28-22:14 teaches:

What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32 ESV)

If this is true, then it may help us understand the purpose and nature of the church. Also, if this is true, then it raises the question: Is it possible for God to “remove the kingdom” from a portion of his kingdom today?

I’d love to hear what you think, and I will share my views about this in my post tomorrow.


24 Comments

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  1. 11-2-2009

    My thought is that the unbelieving Jews had the kingdom taken away but that the believing Jews never did (basing this on the olive tree in Romans 11, the unbelieving Jews were pruned and the believing Gentiles were grafted in)

  2. 11-2-2009

    God’s kingdom always has been and always will be made up of the elect – those that God knows, predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies. They are also those whose hearts have been circumcised and evidence the fruits of the Spirit. It doesn’t matter how much churches talk about being Christian and say that they have faith if they completely lack the fruit of the spirit or love the law (a codification of God’s will) more than mercy, love, and faithfulness. The parables of the tares and wheat, the sheep and the goats, the ten virgins – they all speak of a subset of true believers within the church, and that we as believers are to remain unconcerned with those and allow God to separate them at the end of time. Until that point, we are commanded as a church to only discipline completely unrepentant bretheren (those that have sinned against others and refuse to repent) or those who are guilty of heinous sin; this, in full realization that removing one from fellowship does not necessarily remove one from being elect.

  3. 11-2-2009

    I am with Arthur. I don’t think the Kingdom can ever be taken away from the “church” (the elect of God, in which ever way we define election). I believe the Kingdom was only given to the Hebrews on a temporary basis based off of the Old Covenant. Thus the New Covenant is sustained, maintained, and will forever be maintained by Christ. Jesus has now given the Kingdom to His body and since He is the Head that body can’t fail.So the kingdom has always been owned by God, he allowed stewardship temporarily for ethnic Israel but we have permenant stewardship because we are forever in Christ.

  4. 11-2-2009

    I think this is a good way to look at all of this. There, of course, was no “Christian church” when Jesus was walking the earth and much of what He said pertained to the Jews. He indeed did speak of a kingdom that would include Gentiles (as scripture had also foretold), but I do think that a lot of what He said was in regards to the Jews. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to rethink all of the parables in this light. The parable of the talents, the parable of the wheat and tares, the ten virgins, etc. In saying this, I’m not interpreting these parables in this way, but just saying that some or all of them could perhaps be looked at differently, in this light. In my own mind I’ve even begun to rethink the ‘prodigal son’ parable along these lines.

  5. 11-2-2009

    Hey everyone,

    Thanks for the great feedback! I agree that this was written about the Jews. The idea of “removing the kingdom” from one group and giving it to a subset seems to go way back into the Old Testament.

    Here’s a question for you all… Why did Matthew write this to the church?

    -Alan

  6. 11-2-2009

    The chief priests and leaders were the ones responsible for causing fruit to grow. They were the leaders. I think there is a message here that points a bit more to the leaders than the people, although not exclusively.

    But this isn’t about church vs. Israel as has already been pointed out above. One problem with dispensationalism and the whole debate about continuity/discontinuity is that there were believing Jews that were BOTH part of Israel and church. I think that Israel is God’s people (including us grafted-in Gentiles), while the church is a functional subset of Israel, i.e. assembly.

    And, yes, God can take away kingdom from people today. In Romans 11:18-21 there is the warning to grafted Gentiles that they, too, will be cut off if they become arrogant toward the branches.

  7. 11-2-2009

    Steve,

    Thanks for furthering this discussion. In reading your comment, I realized something else: the chief priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, and other Jewish leaders all thought they were obeying God. In fact, they were zealously obeying God. When Jesus pointed out that they were not obeying God, they were incredulous!

    Could we be the same way?

    -Alan

  8. 11-3-2009

    Hi Alan,

    I think it absolutely could be the same way with us. In the Romans 11 passage, they were cut off for their unbelief, for preferring their religion (performing to curry God’s favor) over Christ.

    The exhortation in the passage is to “continue in His goodness.” It makes sense that if we prefer our religious performance (which is a display of unbelief in the finished work of the cross), and therefore, we are not continuing in the goodness of God’s grace – then we won’t have access to that gracious goodness. Not as a punishment, but as a natural consequence of our free will choice. At least that’s how it seems to me. :)

  9. 10-1-2010

    The kingdom was taken away from the nation of Israel and was given to the church, composed of the elect (Jews and Gentiles). The apostles even asked Jesus this question.. and I read,

    Acts 1:6-7
    “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”

  10. 5-23-2011

    What i have studied,
    The Kingdom of God would be taken from you and would be given to another nation. That i think is probably Arabs, as they were advised to turn their faces from Bait Mikhdash to Kaba.
    Peter also predicted about this.

  11. 5-23-2011

    Mathew,

    Interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before.

    -Alan

  12. 3-28-2012

    I had a dream about a former pastor and his wife who were over a church that I once attended… I woke up from this dream with these words ever so spoken loudly and I still remember them from 3 years ago… “They have set themselves up as kings and queens over ‘My people’, and I am taking ‘My church’ back.”

  13. 3-28-2012

    HMMMMM?!

  14. 3-28-2012

    Gods kingdom has himself as Lord and King. It is available to anyone who receives Jesus as lord and King, living in His love and mercy for yourself and others. Even corrections to Israel in old testament were based on this lordship and kingdom that lays down the things of the world and prides of life for others . Old testament Jews were suppose to make the Gentiles jealous by being so loving and caring for one another as god loved and cared for them.

  15. 3-28-2012

    Thanks for continuing this discussion, everyone!

    -Alan

  16. 10-30-2012

    Good thoughts — including others’ comments — thanks for sharing!

    Your initial remarks about the church and Israel (or the Jews), as you went on to explain, is a false and unbiblical paradigm. The contrast is between a believing remnant, made up of Jews and Gentiles, and an unbelieving remainder (apparently the majority of people on the wide road to destruction).

    Regarding your post’s concluding question, I do not believe the kingdom can ever or will ever be removed from Christ’s true church under the New Covenant. Faithfulness and obedience distinguishes the New Covenant from the Old Covenant. There would be no reason for the kingdom to be removed from believers.

    I have shared more reflections related to this in “God’s New Covenant Reality in Christ.”

    http://www.lambblood.com/god-s-new-covenant-reality-in-christ.html

  17. 10-30-2012

    Rick,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this post. What do you think Jesus meant (in Revelation) when he told several churches that he would remove their lampstands? (And, John had already told us that the lampstand represented the church…) What is being taken away? (I’m not trying to set you up or anything; I’m interested in your view.)

    -Alan

  18. 10-31-2012

    Alan, good question!

    To the church in Ephesus, Jesus said, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5 ESV)

    To four of the other churches, similar warnings of discipline or judgment are given without using the “remove your lampstand” metaphor. The churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia do not receive warnings or rebukes.

    Given the history of the church in Ephesus — where their presence and witness as a collective body was snuffed out — it appears that this sad reality explains what it means for a church to be removed as a lampstand, or to have its lampstand removed. This is troubling, to say the least, since the church of Ephesus was discerning about doctrine and opposed evil works. Jesus also said of them, “I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary” (v. 3). This all sounds pretty good.

    So what was the problem? Their love for the Lord had dissipated. Apparently, their knowledge and zeal was without love. This sounds similar to Pharisaism. “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (vv. 4-5).

    What a warning to many loveless Christians and churches today! This underscores what Paul says about the importance of love in 1 Cor. 13 which is an exposition of Jesus’ new commandment: that we love one another even as He has loved us (John 13:34-35). In the absence of love, a true and faithful witness of CHRIST has been lost! This is why this is such a serious thing. The name and person of Christ must shine through our love and obedience — otherwise, anything and everything else we do amounts to nothing.

    The ESV Study Bible interprets Rev. 2:5 this way: “Remove your lampstand means that both in the near future and when Christ returns, they would lose their status as a church and Christ would treat them like apostate Israel.” Wow! They are equating this not simply with divine discipline of true Christians (1 Cor. 1; Heb. 12), but divine judgment against apostates (false Christians)!

    In light of Rev. 2-3 and other passages related to individual believers, the church, and Christ’s kingdom, I believe we must examine ourselves and be watchful of our progression or decline as professing believers both individually and corporately. “You shall know them by their fruit” applies not only to discerning who is a false prophet or errant teacher (Matt. 7:16-17), but testing ourselves to see if we are really in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). The most important test, as the apostle John details in his first epistle, is the test of love for God by keeping His commandments and caring for Christ’s brethren.

    Churches which ‘lose their lampstand’ — i.e., their standing as a credible witness of Christ — would appear to be false churches. For THEM, you could say the kingdom of God has been taken away. But for those who are faithful as light-bearers (1 John 1:7) and persevere in the life of Christ, the promise of approval, acceptance, divine fellowship and reward is given (Rev. 2:7, 10-11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 20-21). I suppose this is another way of saying the kingdom of God is NOT taken away from professing believers and churches whose fruit substantiates their root. But we must be honest in evaluating which group we belong to.

    “Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.'” (1 Samuel 2:30 ESV)

  19. 11-1-2012

    Rick,

    I think I follow you and agree with you. In the case of the Ephesians, they were a church, and since Jesus calls them a “church,” I would assume they were a true church. But, there was a chance (a good possibility perhaps), that Jesus wold “remove their lampstand.” So, from what you said, they would then become a “false church.” I wonder if they would have recognized the difference.

    -Alan

  20. 11-1-2012

    Alan, I also wonder if the church in Ephesus noticed their drift. Paul called attention to the necessity of putting on the whole armor of God when he wrote to them. And the book of Revelation, with specific mention of their church from Christ HIMSELF, was intended as a serious wake-up call at some point in their history. Given that each of us are ‘prone to wander,’ self-examination and daily repentance are necessary and valuable spiritual disciplines in our individual lives and when we are gathered corporately as believers in the Lord.

  21. 5-15-2013

    Revised
    WOW. This began in 2009!?
    OK, the first submission confused the word conjoined with enjoined, so this is the corrected version.
    Matthew 21:43: “43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”

    1 Peter 1:1&2: “1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
    2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ…”

    1 Peter 2:9&10: “9 … you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied . 10 Who in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”

    Jesus in Matthew speaks of taking the kingdom from the Jews and giving it to another nation which would bring forth the fruits thereof. The KINGDOM would be given to another NATION.

    One must ask what fruits should be brought forth from the kingdom which they possessed. Were the Jews aware of the fact that they should be bringing forth fruits of any kingdom?

    Whatever kingdom Jesus spoke about was one which should bear fruit.

    It is simplest to understand that Jesus was saying they were lousy citizens of the kingdom to which they belonged. And that kingdom, in the Jewish mind, was an earthly kingdom. They never really grasped the concept of being in a kingdom where God resided and presided (ie; in the Holy of Holies). And how that His presence there elevated them to the status of a heavenly kingdom, with the one and only heavenly God’s fellowship. God has ever had only one kingdom. The Jews never really understood God’s relationship with them. That was a mystery that could only be understood by revelation from Jesus: That God’s kingdom has always been singular and the same and Jesus conjoined earth with heaven by reconciling “all things, whether on earth or in heaven.” (Colossians 1:20)
    God’s kingdom is not earthly. It has always been, and always will be a heavenly kingdom. The problem has been that we all just never really comprehend that we belong to that kingdom if we believe in Him. His spiritual realm has ever been around us, unseen and untouched by fleshly mortals (2 Kings 6:16&17)
    But now we…”are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
    23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”

    God took His KINGDOM from the Jews and gave it to another NATION, a heavenly nation, which would bear spiritual fruits, the fruits of the Spirit of God: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness and Self Control. Fruits which cannot be counterfeited or faked. Fruits fitting for a spiritual kingdom.

    So the kingdom that the Jews perceived was not the one Jesus spoke about. He spoke about a heavenly kingdom. And He spoke about taking it fron the Jews and giving it to it’s rightful citizens, those who by believing in Jesus have been elevated into the only heavenly kingdom of God which has ever been. A heavenly, spiritual nation, comprised of that which God promised to Abraham from the beginning, one in which all the nations of earth would be conjoined.

    Genesis 22:17&18 “17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”

    Galatians 3:16: “16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”

    That promise made to Abraham and Jesus was that all nations would be blessed. Blessed with what? Forgiveness? \

    No, not JUST forgiveness, but reconciliation with God. A reconciliation which also things in heaven itself needed!!
    Ask yourself what things in heaven needed reconciliation.

    And in that reconciliation of “all things” believers are now conjoined with that very kingdom which was and is always around us but which none of humanity could ever touch or behold. We, along with angels, now comprise one heavenly kingdom.

    And that kingdom taken from the Jews has been given to the one and only nation of God Himself, in which all the nations of earth are conjoined.

  22. 5-15-2013

    Richard,

    You’ve obviously put alot of work into that comment. I agree that Jesus was talking about the Jews. Do you think this is related to Revelation where Jesus says, “I will come to you and remove your lampstand?” (John had previous written that the lampstand represented the church.)

    -Alan

  23. 10-17-2013

    I have always thought that the 144,000 that it speaks about in revelations will be Christian Jews ones that from started believing in him from his preaching right up to our time until they for fill the twelve tribes as mentioned at revelation 7-4-8.

  24. 10-17-2013

    John,

    The identity of the “144,000” is outside the scope of this post, but, I’m curious… what led you to believe that? (Not disagreeing with you, just wondering…)

    -Alan

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