Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit.—Matthew 21:43 HCSB
Consider this verse and ask yourself, to what nations was Jesus referring?
Who was He taking the kingdom of God away from? More importantly, for our topic, who is the nation to whom He is giving the kingdom of God? Where do we find the Christian nation?
In the last post I introduced the idea that the New Testament teaches that when people come to Jesus they are expected to leave their former national identities and allegiances behind. I realize that this not only sounds strange to most of you, but that it may sound down-right heretical. After all, aren’t we told that becoming Christians should make us better citizens, and didn’t Paul claim his Roman citizenship? We will deal with objections in future posts, but please write them down as they occur to you. We want to be sure to deal with them later. For now I would like to offer further support for my basic thesis.
One reason that this idea is not usually even considered is found in the fact that many translations render the Greek word enthos here, as people, which almost completely obscures what Jesus is saying in this passage. I submit that you are not familiar with it, and it sounds strange to you, because you have not been allowed to see it. I am not proposing a human conspiracy here, but am so bold as to suggest that someone does not want this truth exposed. Remember—We fight not against flesh and blood…
What is a nation?
Nation and State are closely allied but not identical concepts. (For a good overview of nation vs. State click here.) A State is a sovereign entity over a specific geographic territory. The word nation comes from the Latin natio meaning “of birth” and can be seen in our word prenatal. It refers to a group united by heritage, culture, and most importantly sense of identity. In this regard it is an almost perfect stand-in for the Greek word we have been considering: ethnos.
Both history and newspapers show us that nations often strive to achieve the status of Statehood. This is the central motivation behind many of the conflicts that mar our age. Ethnos is the root of our word ethnic and is seen in Matt. 24, where we are told that before the end ethnos would rise against ethnos. Jesus also tells us in this passage that His followers will be hated by “all the ethnos” because of Him. It is interesting, that of the 20 parallel passages listed on biblehub.com, only one tries to evade the clear meaning of ethnos in these two verses.
What does the bible mean by kingdom
Notice that in Matthew 21, it is the kingdom of God which is being taken and given. This does not make a whole lot of sense in English. This is because the Greek word basileia (βασιλεία) has a slightly different meaning than the English word kingdom as we normally think of it.
The New Testament Greek Lexicon gives the following concise definition for this word: “royal power, kingship, dominion, rule; not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom.” In other words a more literal translation of Jesus’ words would be “Therefore I tell you the royal power of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit.”
In another post we will deal further with what is entailed in this “royal power of God.” But for now let us continue with the question of who the Christian nation Jesus refers to might be.
What is the “stone of offense?”
Our opening verse occurs towards the close of a chapter detailing one of the most monumental turning points in history. Matthew 21 opens with the account of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. He does this to the adoring cries of the same crowd that in a few short days would call for His crucifixion. Matthew tells us that this was in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9: ““Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
He then goes on to recount Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, and how children were acknowledging His right to the throne of Israel as the “son of David.” Next we have the cursing of the fig tree, followed by the leaders of Israel disputing His authority. We then come to the Jesus’ sharing of two parables. The first reveals the hypocrisy of Israel’s lip-service to God, and the second foretells His own death at their hands just a few days later.
It is in this context that Jesus utters the words that opened our post. Here is the context:
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This came from the Lord and is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit. Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whoever it falls, it will grind him to powder!” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they knew He was speaking about them. Although they were looking for a way to arrest Him, they feared the crowds, because they regarded Him as a prophet.—Matthew 21:42-46
This clearly answers our first question. The nation from whom the royal power of God was being taken was Israel—not as individuals, but as a nation. But it raises a second question—what is this stone, or rock that is being spoken of? This will also provide a topic of a future post. For now we need only consider two passages.
The first is Matthew 16:16,17, where the rock is Peter’s confession that Jesus is the “christos,” which we now understand means king. The second is 1 Cor. 10:4 where we are told “and the rock was Christ.” In each of these passages, along with our original one, the issue is the kingship of Jesus. This is the rock which crushes some, and becomes the basis of a new nation for others… A Christian nation!
You are a “separate nation!”
Lest you think I am making this up, please consider these further words of Peter, our king’s ambassador. We have already considered Matthews record of Peter’s initial recognition of the kingship of Jesus, and we believe that he was in earshot of the conversations recorded in Matthew 21. Hear him as he addresses various groups of Christians scattered through nations that now form the nation and State of Turkey:
This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very cornerstone,” and, “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.—1 Peter 2:7-11
That phrase “A HOLY NATION” is no mere metaphor. Today we see that word “holy” in a completely religious context, but the Hebrew, and the Greek equivalent used here simply means separate, or set apart. In other words “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a separate nation, (the word is ethnos) a people for God’s own possession. Notice that our king’s ambassador calls his audience aliens and strangers and urges this nation to keep their behavior excellent “among the nations” of their residence–the ethnos whom they have been called out of. Sadly the word Gentiles obscures this fact yet again.
The questions remain, and have been ignored too long; have you been broken by falling on the rock, or are you waiting for it to fall on you? Is your allegiance to the nations of this world and their States, or are you a resident in them, living as an alien and stranger, committed to the king they oppose? Are you a part of the Christian nation?
Have you not wondered why we don’t experience the “royal power of God” the way the early followers of our king did? Maybe it is because we are not following our king like they did.
Please pray about what our king wants you to gain from this. Ask a question and/or check back for the next installment.
For the king—your servant, Chris
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