Jesus, Israel, and the Temple

by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.D.

With the 60th anniversary of the Republic of (& secular state) of Israel being established in the mid-east by the United Nations in 1948, the only democratic free nation in that region of the world, I feel it is important for Christians to understand the Biblical perspective of this land, and Dr. Kenneth Gentry’s article below gives a short summary of the religious (God’s chosen people) rebellion of Israel (Old Testament country) — the recalcitrance and rejection of Israel by the Lord God Omnipotent. This is a brief overview of this major issue and Biblical theme. 

Jerry

When the average American Christian is presented the preterist approach to Revelation, he usually balks due to his dispensational conditioning. The idea that God would so severely judge Israel and set her aside is written off as contrary to the biblical prophecy and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Such a response is unfortunate. Indeed, it is tragic in that it shows a serious lack of understanding of Christ’s on teaching in the gospel record. If we would read the Scriptures without dispensational blinders on, we would quickly recognize that the New Testament as a whole and Jesus in particular speak often about Israel’s setting aside in the first century. In fact, this can be easily demonstrated by simply surveying the Gospel of Matthew.

In Matthew’s Gospel we can easily see the enormous redemptive-historical significance of Israel’ judgment in AD 70. As we read through Matthew’s record we can see that not only did Christ himself teach it, but that Matthew’s Gospel itself strong emphasizes it. Matthew does so both overtly and subtly. Let us see how this is so by a quick overview of his Gospel.

Early Indicators of Israel’s Demise

In Mt 1 Matthew traces the genealogy of Christ to Abraham, the father of the Jews. But in Mt 2:3 he shows that men from the east come to worship him, while “all Jerusalem was troubled” at the news. Thus, early on in his commentary Matthew is preparing us for the Lord’s rejection by the Jews and his acceptance by the gentiles. And because of this, Matthew will begin unfolding the judgment of Jerusalem and Israel as a recurring drumbeat.

In Mt 3:9-12 John the Baptist rebukes the Jews for claiming Abraham as their father (3:9; contra Mt 1 genealogy of Christ). He then warns just before Christ’s ministry begins that “the axe is already laid at the root of the trees” (3:10) and that “He who is coming” has a “winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (3:12). This anticipates AD 70.

Growing Evidence for His Turning from Israel

In Mt 8:10-12 we read of the faithful gentile who exercised more faith than anyone in Israel. We hear once again of people from the east. This time they sit with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (the rightful place of the Jews), while the Jews themselves are cast out in suffering. In Mt 9:16-17 Christ teaches that the constraints of Judaism are like old wineskins that would burst, rather God will provide new wineskins (the new covenant church) to contain the wine of the kingdom. In Mt 10:5 Jesus limits his ministry to Israel, but in Mt 10:16-17 he notes that the synagogues will punish his followers. But in 10:23 he promises that he will return to judge (AD 70) before they have finished going through all of Israel. In Mt 10:34-36 he warns that he has not come to bring peace on the earth (Land), but a sword which will divide homes (because of the Jewish opposition; cp. Jn 9 blind man).

In Mt 11:14 Christ declares John the Baptist the fulfillment of the prophecy of Elijah’s return. When we read of this in Mal 3-4 we discover he will come to judge in Israel. In Mt 11:20-24 cities in Israel are rebuked and warned of judgment, being compared unfavorable to wicked OT cities. In Mt 12:39 he speaks of the Jews of his day as an “evil and adulterous generation.” In Mt 12:41-42 he once again rebukes and warns cities in Israel of coming judgment.

In Mt 12:43-45 he speaks of the seven-fold demonization of Israel in “this generation.” In Mt 13:58 he performs no miracles in Nazareth due to their lack of faith. In Mt 15:7-14 he rebukes the rabbis in Israel for neglecting God’s word and teaching falsely, according to Isaianic prophecy. In Mt 16:4 he once again speaks of Israel as an evil and adulterous generation.

Final Proof of Israel’s Recalcitrance and Rejection

In Mt 16:21 Jesus teaches his disciples that the chief priests will kill him. In Mt 16:28 he notes that some of his followers will live to see the kingdom come with power. In Mt 17:10-13 John the Baptist is declared Elijah who was not recognized as such and killed, just as they will kill Jesus. Mt 17:17: evil generation.

Mt 19:28 the Son of Man will come and the apostles will sit on thrones to judge the 12 tribes of Israel. In Mt 20:18-19 Christ once again prophesies that the chief priests will condemn him to death.

In Mt 21:12 he casts out the moneychangers and overturns their tables as prophetic theater showing the soon overthrow of the temple. In Mt 21:19-21 he curses the fig tree and speaks of the mountain being thrown in the sea, as signs of judgment on Israel. In Mt 21:33-43, 45 the parable of the landowner shows the kingdom will be take from the Jews and they will be crushed. In Mt 22:2-7 their city will be burned.

In Mt 23 Jesus utters seven woes upon the Pharisees. In Mt 23:34-36 first century Israel is to be judged for the righteous blood shed in the land. In 23:36-38 he laments the temple and declares it desolate. In 24:2-3 he leaves the temple and prophesies its destruction. In 24:16 he notes that his followers are to flee Judea because in 24:34 “this generation” will experience judgment.

In Mt 26:3-5 the chief priests and the High Priest counsel Jesus’ death. In Mt 26:47 the high priest has Jesus arrested. In 26:57 he is tried before the high priest, who in v 59 brings false witnesses. In 26:63-64 Jesus warns that the High Priest will see him coming in cloud judgment.

In Mt 27:1 the High Priest confers to kill Jesus. In vv 15–21 the chief priests encourage the crowd to seek the release of the robber Barabbas, instead of the innocent Messiah Jesus. In v 25 the people call his blood down upon themselves. While he is dying on the cross in vv 39–40, the people mock him for declaring the destruction of the temple. In vv 41–43 the scribes, elders, and chief priests deride him as he dies.

In Mt 28:11–15 the priests assemble after the resurrection to bribe the Roman guards at Jesus’ tomb, directing them to claim that his disciples stole his body. Then finally in vv 18-20 the Lord gives the Great Commission — which directs his followers to take the gospel to “all nations,” rather than limiting their ministry to Israel as previously (10:16–17; 15:24). God has turned from the Jews to the world.

Israel as a geo-political entity has been set aside by God. This is not the position of a peculiar theology. This is the position of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his servant Matthew.

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