Let’s take our Bibles and open them to John 6:15. As you know we are continuing to study the doctrine of the kingdom. This is a quick announcement; next Sunday evening this Bible study will not be meeting so if you come in here looking for everybody you’ll think you missed the rapture but the reason being is I’m heavily involved with the Chafer Theological Seminary Conference which I would encourage you to attend if you are interested, it’s all free or they do all the live streaming stuff and that conference goes half a day Monday, afternoon to evening, all day Tuesday, all day Wednesday, featuring this time around the very important doctrine of inerrancy of the Scripture.
There’s a lot of compromise going on within our own circles on the doctrine of inerrancy and we sort of, back in 1972 came up with the Chicago statement on inerrancy and people thought well, we’ve hammered that out, the job is done and what you discover is there’s a lot of drifting. So the conference is about the doctrine of inerrancy, what does it mean to have an inerrant Bible. A lot of different speakers, I’m presenting Wednesday afternoon, there’s some speakers from Master’s Seminary that are speaking, Dr. Wayne House is speaking, pastors in our theological orbit are speaking. The conference is local, it’s about 20 minutes from here at West Houston Bible Church. And if you have an interest in it there’s some flyers at the back table or name tag table along with the speaking schedule and all that kind of stuff. So that’s why we decided to cancel Wednesday night for next week, which is the 15th but then we’ll pick it up the following week which will be the 22nd.
Here we are in chapter 8, we finished chapter 7 last week on the Doctrine of the Kingdom and really in the first part of this class that we’ve been working our way through we’re trying to figure out what does the Bible say about the kingdom. And here are the stops that we’ve made so far. We started with Eden, the Garden of Eden, and that’s where God decided to rule over a man, Adam, and he was to govern creation for God. So that’s the beginning of what we call the doctrine of the kingdom. And that was lost in Eden when Adam and Eve began listening to the animals instead of governing the animals and that took place with the fall of man. So the kingdom, at that point, disappears from the earth. So sort of the goal of history is how this kingdom is restored and we saw the initial promises of a restored kingdom in the Abraham where God called a nation for Himself, Israel, and He gave them three promises, which you know well, right. Those are land, seed and blessing, and the nation of Israel owns those blessings forever.
Then you go about 600 years future from the time of Abraham and you get to the Mosaic Covenant and there God gives a condition. The condition is the condition by which Israel becomes not the owner but the what? The possessor or enjoyer of those blessings. And of course that condition ultimately points towards Jesus Christ. So as long as the nation of Israel is a Christ rejecting nation she will be the owner but not the possessor of her blessings, and the kingdom will be in a state of postponement.
And then fourth stop on the bus ride is the divided kingdom and it’s after the time of Solomon that the nation of Israel was divided into two, the ten northern tribes and the two southern tribes. The ten northern tribes are swept away by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and that only leaves tiny Judah left and she is the sole representation of God’s kingdom on the earth at that time. And what happens is the fifth stop on the bus ride, which I the times of the Gentiles, where tiny Judah is taken into captivity in Babylon and it’s there we learn from the prophecies of Daniel (that we’re studying on Sunday morning) that the nation of Israel is going to be trampled down by various Gentile powers. And don’t expect the kingdom to materialize until that time period is over.
So one of these days the empire of the antichrist will run its course, yet future, and only after that final days of Gentile dominion runs its course will the kingdom of God be set up on earth. So in the interim we’re not in the kingdom, we’re not bringing in the kingdom, don’t expect the kingdom. We’re in a time period called the times of the Gentiles.
And the sixth stop on the bus trip is the Old Testament prophets, and this is where they get out their paint brushes, these Old Testament prophets and they start to paint a portrait of what the kingdom is going to be like one day. And the prophets are functioning as those that give us light in the midst of darkness; they’re like a light shining in a dark place Jesus tells us. So they give us hope, even though the kingdom is not here they give us hope by reminding us of the wonderful conditions the world will be once the kingdom arrives.
The seventh stop on the bus is the return of Judah from Babylonian captivity back into their land and, of course, that’s where the prophets, the historical books, Ezra and Nehemiah fill in that historical time period for us. And so the nation of Israel is 400 years in their land before the coming of Jesus Christ, following the Babylonian captivity.
And then the eighth stop on the bus is the arrival of Jesus and what you have getting into the New Testament, particularly Matthew, is the proclamation, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and John the Baptist preaches that, Matthew 3:2. Jesus Himself preaches it, Matthew 4:17 and then the twelve preach it, Matthew 10:5-7. And the reason they’re saying that is they’re not preaching the gospel of individual salvation, as I tried to explain last week, but they’re offering the nation Israel national salvation. So all national Israel has to do is enthrone the king of God’s own choosing, Jesus Christ, and had they done that they would not just be the owner but the what? The possessor of their blessings and the kingdom of God would materialize on the earth. [Matthew 3:2, “‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:5-7, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: ‘Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;  but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”]
So they had a unique opportunity back there in the first century to enthrone Christ and the times of the Gentiles would have ended, “the stone cut without human hands” that’s mentioned in Daniel 2 would have shattered the Roman Empire and the kingdom of God would have been established. [Daniel 2:34, “You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them.” Daniel 2:45, “Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”]
So that’s really what’s going on all the way from Matthew chapter 1 verse 1, all the way really through chapter 12, verse 23. So this takes us up to where we are now in our study, this is stop number 9 on the bus trip, which is the rejection of the kingdom offer. And as you study the Gospels, particularly Matthew, Mark and Luke, tragically what you see is the nation of Israel turned down the offer of the kingdom.
As we look this evening at the rejection of the offer of the kingdom we want to look at three points. Number 1, why did Israel reject the offer of the kingdom? I mean, they had an unprecedented opportunity to enthrone Christ and the kingdom would have come. So why did they turn it down? It’s almost the same two reasons people turn today the offer of personal salvation, as I’ll show you.
Number 2,what was the turning point? In other words, when did Israel, in the first century, reach the point of no return? And then number 3, something that a lot of people have asked me about is once the offer of the kingdom was turned down and Jesus ascended to heaven, does that offer of the kingdom keep being re-preached or re-extended in the book of Acts? There’s a lot of good people actually that believe that and so we’ll get into that subject if we have time.
So starting here with number 1, why did the nation of Israel reject the opportunity of several generations and turn down the offer of the kingdom? And there are basically two reasons for it that the New Testament reveals. The first reason is Christ’s kingdom was not just political, but it was also moral and ethical and I could even add the word spiritual in tone. What first century Israel wanted (and this is why I had you open up to John 6) was they wanted a political king; they wanted a political Savior, they wanted someone to overthrow Rome. They hated Rome; the reason they hated Rome was because Rome, beginning about 63 B.C. came into the land of Israel, taxed the Jewish people heavily, and they also took away from the nation of Israel the right to execute their own criminals. In fact you’ll find a reference to that in John 18:31. [John 18:31, “So Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.’ The Jews said to him, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death.’”]
And so the patriotic and nationalistic Jews were just brimming with revolutionary hatred and antagonism towards Rome. And for just a brief moment they thought Jesus might be the guy to get rid of Rome. And the reason they thought that is because in John 6:1-14 Jesus performs the miracle of feeding the masses with a few fish and a few loaves of bread. You know that story. And when the Hebrew population saw that they said this is our guy, this is our guy that’s going to overthrow Rome. And so they were attracted to Jesus initially because of that.
And so when you look at John 6:15 it says this, “So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king,” see that, “withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.” So these people they saw in Jesus hope and they were going to make Him their king whether He wanted to be their king or not. And they looked at Him as a political Messiah. I mean, if this guy can do the miracle of the loaves and the fish just think what He could do to get rid of Rome. And Jesus withdrew from that, He wasn’t interested in that relationship and He explains why in verse 26, it says, “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly you seek Me, not because you saw My signs but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”
So He perceives that the only interest they really have in Him is political. They like the Jesus that’s going to feed the masses and meet their physical needs and they weren’t really interested in Him because of other signs that pointed to His Messiahship and the need to trust in Him by faith alone. They weren’t interested in that part of Christ. What they were interested in is really the part of Him that could meet physical needs and ultimately overthrow Rome.
And of course this is one of the tragedies in the way we preach the gospel today; we preach Jesus as kind of some giant cosmic bellhop in the sky that exists just to meet our physical needs. I’m not denying the fact that Jesus meets physical needs but you have to get beyond the point that Jesus is just someone who meets your physical needs. There is so much more to being a disciple of Christ than just that. So we say are you down to your last dollar? Well, come to Jesus, He’s the great provider. You know, Jesus can do this, Jesus can do that, and we get away from the fact that we are sinners separated from God and we need to embrace Him by faith alone. And after we embrace Him by faith alone we need to continue on in our walk with Him and submit to Him in discipleship. In other words, His moral and ethical precepts are supposed to be governing my life.
And when you start talking like that the crowd starts to dissipate. In fact, that’s exactly what’s happening in John 6. As long as He’s meeting physical needs everybody is interested, but once He starts talking about faith alone and the walk of the disciple the crowd thins to the point where there are only twelve left, the disciples. And He says to them you’re not going to leave too, are you? And then Peter speaks up and says well, where else are we going to go? You know, “You alone have the words of eternal life.” [John 6:68, “Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.’”]
So this was sort of the condition of first century Israel and when you see this you start to see why they reached the nation, the leadership by and large rejected the kingdom offer, because when you go back into the Old Testament and you study the doctrine of the kingdom, which is something we’ve done, you discover that the kingdom is political but it’s also ethical, it’s also moral, it also deals with the sin problem that we have. Even in Ezekiel’s prophecy of the kingdom, when he predicts it’s arrival on the earth, Ezekiel 37:23-24, he predicts a time period when, “They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned,” see that, “and will cleanse them.” That’s speaking of an internal cleansing. “And they will be My people, and I will be their God.  My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd;” look at this, “and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them.”
And Ezekiel explains all of this in the very context where he talks about the nation of Israel being regathered in the last days politically, but he goes on and he says it’s not just political in nature, it’s spiritual in nature, it’s ethical in nature, it’s moral in nature.
So as long as you’re on the subject of politics the nation of Israel and its leaders were happy, but once you get into the subject that the kingdom, when it comes is also going to be an internal spiritual transformation then they lost interest. And it’s a lot like talking to an unbelieving Jew today; the unbelieving Jew today is looking for a political savior, or a Messiah, but when you start to talk about the fact that they need to change internally, this is what the gospel does through the spiritual birth, the Holy Spirit comes into you and begins to clean you from the inside out, and transform you. You’ll discover that with the unsaved Jewish person, unless a miracle happens and they’re brought to saving faith in Christ through great conviction of the Spirit, without that they’re basically uninterested in the message of Jesus. And that’s exactly how it was back in the first century.
And this is why the expression, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” is such a big deal. “Repent” means change of mind. The word “repent” is communicating that the kingdom, once it arrives, is not just going to politically govern the world, it’s going to internally govern the heart of individuals. And that’s what the kingdom is, and the problem with first century Israel is that they wanted a king and a kingdom on their own terms. They weren’t willing to accept the whole package as Jesus was offering it and as the Old Testament consistently portrayed it.
So yes, the Old Testament talks about politics, it talks about the Dead Sea coming back to life, it talks about the dwelling in safety and security, and being protected from their enemies. But in the same breath that it talks about those things it also talks about forgiveness of sin, internal transformation, the new spiritual birth and it’s that latter part of the equation that the nation of Israel was uninterested in.
And Matthew skillfully explains to us this reality because in Matthew’s Gospel you find this expression, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” as taught first of all by John the Baptist; secondly taught by Jesus Christ, so Jesus presented it in Matthew 4, John presented it in Matthew 3, the twelve apostles presented it in Matthew 10. So here’s Matthew 4, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Here’s Matthew 10, it says basically the same thing, repent, as the twelve were sent out, “The kingdom of God is at hand.’”
So somebody tell me in between Matthew 4 and Matthew 10 what great body of material do we find. The Sermon on the Mount. What is The Sermon on the Mount doing there? The Sermon on the Mount is sandwiched in between the offer of the kingdom, as taught by Jesus, and the offer of the kingdom as taught by the twelve. Right in between those two outer edges you find the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew’s Gospel there are five great discourses. Matthew is a Jewish believer explaining to His Hebrew Christian audience if Christ is the King, where’s the kingdom? Everything in Matthew’s Gospel can be related to what I just said. If Christ is the King, where’s the kingdom? So Matthew is not written for evangelistic purposes. It’s written for edification purposes and apologetic purposes, trying to explain to a Hebrew Christian audience, who has trusted in Jesus, if Jesus is the King where is His kingdom because the Old Testament really says that King and kingdom go together, like horse and carriage.
So if you understand that question that the Hebrews Christians were wrestling with in the first century you start to understand everything in the book of Matthew. That’s why, contrary to most scholars I do not believe Mark was the first Gospel written. I think Matthew was the first Gospel written because it was written during the time when the church, which started in Acts 2, was still Jewish. I mean, do we understand that beginning in Acts 2, when the church was born and Peter preached his sermon on the day of Pentecost that the church was totally Jewish? And the church continued to be Jewish right up until Acts 10; Acts 10 is the first time a Gentile was won to Christ. Anybody remember his name? Cornelius, he’s the first Gentile in the church. And it’s such a big deal that all these Hebrew Christians had to have a meeting—can a Gentile really get saved? I mean, they’re just stunned.
And by the time Paul, in Acts 13, launches out on missionary journey one into southern Galatia from Syrian Antioch, till that point in time the church continues to be all Jewish, heavily Jewish, and it’s not until Paul takes off on that first missionary journey that the Gentiles start getting saved like crazy. So early on in Christianity all of Christianity is Hebrew; all of Christianity is Jewish. So Matthew, therefore, has to be the first Gospel written because it’s written to explain a question that a Hebrews Christian audience is wrestling with—if Christ is the King, where is His kingdom? Mark is not answering that exact question; neither is Luke, neither is John.
So therefore most of church history, in fact, the uniform testimony of church is that Matthew was the first gospel written. It’s not until the higher critical movement in Germany beginning in the 1900’s that people started to second guess that. But prior to German rationalists and liberals getting their hands on the Bible and starting to second guess a lot of things, everybody believed that Matthew was the first gospel written. And that makes perfect sense if you understand that the early church was all Hebrew Christians, they have a specific question they want to know, if Jesus is the King where’s the kingdom. And Matthew is written to address that question, so since it was written during a time the population of the church was heavily Jewish it stands to reason that Matthew would be the first gospel written.
In Matthew’s Gospel there are five discourses, major discourses. Now the number five is a big deal in Judaism. David went out to slay Goliath with how many stones? Five. The book of Psalms, 150 Psalms, is divided into how many books? Five books. The first five books of the Torah, called Pentateuch, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, which Jews revered, comes to a total of what? Five. So if you think like a Jewish person you understand why Matthew is high-lighting five discourses. We, as Gentiles, look at five discourses we just say five, what does that matter but to a Jewish mind that means everything.
And you know that there are five discourses here because five times in Matthew’s Gospel it says this: “When Jesus had finished saying these things.” He says it once in chapter 7, verse 28, to conclude the Sermon on the Mount. He says it a second time in Matthew 11:1 to conclude the missions discourse. He says it the third time in Matthew 13:53 to conclude the kingdom parables discourse. He says it a fourth time in chapter 19, verse 1, to conclude the humility discourse. And he says it a fifth time in chapter 26, verse 1, to conclude the Olivet Discourse. [Matthew 7:28, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching.” Matthew 11:1, “When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.” Matthew 13:53, “When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there.” Matthew 19:1, “When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan;”]
So every time in Matthew’s Gospel when it says “When He had finished saying these things” that’s a literary clue telling us that Jesus has just finished a major discourse. And the major discourse I’m looking at here is the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, which is sandwiched in between the offer of the kingdom taught by Christ, Matthew 4:17 and the offer of the kingdom taught by the twelve, Matthew 10:5-7. [Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:5-7, “These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: ‘Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans;  but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”]
And by strategically inserting the Sermon on the Mount between those two brackets of the offer of the kingdom, Matthew is giving us an explanation as to why the offer of the kingdom was turned down. Why did first century Israel turn down the offer of the kingdom? Because the kingdom is not just about politics it’s about morality and ethics and Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, is speaking of the morality and the ethics of the kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount is not giving us the politics of the kingdom, that’s part of it but that’s already been developed elsewhere in the Old Testament. It’s focusing on the moral and ethical tone of the kingdom. And so therefore when you read through Matthew 5-7… there’s a fast outline of Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, you’re given an explanation as to why Israel turned down the offer of the kingdom.
They’re going to turn down the offer of the kingdom in Matthew 12. Matthew 5-7 explains why they turned down the offer of the kingdom, because Jesus made it very clear in the Sermon on the Mount that the kingdom is not just about politics, it’s about ethics, it’s about morality. And that latter part of the package the nation of Israel did not want; it was all about political liberation.
So that sort of helps you understand what the Sermon on the Mount is doing here. There are a lot of people today that believe that the Sermon on the Mount, you just apply it directly to the life of the Christian today. Does that dog hunt? No it doesn’t! For example, look at Matthew 5:23-24, tell me if this sounds a little bit Jewish to you. “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,  leave your offering there before the” what? “altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” So this is talking about a time period when people are taking their offerings, that would be… there’s different kinds of offerings described in the book of Leviticus and they’re taking them to the altar, which would be the what? The temple.
Now did you guys do that Sunday? Did you bring your offering to the temple? No you didn’t. Well, aren’t you all following the Sermon on the Mount? Well not exactly, because this was obviously written when the temple was still functioning, the animal sacrifices were still in effect, and Jesus is speaking to a Hebrew audience still functioning under the Old Testament Law. And when Jesus makes this statement He’s explaining to them that look, this kingdom that you all want is not just about politics, there’s stuff in it about forgiveness and reconciliation. And it’s that latter part of the equation that the nation of Israel in the first century wasn’t interested in.
Take a look at Matthew 5:40-42, do you follow this perfectly today? “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.  Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” Now if you believe that we’re under the Sermon on the Mount today I hope you’ll let me know because I’ll come up to you after class and I’ll go easy on you at first, I’ll just ask for five bucks, and then maybe ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred, a thousand, and I’ll do as deep as the pockets are because this says you are to not turn away from anyone who wants to borrow from you.
So we look at this and we say well, we’re not offering offerings any more on an altar, obviously any business that follows this practice would go bankrupt. So we kind of instinctively understand that we’re not directly under the Sermon on the Mount the way it’s described here. And what you have to do is you have to put yourself in the circumstances in which the Sermon on the Mount was given. As I mentioned before, what brackets the Sermon on the Mount is the offer of the kingdom to Israel as taught by Christ in Matthew 4, and the offer of the kingdom as taught by the twelve, Matthew 10.
So therefore what is the Sermon on the Mount doing here at this particular point in Matthew? It is explaining that the kingdom, which is being offered to Israel, is not just physical and political, it is ethical and moral. And by the time Jesus got finished with the Sermon on the Mount it logically leads into Matthew 12 which is an explanation of why the nation of Israel turned down the offer of the kingdom.
It disturbs me a lot to see pastors put the church of Jesus Christ directly under the Sermon on the Mount. And the reason I say that is because of the omissions in the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, never a single time mentions Christ’s sacrifice for sins. Now Jesus apparently did talk about that (according to John’s Gospel) early on. But the Sermon on the Mount never mentions that. The Sermon on the Mount never once talks about salvation by faith alone, not a single time! The Sermon on the Mount, not a single time talks about praying in Christ’s name. Now Jesus, in the final week of His life in the Upper Room Discourse talks about this quite a bit, called the Upper Room Discourse, John 14:13-14. [John 14:13-14, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”]
The Sermon on the Mount never once mentions the Holy Spirit, although Jesus mentions the Holy Spirit towards the end of His ministry in John 14:26. [John 14:26, “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you.”] The Sermon on the Mount never mentions the church. Now Jesus will mention the church later, after the nation of Israel has rejected the kingdom offer, Matthew 16:18. [Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”] But the Sermon on the Mount never mentions the subject of the church.
So therefore what is the Sermon on the Mount about? It is not to put the church directly under in a one to one sense. It’s there to explain that the kingdom that Jesus was offering, which the Sermon on the Mount, as I mentioned before, is bracketed by the preaching of the kingdom by Christ and the preaching of the kingdom by the twelve that this kingdom that is being offered is not just politics, it’s not just about filling your stomach with food. It is that but it’s more than that! It’s about morality, it’s about ethics, it’s about spiritual truths, it’s about things going on in the heart of man and how the internal heart of a man has to be changed. That’s why Jesus keeps talking about the human heart in the Sermon on the Mount. He says things like you know what, you can pride yourself on the fact that you’re not a murderer but if you’re angry in your heart towards your brother you’ve already committed what? Murder. You pride yourself on the fact that you’re not a physical adulterer but if you have lust in your heart you’re already a what? An adulterer. And he’s getting at morals, morals, morals, ethics, ethics, ethics, submission, submission, submission, submission, submission because it’s an explanation of the whole package of the kingdom.
Israel only wanted half of the package, the political part, not the spiritual or ethical part. So the Sermon on the Mount is there to explain the other part of the equation and it explains why the nation of Israel, if you understand where the Sermon on the Mount is strategically inserted into Matthew’s Gospel then you have an explanation as to why first century Israel turned down the offer of the kingdom.
Now when I talk like this the big question is well, I mean, are you saying that we in the year 2017 should ignore the Sermon on the Mount? I’m not necessarily saying that either. Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of Dallas Seminary, puts it this way: All of the things in the Sermon on the Mount that we are to comply with in the year 2017 have been repackaged into the epistolary literature. So teachings on anxiety, not being worried, you’ll find that repackaged into the epistles, Philippians 4:6-7. [Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”]
And that’s how I would teach the Sermon on the Mount; I would say we’re under the Sermon on the Mount as it’s been sort of re-shifted for our age, for the church age. And we take our primary ques from the epistolary literature; we don’t take our primary ques first from the Sermon on the Mount because the Sermon on the Mount is really presented to a nation that’s still functioning under the Law of Moses, giving them a very rough teaching that the kingdom is not just politics, it’s also about morality and ethics.
So I would view the Sermon on the Mount through the lens of the epistles. I would take your primary ques, just for what’s normative today from the epistolary literature and then sort of use the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount in more of a supplemental way.
And even though the kingdom has been offered to Israel and postponed, when we get to Matthew 13, which won’t be this evening, but Matthew 13 is the kingdom parables discourse; it’s an explanation of what’s happening in the interim while the kingdom is in postponement. We, in that discourse, are called the sons of the kingdom. So even though we are not in the kingdom now we are representing kingdom values to a certain extent. For example, Paul calls us ambassadors. Now if I’m America’s ambassador to Iran I’m representing American values on Iranian soil. Right? That’s largely what we are today as New Testament Christians; we are not in the kingdom but we are ambassadors. We are called sons of the kingdom, Matthew 13:38. [Matthew 13:38, “…and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;”]
Paul, in Galatians 4:7 says, “If a son, then a” what? “then an heir. [Galatians 4:7, “Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”] So we are heirs of the coming kingdom, and so we reflect (to a large extent) kingdom values while we’re living on Satan’s turf. I would try to apply the Sermon on the Mount that way but I would not put the church of Jesus Christ directly under the Sermon on the Mount, as many people do. I would make it dispensational adjustment and the reason I’m saying that is the Sermon on the Mount was given at a period of time when the nation of Israel was being offered the kingdom. They were being told, before the Sermon on the Mount began and after the Sermon on the Mount ended, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” And they were being told that the kingdom is political but it’s also ethical and moral. And that’s the part of it that they didn’t like, and that’s why they turned down the offer of the kingdom.
So why did the nation of Israel turn down the offer of the kingdom? It was this simple: Christ’s kingdom was not just political but it was also moral and ethical in tone, and the whole point of the Sermon on the Mount is to communicate that. That’s why they turned the offer down.
Number 2, why did Israel turn down the offer of the kingdom? Because Israel, back in the first century, and even today, pursued righteousness by self-righteousness, rather than transferred righteousness available through faith alone. First century Israel was heavily involved in a works orientation; they were involved in a works orientation not because of the Old Testament, the Old Testament teaches grace, doesn’t it. “Noah found” what? “grace in the eyes of the LORD,” Genesis 6 tells us. [Genesis 6:8, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.”]
Genesis 15:6 tells us that “Abraham believed God and it was” what? “credited to him as righteousness.” [Genesis 15:6, “Abram believed the LORD, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” NIV] The Old Testament never taught works but by the time Jesus showed up the nation of Israel was heavily involved in works. Why were they heavily involved in works righteousness? Because of the advent of the Pharisees; the Pharisees were the legalists of the day. The Pharisees basically said our nation went into Babylonian captivity because of Sabbath violations so we’re going to pass so many rules and regulations over the people that they will never violate the Sabbath again.
So they had regulations put on them regarding eating on the Sabbath, pulling out your donkey on the Sabbath, and Jesus comes along and He heals someone on the Sabbath. He did that many times in the Gospels, and that just freaked the leadership out, bigtime. And in that context Jesus says “Thus invalidating the Word of God by your tradition.” [Mark 7:13] They had lost sight of what the Sabbath was there for. When God originally gave the Sabbath it was to be a blessing to man; man was to rest and recuperate on the Sabbath. But Jesus says if I heal someone on the Sabbath that should be no big deal, should it, if that’s a blessing to a person. You all pull your animal out of a ditch on the Sabbath, don’t you? So what’s the harm in me healing somebody on the Sabbath.
So what had happened with Pharisaism is they had passed so many rules and regulations on the people, because they understood that what sent them into Babylonian captivity was violating the Sabbath so they said we’re never going to let that happen again, and it’s going to be rule, rule, rule, regulation, regulation, regulation on what you could or could not do on the Sabbath and these regulations became so onerous over multiple centuries that the original intent of the Sabbath was lost under layer and layer and layer of regulations. See that?
What the Pharisees did is they built a fence around the Law; they built a fence around the Law through manmade regulations called the Talmud, called the Mishnah, in fact I had to read through some of that stuff in seminary; it’s exhausting the intense regulations they put on people. And really the first time this happens in all of the Bible is with Eve. Remember what God originally said to Adam and Eve? You can eat freely from any tree of the garden that you want. [Genesis 2:16, “The LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;’”]
So the serpent comes and tempts Eve and she says, not only can we not eat of it but we can’t what? Touch it. Wait a minute, God never said anything about touching it, He just said you couldn’t eat of it. So what did Eve do in her mind? She was so afraid of violating the command that she added a bunch of human regulations, which we call legalism, to prevent her from eating from the tree. And that’s what Pharisaism is, it’s what’s called a defense around the law, they were so afraid of Israel violating the sabbath again, which might send them back into captivity because after all, that’s what sent them into captivity the first time. They passed all of these regulations to such an extent that they built a fence around the Law and in the process they lost sight of what the original sabbath command was all about.
That’s why Jesus, showing up and healing people on the Sabbath, He is in a direct confrontation with the Pharisees and the issue is not Jesus versus Moses, the issue is Jesus trying to get back to the original intent of the Sabbath, which had been lost thanks to Pharisaical regulations. And that’s why Jesus says to the Pharisees, “thus invalidating the Word of God by your tradition.” [Mark 7:13]. So by the time Jesus shows up the Pharisees and they were the religious leaders and therefore the whole nation of Israel was heavily involved in works righteousness. This is why Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and the Pharisees you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:20]
Now that was quite an attack because the Scribes and the Pharisees were considered the most spiritual holy people in the nation, and Jesus says to enter the kingdom you’ve got to have a righteousness that goes beyond the Scribes and the Pharisees. And what he’s saying is works righteousness is not going to get this done; you’ve got to back to imputed righteousness or transferred righteousness, the kind of righteousness that Abraham received by faith alone. And as Jesus taught this the Pharisees in the nation of Israel didn’t want to receive it because they valued human works over faith alone.
So what I’m giving you is a second reason why the nation of Israel rejected the offer of the kingdom. Jesus said this, in John 6; now this is to the same crowd that wanted to make Him king by force. He said this in John 6, “Therefore they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God,” verse 29, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you” what? “believe in Him whom He has sent.’” So here they are with all of their extra-biblical revelations, works, works, works, and Jesus comes along and talks about salvation by simple faith. And they had taken the original intent of the Old Testament and buried it under layer after layer after layer of man-made tradition that when Jesus shows up He was basically teaching a different language than what they wanted. They were all about works, Jesus was teaching the reality of faith alone. Righteousness from God comes by transferred righteousness, His righteousness transferred to us by faith alone. It is not something that could be worked for.
And this is the great danger of legalism because legalism always starts off well-intentioned but eventually what happens is the tail starts to wag the dog; the man-made rules that people come up with take precedence over God’s Word. So for example, a lot of Christians know that they should keep their thought life pure. Well, how do I keep my thought life pure? What people do, they start to pass rules, women can only wear dresses up to a certain part of their legs, I can only go to certain movies that have a certain rating. So what has happened is to keep my mind pure I’ve passed a lot of human rules along the way. That’s called legalism and when legalism takes hold the rating of a movie or the length of a woman’s dress is more important than the original principle found in the Bible. That’s the danger of legalism is the tail starts to wag the dog.
And this is exactly what happened to first century Israel. The Mishnah, the Talmud, all of these things came along because of Pharisaism. It all started off, I think fairly well intentioned, but as the centuries rolled on the rules and the regulations and the manmade laws were more important than the Word of God. Jesus shows up and starts talking about the Word of God and the original intent of God’s Word and He could not penetrate the legalistic mind of the Pharisees.
Now this is exactly what Paul says in Romans 9:30-32. Notice this passage, Paul here is giving us an explanation as to why the nation of Israel turned down the offer of the kingdom. He’s speaking about his own people that he has a great heart for, the Jewish people, Paul being Jewish. He says, “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by” what? “faith;” these Gentiles were all made right with God because they came to God by faith alone. What about the Jews though?  “but Israel,” look at this, “pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.  Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by” what? “works.” And so consequently Paul says, the last clause there, “They stumbled over the stumbling stone.”
Jesus showed up and they tripped right over Him. Why would they trip right over Him? Because they were wrapped up in works righteousness, extra-biblical Pharisaism. And so when Jesus shows up and He teaches faith alone it’s like He was talking a different language and they tripped right over it. And frankly that’s the very reason why many people reject Christ today. Christ will not accommodate to man’s works righteousness. When salvation by faith alone and grace alone is presented many people have such a legalistic mindset they say it can’t be that easy and they stumble right over the message.
Now there’s a remnant that did believe the message within Israel but the crux of the leadership rejected the message; the crux of the nation rejected the message and the leaders rejected the message. And so what you discover as you go through the Gospels is you have a very specific reason why Israel rejected the offer of the kingdom. Two reasons; number 1, Christ’s kingdom was not just political but moral and ethical in tone. By the time He finished amplifying that in the Sermon on the Mount the leadership was already turning against Him.
Number 2, Israel pursued righteousness by self-righteousness rather than by transferred righteousness available through faith alone. It was like He was talking a different language because of the dominance of the extra-Biblical rituals and legalism of the Pharisees. So that becomes a second reason why the nation of Israel turned down the offer of the kingdom. But guess what? God can take lemons and turn them into what? Lemonade. God used this to have the nation of Israel turn Christ over to the Romans for execution and through that transaction God, in the process, paid the sin debt of the whole world. So God took a negative and turned it into what? A positive.
Now when did the nation of Israel formally reject the offer of the kingdom? The only thing I’ve explained thus far is why they turned it down. They turned it down because they didn’t like the physical and the moral teachings of the kingdom. They turned it down because they were wrapped up in works righteousness rather than transferred righteousness by faith alone. So that’s the why question.
The next question is the what question, or maybe better said the when question. When did they officially turn down the offer? And the answer is in Matthew 12:24 is the turning point in Matthew’s Gospel because in Matthew 12:24 Jesus does the miracle in their midst that they could not deny; they could not explain it away. So the only excuse they were left with is this man performs this miracle by whose power? The devil’s power. And once they go that direction they’ve just crossed the point of no return; the offer of the kingdom at that point is rescinded, it is taken off the table, and the offer of the kingdom does not show up again in Matthew’s Gospel until Matthew records the words of Christ talking about the future tribulation period in what’s called the Olivet Discourse, given on the Mount of Olives, Matthew 24:14. [Matthew 24:14, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”]
So in Matthew12;23 it says this, “But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘This man casts out demons only by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.” Once that happens you don’t find any more the expression, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The expression disappears and does not reappear in Matthew’s Gospel until Jesus begins to talk about the end of the age and the Tribulation period, when He says: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” [Matthew 24:14] So this chart I wanted to get into this tonight but it’s going to take me too long of an explanation to do that so I’ll postpone that, not for next week but the following week. “
But this chart here shows you the pivot point in Matthew’s Gospel. Everything is building up to a certain point right there in chapter 11 and specifically in chapter 12. Once you get to that point the whole tenor and tone of Matthew’s Gospel changes. Jesus is no longer saying “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He starts talking about a church, “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” [Matthew 16:18] He’s never spoken of any such thing before. He starts to talk in parables and He starts to train the remnant… see, the nation has moved into a Christ rejecting state but there’s a tiny remnant that remains in faith, a Jewish remnant. He starts to train them for the roles that they’re going to play as foundations of the church beginning in the book of Acts. The miracles are no longer done by Christ to prove to the nation who He is. He starts to perform miracles like having Peter walk out on the water and things like that to prepare Peter and to train him for his role in the coming church age.
Sorry I didn’t get a little further tonight but… Number 1, why did Israel reject the offer of the kingdom? They wanted a political kingdom, not a moral one, so they wouldn’t accept the kingdom on Christ’s terms. And number 2, they were wrapped up in works righteousness. Those are the two tragic reasons why the nation of Israel stumbled right over the stumbling stone, Jesus Christ, and why the kingdom was rejected and why today Israel remains owner but not possessor of her blessings and the kingdom remains in a state of what? Postponement.
Matthew, a Jewish Christian, is carefully explaining this to his Hebrews Christian audience because what is on their mind is this: if Christ is the King then where is His kingdom. Matthew is giving them an explanation as to why Christ is the King but the kingdom is not here. So hopefully I’ve caused more light than confusions tonight.