Lecture notes by Dr Don Hender.
The major focus is the question, ‘Why Christ did not bring in His Kingdom at His first coming?’ The important doctrinal and particularly Prophetic themes are brought out in our study, from a Dispensational and PreMillennial viewpoint.
Matthew is considered one of the most important books of the New Testament, bridging the Old and the New Testaments. Matthew deals primarily with the life of Jesus as fulfilling Old Testament prophecies relating to the coming King and explaining why the prophecies relating to the Messianic Kingdom on earth are delayed in fulfilment until Christ’s second coming. Surely this Gospel is Divinely intended to be the first Gospel. It is likely that the ‘sayings’ of Jesus were collected by Matthew in contemporary Hebrew (Aramaic) and possibly later translated into Greek. Whatever happened, Matthew is the author and it is the inspired Word of God for us and especially Jewish people, certainly written before AD 70. The Temple was still standing in Jerusalem. The Gospel could have been written as early as AD 44, during the persecution of Agrippa 1.
Matthew’s purpose is to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament promise and prophecy. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements for being the promised King who is a descendent of David. Jesus’ life and ministry give full credence to the fact that He is Israel’s Messiah King. Matthew is Thematic, not biographical, giving full portrayal of Christ’s royal pedigree through His genealogical family tree and early recognition of His Person – King of the Jews. There is much in this Gospel about the great Jewish themes of Law, Prophecy, Messiah, Kingdom and Israel. All point to the great truth that Jesus is the King of the promised Kingdom. Miracles of Jesus are credentials of His Messiahship, prophesied in the Old Testament, especially in Isaiah. Matthew introduces Jesus as the Messiah, King of Israel, fulfilling Old Testament prophecy.
As the Good News is unfolded by Matthew, he then gives the progressive account that Christ did not bring in His prophesied Kingdom at His first coming. Growing rejection of Jesus, especially by leaders of the Jewish religion and His subsequent denunciation of their unbelief; by Jesus, regarding His revelation of Himself are clearly portrayed, especially relating to the postponement of the Kingdom, but never cancellation. Jesus gives clear indication, through parables of Matthew 13, that this age ends with judgment, but also salvation for Israel in God’s faithfulness and at the same time judgment upon growing apostasy within what would be called Christendom or ‘Churchianity’. The true Church, to be known as the Body of Christ, will be completed, known as the Pearl of Great Price; Israel being called the ‘Hidden Treasure’ through the Church Age.
Eventually, Matthew chapters 24 & 25, the long discourse in answer to Jesus’ disciples three questions, describes the course of this Age between the two Advents of Christ, with special reference to the Great Tribulation, leading up to Christ’s second Advent.
Matthew finally gives the true facts of rejection leading to Golgotha, but also final Glory of the resurrection victory. He commissions His disciples to go into all the world, preach the Gospel, teaching His Truth and baptising believers in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus has been given all power in heaven and on the earth and disciples are to go out in this encouragement. Christ would be with them until the end of the Church Age and Dispensation of the Gospel, in this work until He comes, first for the Church and then to become King of Israel at His second Advent and to deal with His and Israel’s enemies.
During this Age the Church would be called into being (Matthew 16:18), and Christ will be with all His servants through this present Age, to the completion of the Church and ultimately the ushering in of His postponed but promised Kingdom at His coming again.
Matthew explained why Christ suffered, died and rose again as a result of His rejection, to Jewish people who had expected a conquering King, fulfilling the Davidic Covenant but had forgotten that Jesus the Messiah must first become the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, for the forgiveness of sins.
The early Church recognised Matthew’s Gospel as the most important Gospel, fulfilling Old Testament Prophetic Promises with focus on Jesus, the Messiah King. Matthew also gives full content of the fundamentals of the Christian faith, producing a Church redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
ROYAL GENEALOGY – Matthew 1:1-17
Jesus Christ is portrayed as the true Son of David, Son of Abraham, Son of God, the true Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world of Jew and Gentile. Sufficient evidence is presented through genealogy, establishing legal claim of Jesus Christ to be justifiably recognised as King of Israel. His ‘pedigree’ is recorded and the supernatural conception and Deity of Christ is pronounced through the Virgin Birth detail.
Matthew begins with Abraham and ends with Joseph as husband of Mary, but not the father of Jesus. When the Gospel says ‘of whom was born Jesus’, ‘whom’ is a feminine pronoun, referring to Mary.
A 3-fold division within genealogy is explained in 1:17. (1) Generations from Abraham to David. Abraham was first in line of promise – the Unconditional Abrahamic Covenant, and ends with David as king – the Unconditional Davidic Covenant. (2) Generations from David to Jeconiah. (3) Continuity of the line to Jesus.
Genealogy of Jesus with reference to the line of David through Jeconiah
The purpose of Joseph’s genealogy in Matthew is to show that if Jesus was really the son of Joseph, He could not be King. The purpose of the genealogy of Mary in Luke’s Gospel shows why Jesus could claim the throne of David.
Joseph’s perspective. Mary’s perspective.
Joseph in the central active role. Mary in the central active role.
Angels appear to Joseph. Angel appears to Mary.
See below for comments about Joseph. Jesus Himself a descendent of David through Mary.
Jesus was a member of the House of David and royal line of kings.
The requirement to sit on David’s throne was that of descent from David. After Solomon’s death, the kingdom was divided – Judah and Israel (Samaria). The requirement to sit upon the throne of Israel was one of prophetic sanction and Divine appointment. With the background of these two Old Testament requirements for Kingship and what is stated in Matthew and Luke, the question of Christ’s right to the throne of David and Israel can be resolved.
In Matthew the genealogy traces the line of Joseph, stepfather of Jesus, through Abraham to David and Solomon, then on to Jeconiah (v11). Jeconiah is also called Jehoiachin and that inclusion of Jeconiah is significant in the light of Jeremiah 22:24-30, which concludes with, ‘no descendent of Jeconiah will sit on the throne of David, or rule again in Judah. He shall be childless’. God cursed Jeconiah. In Matthew, Joseph was a direct descendent of Jeconiah and thus Joseph could not inherit David’s throne. Matthew writes in such a way to prove conclusively that Joseph could not have any claim to David’s throne because of the curse on Jeconiah. Matthew then proceeds to show that Jesus was not Joseph’s son, for He was born of Mary, (see chapter 1:18-25 and verse 16)./p
In Jewish law a woman’s line is traced through the husband. So how could we know whether the genealogy used is the husband or wife? In the Greek text of Luke, the definite article “the” precedes each name – this is not done in the English language, e.g. “the” Matthew; “the” Luke etc. In the Greek text of Luke every single name mentioned has the Greek definite article “the”, with one exception and that is Joseph. What would that mean to someone reading it in original Greek? When the reader saw the definite article missing from Joseph’s name, but present in all the others, it would then mean that this was not Joseph’s genealogy, but rather it was Mary’s genealogy. But, in keeping with Jewish law, it was the husband’s name that was used. Two examples are Ezra 2:61 and Nehemiah 7:63. Luke 3:23 records also that Jesus was only the “supposed” son of Joseph, but not in the ‘real’ line including Joseph. In Matthew we have recorded that Joseph is son of Jacob. How could he be called ‘son of Heli’ in Luke? In Luke it is not recorded that ‘Heli begat Joseph’, so the natural explanation is that Joseph was the son-in-law of Heli, who was a descendent of David. In English it is translated that Joseph was the son of Heli. However, in the Greek “son” is not there. It is incorrectly supplied by the translators, no doubt to make more sense, it was hoped. Yet, Joseph was called son of Heli, though son-in-law, in accordance with normal Jewish use. See 1Samuel 24:16 where David is called ‘son’ by Saul. We may safely conclude therefore that Joseph was the ‘son of Heli’ because he was espoused to Mary, Heli’s daughter.
The Jerusalem Talmud, Chagigah 2:4 refers to Miriam (Jewish name for Mary) as the daughter of Heli. In long-standing Jewish tradition Mary (Miriam) was recognised as the daughter of Heli. The absence of Mary’s name is quite in keeping with Jewish practice on genealogies and it was not unusual for a son-in-law to be listed in his wife’s (Mary/Miriam) genealogy.
In Luke’s genealogy Jesus is traced back through Nathan as the son of David. Thus Mary was a descendent of the house of David apart from Solomon, of whom Jeconiah descended. Jesus was Mary’s son, so He was of the Davidic royal line, totally apart from the curse of Jeconiah.
One Old Testament requirement for Kingship was having correct Davidic line apart from Jeconiah. Jesus fulfilled this first requirement. However, Jesus was not the only member of the line of David, apart from Jeconiah. There were others too. Here the second requirement to Kingship comes into focus, that of Divine appointment of any existing members of the house of David. Only one received that appointment and that was Jesus. READ Luke 1:30-33, “The angel said to her, fear not Mary; for you have found favour with God. And behold, you shall conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and shall call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give to Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.”
So how could Jesus claim the throne of David? Firstly, He was a member of the royal line of David and descendent of David, apart from Jeconiah. He came through Nathan, not Solomon and subsequently not Jeconiah. Secondly He alone received Divine appointment to the throne of David.
The above material about Christ’s right to the throne of David, plus the research into the genealogies of Joseph and Mary have been studied from Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s book entitled “Messianic Christology”, published by Ariel Ministries, 1998, Appendix 4, ‘Christ’s Right to David’s Throne’, pages 135 – 139.
Henry Einspruch’s translation of Matthew’s Gospel, (The Lewis and Harriet Lederer Foundation, 1939), is helpful in his comment at the foot of page 2, about the genealogy’ recorded in Matthew. He says, ‘Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is a summary of Jewish history. Its three-fold division into 3×14 family male members was evidently suggested by the name David, which in Hebrew has the numerical value of fourteen; d=4; v=6; d=4. This is in keeping with the rabbinic method of mnemonics, or aid to the memory’.
SUPERNATURAL CONCEPTION – Matthew 1:18 -1:25 – The Birth of Jesus
Joseph was legally betrothed to Mary, described as ‘husband’ in v16. Mary’s pregnancy was the result of the Holy Spirit’s creativity. This fact was revealed to Joseph. Mary’s Son shall be called Jesus. Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 to support the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. “The Lord Himself shall give you a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall His Name Immanuel.”
WORSHIP OF THE MAGI – Matthew 2:1-11
These men were students of Astrology, or better terminology would be Astronomy. They searched the heavens for significant movements of stars. They would therefore be better called Astronomers. They came to Jesus considerably later on after his birth. They inquired where the King of the Jews would be born. There was widespread expectation of a coming great ruler, even as far away as Babylon where the Magi came from.
The wise men, or Magi (Greek: Magio, from a Persian word for those experts in the stars – astronomers), saw an unusual star in the east, signifying to them that the King had come. This news troubled Herod. He did not want a rival ruler or Jewish uprising as a result. Herod was informed correctly of Micah 5:2, “but you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall He come forth to Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting’. NB. This Messiah would be an individual, not the Jewish nation. This Messiah would be a ruling King. The wise men were guided by the star – to their amazement – to Bethlehem. The star had come from the east to guide them – even to the house in Bethlehem – a supernatural phenomena. Note that Jesus was now found in a house, not a cave where He had been born. The wise men worshipped Jesus and gave significant gifts as important types, prophetically. Frankincense was presented to Jesus representing His fragrance of life and intercession. Myrrh was presented to Jesus representing His suffering, sacrifice and death. Gold was presented to Jesus representing His true deity.
In verses 12 to 15, God spoke to the Magi and to Joseph through an angel in warnings. Herod had planned to murder Jesus. Herod was dead within three years from that wicked plan. The Magi returned to their own country by different directions, not informing Herod of the whereabouts of King Jesus. Joseph took Mary and Jesus into Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. Joseph then returned to Israel, fulfilling Hosea 11:1, recorded in Matthew 2:15, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called My Son”.
MASSACRE OF THE CHILDREN IN BETHELEHEM – Matthew 2:15-18
This terrible crime in Bethlehem, planned by Herod the Great, was intended to make sure that King Jesus did not live to grow up to become the prophesied King of the Jews. In fact, this terrible crime fulfilled a prophecy in Jeremiah 31:15-16. “Thus says the LORD: a voice was heard in Ramah. Lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Thus says the LORD; refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.” Verse 17 continues, “there is hope in your end, says the LORD, that your children shall come again to their own border.” It is interesting to note that Rachel was buried in Bethlehem and many women still wept at her tomb.
RETURN TO NAZARETH – Matthew 2:19-23
Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Nazareth after the death of Herod fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1, “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” Christ was declared to be a Rod or Branch. (Hebrew: Netzer = Branch), from the stem of Jesse, which would be David. Isaiah 11:2 confirms that the ‘Spirit of the LORD would rest upon Him’, and the source of His power would be the sevenfold ministry of the Holy Spirit upon Him, namely, rest, wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the fear of the LORD, His Father.
These incidents were highlighted by Matthew to give significant support to the conclusive evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, Son of David, King of the Jews, Son of God.
THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTISER – Matthew 3:1-12
There had been 400 years of silence of the Prophetic voice. There was no word from God. John’s office and dress was similar to that of Elijah. John was the ‘herald’ to Jesus. John’s preaching was, ‘Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’. This announcement fulfilled Isaiah 40:3-5. ‘The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places smooth: the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.’ John’s message sternly rebuked the hypocrisy of religion of his day that of the Pharisees and Sadducees particularly.
The Kingdom of Heaven phrase is not found in the Old Testament. The nearest would be found in Daniel 4:37 where Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges the King of Heaven. Daniel predicted the climax of world history as God gave him the revelation, with the prophetic revelation of the coming of the Son of Man who would be given an everlasting Kingdom, Daniel 2:44. Matthew alone uses the phrase ‘Kingdom of Heaven and rarely used the phrase ‘Kingdom of God’. There is a distinction between the two phrases. The Kingdom of Heaven includes all who profess to be subjects of the King, but some of these are “Apostate pretenders” only. The Kingdom of God is more specific and includes only true believers. Except they are ‘born again’ they cannot see the Kingdom of God, John 3:3 and 5. Matthew 13 includes the genuine and the false depicted in the parables, e.g. Wheat and Tares; Good and Bad Fish; the Mustard Tree containing the birds of the air which snatched away the seed in the Parable of the Sower. The word for ‘bird’ in both parables is the same Greek word, thus the interpretation can only be that they are Satan’s agents in both parables which snatch away or damage the Word of God proclaimed. It must be noted that all those in the Kingdom of God will be in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Eschatologically and Dispensationally a 3-fold distinction must be observed in the use of the phrase ‘Kingdom of Heaven’.
(1) In John the Baptiser’s ministry the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, or near, meaning that this is in the person of the King being present then. In and through Jesus Christ the Kingdom was being presented to Israel and would obviously affect the world.
(2) In Matthew 13 the Kingdom is presented in its present mystery form, revealing that the rule of God over the earth is in the hearts of believers only during this present Age when the King is absent. These are called mystery parables because they were not revealed in the Old Testament doctrine of the Kingdom.
(3) The climactic form of the Kingdom will be realised when Christ returns to set up His Kingdom of Heaven upon the earth, in fulfilment of Daniel’s prophecies and many other Old Testament Scripture passages, picturing the glorious Age and reign of the Son of David over the entire earth in Righteousness and Peace. This will be the thousand years reign of peace – the Millennial reign of Christ depicted throughout Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Only the Premillennial interpretation of the concept of the Kingdom allows a literal interpretation of Old Testament and New Testament prophecies relating to the future Kingdom.
John’s ministry instituted a spiritual crisis in Israel. Would Israel accept or reject their King? John’s ministry called the nation to repentance. So many people came out to hear John. His ministry was so unique and dramatic after 400 years of silence from God – no Prophetic voice for four centuries.
John’s baptism is not Christian baptism. It is not in response to the Holy Spirit’s work. It. is not a testimony of outward witness of being a member of the Body of Christ, the true Church. John’s baptism is a religious ritual, signifying confession of sin and commitment to a holy life under Jewish religious life and dispensation of Law – genuine Judaism, though distorted by Israel’s religious leaders who opposed John and later Jesus. John called for a genuine repentance towards God. John challenged the idea that salvation was due to being descendants of Abraham. John declared that God could raise up children from ‘stones’, Matthew 3:9. The Hebrew for ‘children’ is ‘banim’; the Hebrew for ‘stones’ is ‘abanim’. These words are similar in sound, and when used together form a striking assonance. God can raise up ‘banim’ from ‘abanim’ a supernatural act to make children out of dead substance, but this is what God does in the supernatural act of new birth for the believer, – life from the dead. God does this in the Gentile and will do this eventually in Israel, Romans 11:15-16 says, ‘If their (Israel) being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be (Israel) but life from the dead? For if the first fruit is holy, the lump is also holy (set apart: different): and if the root is holy (set apart: different) so are the branches (Jewish people of Israel).’ It will indeed be ‘life from the dead’, ‘Banim’ from ‘abanim’ – life from dead stones.
John also declared that the axe is in God’s hand to cut down every fruitless tree, i.e. God judges dead religion of ritual that is lifeless.
The climax of John’s dramatic ministry was the fact that he was only the forerunner or herald to the expected great Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18-19) whose shoes John was not worthy to untie – the lowest slave’s work. This one is the coming King who would baptise with the Holy Spirit and with the fire of judgment on the nation of Israel, threshing wheat from the chaff, the judging of the genuine from the chaff rubbish, fit only for burning.
John’s baptism for repentance.
The Spirit administered by Christ.
The first prepared people to follow Christ and becoming true believers. These were later baptised as a testimony to their salvation. Secondly, believers became members of the Body of Christ, the true Church, through baptism administered by Christ, shall we say, through the Apostles (for example, Acts 19:1-5). The baptism of the Holy Spirit did not occur until that special Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2. (See 1Corinthians 12:13, “for by one Spirit are we all baptised into one Body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or flee, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit”.
The third baptism – fire – seems to refer to the judgment which will take place at the second coming of Christ, for only then will the Lord deal with the Tares and destroy the chaff through this symbol of burning.
These three baptisms signify entrance into new situations
Separation to God for the righteous, or
Separation from God for the unrighteous godless. The threshing floor is an apt figure to illustrate this truth of separation. The true will eventually be separated from the false.
THE BAPTISM OF JESUS – Matthew 3:13-17
Matthew alone records John’s protest when Jesus asks John to baptise Him. John agrees when Jesus says it will fulfil all righteousness, i.e. part of the plan of salvation (3:15). It is worthy of note that the Trinity were present on this occasion – the voice of the Father; the presence of the Spirit also at the baptism of the Son. Jesus’ baptism set Him apart for the role of Prophet, Priest and King and anticipating His death for man’s sin and identification with man’s need of redemption.