The Gospel Of The Kingdom


Ezekiel 37:24-25:

In each of these passages there is an assumption that God's promise is continuing. For instance, in the final passage—Ezekiel 37—the people are in exile, having been ripped away from their home city, Jerusalem. The temple has been destroyed and the people are wondering, "Have God's promises failed?" And while King David was dead at this point, Ezekiel still speaks of David being king. The prophet is picking up on God's promise that through the line of David, God's kingdom would be established forever. The covenant would be an everlasting covenant (Ezek 37:26). To a people who for generations had longed for a Messiah from the line of David, Matthew is not just giving a list of names in this genealogy; he's announcing the arrival of the King.

After telling us that Jesus is the Son of David, Matthew then tells us that He is the son of Abraham (v. 1). Once again we're thrust back into the Old Testament, all the way back to Genesis 12. Here is God's word to Abraham:11

Based on this passage, we see the following:

God's promise to Abraham is reiterated in chapter 15 and then again in chapter 17. In 17:5-6 God says, "Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you." Through Abraham's line God says that He will send a King. Then in verses 15-16 of the same chapter, God says of Sarah, Abraham's wife, "I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her" (emphasis added). Speaking of Abraham's line again in these verses, God says that God's kingdom will one day expand to all people groups. This truth is reiterated later, in Genesis 49:10, where Jacob prophesies, "The scepter will not depart from Judah or the staff from between his feet until He whose right it is comes and the obedience of the peoples belongs to Him." Again, God is promising a royal line.

God works out His promise to Abraham in Israel's history and ultimately through His Son, Jesus Christ. Nothing in history is accidental.12 Every detail in the Old Testament, even from the very beginning (Gen 3:15), was pointing to a King who would come. History revolves around a King who would come—a King who now has come! Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham, is the center of it all.

You are not at the center of history. I am not at the center of history. Our generation is not at the center of history. The United States of America is not at the center of history. Billions of people have come and billions have gone; empires have come and empires have gone; countries, nations, kings, queens, presidents, dictators, and rulers have all come and gone. At the center of it all stands one person: Jesus the Christ. This is the bold claim of Matthew's Gospel. And if this Jesus is the King of all history, then it follows that He should be the King of your life. When you realize His rule and submit to His reign, it changes everything about how you live. Everything.

In light of what we've seen above from Matthew's opening words and the promises of the Old Testament, God's kingdom figures prominently in this first Gospel. Consider how a number of concepts fit within this kingdom framework:

We've seen already that Matthew's genealogy is so much more than a list of names or simply a historical record for first-century Jewish readers. It presents Jesus Christ as the climactic fulfillment of God's promises of a coming King and His kingdom. Also included in this genealogy is a picture of how God saves. Matthew tells us at least two things in this opening section about the nature of God's salvation.

First, God saves only by His sovereign grace. The list of names in verses 1-17 is full of evil kings and sinful men and women, a description that includes Abraham and David as well. Abraham was a polygamist patriarch who lied about his wife twice. David was an adulterous murderer. And the list goes on and on. It's amazing to think that the great, great, great, great, great grandparents of Jesus hated God and were leading other people to hate Him too. Clearly, then,14 Jesus came not because of Israel's righteousness, but in spite of Israel's sinfulness.

Throughout Scripture we see the sinful responsibility of man. Evil kings and evil men lived their lives in rebellion against God, and they were responsible for their sin. Nevertheless, God was working in and through these people. In the midst of man's sinfulness, we also see the supreme will of God. At no point were any of the men and women mentioned in this genealogy outside of the sovereign control of God. Yes, they were choosing to disobey God, and they were responsible for that. At the same time, God was ordaining all of this to bring about the birth of His Son.

In addition to the men mentioned earlier, the list of sinful women on Matthew's list is equally stunning. The message is clear: Jesus came for (and through) the morally outcast. Tamar was guilty of incest (Gen 38). Rahab was a prostitute (Josh 2). Ruth spent a rather shady night at Boaz's feet (Ruth 3), but more importantly she was a Moabitess, a people known for their sexual immorality. Finally, the wife of Uriah is mentioned (Matthew doesn't actually record her name—Bathsheba), even though she committed adultery with David. So we have adultery, sexual immorality, prostitution, and incest; you'd think Matthew would have chosen some different women to include here! You may also have recognized the last woman on this list—Mary, the mother of Jesus. As an unwed, pregnant woman, she was surrounded by rumors of sexual scandal (1:18-25). This is a surprising way to introduce the Savior of the world.

So why is this theme of sexual immorality so prominent in this genealogy, and why are these people included in the line that leads to Christ? For the same reason your name is included in the line that leads from Christ—solely because of the sovereign grace of God. Praise be to God that He delights in saving sinful, immoral outcasts! This theme of sovereign grace even applies to Matthew, the author of this Gospel. Matthew was a tax collector, a Jew who made his living by cheating other Jewish people. When Jesus called Matthew to follow Him, the only people Matthew knew to invite to his house for a party were moral reprobates (9:10-13)! Matthew knew he was the least likely person to be writing this Gospel, which is fitting for a book that announces good news. God saves not based on any merit in us, but totally on sovereign mercy in Him. If He didn't save like that, we would all be damned.

Not only did He come for (and through) the morally outcast, but also Jesus came for (and through) the ethnically diverse. These15 women—Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Ruth—were all Gentile women. Bathsheba may have been an Israelite, yet Matthew calls her "Uriah's wife," for Uriah was a Hittite (2 Sam 11:3). This ethnically diverse genealogy leads to the second aspect of God's salvation in this genealogy: God saves ultimately for His global purpose. Recall the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, that "all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you." God's promise to His people is for the sake of all peoples. This universal plan will reappear throughout Matthew's Gospel, and at the center of this plan is none other than Jesus Christ Himself.

Matthew shows us repeatedly that Jesus fulfills God's promise to bless His chosen people. This helps explain why his Gospel is loaded with Old Testament references. Jesus came to bring salvation to the people of Israel, a point Matthew makes clear (15:24). But that wasn't all: Just as God promised to bless His chosen people Israel for the sake of all peoples, so Jesus accomplishes God's purpose to bless all peoples. Jesus would pour His life into twelve Jewish disciples, and then He would tell them, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations" (28:19). The end will not come, Jesus says, until the "good news of the kingdom" is "proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations" (24:14).

Matthew's Gospel teaches us that an emphasis on missions is not just a made-up program that man has come up with; it's all over the Bible. Missions have been the purpose of God from the very beginning of history, with His saving acts culminating in the person and work of Christ. Now all followers of Christ are on a global mission to make this King known among all nations, to spread the gospel of this kingdom at home and among every people group on the planet.

At the end of the day, how does God save us? Solely by His sovereign grace. Why does God save us? Ultimately for His global purpose. This is at the heart of Matthew's genealogy. The question then becomes how we will respond.

As we move forward in the book of Matthew, we are going to see three distinct groups of people: (1) The religious leaders who deny Jesus, (2) the crowds of people who follow Jesus as long as He gives them what they want and attracts their interest (but who ultimately and eternally walk away), and (3) the very small group of disciples who are going to follow Jesus, learn from Him, and eventually lose their lives for Him. As you read Matthew's Gospel, you must decide which group you are in.16

Like the leaders, will you completely reject Jesus? We are going to see attacks on Jesus' character and attacks on Jesus' claims throughout this book by people who pridefully choose to deny that Jesus is King.

Like the crowds, will you casually observe Jesus? This is the place where many church attenders, probably even many church members, find themselves today. Content to observe Jesus, to give Him token allegiance, they add Him as a part of their life. These are people who do good things and are actively involved in the church in different ways. They are, in some way or another, associated with Jesus. And one day they will say, "Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?" (7:22). And Jesus will say to them, "I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!" (7:23).

Like the disciples, will you unconditionally follow Jesus? In a day when nominal Christianity and lazy discipleship are rampant in America and in many places around the world, will you rise up and say to Jesus, "You are King, and because You are King, there are no conditions on my obedience to You. I will follow You wherever You lead me, I will give You whatever You ask of me. I will abandon all I have and all I am because You are King and You are worthy of nothing less"? This is the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus the Christ.

How will you respond?

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