TODAY’S READING: MATTHEW 14-16
The feeding of the five thousand (chapter 14); the condemnation of false prophets (chapter 15); the great confession (chapter 16).
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
Because of the particular peculiarities of Matthew’s Gospel, each of the past four days we have sought to lay down some foundational understandings to keep us between the white lines in the New Testament. Most of our discussion has surrounded the importance of identifying the Jew, and distinguishing between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God. Because it has been coming in pieces, let’s take a few moments to make sure we see how all of the pieces fit together to form the big picture.
The theme of the Bible revolves around a kingdom. The Bible begins with a struggle over a throne (Isaiah 14:13)...it ends with someone sitting on a throne (Revelation 11:15)...and everything between is really nothing more than God moving to put His Son on that throne, and the devil doing everything within his power not only to stop Him, but to put himself on that throne (II Thess. 2:4).
The kingdom, as it is described and defined in Scripture, has two distinct dimensions. These two dimensions are delineated in the Word of God through the descriptive phrases the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of Heaven”. Understanding what and where these kingdoms are as history unfolds through the Bible is the difference between sound doctrine and false doctrine.
The Kingdom of Heaven, sometimes referred to as the “Kingdom of Israel” (Hosea 1:4, Acts 1:6), is a literal, physical kingdom on the earth, where a literal king, is sitting on a literal throne in literal Jerusalem, ruling and reigning governmentally over the entire earth. This is the kingdom Isaiah prophesied would be established by the Promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6-7). It is interesting to note that the only time the Kingdom of Heaven is mentioned by name in the entire New Testament is in the gospel written specifically to the Jews, the Gospel of Matthew, where it appears 33 times! That it is found exclusively in the Gospel of Matthew must arrest our attention to the Jewish scope of its fulfillment!
(Note: This literal earthly kingdom is referred to as the Kingdom of Heaven because from heaven’s vantage point, God chose the earth as the capitol of the universe.)
The Kingdom of God, on the other hand, is not a physical kingdom. The Word of God says that it is not meat and drink (Romans 14:17), it is not flesh and blood (I Corinthians 15:50), it does not come with observation (Luke 17:20), you cannot say “here it is” or “there it is” (Luke 17:21), and it is not even something you say in word (I Corinthians 4:20). Rather, this kingdom is a spiritual kingdom that is entered by a spiritual birth (John 3:3-5), and is placed within you (Luke 17:21).
Distinguishing between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven is paramount, because as Jesus sent forth the Apostles in Matthew 10 to “preach that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”, (Matthew 10:7) the message they were preaching was intended specifically for the Jews (i.e., the Nation of Israel)! In fact, they were specifically instructed NOT to carry this message to the Samaritans (half Jew/half Gentile), nor to the Gentiles (Matthew 10:5).
Interestingly, after the Nation of Israel received their final offer of the Kingdom of Heaven through Stephen’s incredible discourse to the ruling council of Israel in Acts 7, in the very next chapter, Philip is led by the Spirit to the Samaritans, but the message he preached was not concerning the literal, physical, earthly, governmental kingdom, (the Kingdom of Heaven), but the spiritual kingdom, (the Kingdom of God!)(Acts 8:5, 12)
We must be very careful not to proclaim a Kingdom of Heaven message in this dispensation, lest we commit the blasphemy Jesus warned about in Revelation 2:9. Likewise, we must be careful not to pattern our methods in this dispensation as we proclaim the Kingdom of God, after those who went proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven. In this dispensation, we do not follow the model of the Twelve, the Seventy, nor the church in Jerusalem; we follow the model of the church at Antioch. The church at Antioch sent out missionaries, proclaimed the Kingdom of God (the spiritual kingdom), and established local churches, because the local church is the vehicle in this dispensation through which our Lord is carrying out His plan to bring worshippers into His Kingdom.
A few comments about some of the verses in today’s reading:
14:1 – Herod, like many in positions of power and authority, fears everything he SHOULDN’T and nothing he SHOULD. He fears John (14:4), the multitude (14:5), embarrassment, (14:9). One thing he doesn’t fear is God!
14:6-7 – This is probably why so many Baptists are so against dancing. When someone asked the Baptist preacher why Baptists are so against premarital sex, he responded, “Because it might lead to dancing!”
14:8 – It can also cause you to lose your head!
14:14 – May the sin-sick multitudes likewise move us with compassion.
14:24-25 – The storms of life that threaten to overwhelm us, consume us, and destroy us are no problem for Jesus. In the context of the story, maybe we could say, “What threatens to be over your head, is under Jesus’ feet!”
15:66 – Sometimes the people who are the most zealous for the truth of God, are actually the people who do the most to undermine it! Two quick examples: First, most people who believe the Bible they hold in their hand (as opposed to a Bible that is somewhere out there in “original manuscripts” that no one has ever seen) is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God are guilty of possessing such a cocky, mean-spirited, pompous attitude, people can’t hear or don’t even want to hear the “truth” they’re speaking. Second, so many Bible teachers who zealously want people to know the truth of God as it was revealed in the so-called “original manuscripts,” by the time they have “championed the cause for truth” have very subtly taken the Bible right out of the hands of the common man, making them dependent upon a new kind of “priest class” to tell them what God said. A new sort of “dark ages,” wrapped in the guise of giving people the truth. Wow! What a jungle! It’s almost !
as if there is some kind of warfare going on concerning the Word of God!!!
16:15-19 –And ain’t this a controversial doozy! I think it’s a lot of rabbit trails to get into the whole “petra/petros” thing. I go with the fact that the church of Jesus Christ (yet future in this passage) is built upon THE Rock, the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice in light of our “kingdom of heaven” discussions, it was the keys to that kingdom to which Peter was given (i.e. the Apostle to the Jews). While that is the message that is being preached in the Book of Acts, Peter is the prominent voice. Once the final offer was made in Acts 7, and God transitions to the half Jew/half Gentile Samaritans in chapter 8, calls out the Apostle to the Gentiles (Paul) in chapter 9, and begins working with Gentiles in chapter 10 and following, the prominent voice changes to Paul. Note also that because of a misunderstanding of the keys he received, so many jokes begin the line, “So a guy goes to heaven, and Peter meets him at the gate.”