March 1, 2007
A Prayer
of Jesus
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.

The Gift of the Kingdom

Part I: The Jews

By A. Disciple


The Lord's rejection of the nation of Israel/Judah as the heritor of the kingdom was final when he uttered the words of Matthew 21:43 that you find discussed below.  This preface is placed to insure that you do not misunderstand, for the rejection applies only to the nation.  It does not apply to individual Jews then, today or at any time. This should be evident from the fact that his first disciples were Jews.  They remained in the majority (of disciples) for a long time after his ascension to the Father.  There is no bias against Jews as individuals in the Word of Jesus.  The invitation of the gospel goes out to every individual of every nation without discrimination.

The Rejection

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you

and given to [a] nation producing the fruits of it. Jesus, Matthew  21:43
It was to the nation of Israel -- its kings and its people -- that the kingdom was promised and to none else. So we first briefly summarize the history of Israel and the promise of the kingdom.

There were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Jacob is also known as Israel. Then there were the twelve sons of Israel and their offspring, the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  There was Moses who delivered the Law. There were the Judges of Israel, also twelve in number, through whom God ruled Israel in a troubled time.  There were the prophets, especially Samuel, through whom God spoke to the sons of Israel.  God had established Israel as his kingdom and was king over them. It was an embryonic kingdom of God in what we now know as Palestine.  After a while the people of the Twelve Tribes wanted a man to be their king, like the nations that dwelt about them.  God was displeased; nevertheless he granted them a king and proceeded to work towards the goal of establishing himself as their sole king forever.  There first arose king Saul, then David and then Solomon (962 BC).  These kings firmly established Israel as a powerful kingdom. They inhabited twelve tribal areas by assignment.  These included two tribes of Israel's son Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), but excluded the priestly tribe of Levi that ministered in the tabernacle and, finally, in the temple.

Solomon was succeeded by his son Rehoboam.  The harsh regime of Rehoboam caused a split.  Ten tribes broke away from the line of David and established the independent kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam in the North, leaving only Benjamin allied with Judah in the southern kingdom of Judah (842 BC). God continued to work with both kingdoms -- Judah and Israel -- through prophets, but chose men from the line of David in Judah to be kings over Judah and to receive the promise of his kingdom -- the kingdom of God on the earth.  

The northern kingdom of Israel descended into paganism and idol worship.  It was crushed by the king of Assyria (722 BC), after which the lost ten tribes of Israel were carried away captive and disappeared from the pages of history.  

Faithfulness was also lacking in Judah. Nevertheless God preserved their nation while seeking to work through them to establish his kingdom on the earth.  They also failed Him.  He spoke first to the people, then to Zedekiah (the last king of the line of David), through the prophet Ezekiel, as follows:

Ez.21:24 "Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: 'Because you people have brought to mind your guilt by your open rebellion, revealing your sins in all that you do—because you have done this, you will be taken captive.

 25  'O profane and wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose time of punishment has reached its climax, 26 this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Take off the turban, remove the crown. It will not be as it was: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low. 27 A ruin! A ruin! I will make it a ruin! It will not be restored until he comes to whom it rightfully belongs; to him I will give it.'

The city of Jerusalem and the kingdom of Judah were finally destroyed by the Babylonians (587/586 BC). There followed a tragic break in the long chain of promise delivered to their kings of the line of David.  The promises to Israel and the line of David constitute the core of Old Testament prophecy and history.  You can read here a thorough treatment of this promise.

Jesus of Nazareth is the one "to whom it rightfully belongs." He came, and it has been given to him to rule over the kingdom of God.  Through him the promise is being fulfilled.

A remnant of those carried away to Babylon returned to restore the tribe of Judah in it's old habitation and to rebuild the Temple of Solomon (522 BC), which had been destroyed when the nation was taken captive to Babylon.  It was there, in Judah and under the Roman dominion, that Jesus appeared to redeem Judah as the heritor of the promise of the kingdom.  He explained his coming in the Parable of the Unfruitful Fig Tree:

Lk.13:6 But he was saying this parable: A certain man has [a] fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to his vinedresser: Behold from which three years I come seeking fruit on this tree and found none. Cut it down, why also waste the land? 8 But answering he said to him: Lord, leave it even this year, until I dig around it and throw dung, 9 and for result it may give fruit. Otherwise, cut it down.

The nation of Judah was the fig tree. It had claimed the promise yet without bearing fruit. The Father sent the Son to extend one last, major effort to redeem the people to whom the kingdom had been given. If they did not respond (as a nation) they were to be cut down -- i.e., forsaken forever.  The utterance of Jesus in Matthew 21:43, above and repeated here, tells us the results of this last effort to make a fruit bearing tree of Israel:

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you
and given to [a] nation producing the fruits of it. 

Many cannot believe that the kingdom was irretrievably taken away from Israel. There are a variety of reasons.  Some summarily reject Jesus and his Word. Christian Paulinists and/or Hebrew Roots persons tend to see Paul as denying the final rejection of Israel and therefore this cannot be what Jesus means. This is a simple case of honoring Paul and dishonoring Jesus.

Rejecting the Rejection -- the Reasons

One of the respondents to expresses this view:

You forget that many Judeans did not reject Jesus but hailed Him as the King of Israel when He entered Jerusalem.  Jesus' was not rejected by His own people but by the foreign Herodian powers (the Jewish authorities) who had killed and replaced the Israelite High Priesthood and who ruled and occupied Judaea as a client state for the Romans.

This is a common view, so let us examine it in the Light of the Word. That Jesus was rejected only by Jewish/Roman authorities and not by the people of Judah/Israel cannot be confirmed by the text of the utterance.  Look at it once more:

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you
and given to [a] nation producing the fruits of it.

Is it not clear that the Lord is speaking to those to whom the kingdom was given -- the Jewish/Israelite nation and the line of David?  How could he take it from those that did not possess it?  How could he take it from those to whom it had not been given?

Further, if the kingdom was given to a nation, it is from a nation he took it so as to give it to another nation. This utterance requires that it is from the nation that the kingdom was taken, and not from "foreign Herodian powers."

It is also correct, as stated in the view expressed above that  ". . . many Judeans did not reject Jesus but hailed Him as the King of Israel when He entered Jerusalem."  A careful review of the gospels shows, however, that this fact is not relevant.  The very persons, the multitudes, that praised him during his triumphal entry quickly turned against him.  When it comes to politics, the people are fickle!

The Elders

Nor can the position stated above, that Jesus was rejected by the foreign Herodian powers (the Jewish authorities) and not by the people of Judah/Israel, be confirmed by careful examination of the text of the Synoptic gospels.  If we follow the narrative, we will discover the culpable parties.  Of these, one in particular is of interest to us -- that designated as the elders or the elders of the people The Greek for elder is, transliterated, presbyter.  It is this word that is the focus of the narrative of the Synoptics from the point when the Lord told his disciples that he must go into Jerusalem to be suffer and be killed to the point following his resurrection, when the officers guarding the tomb reported to their superiors.

Other parties -- scribes and priests -- also appear.  But the question here has to do with the ongoing relation of the nation (or the people) of Israel with God (or the lack thereof), and we therefore focus only on the elders of the people. These elders are the representatives of the people, through whom we will discover that it was the whole people that were complicit in the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus. 

So let us go through the narrative and isolate all the references to these elders. Thereafter it will be easy to identify them more specifically.  We find them only in the sequence of events in the concluding days of the Lord's mission.  Do you notice anything strange about the lists given below -- anything or anyone that you expected that is missing or that you did not expect but that is present?  

1. Prophesying His Passion

Look first at the specific prophecy of Jesus:

Mt.16:21 From then on Jesus began to explain to the disciples that he must depart into Jerusalem and suffer many [things] from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and rise on the third day. 

The parallel texts say the same:

Mk.8:31 And he began to be teaching that: It is necessary [that] the son of man suffer many [things], and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed and after three days to arise.

Lk.9:21 But rebuking them he commanded [them] to be saying this to no one, 22 saying that: The son of man must suffer many [things] and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day rise.

We look specifically to the underscored segment, by (or from) the elders. The Lord was very careful to specify these because they infer the people of Israel.  The chief priests and scribes may well be included in the "foreign Herodian powers" but we will find that this does not apply to the elders.

2. Questioning His Authority After the Triumphal Entry

We find these same three parties listed as comprising those that came to the Lord after his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and the Cleansing of the Temple.

Mt.21:23 And when he came into the temple, while he was teaching the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him saying: By what authority do you do these things? And who gave this authority to you? 24 And answering Jesus said to them: And I will ask you one question that if you tell me, I also will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 Whence was John the Baptist? From heaven or from men? And they considered among themselves saying: If we say: From heaven, he will say to us: Why then did you not believe him? 26 But if we say: From man, we fear the crowd, for all hold John as prophet. 27 And answering Jesus they said: We do not know. And he says to them: Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these [things]. (See also the parallels at Mark 11:27 and Luke 20:1)

Matthew specifies that these elders are elders of the people. We are therefore certain that they represent the people and not the Roman/Herodian powers.

3. Plotting to Kill Him

The same parties are devising a plot to eliminate Jesus.

Mt.26:1 And it came to pass when Jesus finished all these words, he said to his disciples: 2 You know that with two days the Passover comes to pass, and the son of man is given over to be crucified. 3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered in the courtyard of the chief priest being called Caiaphas. (See the parallels at Mark 14:1-2 and Luke 22:1-2)

The scribes are missing from this list, but the parallels include them.  Again Matthew specifies that these are the elders of the people.

4. Arresting Him in Gethsemane

The same parties are responsible for the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane.

Mt.26:47 And while he was yet speaking, Behold Judas one of the twelve came, and with him [a] great crowd with swords and clubs from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 And the [one] delivering him up gave them [a] sign saying: Whom I kiss is he, lay hold of him. 49 And straightway coming to Jesus he said: Greetings, Rabbi, and he kissed him. (See the parallels at Mark 14:43f. and Luke 22:47f.)  

Luke omits the list, whereas Mark includes the scribes.  Matthew again specifies that the elders are "of the people."

5. Trying Him Before the Sanhedrin

In these texts, the whole council or the council refers to the Sanhedrin, the 71 member legislative/judicial body of the Jewish people.

Mt.26:57 But the [ones] having laid hold of Jesus brought him before Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered. 58 But Peter followed him far off until the courtyard of the chief priest, and entering he sat with the assistants to see the outcome. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus so they might put him to death, . . .. (See the parallels at Mark 14:53f and Luke 22:54f.

We will touch on the Sanhedrin below.  They are described as the whole council when all members of the Sanhedrin are assembled, as they are here.

6. Delivering Him to Pilate

There had been a long and terrible night of agonizing in the Garden, then of being arrested, abused, tried and condemned by the Sanhedrin.  Now morning light is dawning, Simon has denied his Lord three times and heard the cock crow.  

Mt.27:1 Now when it became early all the chief priests and elders of the people took council against Jesus so as to put him to death. 2 And when they bound him they brought him forth and delivered him up to Pilate the governor. 3 Then when Judas the [one] having delivered him up saw that he was condemned, having regretted it he returned the thirty silver pieces to the chief priests and elders 4 saying: I sinned delivering up innocent blood. But they said: What [is] that to us? You see [to it]. 5 And having thrown the silver-pieces into the temple he withdrew and having departed he hanged himself. (see the parallels at Mark 15:1 and Luke 23:1)

Mt.27:11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him saying: Are you the king of the Jews? And Jesus said: You said [it]. 12 And while he was accused by the chief priests and elders he answered nothing.

We can surmise the gravity by which the elders of the people attended to these things by the fact that they are all gathered in the whole council so early in the day.

Mt:27:15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to the crowd that they wished. 16 And they were then holding [a] notorious prisoner being called Barabbas. 17 Therefore when they gathered, Pilate said to them: Who do you wish that I release to you, Barabbas or Jesus the [one] being called Christ? 18 For he knew that they delivered him up because of jealousy. 19 Now while he sat on the judgment seat his wife sent to him saying: Have nothing to do with that just [one], for I suffered greatly in [a] dream because of him. 20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds that they should request Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 So the governor answering said to them: Who do you wish from the two that I should release to you? But they said: Barabbas. 22 Pilate says to them: What therefore should I do with Jesus the [one] being called Christ? They all say: Let him be crucified. 23 And he said: But what evil did he do? And they screamed all the more: Let him be crucified! 24 Now Pilate seeing that he accomplished nothing but [that] rather [a] riot comes to pass, taking water he washed his hands before the crowd saying: I am innocent of this blood. You see [to it]. 25 And answering all the people said: His blood [be] upon us and upon our children. 26 Then he released to them Barabbas, but having been flogged he delivered Jesus up to be crucified.

We include the story of Judas repenting and committing suicide because of the leading role the "elders of the people" continue to play in the sad affair of the condemnation of Jesus by the Sanhedrin.  Also, do you perceive that we have not only the elders of the people as culprits in this sad affair, but all the people (Matt. 27:25 above)?  In vs. 20 the crowds also appear.  Of whom do the crowds consist?  Vs. 25 informs us that it consists of all the people. 

By leaving it to the people there assembled to pass the final judgment of condemnation, Pilate effectively made of them the supreme court of last resort.  Therefore it was not the Roman/Herodian powers that condemned him; it was not the Roman governor (Pilate) that condemned him; it was not only the elders of the people that condemned him.  The final decree of death by crucifixion was pronounced by none less than the people affirming the death sentence pronounced by every other authority!

7. Mocking Him At the Crucifixion

We find (also in Matthew) that the same three parties are culpable at the crucifixion:

Mt.27:38 Then they crucified with him two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 39 But those passing by were slandering him shaking their heads and saying: You destroying the temple and in three days building [it], save yourself, if you are the son of God, and come down from the cross. 41 Likewise the chief priests were mocking [him] with the scribes and elders saying: 42 He saved others, but he is unable to save himself. He is king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross and we will believe on him. (See the parallels at Mark 15:31 and Luke 23:35)

And who are the ones passing by and slandering him?  A dukes mixture no doubt, but this must also include many representatives of the people.  

8. Denying the Resurrection

A guard had been posted at the tomb of Jesus to secure it, nevertheless the Lord arose and appeared to the women that had also been watching.  

Mt.28:11 So while they were going behold some of the guard having come into the city told the chief priests all that came to pass. 12 And when they were gathered with the elders, having taken council, they gave [a] large sum of silver to the soldiers 13 saying: You saw that his disciples having come during [the] night stole him while we fell asleep. 14 And if this should be heard by the governor, we will persuade [him] and will make you free from concern. 15 So having taken the [silver] they did as they were taught. And this word spread widely from Judea to today.

Identifying the Elders

The above sequence establishes that all of the Synoptics hold a party known as the elders or the elders of the people as sharing responsibility (with the chief priests and the scribes) for the crucifixion of the Lord in all phases of the event, from the questioning of his authority after the Triumphal Entry to denying his resurrection.  They also reveal that the Lord anticipated their participation. We must more specifically identify this party. First, however, do you recall that I asked you near the beginning,

Do you notice anything strange about the lists given below -- anything or anyone that you expected that is missing or that you did not expect but is present?  

Perhaps not, but I am guessing that you expected the Pharisees, the Sadducees and perhaps the Herodians to be included in the list because these parties, particularly the Pharisees (with notable exceptions), are presented throughout the gospels as inimical to the Lord.  Are you surprised to find them missing?  On the other hand, these "elders" (Greek, presbyters) show up only in the above sequence -- so aren't you surprised to find them there? They had not previously been tagged as among the Lord's enemies or antagonists, yet when it came to the plot to kill him they were there every step of the way!  

Who were they?

These elders, as I have already stated, are members of the Sanhedrin that, according to Jewish tradition, had its beginning with Moses as indicated by this text:

Num.11:16The LORD therefore said to Moses, "Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.
You can find a discussion of the Sanhedrin in the on line encyclopedia, Wikipedia.  It was composed of seventy "elders of the people" (seventy-one including Moses) and so it remained in the days of the Lord. After the destruction of the monarchy, when Zedekiah and the Jewish elite were carried captive into Babylon, the Sanhedrin survived as the representative of the people.  Whereas the Messianic promise of the kingdom had been maintained through successive monarchs, including Zedekiah who was the last, thereafter it was maintained through the nation, the Sanhedrin being representative of the nation. This assembly functioned as a representative, legislative and judicial body.  It was the supreme court of the Jews, with the power to assign capital punishment.  Composed solely of elders selected from among the people, it functioned in behalf of the whole people of Israel.

There was the Greater Sanhedrin of seventy-one and the Lesser Sanhedrin of twenty-three members authorized to rule on lesser matters.  The Gospels do not always clearly specify which Sanhedrin was active, except in the case of the whole council.  The sentence of death for blasphemy, the charge against Jesus, could only be handed down by the Greater Sanhedrin.  This decision was made in behalf of all the people of Israel by duly chosen representatives (elders, presbyters) of all the people.  All the people were complicit in its decisions.

The Lord knew that his enemies would seek his condemnation. It was also his intention that his death be arranged by the people of Israel through their legal representatives, which explains the sudden and consistent appearance of the elders (presbyters) in the chain of events from the plot to kill him until the denial of his resurrection.  

Many of the people, at one point or another, believed that the Lord was their expected Messiah.  There were those that sought to force the kingship upon him (John 6:15).  He refused and withdrew to a lonely place.  The crowd that praised him during the Triumphal Entry was composed of individuals of the people, doubtless mingled with many others. With rare exceptions, the people wanted to support him in the mustering of an army to drive out the Roman authorities and crown him king of Israel in Jerusalem. Violence was never part of the Lord's plan and his refusal to cooperate with their "draft" soon caused a backlash of enmity from the very people that had praised him -- they became enraged, somewhat like the fury of a "woman scorned." The evidence is seen in the people's choosing to release Barabbas rather than Jesus, and their cry, Crucify him!

This occurred during Passover, when great numbers of the people from the dispersion were gathered in Jerusalem, which was one reason that the Lord chose that particular time to provoke the people's representatives so that, as the people, the whole nation would condemn him. We can therefore identify those that rejected the Lord and sentenced him to death as the people of Israel resident in Israel and Jerusalem, those from throughout the Diaspora that had arrived in Jerusalem for Passover and the nation's chosen representatives, the elders of the people.  Yes, the "foreign Herodian powers" were also there but by no means can we charge them with the rejection independently of the people of the nation -- the nation to which the kingdom had been given.  A careful study of the gospels points to the people of Israel as the primary culprits in the rejection and crucifixion of the Lord.

Therefore, when the Lord addressed the people and said,

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you
and given to [a] nation producing the fruits of it.

He was addressing the people of Israel, constituting the nation that had received the promise of the kingdom.  

Specifying the People Directly

Two descriptive terms uttered by the Lord also leave no doubt but that it was the whole people of Israel as a body that rejected him.

This Generation

There are several of these utterances whereby the Lord tells his view of the nation of the Jews in his own time.  Here I show one of these and give references whereby you will be able to check out others.

Lk.11:27 Now it came to pass when he was saying these [things a] certain woman having lifted up [her] voice said: Blessed [is] the belly that bore you and the breasts which gave you suck. 28 But he said: On the contrary, blessed are those hearing the word of God and guarding [it]. 29 Now when the crowds were gathered even more he began to be saying: This generation is [a] wicked generation, it seeks [a] sign, and [a] sign will not be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For just as Jonah became [a] sign to the Ninevites, thus will also the son of man be to this pernicious generation. 31 [the] queen of the south will arise in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold [one] greater than Solomon [is] here. 32 [the] men of Ninevah will arise in the judgment with this generation and condemn them; for they repented upon the preaching of Jonah, and behold [one] greater than Jonah [is] here.

You can find other, similar statements by the Lord concerning this generation here: Matt. 11:16, 12:39, 41, 45, 16:4, 17:17, 23:33-36, 24:34, Mark 8:38, 9:19, 13:30, Luke 7:31, 9:41, 11:29-32, 50f., 17:25, 21:32.

These utterances of the Lord share a common NT Greek word, γενεά, defined as follows:

. . . . the sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time and freq. defined in terms of specific characteristics, generation, contemporaries (Hom. et al.; BGU 1211, 12 [II b.c.] ἕως γενεῶν τριῶν); Jesus looks upon the whole contemp. generation of Israel as a uniform mass confronting him

(Arndt, William ; Danker, Frederick W. ; Bauer, Walter: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2000, S. 191)

As anyone can see, these judgments fall upon the whole people of Israel wherever they might abide in that, his own generation.

This People (or the People)

The meaning is much the same as "this generation," though the word is different.

Lk:21:20 But when you see Jerusalem circled by armies, then will you know that her desolation has drawn nigh. 21 Then let those in the country not enter into her, 22 for these are [the] days of vengeance for all having been written to be fulfilled. 23 Woe to those with child and to those giving suck in those days, for it will be [a] great calamity upon the earth and wrath to this people, . . ..

This people again defines the nation.  The wrath poured out upon them by Roman armies was, in the first case, the wrath of the emperor.  When we factor in the other teachings of the Lord as defined in this paper, we must also conclude that the Romans were the agents by which God poured his wrath upon the people, such that their house and nation were destroyed and is no more.  It is no more even though the remnants of Israel continue to this day their vain efforts to restore it in Jerusalem.

This People in the Prophecy of Isaiah

The Lord brought forth Isaiah to apply this prophets judgment to the people of his own time, the last generation of the people of Israel to have any acknowledgment from the Father or from the Lord Jesus.

Mt.15:7 Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you when he says:
8 This people honors me with their lips
But their heart holds off from me afar
9 Futilely they worship me
Teaching [as] teachings [of] [God ]
the commandments of men
See also Mark 7:6.

The Greek word in these utterances is λαός, defined as follows:

. . . of the people of Israel, ὁ λαός 

(Arndt, William ; Danker, Frederick W. ; Bauer, Walter: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2000, S. 586)

The synoptic evangelists are doing everything possible to inform us that it is the whole people of Israel that are being rejected once and for all.  The Lord specifies them directly, not once but many times, of which I have listed twenty-one!

The Consequences for Israel

We are not finished.  The kingdom of God was taken from them -- but what is the evidence, and what is their final judgment, as a people and a nation, before the Lord?  

We are able to answer this question, again by a careful study of the gospels.  In the course of gleaning this answer, we will also be blessed with new light on the nature of the gospels and of the Lord's purpose in visiting Israel.  This has been particularly interesting because of an evangelical background that related the Word mostly to evangelism.  We find that his mission was primarily to the people of the Jews and that a large portion of his teaching was focused on this mission rather than evangelism.

I. The Parables

Several parables refer to the whole nation of Israel, but I have chosen to present only two here as being undeniably directed to the nation and not to a lesser group.  First is the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.

Mt.21:33 Hear another parable. [There was a] man [who] was Lord of the house who planted a vineyard and built [a] fence around it, and dug [a] winepress in it and built [a] tower and leased it to vinedressers and went on [a] journey. 34 Now when the time of the fruits drew near, he sent his slaves to the vinedressers to be taking his fruit. 35 And taking his slaves the vinedressers beat one and killed another and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other slaves more than the first, and they did to them likewise. 37 And later he sent to them his son saying: They will respect my son. 38 But the vinedressers seeing the son said among themselves: This is the heir. Come let us kill him and we will have his inheritance. 39 And taking him they threw him out of the vineyard and killed [him]. 40 When therefore the Lord of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers? 41 They say to him: He will badly destroy those evil [ones], and he will lease the vineyard to other vinedressers, who give him the fruits in their own seasons. 42 Jesus says to them: Have you never read in the scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
This became the head of the cornerstones.
By the Lord this came to pass
And is a wonder in our eyes.
43 Because of this I say to you that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to [a] nation producing the fruits of it. 44 And the [one] falling on this stone will be dashed to pieces, and upon whom it falls, it will crush him. 45 And when the chief priests and the scribes heard his parable they knew that he speaks concerning them. 46 And though seeking to lay hold of him, they feared the crowds, because they were holding him as prophet.
This is the context of Matthew  21:43 (highlighted in blue), the contested utterance already examined to show that it was definitely spoken against the whole nation and not confined to a lesser group.  The evangelists, however, apply it in context only to the chief priests and the scribes (vs. 45), as being the foremost parties.   The elders of the people are included elsewhere however, and therefore they must be understood as included here.  

At this point the people, designated in vs. 46 (above) as the crowds, had not become hostile to the Lord. A multitude of them had recently praised him in his Triumphal Entry (Mt. 21:1-9), following which he had cleansed the temple. The people had not yet turned against him, and the chief priests and scribes yet feared to arrest him. Evidently the point at which they, as a people, turned against him is indicated in Matthew 27:15, where the chief priests and scribes persuaded the people.  

This parable is a condensed version of the history of the nation!  It refers to the original planting of the nation, as a vineyard, from which the Lord expected to gather fruit, but had not done so. Therefore he was speaking of the entire nation.  He was not speaking of the Pharisees and scribes only, nor of any other lesser group within the nation. The "scribes and Pharisees" did not appear until after the return from Babylonian captivity.  It is therefore not possible that the kingdom was given to them.  But you surely already knew this, so why be confused by parties that want us to believe that Matthew 21:43 refers to something less than the Jewish nation?

Then we have the similar Parable of the Marriage Feast:

Mt:22:2 The kingdom of heaven is like [a] man [who] [was] king, who gave [a] wedding for his son. 3 And he sent his slaves to call those invited to the wedding, and they did not want to come. 4 Again he sent other slaves saying: Say to those invited: Behold my noon meal is prepared, my bull and my fattlings are killed, and five [are] ready. Come to the wedding. 5 But being unconcerned they left, one to his own field, and one to his business. 6 The rest laying hold of his slaves committed outrages and killed them. 7 And the king was angered and sending his troops, he destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he says to his slaves: The wedding is ready, but the invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the street-corners or "crossroads", and whoever you find call to the wedding. 10 And going out into the road these slaves gathered all they found, wicked and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

It would surely be an insult to your intelligence should I detail the application of this parable!

II. Specific Utterances

We are even yet not finished!  In addition to all of the above witnesses, we can point to specific utterances of the Lord that target the nation (or Jerusalem, the great city of the nation) as finally rejected.

Mt.23:37 Jerusalem Jerusalem, who killed the prophets and stoned those sent to you, how often I would gather your children, just as [a] bird gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not. 38 Behold your house is abandoned to you desolate. 39 For I say to you, you will not see me from now until you will say:
Blessed is the [one] coming in the name of the Lord.
(See also Luke 13:34-35)

The fact is that Jerusalem was destroyed by a Roman army under Titus in 70 AD.  With it went the temple that had served to define the nation for five hundred years.  Then, from Matthew 23:37 (above) we know that at that point the nation, it's house and its people, were abandoned and desolate!

Lk.19:41 And as he drew near, seeing the city he wept over it, 42 saying: If you [only] knew in this day the [things] towards peace—but now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For [the] days will come upon you and your enemies will cast up stakes for you and will surround you and attack you from all directions. 44 And they will dash to the ground you and your children in you, and they will not leave stone upon stone in you, for you did not know the opportune-time [of your] visitation.

Lk.21:20 But when you see Jerusalem circled by armies, then will you know that her desolation has drawn nigh. 21 Then let those in the country not enter into her, 22 for these are [the] days of vengeance for all having been written to be fulfilled. 23 Woe to those with child and to those giving suck in those days, for it will be [a] great calamity upon the earth and wrath to this people, 24 and they will fall by mouth of sword, and will be led captive into every nation, and Jerusalem will be trampled by the nations, until the season of the nations be fulfilled.

If you are curious as to when the season of the nations is fulfilled, simply continue reading the context of Luke 21:25f.  This season ends only with the coming of the Lord in Judgment of all nations.  There is no future release for the people of Israel/Judah as a nation.  

We fully understand this judgment and its application only when we define the NT Greek from which the translators render desolate and desolation in Matthew 23:38 and Luke 21:20.  The first (Matthew 23:38) is:

ἔρημος, ον  
. . . as adj. pert. to being in a state of isolation, isolated, desolate, deserted
ⓐ of an area isolated, unfrequented, abandoned, empty, desolate
adj. adj. = adjective
pert. pert. = pertaining (to)
Arndt, William ; Danker, Frederick W. ; Bauer, Walter: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2000, S. 391

The second (Luke 21:20) is:

ἐρήμωσις, εως, ἡ
. . . state of being made uninhabitable, devastation, destruction, depopulation

Arndt, William ; Danker, Frederick W. ; Bauer, Walter: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2000, S. 392

The people were abandoned, their city was destroyed and turned to a desert waste.  The actual devastation of the city is described by Josephus and can be read in Wikipedia.  


In 132 AD, as a result of the Bar Kokhba rebellion (a final effort to restore Jerusalem to the Jews), the city was once again visited with destruction and yet further devastation.  Now let's look once more at the text that is the center of contention in this paper:

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you
and given to [a] nation producing the fruits of it.

We have identified the nation from which the kingdom was taken.  But the Lord says that it is to be given to another nation, one that will bear the fruit of the Kingdom that the Father seeks.  The Lord carefully identified this nation:

Lk.12:32 Be not fearing, O little flock for your father delights to give to you the kingdom.