Why was the message by Christ and His disciples transferred from Israel to the Gentiles?
In brief, the message, which was the offer, and later the re-offer, of the heavenly sphere of the kingdom of Christ (aka “gospel of the kingdom”), was transferred from Israel to the Gentiles because Israel refused to repent from their disobedience and accept Jesus Christ as their promised Messiah.
This rejection by Israel and the subsequent transfer of the kingdom offer to the Gentiles is examined in detail, as follows:
On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea.
And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
Then He spoke many things to them in parables . . . . (Matthew 13:1-3a)
Matthew chapter thirteen records seven connected parables that Christ gave at a particular time during His earthly ministry, calling them, “mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens” (v. 11). These parables comprise the first of the numerous mysteries seen in the New Testament and have to do with the same thing that any other mystery in the New Testament has to do with — an opening up and unveiling of that which has laid in the Old Testament from the beginning.
There is nothing in the New Testament that does not have its roots one or more places in the Old. The mystery revealed to Paul (Ephesians 3:1ff), for example, not only had its basis in the Old Testament Scriptures but drew from Paul’s personal knowledge of these Scriptures (Acts 9:20-22) — moving beyond “the letter” to “the spirit” of the matter (2 Corinthians 3:6-18) — opening Scriptures that he already knew to his understanding.
And so it is with the mysteries of the kingdom in Matthew chapter thirteen. These mysteries have their basis in the Old Testament Scriptures and draw from a presumed knowledge of these Scriptures by those to whom the mysteries are directed.
These are mysteries opened up and revealed by Christ through the use of parables, a form of teaching that He began to extensively use at this point in His ministry. Christ had used parables sparingly prior to this time (e.g., Luke 5:36-39), but from this point forward, for a particularly revealed reason, parables began to occupy a major part of His ministry.
The English word “parable” is simply an Anglicized form of the Greek word parabole, a compound word that means “to cast alongside.” A parable, by its own definition, is a truth placed alongside of something previously existing, which could only be a previously revealed truth. And the additional truth would be given to help explain the previously revealed truth.
This is why these parables could be understood by the disciples but would be meaningless to numerous others in the nation (vv. 10-17). The matter hinged on whether or not the previously revealed truths had been received.
The disciples had received the previously revealed truths. Therefore, they would understand the parables, for the parables dealt with that which they had previously received.
But those rejecting Christ and His message had not received the previously revealed truths. Therefore, they would not be able to understand the parables, for the parables dealt with that which they had previously rejected.
Though these parables form truths placed alongside things revealed in the Old Testament, they, as well, form truths placed alongside things that had been revealed during Christ’s earthly ministry (things completely in accord with Old Testament Scripture).
And, in this respect, though they have their basis in the Old Testament Scriptures, they emanate out of things having previously been revealed during Christ’s earthly ministry, particularly things immediately preceding Christ’s departure from the house and His beginning to give these parables by the seaside.
Thus, Matthew chapter thirteen has to do with an opening up and unveiling of mysteries surrounding the kingdom of the heavens through the use of parables. And the kingdom of the heavens in this chapter is a kingdom seen in exactly the same form in which it was previously seen in Matthew’s gospel. This chapter continues, from previous Scripture, dealing with a literal, existing kingdom.
There is absolutely no difference in the way in which the kingdom of the heavens is seen at any point in Scripture throughout Man’s Day and the future Lord’s Day, throughout 7,000 years of time — past, present, and future. The reference is to the heavenly realm of the kingdom associated with this earth. The reference is to the rule of the heavens over the earth.
During past and present time, throughout Man’s Day, Satan and his angels (though disqualified) have ruled over the earth from this heavenly realm. But in the future, during the coming Lord’s Day, angels will no longer rule from this realm. Rather, Man — namely, Christ and His co-heirs — will take the scepter and will rule from this realm (Hebrews 2:5-10; 4:4-9; 5:6, 10; cf. Psalm 110:1-4).
And the message surrounding the kingdom of the heavens — whether to Israel (past) or to Christians (present) — has to do with Man moving into this heavenly realm, occupying this realm, and holding the scepter. All seven parables in Matthew chapter thirteen have to do with this subject. This is something clearly stated in these parables, and they must be so interpreted and understood.
(There is widespread erroneous thought in Christendom today that attempts to associate that which is stated in the seven parables in Matthew chapter thirteen with some type mystery form of the kingdom existing during the present dispensation. However, such a form of the kingdom does not presently exist; nor has it ever existed; nor will it ever exist.
And along with this erroneous thought of an existing mystery form of the kingdom, a related error exists — that of seeing a presently existing form of the Son’s kingdom [somehow existing in the hearts of men] that will be brought into full reality at a future time. This type understanding of the kingdom is little more than another way of dealing with a so-called present mystery form of the kingdom.
The Son — rather than presently ruling in the kingdom in view, in which Satan and his angels hold the scepter — is seated at the right hand of His Father, awaiting that day when His enemies will be made His footstool, when He will take the kingdom (Psalm 110:1).
Further, the Son is presently occupying the office of High Priest, not that of King. He is presently ministering on behalf of Christians in the heavenly sanctuary, with a view to “bringing many sons to glory” [Hebrews 2:5-10; 10:19-22]. His Kingship, the time when He and His co-heirs will ascend the throne together, lies in the future [Hebrews 1:9; 3:14; 4:4-9].
A misunderstanding of verses, such as Colossians 1:13, has led numerous Christians to erroneously view a present aspect to Christ’s future kingdom. However, neither this verse nor any other verse teaches such a thing. Colossians 1:13 deals with Christians being moved from one place to another with respect to two manifestations of the kingdom — present under Satan, and future under Christ. Christians, according to this verse, have been delivered from the power of darkness [having to do with the kingdom under Satan] and have been translated [have been moved from one place to another, have been caused to change sides] with respect to the kingdom of Christ.
There can be no such thing as being translated into the kingdom of Christ during the present dispensation, for such a kingdom doesn’t presently exist. But there is such a thing as being caused to change sides with respect to two forms of the same kingdom — both present and future. This is what the epistles are about, and this is what is in view in Colossians 1:13.)
Attempts to understand the seven parables in Matthew chapter thirteen after any fashion that ignores the context and/or subject matter at hand will leave one hopelessly lost in a sea of misinterpretation. These parables are quite simple to understand if one allows Scripture to be its own interpreter. But, if this is not done, matters become difficult to hopeless when it comes to understanding that which the Lord revealed in these parables.
Events Leading into Matthew 13
John the Baptist appeared as the forerunner of the Messiah at His first coming, as Elijah will appear as the forerunner of the Messiah at His second coming. A prophecy that had to do with Elijah was applied to John the Baptist (cf. Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:3); and John was said by Jesus to be Elijah, with a condition applied to the statement (Matthew 11:13, 14).
The passage in Isaiah, applied to John the Baptist, is set in a context surrounding Messiah’s coming at a time when Israel repents and the nation is healed (vv. 1-5). This, of course, didn’t occur during or following John’s appearance, though the prophecy was applied to John. This will occur only following Elijah’s appearance as the forerunner of the Messiah (Malachi 4:1-6).
Christ’s statement concerning John being Elijah carried the condition, “if you will receive.” That is to say, if the nation would have received the message, Elijah, rather than John, would have appeared at that time as the forerunner of the Messiah. The latter was conditioned on the former. God though, in His foreknowledge, knew what Israel would do and sent John the Baptist as the forerunner of Christ at His first coming instead of Elijah.
John the Baptist was the Elijah of his day, as Elijah will be the John the Baptist of his day. And the two men are so closely associated with one another that the prophecy applying to Elijah at Christ’s second coming in Isaiah 40:3 could be applied to John at Christ’s first coming in Matthew 3:3.
1. Ministry of John, Jesus, and the Twelve
John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea with a single, simple message: “Repent: for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). This was a message directed to the nation of Israel, calling for national repentance, with a view to the Jewish people holding the scepter, with their Messiah, within the heavenly sphere of the kingdom.
The kingdom was “at hand [had ‘drawn near’]” because Messiah was present. The King of the kingdom — the One destined to replace Satan as the ruler over this earth — was present; and the scepter could, at that time, have passed from the hands of Satan and his angels into the hands of Man, conditioned upon Israel’s repentance.
Israel was being offered regal positions with the nation’s Messiah, in a heavenly realm; but there was a condition. The nation had to repent. The nation had to change its mind.
This was the totality of the message proclaimed by John. It was a call for the nation of Israel (the entire nation) to change its mind, with a view to the Jewish people occupying regal positions with the nation’s Messiah in the heavenly sphere of the kingdom. Satan and his angels would be put down, and Christ and the repentant nation would move in and take the kingdom.
However, things didn’t go in this direction, and John eventually found himself in prison. Then Jesus took up the same message, which, under His ministry, was accompanied by miraculous signs — signs having to do with the kingdom, which centered on physical healings.
Jesus went throughout all Galilee doing two things: (1) “preaching the gospel of the kingdom,” and (2) “healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (Matthew 4:12, 17-25).
The message concerned the proffered kingdom, and the healings were miraculous signs intimately and inseparably connected with the message being proclaimed. Israel was sick, “from the sole of the foot even to the head,” and healing for the nation was in the offing, conditioned upon the nation’s repentance.
All of this — Israel’s condition and that which could and would occur following Israel’s repentance — was set forth in detail numerous places in Old Testament prophecy. But one section of the numerous prophecies will suffice to illustrate the point — a section of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Note how Isaiah opened his prophecy. He began by describing Israel’s present condition:
Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward.
Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints.
From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment. (Isaiah 1:4-6)
Then Isaiah continued his prophecy by describing Israel’s healing. He went on to describe what the nation could have, if . . .
Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” (Isaiah 1:16-19)
And, beyond that, Isaiah concluded a section of his prophecy by describing conditions in Israel following the time of the nation’s repentance and healing:
I will turn My hand against you, and thoroughly purge away your dross, and take away all your alloy [paralleling “dross,” undoubtedly referring to metals in an impure sense].
I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. . . .
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law and the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations . . . .” (Isaiah 1:25, 26; 2:2-4a)
Christ’s message to Israel, along with the message of the Twelve whom He later commissioned (Matthew 10:1-8) — in complete keeping with Isaiah’s prophecy (among numerous other Old Testament prophecies) — was simply a call for the nation to repent, with a view to healing and the nation being established in her God-ordained position in the kingdom (Exodus 19:5, 6). The healing of an individual constituted a sign for the Jewish people to visibly behold, showing them what could happen to the entire nation, if . . .
“Repentance” on the part of Israel was the sole condition in the message proclaimed to the nation by John, Jesus, and the Twelve: “Repent: for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand.” Then, following national repentance, healing would occur.
The Jewish people were to change their minds about their prior attitude towards God’s commandments (Isaiah 1:19; cf. Leviticus 26:3ff; Deuteronomy 28:1ff). They had previously disobeyed that which God had commanded. And because of this disobedience, Israel had not only failed to fully occupy her God-ordained position in the Old Testament theocracy but the day came when this theocracy ceased to exist; and, in connection with the end of the Old Testament theocracy, Israel found herself in captivity and scattered among the Gentile nations.
(The northern ten tribes were carried into captivity by the Assyrians about 722 B.C., and the southern two tribes were carried into captivity by the Babylonians about 605 B.C., beginning the times of the Gentiles. And a few years later the Shekinah Glory departed from the holy of holies of the temple in Jerusalem, ascending to heaven from the Mount of Olives, marking the end of the Old Testament theocracy.)
And even during the time Christ was on earth, though a remnant was back in the land, the nation remained under Gentile dominion. The times of the Gentiles, which began during the days of Nebuchadnezzar, continued then, as it still continues today. John opened the message to Israel concerning the proffered kingdom, Christ continued this message following John being cast into prison, and the Twelve later also carried this same message to Israel. And, though numerous Jewish people heeded the call and repented, the nation as a whole refused. The nation as a whole refused to change its mind relative to disobedience, something which had marked the history of the nation throughout centuries of time.
2. Israel’s Climactic Rejection
Events surrounding the offer of the kingdom of the heavens to Israel, beginning with John and continuing with Jesus and the Twelve, reached an apex in Matthew chapter twelve. However, the apex reached was not one of acceptance on the part of the nation. Rather, it was one of rejection.
In this chapter, Christ healed a man on the Sabbath (vv. 9-13), pointing to Israel’s coming healing on the Sabbath (the seventh millennium, the coming Lord’s Day, following the six millenniums comprising Man’s Day [cf. Numbers 19:11, 12; Hosea 5:15-6:2; Matthew 17:1-5]). And, following this miraculous sign, “the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him” (v. 14).
The Pharisees (along with the Scribes) — fundamental, legalistic religious leaders — were, by far, the largest of the religious parties in Israel. And, occupying this position, they sat “in Moses’ seat” (Matthew 23:2), controlling the religious life of the nation.
These controlling religious leaders were the ones who followed Christ about the country, seeking, at every turn, to counter both His message and the miraculous signs He was performing. And, in this chapter they reached an apex in their rejection by not only rejecting the manifested sign of a man being healed on the Sabbath (pointing to Israel’s healing on the Sabbath) but by subsequently holding a council concerning how they might be able to do away with the One having performed this sign.
Then, later in the chapter, Christ healed a man possessed with a demon, who was both blind and dumb (v. 22); and the Pharisees, in their rejection of the manifested signs, reached a terminal point. They attributed the power behind the manifestation of this miraculous sign to Satan (v. 24). And doing this after they had rejected the sign pertaining to Israel being healed on the Sabbath, along with subsequently seeking to do away with Christ, was the final straw.
These signs were being performed through the power of the Spirit (in completely keeping with the way God performs His works [cf. Genesis 1:2b]); and the Pharisees, attributing Christ’s works to Satan, committed what was called by Christ, “the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (v. 31).
The Pharisees had previously done the same thing (Matthew 9:34), but here the setting is different. Here it follows their rejecting the sign of the Sabbath and their attempting to do away with the One having performed this sign. Israel’s religious leaders, at this point, had gone beyond what could be allowed. And Christ stated, relative to that which they had done:
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.
Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. (vv. 31, 32)
For all practical purposes the kingdom of the heavens was taken from Israel at this point in Matthew’s gospel, though the announcement was not made until later (Matthew 21:43). And it was at this point in Christ’s ministry that a major change occurred.
The Scribes and Pharisees, immediately after Christ told them that they had committed a sin having far-reaching consequences, had the effrontery to ask Christ for an additional sign (v. 38). They had rejected all of His previous signs, even attributing the power behind the last one to Satan, and now they asked for something that they had previously rejected time after time.
This was little more than a personal affront, further seeking, by any means possible, to discredit the One performing these signs (as they had previously attempted to do). But Jesus, knowing full-well their thoughts, responded with the only sign that would now be given to them — the sign of the prophet Jonah, pointing to His coming death, burial, and resurrection rather than to the kingdom (vv. 39, 40).
Then Christ described the condition in which the nation of Israel, because of the actions of their religious leaders, now found itself.
The men of Nineveh would rise up in judgment and condemn this generation, for they had repented at the preaching of Jonah. And One greater than Jonah was standing in Israel’s midst, calling for the nation’s repentance, but to no avail (v. 41).
The queen of the south would, likewise, rise up in judgment and condemn this generation, for she had come from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. And One greater than Solomon was standing in Israel’s midst, One Whom the Jewish people wouldn’t hear (v. 42).
The nation was to be left in a desolate condition, wherein the Jewish people would walk through dry places, seeking rest, and find none. And, should the people comprising this nation persist in their disobedience, particularly relative to any attempt to bring about a change in their state themselves, conditions would only become worse. Their latter end would be “worse than the first” (vv. 43-45; cf. Leviticus 26:18-31).
And this is the setting for Christ’s departure from the house, His going down by the seaside, and His beginning to speak in parables in Matthew chapter thirteen.
Christ’s Actions, Continued Subjection
The seven parables in Matthew chapter thirteen present a sharp change in God’s dealings with the nation of Israel. Heretofore, events surrounding the proffered kingdom had been strictly Jewish in nature, but now something completely new and different in relation to this kingdom is introduced. These parables have to do with the kingdom of the heavens as it pertains to individuals separate and distinct from the nation of Israel.
Before He began to speak in parables, Christ went “out of the house, and sat by the seaside” (v. 1). The first four parables were spoken outside the house, down by the seaside (vv. 3-9, 18-33). Then Christ went back “into the house” (v. 36) and gave three more parables (vv. 44-50).
The use of “house” and “seaside” is fraught with meaning. “The house,” from which Christ departed, and later reentered, is a reference to the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6; 23:38); and “the seaside,” to which Christ went, is a reference to the Gentiles (Jonah 1:12; 2:10; Revelation 13:1).
Thus, within the symbolism of that which is stated, the Lord left Israel (departed the house), went to the Gentiles (sat by the seaside), and gave four parables. Then the Lord returned to Israel (went back inside the house) and gave three additional parables.
The kingdom of the heavens — about to be taken from Israel at this point in Matthew’s gospel — would have been taken from Israel prior to the time of the occurrence of events revealed in the first four parables, spoken outside the house. And the last three parables, though spoken back inside the house, could, not really pertain to Israel per se. Because of the subject matter — the kingdom of the heavens, having previously been taken from Israel — these parables would have to still pertain to those outside the house, associated with the seaside (note that there is no mention of Christ leaving the seaside [leaving the Gentiles] when He reentered the house [returned to Israel]).
In this respect, the first four parables would concern the Lord’s dealings with a people other than Israel, associated with the Gentiles; and these dealings would have to do with these people in a particular realm — in relation to the kingdom of the heavens.
Then, the last three parables, because of the continued subject matter (the kingdom of the heavens), would have to continue the continuity of thought from the first four. And further, though spoken back inside the house, these parables really cannot be Jewish in nature (for, again, they deal with the kingdom of the heavens — a sphere of the kingdom in which Israel could no longer have a part).
All seven parables have to do with events during time that elapses following the Nobleman’s departure “into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom,” and with events during time that terminates with His “return” after receiving the kingdom (cf. Luke 19:12ff). There is nothing in these parables that occurs before Christ’s departure from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9), events depicted in these parables occur almost entirely during the time of Christ’s absence (Psalm 110:1), and events in these parables will be concluded immediately following Christ’s return (Revelation 19:11ff).
These parables — centering around a message pertaining to the kingdom of the heavens — have to do with an offer of the kingdom to a people other than Israel, following the removal of the kingdom from Israel (cf. Matthew 21:33-43; 1 Peter 2:9, 10). These parables have to do with the message pertaining to the kingdom of the heavens during and following the present dispensation, and these parables conclude with events surrounding Christ’s return (after He, the Noblemen in Luke 19:12, has received the kingdom from the Father [cf. Daniel 7:13, 14; Revelation 11:15; 19:11ff]).
The course of the dispensation is depicted in the first four parables, and the last three have to do with concluding events (directly related to that previously revealed in the first four) that will not only bring the age to a close but also usher in the next age, the Messianic Era.
Thus, the Lord reentering the house is not an act that places an emphasis on His dealing with Israel once again. Rather, the emphasis remains where it is seen in the first four parables. Nor is there any mention of Christ leaving the seaside when He goes back inside the house. And the significance of this is seen in the fact that His prior dealings with the Gentiles (first four parables) would continue.
Israel is reintroduced because that dealt with in the final three parables cannot be accomplished apart from God dealing with the Jewish people once again. But the emphasis in these three parables continues from the same place in which it was seen in the first four parables.
Briefly stated, all seven parables in Matthew chapter thirteen form a continuous discourse having to do with the kingdom of the heavens being offered to a group other than Israel. The people of Israel had rejected the proffered kingdom, and the kingdom was about to be taken from Israel, with a view to a separate and distinct entity (the Church) being called into existence to be the recipient of that which Israel rejected (Matthew 21:33-43).
In the first four parables, Israel is not in view. These parables have to do with God’s dealings with this new entity, separate from Israel, during a time in which Israel is set aside; but in the last three parables, Israel is brought back into view. And God begins to deal with the nation once again, with a view to two things: (1) concluding His dealings with Israel (something not seen in these parables but seen numerous places in related Scripture), and (2) concluding His dealings with the new entity brought into existence to be the recipient of that which Israel rejected (the central issue seen in these parables). Because of Israel’s connection with certain concluding events, Christ had to go back inside the house before delivering the last three parables.
The first four parables have to do with the course of Christendom during the present dispensation (the course of the period during which God is removing from the Gentiles “a people for his name” [Acts 15:14]), with Israel set aside; and the last three parables have to do with events occurring after God resumes His national dealings with Israel, following the removal of the Church from the earth and God turning once again to Israel. But the Church, though having been removed from the earth before events in these last three parables begin to occur, is still the central figure seen throughout these parables.
The setting for the last three parables is the coming Tribulation and events surrounding Christ’s subsequent return. And, though the Church will not be on earth during the Tribulation, this period really has just as much to do with the Church as with Israel.
The Tribulation, along with being “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), will be the time when redemption (future, not past) of the inheritance awaiting Christ and His co-heirs will occur. And this future redemption, having to do with the inheritance, will also include the bride — already having been redeemed, past — who, through this future redemptive act, will become Christ’s wife.
This entire sequence of events, along with related events that usher in the Messianic Kingdom, is depicted in the last three parables. And, in this respect, the last three parables simply form a chronological continuation and conclusion to the events depicted in the first four parables.
 Mysteries of the Kingdom by Arlen L. Chitwood, The Lamp Broadcast, Inc., 1998, pages 1-14