Part Five: The Biblical Evidence of the Transitions between the Three Different Dispensations –
Although this topic has been addressed in some measure in many of the previous chapters, if we can see for ourselves passages of Scripture which show God beginning to deal with a different group, gathering and caring for them as His own and blessing them in the world, or God sanctioning different teachings, doctrines, and religion from what He approved in times past, then we should be further convinced of the validity of the dispensational system presented in this book.
I speak of the three dispensations – Jewish, Christian, and the millennium. I am not aware of any transitional passages in God’s word that would validate the existence of any more dispensations other than these three. If the dispensationalist can discipline himself in considering and comprehending the biblical evidence already given in previous chapters of this book, particularly how we should properly define what is a dispensation, then the three dispensations we speak of practically pop out of Scripture at us. When considering transitional passages, the fact that they only exist as transitions between these three, one becomes even more confident in the soundness of this theological system.
Chapter Twenty-Three – The Dispensational Importance of Matthew’s Gospel
All the books in our Christian Bibles were written by human instruments through the inspiration of the Spirit of God. Each contains a divine purpose – the reason(s) why God has, through the Holy Spirit, written the book, and then in sovereign providential control He has so ordered events to secure the book as part of the cannon of Scripture. In speaking of the four gospels, each one has a special and unique purpose; each has a different human instrument as the writer; but each had the same Spirit of God that inspired and controlled the entire process. We believe all four to be the unerring and perfect word of God – entirely divine in its character and nature, and eternal in its endurance.
But how does faith come to such understandings? It must be God who accomplishes this work. The inspiration of Scripture cannot be any part the work of man. It must be God’s work and His work alone. It is He who uses the mind of the human instrument, so that it is the word of God which is recorded. Whichever book of Scripture we may consider, and whomever may be the human instrument used, nevertheless, it is the work of God alone which produces the very infallible and perfect word of God. If we have a book from a human author, regardless of how wonderful and precious it is, we do not have the word of God. For the books which form the cannon of Scripture, the Holy Spirit must be the author. Only then is it God’s work and eternal in its character. The divine purpose drives the entire process. Human reasoning never enters in at any point, otherwise it would be teaching the thoughts and doctrines of men. Not only is the Holy Spirit the means of inspiration of the words as they are recorded (I Cor. 2:10), but He is also the teacher of the thoughts of God from them to the individual believer (I Cor. 2:12–13) – so that we may have the mind of Christ, instead of our own (I Cor. 2:16).
The gospels tell of the life of Jesus Christ, His sufferings and death, and then go on to accounts of His resurrection. John ends his testimony by saying,
“And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)
The four gospels are not the same and we should not expect the exact same things to be repeated. What purpose would the Spirit have in the same story being repeated four times? Sure, it is the same Lord Jesus Christ and the same history of His life, but we should give the Holy Spirit some credit for having a bit more depth than of being a simple copyist. In the different gospels the Spirit emphasizes and portrays different things through the gospel writers. For example, the synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – present the coming of Jesus Christ to Israel for the purpose of being received, while the gospel of John shows Him as rejected by His own and the world from the first chapter (John 1:10–11).
There are various glories of Jesus Christ revealed and developed by the Holy Spirit in the different gospels, and we do well to understand these differences. They are the differing character and viewpoint presented to us by the Holy Spirit through the writer. When we come to acknowledge the differences, then we will better understand the Spirit’s reasoning for their existence.
In Matthew, Jesus is presented from the outset as the accomplishment of prophecy and promise to Israel – “…that it might be fulfilled what was written by the prophets,” or a similar phrase is used, especially in its early chapters (Matt. 1:22–23, 2:5–6, 15, 17–18, 23, 3:3, 4:14–16). It shows both Jehovah/Messiah coming to the people – Immanuel, but also the Son of David, the rightful King of Israel. In result we reason that one of the specific characteristics in Matthew’s gospel is that it, more particularly than the others, is the gospel which presents Jesus as Jehovah/Messiah to Israel, and is written more distinctly for a Jewish mind and audience. Mark’s gospel takes on the different character of Jesus as the Servant-Prophet. In it His service is emphasized, especially His prophetic ministry. Of the four, Mark’s gospel is the most historically accurate in its chronology. Luke presents Jesus as the Son of Man come in grace, the grace of God shown through the second Adam. His writing has a profound moralistic approach. Of the four gospel writers, Luke was the only Gentile. He seems to be used by the Spirit to write a testimony of the life of Christ geared more to the Gentile mind. Besides this, in the first three chapters of Luke, the Spirit of God presents a beautiful and heartfelt picture of the faithful Jewish remnant waiting for salvation in Israel and animated in testimony by the Spirit. John’s gospel is quite different. The Spirit has him presenting Jesus as God come in human flesh (John 1:14), the Son of God eternally in the bosom of the Father, yet sent now by the Father to reveal the Father (John 1:18). In John, He is seen as God the Son, visiting the world which He Himself created (John 1:10). Because it is this presentation and character, His entrance into the world beyond just Israel is the broader viewpoint developed in this gospel. In John, we find many passages which show who Jesus is intrinsically and eternally in His Person – the Son of God.
In this chapter we will look closer at Matthew’s gospel. It is a very important book. Its place in the cannon would suggest this – it is the first book of what we call the New Testament. It is positioned at the hinging-point of human history. Before Jesus came, God had tested man in various ways – in innocence in paradise, Adam chose to disobey the one command; when fallen and without any law, man filled the earth with violence and corruption; when given God’s law he was found to only be a transgressor of it. Now God had one final test for man. He would send His Son (Matt. 21:37, also appendix B).
What would man do when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world? It was man’s final test. If he failed this, if the world rejected God’s Son, what would the consequences be? Truly, when Jesus was sent by God, it was the fullness of the time (Gal. 4:4), the end of the world (Heb. 9:26). If the Jews rejected Him, and this being the final testing of man, then God would condemn the world (John 12:31). Fallen man would no longer be on probation, but fully judged as depraved and lost.
What we will find when analyzing Matthew is how, in many different ways, the Spirit of God gives his gospel a distinct dispensational character. In many instances in the book this dispensational purpose is quite unique – certain passages, specific phrases, certain topics presented by the Spirit are only found in Matthew’s gospel. Here is the divine design for Matthew, the reasons why the Spirit of God writes this book:
- The intention of the Spirit is to present Jesus to the Jewish mind as the coming of Jehovah/Messiah to Israel, the fulfillment of prophecy and Jewish promises. We have the presentation of Messiah in the very first verse of the book (Matt. 1:1) – Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. This was the requisite pedigree for any claim to the Messiah title. We find the presentation of Jehovah a little later in the same chapter, both in the naming of the infant, “Jesus,” and in Isaiah’s prophecy of Immanuel (Matt. 1:21–23). The name “Jesus” means Jehovah saves, and Immanuel means “God with us.”
Whether you feel the presentation of Messiah is primary over that of Jehovah, or not, matters little – both are very much Jewish thoughts (Ex. 6:1–8, Isa. 9:6–7, Dan. 9:26). The evidence from Matthew’s gospel for both will be listed later in this chapter, however this passage is particularly insightful – Matt. 22:42-45.
- The second purpose of the Spirit in Matthew is to show the rejection by Israel involved with the first point above. This rejection is twofold: first, Israel’s rejection of Jehovah/Messiah, and second, God’s rejection of Israel and His setting the nation aside. Israel’s rejection of Messiah starts early in the gospel (Matt. 2:1–8, 12–21). God’s patience and long-suffering with the infidelity of Israel holds off His rejection of them until passages found later in the book (Matt. 8:10–12). Rejection should be easier to see by the reader of this gospel. More passages will be listed later in this chapter to show the evidence of these two points.
- The third purpose of the Spirit is to show the results and consequences of the second point above, particularly for the Gentiles. Ultimately, what is shown is the transition God makes from the Jewish dispensation to the Christian dispensation. The Holy Spirit does this in the gospel in several different ways and forms – certain passages are a contrast made between Judaism (the law) and the new religion and teachings of Christianity; other passages are a contrast between Israel and Christendom; still others imply the differences and contrasts between the Jewish expectation of a Messianic kingdom in Israel and the kingdom of heaven being “at hand.” There are also two passages, unique to Matthew’s gospel, in which Jesus speaks of the future church. Whatever the case, the primary purpose of the Spirit in writing Matthew’s gospel is this dispensational transition taking place.
This transition also begins early in the gospel, and it is easy to perceive the intentional nature in the first narrative used for this purpose (Matt. 2). When Jesus is born, Matthew shows us only Gentile wise men from the East coming and worshiping the babe as the Messiah, King of the Jews. What he shows of Israel’s response is only the rejection of their new born King.222 This comparison in the passage is certainly intentional by the Spirit. As a theme, this dispensational transition is seen in different narratives from beginning to end in this gospel. Every passage in Matthew is either associated with the Jewish dispensation and it ending, or the Christian dispensation taking its place in the ways of God, and that it was soon to begin. For example, my first point above is the presentation of Jehovah/Messiah in this gospel – all the thoughts, all the prophecies, all the promises, are the Jewish associations connected intimately with the Jewish dispensation. If Jesus is rejected in this presentation, and God, in turn, rejects Israel, setting them aside, then we have the evidence, at least in God’s mind, of the closing of the Jewish dispensation. Then the Spirit brings out in this gospel, in many different narratives, by using different discourses, miracles, parables, etc., that which replaces it – the soon beginning of the new Christian dispensation.
222 [Although Luke records that nearby shepherds where notified by angels, and came to worship the new-born child in Bethlehem (Luke 2:8-18), this is purposely left out of Matthew by the Spirit of God in order to present this contrast between Jews and Gentiles, which serves the purpose and character of this gospel – transition from the Jewish dispensation (the Jews reject Him and want to kill the infant) to the Christian dispensation (the Gentiles recognize Him and worship Him). Besides, the purpose of Luke’s first three chapters was to show the faithful remnant waiting for Israel’s promise and hope, of which the shepherds were a part]
There is plenty of scriptural evidence for the three points mentioned above. But there is something important to realize about the Holy Spirit’s method in Matthew. All three purposes are seen in many different passages found throughout the length of the gospel. That is, the first doesn’t stop so the next purpose can start in this writing. For example, the ultimate rejection by Israel of their Messiah was His trial and crucifixion at their hands later in the book (Matt. 26:45–27:50). Yet as we’ve seen, the second chapter also provides a narrative which is an obvious rejection of the Messiah by Israel. This is true concerning all three purposes in this gospel.
Another observation: There isn’t one specific point in Matthew where we can say historically, the Jewish dispensation ends and the Christian dispensation begins. But today we certainly know that the Jewish dispensation has, in fact, ended, and we are presently in the Christian dispensation. If the believer considers all the biblical evidence, and if he understands dispensational principles, he would find the transition between the two dispensations to be a period of time lasting approximately 40 years – from John the Baptist first heralding “the kingdom of heaven was at hand” (Matt. 3:2), to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 AD (appendix C).[Author note: the following section contains a detailed analysis of Matthew’s gospel in order to show the scriptural evidence which exists in the gospel, proving the impression of the three divine purposes outlined above. The nature of this writing is more Bible study oriented, meant for the student of God’s word who will have a good translation by his side for reference and study. Having said this, I would encourage all believers to learn how to rightly divide the word of truth themselves (2 Tim. 2:15)]
- The presentation of Jehovah/Messiah
- Jehovah – Matt. 1:21–23, 3:3, 8:2–4, 22:41–45, 8:2–4, 8:23–27, 9:2–8, Matt. 10 (see note below); 12:6, 14:25, 33, 16:16
- Messiah – Matt. 1:1–20, 2:1–8, 2:15, 17–18, 23, 8:14–17, 9:27–33, 35–36, Matt. 10 (see note below), 11:2–6, 12:16–23, 14:19, 15:24, 15:30–38, 16:16, 20:30–34, 21:1–9 (Messiah, your King, Son of David)
- The two-fold rejection
- The rejection of Jehovah/Messiah – Matt. 2:3–8, 8:33–34, 9:34, 10:25, 11:16–19, 12:1–7, 12:10–14, 24, 13:54–58, 14:1–13 (the beheading of Jehovah’s messenger); 15:1–2, 16:21–23, 20:17–19, 21:15–16 (quoted from Ps. 8, the Son of Man psalm when Messiah is rejected); 21:23, 37–39, 42, 45, 22:2–7, 15–18; 26:3–4, 14–16, 20–25; 26:55 (His arrest), 26:59–68 (His trial), 27:1–25 (before Pilate), 27:26–37 (His crucifixion); 27:39–44,
- God’s rejection of Israel, and setting the nation aside – Matt. 8:10–12, 12:31–42, 43–45 (the history of Israel’s idolatry and infidelity, from then on to the future tribulation, in the end the nation is seven times worse), 12:46–50 (this is His break with Israel in the flesh, His disowning all natural ties with Israel); 13:1 (a change in the ways of God; Jesus quits the house of Israel); 13:11–15 (the judicial judgement of Israel declared); 14:3–9, 15:13–14, 16:1–4, 11, 21:12–13, 18–19 (fruitless, the fig tree is cursed by God); 21:40–44 (the Jewish dispensation will end based on their killing the Son – vs. 37–39; the kingdom of God taken from them), 22:7, 23:37–39 (Israel set aside and made desolate by God – this will correspond to the time of the Christian dispensation and Christendom in the earth); 27:51 (the Jewish dispensation would end as the veil in their temple)
- The transition between the two dispensations
- The Jewish dispensation – Matt. 3:9, 4:23–25, 7:12, 8:2–4 (Jehovah cleanses the leper and then acknowledges the law), 8:14–17, 28–32, Matt. 10 (see note below), 11:7–10, 11:13, 12:9–13, 28, 15:1–9, 22–26, 16: 1, 13–14, 17:10–11, 17:14–21 (the disciples eventually fail to profit from Messiah’s presence and power); 21:33–39 (the history of the Jewish dispensation); 22:35–40 (all the Law and Prophets is the Jewish dispensation; the founding principle of the Jewish dispensation is human responsibility being tested by God through His law having been given to Israel, man in the flesh on probation, God seeing if man can be obedient to His will); 23:1–36 (the Jewish dispensation condemned in its leaders); 23:34–36 (Israel’s last chance in their dispensation – this corresponds to the first seven chapters of Acts); 23:37–39 (Israel’s made desolate and their dispensation ended); 27:51,
- The Christian dispensation – Matt. 3:2; 3:16–17 (the Christian position is modeled by His baptism); Matt. 4:17, 18–20, 7:13–14, 21–23, 8:22, 11:11–12, 11:25–30, 13:3–9, 18–23 (a new planting by God, a new dispensation); 13:24–52, 14:23 (symbolic of Christ at God’s right hand interceding), 28–31 (symbolic of the walk of faith of the believer); 16:15–21, 17:1–8 (the Father’s testimony is for believers to listen only to His Son); 17:12; 17:24–27 (the disciples are sons of God like Jesus is); 18:1–10, 19:29–30, 20:1–16, 20:24–28, 23:37–39 (the Christian dispensation carries on while Israel is made desolate by God); 27:51
- Transition between the two dispensations – Matt. 3:11–12, 16–17 (Jesus’ baptism was different from everyone else John baptized; it represented the Christian position and the Christian dispensation); 4:12–16, 7:12–14, 8:2–13 (figuratively, Jehovah still willing to cleanse the leprosy of Israel, but the new dispensation will be faith of the Gentiles when He isn’t even present); Matt. 9:9 (Matthew’s background is perfectly suited to be used of the Spirit to write this gospel – he is a Jew who happens to work for the Gentiles); Matt.9:10–13 (Christianity and the gospel is a call to vile and retched sinners, not to the usual and traditional forms of Israel); Matt. 9:14–17 (the divine power of sovereign grace in the Christian dispensation is the new wine, and God must find or make new containers. None of the old forms of Judaism associated with man in the flesh could receive the new wine. The old vessels belong to the flesh); Matt. 9:18–25 (Jesus will come and visit Israel at the beginning of the future millennium, when they are already dead – Israel’s real state. The women of faith on the way is the faithful Jewish remnant at that time); Matt. 11:11–13 (the most obvious dispensational transition in Matthew); 11:16–19, 13:1–3, 16–17; 14:22–33 (in figure); 15:10–20, 15:21–28 (Gentiles and faith bridging over the limits of the mission of Messiah to Israel and the Jewish dispensation); 16:16–20 (the church and the kingdom of heaven are substituted for the Jewish system. Messiah/Christ was a title associated with the Jewish dispensation – He commands them not to use this title anymore – see also Luke 9:20–22): 17:1–8 (the law and the prophets disappear – Judaism; only Jesus is left; the Father’s testimony is to listen to His Son – Christianity); 17:10–13 (Elijah will precede the future Messianic kingdom and Israel’s restoration, but John the Baptist precedes the kingdom of heaven – the Christian dispensation); 21:18–22 (the fruitless fig tree of the Jewish dispensation gives way to the walk of faith in the Christian dispensation); 22:7–10 (the Jewish dispensation ends with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; the Christian dispensation is characterized by both good and bad being gathered by the gospel into Christendom – the kingdom of heaven); 22:41–45 (He was about to end all thought of Messiah in the midst of Israel on the earth – the Jewish dispensation; He would leave, going away to sit at the right hand of God – the Christian dispensation); Matt. 23:13 (the direct resistance of the religious leaders of Israel to the new dispensation); 24:4–44 (instruction for the end-time Jewish remnant before their Messiah comes at the end of the age); Matt. 24:45–25:30 (Christian instruction for the Christian dispensation); Matt. 25:31–46 (judgment of the Gentile nations after the Son of Man returns – millennial dispensation); 26:12–13 (the result of His death would be the Christian gospel going to the whole world in the Christian dispensation); 26:64 (He transitions from being Messiah in the Jewish dispensation, to being the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God, which is characteristic of the Christian dispensation – Heb. 10:12–13); 28:16–20 (the commission is yet another dispensational transition in Matthew, baptizing and making disciples in the Gentile nations, and given to them in Galilee of the Gentiles. It is the commission for establishing the kingdom of heaven, the Christian dispensation, which could not be established unless Jesus went away to the right hand of God and sent the Holy Spirit down. It involves Christian baptism and the trinity of the Godhead)
- Judaism contrasted with Christianity (practical teachings) – Matt. 5, 6, 7, (directly – Matt. 5:21–22, 27–28, 31–32, 33–37, 38–42, 43–48, 19:3–9); Matt. 18, 19, 20:1–28 – more practical teachings of the new Christian dispensation, the kingdom of heaven; Matt. 23:1–36 (the evil and hypocrisy of those who sit in Moses seat teaching Judaism to Israel); 26:17–19 (killing lambs and keeping the Passover is association with the Jewish dispensation; while the real Lamb of God was about to be sacrificed which would bring on the Christian dispensation – a sacrifice never to be repeated)
- Christendom spoken of instead of Israel – Matt. 7:21–27, 13:24–43, 47–50, 16:19, 22:8–14, 24:45–51, 25:1–12, 14–30
- Judgment pronounced on Israel which would effectively end the Jewish dispensation – Matt. 11:20–24, 12:31–32, 38–42, 43–45, 13:11–15, 21:18–19 (the fig tree cursed by God); 21:40–44, 22:7 (God would destroy Jerusalem by the Romans); 23:29–33 (responsibility and guilt assigned by God in the Jewish dispensation); 23:37–39 (Israel made desolate by God); 24:1-2 (the predicted destruction of the temple by the Romans). Judgment figuratively portrayed for Israel – Matt. 5:25–26 (Israel is warned they are in the way with God), 8:28–32 (Israel left to the power of Satan, rushes unclean, headlong to destruction), 18:32–34 (Israel as the unforgiving wicked servant)
- The Son of Man title (the second Adam) instead of Messiah (son of David) – Matt. 4:1–11 (the temptation of the second Adam by Satan), 8:19–22, 9:2–8, 12:8 (the name that bore witness to a new order of things, and a more extended power – He had power, as Son of Man, over the token of the covenant Jehovah had with Israel); 13:37 (the Son of Man title is the one Jesus associates with the kingdom of heaven); 17:22–23, 20:17–19, 26:2, 24, (this title is the one He uses in association with His suffering, death, and resurrection – compare Matt. 16:21 with Luke 9:22, 18:31–34); Matt. 17:1–7 (the law and the prophets are addressed to men in the flesh in the Jewish dispensation. This order was changing. The transfiguration was the glory of the second Adam), 17:9 (the testimony of the vision has no place until after His resurrection and in the Christian dispensation – a new order based on the Son of Man raised and glorified, redemption accomplished); 16:27–28, 17:12, 19:28, 24:30–31, 44, 25:31–32 (the Son of Man will have a throne over all God’s creation, and all nations on the earth); 18:11–14,
- The revelation of God as Father of the Christian believer instead of the name of Jehovah to Israel (Ex. 6:1–8) – Matt. 5:45–48, 6:1–33, 7:7–11, 21, 10:20, 28–33, 11:25–27, 13:43, 16:17
- The calling of the Christian dispensation is the believer to follow Christ – Matt. 4:18–22, 8:19–22, 9:9, 10:38–40, 11:28–30, 14:29, 16:24–26, 17:5, 19:21); the Jews follow the law and Judaism – Matt. 7:12, 8:4, 17:3–4, 19:16–20, 22:35–40
- A faithful remnant associated with Jewish things and the Jewish dispensation, or an end-time Jewish remnant prefigured in the circumstances of the disciples or spoken of directly) – Matt. 8:23–27, Matt. 10 (see note below); 14:24–27, 32–33 (in figure the remnant in the boat in trouble and distress); 24:22, 24, 31, 34 (all the teaching in Matt. 24:4–44 is for this end-time elect Jewish remnant of the tribulation period); 25:40, 45 (the least of these My brethren is also the elect end-time Jewish remnant); Matt. 26:26–29 (see note below on “the new covenant”)
- The church (Matt. 16:18 – as what God builds alone w/o human agency or help). It is only mentioned twice by Jesus (Matt. 18:17); however, of the four gospels, this is unique to Matthew. The reason? Because the true church makes up a small part of Christendom, the larger corporate body given responsibility for public testimony by God in the Christian dispensation, and of the four gospels, Matthew’s is purposely transitional. Jesus shares very little doctrine concerning the church – that would have to wait for Paul to reveal God’s mystery after the Spirit was sent down (Eph. 3:1–11). Jesus did not establish the church in Matthew sixteen or eighteen – He said, “I will build my church (Matt. 16:18); it was yet future from the time He spoke. Nor does Jesus build the church on Peter as a rock – there isn’t a more serious error in understanding a single verse of Scripture than this verse; the evil and corruptive consequences this blunder has caused in Christendom is enormous and overwhelming. Obviously, the church, as mentioned twice by Jesus in passing, is associated with the soon coming Christian dispensation.
- The phrase “the kingdom of heaven.” This is only used by the Spirit of God in Matthew’s gospel, and here, it is used thirty-two (32) times. The phrase never refers to a Messianic kingdom in Israel, but instead, always refers to the Christian dispensation (Matt. 13:3–9, 24–30), or to the practical teachings of Christianity, or to the existence of Christendom in pictorial form in a parable (Matt. 13:24–43, 47–50, 25:1–12, 14–30). Only twice does a parable of the kingdom of heaven refer to the true church (Matt. 13:44–46). The kingdom of heaven was “at hand” for the entire gospel of Matthew (Matt. 3:2, 4:17, 10:7) – the kingdom is not established until Jesus returns to heaven, and the Spirit of God sent down, and the church begins to be gathered by the Spirit on the earth. It is after Pentecost that we have Christianity beginning to replace Judaism (Acts 15:1–31, Gal. 2, Heb. 10:1–23 – Christianity is the new and living way by which we enter into the Presence behind the veil; Judaism was the old and dead way, with animal sacrifices as a reminder of the continuing presence of sins, sacrifices which God never desired or found pleasure in, that kept the Jews outside and away from God). It is after Pentecost that Christendom begins to replace Israel in the earth. Again, “the kingdom of God” phrase is purposely changed to “the kingdom of heaven” phrase by the Holy Spirit in Matthew, not always or entirely throughout this gospel, but where deemed necessary by the Spirit for a dispensational purpose – thirty-two distinct times – When used, it always distinguishes Christian things of the new Christian dispensation.
- The Sovereign grace of God characteristic of the Christian dispensation instead of the principles of the law and creature responsibility, which were characteristic of the Jewish dispensation. 11:25–27, 13:11, 16–17, 37, 15:13, 16:17–18, 19:25–26, 20:1–16, 22:11–14,
Notes on Chapter Ten of Matthew: This chapter is almost entirely about Jewish things and the Jewish dispensation. It contains what remains of Jewish history, divided into three distinct times of testimony.
- These present disciples being personally given power by Jesus and sent out by Him while He was still with them on the earth.
- These same disciples testifying to Israel immediately after Jesus was no longer with them. This testimony would be by the power of the Spirit given to them on the day of Pentecost. This constituted Israel’s last chance before being set aside and hardened by God. They became the apostles of the circumcision (Gal. 2:7–9)
- There will be a Jewish remnant, similar to the Lord’s disciples, testify in Judea of the soon coming kingdom of God immediately before the return of Jesus, the Son of Man, to this earth (to Jerusalem of Judea).
For the most part the chapter treats the Christian dispensation as a mystery. It is entirely skipped over in this historical account. Jesus is viewed in the chapter as Jehovah/Messiah, for only God can give divine power to men (Matt. 10:1, 8), and Messiah’s mission was restricted to Israel by God (Matt. 10:5–6). The Spirit’s viewpoint is that the disciples form a faithful Jewish remnant being sent out only to Israel. And notice, they are not looking for retched poor sinners, but rather those who are worthy of the Jews (Matt. 10:11, see also Ps. 1). Their present mission (Jesus still with them) was to Israel and to draw out a Jewish remnant, preparing the people for the kingdom soon coming (regardless of what form that kingdom would take). This mission to Israel would not be complete even until He returned (Matt. 10:23). The disciples present mission is Matt. 10:1–15. Their mission would continue in the midst of Israel through the Spirit of God after Jesus was gone, a time during which in Israel they would be considered as sheep in the midst of wolves. (Matt. 10:16–42).
There will be a similar mission carried out by a different Jewish remnant (like these disciples), animated by the Spirit of God, before His return. We know this from the advantage of hindsight – Jesus has been gone for nearly 2000 years. But these disciples didn’t know this fact; they all resisted His going away to begin with, because they never accepted His suffering and crucifixion until after it took place (Matt. 16:21–23, 20:17–19, Luke 18:31–34). If He went away after His resurrection, their thoughts were always to be that He would return in their lifetime – the divine wisdom of the Spirit. The same ten virgins that together went to sleep, were the same ten who later awoke (Matt. 25:1–13); the same servants given talents when He left, are the same servants who give account of their responsibilities when He returns (Matt. 25:14–30); the same workers hired at different times during the day, are the same ones payed at the end (Matt. 20:1–16).
Having shown that the character of the chapter (10) mainly is about Jewish things and the Jewish dispensation, nevertheless, after the Lord went away and the Spirit was sent down, these disciples became Christians and the church began on the day of Pentecost. There are things in this chapter that could easily be associated with the Christian dispensation, such as, any teachings about His Father and their Father (vs. 20, 28–33), and teaching about following Him (vs. 24–25, 38–39). This transition between dispensations, where these disciples are viewed by the Holy Spirit as both the beginning of the church in the Christian dispensation, and a chosen, faithful Jewish remnant testifying about a risen Messiah, while they are in the midst of an unbelieving nation as part of the Jewish dispensation, plays out for us in the first seven chapters of the book of Acts. The prophecy of Joel, which Peter quotes (Acts 2:16–21), refers directly to a Jewish remnant having the Spirit of God poured out on them (Joel 2:32). The only way this could legitimately be applied to the 120 disciples in the upper room on the day of Pentecost is that the Spirit of God didn’t just view them as new Christians, but also as a faithful Jewish remnant testifying by the Spirit amid an unbelieving nation. There will be a similar remnant of Israel during the future tribulation (before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord – Joel 2:31), testifying about the soon coming kingdom of God. Joel’s prophecy will not have its true and complete fulfillment until then. Nevertheless, the first seven chapters of Acts involves only testimony to Israel by the Spirit of God. It is Israel’s last chance before God would definitively turn to the Gentiles in a dispensational change. The dominating characteristic of Matthew ten (10) is that the testimony is limited to the Jews throughout the chapter. This equates to the first seven chapters of Acts, but also to an end-time Jewish remnant yet to come on the scene in Judea before the great and terrible day of the Lord. This is the reason why we say this chapter is mainly Jewish things and association with the Jewish dispensation – it contains the complete history of the testimony of God to the Jews, starting from the time Jesus spoke these words.
We have closely looked at every chapter in Matthew’s gospel. The Holy Spirit had a divine purpose in writing this book by Matthew’s hand, and everything in it lines up with this purpose – Jehovah/Messiah is presented to the Jewish mind. Upon His rejection by His people, God would reject Israel, no longer acknowledging them, setting them aside. The Jewish dispensation would end in judgment from God. In turn, and as a consequence of Israel’s failure, God would bring forth a new work in the world – “the kingdom of heaven” in faith and mystery. Included in this was Christianity, Christendom, the church, and the new Christian dispensation, all as part of the mystery of God hidden from the prophets and prophecy. Matthew’s gospel has a definite dispensational character that is hard to miss.