God’s Kingdom Nation

“Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”
—Matthew 21:43

THE WORDS OF OUR text were addressed by Jesus to the religious rulers of Israel. The preceding context reveals why he prefaced his statement with the word ‘therefore.’ First, there is the parable of the householder, the one who planted a vineyard, “and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.”—Matt. 21:33

Later, “when the time of the fruit drew near,” the householder sent his servants to the husbandmen “that they might receive the fruits of it.” (vs. 34) But the husbandmen “took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.” (vs. 35) Then the householder sent other servants, but they were treated the same way.

Wishing to give the husbandmen whom he had appointed a further opportunity to show good faith, the householder then sent his son, saying, “They will reverence my son.” (vs. 37) “But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said … This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.”—vs. 38

After relating the parable, Jesus asked his hearers what they thought the householder would do to the husbandmen who were so unfaithful to the trust he had bestowed upon them. They replied that he would “miserably destroy those wicked men,” and then would entrust his vineyard to others who would “render him the fruits in their seasons.” (vs. 41) Jesus then asked them if they had not read the scripture, “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner.”—vs. 42

Immediately following this we find the words of our text beginning with the word therefore. The nation of Israel, heeding the example of its religious rulers, was taking the same position as the unfaithful husbandmen of the parable, and was likewise rejecting the ‘stone’ which was to become ‘the head of the corner.’ Therefore the kingdom was to be taken away and given to another nation, a nation ‘bringing forth the fruits thereof.’

A similar parable is related in Isaiah 5:1-7. Here we are told that “the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant.” (vs. 7) In the parable as presented by Isaiah, the vineyard is laid waste by the Lord because it brought forth nothing but wild grapes, not the luscious fruit of righteousness which the Lord expected, the reason for this failure ostensibly being the unfaithfulness of the husbandmen to whom the Lord had entrusted the care of the vineyard.

Both parables indicate that for the nation of Israel much was at stake in God’s dealings with them. Our text reveals that it was nothing less than the opportunity of participating with Jesus in the rulership of the long-promised Messianic kingdom. Exodus 19:5,6 declares that if the Israelites obeyed the commandments of the Lord and were faithful to him, they would be a “kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” All of God’s dealings with them were designed to help them qualify for this exalted destiny.


The final test came when Jesus presented himself to the nation as Messiah and King. That they might be prepared to receive him, John the Baptist was sent as a forerunner, announcing, “The royal majesty of the heavens has approached.” (Matt. 3:2, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott) Even with this help the nation failed in its final test. A few individuals qualified. John explains this, saying of Jesus, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.”—John 1:11,12

The others stumbled over the “stone,” just as the prophet had foretold. (Ps. 118:21,22) It was this text which Jesus quoted and applied to himself, explaining that whoever “shall fall” on this stone “shall be broken,” and that on whomsoever the stone fell, he would be ground “to powder.” (Matt. 21:44) This, of course, is highly symbolic language, but it indicates that those who stumbled over Jesus, and in turn felt the weight of his rejection of them, being unworthy to be joint-heirs with him in the kingdom, would have their exalted hopes crushed.

Matthew 21:45 shows that the chief priests and the Pharisees knew that Jesus was speaking of them, that they were the ones who were to be replaced, the kingdom being taken from them, and given to others. Inasmuch as the people followed their leadership, the whole nation of Israel came under the decree, “Your house is left unto you desolate.”—Matt. 23:38

While these historical facts concerning the nation of Israel are important in relationship to the Divine plan, even more vital to us is a proper recognition of the reason leading up to the rejection of God’s ancient people from the chief place in the kingdom which was offered to them. Their final failure was but a continuance of those object lessons mentioned by Paul, which, he says, were written “for our admonition.”—I Cor. 10:11


In our text the Greek word translated ‘nation’ means a race, or tribe. The Jewish race is the family of Abraham, and in the Old Testament many other families are spoken of as nations—the Hittites, the Amorites, the Jebusites, and others. So Jesus’ reference to a nation might well be narrowed in meaning to the thought of a family, specifically of the Divine family, the “household of faith.”—Gal. 6:10

This family is made up of the children, or sons of God. That the hope of the kingdom has been given to these is clearly shown by the Apostle Paul. He wrote, “The Spirit [of God] itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”—Rom. 8:16,17

The Apostle Peter also identifies the nation to whom the kingdom was given when taken away from those to whom it was first offered. As though explaining Jesus’ reference to the stone which the builders rejected, and also those referred to by the Master as the nation to whom the kingdom would be given, Peter quotes the prophecy of the rejected stone, and then adds, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God.”—I Pet. 2:7-10

Clearly the reference here is to Gentile believers—not all Gentiles, but those who accept Christ and dedicate their lives to following in his footsteps. However, the opportunity is not limited to Gentiles, for individual Israelites according to the flesh may also qualify; indeed, the first thus to qualify were those Israelites who accepted Christ, and to whom he gave the power to become the sons of God.

The new nation is new in the sense that it is a faith “seed,” or family, made up of New Creatures in Christ Jesus. It matters not what their nationality may previously have been. Paul stresses, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”—Gal. 3:27-29

The natural descendants of Abraham took for granted that they were the promised ‘seed’ of Abraham through whom all nations would be blessed. They could have been had they qualified under the terms of faith and obedience which the Lord laid down. But this great privilege was taken from them, and given to a new spiritual family, made up of individuals from all races according to the flesh. They are all begotten by God’s Spirit, and bound together in one family by the cords of faith and love. These, irrespective of race or color, are now the real seed of promise, the nation to whom the kingdom has been given.


In Romans 11:1-21 Paul presents essentially this same lesson, using the olive tree and its branches as an illustration. He refers to the descendants of Abraham as the natural branches in this tree, and notes that many of them were broken off because of unbelief. Then he speaks of “wild” branches which are grafted into the tree to take the places of those broken off. Thus he shows that by faith the ‘wild’ branches—those not previously the people of God—become partakers of the “fatness” of the tree. They inherit the exceeding great and precious promises which once belonged exclusively to the natural posterity of Abraham.

These are Abraham’s seed, however, upon the basis of faith. Continued faith and obedience are essential in order to maintain their position in the Divine arrangement of the seed. Paul wrote, “If God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.”—vs. 21


We can thank God for his assurance that the rejection of Israel as the exclusive heirs of the kingdom promises does not imply their loss of opportunity of salvation through the Redeemer, Christ Jesus. Paul explains that after the “fulness of the Gentiles be come in”—that is, after the full number designed by God to be associated with Jesus as joint-heirs in his kingdom, have been called from the world and fully prepared to reign with Christ—then, “all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”—vss. 25-27

Following the completion of God’s nation to which joint-heirship privileges of the kingdom are given—when this new race, or seed, will live and reign with Christ—all Gentiles will likewise be given the opportunity of salvation. Paul states, “Israel [according to the flesh] hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.”—Rom. 11:7

Israel sought to be the Messianic nation, the seed of promise, hence the channel of blessing to all the families of the earth. The promises of God justified the nation’s hopes along this line. However, in addition to these promises being conditional upon faith and obedience, they contained implications with respect to God’s plan of salvation which the Israelites did not perceive; namely, that the seed of blessing was to be a spiritual, not an earthly, seed.

It is this feature of the Divine plan that is referred to by Paul as a “mystery,” a mystery which he describes as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) This is simply another way of stating the thought of Romans 5:2, that through Christ we have “access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

The Apostle Peter words the same thought a little differently, saying that unto us are given “exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” (II Pet. 1:4) These promises belong to the sons of God, the family, or nation, to which the kingdom is given.

John wrote, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (I John 3:2,3) This Gospel Age family of God are to be like Christ, who, when he was raised from the dead, was highly exalted above angels and principalities, and was made the express image of the Father’s person.

As Jesus thus partook of the glory of God, so those to whom he gives power, or authority, to become sons of God, will likewise be exalted. Those of the Jewish nation who accepted him and espoused the Messianic cause were the first to be identified with this new and ‘holy nation.’ Throughout the entire age, the call of the Gospel has continued to go out to Jews and Gentiles alike. The invitation is to accept Christ as one’s personal Redeemer and Savior, deny self, and follow him into sacrificial death.

This invitation is described by Paul as the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14) It is a ‘high’ calling because those who are faithful to its terms—faithful even unto death—will receive a wonderful “prize,” the prize of joint-heirship with Jesus in his kingdom, to live and reign with him a thousand years.

Throughout past ages this aspect of the Divine plan remained a mystery. Besides, little did the posterity of Abraham realize that Gentiles would become fellow heirs of these glorious promises. This also remained a mystery until God’s due time came for revealing it.

What a privilege it is now to be “partakers of the heavenly calling.” (Heb. 3:1) But the conditions attached to this calling are exacting, and only through faithfulness even unto death may we hope to attain that for which we have been apprehended. Paul sounds a timely warning of this by reminding us that since many of the “natural branches” (Rom. 11:21) in the olive tree of promise were broken off because of unbelief, those who have been grafted in to take their places can also be broken off, and for the same reason. He says, therefore, “Be not highminded, but fear.”—Rom. 11:18-20


In our text Jesus said the kingdom would be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. These, of course, are the fruits of righteousness—evidences of faith in the promises of God, and of humble and loyal obedience to all the terms associated with them. As we have seen, God’s new nation, or race, is made up of those who, during the Gospel Age, become his “sons,” his children, and Paul emphasizes that one of the conditions of sonship is that “we suffer with him.”—Rom. 8:14,16,17

Suffering with Christ implies faithfulness in representing him as his ambassadors. Simply to believe in Christ is not enough. To rejoice in all that he means to us is not sufficient. He has commissioned his followers to be the “light of the world,” (Matt. 5:14) and if we let our light shine we will find, as Jesus did, that the darkness hateth the light, and that those who walk in darkness will oppose the Truth and those who proclaim it. This is, however, one of the conditions of sonship—‘if so be that we suffer with him.’

When the Apostle John wrote, ‘Beloved, now are we the sons of God,’ he added, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (I John 3:2,3) The ‘purity’ here mentioned by John is God’s own standard of righteousness, his will for his consecrated people. It means unqualified devotion to every precept and example of Truth and righteousness set before us in the Son of God. They are all summed up in the word love—unselfishness.

If we root out selfishness from our hearts, and seek to be filled and controlled by the principle of Divine love, we will find ourselves in full harmony with what Jesus referred to as “these sayings of mine” contained in his sermon on the mount. (Matt. 7:24) We will love our brethren, neighbors, and enemies. We will bless those who persecute us, and pray for those who despitefully use us. As the Heavenly Father bestows his blessings upon the just and the unjust, causing the sun to shine and the rain to fall upon all alike, so we will be impartial in our treatment of all, and thus be “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”—Matt. 5:48


Peter’s reference to those who compose God’s holy nation of this Gospel Age to whom the kingdom is given, is preceded by his explanation that we are “built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 2:5) Here, then, is another condition of being part of God’s holy nation—it is that we are expected to offer sacrifice.

This was foreshadowed in God’s dealings with ancient Israel. The priests of Israel were ordained to offer sacrifice, and now we are, as Peter says, “an holy priesthood,” and also “a royal priesthood.” (vss. 5,9) Israel’s priests offered animals—bullocks, goats, rams—in sacrifice, but we offer ourselves. Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”—Rom. 12:1


In Peter’s second epistle he again reminds us of the conditions attached to the heavenly promises of God. These promises are ‘exceeding great and precious,’ he tells us. By them we are made ‘partakers of the divine nature,’ but not irrespective of our faithfulness in bringing forth the ‘fruits’ of the kingdom.

In the third chapter of this epistle Peter says that we look for “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (vs. 13) Indeed, the promises of God give us authority to hope that, if faithful, we will be a part of that ‘new heavens.’ So, in view of this, Peter writes, “What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation [conduct] and godliness?”—vs. 11

‘What manner of persons ought ye to be?’ Peter asks. He has outlined this ‘what manner’ in chapter one. After reminding us of the precious promises of the Divine nature, he says that we should give “all diligence,” to add to our faith “virtue,” “knowledge,” “temperance,” “patience,” “godliness,” “brotherly kindness,” and “charity”—love. These are the fruits for which the Lord is looking in the lives of all who have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.

Peter confirms this, saying that “If these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.”—vss. 8,9

Israel according to the flesh lacked these things, which was one of the contributing causes of the blindness which prevented them from accepting their Messiah and meeting the conditions of joint-heirship with him. Now that this opportunity has come to us let us be sure that we do not lack these things, but that in humility and in full surrender to the Divine will, we allow the Spirit of God to work in us to will and to do his good pleasure, bringing forth these fruits of righteousness, the fruits of the kingdom.

We have been called and chosen for the high position of joint-heirship with Christ—Peter calls it our “calling and election.” (II Pet. 1:10) But those who will actually be partakers of the Divine nature and the glory of God, those who will sit on the throne with Christ, those who will be with him to reign a thousand years, must not only be “called, and chosen,” they must also be “faithful.”—Rev. 17:14

This being “faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:10) is what Peter describes as making our ‘calling and election sure.’ He admonishes us to ‘give diligence’ in order to do this. No halfhearted followers of the Master will be successful in making their calling and election sure. Only those who, like Paul, from the heart are able to say with enthusiasm, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”—Phil. 3:13,14

Peter says that if we give all diligence in doing “these things” we “shall never fall.” What a glorious assurance! God wants us to make our calling and election sure. It is his ‘good pleasure’ that we have an abundant ‘entrance’ into the kingdom. Because of this he will supply our needs in our struggle against the Devil and his wiles, give encouragement when we might become discouraged, wisdom to know his will, and the needed help to do it.

Surely the prospect for those to whom the Lord has given the kingdom is a glorious one. The nation to which it is given will soon be completed. Will we be in that nation as kings and priests to reign with Christ a thousand years? We will ‘if’ we give all diligence to make sure our calling and our election to that glorious position.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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