Kingdom of God: 9

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Peter was not to suppose that to sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, was the only reward that the glorified Son of man will distribute at His coming. The fact is, that Peter himself, and the other apostles, as members of Christ's body, of His flesh, and of His bones, coheirs with Him and with all who are His members thus, will inherit a higher place of glory than the sitting on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Peter would, as it were, have made our compact with our Lord; and had he been excluded from all that is not comprised in the promise here made to him, there are glories in which he would not have shared, which fall to the lot of us poor sinners of the Gentiles. Peter was to understand that there would be others to be rewarded besides the apostles; yea, and he was not to suppose that because the apostles were first in order of time, their reward would necessarily be greater than that of those who came after them. “But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first. For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder,” &c. (20:1-16). If we seek to make the Lord our debtor, we must not complain if we find that He gives us barely what we agree with Him for, and gives quite as much to others who enter the vineyard almost at the close of the day. The “kingdom of heaven” is clearly distinguished here from “the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory.” It is in the kingdom of heaven that the service is rendered—the labor accomplished—which meets its reward in “the regeneration,” when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory.
The request preferred by the mother of Zebedee's children, in verses 20, 21 of this chapter, is another expression of the same spirit which our Lord had been correcting in the parable of the laborers. The blessed Savior assures them that they shall drink of His cup and be baptized with His baptism; but the place they shall fill in His kingdom He leaves to His Father's will. He takes occasion from the whole to put in contrast the ways of the Gentiles, of which these disciples so much savored, and the ways of His kingdom in its present mysterious state. He, the King, came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many; and what but to tread in His steps can become those who are the subjects, during His rejection, of the kingdom of heaven.
The beginning of chapter 21 presents us with a little pledge of that future kingdom which awaits our Lord, when the whole nation shall say, what the multitude of the disciples then said: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest!” Full proof was given at once, however, that the nation was not ready for that kingdom then. The very cries of the children in the temple who said Hosanna awoke the indignation of the chief priests and scribes: “they were sore displeased.” The kingdom could not therefore be then set up in power, and the glory of it be introduced. Nevertheless a kingdom had come nigh to them; and our Lord, by the parable of the two sons, to whom the Father said, “Go, work to-day in my vineyard,” presses on His hearers the solemn truth that the publicans and harlots were more ready to go into the kingdom of God than the most religious people of that day.
In the next parable, verses 33-44, Jesus takes a review of all God's dealings with that nation. He had let out His vineyard to husbandmen, and sent, time after time, to receive the fruits; but of His servants they beat one, and kill another, and are now about to slay the Son and Heir whom the owner of the vineyard had last of all sent, saying, “They will reverence my Son.” What can be done to these husbandmen by the Lord of the vineyard? Even they themselves answer: “He will miserably destroy these wicked men, and will let out His vineyard to other husbandmen, which shall render Him the fruits in their seasons.” How solemn the reply of Jesus! “Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”
All hope of Israel's present reception of the kingdom, as promised to those of old time, being thus cut off, our Lord goes on in chapter 22 to present another likeness, or comparison, of the “kingdom of heaven” which was to intervene between that crisis and the one yet future, when the Son of man shall be revealed, and sit upon the throne of His glory. A marriage feast made ready by the king in honor of His son, and His servants sent out to invite the guests, is a different thing from a vineyard let out to husbandmen, and the servants sent to require the fruit. But alas! the heart of man has no worthier answer to the grace and goodness of the one than to the just and righteous claims of the other. They make light of the invitation, and spitefully entreat and slay the servants who are the bearers of it. This fills up the measure of their iniquity, and the king sends forth His armies (the Romans) and destroys those murderers, and burns up their city. But is His grace to be disappointed, and His table unfurnished with guests? No: the servants are sent out into the highways to gather together all, as many as they find, good and bad, and in the end the wedding is furnished with guests. Precious testimony of the grace which now gathers us, irrespective of what we are, to share the feast and enjoy the blessedness which God, of His own grace, and for the honor of His Son, has prepared for us! One solemn word there is at the close of this parable (may our hearts deeply and fully learn it!), that, even as the freeness of the invitation is all the warrant we need to enter, so surely, if that has reached our hearts and wrought effectually there, the wedding garment will be worn by us as our only title to sit at the table. Christ will be all our confidence, all our hope. It is this that distinguishes between the real and the fictitious, the true and the false, in the kingdom of heaven.
In chapter 32:13 the Lord denounces a fearful woe upon the scribes and Pharisees, because they will not enter this kingdom of heaven themselves, and because they do what they can to hinder others from entering in besides.
The remaining notices of the kingdom, and parables respecting it in chapters 24, 25 and 26 of this Gospel, have been already so fully discussed in the paper on the Gospel according to Matthew, page 121, vol. 1 of “The Prospect,” that I would simply refer the reader to its contents, and here, for the present, close my remarks. It may be that, if the Lord should tarry, opportunity may be afforded of going through the other Gospels also, noticing any points of difference in the light in which they present the kingdom, as compared with this Gospel of Matthew; and touching upon the passages in the Acts and Epistles too. But this is in our Father's hands. May He, of His grace, make all our inquiries into His precious word effectual to the sanctification of our souls, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake! Amen. (concluded from p. 92)