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by James Martin Gray
About four hundred years have elapsed since Malachi, and no prophet has arisen in Israel. We left Israel under the dominion of the Persians, which was soon followed by the Grecians including the Syrian period in which Antiochus Epiphanes flourished, and the Maccabees, about one hundred and fifty to one hundred and seventy years before Christ. Then came the Roman period when the Messiah appeared.
At the outset, remember that the Old Testament promised an earthly Kingdom to Israel when the Messiah came, and for which the faithful were looking. Jesus was the Messiah though they knew Him not, and He had come to set up that Kingdom. Moreover, from the beginning of His ministry down to a certain point to be named later, He proceeds on the assumption that the Kingdom has come if the nation will receive him. He is not received, but rejected, whereupon He changes the character of His teaching. He then begins to speak of the church instead of the Kingdom, and to lay plans, humanly speaking, for the formation of a new body of people altogether. This body is composed of Gentiles as well as Jews, who sustain a peculiar relation to Him while the Kingdom is in abeyance, and indeed forevermore.
That phrase, “the Kingdom in abeyance,” means that the Kingdom promised in the Old Testament is yet to be set up on this earth in Israel, with Jesus, the Messiah, at its head. This will be when Israel, punished and repentant, shall receive Him by faith as all the prophets have spoken. In the meantime the church comes into view, with a unique origin, history and destiny, concerning which the New Testament treats almost exclusively.
THE TRANSITION GOSPEL
How then shall we place Matthew’s Gospel? Can we do better than to speaking of it as covering the transition period, i.e., the period including the rejection of the Kingdom by Israel and the coming into view of the church after the resurrection of our Lord?
Keep in mind that Matthew is writing for the Jewish people, and is seeking, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to present Jesus to them as the One who fulfills the Old Testament features of the Messiah. For this reason the first Gospel is sometimes called the Gospel of the Kingdom, because more than any other, it dwells upon that aspect of the truth.
But this suggests that each of the Gospels has its own viewpoint of the history and work of the Savior, to appreciate which is important in the study of that Gospel. In the Old Testament the Coming One is alluded to in different ways, but they have been reduced to four, as for example: He is the King of Israel, He is the Servant of Jehovah, He is the Son of Man, and He is the Son of God. This classification reappears in the Gospels, and as we shall see, Matthew reveals Him in the first particular, Mark in the second, Luke in the third and John in the fourth.
1. How long an interim has taken place since Malachi?
2. Give an outline history of Israel during this period.
3. How does the Messiah change His teaching at a certain point, and why?
4. What is meant by “the Kingdom in abeyance”?
5. What period does Matthew’s Gospel cover?
6. For what class of people is he writing?
7. What is this Gospel called, and why?
8. How may the other Gospels be classified?
the First Week of Advent