Matthew 8:11-12 is an interesting and important text in the discussion of eschatology. There are 5 key points that make this text powerful in exposing the weakness of end times paradigms that focus on the future. From these two verses we can learn of the time of Jesus' return, the resurrection, coming of the kingdom, role of Israel and a response to the charge of replacement theology.
Occasion of the Text
The verses appear between a conversation Jesus had with a Roman centurion who desired help for his paralyzed servant. His faith in Jesus was so strong that he confidently asked the Lord to heal by his word without making a personal visit to his home.
As one with the power of command through a "single" word, he correctly reasoned Jesus' could do the same. The Lord was so impressed that he stated such faith was not found even in Israel. The following words were spoken just before Jesus healed the servant.
And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The Eschatological Gathering
The statement is pregnant with eschatology. The gathering of the elect from the east and west cites the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 49:12. The prophet spoke of this eschatological gathering where the "sheep" (faithful of the Lord) would eat and drink from the pastures along the roads of Zion. (Isa. 49:10-11; Rev. 7:13-16). The Revelation text leaves no doubt as to the eschatological nature of this gathering.
The reference to the source text of Isaiah 49:10-12, shows we're talking about the fulfillment of O.T. prophecy. There is nothing accidental about the events named here. Jesus' taught only those things written in the Law and the Prophets as the basis of His eschatology. The Apostles later did the same, (Acts 24:14-15; 26:13-14, 22-23).
Related texts are found in Matthew 24:27, 31, where the subject is the gathering of the elect at the return of Christ. Luke's account mentions the gathering would come from the east, west, north and south corresponding to the four winds of Matthew 24:31. This text is important because many Christian Zionists see it as a future Rapture text.
It goes without question that the historical and cultural setting for the text is the land of Israel. The parallel passage in Luke specifically mentions those with who literally ate, drank and were taught in their streets in the Presence of Jesus. (Luke 13:26). This identifies the contemporary setting and locale of the people and the prophecy.
What city, state or nation of recent history can claim they ate and drank in Jesus' presence? What people living to day or at any time after the first century can claim Jesus literally taught them in their streets? Has he been to New York City, Park Avenue or Broadway? Did he ever set foot in Rome? Has he been to the modern settler occupation since 1948?
We must rule out every single contemporary place of recent times following the first century. Only one generation can claim Jesus broke bread and sipped with them. Only one generation can claim Jesus taught in their streets. It is the one who lived when he was alive on earth. This is crucial to what follows in the passage.
Sitting Down With Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
The phrase "sit down" with Abraham Isaac and Jacob is also eschatological and points to the place to which the believers are gathered. We do not have to guess. It is in the kingdom of God. They are made to sit upon thrones with the Patriarchs in the kingdom.
So now, we must converge these two facts. As discussed in point one, Jesus would gather from among those in whose streets he taught and with whom he ate. We identified these as the people of Judaea living in the first century generation for at no other time or of any other people could such be true.
They would be joined with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom. This raises the question. Where was Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?
Resurrection from Hades
The Patriarchs were in Hades at the time Jesus spoke the words of the text. They were hoping for their resurrection out of Hades, into the kingdom of God. This hope was yet alive over thirty years later expressed in their desire for a heavenly city whose builder and maker is God, (Heb. 10:13-16).
Their release from Hades equates with resurrection, for Hades is viewed as death (separation from God's Presence, Hos. 13:14; 1 Cor. 15:55). Jesus became the Mediator of the new covenant through his death that he might redeem those who died in faith so they could received the promised eternal inheritance i.e. the kingdom (Heb. 9:15; 11:39-40).
The Fate of the Unbelieving Sons of the Kingdom
At the very time Jesus would gather his elect from the four winds to join Abraham Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom, he would also "cast out" the "sons of the kingdom". Who are these sons? If we remain true to our analysis of the context, the culture and the people, the sons of the kingdom would be other descendants of Abraham, i.e the Judeans.
Remember, Jesus had gone through their villages as he journeyed toward Jerusalem, (Lk. 13:22). He had taught in Capernaum, and other local cities of Israel.
Why are they cast out? It is because of their unbelief and rejection of Jesus as their Messiah and the Son of God. What is important is that the time of their casting out equals the same time of the entrance of the believers into the kingdom with the Patriarchs.
In the parable of the vineyard, Jesus spoke again of the time when the "sons of the kingdom" would be cast out. "...Therefore, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it." (Matt. 21:33-46). When the Pharisees heard it, they understood he had spoken of them. They even planned to kill him for stating they would be cut off from the inheritance of Abraham, i.e. the equivalent of removing them from covenant favor and God's Presence.
It is generally unanimous that this parable along with Matthew 8:12 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. While a remnant of Israel was saved via their belief in Christ, the rest of the nation suffered the fate of banishment from God and destruction through the Roman invasion in the first century.
A Prophecy of the Kingdom Fulfillment
Isaiah 49:10-12 as demonstrated above is the fulfillment of the kingdom of God when the patriarchs sit down or inherit the kingdom. Since the time equates with the casting out of the unbelieving Jews in A.D. 70, it proves there was no postponement of the kingdom. See also Lk. 21:31, 32. The kingdom arrived on time and in time as the prophets stated.
The many who came from the east and west, north and south to sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were the faithful in Israel who accepted Jesus as the Messiah. They are the remnant from among Israelites, elsewhere called the "firstfruits" or "firstborn" ones. No other believers (Christians) could be called firstfruits because the term means the first of anything. Thus only first century Christians are firstfruits, (Jas. 1:18; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 14:4)
The Disabling of Christian Zionism
These facts above which cannot be successfully challenged from Scripture, demonstrate the fallacy of Dispensational Christian Zionism. Gathering from the four winds harmonizes the texts of Matt. 8:11 with Matt. 24:31. The latter is claimed to be the Rapture according to Christian Zionism (the belief that the modern settler state occupying Palestine is prophetic as God's chosen people).
However, Jesus stated the text was fulfilled when the "sons of the kingdom" i.e. the Judeans were "cast out" in A.D. 70. That also proves that the time parameter of Matthew 24:34 is an accurate chronological boundary placing the fulfillment of the text before the first century generation passed away. That means if there were such a doctrine as the Rapture, it would have occurred almost 2000 years ago.
Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place." (Matt. 24:34).
- The gathering of Matt. 24:31 = the gathering of Matt. 8:11-12 when the sons of the kingdom (Judeans) are cast out
- The gathering of Matt. 8:11-12 was fulfilled in A.D. 70 when Rome destroyed Jerusalem.
- Therefore, the gathering of Matthew 8:1-12 and 24:31 were fulfilled before the first century generation passed away.
Once Matthew 24:31 has been removed from the Dispensational prophetic landscape, Christian Zionism falls to the dust. Matthew 24:31 is accepted as in harmony with John 14:1-3, 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thess 4. By it's connection with Matthew 8:11-12, it guides the time application of these texts.
The Myth of Replacement Theology
Matthew 8:11-12 refutes any notion of replacement theology. We have demonstrated that the text is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah 49:10-12. The gathering of the elect into the kingdom was not postponed. The kingdom arrived in the first century, when Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were raised into it. That is the same time, the non-believing Jews were cast out as we've shown above equates with the destruction of the Jewish state by Titus Caesar in A.D. 70.
The remnant from Israel entered it with the Patriarchs. They were neither cast out nor cast away but received into the kingdom. Those who did so became the body of Christ initially formed with Jews only in the beginning (Acts 11:19) but later included the Gentiles. (Acts 10)This is true Israel.
As the remnant, they obtained the promises. "What then? Israel [unbelieving] has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect [Jew and Gentile believers in Christ] have obtained it, and the rest [unbelieving Israel] were blinded. (Rom. 11:7)
Note that Paul writes this to the first century church saying they had obtained what Israel sought. They had not received Palestine. That means the Judean's true promise was not Palestine. Rather, it was the kingdom of God per Matt. 8:11-12. It was not the city of Jerusalem as their capital. Hebrews recorded: "For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one [about, mello] to come". (Heb. 13:14).
When that text was written, the Judeans were yet in Palestine. However, the church had left the city for refuge from the persecutions. They were not seeking it. In contrast, they were at that very time receiving the kingdom (the city about to come, Heb. 12:28, 13:14).
In Romans 11, Paul quoted the Old Testament showing how the prophets spoke of Israel's blindness in refusing to accept Jesus as their Messiah.
Just as it is written: 'God has given them a spirit of stupor; eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day.' And David says: 'Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a recompense to them. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, and bow down their back always.
Israel's blindness was not a failure on Jesus' part but it was the fulfillment of the prophets.
Matthew 8:11-12 is a remarkable text which speaks about the regathering of Israel to their Messiah. Not one word relates to 1948. The contextual time parameters, cultural setting and people of this text are as far removed from the settler occupation as the earth is from the sun and the two shall never meet in Scripture.
The text is rooted in O.T. prophecy, and proves there is no postponement of the kingdom or hint of replacement theology. It identifies the time of the resurrection and clearly posits the fulfillment of the events in A.D. 70, in connection with Rome's defeat of the ancient Judeans.
The goal was never land, (terrestrial) but the kingdom of God, which the first century saints inherited while their unbelieving brethren were blinded, cast out and disinherited because of unbelief.