In the Fulness of Time/Part 8
By: Dr. Thomas Figart
|By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2007|
|Dr. Figart begins to describe and explain the eight blessings offered to true disciples in the “kingdom of heaven,” and found in Matthew 5:3-12 (commonly known as the Beatitudes).|
January 2000 has not ushered in a new Millennium, as we mentioned in the first article in this series. If I say I will complete 2000 laps on a running track, I have not done so after 1999 are finished; I must still complete lap 2000. The same is true with years; we do not enter a new millennium until the year 2000 is completed. Thus, the new millennium will begin January 1, 2001.
But we still will not know when the millennial kingdom of Christ will begin until He first returns in the air to receive His Church unto Himself (I Thessalonians 4:16-17); then a seven-year period of Great Tribulation on earth will run its course (Compare Daniel 9:24-27 with Matthew 24:18-21; Revelation 7:14-17). Immediately after the Tribulation of those days, the Lord shall return to earth and begin His earthly kingdom of a thousand years. (Compare Matthew 24:29-30 with Revelation 20:1-6.)
This is the “kingdom of heaven” Jesus was offering to the Jews in Matthew 5-7. He begins describing that kingdom by giving a list of eight blessings of true discipleship in His Kingdom (Matthew 5:3-12).
- Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The word “Blessed” which comes at the beginning of these verses is makarios, which in the Greek Old Testament is translated from the Hebrew asheray, “Oh the happiness” of such a person! (Psalm 1:1; 24:3-5; 119: 1-2). It thus represents a contented state as a gift of grace from God in the past, in spite of circumstances which may occur in the present, and because of the reality of reward in the future.
The word “poor” (ptochos) can mean financially needy, socially destitute or spiritually lowly (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, p. 577). Though all three things might conceivably be true of one and the same person, the context here would indicate primarily a spiritual quality, even as hunger and thirst in verse 6 are not physical, but spiritual. These are poor “in spirit” which would enforce the spiritual connotation. Jesus says that such persons are part of the kingdom of heaven; He does not infer that this is a requirement to obtain a place in that kingdom, but is stating a characteristic of those who are possessors of that kingdom. Later, in verse 20, He will state that a true righteousness is a requirement for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. However, there is little doubt that someone who is poor in spirit would be more likely to accept the righteousness provided by God, than would a proud person.
Context is all-important; this particular context is connected with Jesus’ preaching that the kingdom of heaven is “at hand” in 4:17. He is offering an earthly kingdom with Himself as King, in fulfillment of Isaiah 40:1-3 (just as John the Baptist preached in 3:1-3). Please remember that at this stage of His ministry Jesus did not include the “mysteries” of the kingdom, nor is there any hint of a two-thousand year (or more) hiatus before this kingdom will begin. No, to Jesus the kingdom is “at hand” now; it is ready to be set up, because He is the King!
So then, in His kingdom, as Isaiah prophesied, “I dwell . . . with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit” (57:15) “but to this man will I look, even to him that poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (66:2).
- Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted”
It is interesting to note that two non-dispensationalists writing on Matthew 5:4 (McNeile, p. 50 and Carson, p. 133) assign the fulfillment of this beatitude of mourning to some future consummation of the messianic hope, as prophesied in Isaiah 61:2, while one confessedly dispensational commentator (MacArthur, Vol. 1, pp. 53-65) spends a dozen pages applying this mourning to believers and unbelievers, stating that “the comfort of Matthew 5:4 is future only in the sense that the blessing comes after the obedience; the comfort comes after the mourning. As we continually mourn over sin, we shall be comforted—now, in this life” (p. 62; emphasis his).
In this instance we would agree with the more specific reference to the messianic fulfillment of Isaiah 61:2, except to add what has already been stated: Jesus was presenting an immediate kingdom in which He would “comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto those who mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning” (Isaiah 61:2-3). The historical fact of the rejection of His kingship does not take away from His promise. The rejection merely opens the way for this “comfort” to be fulfilled when the King returns. After all, even as McNeile has noted, in Luke 2:25 when Simeon was waiting for the “Consolation of Israel,” the Hebrew word menachem, or comforter, “is a name of the Messiah” (McNeile, pp. 50- 51). Jesus Himself remarked in John 14:16, “I will pray the Father, and he shall send you another Comforter (allos, another of the same kind), that he may abide with you forever.” This means that He, the Messiah, was the Comforter for those who mourn. When He lamented over Jerusalem after His rejection in Matthew 23:37, He said, “O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem,…how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” But blessed be His Name, when He returns in all His glory, those who mourn in Israel will be comforted!
- Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
As in the previous beatitude, both Carson (pp. 133-134) and McNeile (p. 51) refer this inheritance of the earth to the future messianic kingdom, but their idea of the “earth” is the new earth of Revelation 21. MacArthur, on the other hand, expends an entire chapter (pp. 167-176) defining and applying “meekness” to the believer today, but eventually does see the “inherit” aspect as being fulfilled in the future millennial kingdom. Both of these approaches have neglected the basic context of Christ’s presentation of Himself as offering the kingdom of heaven right then, and is thus describing characteristics of kingdom saints and what they would have received as part of that kingdom right away!
There certainly is value in teaching comprehensively the usage of the word praies, or meekness. R. C. Trench, in Synonyms of the New Testament, summarizes as being “not a man’s outward behaviour only, nor yet in his relations to his fellow men; as little in his mere natural disposition. Rather, it is an inwrought grace of the soul, and the exercises of it are first and chiefly toward God” (p. 15). Trench goes on to show how this grace manifests itself in life. But the context of Matthew 5:5 is connected with one of the outcomes of Christ’s earthly kingdom, namely, inheritance of the earth. Jesus is merely quoting Psalm 37:11, 22, 25, “But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Then in Psalm 37:29, “The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein forever.” When these verses are compared with Psalm 2:8-9, “Ask of me and I shall give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” it can hardly be denied that Messiah will reign over the nations geographically located on the earth, and that the meek will be co-heirs with Him of that inheritance! To the Jews of that generation this would mean deliverance of their land from Rome, and the re-establishing of the throne of David as promised in the Old Testament.
Hang in there, folks, this is only the first three of eight blessings promised by the King of the Kingdom of heaven, all of which will be literally fulfilled “In the fulness of time.”