(Mt. 21:43) Is Jesus saying that the Jews are permanently out of God’s plan, because they rejected the Messiah?

CLAIM: Amillennial interpreters argue that the Jews forfeit the Abrahamic covenant and the Davidic covenant, because they rejected God’s messiah. They support this view by pointing to passages in Matthew 21:43, where Jesus says, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.”

RESPONSE: We agree with D.A. Carson who writes, “Strictly speaking… [this passage] does not speak of transferring the locus of the people of God from Jews to Gentiles.” Instead, he writes, “It speaks of the ending of the role the Jewish religious leaders played in mediating God’s authority.”[1] So true! Immediately after hearing this, the religious leaders knew Jesus was speaking about them: “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them” (Mt. 21:45).

These three parables in Matthew 21 show the culpability of the religious leaders, and their replacement by those who have faith. Earlier, Jesus told the religious leaders,

“Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him” (Mt. 21:31-32).

The prostitutes and tax collectors were Jewish people. The problem with the religious leaders was their unbelief—not their nationality. In addition, other considerations are in view:

First, the “you” refers to the religious leaders of JESUS’ TIME—not ALL Jews for ALL TIME. Jesus is casting judgment on the current religious leaders in Israel—not the future generation of Israel at the end of history. He was casting judgment on the Jews in earshot—not the Jews in future history.

Second, as in the Old Testament, individuals could reject their portion of an unconditional covenant (because of unbelief), but this would not invalidate the ultimate fulfillment of the promise. God didn’t work through these Jews, but he will work through those Jews at the end of history. In the OT, Esau forfeited his inheritance as an individual, but the nation did not forfeit its inheritance as a whole. Because these men in the first century were unrepentant, they would not enter the kingdom of God (the church). Jesus said the same thing to Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3).

Third, the “people who will produce its fruit” are the people who will serve God’s agenda at that time. In Jesus’ day, the nation of Israel was unwilling to get on board with God’s agenda. At the end of history, the Gentiles will be unwilling to get on board with his agenda. Therefore, this isn’t a permanent curse on Israel. It is a temporary curse on them. Thomas notes, “In the NT the singular noun ethnos [i.e. ‘people’], when unqualified by other words such as ‘nation against nation’ (Matt 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:10) and ‘every nation of humankind’ (Acts 17:26), usually refers to Israel.”[2] This interpretation would fit with Jesus’ woes against “this generation” in Matthew 23:36.

[1] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 454). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] Robert Thomas, Perspectives on Israel and the Church: 4 Views (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group), 72.