“And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east, and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Agreeable to the request of our correspondent, William Dine, of Ohio, we present to our readers such views as we have on the passage proposed above. After our Lord had delivered to his disciples what is commonly called his sermon on the mount, and had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. The miracles which he wrought had produced much excitement among the people, insomuch that he had taken occasion to retire from the crowd and to instruct his disciples alone in the discourse, the record of which occupies the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of this evangelist. But the eager multitudes were ready to crowd around him again as soon as he returned from his retirement. The multitudes appear to have been composed of a variety of classes of the community, and among them the comparatively small band of his disciples, others desiring to be healed of their infirmities and some undoubtedly to gratify their curiosity. Some of the vast assemblage were Jews, some Samaritans and some Gentiles, Scribes, and Pharisees, publicans and sinners. Among the rest a centurion, or commander of a small party of Roman soldiers, the captain of one hundred men; this man seemed deeply impressed with a sense of his own unworthiness to receive so distinguished a guest under his roof, besought him on behalf of his servant who was grievously tormented with palsy, that he would speak the word only and he was perfectly confident that his servant would be healed. At this display of unexampled faith and that, too, in an officer in the Roman army, a poor Gentile sinner, our Lord said that he had not found such faith; no, not in Israel. And then he added the words which are placed at the head of this article.
“And I say unto you.” The sayings which he uttered were of the very highest authority; their truth and power were inferrable from the fact that they proceeded from his unerring lips. They were addressed to the great multitudes which followed him, and were full of comfortable instruction to the poor Gentiles who had hitherto been unaccustomed to receive such intimations that God had a people among them which should be called by his grace and made meet to be partakers with the children of light. This instance of a Gentile sinner having faith in Christ should not stand solitary and alone upon the future records of the grace of God abounding to the chief of sinners. “And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west.” This declaration though new to the astonished multitudes was well known to him, when as yet there were no depths, and before the worlds were made. It was embraced in the settlements of eternity not only that many should come from the east and the west, but also that the “north should give up, and the south should not keep back His sons should come from far, and his daughters from the ends of the earth; even every one that is called by 1,18 name; for I have created him; for my glory I have formed him. Yea, I have made him, saith the Lord.” Isa. xliii. 5-7. Again, chapter xl. 3, “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” Again in Isa. xli. 9, “And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people; all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.” Compare these predictions of Isaiah with the words of Christ in John vi. 37. “All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me, and he that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” And also Jno. x. 16, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd.” Our text assures us that many shall come, and John who saw them in his vision says that no man can number them, and this assurance is sufficient for the faith of God’s elect, the promise embraces, “every one that is called by my name.” Every such one God has created for his glory, and Christ has promised that he will raise them up at the last day. The promise is therefore to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
“And shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of heaven, though prepared for the heirs of glory as an inheritance before the foundation of the world, was not seen descending from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride for her husband, until in the order of time Christ had redeemed the subjects of it from under the law, and freely justified them through the redemption which is in him. When he had done and suffered all the demands of law and justice on their behalf, and had risen from the dead for their justification, he ascended up on high, and in that exaltation he told his disciples that he went to receive the kingdom. His Father had appointed him a kingdom, and he had appointed unto them a kingdom in like manner; and it was the Father’s good pleasure to give the kingdom to his little flock. This is the kingdom which Daniel said the God of heaven should set up, that should never be destroyed, and it is frequently in the New Testament called the kingdom of heaven. Christ says that it is not of this world; John says it come from God out of heaven, and Jesus says it was prepared for them who are on his right hand from the foundation of the world. A more particular description in agreement with our text is given in Hebrews xii. 18-29. In this the inspired writer says to those who have come and still are coming to sit down in it, “For ye are not come to the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more,” etc. showing that the kingdom of Heaven, the gospel church, is not set up under the Levitical priesthood, nor under the Sinai covenant, for under that dispensation all was toil and labor, no rest, no sitting down. But in the setting up of the gospel kingdom Moses the servant is dead, Jordan is passed, and Canaan is entered. Sinai’s thunders are hushed, the voice of words which terrified the carnal Israelites are no more spoken, but these who have “come from the east and the west are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” etc. This mount Sion, this heavenly Jerusalem, this city of the living God, is the kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom into which all the redeemed of the Lord out of every nation, kindred, language, and tongue are brought, when translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. And hither they are brought not to terrors and toils of the law, but to the rest and liberty of the gospel of Christ; and here they sit down in the kingdom of heaven, though they were strangers and foreigners, they are made nigh by the blood of Christ. They are born of the spirit, and by that birth qualified for spiritual enjoyments. Except a man be born again he cannot see this kingdom; except he be born of the water and of the spirit he cannot enter into it. Christ is himself the door, by him they enter, and he gives to them eternal life, and they shall never perish; the kingdom into which they have come is an everlasting kingdom, and a dominion that can never end. They are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of faith. Their fellow-citizens and associates in this heavenly Jerusalem are an innumberable company of angels, in general assembly convened, including all the church of the First Born which are written in heaven, the spirits of just men made perfect are included in this general assembly, consequently Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob are there, and with them are poor Gentile sinners, redeemed from sin and wrath, by the blood of Christ and called by grace, renewed by the spirit, and taught of God, sit down. The patriarchs and prophets and all the Old Testament saints are equally with those of the present dispensation, interested savingly in Jesus the Mediator of the New Testament, and in the blood of sprinkling which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel. Hence they all sit down together in this kingdom of Heaven, as the spiritual and loyal subjects of the king whom God has set upon his holy hill Zion. Here they receive a kingdom which cannot be moved, in which:
“The saints on earth, and all the dead
But one communion make;
All join in Christ, their living Head,
And of his grace partake.”
Christ as the Mediator has but one kingdom that we are informed of, and that kingdom embraces all which are written in heaven. The spirits of many of the justified family of God are now above, some of them are still upon these low grounds of sorrow and affliction; and some, we hope, are yet to come from the east and west until every one that is called by his name, and created for his glory take their seats with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Nor can these seats be deranged. The sons of Zebedee could not be accommodated according to the desire of their fond mother; for the seats were already appropriated, and shall be given to those for whom they were prepared by the Father. So perfect and complete are the provisions of grace and mercy, in the preparation of the kingdom and destination of its subjects that no change can improve it. No other disposition of the seats will ever be made, for God who had designated the occupant of each is of one mind, and changeth not. His plans cannot be improved, for they are established in infinite wisdom and goodness.
But in the consummation of all this gracious purpose, “the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness.” By the children of the kingdom which shall be cast out we understand the fleshly decendants of these holy patriarchs, the Old covenant was to give place to the new. The Old Jerusalem was to be destroyed and her subjects scattered abroad in outer darkness, their temple prostrated, their rites and peculiar institutions abolished, and the handwriting thereof blotted out. This had long been predicted, and the execution of the predictions was near at hand when Jesus made the declaration in our text. Their organization as a kingdom or commonwealth was but a limited one, and by its original limitation was to continue only until the Shiloh should come, and at his advent the gatherings of his people should be unto him. He should gather his sheep from all the regions of Judea, and them also which were not of that fold, he also must gather, and the carnal Israelites should be driven into outer or heathenish darkness utterly dispossessed of all their former privileges, in darkness and blindness, to remain until the fullness of the Gentiles shall be gathered in.
“There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In the execution of the judgments of God upon them, they would weep; but not with that penitential grief which results from godly sorrow for their sins, but that sorrow which is of the world, which worketh death, and which is connected with gnashing with their teeth. While smarting in keen anguish under the mighty hand of their avenging God, they would resent his righteous judgments and blaspheme his holy name. This has been clearly exemplified in their rejection and crucifixion of Christ, and in their bitter persecution against the apostles and early saints; and their settled opposition to the cause of christianity down to the present day.
Perhaps we have written enough to express to our friend, Dine, and to our readers in general, what are our views of the text. If our views were better, more lucid, and clear, he and they should be just as welcome to them. They are such, however, as we have, and we only ask that they may be read carefully and prayerfully, tried by the unerring standard, and received only so far as we have been enabled to present them in harmony with the word and spirit of truth and righteousness.
May 1, 1854
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 68 - 74