By James Fire
CHAPTER FOUR –
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, it wasn’t merely the arrival of the Son of God Who would bring the Gospel message to fallen man, for the redemption of souls; it was a Holy Invasion into enemy territory with the intent of defeating Satan, the ruler of the rebel world system, as was promised as early as . . .
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Satan being expert in the Scriptures, knowing full well what they said, realized the implications of the prophetic Word and understood that the Babe of Bethlehem would be the One to confront him in what would seem to be the Battle of the Ages, the War of all wars, the Supreme Strategy that would end, if he couldn’t stop it, the reign of sin.
Not long after the birth of creation, the enemy had observed Adam and Eve quite carefully. I’m sure before he made his decisive move of deception, approaching the woman with his enticements and allure for godhood – self rule, rather than being ruled by God – he looked long and hard for the weakest spot at the weakest moment. With the weapons in his arsenal he brought the human race to devastation and took out his rival, Adam – whom the LORD God gave stewardship over Earth and Satan obtained it for himself.
Likewise Satan must have watched Jesus throughout His childhood and adult life with singular focus and a keen eye for any sign of weakness whereupon he could launch his attack. When the LORD Jesus took that long, dusty trek from Galilee and into Judea and to the Jordan River, the devil kept vigil and observed this Promised One as He submitted Himself for baptism and heard the Voice of God proclaiming “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
The enemy, no doubt, sat up and took notice as he watched the Spirit of the LORD descend upon Him and then immediately led Him into the wilderness – and Satan would meet Him there.
A celestial audience of angels, holy and evil must have been in attendance for the colossal confrontation between the Messiah of Israel and the god of this world – it would be a ‘winner takes all’ sort of fight.
Satan knew that the Scriptures foretold that the Messiah would one day rule the entire world – the world that he now governed according to his own pernicious precepts and odious ordinances of the kingdom of darkness.
He also observed that Jesus had taken upon a fast that lasted weeks – a fast of forty days would bring a human body to the very edge of starvation.
This Jesus had never, up until that point, exercised His divine powers. For thirty years He lived as a mere commoner, a seemingly feeble human weakling no different than these others that populated the world. The enemy then decided his means of attack . . .
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
Some think that Satan emphasized the word “If . . .” in his temptation, but I have the suspicion that the emphasis was on “. . . GOD . . .”
It was an appeal to Jesus to use His Divine power to gratify His own hunger and this would be a powerful temptation for One Who is the Creator, especially a starving Creator who trembled with the weakness of His denied bodily needs for nourishment; in the blink of an eye He could have transformed that wasteland into mountains of bread. He Who made man from the dust of the earth could easily have done so!
Rather than succumb to this seduction, the Messiah replied, not with a pronouncement of power in rebuking the devil, but with the power of the Word of God!
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Why did the LORD use the Scriptures rather than His own power to rebuke the devil? I believe there are two primary reasons why. As verse one indicated, this was a testing of the Son of God and the Tempter was utilized by God the Father to do the testing.
If any one could find a flaw (theoretically) – other than the searching Eternal and flaming eyes of God Himself – it would be the chief enemy of God!
The other reason why the LORD answered with the Word of God: As our role model, He would not employ His own power of Deity, for we would obviously be unable to mimic such a demonstration and use power we don’t possess in ourselves.
Yet we could likewise employ the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit in our own battles against the enemy. And this, according to the admonition of Paul is precisely what we ought to do when confronted by the principalities and powers in the domain of darkness (Eph. 6:17; James 4:7).
Man shall live by bread, that is, his physical body requires physical needs such as sustenance and sleep – just as God designed it, but these should never take priority over spiritual needs and the greatest of these priorities is God Himself, and His Word – the Bread of Life.
Psychology talks about the hierarchy of needs which esteem physical needs over those higher needs as stipulated by God’s Word. Secular wisdom dictates physical needs come first, and later on emotional and spiritual needs once these others are procured.
The LORD Jesus taught the multitudes all sorts of spiritual truth, and at the end of days of such teaching, He turned to His disciples and told them to provide them some food so that they wouldn’t faint on the way back to their own homes (Matt. 15:31-39)! He told them to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and then all these other (physical needs) will be added especially unto such (Matt. 6:25-31) by God that brings rain upon all and opens His hand to meet provisions for all the inhabitants of the Earth.
Note what the LORD said, “. . . but by EVERY word . . . of . . . GOD” which tells us that there should never be ‘New Testament only’ Christians, or those who deem little value in prophetic Scripture or those who would esteem extra-biblical and apocryphal books as having spiritual value. This verse in our text also testifies to the inspiration of the Scriptures, for the LORD stated, that that which proceeded out of the mouth of God, was written down in Scripture such as Deuteronomy 8:3 which the LORD quoted here.
The base needs of man, and the enemy’s temptation to satiate His flesh failed Satan who then moved on to a greater temptation to assail the Son of God with . . .
5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
Note here that Satan engages in some repartee; he has seen that Jesus used the Word of God to deny both the temptation as well as the ideology of such worldly, fleshly thinking and motivations, so now as he took the LORD up to the pinnacle of the Temple, he challenges Jesus to cast Himself down, because, after all . . . “it is written . . .” and he quoted Psalm 91:11-12; yet if one reads this passage in context, the meaning is far different than that which the devil employed. He basically took this out of context – something that Satan has done repeatedly as far back as the Garden of Eden.
Psalm 91 is all about how the LORD God will protect Israel in any dangers that present themselves to His people; this was NOT a license for any one, much less the Servant of YHWH to act presumptuously and commit an act that would seem to force God to move in order to protect a daring fool.
Imagine if the LORD Jesus had done as Satan had bid; such a sight of a man plummeting down from that pinnacle, only to come to rest mere inches off the ground, held up by invisible forces and then gently set down would be a miracle that would have won Him instant notoriety and fame . . . but He did not come to please Himself, but firstly and always to please the Father (John 8:29) and secondarily to minister to the needs of humanity, namely, the great need of salvation.
There are some that state, and with considerable justification, that in vs. 7 the LORD is admitting to His own Deity, that is, Satan is putting “the LORD thy GOD (the SON) to a foolish test”. The first temptation that appealed to the flesh and its needs failed; the second temptation to appeal to the ego likewise failed. The enemy had one last temptation that no doubt, he considered to be the ‘Ace up his sleeve’ . . .
8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
I wonder which “high mountain” the devil took our LORD to. And how was it that he showed the LORD all the kingdoms of the world? Was it a vision that Satan gave to Him or what? Nothing in the text shows exactly what happened either way, we only know that by some means, Satan revealed all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus.
Imagine the pomp and splendor of all those kingdoms, but what no doubt grabbed Jesus’ interest even more, were the souls that populated those cities. After all, this was the very reason why He came, why the Father sent Him – for Their love for this world of lost and miserable and wretched souls.
And the devil was ready to deliver them all into the hands of Jesus, for Him to rule over – and without a bloody, messy, painful cross to endure. Isn’t this just like our great enemy! He often tempts us with things for us to enjoy in the here and now, rather than having us go the long road – to deny ourselves, and pleasures and fulfillments – so that the LORD may be glorified by our obedience to His will.
Often we must endure a cross of our own, and that’s when the enemy whispers in our ear to have sympathy for ourselves; he speaks the same words to us as he did through the lips of Peter (‘Oh no, let this never be! Don’t allow this terrible thing to happen to you!’ Matt. 16:22).
Satan offering the world to the LORD (on a sin-stained platter?) would be an empty boast if he didn’t actually own the world (2 Cor. 4:4); yet he procured it when Adam succumbed to temptation and thereby abdicated stewardship over the world government of which he was the head.
Elsewhere the Word declares:
The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
Is there a contradiction here? Not at all; God is the Only True Creator God. Satan or any other created being for that matter, cannot create anything in the sense that God can; He alone created (“barah” to create from nothing) the Earth, the World and all that is in it – from nothing other than His spoken Word. Satan for the last approximately 6,000 years as been a ‘god’ or ruler over this world system of governments and those agencies, organizations and productions that are contained in the realm of sinful man as well as those principalities and powers that followed him in the rebellion against the Almighty (a very dumb move!).
Observe now how the terrible power of sin can blind and mar that which was the most magnificent of all God’s celestial creations – Lucifer who “sealed up the sum” (Ez. 28:12-15) when it came to wisdom and beauty! The audacity and bold foolishness of this finite creature, in the full grasp of iniquity, stands before his Creator – the One Who holds the heavens in the span of His hand – and beckons Him to fall down . . . and worship him??!
(Another will receive such an offer from Satan, and for the price of Luciferian worship, the Beast shall inherit by the devil’s hand, that which the LORD spurned.)
This is the same kind of foolishness that prompts the perdition within the heart of man to declare that ‘there is no God’ (Psalm 14:1), all the while beholding the enormous intricacies and dizzying details on both the macro-cosmic and the microscopic levels, all of which is a visible testament to the creative genius and power of God (See Psalm 19:1-6)!
Now let’s hear the LORD’s response to Satan’s third temptation:
He finally tells Satan to “get out of here” but with a directive right back to Scripture:
“You shall worship the LORD God and Him only you shall serve”!
There is only One Who is worthy of our worship: God and Him alone! Anything or anyone that is a higher priority in our lives is an idol and it must be cast down without remorse, and leave the LORD alone upon the high throne of our hearts!
We must ravage any sign or indication of anything that would rival our LORD as being supreme in our lives (As I have heard many times from Chuck Missler, “The LORD doesn’t want to be number One on a list of ten. He wants to be number One on a list of one!”).
We must be as tenacious and adamant in ridding our hearts and lives of any affection or desires that would seek to usurp the LORD for His rightful place and priority! We must fulfill what I have called The Josiah Mandate.
Did you know that when the LORD replied to Satan’s temptations, not only did He resort to the use of the Scriptures, but every citation He quoted from was from a single book of the Bible – Deuteronomy!
The first temptation He replied with Deut. 8:3.
The second temptation He replied with Deut. 6:16.
The third temptation He replied with Deut. 6:13.
Why would He limit Himself to the use of this single book?
I don’t really have a solid answer for that question; just a hunch really. When Moses was prepared to send the people of Israel off into Canaan land (Moses himself, as you recall, was forbidden to cross Jordan and into the land promised by God), the Law giver recited what was formerly given in the book of Exodus to his people. Reason being, there was a new generation at that time that wasn’t alive during the exodus from Egypt and a reiteration was in order.
They were apparently in need of a reminder that once they crossed the Jordan, they would be entering into a land full of pagan people and practices. Much of Deuteronomy is full of warnings to remain in obedience to the LORD and His Word, and not to adopt the practices of worshipping the false gods of the nations. Note especially Deuteronomy 28.
Those false gods would have demonic powers acting ‘behind the scenes’ to give legitimacy to the so-called glory and reality of those pagan deities (1 Cor. 8:4-5; 1 Cor. 10:19-21); and bowing down to those demonic powers is by proxy, bowing down to Satan himself. Thus, a rather appropriate book for the LORD to quote from considering who His opponent was, wouldn’t you say?
Verse 11 says that the devil left him; all of God’s holy angels perhaps let out a collective sigh of relief followed by a crescendo of glorious praise for the victory of their LORD – and yet the Gospel of Luke 4:13 adds one point to this, that the devil left him “… for a while”. The enemy would return and tempt the Messiah again to turn from the path that the Father set Him on, but in far more subtle ways than a ‘showdown in the desert’.
Yet in every encounter, at every scrutiny for the slightest semblance of sin, the enemy could find nothing in Him (John 14:30). He is the spotless Lamb of God!
1 PETER 1:18-20
18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
See also Isaiah 53:9; John 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22
Angels came and ministered to the LORD – and one must wonder what it was that they did for Him? Provide transportation from off that “exceedingly high mountain” perhaps? He had just finished a forty day fast; maybe they provided sustenance (Angel Food Cake perhaps? – sorry).
PART TWO -
12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
The Scriptures give us a kind of ‘fast forward’ because here we see that the LORD is no longer on the mountain and He heard about John the Baptist being cast into prison by Herod (later on in Matt. 14:2-5 the reason is explained).
The LORD went to His hometown of Nazareth*, and then left there to go to Capernaum which became one of His primary bases of operation, and this of course was a fulfillment of prophecy, for this city was within the regions of Zabulon and Nephthalim of which it is said:
(*Luke 4:16-19 reveals that while in Nazareth, the LORD went into His customary synagogue and read the passage from Isaiah 61:1-2a (but not 2b) and declared that this very passage was being fulfilled on the very day He read it (obviously fulfilled by Himself) denoting Himself as “the anointed One” or Messiah. He didn’t continue reading after “to preach the acceptable year of the LORD” because the rest of what we call ‘verse two’ refers to that time of vengeance when the Messiah as “the avenger of blood” (Deut. 19:6-12; Josh. 20:3-9) would seek out judgment against all who persecuted (and killed) His brethren, of the nation of Israel.).
Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
See also Isaiah 42:6-8
After 400 years of prophetic silence (for that was how long Israel had been without a prophet of God (Malachi) to speak on behalf of YHWH) the people who sat in such darkness were met, not by only prophet of God, but by God Himself in Whom is no darkness, neither shadow of turning, but Light in all its Holiest brilliance! See John 1:4-5, 9; 3:18-20; 2 Cor. 4:5-7; James 1:17; 1 John 1:5.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.
22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
The message was the same from the lips of our LORD as John the Baptist’s; the same as all the prophets of Israel who had gone before. Yet as with those prophets, against such the people of Israel hardened their hearts, so also with the God Who spoke through those prophets did they (with some significant and blessed exceptions of course!) harden their hearts (Matt. 13:15).
Nevertheless, the message went forth – to repent of sin, to turn from wicked ways (1 Sam. 12:20; 2 Chron. 7:14; Neh. 9:35; Jer. 44:5; Ez. 3:19; 18:21, 24, 27; 33:9, 11, 14 and 19) and have the faith of Abraham who “believed God” (Gal. 3:6; note: not merely believing IN God, but believing Him, that is, believing His Word – obeying and acting on it).
Yet in today’s church, the Gospel without repentance is going forth; people are reciting ‘sinner’s prayers’ but living unchanged, unfruitful, ungodly lives and with the false assurance that all is well because, after all, I said a prayer.
We at TTUF are not opposed to ‘sinner’s prayers’ but there should be an emphasis of repentance included and a surrendering of one’s life: for if redemption is real – there is the spiritual reality that we are no longer our own, that we are the LORD’s upon our conversion. No longer are we living our lives for ourselves, but for the One Who purchased us with His own blood (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Whether one who says the ‘sinner’s prayer’ is genuinely saved is also not known by any observer (except for God of course) until fruit is in evidence, that is evidence of a changed nature and life and altered desires and hungers (a hunger to learn God’s Word, to pray, to fellowship with other believers; and a desire to rid one’s life of sins that grieve the Holy Spirit). See Matt. 3:10. Until such evidence is manifest, how can anyone truly declare another to be saved with absolute certainty?
As the Messiah of Israel proceeded in His preaching of repentance, declaring that the Kingdom was at hand (for it was the King Himself heralding the message!), He came across two men, engaged in their profession as fishers. He called to them to follow Him and take keen notice of that one word: “straightway”!
They didn’t deliberate, they didn’t hold conference between themselves, they didn’t negotiate terms with the LORD – straightway they left their nets.
They abandoned the profession that they no doubt trained all their lives in, to the point of proficiency and gain. Yet, apparently they didn’t give those nets a second glance, or their boats, or their catch of the day.
Peter and Andrew sought first (as a matter of priority) the kingdom of God and His righteousness, counting on the LORD, that He would meet their necessaries at the times to come.
Later on when the LORD was addressed by the rich young ruler, who turned aside from following Him – because he had great possessions, Peter spoke up:
28 Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.
29 And He said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake,
30 Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.
A little ways down the shore of Galilee the LORD along with Peter and Andrew, came across James and John and when the LORD likewise beckoned to them, the same results:
“Immediately…” and not only did they leave nets, but also their own father to follow Jesus!
In the Christian life this is always the case. In order to follow the LORD, we must leave behind the things of this world (not absolving ourselves of our responsibilities necessarily, particularly where our families are concerned) that would prove to be impediments to life with our Redeemer Friend. “All to Jesus, I surrender; all to Him I freely give!”
We give the LORD all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds and all of our strength (Matt. 22:37) with the motive of agapeo love (unconditional, loyal, selfless love whose focus is entirely surrendered to the object of that love) – and why is that? Because the LORD loved us first – with all of His Being (1 John 4:19). And He proved that love as being the Highest and Greatest: by dying on that cross in Judea, more than two thousand years ago (John 15:13)!
23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.
What is the “gospel of the kingdom” exactly? Is it “the kingdom of God”? Remember that the Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as the MESSIAH-KING of Israel, and in light of this fact, this is a clue as to what the LORD was preaching here.
We have a gracious and compassionate LORD Who always leaves a crowd with their sick ones healed. No one ever remained sick who knew the presence of Jesus! Yet these miraculous healings had a specific purpose as well; they were evidence that the LORD Jesus is indeed the Messiah, because these things were prophesied.
There are ample Scriptures that speak of the time when Messiah will come and establish His kingdom, righting every wrong that was suffered by Israel at the hand of her many oppressors from among the nations, and at such a time, He will bring healing and restoration to His people as well as a replenishing of the Earth itself. We see both aspects in such passages as these:
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
2 It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God.
3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
6 Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
7 And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
8 And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
9 No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:
10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
(See also: 2 Sam. 7:10-17; Psalm 89:3-4, 18-37; Isaiah 40:9-11; 61:1-11; 62:1-12 among so many other passages)
Virtually every book of the prophets of Israel came with warnings of judgment and chastening upon the people in their rebellion; yet they were never left despondent in such pronouncements. The LORD gave the Word to His prophets regarding the restoration of the kingdom in the latter days and if you turn to the last page(s) of the minor prophets you will see such exhortations such as Haggai 2:8-9, 20-23 and Zechariah 14:4-11, 16-21.
After the LORD’s resurrection the disciples asked their Messiah if He would then at that time “restore again the kingdom to Israel” as the LORD had promised to David by Covenant. The LORD didn’t deny that Israel’s kingdom would be restored (as some of the Replacement Theology sort like to say) but that its timing was in the Father’s keeping (Acts 1:6-7).
Dr. Scofield has the following to say regarding the Davidic Covenant a.k.a. the Kingdom of Israel:
The Davidic Covenant
2 Samuel 7:8-17.
This covenant, upon which the glorious kingdom of Christ "of the seed of David according to the flesh" is to be founded, secures:
(1) A Davidic "house"; i.e. posterity, family
(2) A "throne"; i.e. royal authority
(3) A kingdom; i.e. sphere of rule
(4) In perpetuity; "for ever"
(5) And this fourfold covenant has but one condition: disobedience in the Davidic family is to be visited with chastisement; but not to the abrogation of the covenant 2 Samuel 7:15; Psalms 89:20-37; Isaiah 24:5; 54:3.
The chastisement fell; first in the division of the kingdom under Rehoboam, and, finally, in the captivities. 2 Kings 25:1-7 . Since that time but one King of the Davidic family has been crowned at Jerusalem and He was crowned with thorns. But the Davidic Covenant confirmed to David by the oath of Jehovah, and renewed to Mary by the angel Gabriel, is immutable Psalms 89:30-37 and the Lord God will yet give to that thorn-crowned One "the throne of his father David." ; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 2:29-32; 15:14-17.
Thus when we read about the Gospel in Matthew’s account, its specifically in regards to the Gospel as it pertains to Israel and the reign of the Messiah over all those Jews who have “like faith as Abraham”, that is spiritual Israel (Note: Gentiles that are born again are NOT spiritual Israel as some might say, they are spiritual Gentiles. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph along with Elijah, Elisha, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist – these are spiritual Israel. Those who refused the Messiah Y’shua are a part of national Israel (ethnically speaking “of the seed of Abraham”) but are not children of Abraham.
While we as Gentiles are ‘grafted in’ to the olive tree (Israel), which were by nature a “wild olive tree” that is distinct from Israel, but we share in the blessing of salvation via the LORD Jesus Christ by faith (See Romans 11:16-24).
It’s because the LORD Jesus was primarily rejected by Israel as a nation that the kingdom was not restored at that time, but the promises of God stand sure so that when the LORD returns to this world (after Daniel’s 70th week (Daniel 9:24-27), also known as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:6-8) He will inaugurate the Kingdom by His own power (Daniel 2:44-46) – and without the help of ‘the church’ (a popular teaching among Dominionist groups as well as the Emergent Church Movement, and even in a rudimentary way, the New Age Movement (with their New Age ‘Christ’ as described in the writings of Alice Bailey; Barbara Marx Hubbard, Jean Dixon and Neale Donald Walsh).
Now, getting back to the Gospel of Matthew – there are liberal theologians that disdain the ‘old fashioned notion’ of demon possession and rationalize such as merely mental illness. What’s interesting is that in this passage those who were possessed of demons are differentiated from those who were “lunatick” (though sometimes a person was afflicted with both, see Matt. 17:15).
The fact that the spiritual dimension is a reality as the Bible describes, attests to the reality of both angels and fallen angels (demons) and even various classifications of angelic beings such as arch angels, cherubim, and designations of offices for angelic beings like principalities and powers, thrones, dominions, etc. (Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:16). Demonic spirits are quite real, and as these current days continue to become spiritually darker, we can expect that such spiritual activity will increase dramatically, and so knowledge of the armor of God and spiritual warfare (of the legitimate kind) is essential for this reason and many others. For more on this subject, type “armor of God” and “spiritual warfare” in the search engine on TTUF.
Lastly we observe the far range of traveling that people endured in those days in meeting with the Messiah and hearing His message, as well as receiving healings from their varied and extreme ailments. They came as far as Decapolis and other regions beyond the Jordan River; this was no trivial pursuit!
People were hungry for the Word of God, and they were in desperate need. The hope they held in their hearts was that this One, who claimed to be the Messiah of Israel would be able to help, and so He did! Picture for a moment the vastness of these great multitudes and how many required healing – and the LORD in His Almighty power brought by the droves, deliverance to them all!
As was prophesied, the Messiah would bring healing to His people, He would bring the promised restoration to the Kingdom, and He would also preach the Gospel to these lost souls (as well as teach His disciples) and we are about to enter that phase of this Gospel account where the King begins to lay out the principles and truths of “the kingdom of/from heaven” in the next chapter, starting immediately with the Beattitudes!