In Matthew 8:11-12 we encounter one of Jesus’ most controversial statements. In reaction to the extraordinary faith of the Roman centurion Jesus declares,  “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness.”

Jesus responds to the faith of the centurion with a prophecy that Jewish people will return from exile (those who “will come from east and west”) to the land of Israel and dine as guests at a banquet hosted by the Patriarchs. This future banquet is just one of the many ways that the Hebrew Bible spoke about the kingdom of God that is yet to come.

But why does Jesus link the faith of this Gentile with a prophecy concerning the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel? Many have mistakenly concluded that he is reapplying “those from east and west” to Gentile Christians and making a contrast between Gentile Christians and the nation of Israel. They believe the point of this passage is to teach that Gentile Christians have replaced Israel as God’s people.

Unfortunately, these individuals have missed the point of Jesus’ “Old” Testament imagery! The prophets did envision the restoration of Israel but they also envisioned the conversion of the Gentiles who would turn to God in faith as a result of Israel’s salvation. The restoration of Israel and the conversion of the Gentiles are inseparable events. The faith of the Roman centurion demonstrates that the kingdom of God has arrived. In fact, it confirms, rather than denies, God’s covenant faithfulness to the Jewish people.



  1. And yet the very blatant phrase, spoken by Messiah Himself, remains... and has not been addressed. To whom, other than the (original) children of promise, would “the sons of the kingdom... thrown into the outer darkness” refer? The nations of the east and west obviously ARE the non-Israeli peoples.
    • Unfortunately I don't think the identity of those who come from "East and West" is as obvious as you suggest. It's actually a subject of much debate among scholars. In my opinion, Jesus' OT allusion here is really quite complex. Those who come from East and West primarily refers to the Twelve Tribes that have been scattered among the nations. However, the allusion also encompasses the gentile nations that will flock to the land of Israel in order to return the Jewish Exiles to their homeland. Israel's restoration and the salvation of the nations are inseparable!

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    • When you're in Christ Jesus you are in the kingdom his church. Galatians 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. We must obey the faith. Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as hath been baptized into Christ hath put on Christ. There is no future kingdom on earth, there is no future restoration of Israel. The Jews who rejected the Messiah will be in outer darkness.When Jesus returns he's not looking for Israel he's looking for those who obeyed the gospel and are in his kingdom the church.

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    • Fully agree. I believe that with greatest respect the exegesis offered is incorrect. It is very obvious that our dear Lord is speaking of the centurions great faith by the prophecy that His church finally will consist of Jew and Gentile. There are certainly not two churches of Jesus Christ in Scripture-One Church of converted Jews and converted gentiles.
    • I believe that you are on the right track. Isaiah 65 and 66 speak directly to this day. It also speaks to the fulfillment of covenant Moses wrote a song about recorded in Deuteronomy 32. The chapters 28-31preceeding the song show the motivation for it, especially 31:17-18, 24-29. "That day" will be a day of sorrow and a day of joy (Is. 65}. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

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  2. Salvation is and has been always the same. For a Gentile, they join themselves to Israel and worship and trust in the God of Israel. By grace all who trust in Him are saved, through their faith and trust in Him alone. But Gentiles join Israel; Israel does not join the Nations. So if I read you right here, what you say is correct. This prophecy links Gentiles who come to Yeshua and Jews who believe on Him as HaMoshiach as they come to worship the Elohim of Avraham, Yitzach and Ya'akov; El Elohe Yisroel.
  3. I have for some time now received your Emails in which I do find some useful thoughts. However it does read as if God has two differing groups of Christians, the gentiles and the somewhat superior Jews. I am in no way anti-Semitic but in this area you do seem to skirt around the written word to somehow make the Jewish Christians a little more saved than the rest of Gods people.
    • Hi Colin, Sorry to hear you say this but let me reassure you this is NOT what Matthew or any other NT writer is suggesting. There is no hint of "ethnic superiority" anywhere in the biblical text (and to be honest, I don't I suggested that either). On the other hand, there is no escaping the fact that the NT - especially Acts and Romans envisions the Ekklessia to be one community with two "wings" - a Jewish wing and a Gentile wing. Hence, the Apostle's frequent admonitions for mutual respect, love and understanding

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    • Hi Joy, I may need to post another blog about this passage because this is such an important (and frequently misunderstood) passage. But that said - my "short answer" is that in context, this phrase refers to those within the nation - specifically the Pharisees, who have rejected the messiahship of Yeshua. He is NOT referring to all Jewish people or the nation as a whole.

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  4. Jesus was commenting on the lack of faith among the Jews. He compared their lack of faith to the great faith of the centurion. It was a warning to those Jews of little faith that if they don't straighten out their act they will be on the outside, "weeping and gnashing of (their) teeth". Matthew was a book for the Jews. Unfortunately, like so many times in the past (the whole Old Testament was a story of their coming and going in God....their adulterous nature and their coming back into obedience with God), there are those that will not heed.
  5. This prophecy is apparently referring to the times of the gentiles, when many would come to faith in the ELOHIM of Israel, whilst many of the covenant descendants of Israel would be prodigal. This is a fact of history todate. Nevertheless, there is also that prophecy about the subsequent return of the prodigal son; of the valley of dry bones becoming a great army!
  6. Hi! I have always struggled with understanding this verse. Who would Yeshua have meant when he said “the sons of the kingdom “? And what is the outer darkness referring to? Thank you.
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