This parable illustrates the transfer of the kingdom of God from Israel to the Gentiles. Notice in verse 43 that the parable is about the kingdom of God (the spiritual kingdom which we enter by the new birth) and not the kingdom of heaven (the earthly, physical kingdom over which Jesus Christ will rule when he returns to the earth). In this parable, the son (Jesus Christ) came to the vineyard (Israel) and the husbandmen (chief priests and elders) cast him out and slew him (crucifixion). By cross-reference, the son is the prophesied stone rejected by the builders, which becomes the head of the corner.
To sufficiently understand the parable, we need to cross-reference the verses in the passage. Then we will apply the verses concerning the stone to finish the study.
The Parable – by verse
a. Householder = God, Matt 13:27; 20:1
b. Vineyard = Israel, Is 5:7
i. Hedge = Is 5:5
ii. Winepress = Is 5:2
iii. Tower = Is 5:2
iv. Husbandmen = Jews, Matt 21:41, 43
v. Far country = heaven, Matt 25:14; Lk 19:12
34. Servants = Prophets, priests
35. What the Jews did to the Old Testament prophets
a. Beat = Heb 11:36-37
b. Killed = Jer 26:20-23
c. Stoned = 2 Chr 24:20-21
37. Son = Jesus, Mk 12:6, the “one”, the “well beloved”
38. Heir = Heb 1:2
a. Kill = Jn 11:53
b. Seize his inheritance = all wars are fought over land and possessions
39. What the Jews did to Jesus Christ
a. Caught = Matt 26:50, Gethsemane
b. Cast out = Heb 13:12, killed outside of Jerusalem
c. Slew = Acts 5:30, crucifixion
41. What happened to the Jews
a. Destroyed = Titus’ attack on Jerusalem in 70 AD
b. The Vineyard was let out to others = Acts13:46; 28:28, Gentiles
43. Taken/given = the kingdom of God was taken from Israel and given to the Gentiles. Israel, as a nation, rejected Jesus Christ, and so they have never carried the gospel of the kingdom of God to anyone. Gentiles, on the other hand, after getting saved, have carried the gospel to the world. Eventually, Israel will be saved (Rom 11:25-26), but until then, they are not in the kingdom of God, as a nation. They get in individually by the new birth (Acts 15:11).
In verses 42 and 44, the reference to the stone is a reference to Jesus Christ, who is now the head of the kingdom of God, and who will be soon the head of the kingdom of heaven. The verse quoted from the Old Testament is found in Ps 118:22-23 and is right in the middle of a context on the Second Advent. The verse is quoted here and twice more in the New Testament: once in Acts 4:11 and the other time in 1 Pet 2:7. Twice it is applied to the kingdom of heaven and twice it is applied to the kingdom of God. Therefore, we need to examine the stone in both kingdoms.
In the kingdom of God, the Jews rejected Jesus Christ as their king (Jn 19:15; Acts 4:11). Afterward, he became the head (chief cornerstone) of a spiritual house into which we enter by the new birth (Eph 2:19-22; 1 Pet 2:2-10). The Jews as a nation won’t enter this kingdom until they are in the new covenant of Heb 8:8-13. That will happen at the beginning of the millennial reign of Jesus.
In the kingdom of heaven, Jesus Christ (the Rock, 1 Cor 10:4) showed up and was manifest to Israel (Jn 1:29-31). They rejected him. Hence, the physical kingdom of heaven (in which the Jews will be the ruling nation, under the direction of Jesus Christ [Is 60:11-12; 9:6-7]) is still waiting for its king. Until he comes, he is a “stumbling stone and a rock of offence” to those who reject him (Rom 9:33; 1 Cor 1:23; 1 Pet 2:8). Thus, whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken.
When Jesus returns, he will return as a stone to destroy the kingdoms of the world that tried to set up a world kingdom without him (Dan 2:34-35; 44-45). When this stone is established it will grow into a mountain that covers the earth (a world-wide kingdom with Jesus Christ as the head). Thus, on whomsoever it shall fall it will grind him to powder.