Matthew 8:11 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 8:11, NIV: I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 8:11, ESV: I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,

Matthew 8:11, KJV: 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.

Matthew 8:11, NASB: And I say to you that many will come from east and west, andrecline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;

Matthew 8:11, NLT: And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world--from east and west--and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 8:11, CSB: I tell you that many will come from east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

What does Matthew 8:11 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

A Gentile Roman officer has just demonstrated great faith in Jesus' authority over the natural world. The centurion stated simply that he knew that distance was no obstacle to Jesus' ability to heal a person. He could do so with a word. Jesus has expressed His amazement at the man's faith, saying that he has not found that level of faith among the Israelites (Matthew 8:5–10).

Now Jesus adds what was likely a shocking statement to the overwhelmingly Jewish crowd of followers. He says that many people will come from both the east and the west to recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. Reclining around a low table to share a meal was the custom of Jesus' day. Jesus points forward to a time in eternity when all present will eat together in heaven, likely at what we now call the "marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:9).

More specifically, Jesus is describing who will be present in the kingdom of heaven. Israel's great patriarchs will be there, but so will Gentiles from lands in every direction from Israel. In other words, the kingdom of heaven will not be populated by Israelites alone (Galatians 3:7–9). This should not have been surprising to Jesus' listeners because of God's promise to bless the families of the earth through Abraham (Genesis 12:3).

The essential thing to notice is that Jesus is connecting who will be in the kingdom of heaven to the Gentile centurion's faith in Him and His authority. Faith in Christ will be the deciding factor about who enters the kingdom of heaven, not nationality (Galatians 3:28–29). In the following verse, Jesus may well surprise His crowd by describing who will not be present at such a meal.