The Kingdom Teachings of Jesus, Part III
“The Kingdom Parables of Matthew Thirteen”
"And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speaketh thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." (Jesus, Matthew 13:10-11)
Having responded to Christ’s call, we find ourselves in the Kingdom of the Messiah. To function properly within the Kingdom we must strive to understand all we can of its workings. It is to this end that my heart is burdened to speak to you on this subject, through this series of articles. This writing will focus on Matthew chapter 13. This particular chapter of Matthew is called the “Kingdom Parables” chapter.
Matthew chapter 13 records Jesus’ teaching on the “Kingdom of God” in seven parables which teach the character of the Messianic Kingdom in its completeness: from the Messiah’s rejection, to His parousia. For both the purpose of this paper, and the limited space available, I must trust you to use your Bibles for the Scripture texts that are only referenced.
I. THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
Matthew 13:3-9 "And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. And others fell upon the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they spring up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And others fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop, some hundredfold, and some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” NASB
“Hear, then, the parable of the sower. But if anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is a man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when afflictions or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is a man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is a man who hears the word and understands it; who in deed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” NASB
This parable is given in verses 3 through 9, and then interpreted by Jesus in verses 18 through 23. According to Jesus the sower is the messenger of the Kingdom (namely, the Son of Man); the field is the world, and the seed is the Word of God (namely, the Gospel of the Kingdom); see verse 19. The four types of ground mentioned represents four types of people:
- The Roadside: representative of one who hears but does not receive. Their heart is hard-packed—the Word cannot penetrate; therefore the birds (Satan) comes and snatches the Word away.
- The Stony Ground: Representative of the shallow person who gladly receives the word, but when persecution and trial come the Word dies for lack of depth in faith (see verse 21).
- The Thorny Ground: Representative of the one who hears and receives the Word, but the cares of the world, namely, lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16
- ) choke it out (verse 22).
- The Good Ground: One who hears and receives with a tender heart prepared in holiness. The Word of the Kingdom puts down roots (deep). The Good
Ground is fruitful, but at different degrees: some 100%, some 60%, and some 30%.
The power of the Kingdom is in the Word of God (see 1 Peter 1:22-23) that must be preached in the world (Matthew 28:19). Because the Word is “sown,” not planted, we know that the Word is to be broadcast to all hearers—all four types of people must hear; and the massager should expect four different responses.
The bad ground cannot be fixed.
Only the one who hears and receives the Word with a heart free from the world and self-centeredness will be fruitful.
Even the “good ground” does not produce the same. Some believers produce 100%, some 60%, and yet others 30%. We should not expect every Christian to be at the same level of spirituality: the apostle Paul accepted the Corinthian as “carnal” brothers (see 1 Corinthians 3:1).
II. THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SEED AND TARES
Matthew 13:24-30. "He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat spring up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. And the slaves of the land owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘an enemy hath done this!’ And the slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But He said, ‘No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” NASB
"And He answered and said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; The enemy who showed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are the angels. Therefore, just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, “and will cast them into the furnace of fire;” in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” NASB
This parable of the Good Seed And Tares is given in verses 24-30 and explained by Jesus in versus 37-43. According to Jesus:
- The sower (who is also the owner of the field) is the “Son of Man” (see verse 37), namely, Jesus;
- The field is the world (that verse 44 says is purchased by Jesus) (see verse 38); the “good seed” are the children of the Kingdom (verse 38);
- The tares are the children of the wicked one, namely, Satan (verse 38);
- The enemy is the Devil (verse 39);
- The reapers are the angels (verse 39);
- The fire is hellfire (verse 42);
- The barn is the eternal abode of the children of the Kingdom (verse 43);
- The servants are the New Testament ministry,
- And the world (field) is the Kingdom (verse 41).
There are many things taught in this parable that are worthy of our attention, but only that which pertains to our topic will be considered, here. The part that is most important for us is the “harvest” of the tares and of wheat. In verse 30 Jesus says: “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them into bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
A point that is inescapable is the thing Jesus said would be done first. First, the tares (children of the wicked one - verse 38) are to be gathered from the field (the world - verse 38). In verse 41 is Jesus’ commentary on verse 30; Jesus explains: “the Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;” then Jesus continues to say, “and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
There is NO rapture spoken of by Christ in this passage. Instead of a rapture there is a promised taking away of the wicked out of the kingdom—which is identified as the “world.” While this does not agree with the futuristic view of the end time (Dispensationalism), yet it is in perfect agreement with all Jesus ever taught about the consummation of His kingdom. See, for example, His teaching in Matthew chapter 24 verses 37-42: here Jesus speaks of the “coming of the Son of Man” in the same terms. There are those that are taken in judgment and those left behind. In spite of the millions of dollars Tim LaHaye made on his books by the title “Left Behind”: in the teaching of Jesus those left behind are the “children of the Kingdom” (Matthew 13:38) who will “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” after the “children of the wicked one” are “taken.”
III. THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED
Matthew 13:31-32. "Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like into a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”
In this parable:
- the sower is, again Christ;
- the mustard seed is the kingdom (verse 31);
- and the field is the world;
- the birds are the children of the Kingdom.
Some may see the birds, which lodge in the branches of the tree (namely, the kingdom), as symbols of worldliness; but, that would be most incorrect. One should consider Daniel 4:7-9, 17-19 where the birds nesting in the tree of the Kingdom are representative of the people of the Kingdom. Following the method of biblical interpretation we have called “E2”, it, therefore, is clear—since the tree in the parable represents the kingdom of God (verse 31)—the birds would be symbolic of the children of the Kingdom. (See Ezekiel 17:23; 31:6.)
From the smallest of beginnings the Kingdom becomes great—people of the world seek it out and find lodging in its (the Kingdom’s) branches.
IV. THE PARABLE OF THE LEAVEN
Matthew 13:33. "Another parable spake he unto them; “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”
While leaven is most often a type of corruption (see Matthew 16:6, 11-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9), not so here! Notice that Jesus uses “leaven” as the symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven: He said, “the Kingdom of heaven IS LIKE unto leaven.” More exactly, the “leaven” of this kingdom parable is the Gospel of the Kingdom: as is the “seed” in the parable of the sower (verse 19), and the “net” in the parable of the dragnet (found in verses 47-50).
(This is not the first use of leaven as a positive: see for example Leviticus 23:17 where the “wave loafs” were to be baked with leaven. Here the type is of the day of Pentecost recorded in the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-39; when the Holy Spirit was poured into believing Israel. Thus the leaven of Leviticus presaged Holy Spirit infilling. One should also look to Amos 4:5 where leaven is commanded to be offered in the thanksgiving offering; as it is also commanded to be offered with a peace offering: see Leviticus 7:13.)
The “woman” in this parable is a type of the Church and the “meal” represents the world. Thus, we see the three measures of meal as the three elements of society: namely, the elements represented in the areas of politics, religion, and education. Into these three sections of society the Gospel of the Kingdom is to be “hidden” (worked into) until the whole of society becomes leaven (the Kingdom of God). The imagery of this parable is very clear: as yeast works its way through the dough, so will the Gospel work its way through society until the whole of society (the world) becomes the kingdom of the Messiah. Thus, we see the gradual working of the Gospel of the Kingdom upon society (in all three spheres) until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of Christ (see verse 43 and compare to Revelation 11:15).
An important note should be made at this point. The alternative to the interpretation that I have just presented should receive a hard look. If leaven is, here, a type of corruption, then Jesus is teaching the anti-effectiveness of His Kingship and the total failure of His Kingdom. Therefore, such an understanding of leaven, as the word is used in this text, must be rejected—out of hand.
V. THE PARABLE OF THE HIDDEN TREASURE
Matthew 13:44. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like into treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”
Here, as in the parables of the sower (see verses 3-9) and the tares (see verses 24-30), the field represents the world. Although the emphasis is placed upon the “hidden” treasure, it is the field (namely, the world) that is purchased. The idea, expressed here, is that the entire world (the earth and its systems) was purchased by the blood of God’s Son (see Acts 20-28 where God is said to have purchased the Church with his own blood) in order to have a legal right to the treasure. In this parable the treasure is hidden “in the field” (world) as the leaven (see verse 33) was “hidden” in the meal (world). The treasure is the Kingdom of Heaven comprising His elect saints, who are yet in the world. (See Revelation chapter 5, where the Lamb of God takes the title deed of the world and claims ownership.)
At this point I will make an important observation: since the entire field (namely, the world) was purchased (and all its content) by the total assets of the purchaser (that is to say, Jesus Christ purchased the world with all that Heaven had to offer at Calvary) it may be assumed that the Son of God shed his blood for all men. This being the case, the reformed theology of Calvinism is disproved, since Calvinism teaches a limited redemption. The limited redemption of Calvinism is represented by the letter “L” in the acrostic of the word “Tulip.” However, at the redemption of the purchased possession (Ephesians 1:14) only the treasure (the elect saints) will remain—the rest are “taken away” (Matthew 24:36-42).
VI. THE PARABLE OF THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE
Matthew 13: 45-46. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is likened to a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”
The harmony of the kingdom parables demand that this parable of the Pearl of Great Price be understood in the same context as they. Therefore:
- The “merchant man” represents the Son of Man: as does the “sower” of verses 3 and 24, and as does the purchaser of the field in verse 44. The intended imagery portrayed by this story is that of a man who came from afar to seek out valuable pearls (see verse 45).
- The one pearl of great price is the Church (see Ephesians 5:25-27).
The Lord of Heaven stepped into our world to seek and to save (Luke 19:10); He found the “elect Lady” (2 John 1:1) who is the apple of His eye (see Deuteronomy 32:10; and Zachariah 2:8). The “Apple of His eye” statement is the biblical way of proclaiming something to be precious to Lord (1 Samuel 26:21; Isaiah 43:4; Lamentations 4:2). The Church belongs to Christ through a purchased price (see Ephesians 1:14).
There is a contrast that exist between the “Hidden Treasure” of verse 44, and the “Pearl”: the Treasure Parable is about the purchase of the field (namely, the world), while the “Pearl Parable” is about the purchase of the pearl (namely, the elect).
VII. THE PARABLE OF THE DRAGNET
MATTHEW 13: 47-48.“Again, the kingdom of heaven is likened to a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.”
In this parable of the dragnet:
- The dragnet is the gospel of the kingdom;
- And the sea is the world;
- The “shore” represents the Church;
- The “they” who pull the net to shore and separate the good from the bad are angels;
As the Gospel is preached, all kinds of people are pulled to shore (at the time of judgment): both the good and the bad. The just are separated from the wicked, who are then cast into hell. It is appropriate that this parable deals with the “end of the world (age)” (see verse 49) in that it is the last of seven parables.
Further, since it is the “angels” which do the separating, at the very end of time, a general resurrection of the dead, both good and bad, and a general judgment are here envisioned. This, of course, is in harmony with all else the Bible has to say on those particular subjects: see as examples John 5:28-29; Daniel 12:2; and Acts 24:15.
One last thought should be shared concerning the “Parable of the Dragnet.” This observation will be taken from verses 49 and 50. The Word of God reads as follows: “So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:49-50.)
The Bible says that at the end of the world the angels will come forth and separate the wicked from among the just. It will be noticed that before the angels arrive on the scene the wicked and the just are together. The initial separation is to remove the wicked from the just; the wicked are removed while the just remain. The picture that Jesus gives here of the separation is the removal of the wicked from the world. This is in harmony with what Jesus teaches elsewhere in the Gospel according to Matthew. It is clear, that in Matthew chapter 24 when Jesus teaches of the great “taking away,” it is the wicked that are taken while the righteous are left. We know this from Matthew chapter 24 because Jesus said: “As it was in the days of Noah so shall it be in the day of the coming of the Son of Man.” In the days of Noah it was the wicked that were taken away by the flood, while Noah and his family were left. Here in Matthew chapter 13 the same scenario is given by Christ: namely, the angels come and separate the wicked from the just.
How different a scenario, given here by Jesus, then that which is preached in most churches and ministries of evangelical Christianity. Most any time one would care to attend an evangelical church, or listen to an evangelical radio broadcast, or view an evangelical TV program, the message that would be delivered is that of a rapture taking the righteous from among the wicked. According to these learned persons the righteous will be taken and the wicked will be left. It should alarm us that this is not at all the message that Jesus and His apostles brought to the Church.
If it is not the gospel of Christ, and it’s not the gospel of His apostles, then whose gospel is it?
As we review the kingdom parables of Jesus (or, for that matter, the end-time teachings of Christ found throughout the Gospels) we must let them speak for themselves; engaging ourselves in an exegesis of the Scriptures: not bringing to them our preconceived notions. Regardless of how the clear teachings of Jesus go adverse to the end-time theology of the last eight or nine decades, we must surrender our ideas to the Word of God.
Conclusion: Having looked briefly at the seven kingdom parables of Matthew chapter 13, I trust that your interest has been arrested enough that you might do further study on these Scriptures on your own.
It is my prayer that the God of all peace keep you in His loving grace.
☩ Jerry Hayes
Jesus Teaching the Kingdom Parables
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Read this book by Bishop Jerry Hayes
After spending over forty years in the dispensational doctrine, and having raise my children in that theological framework, I became a convinced adherent to a "kingdom" theology that recognizes the Church as the Israel of God, and that the first century actually saw the fulfillment of most of Matthew chapter 24. "Letters to My Children on Apostolic Kingdom Theology" is a compilation of twenty four letters written to my children explaining my journey, and showing how we were led astray from the apostolic teaching of Scripture to embrace a view recently come into the Lord's church, of which the apostles knew nothing. These "Letters" provide a systematic approach to Apostolic Eschatological study of Scripture. It is sure to interest all students of Scriptures. ☩ Jerry Hayes