What Is God’s Kingdom Like?
...Is it here on earth or in some distant place we call heaven?
IN THE SEVEN PARABLES OF Matthew 13 the Lord Jesus tells what the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto. We can go to these parables time and again, through years of study and knowing the Lord, and find them always ready to impart life, strengthen our convictions, and release a determination of spirit in us to remain faithful in His Kingdom. In these articles we approach each parable with awe and dependence on the Holy Spirit to open them in our understanding.
We can call the first one The Parable of the Soils (Mt 13:4-9 and 19-23). It demonstrates how the Kingdom will take its beginning in us and what are the hazards to its growth. We began our acquaintance with this in the last issue. We’ll make reference to it again, for as we grow it will come with us and keep us in line for the purpose and direction of God’s Government planted like a seed in our inner man.
The second we call The Parable of the Tares (Mt 13:24-31 and 36-43). This bears a parallel with the first one. They both have a planting and a field. And with both there are obstacles to a good harvest. From this parable we learn how far the Kingdom will extend when we see that the field where the seeds are planted, both the good seed and the bad, is the world.
The third is The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mt 13:31,32). Here too there is a planting, but the point of the story is to demonstrate how great a realm may come from so small a seed.
The fourth is The Parable of the Leaven (Mt 13:33). This bears a semblance to the preceding one, but instead of seed, there is the mixing in of leaven, an inconspicuous substance that will eventually permeate the whole.
The fifth is The Parable of the Hidden Treasure (Mt 13:44). This one takes us back to a field where lies hidden a treasure worth more than all one’s earthly possessions. No other one of the seven takes hold of us quite like this one. That is, this has been the case with me. It simply lays out the claim the Kingdom will have over all that we are and all we have. In the simple step of buying the field, we become possessors of the Kingdom, and with that, Kingdom persons, for the cost requires all that we have. After this transaction, there is no part of life for the "purchaser" left untouched by the Kingdom.
The sixth is The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (Mt 13:45,46). This bears its parallel with the preceding one in that it demonstrates the value one who truly discovers the Kingdom will place on it, and what they will give to obtain it.
The seventh is The Parable of the Net (Mt 13:47-50). This one illustrates, like the second one, how there will be an undesirable mixture in the greater Kingdom that will only be removed in the consummation of the age. What faith this requires, especially of the person who has bought the field!
THAT JESUS SPOKE IN PARABLES was of concern to His disciples. His explanation to them as to why He did this is recorded in Mt 13:10-17. This passage has been of concern to me for years. At times I’ve wished it weren’t in the Bible. But it is. Lately I’ve seen it has much to say.
I’ve been going over it and over it—you know, soaking in it. I want it to speak to me all it will. I find that when I cannot lay hold on some Scripture, it’s best that I wait before it for it to lay hold on me. You can do this, too. All you need is the Bible and the help of the Holy Spirit. Use whatever version you have. Of course, I’ve been looking at it in the Original, an advantage you may not have. When "soaking" in the New Testament, I submit myself to three resources: the King James Bible, the Received Text of the Greek New Testament [the Received Text, or Textus Receptus, is that Greek Text from which the New Testament portion of the King James Version was translated], and the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I look at what other Translations have to say. Sometimes, but seldom, I look at a commentary or two. But mostly it’s just the Bible and the Holy Spirit. If you don’t have anything but your Bible, whatever version you are using, and you have the Holy Spirit with you, you can soak in the Word and find enough power and light to fill your soul and bring you forward to become a mature son or daughter in the Kingdom.
As we look at this passage, we will let what will take hold of us. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us.
10 And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest Thou unto them in parables? Questions like this might come from souls who are under development. They have not yet come to enough maturity to trust the Lord implicitly, without reservation. To be honest, this is probably where most of us are.
11 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. He introduces the word mysteries here. There are many mysteries made clear in the New Covenant. They are matters once concealed in the heart of God, imperceptible to the natural, and even religious, eye and mind, but set to come to light in a time and manner ordained by Him. We perceive from this statement of the Lord that it will be given to some to know His Kingdom, while to others it will remain a mystery.
12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. There is a condition of heart that will set us in line to receive light and understanding regarding the Kingdom. Really, this goes back to the human will, the part of us that desires, longs for, and seeks after. If we really want to know God’s Kingdom, with all our heart, He will give what is necessary for its release in us. What He gives will grow and develop and expand and we will find, day after day, that we have more and more. Then, we will desire yet more in a process that can reach on forever, for His Kingdom belongs to eternity. But if our desire is puny and weak, even what we have may eventually shrivel into nothing.
13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. Take note how important it is that we understand, or upon hearing the Word of the Kingdom, that we make application of it in life. The Greek word (suníemi), from which understand comes, occurs in this chapter six times. While Jesus is teaching, He comes time and again to this matter. Suníemi primarily means "to bring things together." It developed to mean "comprehend thoroughly, or to understand."
14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias (Isa 6:9,10), which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: This means, "Even if you hear, you’ll not understand a thing, and if you see, you’ll not have any idea what it is you are seeing." The reason for this becomes clear as we go on. We find it becomes a matter of a gross heart, dull ears, and closed eyes.
15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. A gross heart is fat, dull and unfeeling. This is a person to whom something has happened in the inner man that has hardened his feelings toward God. It is, as well, a person who has not watched his heart, but has allowed things to be deposited there that make him insensitive to others, especially in their hurts and needs. Thus, he becomes insensitive to the Kingdom of God. Repentance or understanding for a person with a gross heart become as unlikely as it would be for a grossly overweight person to run in a footrace.
With ears that are dull of hearing a person will become stupid as far as the Kingdom of God is concerned. Dull is from baréos, a word that means weighted down with grievous burdens. One may become so burdened with his own pain and complaint he cannot hear anything else. Or, one may become so oppressed by the cares of this world that the Word of the Kingdom cannot penetrate his heart. This is the reason Jesus said so often to His disciples, Take no thought, that is, "Give up your anxiety." Nothing makes the spiritual ear dull like anxious care and worry. It takes over like a spirit that will fill every moment of life with grief. Peter had a good Word here—Casting all your care ("anxiety") on Him... (I Pet 5:7) Anxiety is a weed in the field that will choke the growth of the Kingdom every time. With a determination, we can go to this "weed," dig it up ruthlessly, and cast it to a pile for burning, saying, "Be gone."
With eyes that are closed a person has exercised his own will not to see, and thus, to shut out the Kingdom. The idea of the Government of God coming within becomes so foreign one cannot— indeed, will not—see the Kingdom or hear its call.
All of this is the reason we hold people we love in the presence of the Lord till their heart, their ears and their eyes are healed and they can respond to the call and power of God’s Kingdom.
Then, let’s hear what follows:
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
That the Lord makes so strong reference to the eyes and ears and heart is indication that the Kingdom of God begins its work in our inner man. While the eyes, ears and heart are organs of the natural man, they also name inner workings of the human spirit. One may be blind in the natural, yet have keen perception in the spirit. One may be deaf in the natural, yet hear all the better the voice of the Lord. One’s natural heart may be so weak it can barely support the functions of the body, yet have a heart strong for the Lord. In fact, if we’re going to claim healing, let us first claim the healing of our inner eyes, and ears, and heart. It is better to be in the Kingdom physically lame than to be outside the Kingdom and physically strong.
But we do see this amazing thing. Often when a person is healed spiritually, it becomes manifest in their physical man. Even if not healed physically, the human weakness can become a vehicle in which the power and strength of the Kingdom will move. Understand this: sometimes when human strength fails, a way is made so a greater work of the Kingdom can come forth.
Nothing is so important for us as persons in relationship with the Lord and His Kingdom as is the government of our inner man. Here is where the Kingdom is becoming strong all over the world, in the hearts of men and women, boys and girls everywhere. Let us keep this in view. In every nation, in every culture, in every language, in every neighborhood, and in every family, the Holy Spirit is reaching in to make known the rule of Christ Jesus. It seems—oh, indeed, it does seem so powerfully—that there will be full representation of all humanity in that glorious Kingdom. What we are seeing now is the reach of the Kingdom into the recesses of our own humanity, as well as its reach out for all mankind. This is not a small expectation. In these moments we have together here, the reach is primarily for each one’s inner man. When we go from our time together, we will see the reach is for whoever is around us. If the Kingdom has found stability in us, then it will not be difficult for it to touch those around us. They will see it, feel it, experience its power, and come to know its grace, even in the face of the persecution they may heap upon us.
The time of Kingdom-power evangelism that Jesus said would come before the age is consummated (Mt 24:14) is already in process of coming. We all, who have submitted to the rule of Christ, will be participants in its final thrust, probably the most powerful and highly organized movement of evangelism ever. And we can know this: its organization and administration will come from the heavens, not from some office on earth.
IN THIS TOO BRIEF A SPACE we want to look at the second parable. Simply told, it’s about a farmer who planted wheat in his field, only to have some man who was his enemy come at night and sow there the seeds of some weeds that bore resemblance to his wheat, only they were poisonous. When the farmhands perceived weeds in the wheat, they came with alarm to the farmer and offered to pull them up.
He said, "No. Wait until the harvest. Then, pull up the weeds, and gather the wheat into my barn."
Here the weeds are not like the heavy distractions of life we found in the first parable. They are, instead, something false, bearing resemblance to the Kingdom of God but containing none of its life.
Jesus told this story outside where even the multitudes could hear it. No one understood it. When He went inside His disciples came to him privately and asked for an explanation. Let’s look at what He said. There is no other passage in the Bible where an understanding of the original may be more important.
37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
38 The field is the world (from the Greek kósmos, "the secular order on earth"); the good seed are the children (from huíos, "the mature sons") of the Kingdom; but the tares are the children (also from huíos, "the mature sons") of the wicked one;
39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end (from the Greek suntelía, "consummation") of the world (from the Greek aíon, "age"); and the reapers are the angels.
40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end (suntelia, "consummation") of this world (aíon, "age").
Let’s just take note of what the Lord said and not argue with Him or bend His words to fit our particular kind of theology. This will help promote our understanding to a Kingdom level.
He said the field where the seed are planted is the world. That this is from the Greek kósmos is significant. As one lexicon describes it, the kósmos is "the aggregate of mankind, the present order of things, the secular world." This is where the Lord Himself would plant the seeds of His Kingdom. As we took note in the previous article, this is a kind of planting different from that of the first parable. There, the seed, which was the Word of the Kingdom, required soil of highest till, free from weeds and rocks, lest the tender plant perish in the heat of persecution and tribulation, or become too weak to grow because of other things encroaching upon it. But here, the seed is of a different ilk. It can survive even being tossed to the wind to land where it may and grow to harvest.
As to these seeds, they are the children of the Kingdom. This word children is from huíos and means the mature heirs in a household. I think it should be translated "sons" instead of "children." Though children by birth, these have become mature enough to receive and manage the family’s fortune and trust. Thus, mature in the Kingdom, they can be thrown to the wind in the world.
I asked the Lord, "Who are these?"
I believe the answer came clearly. "They are the hundredfold of the previous parable."
Whether these seeds be thrown into a home, a business, a school, a jail, a war, a desert, a famine or a storm, where they are the Kingdom is.
It’s clear to see the enemy will oppose this planting of the "sons" of the Kingdom by planting his own "sons," sometimes subtly dressed in religious garb and spealdng righteous lingo, all with the intention of remaining undercover while accomplishing a devilish purpose. Sometimes the seed of this enemy’s planting will bear more resemblance to something religious than the seeds of the Son of Man. His seed will be wholesome, transparent and full of His abiding life.
The planting of the Lord and the planting of the enemy are to remain in the field together till the end of the world. But note: it is not the kósmos that is coming to an end, it is the aíon that is coming to its consummation.
At the consummation of the aíon the Son of Man will send his angels to gather out of the kósmos all things that offend. Like weeds, the offensive plantings of the devil will be given to destruction, the seed of judgment being inherent in them. The good seed will remain. In fact, they will shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Doesn’t this seem they will remain right here in the world? This is the field where God’s Kingdom will expand till its glory fills the most distant reaches of the earth. Think on it.
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