Kingdom Parables from Matthew 13

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Kingdom ParablesKingdom parables from Matthew 13

The kingdom parables explained

The parables of Matthew 13 are not commonly understood by many Christians. The seven kingdom parables  in this chapter illustrate spiritual realities of the kingdom of heaven. God wants His people to understand these realities clearly.

The Gospel of Matthew does not talk about salvation. The theme of the Gospel of John is salvation, but the theme of Matthew is the kingdom of heaven. We must take care not to impose our own ideas or preconceived notions on any Bible text. These parables speak about the dynamics of the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of heaven involves three aspects: the appearance, the reality, and the physical and geopolitical manifestation of the kingdom of heaven. This final aspect corresponds to the 1000 year reign of Christ called the Millennium in which Christ the King of Kings, will reign over the world from Jerusalem, and Christians who overcome will reign with Him.

These seven kingdom parables, are separated into two sub groups. The first four talk about the appearance of the kingdom of heaven, they begin with the phrase “the kingdom of heaven is like…” In these four parables, the intent is not to define every aspect of the kingdom, but to describe aspects of what appears to be the kingdom of heaven. The purpose of these parables is to warn against things that “appear” to be the kingdom of heaven but in reality, are not.

The kingdom parables explained to His disciples

After Jesus told the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-8, His disciples asked Him why He spoke to the people in parables. He explained that they as His disciples were privileged to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven but not the whole multitude.  He was not willing to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven to all people, only to His disciples.

God’s will is that none perish, but that all come to repentance and the knowledge of the Father’s will. Also God’s will is that all men be filled with the knowledge and revelation of His Word. However, because of the state of the majority of men’s hearts, they have not been given the privilege of knowing the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven”. This touches on a general principle of receiving God’s Word which determines that in order to understand God’s will we must have an open and inquisitive heart and humbly receive it as fertile soil receives a seed.  Jesus beautifully illustrated this principle in His first parable when He spoke of how each different type of soil receives seed.

Jesus definitely did not want to prevent anyone from being saved and the meaning of these parables was not hidden to prevent people from recognizing their need for salvation and coming to repentance. Such is clearly not God’s heart and neither is it the heart of Christ. The message concealed in these parables was not concerning salvation since there is no reference to the cross, to a savior, or was there any evangelistic appeal.  Instead, the themes of these parables of the kingdom point to fruitfulness, true and false believers, things that appear to be the kingdom of heaven but are devoid of its true nature. None of these kingdom parables elicited conversion, Jesus spoke them to test the hearts of the hearers.

The term “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” is a distinct term that does not point to a general knowledge of God or of His Word.  Jesus did not tell His disciples that they had received the privilege of knowing the Word of God, or the will of God, or even about the kingdom of God. He made it clear, that the knowledge of the mysteries was revealed only to them as His disciples after having been initiated to exclusive privileges of discipleship, one of which, was the special knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom parables as a mystery

The Greek word musterion usually refers to several different mysteries of God, His Word and His Work. Therefore, we can easily conclude that the “mysteries” mentioned in the New Testament do not all refer to the same thing.  For this reason, in order to discern which mystery each text is referring to, we must consider its context.

The mysteries of the kingdom that Christ was referring to were hidden in the parables of the kingdom of heaven in the book of Matthew.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is a term used exclusively in Matthew and refers to the Millennial Reign of Christ subsequent to the rapture and great tribulation and before Armageddon and the eternal state of Heaven. This is not common knowledge among most Christians and continues to remain almost a universal mystery.

In verse 12 He taught that in relation to this knowledge, whoever had it would receive abundantly more. However, whoever did not have it would lose the little that that they did have.  Even a small amount of knowledge concerning the kingdom that someone may accumulate, would be taken from them.

The kingdom parables – only for those with ears to hear

In verse 13, Jesus taught that since the multitude that heard His words had not been granted this knowledge, He spoke in parables because even though they had eyes and ears, they had no spiritual sight or sense of hearing.  Then He cited the prophet Isaiah who prophesied that since His people had such dull spiritual eyes, ears and hearts in relation to His message, the judgment pronounced over them would be that they would not understand and repent, and thus would lose the chance to receive His healing.  Since they were unwilling to turn, they were denied the chance to turn.

This is a very serious condition, and tragically common among God’s people.  Note that Jesus related this to Isaiah’s prophecy to God’s people.  God’s did not direct these words to another nation but to Israel, His own people. In the same way, Jesus did not direct the words of in these verses to lost people but to those who were “children of Abraham” God’s covenant people.  Many Christians have ears but do not hear and eyes but do not see!  Because of the dullness of their spiritual faculties, they lose any revelation that they might have previously had.  This is a terrible indictment against God’s people!

The understanding of the Kingdom parables brings blessing

Then Jesus reassured His disciples and affirmed that such was not the case with them.  They would be blessed because they had both spiritual sight and hearing to receive the explanation that He gave them privately.  Then before explaining the parable of the sower, He affirmed that many prophets and righteous men of old desired to see and hear what they were witnessing but never had the chance, but they had the privilege of this opportunity, thus they were blessed in their understanding of the kingdom parables of Jesus.

Kingdom Parables

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