Matthew

Matthew 13: The Mystery in Parables

The Mystery in Parables (The MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH) 
We have been building the framework for prophecy and now we will see the pieces fitting into place.   The Old Testament seers saw the Coming of Christ to SUFFER for our sins and His Coming as King to set up His GLORIOUS Kingdom on earth.  However, what would happen in the time between was HIDDEN from them (1 Peter 1:10,11).   The whole Church Age was a MYSTERY because it was not revealed in the Old Testament (which focused on Israel).   It was a SECRET hidden in God because it depended on Israel's decision.   The Kingdom was offered to Israel and had they received it, it would have been established that year soon after the Cross.   But since Israel rejected Christ, it couldn't be established then, so it was POSTPONED.

So what would happen instead? 
What form would the Kingdom take in this time between the First and Second Comings of Christ?

ANSWER: THE CHURCH.  The Church was a Mystery hidden in God during the Old Testament, only revealed when Israel rejected Christ and the Kingdom was postponed.  THE CHURCH WAS BORN on the Day of Pentecost and is God's representative on earth until the Rapture, while Israel is cut off.  We are now living in this Mystery dispensation.

MYSTERY (Greek: Musterion) is a key New Testament word.  It was used for the teaching of ancient societies (fraternities) and known only to its members (like Freemasons today).  They had secret initiation ceremonies, passwords, and handshakes (known to the members only) and were threatened with death if they disclosed any of its secrets!   Their teachings were a mystery; you had to join the group to know them, and then you weren't allowed to tell anybody.  A mystery was a secret, known only to a member.  What God would do in this present age - including the CHURCH as the body of Christ - wasn't revealed in the Old Testament.  It was a MYSTERY HIDDEN IN GOD - in the secret counsels of the TRINITY.   In fact, the whole Church Age was a Mystery because it was not revealed in the Old Testament (which focused on Israel).  Even the prophets were not let into the Mystery of what God would do between Christ’s first and second Comings.

This word MYSTERY was brought into the New Testament where it now means a REVEALED SECRET. It is something that was hidden in God but is now revealed openly in the New Testament.  It doesn’t mean something hard to understand or something mysterious, but it is the revelation of something that was secret knowledge. The MYSTERY OF CHRIST, which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit (Ephesians 3:4,5). Paul’s Epistles in particular give the full revelation of this Mystery.  The Mystery concerns what God is doing between the First and Second Coming of Christ.  The Mystery revelation is known to the members of Christ’s body but is not revealed to those outside.

THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM IN PARABLES. 
The MYSTERY is first mentioned in Matthew 13.   Only when it was clear that Israel would reject Jesus could it be revealed.  Because the Mystery Age would come next, instead of the Messianic Kingdom, it had to be revealed.  This is the first time revelation is given of the AGE between Christ's two Comings.   But at first it was only given secretly to the disciples not openly to Israel's leaders, until the decision was finalised - hence the use of PARABLES.

By parables, Jesus revealed the operation, the start, growth and climax of the Kingdom during the Mystery Age.  Jesus said: Verily I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see (the Messiah) and have not seen them; and to hear those things (the mystery) which ye hear, and have not heard them (v17)

WHY PARABLES? 
Jesus had to start preparing His disciples secretly but had to keep it from the leaders because the rejection was not yet final and official.  So, Jesus used Parables.  These are foundational to understanding the MYSTERY. Now we can understand Jesus’ explanation of His change of teaching style. The disciples said, Why speak to them in PARABLES ? 
He answered: Because it's given to you to know the MYSTERIES of THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN but to them 
(unbelievers) it is not given (to know) (v10,11).

He used PARABLES to give this secret teaching because on the one hand they revealed the truth in an interesting and memorable way to those who were open and believing and, on the other hand, it kept this truth hidden from those rejecting Christ (they were just nice stories to them).

For whosoever has (believing ears), to him shall be given (revelation), 
and he will have more abundance (of blessing) 
but whosoever has not (ears to hear), 
from him shall be taken away even what he has (place and blessing in the Kingdom - i.e the leaders of Israel)   Therefore I speak to them in PARABLES because seeing they see not; 
and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand (v12,13). 
This was necessary because although their decision was clear, there was another year until this rejection was finalised and official (Luke 13:5-9).  Thus, the revelation of the new form of the Kingdom needed to be kept secret from the leaders so that it would not impede their freedom of choice and also it was necessary to keep satan in the dark (1Corinthians 2:7-9).

All these things spoke Jesus to the multitude in parables; and without a parable spoke he not to them: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 
I will open my mouth in parables; 
I will utter things which have been kept SECRET from the foundation of the world 
(v34,35 - a prophecy from Psalm 78:2).    In sharing this knowledge, God was extending the inner circle of those who had the SECRET KNOWLEDGE  of this present dispensation.

MATTHEW 13  is a very special chapter of the Bible, with a unique place in Matthew’s Gospel. 
It's a chapter full of mysterious PARABLES - which contain new revelation in a CODED form. 
We're going to CRACK these CODES and understand the SECRETS of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Parables give truth in symbolic form.  Jesus interprets some of them and so helps us crack the code.   Also the rest of the Bible tells us the meaning of many symbols.  The whole chapter is in secret code - even THE SETTING: 
THE SAME DAY went Jesus OUT OF THE HOUSE and sat by the SEA SIDE and great multitudes were gathered together to him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the  multitude stood on the shore and he spoke many things to them in PARABLES (v1,2).

These verses are full of meaning.  THE SAME DAY -  tells us the background.  It was the same day as the events of Matthew 12 in which Israel's rejection of Jesus reached a climax.  The theme of MATTHEW is Jesus as the King of the Jews - His birth, His proclamation that the (Messianic) Kingdom is at hand, the signs that authenticated His claim to be the King and then Israel's increasing rejection.   In Matthew 12, He did a Messianic miracle that should have convinced the leaders, but they explained it by saying He was possessed by satan.  Jesus warned them that they were getting so hardened that they were close to committing the unforgivable sin and that He would give them one more chance to repent -the sign of Jonah (resurrection from the dead after three days).  This is the turning point of MATTHEW.   This decisive rejection was the signal for Jesus to start revealing what would happen as a result.  This included the postponement of the Messianic Kingdom and the calling out of another people instead of Israel to represent God.  It involved NEW REVELATIONS (mysteries) which God had previously kept SECRET.

THE MYSTERY REVEALED.  When Israel rejected Jesus, He began revealing this MYSTERY to the disciples (Matthew 13).     The parables of Matthew 13 start with: THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE - they describe how the Kingdom will be in this Present Age.  The Kingdom the prophets foretold won't immediately come but instead the Kingdom will come in a MYSTERY form due to Israel's rejection of the Kingdom.

These parables are the first revelation of this Mystery Kingdom and so are foundational to understanding the MYSTERY.    Thus it's vital for us to understand what they tell us about this time.

The Three Introductory Parables in Matthew 12

1.  ISRAEL = the empty house. 
First Jesus told a PARABLE (12:43-45) about an evil spirit leaving a man and returning to find THE HOUSE  clean but empty.   So he brings seven others and they enter and the final state is worse than the first.  He concluded: So it shall be also with this WICKED GENERATION.   Thus He identified the HOUSE as ISRAEL at that time.   John had come and called them to repentance, cleaning up the house, so that it would be prepared for Jesus to enter it as King.    But by rejecting Him the house was left empty inviting destruction to come - this was fulfilled in AD70 when Israel was scattered to the nations.

2.  The New Family of Faith.  Then in a second acted PARABLE (12:46-50), He showed that He would turn to a NEW group of people to be His FAMILY.   His mother and brothers were outside calling for Him - representing His natural family in the flesh = ISRAEL.  At this time, they were not believing in Him, they were not listening to His teaching.   So, Jesus said:  Who is My mother and brothers - here they are (those who were gathered around as listening disciples) for whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.   He was announcing the formation of a new family, a new people of those who would believe.  It would transcend natural relations - it is for WHOEVER - not just Jews, but for Gentiles also, who would be brought into the closest possible relationship with Him.   And those who would be His natural family (Israel) would be excluded (be on the outside) while they remained in unbelief.

3.  God turns from Israel (Jesus leaves the House) to go to the Gentiles (the Sea). 
THE SAME DAY went Jesus OUT OF THE HOUSE (13:1).  This HOUSE has been identified with ISRAEL.  This was the house where He had been in Matt 12, where He had been rejected and had issued warnings to Israel.   Now symbolically He left the HOUSE (a similar action to leaving the Temple in Matthew 24:1).  This signified that Israel's rejection of Christ would result in Him leaving them for a time and going to another group of people (confirming the previous parable) 
-  and sat by the SEA SIDE (the SEA = the Gentile NATIONS OF THE WORLD) and great multitudes were gathered together to Him (a great mass of Gentiles will gather to Him).

The SEA is a Bible symbol for the (Gentile) NATIONS OF THE WORLD. 
Woe to the multitude of many people who make a noise like the roar of the seas, and to the rushing of nations that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!  The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters (Isaiah 17:12,13). 
Then I stood on the sand of the sea.   And I saw a beast  (the Gentile world-power) rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name (Revelation 13:1).   Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters......The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues (Revelation 17:1,15). See also Matthew13:47-50 (the judgment of the nations).

In Matthew 13 Jesus told many parables that revealed the operation of the Kingdom of God in this present age.   He called it: THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, emphasising its purely spiritual quality where the King rules His subjects by invisible and spiritual means alone.   Because Israel rejected Her King, this form of the Kingdom came instead of the literal Kingdom of God on earth (fully manifest to the senses) which the prophets had foreseen.  The chapter starts with Jesus leaving the HOUSE (ISRAEL) and going to the SEA (NATIONS) (v1,2).  He told the first parables by the sea indicating that this new phase of the KINGDOM would be among the NATIONS (not centred on Israel).

(1) THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER (v3-9) is the FIRST PARABLE 
As such it has a special status.  It is the MASTER parable showing the basic operation of the Kingdom in this age.  Jesus said it was essential to understanding all the rest of the parables (Mark 4:13).    Due to its importance we will give a detailed explanation of the Parable, which the reader may wish to jump over.

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: 
Behold, a sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.  Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.  And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.  But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.   He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (v3-9).

Jesus interpreted the parable in v18-23:  Therefore hear the parable of the Sower: 
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.  But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.   Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.   But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

The Parable is an Allegory.   The symbolic keys are: 
1. The SEED = the WORD.  The seed is the word of God (Luke 8:11). 
The Parable of the Sower teaches us that in this Age the Kingdom of God comes, grows and is manifested through the Word.  This is confirmed in another Parable in Mark 4:26-29: 
The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.  For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.  But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. 
The seed is the Word of God planted in the earth (the heart of man).  It produces the results (fruit) if the soil is good.  The seed is small and works invisibly but under the right conditions it will grow and produce visible and beneficial results.  The power is in the Word (seed) not in the sower or the soil but we must receive it and allow it to grow.  The seed out of the soil bears no fruit.

2. The SOWER = JESUS and His followers, those who share the Word. 
He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man” (v37).

3. The SOILS = MEN'S HEARTS.  Different PEOPLE who hear the Word with different results depending on the condition of their heart.  The parable describes four main kinds of heart-response to the Word. 
UNDER THE GROUND = the invisible, unseen arena of man’s heart.

4. The PLANT = the NEW CREATION LIFE that is born from the SEED. 
The FRUIT = the visible production of the invisible Word. 
It is the Word of God which, when allowed to work freely in the heart of man, will produce fruit.  Our fruitfulness depends on our heart response to God’s word.  The key issue in each Christian’s life is God’s Word.  What you receive into your heart and mind will inevitably be manifested in your life, as fruit is a visible manifestation of the seed underground.

5. THE BIRDS (FOWLS) = satan's agents (including evil spirits) sent to steal the Word .

6. The HEAT of the SUN = tribulations, afflictions and persecutions that arise to pressure and offend us.

7.  THE THORNS and WEEDS = the CARES of this world, LUSTS for things and DESIRE for riches, that use up the soil and choke the Word (the plant that is born from the seed of the Word) so that it can't grow as it should.   They cut off the supply that the new life needs. All who allow these things to dominate will be unfruitful for the Kingdom.  If you allow good and bad seed in, the bad will choke (cut off the supply of water and nutrients from) the good and there is not enough life to grow much fruit.

8.  SATAN'S operation is to stop the reception and growth of the Word by various means (unbelief, affliction, persecution, and stimulating preoccupation with the riches, pleasures, responsibilities of this life).

9.  A plant needs WATER to grow.  In the Bible symbolism this WATER is the WORD OF GOD. 
This Parable reveals that the key to growth is to continue hearing and hearing the Word.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Luke 8:8).   The tense of the verb is ‘present continuous’, signifying that you don’t just hear one but you hear and keep on hearing.   This hearing is receiving the Word like a plant receiving water.  If the plant and the earth (heart) continue to receive the watering of the Word then growth will continue.  He who continues to receive the WATERING OF THE WORD (which includes the nutrients) becomes good ground and bears much fruit.

In Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17:7,8, the growth of a believer is compared to a Tree.   How we turn out depend on what we focus our attention on.  If we listen to rubbish (v1) we will end up as rubbish to be blown away by the wind (v4).  If we plant ourselves by the Word we will grow into a strong, stable, fruitful tree planted by the waters.  He who meditates in the Word day and night (as a life-style) will put down roots and grow up strong and straight, and flourish as a fruitful productive tree.  The key to growth is the intake of the Word.  The Word is the water containing the nutrients for growth.   The tree planted by the water is the believer who puts himself under the Word.  Meditation is the like the tree’s action of sucking in the water and its goodness.  The tree takes in the water day and night and allows it to flow through it and fill it causing the tree to flourish at all times.

The growth of our spiritual life (spirit) through our personality (soul) and life is like the growth of a plant or tree.   Both grow from a seed and both develop as a steady process if fed right.   The new man was created when the seed of the gospel was planted in our heart.   The ‘new man’ grows out of that seed and is thus made of God’s Word.  So if it is fed and watered with the Word it grows as a plant or tree until it fills (controls) our personality bringing forth much fruit.   God’s purpose is for us to be a fruitful tree of righteousness that glorifies the Lord (Isaiah 61:3).   The number one thing necessary for this growth is the WATERING OF THE WORD (Ephesians 5:26).  Plants that receive no water shrivel and die.   They can’t grow.  The primary need for every Christian to be sustained, nourished and grow is the watering of the Word.  We are like a young plant in the heat of the sun (the afflictions, pressures and trials of life) that continually needs watering, but we don’t need the toxic rain of false doctrine!

Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls (James 1:21). 
The Word was implanted at our new birth, but we must receive more of it (hearing and doing it) for the spirit-life to grow out of it, filling and transforming our souls. 
In 1Corinthians 3:6,7 believers are plants: I planted (the preached Word that saved them) Apollos watered (by teaching the Word) but God gave the increase (the growth).  God is the source of all growth but He only does it through the teaching (watering) of the Word.  Like plants, we need a daily intake of water. 
Isaiah 55:8-12 describes the Word as rain from heaven sent to water the plants (us) causing us to grow and be fruitful.  The Word accomplishes it purpose in us if we receive it, and then it causes us to go forth with joy!

The Parable of the Sower gives the revelation of how the Kingdom of God (the life of God) grows in us as a plant.   It shows the progression and growth of the Kingdom in us.  The Parable reveals the stages of the seed-bearing fruit and what we must do for its success.   It shows it in four stages which mirror the phases of a plant’s growth.  The key to the parable is the Word which is the seed containing the life, nature and power of the Kingdom (Luke 8:11).   It all starts from a seed and the growth is the growth of the seed (the Word in us) the soil is the human heart.   At each stage the key is keep hearing, receiving and thinking about the Word. 
If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear....Take heed what you hear.  With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him (Mark 4:23-25).

The STAGES of growth are: 
1) The seed is planted. 
2) It puts down roots. 
3) It overcomes competition from weeds. 
4) It brings forth fruit.

The Parable also reveals the factors and forces that come to impede growth at each stage.  It also reveals the key to overcoming these and to maintaining growth: He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Luke 8:8).    The key to growth is hearing the Word.  This hearing is receiving the Word like a plant receiving water.  If the plant and the earth (heart) continue to receive the watering of the Word then growth will continue.   Since the key is the Word, satan’s strategy is to take the Word from us or to keep us away from it.

STAGE (1): The seed is planted.   To stop people reaching STAGE 1, satan blinds the minds of unbelievers (2Corinthians 4:4) so they don’t understand the Word and then comes to take it away from their thoughts by distraction.  He hardens the ground so the seed does not penetrate the surface. Satan (the fowl of the air) comes immediately to pluck the Word out before it can take root (for he knows the power for God of a planted Word, for that’s how we are saved - 1 Peter 1:23).   He does this by sending distracting and doubting thoughts to replace the seed.   This is the situation of SOIL 1 - The Hard Ground.      But if the man continues to listen to and meditate on the Word with a seeking heart, then the water will soften his heart and with understanding he will receive the seed which will then be planted (established) in his heart.  He will understand and believe the gospel and be born again.  Thus, he reaches STAGE 1.

STAGE (2): It puts down roots. 
The seed now goes into the shallow and stony soil - SOIL 2. 
It springs up quickly (a joyful response), but either because it has just been planted or for other reasons, it has not developed deep roots.   Therefore, he is vulnerable to the heat of the sun (bad things, afflictions sent to pressure us away from the Word) because the roots are our ability to draw water (nourishment and strength) to stand firm and grow.  When satan turns up the heat with affliction and persecution, he gives up because he has little inner root-strength.  He needs more of the water of the Word to soften, break up, and deepen his soil and develop more roots.  The seed is rooted when by his will a quality decision is made to believe and stand on the Word.  Then the roots can draw the water needed to prevent wilting in the heat.   If he keeps hearing the Word, his roots will grow and he will have the strength to overcome the tests and enter STAGE 2.   If not, he will wither under the sun after a promising start.

STAGE (3): It must overcome competition from weeds.   Now the seed is rooted and shows promise of bearing fruit.  If satan’s last strategy failed, he has one more to try.  Weeds come which compete for the soil (heart).   These are the cares, responsibilities, pleasures (good things) of life.  Even though the plant is rooted these things are capable of stopping it growing to maturity.  This happens when these things so grab our attention that they choke (cut off the supply of) the Word in our life.   This is the situation of SOIL 3.   If we are tempted to put all our attention on the anxieties of this life, the desire for material gain and pleasures, then these weeds grow in our heart and squeeze out and suffocate the Word.  Cut off from our source of growth, we stop growing.

We must pull out the weeds and put our attention on the Word and God will provide all these other things that we need.  Hearing the Word will make our heart good soil (Romans 10:17).  If we keep putting the Word first, receiving God’s water which has nutrients that feed, and disinfectants that kill the weeds we will continue to grow and enter STAGE 3.  This issue is illustrated with Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42 where Jesus tells Martha, who is overwhelmed by the cares of life, that only one thing (the Word) is needful.  This was what Mary chose.  Putting the Word  first place will then give us mastery over and enjoyment of the good things and the details of life.

STAGE (4): It brings forth fruit.  If we guard our hearts (Proverbs.4:20-23) and continue patiently to receive the watering of the Word we will grow and bear much fruit (STAGE 4).  This is the situation of SOIL 4 - the Good Fruitful Ground.   The seed grows in the good believing ground and bears much fruit.  How much - (30, 60 or 100-fold) depends on how much place we give the Word.  The good soil is the ideal.

You can see the four soils as a progression.  The parable reveals the stages of the seed-bearing fruit and what we must do for its success.  At each stage the key is keep hearing, receiving and thinking about the Word.   If you continue to meditate (hear) the word then your heart will change from bad to good soil.  The more you receive the Word the more you will be fruitful.  Continue meditating in the Word and you will become good soil.  Different results with different people are not due to a difference in the seed but a difference in the soils. So, the Kingdom of God now operates through the sowing of the Word and the Word working invisibly in the hearts of men causing visible results (fruit).  The Kingdom enters us by the seed (the Word) and grows in us from that seed as it is watered (by the Word).   The new life in you was created by the Word.   As you hear the word that life is nourished, strengthened and grows.  The Word brings forth love, healing, salvation if we let it grow.  It has the design and the ability to manifest God’s Kingdom blessings. The parable is the most important one because it describes how God’s Kingdom works in and through us by His Word, comparing it to the operation of the seed.  We need this revelation because the Word (seed) works invisibly in the heart, and we need patience to continue in the Word while the seed is growing, for there is a time-period before the fruit (results) is fully manifest.  There is a sowing (planting), growing and harvest (reaping) time (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).  Seed (the Word) seems to the eye small and powerless but received into the heart it can do great things.

The parable gives us the wisdom to let our hearts be a garden where the Word of God can grow and bring forth much fruit.   It shows what can happen to stop the Word (seed) produce the desired results (fruit).   We can recognise with the help of this parable what may be causing the Word to not grow in us (stopping our fruitfulness), so that we can deal with it. Satan’s strategies to stop our growth are all focussed on cutting us off from our supply (the Word).  The key is to keep under the watering of the word for then our heart is changed into good soil and the life of God grows in us and becomes visible and fruitful.  We will succeed if we continue under the Word (John 8:31,32), for it works powerfully in those who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

The key is to continue HEARING and HEARING THE WORD 
He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matthew 13:9) because the Kingdom comes into us by the WORD, it grows in us by the WORD and it is SPREAD by us by the WORD.  (For as we bring forth FRUIT - the outward manifestation of the new-life growing within us (Galatians 5:23), we are a witness of the Kingdom.  And FRUIT contains SEED by which we multiply.   Thus our fruitfulness means we become Sowers of the WORD).

Jesus concluded: Whoever has (ears that hear the Word) shall more (life and growth) be given in abundance, but whoever has not (ears that hear the Word) what he has shall be taken from him (by satan)” (Matthew 13:12). 
If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear....Take heed what you hear.   The measure (of hearing and attention to the Word) you use it (growth and fruit) will be measured to you and to you who hear (the Word) shall more (growth and fruit) be given but whoever does not have (hearing ears), even what he has will be taken away from him (Mark 4:23-25). 
Take heed therefore how you hear (the Word) for whosoever has (ears that hear and receive the Word) to him shall be given (blessing and growth, for the life and blessing of God is in the Word) and whosoever has not (hearing ears) from him shall be taken even what he seems to have (Luke 8:18).    He backslides (negative growth) and loses his gains. Satan steals and God gives but we decide which is operative, according to whether we choose to hear God’s Word.

Prophetically,  the parable teaches that Jesus would indeed bring a new Kingdom but it's not in the form Israel expected.

1. The KING is absent. The King reigns in his subjects through the Word.

2. The Kingdom spreads and grows through the SOWING of the WORD.  The Key to God's Working in this Age is the sowing of God's Word, especially in causing the New Birth.

3.  The seed of the word implanted in the soil of the heart brings forth a new creation, a reborn spirit. (This is confirmed by the next parable where the GOOD SEED are the CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM - what grows out of the seed (the wheat) is reborn spirit-sons of God - v38).   Thus as a plant grows out of a seed and is one with that seed, so the new-creation grows out of the implanted Word and is one with that Word.   So the parables identify the Seed as the Word and as the New-Life that grows from the Word.   When the Word is received it brings forth a new spiritual life which if nourished and protected will grow and bring forth much fruit.

4.   Israel were expecting an OUTWARD VISIBLE KINGDOM imposed by God but Jesus shows them that the Kingdom would work internally (in the heart) not externally.   The Kingdom comes by REVELATION (understanding the Word and doing it).

5.  Evil, satan, afflictions, persecutions would all be present in this phase of the Kingdom (unlike the Messianic Age).

6.  This Age will see varied responses to the Word as described in the Parable and only a minority bring forth a manifestation of the Kingdom in FRUIT and thus become Sowers of the Seed. The Parable explains why.

Thus this Parable is a stunningly accurate prophecy of the Present Age. 
 

PARABLE 2 - THE WHEAT and TARES (v24-30). 
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: 
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.   But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.   So the servants of the owner came and said to him, Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?  He said to them, An enemy has done this. The servants said to him, Do you want us then to go and gather them up? But he said, No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.

This fits with the first parable and was also interpreted by Jesus (v37-43). 
He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.   The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.   The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.  Therefore as tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.  The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

The first parable focused on the part of the earth that was the individual believer.  Now we see the bigger view where the SEED is sown in the FIELD = the WORLD of all people.   This shows the Kingdom is not to be focused on Israel, but the whole WORLD.  Like most of the Parables it shows the Messianic Kingdom will be postponed for a significant time.   The Age is compared to a Harvest from Sowing to Reaping.   The other parables also involve growth processes which continue to their fullness.   This one also reveals the Time-Period under consideration.  It starts from Christ Sowing the Word (His First Coming - v37) and ends with the Harvest time at the end of the age when the Son of Man (Christ) returns to judge.  This describes the present MYSTERY AGE.

As well as seeing Christ sowing the good seed, it shows that during this time the ENEMY = THE DEVIL will be busy subversively sowing his SEED (false teaching,a false gospel)   Satan is a counterfeiter.   Jesus is warning us there'll be false teaching in the church.  We must be on guard.  Just because it sounds religious does not mean it's of God.   This seed when received brings forth TARES = the children of the wicked one.   While growing they look like wheat but when full grown the ears are long and the grains almost black.  Each grain must be removed before grinding wheat, or the bread will be bitter and poisonous.   Wheat is golden but tares show their true colour as they ripen.   They are sown among the wheat.  The Kingdom in this time appears as a field of wheat with false believers mixed in with true believers.   The extent of the Kingdom of Heaven is defined here.  It's not just true Christians but all who profess to be Christian.  The parable reveals that the outward form of the Kingdom (the professing Church) will have unbelievers (counterfeit Christians) mixed in with the true.   Going to Church doesn't make you a Christian, any more than going to a Macdonalds makes you a hamburger!'

This Age has two SOWINGS and two KINGDOMS growing together.  The professing church will be mixture of children of God and children of satan  existing together.  One has received God's word, others have received satan's counterfeit word and are in his kingdom even though they claim to be and may look like Christians for a time.  It's not our job to weed out these ones.   We can do more harm than good because it's hard for us to judge.  Only God sees the heart.   But as the SEED ripens a person's true character becomes clearer.   Our job is to sow the good seed and leave the final judgment to God. The answer to the enemy's sowing is just to keep sowing the Word and leave the final results to God.

Both (good and evil) will grow together until the HARVEST (at the end of the age), when the REAPERS (the angels) will finally separate the good from the bad.   The wicked TARES will be bound and burnt.  The golden WHEAT (the righteous) will be gathered into the BARN (the Kingdom of God) and they will shine forth as the sun in the KINGDOM of their Father. The time of harvest is ‘the end (consummation) of the Age’.  This refers to a time-period where everything is brought to its conclusion.   In other words ‘the end of the age’ is a term for the Tribulation.

This parable tells us not to be discouraged by evil but to continue sowing the Word while looking toward the end of the age when evil will be judged.  At the end, the Kingdom of God will be fully manifested and established on earth  and we will dwell in it in righteousness, safety, peace and glory.

Matthew 13 is a PROPHECY in PARABLES of the Church-Age which until this point was a Mystery hidden in God.The parables of the SOWER and the WHEAT & TARES were the first pair of parables. 
Now we look at the second pair of parables that describe the growth of the Kingdom. 
As there are two SOWINGS (good and bad) there will be two GROWTHS (good and bad). 
  
PARABLE 3 - THE MUSTARD SEED (v31,32).
Another parable put he forth to them, saying, 
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is like 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 becomes a tree, so that the BIRDS of the AIR come and LODGE in its BRANCHES.

1.  This picture of the Kingdom reveals its growth.  The Mustard seed was the smallest of seeds known in Palestine, but it grew quickly to a large size (even 10 feet).   Thus the Kingdom (the Church) would start small (unlike the Messianic Kingdom) but would grow large.   Like individual believers in previous parables, the Church grows from a SEED.  Jesus was the SEED which was planted into the ground and died which sprung up bearing much fruit (John 12:24).   The Acts of the Apostles records how the tree sprung up quickly - first the 12, then the 120, the 2000, the 3000 and so on until it filled the earth.  So, the Mustard Tree is all those joined to and who grow from the original seed (Christ).

2.  Jesus likened MUSTARD SEED to FAITH
If you have FAITH as a MUSTARD SEED (Matthew 17:20) 
So the characteristic quality of being in this Tree is FAITH.   Instead of each believer being a stalk of wheat, we now see the whole body of true believers being a MUSTARD TREE - organically linked to Christ and one another through FAITH (like the Vine in John 15).  So the TREE = the true Church, the body of Christ and the branches = the individual members.

3.  The BIRDS.   As with the previous parables, the whole professing church (believers and unbelievers) is seen in this picture.  For the BIRDS (members of satan's kingdom - Matthew 13:4,19) of the AIR (Ephesians 6:12) are attracted to the Church and come and sit on the BRANCHES (the members of God's Kingdom - John 15:5).   They look like they are attached to the tree but they don't belong, they are only lodgers.  They are not part of the tree, but are just using it for position and to eat its fruit.   God sees clearly who they are.   They are marked by the fact that they eventually fly away.   Some backslide because they never were part of the tree.  They were interested for a time but flew away.  1John 2:19 says that some have left the church because they never were one of us.  (This is not talking about leaving a particular church, but leaving the Christian life which includes fellowship in a church).    We don't know for sure, so we must assume they are BIRDS not BRANCHES and try to get them saved.

4.  Summary  This parable predicts a quick expansion of the true Church from a small beginning.   But as the true Church grows so will there be an increase of unbelievers (the birds) nestling in its branches.   So the result is that the visible Church will be a mixture. 
  
PARABLE 4 - THE LEAVEN (v33). 
Another parable he spoke to them; THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is like LEAVEN, 
which a woman took,and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened (corrupted).

This parable goes with the last one. 
As there are two SOWINGS (good and bad), so there are two GROWTHS (good and bad).

1.  LEAVEN (sour dough-infected with yeast) is always used symbolically in a bad sense as a picture of SIN and FALSE-TEACHING - an infection that spreads quickly and pervasively and puffs up (pride).  So offerings to God normally could not contain Leaven (Leviticus 2:11, 6:17, 10:12).   In the Exodus and the Passover all the leaven is removed from the house and Unleavened Bread is eaten for a week (Exodus 12:15-20). 
Don't you know that a little LEAVEN (sin) leavens the whole lump?   Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you might be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened (born-again).   For indeed Christ, our Passover Lamb was sacrificed for us.  Therefore, let us keep the Feast (of Unleavened Bread) not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1Corinthians 5:6-8).

Jesus talked about: 
(1) The Leaven of the Pharisees (Luke 12:1 - hypocrisy, legalism, outward show - Matthew 23:14,16, 23-28). 
(2) The Leaven of Sadducees (Matthew 16:6,11,12 - liberalism, rejecting the supernatural and the miracles of God). 
(3) The Leaven of Herod (Mark 8:15 - political religion and worldliness). 
Unleavened Bread represents the pure (uncorrupted) life and teaching of Christ that we are to feed upon and live by.

2.  THE GROWTH OF FALSE TEACHING. 
So this Parable teaches that along with true church growth, there will also be a growth of FALSE TEACHING, APOSTACY and resulting SIN in the Church, as the Church-Age progresses.   We have seen this in church history with formalism, liberalism, false teachings and cults mushrooming, especially in the last 100 years.  The apostles warned often of false teachers who would: deny the Lord that bought them (2Peter 2:1 - denying the Person and Work of Christ).

3.  The EXTENT of the LEAVENING. 
Leaven puffs up the bread causing it to look bigger than it really is (e.g - we think the U.K is a Christian country but only a small part is Christian because we are leavened with nominal Christianity).  Leaven has an irresistible growth that continues until it has infected the whole.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  Thus false-teaching will ultimately infect the whole Church.  We have seen apostacy grow during the last 100 years and fill all denominations.  (However, within each are true believers).   This end-time apostate Church is pictured by Laodicia in Revelation 3. The final state of the Church will be total apostacy after the Rapture removes all true believers from the earth.

4. The LEAVEN is HIDDEN in the MEAL. 
The three measures represent the completeness and Divine origin of God's Word (God is Triune).  The WOMAN introducing the leaven = False Teachers (‘Jezebels’ who lead God's people away from truth and the true God to worship a false god - Revelation 2:20) led by satan, who hide the false teaching (leaven) in Scripture (the pure meal).  They quote, distort, and corrupt Scripture, using it to give authority to their teachings and so deceive many.   The hiding denotes satan's subterfuge and subtlety, so that a careless person doesn't realise he's eating poison. (Note 'the WOMAN' in this parable is in contrast to 'the MAN' who in other parables is Christ - the Son of Man).

After telling the first four Parables: 
Jesus sent the multitude away, and went INTO THE HOUSE (v36).

After interpreting the Wheat and Tares, He now tells another four parables.

THESE PARABLES IN THE HOUSE describe the STATE of the KINGDOM in the TRIBULATION. 
In v36 Jesus went to a NEW SETTING - the HOUSE (Israel). 
Thus, after the Church-Age, God will turn back to ISRAEL who will be His witness in this time of Tribulation : 
  
PARABLE 5 - THE HIDDEN TREASURE (v44). 
Again, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is like TREASURE hid in a field (= the world) which when a man has found, he hides, and for joy thereof goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.

1. The TREASURE = ISRAEL.  Israel is God's treasured possession: 
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.  And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel 
(Exodus 19:5,6). 
The LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure (Psalm 135:4). 
This parable shows what will happen to Israel in this mystery-time.

2. The MAN = JESUS (as in previous parables).   If  this man represented us, seeking and buying the treasure of heaven with all we have, then this would contradict salvation by grace.

3.  This Treasure was purchased by Jesus.   He gave all that He had, even His life-Blood at the Cross to redeem Israel and she is His possession.  He is joyful because He loves her and foresees her restored to Him.  In purchasing Israel, He also buys the field (the whole world).  Thus, on the Cross, He also redeemed all peoples.

4.  But in this age it is HIDDEN in the field of the world.   Even though Israel was purchased on the Cross, for a time (Age) after Jesus bought her, He does not come into possession of His treasure.   At the present time, Israel is not God's witness.  She is hidden and so is not functioning as the light (the Church is instead).  She is among the nations (in the field).  Hidden, she is also blinded from seeing her Purchaser. Though hidden, she is not forgotten by her Owner.  He will dig her up and put her on display again.  When the Church is raptured, Israel will be God's witnesses in the Tribulation and she will be the exalted nation in the Millennium. 
  

PARABLE 6 - THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE (v45,46). 
Again, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is like unto 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.

This, with the last parable forms a pair. 
The TREASURE and the PEARL are the TWO REDEEMED PEOPLES of God - ISRAEL and the CHURCH.

1. The PEARL = the CHURCH - the BRIDE of Christ, worn close to his heart. The MAN = JESUS (again) who sought a Bride from eternity.  He found (saw) and chose her (the Pearl of Great Price, the elect)  to be his own from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3).  He came and paid the great price on the Cross purchasing her with all that He had - His precious Blood.

2.  A Pearl is formed in the SEA (in the nations). 
Thus the Church is made of those called out of every tribe, tongue, people and nation.

3.  The Pearl is purchased by, and belongs to Christ.  It is the chosen object of His love.

4.  A Pearl is formed within an Oyster around an injury.   The pearly material is deposited around a wound (for protection).  Likewise, the Church is formed in Christ (the oyster).   Out of His wound the Church was formed.  Our true life is hidden in Christ to be manifested later.   Now, those who believe are attached to (identified with) the cross and the Church grows by gradual accumulation of those who trust in and are joined to the Cross, until the Pearl (Bride) is complete.

5.  When completed (when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in) it is LIFTED out of the SEA (the Rapture).  Its glory is no longer hidden but fully revealed.   It is united forever to the One who bought it and is a glorious adorning for Him.  This is the RAPTURE.   In this parable, there is no sign of the false church.  It shows the Church complete, perfect, raptured, with the One who bought her.

The Pearl is formed in the dark depths (the world).   The Church began in the darkness of death but is destined to be lifted up out of the dark sea (the nations) in the Rapture and to be in the light reflecting the glory of God, shining with beauty as a Pearl. 
 

PARABLE 7 - THE DRAGNET (v47-50). 
Again, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is like unto a NET, that was cast into the SEA, and gathered of every kind: which, when FULL, they drew to shore, sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end (consummation) of the age: the angels shall come forth, and separate the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

1. The Gospel will go to the nations.  A large Gospel NET is lowered and is in the water (nations) for a long time catching FISH.  Evangelism = fishing for MEN (Matthew 4:19).  So the FISH caught are MEN who are joined to the Kingdom by a profession of faith.   This kind of net is used for large catches.   All kinds of fish are caught as all kinds of people join God's community.  The Gospel-net goes into the SEA of Nations in this Church-Age (Mark 13:10) and in the Tribulation (Matthew 24:14).   As we shall see, the Tribulation is especially in view in this Parable.

2. When the Net is FULL, it's time for the END and Judgment. 
(By the end of the Tribulation, the gospel will have been preached to ALL nations and then the END shall come - Matthew 24:14).   Everyone will be given an opportunity to enter the Kingdom.

3. There will be two kinds of fish in the net (those claiming to be in the Kingdom) - true and false believers (the just and the wicked).   These are only separated at the End of the Age.   This is the Judgment of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25:31-46 which takes place on earth when Jesus returns and determines who will go alive into the Millennial Kingdom - v34). The net is brought to the SHORE (= ISRAEL) - in contrast to the NATIONS (= the SEA).   Those alive at Christ's return will be gathered to ISRAEL to stand before Jesus when He returns with His angels at the end of the age (Matthew 25:31,32).  Then the wicked are separated from the just.   As in Matthew 25:41,46, the wicked are removed and thrown away into a fire.   The just will go into the Kingdom (the vessels for good fish).

4. This Parable is parallel to the Wheat and Tares.  Both show the gathering and growth of a mixed group of people into the 'visible' Kingdom over a period of time.  Both show the age ending in a HARVEST when they are all brought to one place where the wicked are separated from the just (JUDGMENT).   Both reveal TWO ULTIMATE DESTINIES - the wicked are burnt and the just enter the safety of the Kingdom.   Both teach that this separation cannot be done before the end - until then the visible Kingdom will contain a mixture of good and bad, true and false.

SUMMARY of the Parables of Matthew 13. 
Together they give an overall prophecy of the INTER ADVENT Age, an overview of its development in seven Parables, showing the operation, start, growth and climax of this Age - the MYSTERIES of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:11, Luke 8:10).  The parables divide into two groups of four, distinguished by the two settings (the Sea-side and the House) and by their introductory phrases.   These two groups describe conditions in the two Time-Periods between Christ's First and Second Comings (namely, the Church-Age and the Tribulation).

The Parables by the SEA-SIDE describe the CHURCH AGE - which focuses on the NATIONS.  Israel rejected Jesus so He left the House (Israel) and went to the SEA (nations, v1,2).  These four parables are all about the working and results of true and false teaching.   The Parables in the HOUSE show the KINGDOM in the TRIBULATION. (Although the Tribulation itself is not part of the Mystery, the Church-Age leads into it and so there are aspects of the Tribulation which are affected by and are part of the mystery). The 'Wheat and Tares' belong to both settings because it has a double application 
 

The Parables by the SEA-SIDE = the Operation of the Kingdom in the Church-Age.

Two Sowings.

(1) THE SOWER (v3-23) is the key to understanding the operation, growth and final outcome of the Kingdom - hence it is fundamental to all parables. The Word of God will be sown throughout the world with varying results.  Many will be reborn but only a minority will grow to bear much fruit.    It also reveals satan's operation - to stop the progress of the Word.  The Kingdom is internal, spread by sowing the SEED of the WORD in men's hearts.  The SEED = the word of the mystery of Christ.

(2) THE WHEAT and TARES (v24-30) ('Another parable').  Satan is also actively sowing his seed (false teachings), so that not all of the professing church are true believers.  Many in the Church are really not Christ's.   The Rapture at the start of ‘the end of the age’, will be the first harvest time when the wheat and tares are separated by God.  The Tares goes into the Tribulation and certain fiery judgment.  A similar picture in Matthew 3:12 describes the separation of believers from unbelievers as wheat from chaff.   The wheat (the Church) is thrown into the air (the Rapture) and is separated from the chaff (the false church) which is blown away into the Tribulation for judgment.

Two Growths resulting from the two Sowings.

(3) THE MUSTARD SEED (v31,32) ('Another parable').  The result of the true sowing is a great growth of the true Church from a small start.  The Church will grow to a large size from small beginnings.  But birds (unbelievers) will also attach to and use the Church (rest in its branches).

(4) THE LEAVEN (v33) ('Another parable').  The result of the false sowing is that apostacy (false teaching) will also grow in the Church and infect the whole Church world.  This is the origin of ‘Mystery Babylon’.

THE PARABLES IN THE HOUSE describe the STATE of the KINGDOM in the Tribulation. 
They describe the final outcomes of the Mystery Age and the final two destinies of believers and unbelievers.   In v36, Jesus went to a NEW SETTING - the HOUSE (Israel).  Thus, after the Church-Age, God will turn back to ISRAEL to be His witness in this time of Tribulation.

Two Final Destinies (believers and unbelievers).

(2)  THE WHEAT and TARES (INTERPRETED) (v37-43) 
The Wheat and Tares will be separated at Christ's return.   Again, there will be a final true and false sowing in the Tribulation.  The Tribulation ends with Christ's return and the Harvest - Judgment, when the angels separate the Wheat from the Tares.  The destiny of the wicked: they are burned and the believers enter the BARNS (the Millennial Kingdom).

Two Redeemed Peoples Restored.

(5) THE HIDDEN TREASURE (v44) ('Again'). 
The TREASURE = ISRAEL (God's earthly people) is purchased by Christ but hidden  in the field (the world) for a time, before being  brought forth on view again as God's   witness (Israel's blindness and its removal - Romans 11:25). The purchased    Treasure, once hidden, now comes out into view (Israel is again God's witness - the  144,000 evangelists are from the 12 tribes of Israel) and can see her Owner (Israel   no longer blinded).

(6) THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE in heaven (v45,46). ('Again'). 
The CHURCH (God's Heavenly People) having been formed in Christ (oyster) around   His wound (the Cross) is lifted out of the sea (nations) to adorn the one who gave all  to purchase her (the Church in Heaven).  The Pearl (Church) is now lifted out of the   sea of  nations (raptured) and is a glorious adorning of Christ. 
 

(7) THE DRAGNET. (v47-50) ('Again'). 
The Gospel-Net is put down again in the Tribulation and again catches a mixture of fish.  The Tribulation ends with Christ's return and judgment to determine who can enter the KINGDOM and who is burnt. 
  
PARABLE 8 - The TEACHER of NEW and OLD THINGS 
Therefore every scribe  instructed in THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is like a man who is a HOUSEHOLDER, 
who brings forth out of his treasure things NEW and OLD (v52).   This is the concluding Parable.

A Bible-Teacher must bring forth both Old and New Testament truth about the Kingdom.  We must affirm the OLD (The Messianic Kingdom) and the NEW (Church Truth).  We hold them forth together.    Most of Israel just holds to the Old;  most Christians just hold to the New.  Neither are properly instructed.  What an amazing, accurate prophecy this is of the present age!  This MYSTERY was hard for the Jews to grasp.  It was a great shock that took them time to comprehend, because it describes a Kingdom that Messiah would bring that was quite different (even opposite) to the one they expected from the prophets’ teachings.

CHALLENGE: 
Are you wheat or tares?  Are you a bird or a branch, a good or bad fish? 
You might like to hang around Christians or go to Church sometimes; you might think if you call yourself a Christian or live in a Christian country or are ‘baby-baptised’ you belong to Christ.   Being associated with the Church doesn't mean you belong to Christ.   Looking like a Christian doesn't make you one.   You must receive the WORD OF CHRIST and BE BORN AGAIN.  Personally ask Him into your heart as your Lord and Saviour and He will change you on the inside into a child of God, into GOLDEN WHEAT.  If you don't, your inner corrupt (black) nature will gradually be manifest (like a tare) and you'll be ripe for a burning judgement.

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