In relation to the central message of the New Testament - the Word of the Kingdom - first century Christendom and twentieth century Christendom would have very little in common. Things have changed in Christendom to that degree, and they have not changed for the better. Rather, there has been a steady deterioration, and this deterioration has been going on for almost two millenniums.
The central message of the New Testament was universally understood and taught throughout the first century Church. But this same message, except in isolated instances, is not understood or taught at all throughout the twentieth century Church.
The false message concerning the kingdom, introduced by Satan very early in the dispensation through false teachers (apostates) in the Church, produced a deterioration which has left Christendom in its present condition. And it matters not whether one is viewing Christendom from the standpoint of those in fundamental circles or those in liberal circles. In relation to a knowledge of and attitude toward the Word of the Kingdom, exactly the same thing can be seen among those in both groups.
Those in fundamental circles don’t understand any more about the Word of the Kingdom than those in liberal circles do. And anyone daring to proclaim this message today will be fought against by those in both groups ‑ usually more so by the fundamentalists than by the liberals. In relation to this message, both groups exist in an almost completely leavened state; and both are seen described in Rev. 3: 17 as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
The seven parables in Matthew chapter thirteen have to do with Christendom in relation to the Word of the Kingdom, from the time of the Church’s inception to the beginning of the Messianic Era. The first four parables cover a history of Christendom extending throughout the dispensation; and the last three parables continue with events which will occur after the dispensation has run its course, events leading into the Messianic Era.
Never in the history of the Church has it been more important for Christians to understand that which is revealed in these parables than it is today, for never in the history of the Church has the Word of the Kingdom been more misunderstood and spoken against than it is today.
Christians are in a race - the race of “the faith” - with its corresponding spiritual warfare. And the highest of all possible prizes is being held out for the victors - that of being accorded the privilege of ascending the throne with God’s Son and ruling over the earth as co-heirs with Him for 1,000 years. A Christian can overcome in the race, in the warfare, and occupy one of these positions with God’s Son; or he can be overcome in the race, in the warfare, and fail to occupy one of these positions. This is the message which Satan has fought so hard to destroy.
And, is it any wonder that Satan has expended so much time and effort to do away with this message? Christ and His co-heirs are to take the kingdom and rule over the very domain which Satan and his angels rule over today. Satan and his angels are to be put down, and Christ and His co-heirs are to ascend the throne in their stead. And this is something which Satan, at all costs, has sought to avoid.
This is the realm where Satan centers his attack against Christians and against the Word of God. This is the heart of all things surrounding the spiritual warfare. Satan attacks Christians, seeking at all costs to bring about their defeat in the race of the faith, causing them to be disqualified for the prize set before them. And he attacks the message which relates these things - the Word of the Kingdom - seeking at all costs to corrupt and destroy this message.
And how well Satan has succeeded can be seen on every hand today. This message is all but absent in the Churches throughout the land, and the vast majority of Christians throughout these same Churches lack any real spiritual direction and purpose in their lives. This is what the leaven which the woman placed in the three measures of meal in Matt. 13: 33 has done during a period encompassing almost two millenniums.
This is the state in which Christendom finds itself near the end of the dispensation. And this existing state of Christendom should surprise no one, for Scripture clearly reveals that this is the way the dispensation will end.
* * *
The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the seaside.
And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
And he spake many things unto them in parables... (Matt. 13: 1-3a).
Matthew chapter thirteen records seven connected parables which Christ gave at a particular time during His earthly ministry, calling them, “mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens” (v. 11). These parables comprise the first of the numerous mysteries seen in the New Testament and have to do with the same thing that any other mystery in the New Testament has to do with - an opening up and unveiling of that which has lain in the Old Testament from the beginning.
There is nothing in the New Testament which does not have its roots one or more places in the Old. The mystery revealed to Paul (Eph. 3:lff), for example, not only had its basis in the Old Testament Scriptures but drew from Paul’s personal knowledge of these Scriptures (Acts 9: 20-22) - moving beyond “the letter” to “the spirit” of the matter (2 Cor. 16-18) - opening Scriptures which he already knew to his understanding.
And so it is with the mysteries of the kingdom in Matthew chapter thirteen. These mysteries have their basis in the Old Testament Scriptures and draw from a presumed knowledge of these Scriptures [Page 2] by those to whom the mysteries are directed.
These are mysteries opened up and revealed by Christ through the use of parables, a form of teaching which He began to extensively use at this point in His ministry. Christ had used parables sparingly prior to this time (e.g., Luke 5: 36-39), but from this point forward, for a particular revealed reason, parables began to occupy a major part of His ministry.
The English word “parable” is simply an Anglicized form of the Greek word parabole, a compound word which means “to cast alongside.” A parable, by its own definition, is a truth placed alongside of something previously existing, which could only be a previously revealed truth. And the additional truth would be given to help explain the previously revealed truth.
This is why these parables could be understood by the disciples but would be meaningless to numerous others in the nation (vv. 10-17). The matter hinged on whether or not the previously revealed truths had been received.
The disciples had received the previously revealed truths. Therefore, they would understand the parables, for the parables dealt with that which they had previously received.
But those rejecting Christ and His message had not received the previously revealed truths. Therefore, they would not be able to understand the parables, for the parables dealt with that which they had previously rejected.
Though these parables form truths placed alongside things revealed in the Old Testament, they, as well, form truths placed alongside things which had been revealed during Christ’s earthly ministry (things completely in accord with Old Testament Scripture). And, in this respect, though they have their basis in the Old Testament Scriptures, they emanate out of things having previously been revealed during Christ’s earthly ministry, particularly things immediately preceding Christ’s departure from the house and His beginning to give these parables by the seaside.
Thus, Matthew chapter thirteen has to do with an opening up and unveiling of mysteries surrounding the kingdom of the heavens through the use of parables. And the kingdom of the heavens in this chapter is a kingdom seen in exactly the same form in which it was previously seen [Page 3] in Matthew’s gospel. This chapter continues, from previous Scripture, dealing with a literal, existing kingdom.
There is absolutely no difference in the way in which the kingdom of the heavens is seen at any point in Scripture throughout Man’s Day and the future Lord’s Day, throughout 7,000 years of time - past, present, and future. The reference is to the heavenly realm of the kingdom associated with this earth. The reference is to the rule of the heavens over the earth.
During past and present time, throughout Man’s Day, Satan and his angels (though disqualified) have ruled over the earth from this heavenly realm. But in the future, during the coming Lord’s Day, angels will no longer rule from this realm. Rather, Man - namely, Christ and His co-heirs - will take the sceptre and will rule from this realm (Heb. 2: 5-10; 4: 4-9; 5: 6, 10; cf. Psa. 110: 14).
message surrounding the kingdom of the heavens - whether to
(There is widespread erroneous thought in Christendom today which attempts to associate that which is stated in the seven parables in Matthew chapter thirteen with some type mystery form of the kingdom existing during the present dispensation. However, such a form of the kingdom does not presently exist; nor has it ever existed; nor will it ever exist.
And along with this erroneous thought of an existing mystery form of the kingdom, a related error exists - that of seeing a presently existing form of the Son’s kingdom [somehow existing in the hearts of men] which will be brought into full reality at a future time. This type understanding of the kingdom is little more than another way of dealing with a so-called present mystery form of the kingdom.
The Son - rather than presently ruling in the kingdom in view, in which Satan and his angels hold the sceptre - is seated at the right hand of His Father, awaiting that day when His enemies will be made His footstool, when He will take the kingdom [Psa. 110:1]. Further, the Son is presently occupying the office of High Priest, not that of King. [Page 4] He is presently ministering on behalf of Christians in the heavenly sanctuary, with a view to “bringing many sons unto glory” [Heb. 2: 5-10; 10: 19-22]. His Kingship, the time when He and His co-heirs will ascend the throne together, lies in the future [Heb. 1: 9; 3:14; 4: 4-9].
A misunderstanding of verses
such as Col. 1: 13 has led numerous
Christians to erroneously view a present aspect to Christ’s future
kingdom. However, neither this verse nor
any other verse teaches such a thing. Colossians 1: 13 deals with Christians being moved from one
place to another with respect to two manifestations of the kingdom - present
under Satan, and future
under Christ. Christians,
according to this verse, have been delivered from the power of darkness [having
to do with the kingdom under Satan] and have been translated [have been moved
from one place to another, have been caused to change sides] with respect to
There can be no such thing as
being translated into the
Attempts to understand the seven parables in Matthew chapter thirteen after any fashion which ignores the context and/or subject matter at hand will leave one hopelessly lost in a sea of misinterpretation. These parables are quite simple to understand if one allows Scripture to be its own interpreter. But, if this is not done, matters become difficult to hopeless when it comes to understanding that which the Lord revealed in these parables.
EVENTS LEADING INTO MATTHEW 13
John the Baptist appeared as the forerunner of the Messiah at His first coming, as Elijah will appear as the forerunner of the Messiah at His second coming. A prophecy which had to do with Elijah was applied to John the Baptist (cf. Isa. 40: 3; Matt. 3: 3); and John was said by Jesus to be Elijah, with a condition applied to the statement (Matt. 11: 13, 14).
passage in Isaiah, applied to John the Baptist, is set in a context [Page 5]
surrounding Messiah’s coming at a time when
Christ’s statement concerning
John being Elijah carried the condition, “if ye
will receive.” That is
to say, if the nation would have received the message, Elijah, rather than
John, would have appeared at that time as the forerunner of the Messiah. The latter was conditioned on the
former. God though, in His
foreknowledge, knew what
John the Baptist was the Elijah of his day, as Elijah will be the John the Baptist of his day. And the two men are so closely associated with one another that the prophecy applying to Elijah at Christ’s second coming in Isa. 40: 3 could be applied to John at Christ’s first coming in Matt. 13.
1. MINISTRY OF JOHN, JESUS, AND THE TWELVE
John the Baptist appeared in the
The kingdom was “at hand [had ‘drawn near’]” because
Messiah was present. The King of the
kingdom - the One destined to replace Satan as the ruler over this earth - was
present; and the sceptre could, at that time, have passed from the hands of
Satan and his angels into the hands of Man, conditioned upon
This was the totality of the
message proclaimed by John - It was a call for the nation of
However, things didn’t go in this direction, and John eventually found himself in prison. Then Jesus took up the same message, which, under His ministry, was accompanied by miraculous signs - signs having to do with the kingdom, which centered around physical healings.
Jesus went throughout all
The message concerned the proffered kingdom,
and the healings were
miraculous signs intimately and inseparably connected with the message being
Note how Isaiah opened his
prophecy. He began by describing
“Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of
evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have
provoked the Holy One of
Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint.
From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isa. 1: 4-6).
Then Isaiah continued his
prophecy by describing
“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land” (Isa. 1:16-19).
And, beyond that, Isaiah
concluded a section of his prophecy by describing conditions in
“And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin [paralleling ‘dross,’ undoubtedly referring to metals in an impure sense].
And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city...
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
And many people shall go up and say, Come ye, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And he shall judge among the nations...” (Isa. 1: 25, 26; 2: 2-4a).
Christ’s message to Israel, along with the message of the Twelve whom He later commissioned (Matt. 10: 1-8) - in complete keeping with Isaiah’s prophecy (among numerous other Old Testament prophecies) - was simply a call for the nation to repent, with a view to healing and the nation being established in her God-ordained position in the kingdom (Ex. 19: 5, 6). The healing of an individual constituted a sign for the Jewish people to visibly behold, showing them what could happen to the entire nation, if…
“Repentance” on the
The Jewish people were to change their minds about their prior attitude towards God’s commandments (Isa. 1: 19; cf. Lev. 26: 3ff; Deut. 28: 1ff). They had previously disobeyed that which God had commanded. And because of this disobedience, Israel had not only failed to fully occupy her God-ordained position in the Old Testament theocracy but the day came when this theocracy ceased to exist; and, in connection with the end of the Old Testament theocracy, Israel found herself in captivity and scattered among the Gentile nations.
(The northern ten tribes were
carried into captivity by the Assyrians about 722 B.C., and the southern two
tribes were carried into captivity by the Babylonians about 605 B.C., beginning
the times of the Gentiles. And a few
years later the Shekinah Glory departed from the holy of holies of the temple
And even during the time Christ was on earth, though a remnant was back in the land, the nation remained under Gentile dominion. The times of the Gentiles, which began during the days of Nebuchadnezzar, continued then, as it still continues today.
John opened the message to
Events surrounding the offer of
the kingdom of the heavens to
In this chapter, Christ healed a
man on the Sabbath (vv. 9-13), pointing to
The Pharisees (along with the
Scribes) - fundamental, legalistic religious leaders - were, by far, the largest
of the religious parties in
This controlling group of religious leaders were the ones who followed Christ about the country, seeking, at every turn, to counter both His message and the miraculous signs He was performing. And, in this chapter they reached an apex in their rejection by not only rejecting the manifested sign of a man being healed on the Sabbath (pointing to Israel’s healing on the Sabbath) but by subsequently holding a council concerning how they might be able to do away with the One having performed this sign.
Then, later in the chapter,
Christ healed a man possessed with a demon, who was both blind and dumb (v. 22); and the Pharisees, in their
rejection of the manifested signs, reached a terminal point. They attributed the power behind the
manifestation of this miraculous sign to Satan (v.
24). And doing this after
they had rejected the sign pertaining to
These signs were being performed through the power of the Spirit (in complete keeping with the way God performs His works [cf. Gen. 1: 2b]); and the Pharisees, attributing Christ’s works to Satan, committed what was called by Christ, “the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (v. 31).
The Pharisees had previously
done the same thing (Matt. 9: 34), but
here the setting is different. Here it
follows their rejecting the sign of the Sabbath and their attempting to do away
with the One having performed this sign.
“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men.
And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world [‘age’], neither in the world [‘age’] to come” (vv. 31, 32).
For all practical purposes the kingdom of the heavens was taken from Israel at this point in Matthew’s gospel, though the announcement was not made until later (Matt. 21: 43). And it was at this point in Christ’s ministry that a major change occurred.
The Scribes and Pharisees, immediately after Christ told them that they had committed a sin having far-reaching consequences, had the effrontery to ask Christ for an additional sign (v. 38). They had rejected all of His previous signs, even attributing the power behind the last one to Satan, and now they asked for something which they had previously rejected time after time.
This was little more than a personal affront, further seeking, by any means possible, to discredit the One performing these signs (as they had previously attempted to do). But Jesus, knowing full-well their thoughts, responded with the only sign which would now be given to them - the sign of the prophet Jonah, pointing to His coming death, burial, and resurrection rather than to the kingdom (vv. 39, 40).
Then Christ described the
condition in which the nation of
The men of
The queen of the south would,
likewise, rise up in judgment and condemn this generation, for she had come
from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom
of Solomon. And One
greater than Solomon was standing in
The nation was to be left in a desolate condition, wherein the Jewish people would walk through dry places, seeking rest, and find none. And, should the people comprising this nation persist in their disobedience, particularly relative to any attempt to bring about a change in their state themselves, conditions would only become worse. Their [Page 11] latter end would be “worse than the first” (vv. 43-45; cf. Lev. 26: 18-31). And this is the setting for Christ’s departure from the house, His going down by the seaside, and His beginning to speak in parables in Matthew chapter thirteen.
CHRIST’S ACTIONS, CONTINUED SUBJECTION
The seven parables in Matthew
chapter thirteen present a sharp change in God’s dealings with the nation of
Before He began to speak in parables, Christ went “out of the house, and sat by the seaside” (v. 1). The first four parables were spoken outside the house, down by the seaside (vv. 3-9, 18-33). Then Christ went back “into the house” (v. 36) and gave three more parables (vv. 44-50).
The use of “house” and “seaside” is
fraught with meaning. “The house,” from which Christ departed, and
later re-entered, is a reference to the house of
Thus, within the symbolism of
that which is stated, the Lord left
The kingdom of the heavens - about to be taken from
In this respect, the first four
parables would concern the Lord’s dealings with a people other than
Then, the last three parables,
because of the continued subject matter (the kingdom of the heavens), would have to continue the continuity
of thought from the first four. And
further, though spoken back inside the house, these parables really cannot be
Jewish in nature (for, again, they deal with the kingdom of the heavens - a sphere of the kingdom in which
All seven parables have to do
with events during time which elapses following the Nobleman’s departure “into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom,” and
with events during time which terminates with His “return” after receiving the kingdom (cf. Luke
19:12ff). There is nothing in these parables which occurs
before Christ’s departure from the
These parables - centering around a message pertaining to the kingdom of the heavens - have to do with an offer of
the kingdom to a people other than
The course of the dispensation is depicted in the first four parables, and the last three have to do with concluding events (directly related to that previously revealed in the first four) which will not only bring the age to a close but also usher in the next age, the Messianic Era.
Thus, the Lord re-entering the
house is not an act which places an emphasis on His dealing with
Briefly stated, all seven
parables in Matthew chapter thirteen form a continuous discourse having to do with
the kingdom of the heavens being offered to a group other than
In the first four parables,
The first four parables have to do with the course of Christendom during the present dispensation (the course of the period during which God is removing from the Gentiles “a people for his name” [Acts 15: 14]), with Israel set aside; and the last three parables have to do with events occurring after God resumes His national dealings with Israel, following the removal of the Church from the earth and God turning once again to Israel. But the Church, though having been removed from the earth before events in these last three parables begin to occur, is still the central figure seen throughout these parables.
The setting for the last three
parables is the coming Tribulation and events surrounding Christ’s subsequent
return. And, though [some of] the Church
will not be on earth during the Tribulation, this period really has just as
much to do with the Church as with
The Tribulation, along with being “the time of Jacob’s trouble” [Page 14] (Jer. 30: 7), will be the time when redemption (future, not past) of the inheritance awaiting Christ and His co-heirs will occur. And this future redemption, having to do with the inheritance, will also include the bride - already having been redeemed, past - who, through this future redemptive act, will become Christ’s wife.
This entire sequence of events, along with related events which usher in the Messianic Kingdom, is depicted in the last three parables. And, in this respect, the last three parables simply form a chronological continuation and conclusion to the events depicted in the first four parables.
* * *
I Will Return
When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.
Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.
Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of the man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation (Matt. 12: 43-45).
This is Christ’s final recorded
And, once the house of
God had revealed through Moses,
at the beginning, that
Then, fifteen hundred years later, Christ called attention to this same fundamental truth immediately before He left the house, went down by the seaside, and began to speak in parables (Matt. 12: 43-45; 13: lff).
Matthew 12: 43-45 reveals an “unclean spirit” dwelling in the house prior to the house being left “empty, swept, and garnished.” Then, following this, because of Israel’s refusal to repent, “seven other spirits,” more wicked than the first, would take up residence in the house, with the latter state of the nation being far worse than the former state (v. 45).
The picture is that of
(“Seven” is a complete number, showing the completeness of that which is in view. “Seven times,” or “seven other spirits,” may refer to completeness rather than to a literal seven-fold intensity. However, either way, matters would be quite similar. With completeness in view, intensity would be involved; and this intensity could, at times, possibly be even greater than seven-fold.)
(A similar Divine work can be
seen in Zech. 1: 14, 15, where the Lord set
about to chasten His son,
And God will not countenance such
action. God said that He was
“a little displeased” with
In this respect, the Gentile
nations should take note of that which has been happening and continues to happen
An interesting situation
pertaining to God’s chastening because of
The principle has been established - given by God through [Page 18] Moses, and reiterated by Christ -, and it cannot be broken.
With an existing Jewish nation
in the Middle East, in the eyes of man,
One need only look at a decaying
But a solution will not be
forthcoming until a full-end to the
decreed “seven times” or “seven other spirits,” in relation to
Various plans are being studied and considered, and concessions are being made which were unheard of only a short time back. But all of man’s best efforts will fail. This is simply something which man has no control over and cannot deal with.
And where is it all headed? From a Scriptural standpoint, there is [Page 19] only one possible answer. It is all headed toward a climactic, desolate end - an end seven times worse than it would have been had the Jewish people not persisted in their disobedience and sought, themselves, to bring about a change in a “desolate, swept, and garnished” house.
In the immediate future, a man
is going to appear in the
But, though his solution for
The matter is as Jonah out of the Lord’s will but also out of the sea. The sea raged so long as this condition persisted, but once Jonah was cast into the sea, the sea became calm (Jonah 1: 3-15). And Jonah had to remain in the sea, in the place of death, for two days, until the third day. Only then could Jonah be removed from the sea and be placed back in the land (Jonah 1: 17 - 2: 10).
And this, in itself, will reveal
the only possible future for the present existing nation of
What is going to happen according
to Jonah? The sea is going to rage; the
Gentile nations are going to be in turmoil. And this scene from the
Book of Jonah will address the whole of what is happening in the world today in
What is going to happen
according to Matthew? Exactly
the same thing! Conditions will only
become worse for
And that’s where the world
presently finds itself. Everything is
unalterably tied to
Peace though will not be forthcoming, and conditions will only become worse as time goes on. The man of sin, who will shortly appear and seemingly have the solution to the problem, will fail; and matters will become even worse. In fact, the whole of man’s efforts will end with the darkest time in Jewish history, immediately before “the Son of Righteousness” arises “with healing in his wings” (Mal. 4: 1, 2).
The remnant presently in the land, comprising the present nation of Israel, is not only going to be uprooted and “led captive into all nations” (Luke 21: 20-24), but at least twice as many Jews will be killed worldwide in less than half the time as were killed in Europe during 1939-1945 (Zech. 13: 8). All of this is according to the clear revelation of Scripture; and, try as man might, he is completely powerless to change the course of that which has been set in motion.
Scripture clearly reveals
And all this
foretold calamity is the setting for Christ’s departure from the house, His
going down by the seaside, and His beginning to speak in parables in Matthew
And all of this anticipates the
Church being called into existence (to be the recipient of that which
And, as well, all of this
SIMILARITIES SEEN IN JEWISH HISTORY
There are a number of parallels
which can be seen through viewing
1. MOSES’ DAY
During Moses’ day, the people
were delivered from
At Kadesh-Barnea, prior to the nation entering the land, twelve men - leaders from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, one from each tribe - were chosen to enter the land first in order to derive information concerning the land and its inhabitants (Num. 13: l ff). These men traversed the land from one end to the other for forty days and nights, deriving this information; and they returned at the end of this time, not only with this information, but also with fruits from the land for the people to see (Num. 13: 21ff).
Then, after all twelve of the
Jewish leaders had delivered their report “to
Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of
The two, Caleb and Joshua (with Caleb speaking for both), said, “Let us go up at once and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13: 30; cf. Num. 14: 6). But the remaining ten said. “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger that we” (Num. 13: 31). And the people listened to and gave heed to the ten with the evil report rather than the two with the good report.
Unbelief on the part of
And, because of this unbelief,
After God had dealt with the ten
leaders who delivered an evil report to the people (Num. 14: 37), the entire unbelieving
generation was progressively overthrown during the next thirty-eight and
one-half years. Those comprising this
generation were led away from the promised land, into the wilderness
And there was nothing any one of them could do about it. They were completely, totally powerless to bring about a change. They had fallen away at Kadesh-Barnea after a fashion which made a return to [Page 23] their former state impossible.
2. CHRIST’S DAY
During Christ’s day, exactly the
same thing can be seen, though from a different perspective. The death of the firstborn was past (the
Then, with a view to the Jewish people entering this heavenly land, the magna charta (the constitution, the rules and regulations governing the people in the theocracy) was given through Christ. This was what the message Christ delivered on the Mount in Matt. 5 - 7 had to do with.
And, though the message
surrounding the kingdom had previously been proclaimed to
But the religious leaders in
They had heard the report (from
John, Christ, and the Twelve), and they had seen the fruits of the land (the
various signs being manifested, showing that which
Events of Num. 13, 14 and Matt. 12 (ref. Chapter 1) parallel one another in this respect. Both have to do with climactic points of rejection, with a theocracy in view; and both present the nation, because of its leadership, being brought to a point of no return.
After they had been brought to this place, only one thing lay in store for both generations: an overthrow, on the right side of the blood, but on the wrong side of the goal of their calling.
A SIMILARITY SEEN IN CHRISTENDOM
In Christendom, things are
little different concerning the message surrounding the coming [millennial]
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world [‘age’] to come,
If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Heb. 6: 4-6).
This section in Hebrews warns against a falling away after such a fashion that, once the individual has fallen, he will be unable to find a place of repentance. And, contextually, the warning is drawn from the type seen in the previous warning - the Israelites under Moses (chs. 3, 4).
Under Moses, the Israelites fell away at Kadesh-Barnea after they had heard the report of the Twelve and had seen the fruits of the land. Their falling away had to do with a rejection of that which lay before them; and once they had fallen away, no place of repentance could then be found.
“Repentance” simply means a change of mind. And the thought has nothing to do with the Israelites changing their minds. This is something which they did the very next day, but to no avail (Num. 14: 39-45). They changed their minds and sought to go into the land set before them and conquer the inhabitants in accordance with God’s previous command. But God, because of their previous unbelief upon hearing the report of the Twelve and seeing the fruits of the land, had already told them that they would not be allowed to do that which they were now attempting to do. Instead, the entire unbelieving generation was destined to be overthrown in the wilderness.
The repentance in view in the type was on the part of God, not on [Page 25] the part of the Israelites. God, because of that which had occurred, was not going to change His mind. And there was nothing which the Israelites could do to alter the existing situation.
The matter would be similar to Esau’s forfeiture of his birthright and that which occurred following Isaac bestowing the blessing of the firstborn on Jacob. Esau, realizing for the first time the value of the birthright and realizing the gravity of that which had occurred, sought to get his father, Isaac, to bless him also. But Isaac couldn’t. He had already bestowed the blessing on Jacob, and the matter could not be reversed.
Esau’s forfeiture of his birthright constitutes the fifth and last of the five major warnings in Hebrews. And this warning concludes by stating that Esau “found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears” (Heb. 12: 16, 17).
Esau repented; he changed his mind. But Esau couldn’t get his father to repent; he couldn’t get his father to change his mind. Isaac couldn’t change his mind. It was too late. He had already bestowed the blessing of the firstborn on Jacob. And, realizing not only the gravity of the situation but the finality of the matter, it is recorded that “Esau lifted up his voice, and wept” (Gen. 27: 34-38).
Though the forfeiture of one’s birthright would be in view in the third warning in Hebrews, as well as the fifth warning, the third warning is drawn from the experiences of the Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea under Moses. And this is the point in Scripture where one must centre his attention if he is to properly understand this warning.
A falling away in the antitype would require that an individual not only first hear the message but that he also have some understanding of the subject. It would require Christians to be placed in exactly the same position as the Israelites under Moses, who both heard the report and saw the fruits of the land.
Note how Heb. 6: 4, 5 is worded, keeping in mind that the matter has to do with “the powers of the world to come [‘age to come,’ the Messianic Era]” (v. 5b): The individuals in this passage had been “enlightened,” they had “tasted of the heavenly gift,” they had been made “partakers [‘companions’] of the Holy Spirit [note that the primary function of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the world today is the search for the bride (Gen. 24)],” [Page 26] and they had “tasted the good, word of God.”
All of these things have to do with that which is in view in the type. All of these things have to do with entrance into the land and realizing the rights of the firstborn therein.
And a person finding himself in this position, then falling away in the antitype of the Israelites falling away at Kadesh-Barnea (turning from, rejecting that set before him), will find himself in exactly the same position as the unbelieving generation under Moses found itself. He will find himself in a position where it will be impossible to be renewed again unto repentance.
God didn’t change His mind relative to an unbelieving generation during Moses’ day, He didn’t change His mind relative to an unbelieving generation when Christ was on earth the first time, and He is not going to change His mind relative to unbelieving Christians today. They didn’t then, nor will they today find a place of repentance.
BUT GOD HONOURS FAITHFULNESS
During Moses’ day, Caleb and Joshua were set apart from the unbelieving generation. They had believed the Lord, and God honoured their belief. They were subsequently allowed to enter the land, conquer the inhabitants, and realize the goal of their calling.
Caleb and Joshua form a type of faithful Christians (in the same fashion that the unbelieving generation of that day forms a type of unfaithful Christians). And God will honour faithfulness among Christians today, exactly as He honoured faithfulness during Moses’ day. Faithful Christians will be dealt with in a parallel fashion to the way God dealt with Caleb and Joshua.
Following the crossing of
“Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in my heart.
Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God.
And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s forever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord thy God.
And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said...
Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day...” (“Josh. 14: 7-10a, 12a).
Joshua then blessed Caleb and
gave him “
Then Joshua’s inheritance in the land is spoken of at a later time, after the land had been divided and things had been put in order:
they had made an end of dividing the land for inheritance by their coasts, the
According to the word
of the Lord they gave him the city which he asked, even Tininath‑serah
And there lies the difference
between faithfulness and unfaithfulness to that which God had commanded
during Moses’ day, which would be exactly the same for Christians in the antitype
today. It was/is being allowed to realize an inheritance in a land flowing with milk and honey on
the one hand, or it was/is being
overthrown in the
One thing alone is seen as the deciding factor.
This one thing was stated by Caleb before he realized his inheritance, something upon which he based the whole of his claim to the inheritance: “I wholly followed the Lord my God” (Josh. 14: 8b; cf. v 9).
And this one
stated again following Caleb realizing his inheritance, showing the
whole of that upon which the reward of the inheritance was based: “
* * *
Parable of the Sower
And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
And 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 sprung up and choked them:
But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some, sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
Who hath ears to hear, let him hear (Matt. 13: 3-9).
The parable of the Sower, the first of four parables which Christ gave outside
the house, by the seaside, is comprised of four parts. Each part has to do with exactly the same
thing: fruit-bearing, with the kingdom of the heavens in view - a kingdom being offered (during the time covered by this parable) to
a people other than
Israel - the nation to whom the
kingdom of the heavens was being offered at the time Christ gave the parable of
the Sower, outside the house, by the seaside - is
represented in Matthew’s gospel by a [Page 30] barren fig tree (Matt. 21: 18, 19; cf. Joel 1: 7). The tree had leaves, but no fruit. And Christ, because of the fruitless
condition of the tree (representing the fruitless condition of
The parable of the Sower looks out ahead to God’s activity during an entirely
separate dispensation, following the removal of the kingdom from
This is the “holy nation,” a “peculiar people” to which Peter referred, who “in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2: 9, 10). This is the new creation “in Christ,” taken from both of the former two creations (both Jew and Gentile), though neither of the former two creations (neither Jew nor Gentile) exists within this new creation (Eph. 2: 12-15).
“In Christ,” all distinctions of the human race seen in both of the former two creations (in both Jew and Gentile) simply do not exist (Gal. 3: 26-29). The new creation “in Christ” is exactly what the name implies - an entirely new creation in the human race (2 Cor. 5: 17). This is why Scripture, following this time, divides the human race into three separate and distinct segments:
“Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the
Gentiles, nor to the
The parable of the Sower was given with a view to this new entity not only
being brought into existence but also being extended the opportunity to bring
forth fruit for the kingdom. The parable
of the Sower looks out ahead to that time when the
kingdom would be taken from
In the first three parts of the
parable though, individuals comprising [Page 31] the one new man fail to bring forth fruit,
as those in
But in the last part of the
parable, that expected of the
one new man during the present dispensation is shown. Unlike barren
Thus, it is revealed at the beginning, before God brought this new creation into existence, that not all those comprising the one new man - not all Christians - would bring forth fruit. Fruit-bearing is seen in only one part of the parable, in the last part. In the first three parts, individuals are shown to have been overcome through various means, resulting in barrenness.
All of these things are set forth in the parable itself. But, after responding to the disciples’ question concerning why He was speaking to the multitudes in parables (vv. 10-17; ref. Chapter 1), Christ provided them with interpretative help to further explain the parable of the Sower (vv. 18-23). Christ went back over the four parts, briefly explaining each part.
(The reason Christ provided additional interpretative help for the parable of the Sower is obvious. This parable is foundational to the other six which Christ then gave. Correctly understanding the six parables which followed would be contingent on correctly understanding the introductory parable.
A properly laid foundation will allow one to properly build on the foundation. But, lay the foundation improperly, and the inverse of that will be equally true.)
Then, after giving both the parable of the Sower and interpretative help, Christ gave the second, third, and fourth parables, apart from any explanation (vv. 24-33). But, after going back inside the house, Christ, responding to another question asked by the disciples, concerning the second parable, provided additional interpretative help for this parable as well (vv. 36-43). And, once back inside the house, Christ also gave the fifth, sixth, and seventh parables (vv. 44-48), providing a very brief explanation - concerning several things in the seventh and closing parable (vv. 49, 50).
All seven parables have to do with a
people other than
Thus, all seven parables have to
do with a time following the rejection of the kingdom by
And further, though Christ re-entered the house prior to giving the last three parables, there is no change in the identity of those in view, those being dealt with. The Church continues centre-stage.
The last three parables depict God’s summary dealings with respect to two things: 1) His previous dealings with Christians (throughout the dispensation, with fruit-bearing in view), and 2) His future redemptive action and separation of Christians (immediately preceding and leading into the Messianic Era, based on fruit-bearing during the previous dispensation).
Whether dealing with the parable
of the Sower, the parable of the wheat and tares, or
any of the other parables, the message of salvation by grace through faith is
simply not in view. Rather, fruit-bearing, with a
view to the
kingdom, is in view. These parables have to do with God’s
complete dealings with the group called into existence to bear fruit where
Since this is the case, there is
really nothing in the
parables which has to do with the unsaved, their eternal destiny, etc. Everything has to do solely with the saved and the Messianic Era out ahead, when Christ will sit on His throne in the
MANNER OF SOWING
“The Sower” in the parable (the Gk. text has a definite article before “Sower” - a particular Sower) is identified in the explanation to the second parable as the Son of Man, a Messianic title (v. 37; cf. Psa. 8: 4-6; Dan. 7: 13, 14; Matt. 16: 13-16). And also, in this explanation, the place where the sowing occurs is revealed to be in the field, in the world (v. 38). In the parable itself, the sowing occurs different places in the field, different places in the world.
And that which the Sower - the Son of Man, Christ - sows out in the world is revealed to be individuals, not “seeds” per se (note that the word “seeds” in the text is in italics [v. 41, indicating that it is not in the Greek text, but supplied by the translators).
In the second parable though, there is a sowing of “seed.” “Good seed” (vv. 24, 27) are sown by Christ in the field (which is really the same sowing seen in the first parable), but these “good seed” represent individuals. They are identified as “the children [‘sons’] of the kingdom” in the explanation (v. 38).
Thus, there is no problem retaining the word “seeds” in the English text of the parable of the Sower as long as it is understood that these “seeds” represent individuals. This is not only in line with the second parable but also in line with the correct rendering of four different verses in the explanation to the four parts of the first parable as well.
The latter part of verse nineteen, explaining the sowing in the first of the four parts of the parable (v. 4), should read, “This is he which was sown by the wayside.” The beginning of verse twenty, explaining the sowing in the second of the four parts of the parable (vv. 5, 6), should read, “But he that was sown into stony places...” The beginning of verse twenty-two, explaining the sowing in the third of the four parts of the parable (v. 7), should read, “He also that was sown among the thorns...” And the beginning of verse twenty-three, explaining the last of the four parts of the parable (v. 8), should read, “But he that was sown into the good ground...”
The Sower (the Lord Jesus Christ) has sown individuals (Christians) different places in the world, with a view to one thing - fruit-bearing. And this fruit-bearing has to do with one thing as well – the [Page 34] kingdom of the heavens.
Understanding this is foundational if one would properly understand that which should be the central focus of all activity in the lives of Christians in the world today. And, understanding this is foundational as well if one would properly understand that which is the central focus of all activity surrounding the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the world today - the search for the bride (Gen. 24; cf. chs. 23-25). Activity in the lives of Christians and activity in the ministry of the [Holy] Spirit go hand-in-hand in this respect. They, of necessity, must.
The gospel of the grace of God though, as it has to do with both those sown in the field and the present work of the [Holy] Spirit, is another matter entirely. An individual must pass “from death unto life” before he can be extended the opportunity to bring forth fruit for the kingdom. He must become a child of the Owner before he can possess any association with the inheritance awaiting Christ and His co-heirs (John 5: 24; Rom. 8: 17; Eph. 2: 1-5).
Thus, unsaved man must first hear the gospel of the grace of God (from those sown in the field). And the work of the [Holy] Spirit must, correspondingly, begin at this point (as seen in the foundational pattern in Gen. 1: 2b-5). Unsaved man must pass “from death unto life” before he can be dealt with relative to the inheritance out ahead. And the Spirit of God is in the world today, first of all, to do a work in unsaved man in this respect. He is present in the world to breath life into the one who is without life, effecting the birth from above (cf. Gen. 2: 7; Ezek. 37: 1-10; John 3: 3-5).
Only then can man be dealt with in relation to that which is seen in the parable of the Sower, or any of the other six parables in this chapter. And only then can the Spirit of God, as well, bring to completion the central purpose for His presence in the world today - to search for, find, and remove the bride for God’s Son (Gen. 24: 33, 36, 58-67).
PLACES WHERE SOWN
The explanation to the parable of the Sower begins with the statement, “When anyone heareth the word of the kingdom...” (v. 19a). Then, in each of the four parts to the explanation, [Page 35] the expression is shortened to simply, “the word” - referring to the previously mentioned Word, “the word of the kingdom” (vv. 20‑23).
This is a reference to a message
surrounding the same kingdom which was being offered to
The message in view is exactly what the text states, and it could hardly be stated any plainer. The message has to do with the kingdom, not with salvation by grace through faith. And the response of different individuals throughout the parable has to do with the kingdom as well, not with eternal verities seen in the gospel of the grace of God.
Everything in the parable of the Sower revolves around two things: 1) the word of the kingdom, and 2) fruit-bearing, or barrenness, on the part of those hearing this message. To read salvation by grace through faith into this passage, as so many individuals do, both corrupts and destroys. It corrupts one facet of the good news, the gospel of the grace of God, by bringing things over into this gospel which do not belong there; and it destroys the other facet of the good news, the gospel of the glory of Christ, by removing things having to do with this gospel through misapplying them elsewhere.
1. ONES SOWN BY THE WAYSIDE (vv. 4, 19)
Comparing the parable and the explanation (vv. 4, 19), the ones sown by the wayside represent individuals (Christians) who hear the Word of the Kingdom but fail to understand the message. And their failure to understand the message allows the “fowls,” representing “the wicked one [Satan],” to simply come along and do away with the message, thus devouring the person (cf. vv. 4, 19; 1 Peter 5: 6-9).
Those sown by the wayside, having this type experience in relation to the Word of the Kingdom, would probably represent the majority of Christians hearing this message today. Though they have a capacity to understand the message (they possess spiritual life), they show little to no interest, allowing Satan to perform his destroying and [Page 36] devouring work.
“For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed...” (Matt. 13: 15a; cf. Isa. 6: 9, 10).
The Jewish people were not only
in possession of the written Word of God but were also capable of spiritual
perception. They were perfectly capable
of understanding this Word. But the
religious leaders in
Thus, the whole of the matter,
seen almost two millenniums ago in
The final state of Christendom
during the dispensation - seen in both the chronology of the first four
parables in Matt. 13 and the seven Churches in Rev. 2, 3 - is complete corruption and rejection in relation to the Word of the
Kingdom. That is, insofar as this
message is concerned (the message seen throughout the parable of the Sower), the whole of Christendom (fundamental and liberal
segments alike) will be as the Church in
Those in the
“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3: 17).
2. ONES SOWN INTO STONY PLAGES (vv. 5, 6, 20, 21)
Comparing the parable and the explanation (vv. 5, 6, 20, 21), the ones sown into stony places represent individuals who hear the Word, understand the Word, and receive it joyfully. These are individuals who get excited about that which they have heard and learned. There is new-found joy and excitement in their lives, because of “the word of the kingdom” (v. 20).
But, before they can become sufficiently grounded in this Word (they have no “deepness of earth,” they have no “root”), “tribulation or persecution” takes its toll. They endure “for awhile”; but, in the symbolism of the parable, when “the sun [‘tribulation or persecution’]” begins to beat down in all its strength, because of their lack of root (maturity in the faith), they wither away (vv. 5, 6, 21).
In the text, “tribulation or persecution” occurs “because of the word,” because of individuals hearing and receiving the Word of the Kingdom. There is no message in existence which Satan will marshal his forces against as he will against the message surrounding the coming kingdom of Christ.
This message has to do, centrally, with a change in the government of the earth. Satan and his angels presently rule over the earth, within the existing kingdom of the heavens; but a new order of Rulers is about to be brought forth - Christ and His co-heirs. Satan and his angels are to be put down, with Christ and His co-heirs then taking the kingdom.
The Word of the Kingdom is a message which has this end in view. It is a message having to do with Christ ruling the earth in that coming day, ruling in the stead of Satan; and it is a message having to do with Christians occupying positions as co-heirs with Christ in that day, ruling in the stead of angels presently ruling with Satan.
And this is something which Satan will do all within his power to prevent. Thus, one could only expect a message dealing centrally with this subject to come under attack as no other message, which is exactly the way Scripture presents the matter.
In Eph. 3: 1-11 this message is seen as something presently being made known “by [lit., ‘through’] the Church” to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places [Satan and his angels]” (v. 10). The message being made known has to do with the fact that Satan and his angels are about to be replaced, and it has to do with individuals presently responding in a positive manner to the invitation (being extended by the Holy Spirit in the world) to have a part with Christ, in His administration, in that coming day (cf. Gen. 24: 36, 58).
And in Eph. 6: 10ff a spiritual warfare is seen raging because of that which is presently being made known through the Church to Satan and his angels. Satan will, first of all, do everything within his power to prevent Christians from hearing this message; and, should Christians hear this message, he will then do everything within his power to do away with, destroy this message, devouring Christians.
At this point Satan brings about “tribulation or persecution” in the life of the one hearing and understanding the message. And note again the wording of the text. Tribulation or persecution arises in the life of such an individual “because of the word,” because of the Word of the Kingdom. He has heard and joyfully received this Word.
And this tribulation or persecution invariably comes from other Christians. Unsaved man out in the world can have nothing to do with all of this. He is “dead in trespasses and sins,” completely incapable of operating in the spiritual realm. And not only does this tribulation or persecution come from other Christians, but many times it comes more specifically from those in positions of leadership, exactly as in Israel when this offer was open to the nation almost two millenniums ago (e.g., John 9: 22).
The person, through this tribulation or persecution, is “offended [Gk. skandalizo, ‘scandalized’]” (v. 21). That which he has heard, understood, and accepted is associated with error, cultism, etc. And, because of his lack of maturity in the faith, he is overcome. He simply gives up; he quits; he falls away. And Satan wins the victory in his life.
3. ONES SOWN AMONG THORNS (vv. 7, 22)
Comparing the parable and the explanation (vv. 7, 22), the ones sown among thorns represent individuals who hear the Word, but, because of worldly involvement, they bear no fruit. They “go forth” (Luke 8: 14), apparently enduring for awhile, but are then overcome by the enemy.
That used to bring about their fall is revealed to be “the care of this world [‘age’], and the deceitfulness of riches.” Then Luke, in his account of this parable, adds a third - the “pleasures of this life” (Luke 8: 14).
These individuals - whether through immaturity, neglect, letting their guard down, or any number of other things (we’re simply not told) - allow various things within the present world system, under Satan, to bring about their fall (cf. 1 John 2: 15-17). Satan uses these things against them in the spiritual warfare.
They fail to heed the Lord’s admonition and warning concerning where Christians are to fix their attention and keep it fixed. Christians, in the race of the faith, are to look “unto Jesus [lit., ‘from, unto Jesus’]”, (Heb. 12: 1, 2). They are to look “from” the things of this present world system “unto” Jesus. They are not to look back; they are not to look around; but they are to keep their eyes fixed straight out ahead on the Author and Finisher of their faith.
And Christians are not only to fix their attention on Jesus, but also on exactly the same thing Christ fixed His attention as He endured the sufferings and shame surrounding Calvary. Christ fixed His attention on “the joy that was set before him” as He “endured the cross, despising the shame [considering the sufferings and shame of little consequence compared to His coming glory and exaltation]” (Heb. 12: 2; cf. 1 Peter 2: 21).
Christians are to “escape to the mountain [signifying, the kingdom],” apart from looking back, apart from remaining in the plain (signifying, the present world system). And if they don’t, they will be consumed along with the things in the plain (Gen. 19: 17; cf. Gen. 19: 26; Luke 9: 62; 17: 32, 33).
Christians are to fix their attention on the King and His Kingdom - not looking back, not looking around - considering present sufferings (tribulation or persecution), or the things of this world (care of this [Page 40] age, riches, pleasures of life), of little consequence compared to the proffered glory and exaltation lying ahead. And if they don’t, Satan will use one or all of these things in his unceasing efforts to bring about their fall.
4. ONES SOWN INTO GOOD GROUND (vv. 8, 23)
The fourth part of the parable presents matters after an entirely different fashion. Those sown “into good ground” represent individuals who hear the Word (first part of the parable); they understand the Word and refuse to allow “tribulation or persecution” to deter them as they progress toward maturity in the Word (second part of the parable); and they keep their eyes fixed on the goal out ahead, rather than on the things of this present world system (third part of the parable).
They hear, understand, and grow in the Word. Tribulation or persecution doesn’t stop them; and they do not allow themselves to become sidetracked by the “care of this age,” the “deceitfulness of riches,” or the “pleasures of life.” These are individuals who refuse to become entangled “with the affairs of this life,” knowing that a crown lies out ahead for those who “strive lawfully” (2 Tim. 2: 4, 5).
Thus, these are individuals who
overcome and bring forth fruit. These
are individuals who overcome the world (1 John 5: 4), the
These individuals are the only ones who fulfil the purpose for their very
existence - bringing forth fruit where
OUTCOME OF SOWING
Positions in the coming
(The word translated “reward” in the N.T. is from the Greek word misthos [misthapodosia in Hebrews], which has to do with “payment,” or “wages” for services rendered. And it will be exact. The payment will be exactly commensurate with services rendered.)
Individuals bringing forth no fruit will receive no payment. There will have been no fruitful labour, and, consequently, wages will not be forthcoming. Instead, they will “suffer loss” (1 Cor. 3: 15).
On the other hand, individuals bringing forth fruit will receive payment. There will have been fruitful labour, and, consequently, wages will be forthcoming. Each will “receive a reward” (1 Cor. 3: 14). There will be “a just recompense of reward [‘a just payment, wages’]” (Heb. 2: 2; 11: 26).
Mention is made in the parable of the Sower of individuals bringing forth fruit in varying amounts - “some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” (vv. 8, 23). And payment for the varying amounts, seen in another parable, the parable of the pounds in Luke 19: 11-27, would be exactly commensurate with their individual fruitfulness.
In the parable of the pounds, ten servants were each given one pound. Each was given a portion of his Lord’s business to use during the time of his Lord’s absence, in order that he might be accorded the opportunity to bring forth an increase.
One servant brought forth a tenfold increase; and the Lord, upon His return, gave him authority over ten cities. Another servant brought forth a fivefold increase; and the Lord, at this time, gave him authority over five cities. But a third servant failed to use that entrusted to him, and he was not only denied governmental authority but he was also severely rebuked by his Lord.
This is not only the way Scripture plainly presents the matter, but this is also what God’s perfect justice and righteousness demands. If matters occurred any other way, God would not be perfectly just and righteous in His judgmental dealings with His servants to whom He [Page 42] entrusted His business during His time of absence.
* * *
Parable of the Wheat, Tares
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of the heavens is likened unto a man which 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 blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it tares?
He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn (Matt. 13: 24-30).
The parable of the wheat and tares continues with the same subject matter introduced in the previous parable, the parable of the Sower. The central focus in the parable of the Sower was fruit-bearing; and different things were presented which, on the one hand, prevented fruit-bearing (vv. 4-7, 19-22), or, on the other hand, resulted in [Page 44] fruit-bearing (vv. 8, 23).
And the central focus in the parable of the wheat and tares, as well, centers around fruit-bearing (v. 26). But this parable does not cover fruit-bearing from the same broad spectrum seen in the previous parable. Rather, continuing the thought from the previous parable, the parable of the wheat and tares limits itself to one realm. It limits itself to that part of the parable of the Sower which deals with the ones, sown into the good ground, who brought forth fruit (cf. vv. 8, 23, 24, 26). Those failing to bring forth fruit in the first three parts of the previous parable cannot be viewed as “good seed” in this parable.
That is to say, all of the “good seed” – “wheat,” “sons of the kingdom” - in the parable of the wheat and tares are seen bringing forth fruit (cf. vv. 24, 26, 37, 38, 40-43). This is simply a continuation and elaboration of the fourth and last part of the previous parable. Then something new is introduced. The parable of the wheat and tares centers around those bearing fruit from the previous parable in order to reveal something additional, something not revealed in the parable of the Sower.
The parable of the wheat and tares centers around those bearing fruit from the previous parable in order to reveal the method of Satan’s attack against them. In this respect, this parable moves a step beyond that revealed at the end of the parable of the Sower. This parable continues with the same thought but then reveals a concentrated attack against those individuals bearing fruit. It reveals the exact method which Satan uses as he goes about seeking to stop that which is occurring.
Satan seeks to prevent fruit-bearing through a number of means (revealed in the first three parts of the parable of the Sower). And, throughout the dispensation, he has been successful in his confrontation with the vast majority of Christians. He has succeeded in preventing most from bearing fruit.
But the preceding has not been true of all Christians. Many have been victorious over Satan’s methods and schemes. They have overcome the world, the flesh, and the Devil. And, as a result, they have brought forth and continue to bring forth fruit. And it is these Christians, the ones bearing fruit, that Satan is seen directing his attack against in the parable of the wheat and tares, seeking to stop that which is occurring.
THE KINGDOM OF THE HEAVENS IS LIKENED UNTO...
The parable of the wheat and tares and the subsequent five parables begin after a similar fashion: “The kingdom of the heavens is likened [or, ‘is like’] unto...” (cf. vv. 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47). This though is in the English translation. The Greek text, in its wording, reveals Christ sharply distinguishing between the way in which He began the parable of the wheat and tares and the way in which He began each of the remaining five parables.
1. HAS BECOME LIKE, IS LIKE
The expression in question, in the English text, reads, “is likened” in the second parable and “is like” in the remaining five. Thus, the English text does not show a distinction between the way in which any of the six parables are introduced.
The word translated “likened” or “like” in the Greek text is the same in each instance (homoioo [a verb] or homoios [a noun]). Introducing the parable of the wheat and tares, the verb form of this word is used (homoioo); and introducing the remaining five parables, the noun form of this word is used (homoios), with a verb following. And the structure of the noun and verb in each of these five remaining parables is identical.
Homoioo and homoios are used in the Greek New Testament to show a likeness between different things, or to compare one thing with another. e.g., “This is like...” Our English word, “homo” (like), prefixed to numerous English words, comes from the Greek prefix forming these two words. Thus, the words “likened” or “like” in the English translation accurately convey the meaning of homoioo or homoios.
The problem lies, not in the meaning of the words, but in the translators’ failure to show the distinction which Christ made when He used these words after entirely different fashions. That is, Christ used the verb form of this word to convey one thing in the parable of the wheat and tares. But continuing with the subsequent parables he used the noun form to convey something quite different.
The verb, homoioo, is used introducing the parable of the wheat and tares after a manner which should be translated, “it has become [Page 46] like.” Accordingly, this parable should begin with the statement, “The kingdom of the heavens has become like...”
But this same translation – “has become like” - should not be repeated in the remaining five parables. Rather, using the noun homoios, with a verb following, the translation, “the kingdom of the heavens is like…” (introducing each of the remaining parables) is probably as accurate as it can be rendered.
But this translation, introducing the last five parables, must be understood in the light of the way in which the whole matter is introduced in the parable of the wheat and tares. That is, this parable opens by revealing, “The kingdom of the heavens has become like...” It became like... in the parable of the wheat and tares; then it continues like... in the remaining five parables.
Thus, in this respect, the opening statement in each of these succeeding parables – “the kingdom of the heavens is like...” - must, contextually, be understood in the sense, the kingdom of the heavens continues like... There is a chronological continuity of thought after this fashion as one moves through these parables, something which must be recognized if the parables are to be properly understood.
2. THE KINGDOM OF THE HEAVENS
“The kingdom of the heavens” is a realm. And, in relation to this earth, the expression would refer simply to “the rule of the heavens over the earth.”
Satan and his angels presently rule from a heavenly sphere over the earth. And this heavenly sphere is that realm in which Christ and His co-heirs will reside during the coming age when they rule from the heavens over the earth, following Satan and his angels being cast out (Rev. 12: 4, 7-9; ref. the author’s book, THE MOST HIGH RULETH).
Thus, the kingdom of the heavens becoming as described in the parable of the wheat and tares, or continuing as described in the subsequent five parables, cannot be a reference to the realm of the kingdom per se. The realm itself doesn’t change. Only certain things about the kingdom (e.g., the message about the kingdom) can change.
The complete parabolic section in Matthew chapter thirteen is introduced and concluded after a similar fashion. And seeing how [Page 47] this is done, the thought inherent in the use of the expression, “the kingdom of the heavens,” in the second through seventh parables can be easily ascertained.
In the parable of the Sower, setting the stage for the remaining parables, “the word of the kingdom” is in view (vv. 19-23). This is a message pertaining to Christian faithfulness during the present dispensation, with a view to occupying positions as co-heirs with Christ in the kingdom of the heavens during the coming age. That is to say, the Word of the Kingdom is a message about the realm presently occupied by Satan and his angels, which Christ and His co-heirs will one day occupy.
Then, concluding all seven parables, Christ stated relative to the parables, “Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of the heavens is like unto...” (v. 52). Again, the Word of the Kingdom is in view. The instruction to which Christ referred is instruction in exactly the same thing seen in the introductory parable, the parable of the Sower - i.e., instruction in the Word of the Kingdom.
And exactly the same thing is in view through the use of the expression, “the kingdom of the heavens,” introducing the second through seventh parables. It’s not the realm of the kingdom of the heavens which has become like and continues like that described in these parables. Such would be impossible. Rather, it is the proclamation and offer of the kingdom of the heavens (referred to on both sides of these six parables) which has become like and continues like that described in the parables.
(The same thing can be seen in
the offer of the kingdom to
SONS OF THE KINGDOM, DEVIL
Only two types of individuals are seen in the parable of the wheat and tares. They are referred to by the expressions “wheat [or, ‘good seed’]” and “tares” (vv. 24, 25). The wheat, the good seed, are identified as “the children [‘sons’] of the kingdom,” and the tares are identified as “the children [‘sons’] of the wicked one” (v. 38).
The One sowing the good seed is identified as “the Son of man,” a Messianic title (v. 37; cf. Psa. 8:4; Dan. 7: 13, 14; Matt. 16: 13-16); and the one sowing the tares is identified as “the enemy,” “the devil,” the incumbent ruler in the kingdom (v. 39).
Everything about this parable has to do with a particular work of God (relative to the kingdom) and with a particular countering work of Satan (also relative to the kingdom). God has placed individuals out in the world, with a view to their bringing forth fruit; and this fruit would, in turn, be in relation to the proffered kingdom. And Satan has placed contrary minded individuals (v. 41) in the midst of those who are bearing fruit, seeking to counter that which is occurring. It is only through this means that Satan would envision any hope at all of retaining his present ruling position.
(The word “tares” is a translation of the Greek word zizanion, which refers to a troublesome sprout appearing in grain-fields, resembling wheat, though it is not wheat.)
Now, put all of this together for the complete picture of something which has been occurring throughout the dispensation, which has gone almost completely unrecognized. This parable has to do, not with how Satan seeks to prevent fruit-bearing (that was seen in the first three parts of the previous parable, the parable of the Sower), but with how Satan seeks to stop fruit-bearing - something not seen in the previous parable, or really not seen in the same fashion in any of the subsequent parables.
This parable reveals Satan’s attack against a select group of Christians. It reveals his attack against fruit-bearing Christians. And it is among these Christians that Satan goes about seeking to counter God’s plans and purposes through sowing that which resembles wheat, though it is not wheat.
Satan knows that fruit-bearing is that which God requires of those who are to ascend the throne with His Son in that coming day (cf. Matt. 21: 18, 19, 43; Heb. 6: 7-9). And he will, first of all, do everything within his power to prevent Christians from bearing [Page 49] fruit (seen in the first three parts of the parable of the Sower). But, when Christians begin bearing fruit (seen in the fourth part of the parable of the Sower), then he will do everything within his power to stop them from bearing fruit. And it is among the latter group of Christians - those bearing fruit - that Satan is seen sowing counterfeits (in relation to fruit-bearing, individuals producing counterfeit fruit [Matt. 7: 15-20]).
1. THE WHEAT
The “good seed” sown by the Lord out in the world are specifically referred to by the expression, “the children [‘sons’] of the kingdom.” And, beyond that, the title used to identify the Sower is “the Son of man,” a Messianic title.
The significance of their identification as “sons” lies in the fact that Christians are not presently “sons of God,” though here called “sons” (for a reason). Christians are presently “children of God,” awaiting the adoption into sonship.
Note how Paul dealt with this matter in Rom. 8: 16-23:
“And if children, then heirs: heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together...
... even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (vv. 17, 23b; see complete text).
But even in this chapter in Romans, as also in Galatians chapter four (where the adoption is mentioned again [v. 5]), reference is made to Christians being “sons” in a present sense, preceding the adoption (Rom. 8: 14; Gal. 4: 6, 7). And these instances would correspond to the way in which the matter is handled in Matthew chapter thirteen.
“Sonship” implies rulership. Only sons can rule in God’s kingdom.
All angels are sons of God because of their special, individual creation. And angels occupy various positions of delegated power and authority in God's kingdom (cf. Job 1: 6; 11; 38: 7).
Adam was a son of God because of a special creative act of God.
But Adam’s descendants were not sons of God. Rather, they were sons of the one from whom they descended. They were sons of Adam (Gen. 5: 3ff; Luke 3: 38).
Thus, Adam, before the fall, being a son of God, was in a position to rule the earth. But the fall resulted in his disqualification. Though [Page 50] he was still a son of God, he, following the fall, was no longer in a position to take the sceptre.
And Adam’s descendants were in no position to take the sceptre, for two reasons. Not only were they fallen creatures (a position inherited from Adam), but they were not sons of God. Rather, they were sons of Adam, sons of a fallen creature.
Two thousand years later God
called Abraham out of
This special creation was performed in the person of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob (Isa. 43: 1); and this special creation was of a nature which would allow it to be passed on through the genes, through Jacob’s twelve sons, resulting in a nation recognized as separate and distinct from all the other nations (thus, the distinction between Jew and Gentile).
Then, once God had a separate nation of this nature, he adopted this nation (Ex. 4: 22, 23), redeemed those comprising this nation (Ex. 12: lff), and called this nation out under Moses to rule at the head of the nations in a land previously covenanted to their forefathers (cf. Ex. 2: 23-25; 3: 7-12; 15: 17,18; 19: 5, 6). That is, a redeemed people, recognized as God’s son, was being called forth to rule in that part of God’s kingdom which Adam had previously been created to rule.
But coming on down into modern
Then the Church, a separate
creation from either Jew or Gentile, is likewise in no position to rule. Though those comprising the Church are saved
(unlike those comprising the nation of
Prior to ascending the throne with Christ, Christians must first be adopted. And this is what Romans chapter eight and Galatians chapter four are about. Children (the Christians’ present standing) are in no position to rule. Only sons (the Christians’ future standing) can rule. And sonship is seen in both Romans and Galatians in relation to adoption and inheritance (all future).
The matter can be illustrated quite easily from Romans. The verses leading into Rom. 8: 14 (the verse presenting Christians as “sons”) deal with Christians either living after the flesh or putting to death the deeds of the flesh. Then verse fourteen deals with individuals being led by the Spirit of God (contextually, individuals, under the leadership of the Spirit, putting to death the previously mentioned deeds of the flesh), and these individuals are said to be “the sons of God.” But, the verses immediately following specifically state that Christians are presently “children of God,” awaiting the adoption into sonship (vv. 16, 17, 23).
Contextually, verse fourteen, referring to Christians as “sons,” can be understood only one way. This verse would have to be understood in the sense that Christians presently being led by the Spirit of God are the ones who will be manifested as the sons of God in that coming day, occupying positions as joint-heirs with Christ in His kingdom (vv. 17, 19).
That is the subject of the whole passage. And exactly the same thing can be seen through the use of the expression, “sons of the kingdom,” in Matt.13: 38, for that is the subject of the whole passage there as well.
“The sons of the kingdom” are the good seed, the ones bringing forth fruit. They, as the ones in Rom. 8: 14 (actually, the “sons” both places are the same), are the ones who will be manifested as the sons of God, in the kingdom, in that coming day.
Not all Christians are being referred to in Matt. 13: 38 by the expression, “sons of the kingdom.” Nor are all Christians being referred to in Rom. 8: 14 by the expression “sons.” The specific reference in Matthew is to those Christians bringing forth fruit, and the specific reference in Romans is to those Christians following the leadership of the Spirit.
And, again, the two are the same. Fruit-bearing cannot be realized [Page 52] apart from following the leadership of the [Holy] Spirit; and following the leadership of the [Holy] Spirit will invariably result in fruit-bearing.
It is the Son of Man who sows Christians out in the world, with a view to fruit-bearing, which is with a view to the kingdom. Everything points ahead to the kingdom - the Son of Man (the Sower, described through the use of a Messianic title), the sons of the kingdom (those sown, described through the use of an expression portending rulership), and, fruit-bearing (a bringing forth, with a view to the kingdom).
2. THE TARES
The “tares” though present the other side of the picture. As previously shown, the tares present Satan’s efforts to stop fruit-bearing, to put a stop to that presently occurring, in the various places where it is occurring.
And, as also previously shown, Satan is seen carrying on his activities on two fronts: 1) He is seen seeking to prevent Christians from bringing forth fruit (described in the first three parts of the parable of the Sower), and 2) he is seen seeking to stop Christians from bringing forth fruit (described in the parable of the tares, forming a commentary on the fourth part of the parable of the Sower).
If Satan can prevent Christians from bringing forth fruit, the matter will be settled at that point, and a continued work will be unnecessary. But, if he can’t prevent Christians from bringing forth fruit, then he has to stop them.
It is here that he is revealed sowing tares. He sows them right in the midst of Christians bearing fruit, and this is done with one goal in mind. It is done in an effort to stop, through any means possible, Christians who are bearing fruit from continuing to bear fruit.
A) IDENTITY OF THE TARES
Exactly who are those whom Satan sows among fruit-bearing Christians in an effort to stop them from bearing fruit? The answer is easy to ascertain.
These parables were given by Christ at His first coming, at a time when the kingdom of the heavens was being offered to the nation of Israel; but these parables had to do with events beyond that time, occurring during a time when the kingdom of the heavens would be [Page 53] offered to a separate and distinct entity, the one new man “in Christ.” And, whether during that time when the kingdom was offered to Israel, or during that time when the kingdom would be offered to the one new man “in Christ,” any realization of the offer was contingent on one thing - fruit-bearing (Matt. 21: 18, 19, 43).
They were the ones who followed
Christ about the country seeking, at every turn, to speak out against the
Messenger and His message. They were the
ones directly responsible for the nation’s rejection of the King and kingdom. They had “shut up
the kingdom of the heavens against men [‘in the
presence of men’]” (Matt. 23: 13). And for this reason they experienced a rebuke
and condemnation at Christ’s hands unlike that experienced by any other
religious group in
Bringing this over into
Christendom, whom would Satan use during the present dispensation to either
prevent or stop fruit-bearing relative to the kingdom? In the light of the past offer to
It was Jewish
religious leaders then, and the counterpart would have to be Christian religious leaders today.
Those outside the nation - the unregenerate world - had nothing to do
with the matter then; nor can those outside the Church - the unregenerate world
- have anything to do with the matter today.
It was those
within which Satan used in
But how could Christians be identified by the expression, “sons of the wicked one” (Matt. 13: 38)? Note several references in Scripture relative to Israelites acting in similar capacities and the answer will become apparent.
In John chapter eight, Jews who had believed on Christ (v. 31), who were acknowledged by Christ to be “Abraham’s seed” (v. 37), were also said, because of their works, to be of their “father the devil” (vv. 39-44).
In Matthew chapter sixteen, Peter, because he stated relative to Christ’s sufferings, death, and resurrection on the third day, “Lord: this shall not be unto thee,” was associated directly with Satan. Jesus said to Peter - not to Satan, but to Peter - “Get thee behind me, Satan” (vv. 21-23; cf. John 6: 70).
Then in Matt. 23: 15, the Scribes and Pharisees - those having, “shut up the kingdom of the heavens” (v. 13) - were said to have made one of their proselytes “twofold more the child of hell [lit., ‘twofold more a son of Gehenna’]” than themselves. Their sonship, because of that which they had done, was associated with Gehenna (the place of refuse) rather than with the kingdom.
With all these things in mind - seeing a counterpart in Israel to that existing in Christendom - viewing the expression, “sons of the wicked one,” in Matt. 13:38 as a reference to the saved, not the unsaved would, contextually, be the only natural way in which the matter could be viewed. And, that this is the correct way to view this part of the parable can be shown through other means as well.
Seeing the tares, the sons of the wicked one, as those within the Church, not without, is in complete accord with all facets of the matter. It is in complete accord with the history of the offer to Israel, it is in complete accord with (and the only thing which can possibly adequately explain) that which can easily be seen occurring throughout Christendom today, and it is in complete accord with that which can be seen when one moves on into the third and fourth parables in Matthew chapter thirteen.
Then there is one other thing which will preclude viewing the matter after any other fashion. That which the text reveals about God's future dealings with the wheat and tares should resolve all doubts which anyone might have concerning their identity.
B) JUDGMENT OF THE WHEAT AND TARES
Both the wheat and tares are seen being judged and subsequently dealt with at the same time and place. And the Lord’s dealings with both after this fashion is with a view to entrance into or exclusion from the kingdom.
All those represented by the wheat are gathered into the barn. But [Page55] the matter is quite different for those represented by the tares. They are seen being gathered and burned (vv. 30, 40-43).
But note something, and note it well. Eternal verities are not being dealt with in this parable. Rather, the subject is fruit-bearing, with a view to the kingdom.
Everything stated about the Lord’s dealings with those represented by the wheat and tares is in perfect accord with Scripture elsewhere relating to both the judgment seat of Christ and that which will emanate out of issues and determinations at this judgment (cf. Matt. 24: 45-51; 25: 19ff; 1 Cor. 3: 12-15; Heb. 6: 7-9). And dealings by the Lord of this nature would be completely out of line with any thought that the tares represent unregenerate individuals. Scripture never presents a judgment of the saved and unsaved at the same time and place; nor does Scripture ever present the unsaved being dealt with after the fashion seen here - relative to fruit-bearing, with a view to the kingdom.
C) LEAVE THEM ALONE
Then there is one other thing which needs to be considered about those whom Satan has sown in the midst of fruitful Christians, seeking to stop them from bearing fruit. And the importance of following Christ’s instructions in this respect cannot be overemphasized.
What is to be the fruitful Christian’s attitude toward those whom Satan has placed in their midst, to stop them from bearing fruit? What are fruitful Christians to do about antagonism toward their fruitfulness and the reason why fruit is being borne? The question is asked and answered in verses twenty-eight through thirty of the parable.
“Wilt thou then that we go out and gather them [the tares] up?
But he [Christ] said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers [angels (v. 41)], Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.”
Those standing in the way of one’s interest in having a part with Christ in His kingdom are to be dealt with after only one fashion. They are to be left ALONE! “Leave them ALONE” (Matt. 15:14). Simply ignore [Page 56] them, continue doing that which the Lord has called you to do, and let the Lord take care of the matter in His Own time.
* * *
Parable of the Mustard Seed
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of the heavens is like to 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 (Matt. 13: 31, 32).
The parable of the mustard seed continues with the same central thoughts set forth in the previous parable, the parable of the wheat and tares. Fruit-bearing remains at the forefront (v. 31), as well as Satan’s continuing activity as he seeks to stop Christians from bearing fruit.
And the method which Satan uses as he seeks to stop Christians from bearing fruit, revealed in the previous parable, is through sowing tares among the wheat. Then the parable of the mustard seed reveals that which would happen because of this activity of Satan.
In this respect, the parable of the mustard seed is simply a commentary on the previous parable, providing additional explanatory help. In the true sense of the definition of a parable and why the Lord used parables (ref. Chapter 1), the parable of the mustard seed was given to help explain the parable which had previously been given, the parable of the wheat and tares.
And the same thing could be said concerning why the Lord gave the parable of the wheat and tares. It was given to help explain a part of the parable given prior to this one, the parable of the Sower. Then, looking ahead to the parable following the parable of the mustard seed - [Page 58] the parable of the leaven - the same thing can be seen. This parable was given to provide additional explanatory help for the parable of the mustard seed.
That’s the evident Divinely designed interrelationship which exists between the first four parables in Matthew chapter thirteen. The parable of the Sower, the first parable spoken outside the house, by the seaside, introduces the matter; and the succeeding three parables spoken outside the house, by the seaside, simply build, after a successive fashion, on that introduced in the first parable.
NATURAL, UNNATURAL GROWTH
In the second parable - the parable of the wheat and tares Satan is seen sowing contrary-minded individuals in the midst of Christians bringing forth fruit, seeking to stop fruit-bearing. This is how matters had become in Christendom relative to fruit-bearing, with the kingdom of the heavens in view. Then, the parable of the mustard seed presents how matters would continue in this respect.
This parable first depicts a natural growth of the mustard seed, once it germinated. The natural growth of this particular seed would result in an herb, called in the text, “the greatest among herbs.” And, beyond that, a natural growth would result in fruit-bearing (v. 32).
Thus, Satan’s success in stopping fruit-bearing would be contingent on his success in preventing a natural growth of the mustard seed. One would go hand-in-hand with the other.
The mustard seed in the parable represents, not individuals per se, but an entity made up of individuals - the good seed, the sons of the kingdom from the previous parable. And a natural or unnatural growth of the mustard seed would represent a natural or unnatural development of those comprising the seed.
Should Satan be unsuccessful in his efforts to prevent a natural development of those comprising the mustard seed, growth would eventually result in that which God had intended; and fruit-bearing would ensue.
However, should Satan be successful in his efforts to prevent a natural development of those comprising the mustard seed, growth would eventually result in something other than that which God had [Page 59] intended; and barrenness would ensue.
And the latter is exactly what is seen in this parable. The mustard seed is seen growing after an abnormal fashion, showing Satan’s success in stopping Christians from bearing fruit through causing an unnatural growth in their ranks. And not only so, but the mustard seed is seen developing so abnormally that it eventually became a tree; and this tree is seen to be of such a nature that “the birds of the air,” individuals doing the work of Satan, found a lodging place in its branches (v. 32; cf. vv. 4, 19).
Thus, the third parable, continuing the thought from the second parable, presents the tares being quite effective. They are seen deceiving Christians to the degree that they bring about an unnatural growth in Christendom, resulting in unfruitfulness, barrenness; and the matter is carried to the point that, in the end, the tares even found acceptance among those whom they had deceived.
Through producing an unnatural growth in Christendom - one in which they themselves could find acceptance - the tares stopped Christians from bearing fruit. Then the tares were able to simply settle down in that which they had produced.
This work of Satan - producing an unnatural growth, resulting in barrenness - could only have been accomplished through one means. It could only have been accomplished through the promulgation of false doctrine. It could only have been accomplished through Satan placing false teachers in the midst of fruit-bearing Christians, leading them away from the truth of the Scriptures, leading them away from an adherence to the faith. And this is exactly the way Scripture elsewhere reveals that the matter occurred.
There are multiplied warnings numerous places in Scripture concerning false teachers who would arise and teach “perverse things,” particularly relative to the faith, the Word of the Kingdom. And these false teachers would arise, not from the world, but from within Christendom itself. These false teachers would arise from the ranks of Christians, in the Churches (Acts 20: 29-32; cf. 1 Tim. 4: 1-3; 2 Tim. 2: 8,18; 3: 7, 8; 4: 14; 2 Peter 2: 1ff; Jude 3ff).
As it was
surrounding Christ’s first coming and the offer of the kingdom of the heavens
The religious leaders in
And the situation relative to the proclamation of the Word of the Kingdom throughout the present dispensation has been no different. Christians down through the years have been misled, not by those in the world, but by their own religious leaders. Scripture is very clear on this matter.
1. AT THE BEGINNING OF THE DISPENSATION
The message of the hour at the beginning of the dispensation - one proclaimed throughout Christendom - centered around the faith, the saving of the soul, the Word of the Kingdom. This was the message which Paul referred to as “my gospel” (Rom. 16: 25), “our gospel” (2 Cor. 4: 3), and “the glorious gospel of Christ [lit., ‘the gospel of the glory of Christ’]” (2 Cor. 4: 4); this was the message which Paul had been called to proclaim to Christians throughout the Gentile world (Acts 9: 15; Gal. 1: 11, 12, 16; 2: 7); and this was the message which Paul and others, during the first few decades of the existence of the Church, “preached to every creature which is under heaven” (Col. 1: 5, 6, 23).
Thus, during the first century of the Church’s existence, the message surrounding the proffered kingdom was something universally proclaimed throughout Christendom. And this message could only have been well-known and understood by Christians everywhere, [Page 61] resulting in at least a segment of Christendom developing in a natural fashion and these Christians, correspondingly, bearing fruit.
It was within a setting of this nature that Satan sowed tares among the wheat, seeking to prevent a natural growth and development of the seed which had been sown; and success in preventing this natural growth and development would, in turn, over time, ultimately result in a barren condition of the plant.
Now, note the problem which Satan faced at the beginning of the dispensation. He faced countering a message which was being proclaimed and received throughout Christendom. Christians who had received the true message were developing after a proper fashion (growing from immaturity to maturity), with a corresponding fruitfulness.
To counter the true message, Satan simply placed individuals proclaiming a false message in the midst of those Christians who had received the true message. Then, over time, the false message progressively did its damaging work, accomplishing its purpose.
This false message, once received, resulted in an improper development in Christendom (an improper growth from immaturity to maturity). And, developing after an improper fashion, a corresponding barrenness ensued.
And that is how Scripture reveals that Satan stops fruit-bearing. He places individuals with a false message relative to the kingdom among those bearing fruit for the kingdom. The false message takes root, growth becomes progressively unnatural, and fruit-bearing is stymied. Then, the false message continues to take hold until the point is reached where growth becomes so unnatural that fruit-bearing can no longer exist.
A) THE MESSENGERS
Both Peter in his second epistle and Jude begin their epistles by exhorting Christians to strain every muscle of their being in the present race of the faith (2 Peter 1: 2-11; Jude 3); and that necessitating his exhortation, in both epistles, is the presence of false teachers in their midst (2 Peter 2: 1ff; Jude 4ff).
These are the same false teachers to which Paul referred, who would arise among Christians, take truths concerning the Word of the [Page 62] Kingdom, and distort and twist these truths (Acts 20: 30, 31); and these are the same false teachers to which Christ had previously referred in the parables in Matt. 13, who would produce an unnatural growth among fruit-bearing Christians.
These are the apostates which Scripture extensively warns Christians about - a type individual identified by the meaning of the word itself. Our English word, “apostasy,” is simply an Anglicized form of the Greek word apostasia. This is a compound word comprised of apo (‘from’) and stasis (‘to stand’). The word means “to stand away from”; and the word refers to a person standing away from a place in which he had previously stood.
The apostasy in view has to do with “the faith” (cf. 2 Tim. 2: 18; 3: 8; Jude 3). Thus, true apostates relative to the faith can only be individuals who had, at one time, received the message concerning the faith; but then, at a later time, they departed from an adherence to this message. These are individuals who had initially heard, understood, received the truth, but then apostatized. They “stood away from” the truth. They turned from the truth, began to speak out against the truth, and, in the process, taught that which was untrue.
These are the type individuals referred to in Paul’s warnings in both Acts and his epistles, as well as Peter’s and Jude’s warnings in their epistles. These are the type individuals - those quite familiar with the matter which they were speaking against - whom Satan knew that he could use the most effectively, whom Satan knew that he could use to do the most damage.
Thus, Satan simply began to place individuals of this nature in the midst of those Christians bringing forth fruit. And they began to “draw away disciples” after themselves (Acts 20: 30). They began to reproduce after their kind, resulting in fruit also after their kind, an “evil fruit” (Matt. 7: 15-20; cf. vv. 13, 14, 21-23).
Aside from Paul’s identification of these individuals in Acts 20: 30 – “of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things...” ‑ note Peter’s identification of them in 2 Peter 2: 18-20:
“For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.”
Note particularly the word “knowledge” in verse twenty. These individuals had escaped the “pollutions of the world” through the “knowledge [Gk. epignosis, ‘mature knowledge’] of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” They had come into a mature knowledge of the things in view - things surrounding the Word of the Kingdom. And having come into a mature knowledge of these things, they turned from these things and began to teach perverse, contrary things.
That these were saved individuals is evident, for an unsaved person cannot even come into a rudimentary knowledge of these things (1 Cor. 2: 14 [gnosis, the regular Greek word for “knowledge” appears in this passage]), much less the mature knowledge seen in 2 Peter 2: 20. Thus, the text can only have to do with saved individuals turning from the central message of that day, distorting and twisting the truth as they taught false doctrine relative to the Word of the Kingdom.
Satan used this type individual - after this manner, during the opening decades of the Church’s existence - to do his bidding, to stop Christians from bearing fruit. And though the ones whom Satan used were also Christians, they were doing the works of Satan; and doing works of this nature, they were identified with Satan, referred to as “tares,” “sons of the devil” (ref. Chapter IV).
3) THEIR MESSAGE
The teaching of the apostates is spoken of as “damnable heresies [lit. ‘destructive heresies’ or, ‘heresies that lead to destruction’]” (2 Peter 2: 1). And the destruction in view has nothing to do with salvation by grace through faith, with the Christians’ presently possessed free gift of eternal life.
Eternal life is not even in view. The destruction has to do solely with the Word of the Kingdom, the subject matter at hand. The apostates [Page 64] taught heresy of a nature which led Christians to a destructive end relative to the proffered kingdom.
Numerous statements are given concerning the teaching and action of the apostates (cf. 2 Peter 2:1-3, 10ff; Jude 4, 8ff). But one thing in Peter’s second epistle stands out above everything else. There is a septenary structure to Peter’s second epistle, with a particular reference to and emphasis upon Christ’s return within this structure (1:16-18; 3: 4-8).
The apostates are seen “walking after their own lusts [‘desires’ - desires which would be soulical (‘their own desires’), not spiritual (that which the Lord would desire)]” (3: 3; cf. 2: 18). And, within this type walk, they are seen proclaiming a message which would strike at the heart of all sound Biblical teaching surrounding Christ’s return and the Messianic Kingdom:
“Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (3: 4).
Then the verses which follow (vv. 5-9) - answering the apostates false message through referring to events beginning with the opening verses of Genesis - make matters very clear that the heart of the apostates’ message had to do with denying Christ’s return at the end of six thousand years, with attendant destruction on the one hand and attendant blessings on the other. They had willingly allowed the things surrounding this entire panorama of teaching to escape their attention, and they are seen infiltrating the ranks of fruit-bearing Christians everywhere, seeking to promulgate their false doctrine.
The misleading, destructive doctrine proclaimed by the apostates is seen taking numerous forms. But the foundation upon which all their false teaching rested is seen taking only one form. All their false teaching is seen resting on a totally perverted form of the true foundation set forth in Gen. 1: 1–2: 3 - the God-established foundation upon which all subsequent Scripture rests.
They, in all the various forms that their false teaching took, sought to do away with two things: 1) the septenary structure of Scripture as set forth in the beginning, in Gen. 1: 1-2: 3, and 2) teachings surrounding Christ’s return within the framework of this septenary structure (at the end of six days, [Page 65] at the end of 6,000 years).
Then, building on a totally perverted foundation of this nature, the apostates sought to spread all types of destructive heresies relative to the various facets of the Word of the Kingdom among fruit-bearing Christians. And, over time, as seen in the parable of the mustard seed, they were quite successful.
The mustard seed germinated and grew, not in a normal manner, but in an abnormal manner; and, over time, it became something which it was not supposed to become at all. It became a tree. And not only did it become a tree, but the false teachers took up residence in the branches of the tree, continuing their destructive work from within.
Proper growth can come only from that which has not been corrupted (1 Peter 2:1, 2). And the converse of that is equally true. Only improper growth can result when corruption has occurred. Thus, to bring about improper growth, the false teachers simply proclaimed a corrupted form of the only thing which God had provided for the nourishment and well-being of the spiritual man. And through so doing, they went back to and began with the very heart of the matter - the foundation itself, in the opening two chapters of Genesis.
It was the work of the apostates which brought about the conditions seen in the parable of the mustard seed. A corrupted and improper diet of spiritual food resulted in a corrupted and improper growth; and a growth of this nature, over time, ultimately resulted in barrenness. Then the false teachers simply took up residence within that which they had produced, assuring that conditions would remain in a corrupted and barren state.
2. AT THE END OF THE DISPENSATION
Near the end of the dispensation (today), relative to the Word of the Kingdom, conditions throughout Christendom are seen to have come completely turned around from the way they existed at the beginning of the dispensation. After almost two millenniums, the Lord of the Kingdom - taught and understood throughout the Churches at the beginning of the dispensation - is seldom even heard in Christian circles. And, with the message not being proclaimed, Christians throughout the Churches of the land, correspondingly, little to no understanding of truths surrounding the coming [Page 66] kingdom.
Thus, during the present day and time, Satan has little need for apostates to infiltrate the ranks of Christians. And, beyond that, though little need exists, Satan would undoubtedly be hard-pressed to find very many true apostates.
A person, first of all, would have to come into an understanding of the Word of the Kingdom before he could apostatize. And those having a conversant knowledge of this message today - the only ones in a position to apostatize - are few and far between.
That which exists in Christendom today is the aftermath, the end result, of Satan sowing tares among the wheat, of Satan bringing about an abnormal growth of the mustard seed. In general, in relation to the Word of the Kingdom, because of that which has occurred in the past, a corrupted Christendom presently exists. Those occupying the pulpit are silent on the subject, and those occupying the pew, accordingly, know little to nothing about the subject.
And, should the subject ever emerge - as it sometimes does - those occupying the pulpit are usually quick in their attempts to squelch the message. This message encompasses things which are out of line with the training which they received in the theology schools of the land; and they, accordingly, view the message after an erroneous fashion.
In this respect, the effectiveness of the false teachers at the beginning of the dispensation is evidenced by two things near the end of the dispensation. It is evidenced by 1) the condition of the Church in general and 2) the condition of Christian leadership in particular.
Thus, a completely different situation exists in Christendom during the present day and time than existed during the first several centuries of the dispensation. There would be some need for true apostates, for there are individuals - one here, and one there - who believe the Word of the Kingdom and are bringing forth fruit. But such a need would be minimal.
Thus, with conditions as such, Satan could concentrate his efforts on bringing to completion that which he began almost two millenniums ago. He could concentrate on 1) seeking to maintain the status quo, and 2) seeking to bring about total corruption. And, as will become evident in the completion of the parables given outside the house, by [Page 67] the seaside (the parable of the leaven), this is exactly the picture which Scripture elsewhere presents.
The particular type abnormal spiritual growth seen resulting from the false message of the apostates is something which can be seen in both Church history throughout the course of the dispensation and in the Church of today near the end of the dispensation. The abnormal growth of the mustard seed in history resulted in a tree, in which those who had brought about its abnormal growth are, in the end, seen resting in its branches; and the tree remains to this day, with those maintaining the status quo continuing to rest in its branches.
1. SYMBOLISM OF A TREE
To understand that which is in view, note the symbolism of a tree in Scripture. A “tree” is used in Scripture to symbolize a national power.
In Judges 9: 8-15, which relates the oldest known parable in the world, “trees” are seen symbolizing nations which had sought to elect a king to reign over them.
Daniel, in his prophecy, refers
to the vision of “a tree in the midst of the earth,”
which “reached unto heaven.” And this “tree” is said
to symbolize the
There can be no question concerning Scripture using “trees” in a symbolic sense to signify national powers. And, remaining within the confines of the symbolism which Scripture itself provides, there can, as well, be no question concerning that which is in view through the mustard seed germinating and eventually becoming a tree.
The teaching, through the
symbolism given, is clear. That
represented by the mustard seed germinated and became a national power - something which it was not supposed
to become at all during the present dispensation, something reserved for the
coming dispensation. [Page 68] It became a national power during the time Satan ruled within
the kingdom of the heavens; it became a national power within the present
And any thought of Christians
exercising power in the world was to be reserved for a future day, a time after
Satan had been put down and Christ had taken the sceptre; power of this nature
was to be exercised solely within the future
2. IN HISTORY, DURING THE PRESENT DAY
During the early part of the first century, when the apostates first infiltrated the ranks of fruit-bearing Christians, Christianity was looked upon in the Roman world as an illegal religion. And, in some quarters, Christians were looked upon by the Romans as being guilty of treason.
It was these basic differences
which resulted in all of the Roman persecution, lasting several centuries. But something else also happened during this
time. The apostates progressively broke
down the barriers separating the
In the year 380 A.D., Theodosius I issued an edict that made
Christianity the exclusive state religion; and, in the year 395 A.D., Christianity was finally recognized as the
official and only religion of the
At this point Christianity found itself completely enmeshed within a world power in the sphere of governmental authority over which Satan exercised control, completely out of line with God’s plans and purposes for the new creation “in Christ.”
This though was not the end result of the previous Roman persecution. This persecution only resulted in Christian growth. As Tertullian, a Christian living during the period of Roman persecution, said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
That which ultimately occurred
was caused by the apostates. Their
attack was not centered upon the entity itself (as was
And the end result was exactly as Christ had foretold. The mustard seed germinated, took an abnormal
growth, and became a tree. The abnormal growth, over
time, ultimately resulted in barrenness; and Christians found themselves
occupying a position which they were not supposed to occupy during the present
dispensation at all. They found
themselves associated with Gentile world power within the present
And this is a position from
which Christianity has never recovered.
Down to the present day, though
But this is simply not the day when Christians are to rule and reign. That day lies in the future, after Christ has taken the kingdom and Christians have been placed in positions of power and authority.
The entire present system is in its death-throes and is to be destroyed by Christ when He
returns. Christians having works associated
with the present system will one day see their works suffer the same fate which
the system is about to suffer. Such works will be destroyed, burned “in fire” at the judgment seat; and even though
these Christians will be “saved; yet so as by [‘through’]
fire” (1 Cor. 3: 11-15), they will be left with nothing of value in relation to the coming [millennial]
* * *
Parable of the Leaven
Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of the heavens is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened (Matt. 13: 33).
The parable of the leaven is the last of the four parables which Christ gave outside the house. This parable reveals the conclusion of matters surrounding events covered by the first three parables; and this conclusion is revealed prior to Christ going back inside the house, where He gave three additional parables (with all seven together revealing an entire sequence of events extending from the inception of the Church to the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom).
This is the first mention of “leaven” in the New Testament, and Christ used the word in a symbolic sense, in an unexplained manner, knowing that it could be understood only one way. The Old Testament symbolism surrounding “leaven” and the flow of thought seen in the three parables preceding the first use of this word in the New Testament left no room to question how the word was to be understood.
Leaven was a foreign substance added to dough, causing the dough to rise. And the Old Testament, using leaven in a symbolic sense, always used the word only one way. The Old Testament always used the word to symbolize that which caused corruption and deterioration.
Mosaic Law forbade the priests in
Though the priests were forbidden to use leaven in their rituals, in two instances, instructions in the Mosaic economy stated that leaven was to be included in offerings (Lev. 7: 13; 23: 17); and Amos, centuries later, mentions an offering which was to include leaven as well (4: 5).
But in all three of these instances where leaven was to be included, other offerings are also mentioned; and, in two of these instances, the other offerings are specifically stated to include blood sacrifices, to atone for man’s sins. And, in the one offering where blood is not specifically mentioned (Amos 4: 5), blood could only be inferred from the other offerings which are mentioned (Lev. 7: 1-14; 23: 5, 27 [cf. Ex. 12: 1ff; Lev. 16: 1ff]; Amos 4: 4).
In the light of both the context and corresponding Scripture elsewhere, leaven could only have been included in these offerings to show man’s sin. Leaven was included to show corruption within, as an offering without leaven was used to show purity within.
This can be illustrated by referring to God’s command surrounding the second of the festivals in Lev. 23 - the festival of unleavened bread. Beginning with the day immediately following the death of the firstborn and the application of the blood (the first festival), the Israelites were commanded to refrain from eating anything containing leaven for “seven days,” for a complete period of time (Lev. 23: 5, 6).
This pointed to God’s truth surrounding the fact that those who had appropriated the blood were then to keep themselves pure for a complete period of time, for the entire duration of their lives which followed. This was true for the Israelites at the time these festivals were instituted, it was true for the Israelites down through the centuries, and it remains true for Christians today. It has been and it remains true for God’s people throughout all time (1 Cor. 5: 6-8).
And within the continuing symbolism shown by these feast days, God instituted a day of atonement. This was the sixth of the seven festivals, and it had to do with shed blood to atone for man’s sins - the sins of those who had previously applied the blood of the paschal lambs (which was immediately followed by God’s command to not partake of that containing leaven). The day of atonement had to do with a covering provided for the failure of those having previously applied the blood of the paschal lambs to keep themselves pure, their [Page 73] failure to continuously keep themselves separated from that containing leaven.
And exactly the same thing can
be seen today through viewing the Christians’ present state in the world and
Christ’s present high priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. Christians have applied the blood of the
Paschal Lamb and have been commanded to keep themselves pure. But Christians, possessing a body of death,
as the Israelites in the past dispensation, experience failure; and, as in the
Cleansing though is not automatic. Rather, it is conditional. Cleansing is dependent on the Christian acknowledging his sins.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1: 9; cf. Heb. 4: 13‑16; 9: 23ff; 10: 19ff; 1 John 2: 1, 2).
In the light of the way in which leaven is always used in the Old Testament, Christ could use the word in a symbolic sense - as He did in Matt. 13: 33, and in Matt. 16: 6 - and His disciples would know exactly what was meant. Or, also in this respect, Paul could use the word in this same symbolic sense in his epistles - as he did in 1 Cor. 5: 6-8, and in Gal. 5: 9 - and the recipients of these epistles would also know exactly what was meant.
But an added feature about the way leaven is used in Matt. 13: 33 is the context leading into the use of this word. The context alone reveals how this word is to be understood. And exactly the same thing can be seen where leaven is used elsewhere in the New Testament. Every place this word appears, the context always clearly shows the word being used only one way - to show corruption and deterioration - in complete keeping with its Old Testament usage.
In Matt. 13: 33, the context leading into the use of this word has to do with fruit-bearing and with the method Satan uses to stop Christians from bearing fruit. The preceding two parables reveal Satan introducing false doctrine, with a progressive corruption and deterioration following. And the parable of the leaven simply reveals the conclusion of the matter.
According to the parable of the leaven, the message surrounding the proffered kingdom during the present dispensation would, near the end of the dispensation, become completely leavened. Corruption introduced at the beginning of the dispensation would progressively permeate the whole of Christendom until that having to do with the proffered kingdom would be completely corrupted. This is how, according to this parable, the dispensation would end.
THREE MEASURES OF MEAL
“Three” is the number of Divine perfection. This number shows Divine perfection within that which is in view. “Three measures of meal” - three measures of ground grain, used to make bread - are in view. The reference is to the Word of God (Matt. 4: 4; cf. Isa. 55: 1, 2), though not the Word in a general sense. Rather, the reference, contextually, is to the Word in a specific sense, a specific part of the Word, a specific teaching in the Word.
The subject at hand has to do
with the Word of the Kingdom. It has to do with how the
message surrounding the coming
The reference to leaven placed in the three measures of meal, as previously shown, is simply a reference to that introduced in the preceding two parables. It is a reference to taking that which is false and placing it within that which is Divinely perfect. It is a reference to a corrupting agent being placed within the Divinely perfect God-breathed Word.
And, again, it is that part of this Divinely perfect revelation having to do with the Word of the Kingdom which is in view. Satan simply began placing those proclaiming a false message about the kingdom among those bearing fruit for the kingdom. The false message took root and began to spread, resulting in corruption and deterioration.
Then, continuing the explanation in the third parable, because of this false doctrine, a completely unnatural spiritual growth in Christendom followed. The mustard seed in this parable is seen germinating and growing into a tree - something which it wasn’t [Page 75] supposed to become at all.
And not only did it grow after this fashion, but its growth was so unnatural that those responsible for this growth were able to find a home within that which they, through corruption, had created.
And that, contextually is what continues in view - the only thing which can continue in view - by Christ using the symbolism of a woman taking leaven and hiding it in three measures of meal. This, in keeping with the definition of a parable, is simply additional truth placed alongside of previous truth to help explain the previous truth. It is additional truth placed alongside the preceding two parables to help explain these parables.
Understanding the parable of the
leaven is that simple. This parable has
to do with a progressive, continuing deterioration. It has to do with a
corrupting agent placed within that part of God’s Divinely
perfect revelation referred to as “the
word of the kingdom.” And
it has to do with this corrupting agent working “till the whole [the
message surrounding the coming
TILL THE WHOLE...
The reason for the state in which Christendom presently finds itself is shown by these parables, with the parable of the leaven depicting the end of the matter. This parable shows a progressive deterioration until the point of total corruption has been reached.
Near the end of the dispensation, when the Word of the Kingdom has been completely corrupted, that which Jesus foretold in this parable will be fulfilled. In those days, at that time, the true message surrounding the coming kingdom of Christ will not be - it cannot be - heard throughout the Churches of the land.
The move in Christendom from
conditions depicted by the Church in
And one need only look around today to see this exact state of affairs existing in Christendom - in fundamental and liberal circles [Page 76] alike. In relation to the Word of the Kingdom, one segment is just as leavened as the other. In relation to the Word of the Kingdom, exactly the same conditions exist in both. Neither proclaims this message, and neither will have anything to do with it.
This is the one thing which both the fundamentalists and the liberals (as they are known and referred to) have in common today. Neither will proclaim or have anything to do with the central message which Christians are to hear.
When Christ was on earth the
first time, there were two main religious parties in
And exactly the same situation exists in Christendom today, immediately preceding Christ’s return. There are two main divisions among Christians - the fundamentalists and the liberals. These two religious groups are worlds apart in their theology, but they are one in their attitude toward the proffered kingdom. Neither will have anything to do with it.
Revelation chapters two and
three record seven short epistles to seven Churches in
Reference is made in Col. 4: 16 to an
epistle in connection with the Church in
spent three years ministering to the Christians in
It was during Paul’s second
And Paul began his ministry in
Paul had earlier been converted
and subsequently taken aside (apparently to a desert area in
This is the message which Paul had been taught by the Lord, and this is the message which he was to carry throughout the Gentile world. This though was a message for Christians, not a message for the unsaved; and there were very few Christians in the Gentile world when Paul went out with this message. Thus, Paul, in the process of carrying out his ministry, had to proclaim a dual message.
Paul, among the unsaved, had to proclaim the good news surrounding [Page 78] the grace of God. But, once individuals had been saved, then Paul could proclaim the good news surrounding the coming glory of Christ. And the latter, rather than the former, is that which is seen in Scripture forming the heart of Paul’s ministry.
This is why Scripture presents Paul’s ministry - outlined in the latter half of the Book of Acts, and in his epistles - as dealing far more extensively with things surrounding “the mystery” than with things surrounding the simple gospel of the grace of God.
It is plain from Paul’s last meeting with the elders in the Church in Ephesus that “in every city” which he entered (which included Ephesus) he proclaimed “the gospel of the grace of God”; but it is also clear that Paul, in these same cities, then went on to proclaim “the kingdom of God” to those who had been saved under the simple preaching of the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20: 24, 25).
And the three years Paul spent in Ephesus are specifically said to be time which he spent instructing Christians in the faith and warning them about false teachers who would arise in their midst (Acts 20: 28-32).
Then, the epistle which he later
wrote to those in Ephesus, shows the depth to which he had previously
instructed the Christians in that city.
This epistle begins (apart from foundational teachings, and really,
apart from any introductory teachings) with a discussion of the things which
would be realized “in the dispensation of the fulness of
times” - adoption, redemption, and an inheritance (1: 3-14). And this epistle begins and continues
with the assumption that the Christians in
Paul could begin and continue this way because of the spiritual maturity of these Christians - a result of his previous lengthy ministry in their midst. And Paul’s unceasing prayer for these Christians at the time he wrote this epistle was that God would give them wisdom and full knowledge (Gk. epignosis) concerning the things he was writing about (things which he had previously taught them), referred to as “the hope of his calling,” and “the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (1: 16-18).
Then Paul continues in chapter
two, showing the reason for their salvation, the reason these Christians in
And Paul, calling attention to “the mystery,” continues with the thought of an inheritance set before Christians, for a future inheritance is what the mystery has to do with. It has to do with Gentiles being “fellow-heirs” with Jews, “of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (v. 6). And Paul refers to the whole of the message surrounding the mystery as “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” and “the manifold wisdom of God” (vv. 8, 10) - something which the writer of Hebrews referred to as “so great salvation” (Heb. 2: 3), or which Peter referred to as “the greatest of precious promises,” connected with Christ’s “greatest regal magnificence” (2 Peter 1: 4, 16 [literal translation]).
In the first part of chapter four, Paul dealt with the reason for gifted leaders and teachers in the Church. Simply stated, God had placed gifted leaders and teachers in the Church in Ephesus, and elsewhere, to guide Christians as they moved from immaturity to maturity; and this was with a view to the future adoption, redemption, and inheritance (cf. Eph. 4: 11-14, 30).
Then the Christian walk comes into view as individuals move from immaturity to maturity. And this, with a warning at the end to clothe oneself with “the whole armour of God” because of the ongoing spiritual warfare against Satan and his angels, takes up the remainder of the epistle.
The Church in
And it was this Church which the
Lord chose to use in His revelation to John in order to show the state of
Christendom at the beginning. This was a
time when the true message surrounding the coming
During these early years. this was the message of the hour when [Page 80] Christians met. This was the central message proclaimed by Paul and other ministers of that day, this was the central message of all the letters (epistles) written to the different Churches and individuals during that time. And Christians during these days gathered to talk about the things having to do with the coming kingdom of Christ and encourage and exhort one another relative to the hope set before them (Heb. 10: 23-25).
But something happened! A foreign substance was placed in the three
measures of meal. And it wasn’t long
before things began to go awry, even in the Church in
Note that which Scripture states in this respect, as recorded in Rev. 2: 24:
“I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”
The corruption which Satan
introduced began and continued to cause deterioration in Christendom. It began in the manner depicted in the first
of the seven Churches in Rev. 2, 3, the
From a Biblical standpoint, one thing about Christendom is certain! And this one thing cannot be denied!
Christendom, near the end of the dispensation, is going to appear in the world in a completely leavened state. This is something which Christ revealed to His disciples before the Church was ever brought into existence, and this is something which He revealed again to John alone about sixty years after the Church had been brought into existence.
The record of Church history was given before the dispensation began, and the record of Church history was given once again during the early years of the dispensation. And man today - looking back from the perspective of the closing years of the dispensation and viewing both the history and current state of Christendom - can think, say, or write what he wants. But one unchangeable fact remains. According to the clear teaching of the Word of God, near the end of the dispensation, all Christendom will have become completely saturated with leaven, with that which is false. Near the end of the dispensation, all Christendom will have become completely corrupted.
It is not a pretty picture. Corruption never is. This though is what the unchangeable Word of God has to say about the final state of Christendom during Man’s Day.
And, for those believing what the Word of God has to say on the subject, this has to be the end of the matter. This is not something open to discussion or debate. This is a settled matter, clearly revealed by Christ at two different times and recorded in the Word for all to see.
In the second of these two times - in Revelation chapters two and three - the Lord revealed this final state of Christendom through referring to conditions in the Church in Laodicean, a Church which had become completely corrupted even before the end of the first century. And, if one desires to study about the Church of today (whether fundamental or liberal), he need only turn to Rev. 3: 14-21. This is a description given by Christ Himself; and this description is the only completely accurate description in existence of the Church at the end of the dispensation.
But, again, bear one thing in mind. This does not picture Christendom at the end of the dispensation in a general sense. Rather, something specific is in view. This presents Christendom at the end of the dispensation in relation to a particular outlook on Scripture - the attitude of Christians throughout the Churches toward the Word of the Kingdom, that upon which the leaven is seen centering its attack.
And this whole overall thought of the leaven centering its attack at this point is something easily seen throughout the seven epistles to the seven Churches in Rev. 2, 3. Note that each epistle is structured exactly the same. Each centers around works, with a view to overcoming. The statement to each Church is twofold in each epistle: 1) “I [Page 82] know thy works...,” and 2) “To him that overcometh...” (cf. 2: 2, 7, 9, 11, 13, 17, 19, 26; 3: 1, 5, 8, 12, 15, 21).
These are the two inseparable and interrelated things around which the Word of the Kingdom centers - works, with a view to overcoming. And all of the overcomers’ promises project matters out into the Messianic Era.
And when the Lord called
attention to the
“I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (v. 18).
Thus, the Church near the end of
the dispensation, in relation to teachings surrounding the Word of the Kingdom,
will be in the condition depicted by the
One will listen in vain, for the message is simply not being taught. The leaven has done its damaging work too well.
IF ANY MAN...
So, what is the Christian today who understands the Word of the Kingdom to do in surroundings of this nature? He finds himself in the midst of Christians who know little to nothing about, reject, or make light of the Word of the Kingdom. And he can’t really leave and go elsewhere, for the leaven, working for almost two millenniums, has brought the whole of Christendom into this same state.
The answer concerning that which
he is to do is given at the end [Page 83] of the short epistle to the Church in
Note Christ’s closing words to these Christians:
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
To him that overcometh...” (vv. 19-21a).
In relation to the central message which Christians are to hear throughout the dispensation, Christ, at the end of the dispensation, is pictured outside the Church, knocking, seeking admission to those inside. And the invitation which Christ extends at this time is to individual Christians rather than to the Church as a whole, for the Church will have been permeated through and through with a leavening substance which can only continue its deteriorating work.
The invitation, seen in this passage, extends to any individual in the Church: “If any man hear my voice, and open the door...” The person is not told to leave the Church. Rather, the person is to remain where he is and heed the Lord’s message. Then, the Lord will come inside the Church, to that individual, with fellowship in the Word following.
There will be fellowship between Christ and that individual (“...and will sup with him”), and there will be fellowship between that individual and Christ (“...and he with me” [v. 20b; cf. 1 John 1: 3).
But for the other Christians in the Church, Christ will remain outside the door, though the invitation will remain open.
And that is the way it is in Christendom as the Church nears the end of the dispensation, near the end of the 2,000 years which God has allotted for the Spirit to procure a bride for His Son (Gen. 24). The Church finds itself in a completely leavened state, with Christ outside the door, exhorting individual Christians to heed the truth of that which Satan has fought so hard to destroy.
* * *
Some Shall Depart
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons;
Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth (1 Tim. 4: 1-3).
God’s creation of the material universe and the establishment of His universal government preceded the creation of man by at least one age, possibly by a number of ages. The length of this period of time is completely unrevealed in Scripture, and the only events occurring throughout this period which God has seen fit to reveal to man in His Word are events having a direct bearing upon the reason for man’s existence on the earth.
Scripture reveals God’s original establishment of the government of the earth (Ezek. 28: 14), the fall and disqualification of the earth’s first ruler (Isa. 14: 12-14; Ezek. 28: 15), and both the immediate and far-reaching results of the fall and disqualification of this ruler (cf. Gen. 1: 2a; Isa. 14: 15-17; Jer. 4: 23-28; Ezek. 28: 16-19).
The immediate result was a ruined kingdom - a kingdom becoming “without form, and void,” with darkness covering “the face of the deep [‘raging waters’ covering the darkened, ruined kingdom]” (Gen. 1: 2a). And the far-reaching results – still future today - will be a removal of the incumbent ruler from his appointed position of power and authority [Page 86] and his eventual consignment to a prepared “lake of fire” (Matt. 25: 41; Rev. 20: 10).
God revealed these things about Satan and the earth in order that man would be able to clearly see and understand the reason for his existence. God’s creation of the material universe, His establishment of a universal government, the subsequent rebellion of one provincial ruler within this established government (the rebellion of Satan, with a segment of his angels), and the resulting ruin of Satan’s kingdom (the earth), all preceded and anticipated man’s creation. And not only has God revealed these things, but He has also revealed the end of the matter. He has also revealed that which will occur relative to Satan and his kingdom after man takes the sceptre.
But, viewing the matter from the beginning, man was not to rule over a kingdom lying in ruins. The earth, which had become “without form and void” when God’s original appointed ruler sought to exalt his throne (Gen. 1: 2a), was restored immediately prior to man’s creation (Gen. 1: 2b-25).
God restored the ruined material creation immediately prior to man’s creation, with a view to a new provincial ruler taking the sceptre. And this is something which He revealed immediately following the earth’s restoration:
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion...” (Gen. 1: 26; cf. vv. 27ff).
Thus, God not only clearly revealed His reason for the restoration of the material creation but also His reason for the creation of man. The material creation had been restored for man, and man was about to be brought into existence to replace the incumbent ruler and those ruling with him (Satan and his angels).
And, with God’s statement to this effect, note two established, unchangeable facts concerning man, revealed immediately preceding his creation: 1) Man was to be brought into existence to rule the earth; and 2) this rule would be realized in conjunction with the woman, who would be taken out of man following His creation (cf. vv. 27, 28).
God said, prior to man’s creation, “...let them have dominion [the man and the woman together]...” (vv. 26-28). Then, Genesis chapter two provides a number of details concerning man’s creation (v. 7), the [Page 87] removal of the woman from the man (vv. 21, 22), and the relationship of the woman to the man (vv. 23, 24).
This is the way God established matters in the beginning, and that which God established in the beginning does not change, it cannot change, as one moves through Scripture. At any point in Scripture, following that which God established and revealed in the opening two chapter of Genesis, the man and the woman are seen occupying this same inseparable relationship together - a regal relationship, having to do with the government of the earth.
It matters not whether it’s a
man and wife in their fallen state today, God and
Understanding this established relationship will explain both Satan’s initial action and Adam’s resulting subsequent action in Genesis chapter three.
Satan knew full-well the reason man had been created, with the woman removed from the man; and he also knew full-well the relationship existing between the man and the woman. He knew that Adam couldn’t rule apart from Eve. And, knowing this, he directed his efforts toward the woman, seeking to bring her into a state in which she couldn’t rule.
Satan deceived Eve into eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, contrary to God’s command. And once Eve had disobeyed God, she was no longer in a position to rule with Adam, which meant that Adam couldn’t rule. A part of Adam’s very being - bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh (2: 23) - was no longer in a position to rule, preventing him from ruling.
Thus, Adam, in this condition, was left with only one choice. Eve had to be redeemed. And there was only one way in which this could be done.
Adam, taking the only route available, partook of the tree also. And he did this with a view to redemption and his one day being able to occupy, as a complete being (the man and woman together), the position for which God had created man.
Comparing type and antitype, all of this can be clearly seen. The [Page 88] second Man, the last Adam, found His bride in the same fallen state; and He took the only course available. He Who knew no sin was made sin for us “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5: 21).
As the first man, the first
Adam, couldn’t reign apart from the one in a fallen state, neither can the
second Man, the last Adam. And since man
is to ultimately realize the purpose for his creation in the beginning, it must
be recognized that both the first Adam and the last Adam took the only
course available as it
pertains to the reason for man’s existence and the sin question. To properly understand the actions of either
Man’s redemption - wrought
through Christ’s finished work at Calvary - has its direct connection with that
revealed in Genesis surrounding the reason for his creation, Eve’s subsequent
fall because of Satan's deception, and Adam’s resulting subsequent act. “Salvation” in
Scripture is connected with regality, not as man often presents the matter, with a rescue or
deliverance from the lake of fire.
Though the lake of fire does await individuals rejecting Christ’s
finished work at
The lake of fire was prepared for “the devil and his angels,” not for man (Matt. 25: 41). It was prepared for the ones originally ruling over the earth who rebelled against God’s supreme regal power and authority. Thus, the lake of fire (as the purpose for salvation) has its connective origin with regality as it pertains to the earth.
And this connective origin of the lake of fire is why man, rejecting God’s remedy for sin, will end up in this place. He will have rejected that which has to do first and foremost with regality and the earth.
He will have rejected a salvation which finds its revealed purpose in the reason for man’s creation and subsequent fall. And unsaved man, rejecting a salvation of this nature, is doing little more than rebelling against God’s supreme regal power and authority - the same as Satan and his angels had done, though after a different fashion. Thus, though the lake of fire was originally prepared for angelic beings who had rebelled against God’s supreme regal power and authority, man, [Page 89] also rebelling in a manner which has to do with regality and the earth, will be cast therein as well.
DOCTRINES OF DEMONS
The “doctrines of demons” in the text from 1 Tim. 4: 1-3 would involve a counterfeit parallel to the truth presented in the Word of God. God has His deep things, and Satan has his deep things (1 Cor. 2: 10; Rev. 2: 24). And the latter, as it is presented in Scripture, is simply a corruption of the former. It is taking the former, remaining within the same framework as the former, and producing a corruption.
For example, Scripture begins with a foundational framework (Gen. 1: 1-2 :3), providing an unchangeable pattern for the whole of that which God was about to lay out in His Word (Gen. 2: 4ff). And Satan begins at the same point, providing a corrupted parallel to that which God has in His Word.
Satan not only has his corrupted parallel relative to salvation by grace through faith (Gen. 1: 2b -5), but he has his corrupted parallel relative to present and future aspects of salvation as well - the salvation of the soul (Gen. 1: 6ff). And, as God in His Word places the emphasis on present and future aspects of salvation (not only in Gen. 1: 1 - 2: 3, but in the remainder of Scripture as well), so does Satan in his counterfeit parallel. And, as God in His Word reveals a specific goal for man’s salvation (not only in Gen. 1: 1-23, but in the remainder of Scripture as well), Satan seeks to entirely corrupt this teaching in his counterfeit parallel.
Satan places the emphasis where God has placed the emphasis, and he seeks to set forth a counterfeit at the same points God has set forth the truth. He has taken God’s truth and introduced error in his efforts to mislead the masses.
Then note that God’s Word is directed to the saved, not the unsaved. The unsaved are “dead in trespasses and sins” and cannot understand this Word (Eph. 2: 1; cf. 1 Cor. 2: 14).
And so it is with Satan and his counterfeit parallel. These counterfeit teachings have been designed for those who have “passed from death unto life” (John 5: 24). Those “dead in trespasses and sins” are in no position to understand spiritual issues - whether [Page 90] “corrupted” (emanating from Satan) or “uncorrupted” (emanating from God). Both fall completely outside the realm of the natural (the soulical).
Such a corruption of the truth, received by the saved, can easily be seen in the text from 1 Timothy, where Paul sounded a warning about the “doctrines of demons.” Paul foretold a departure from “the faith” where some Christians would begin giving heed to “seducing spirits” rather than to God’s Word; and these seducing spirits would teach that which was untrue, specifically referred to in the text as “doctrines of demons.”
These Christians’ spiritual
awareness would become seared (Gk., kausteriazo,
“Marriage” points to a work occurring during Man’s Day (the truth surrounding the matter established before and at the time of man’s creation), which would be brought to fruition and realized in the future Lord’s Day; and “meats” has to do with Biblical doctrine which centers in this overall subject (vv. 6, 13, 16).
And those seen being misled in 1 Tim. 4: 1‑3, “in the latter times” by “seducing spirits,” resulting in their proclaiming “doctrines of demons,” are seen, “standing in the way of marriage...” (literal thought from the Gk. text) and are referred to as apostates. Further, a misleading of individuals after this fashion is presented in a very specific and limited sense in Scripture. It is presented specifically as and limited to an apostasy from the faith - nothing more, nothing less.
1. APOSTASY FROM THE FAITH
“Apostasy” has to do with standing away from a position previously held, and “the faith” is an expression which encompasses the whole of a specific part of the Word of God (actually, the central teaching) – “the Word of the Kingdom.” The Spirit of God, revealing through Paul the central message which Christians were to be taught, explicitly singled [Page 91] out that which would occur “in the latter times” in Christendom relative to this central message.
In short, there would be a departure from this central message; and that associated with the doctrines of demons would, instead, be taught.
The word “depart” in 1 Tim. 4: 1 is a translation of the Greek word, aphistemi, which is the verb form of the noun, apostasia. And this is the word from which our English word “apostasy” is derived. The English word “apostasy” is simply an Anglicized form of the Greek word apostasia. Accordingly, to understand that which is meant by “apostasy,” the Greek word needs to be referenced.
Apostasia is a compound word comprised of apo and stasis.
In 1 Tim. 4: 1, the departure from the previously held position is specifically stated to pertain to “the faith.” That is, seducing spirits, promulgating the doctrines of demons, are seen leading individuals adhering to “the faith” (of necessity, Christians, not unsaved individuals [1 Cor. 2: 14]) away from this position.
B) THE FAITH
The central thrust surrounding the truth of the matter, derived from the Word of God, has to do with “the faith.” And the central thrust surrounding that which is false, derived from the doctrines of demons, also has to do with “the faith.” One emanates from “the deep things of God,” and the other emanates from “the depths [lit., ‘the deep things’] of Satan” (1 Cor. 2: 10; Rev. 2: 24). The former is the Truth; the latter is a corrupted, counterfeit parallel to the Truth.
“The faith” is an expression peculiarly related in Scripture to the overall scope of the Word of the Kingdom, to the mystery revealed to Paul, to the gospel of the glory of Christ, to the salvation of the soul, etc. This is the manner in which the expression appears in numerous New Testament references - in the Gospels, in the Book of Acts, and in the Epistles (both Pauline and General).
Christ, during the course of His earthly ministry, at His first coming, looked 2,000 years ahead to His second coming, and, through a question, called attention to a solitary fact concerning the central message of the New Testament. Christ asked, “...when the Son of man [a Messianic title] cometh, shall he find faith [lit., ‘the faith’] on the earth?” (Luke 18: 8). And the manner in which the question is worded in the Greek text requires a negative answer.
The Son of Man will not find “the faith” being taught in Christendom at the time of His return. The leaven which the woman placed in the three measures of meal in Matt. 13: 33 (having to do with the doctrines of demons) will have taken care of that.
Now, if the expression, “the faith,” refers to that held by fundamental Christendom today (the whole of man’s categorization of fundamental doctrines; e.g., the virgin birth, the blood atonement, etc.) - as commonly taught - then a major problem exists. Fundamentalism, in the preceding respect, is presently a major force in Christendom; and “the faith” would be something held to and proclaimed throughout a rather large segment of Christendom.
Thus, if “the faith” is to be understood as a reference to the body of Biblical doctrines held by those recognized as “fundamental Christians,” then conditions in Christendom are such that Christ cannot return during the present time. Fundamentalism of this nature is presently alive and well in Christendom. In fact, it is actually a growing force in numerous quarters. Millions of Christians in this country alone would fall within the mainstream of fundamentalism and adhere to this body of Biblical doctrine.
But the preceding is really neither here nor there, for, when one looks to Scripture for its own definition of “the faith,” something completely different is seen. Scripture uses this expression in a very limited sense. Scripture uses this expression in contexts having to do with the Word of the Kingdom, not in contexts having to do with a whole body of fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.
Doctrines of “the faith,” in the preceding respect, in actuality, represent that which man has attempted to categorize as he has looked at the Scriptures, not doctrines seen through allowing Scripture to do its own categorizing. And it is the latter alone, not the former, which allows man to look into the Scriptures and view matters from the way [Page 93] God has outlined them in His Word. There is a vast difference in viewing Scripture from the preceding two vantage points, especially when it comes to dealing with “the faith.”
To take the Biblical expression, “the faith,” and attempt to identify it with man’s categorization of doctrine (a list of Biblical doctrines) is the height of folly in Scriptural interpretation. Scripture is always to be interpreted in the light of Scripture (1 Cor. 2: 9-13). And this is exactly the way in which the expression, “the faith,” must be understood.
Scripture must be allowed to explain that which is meant by the expression. It is an expression which is used over and over in Scripture. And the interesting thing is that Scripture not only clearly explains how this expression is used, but it does so in numerous instances.
Paul, for example, in his first letter to Timothy, following his warning concerning the apostates, said:
“Fight the good fight of [the] faith, lay hold on eternal life [lit., ‘Strive in the good contest of the faith, lay hold on life for the age’], whereunto thou art also called...” (6: 12).
And, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, a similar usage is again seen:
“I have fought a good fight [lit., ‘I have strived in the good contest’], I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness...” (4: 7, 8).
Or, when Jude sought to write an epistle relative to “the common salvation [the good news concerning salvation by grace through faith, a subject which none of the epistles centers on],” the Spirit of God led him to write on an entirely different subject. The Spirit of God led Jude to write an epistle exhorting Christians to “earnestly contend [lit., ‘earnestly strive’] for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints [the good news concerning [a future]* salvation in relation to the coming glory of Christ, something which all of the epistles centre on]” (v. 3).
[* That is, ‘the salvation of souls’]
The word translated “fight” (1 Tim. 6:12), “fought” (2 Tim. 4: 7), and “contend” (Jude 3) are the same in the Greek text. The word is [Page 94] agonizomai, the word from which our English word, “agonize,” is derived.
In Jude though, the word has been intensified through the writer prefixing the Greek preposition epi to the word, forming epagonizomai. Thus, the correct translation would be, “earnestly strive...”
In all three of the preceding passages, the thought, through the use of agonizomai, has to do with straining every muscle of one’s being relative to “the faith.”
In the first two references (from 1, 2 Timothy), the picture is that of an athletic contest. Christians are to strain every muscle of their being in the present race of “the faith” in which they find themselves engaged.
Then Jude, in the face of apostasy relative to “the faith,” still remaining within the thought of an athletic contest, intensified the word, Jude, because of apostasy among Christians relative to “the faith” - Christians giving heed to seducing spirits, teaching the doctrines of demons (something also spoken of by Christ, Paul, and Peter) ‑ intensified the thought of striving in his exhortation. He, in essence, exhorted Christians, while running the race of “the faith,” to be especially and particularly on guard because of the apostates.
And it is apparent that Jude intensified this word, with a view to the apostates, because of the specific nature of apostasy. Jude exhorted Christians to strain every muscle of their being in the race of “the faith,” and he intensified the use of the word because of the realm in which the apostates had centered their teachings - seeking to mislead Christians relative to “the faith,” seeking to draw Christians away from the central teaching of Scripture. The “doctrines of demons,” promulgated by the apostates, is the most dangerous and deadly teaching that has ever been proclaimed or ever will be proclaimed in Christian circles.
The preceding would form only a few examples of the way in which the expression, “the faith,” is used in the New Testament. Other examples would be the conversion of priests in Israel during the re-offer of the kingdom, who were then “obedient to the faith” (Acts 6: 7), disciples exhorted “to continue in the faith” relative to entrance into the kingdom (Acts 14: 22), Paul proclaiming “the faith” which he had once sought to destroy (Gal. 1: 23; cf. Eph. 6: 16; Phil. 1: 27; Col. 1: 23; 2: 7; [Page 95] 1 Thess. 5: 8; 2 Thess. 1: 4, 11; 1 Tim. 1: 2, 18-20; 5: 8; 6: 10, 21; 2 Tim. 2: 18; 3: 7, 8), and the usage of the expression in the general epistles (cf. Heb. 12: 2; James 1: 3; 2: 14, 17, 18, 20, 22, 26; 1 Peter 1: 7, 9). “Faith” is articular in the Greek text in each of the preceding references.
Thus, there is a uniform usage of this expression throughout the New Testament. And, though it doesn’t have to do with the body of Biblical doctrine held by those forming “fundamental Christendom,” it does have to do with a body of Biblical doctrine. It has to do with that body of Biblical doctrine rejected by Christendom at large - fundamentalists and liberals alike. It has to do with that body of Biblical doctrine referred to various ways in Scripture - the Word of the Kingdom, the mystery, Paul's gospel, the gospel of the glory of Christ, etc.
2. MARRIAGE, MEATS
Foundational principals and Biblical doctrine surrounding the marriage relationship have forever been set forth in the opening chapters of Genesis. And, any time one finds the man and the woman together beyond this point - whether during Man’s Day or during the coming Lord’s Day - rulership is in view. Or, to present the truth of the matter from another perspective, turn the statement around. Any time one finds rulership in view beyond the opening chapters of Genesis (relative to man), a husband - wife relationship must also be in view.
This is why
This is also why Christ is to have a wife yet future. If He is to reign over the earth as the second Man, the last Adam, He must have a consort queen to reign with Him. This is why a marriage must occur prior to the time He reigns. A Husband-wife relationship must exist at this time.
And further, this is why the husband-wife relationship today, during Man’s Day, is dealt with in Scripture in connection with an heirship together (1 Peter 3: 7). There is a present reigning in life, seen in the marriage relationship; and this is at the heart of that which Paul [Page 96] refers to as “a great mystery” relative to “Christ and the Church” in Eph. 5: 21-33.
There are two books in the Old Testament which bear the names of women. One is “Ruth,” and the other is “Esther.” And, interestingly enough, no one knows who wrote either book. But the Book of Ruth presents one aspect of this overall matter, and the Book of Esther presents the other.
The Book of Ruth has to do with a Gentile who marries a Jew, with a redeemed inheritance in view. Ruth, in her marriage to Boaz, sets forth truths surrounding Christ and His wife [or ‘Bride’] yet future. And the entire Book of Ruth sets forth the overall scope of the matter from beginning to end, with the husband-wife relationship being brought to the forefront in the end.
The Book of Esther then presents the matter as it relates to God and Israel. Esther was a Jew whom King Ahasuerus (who was not a Jew [note that it is God’s Son Who is a Jew and will so remain throughout eternity, not the Father]) had taken as his wife following the former queen’s (Vashti’s) refusal to fulfil her role as the king’s wife (1: 9ff). Then the remainder of the book revolves around Israel in the latter days (Haman typifying Antichrist), the end of Gentile world power, and Israel restored to the nation’s rightful place as the wife of Jehovah (2: 17ff).
Thus, the whole of that seen in
the marriage relationship beyond Gen. 1: 26-28
(along with that revealed in chapter two) rests on these foundational verses in
Genesis. The husband-wife relationship
today has its basis in the past (Gen. 1: 26ff)
and points to the future (Rev. 19: 7ff). And whether it is
MINISTRY OF THE SPIRIT TODAY
Understanding the preceding will
allow one to clearly understand that which God revealed concerning
The ministry of the Spirit during the present dispensation is seen in Genesis chapter twenty-four, fifteen hundred years before it even began. Events in this chapter - Abraham sending his servant into the far country to obtain a bride for His son, typifying God sending the [Holy] Spirit into the world to obtain a bride for His Son – occurred following the offering of Isaac (ch. 22) and the death of Sarah (ch. 23), but before the remarriage of Abraham (ch. 25).
That is to say, the ministry of
Spirit during the present dispensation occurs following the events of Calvary (ch. 22) and the setting aside of
The reason why God sent the [Holy] Spirit into the world to accomplish such a mission is easy to see and understand if one keeps in mind the God-established issues surrounding the husband-wife relationship. The Son must have a wife if He is to reign. And Christians on the earth, as well - anticipating the Son’s [millennial] reign ‑ cannot reign apart from this same relationship.
The coming millennial reign of the Son will be a theocracy wherein God the Father will have a wife on earth (seen in the type in Gen. 25) and the Son will have a wife [bride] in the heavens above the earth (a wife [bride] presently being procured through the work of the [Holy] Spirit, seen in the type in Gen. 24). And in order for any individual from the human race to rule and reign in that coming day, that person will have to be a part of either the wife of Jehovah on the earth or the wife [bride] of the Son in the heavens. There can be no rule and reign for anyone - man, or God’s [only begotten] Son - apart from this established, Husband-wife relationship.
The preceding is why “marriage” and “meats” are singled out in [Page 98] 1 Tim. 4: 3. The marriage relationship today is based on that which God established in past time, and reflects on that which will ultimately be brought to full fruition during future time. And it matters not whether the word “marriage” in this verse is understood in a literal sense (referring to the marriage relationship today) or in a spiritual sense (referring to Christ and His wife [bride] yet future), the same thing is still being dealt with. A husband-wife relationship today is based on that which God established in the past and directly reflects on that which He will bring to fruition yet future. It directly reflects on Christ and His wife [bride] yet future.
And the preceding is why any corruption of the marriage relationship by man (adultery, homosexuality, etc.) is dealt with so severely in Scripture. Any deviation from that which God established is a corruption, with far-reaching ramifications.
Marriage, as established by God, has to do with regality; and this regality is to be realized in its ultimate sense during the coming Messianic Era. All of man’s corruptions are simply offshoots of Satan’s attempted, multi-faceted corruption surrounding the whole panorama of Biblical doctrine (“meats”) pertaining to the marriage relationship.
* * *
Christ and the Church
Then said Boaz. What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naorni, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess...
And Boaz said unto the Elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi.
Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife...
So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife... (Ruth 4: 5a, 9, 10a, 13a).
The key to understanding the
last three parables in Matthew chapter thirteen (vv.
44-50), which Christ gave once He had re-entered the house (v. 36), is seen in understanding the
marriage relationship within its correct Biblical framework. This
subject was dealt with in a general way in the last chapter, it will be dealt
with in relation to Christ and the Church [of
the firstborn] in this chapter (from the Book
of Ruth), and it will be dealt with in relation to God and
These parables begin with events seen in the fourth chapter of the Book of Ruth - Boaz’s redemption of a forfeited inheritance originally belonging to Elimelech’s family (with Ruth then becoming his wife), typifying Christ’s redemption of a forfeited inheritance [Page 99] originally belonging to Israel (with the Church then becoming His wife). In the type, these things occurred only after Ruth had become a member of the family (ch. 1), had gleaned in Boaz’s field from morning until evening, from the beginning to the end of the barley harvest (ch. 2), and had prepared herself for an appearance on Boaz’s threshing floor at midnight (ch. 3). And so it is in the antitype. All these things precede the redemptive act seen in chapter four - type or antitype.
THE FAMILY RELATIONSHIP (Chapter 1)
The Book of Ruth begins with a
Jewish family (a father [Elimelech], a mother [Naomi], and their two sons
[Mahlon and Chilion]) leaving
The sons then took wives of the
After this, Naomi received word
that the famine had ended in her own country; and she made the necessary
preparations to leave
She departed on the journey
Ruth, in her determination to continue the journey with Naomi, said,
“Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (vv. 16, 17).
Naomi, seeing that Ruth was determined to continue on to [Page 101]
Thus, the family relationship was established at the very beginning of the book, with the remainder of the book providing numerous details concerning this relationship. And three particulars are presented about this family relationship in the first chapter: 1) Those alienated from and becoming a part of the family were taken from the Gentiles, 2) they were joined to a Jewish family, and 3) there was a division within the family relationship (one turned back, the other didn’t).
All of this, of course, is
typical of events occurring within God’s economy during the present
dispensation. God is presently removing from the Gentiles “a
people for his name” (Acts 15: 14; cf. Rom. 11:
Four thousand years ago God called one man out of the human race to be the channel through whom the remainder of the human race would be blessed. God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, gave him a land through an unconditional covenant, and promised that through this one man and his seed (through Isaac, Jacob, and his lineal descendants, through his twelve sons) all the Gentile nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12: 1-3; cf. Gen. 13: 14-18; 15: 18-21; 22: 17, 18).
Beyond this point in Scripture, all spiritual blessing (salvation, or any other blessing) coming to mankind could come only through Abraham and his descendants, through the lineage of Isaac and Jacob. This is the way God established matters very early in His revelation to man, this is the way they presently exist, and this is the way they will always exist, whether in time or in eternity.
Salvation for Gentiles today (or for Jews) can be effected only through Divine power and only through that which God has brought to pass through the Jewish people. Note two verses of Scripture in this respect:
“Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2: 9b).
“Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4: 22b).
Both must be true. Salvation must be of the Lord because unsaved man is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2: 1). Unsaved man is completely incapable of acting in the spiritual realm. He is spiritually dead, and Another must act on his behalf in order to effect life where no life exists. And this is accomplished through the Spirit of God breathing life into unregenerate man, on the basis of the finished work of God’s Son, a Jew.
Thus, salvation is both “of the Lord” and “of the Jews.” Individuals brought from a dead to a living state, by way of the birth from above (cf. John 3: 3; 5: 24) are, positionally, “in Christ,” Abraham’s Seed. And since Christ is Abraham’s seed, they too, because of their position “in Christ,” are also Abraham’s seed (Gal, 3: 16, 29).
Those who, in time past, were “aliens from the commonwealth
[citizenship, having to do with regal activity] of
[* These three words suggest that while Abraham, after the time of his resurrection, will inherit the ‘earthly’ blessings only, while Christians will inherit blessings ‘heavenly’! Here a distinction is made which is not necessary! Jesus says of those “deemed worthy to obtain that age … are like angels” (Luke 20: 35, 36); and will therefore able to rule with Christ in both ‘heavenly’ and ‘earthly’ realms of His coming Kingdom.]
But, going back to the type,
note the difference which Scripture presents between Ruth and Orpah after they
had become members of the family and had begun the journey to
And so it must be on the one hand and is on the other with Christians today. All begin the journey toward the House of Bread, but not all complete the journey. Some, like Ruth, leave the country from which they were called and go on; but others, like Orpah, turn back.
In the typology of Gen. 24: 57, 58, Ruth, as Rebekah - in response to the question, “Wilt thou go with this man?” - said, “I will go.” And Ruth went on with Naomi, toward the House of Bread. Orpah though didn’t respond in this manner. Instead, she turned back.
At the time of the journey, Ruth
and Orpah were related to Naomi through death (The prior death of their
husbands had terminated the marriage relationship itself. And, in the antitype, Christians are also
members of the family through death. Christians
are Abraham’s seed [Page 103] through death, the death of Another). But, though Orpah was just as much a member
of the family as Ruth, there is no mention of her in the Book of Ruth beyond
the point of her turning back, just as there is no mention of
Christ’s admonitions and warnings to this effect in Luke 9: 62; 17: 32 are clear:
“No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the
GLEANING IN BOAZ’S FIELD (Chapter 2)
Once Naomi and Ruth had arrived
Boaz, “a mighty man of wealth,” took note of Ruth gleaning in his field, inquired of her, instructed her to not glean in any other field, and then instructed his workers in the field to purposefully leave handfuls of grain for her to glean. And Ruth gleaned in Boaz’s field after this fashion from morning until evening, from the beginning to the end of the harvest (2: 4-23).
All of this is a picture of the Christian in the race of “the faith,” gleaning in the field of the One Whom Boaz typifies. A “field” is used in Scripture to typify the world (Matt. 13: 38; cf. Gen. 37: 15), “gleaning” in the field has to do with bringing forth fruit while in the world, and “the length” of the gleaning (from morning until evening, from the beginning to the end of the harvest) has to do with a never-ending work, extending throughout the dispensation.
A Christian is to set his sights on the goal out ahead, and he is to be busy throughout the course of the dispensation in his Master’s field. And he is to concern himself with one thing. He is to concern himself with