Mysteries of the Kingdom; Parable of the Soils
Matthew 13:1-23 and Luke 8:4-15
Matthew Lesson #078
May 17, 2015
“Father, again we have the privilege to be cleansed and washed and strengthened, nourished by Your Word. We are reminded that Peter tells us that we are to desire the Word like a newborn baby desires milk. This is a command. It’s a mandate. And that we are to hunger for Your Word.
Father, we thank You that we have Your Word, and that we have so many tools available today to come to understand and to study Your Word—that God the Holy Spirit can take this and apply it to our lives; that as we study, as we reflect, God the Holy Spirit challenges each of us to a new level of obedience, consistency, and service to You.
Father, we pray that Your Word would not return void this morning, but that it would challenge each of us to press on in terms of our spiritual lives and our spiritual growth.
We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”
We are in Matthew 13. We turned a major corner, a pivot point in Matthew 12 over the last couple of weeks, as we look at the rejection of Jesus in terms of His claim to be the Messiah and His offer of the Kingdom by the religious leaders, the scribes and Pharisees of Israel.
It was at that turning point that everything shifts in Matthew. As I pointed out over the last couple of weeks, prior to this time, the message was one thing. It was repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. This was the message of John the Baptist. This was the message that Jesus had up to Matthew 12. This was the message He delegated to the disciples to carry to the 12 tribes of Israel. This was the focal point, the offer of the kingdom to Israel. That was what everything focused on.
With Matthew 12, there’s a shift. Never again will we hear of the offer of the kingdom to Israel. Never again will they announce this message: to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Never again will Jesus perform the miracles in public that He did in the first 11 to 12 chapters. There’s a major shift that takes place.
Starting at this point, Jesus begins to teach in a new way, and He has a new message. As He makes this shift, it is evident that everything is changing: that the gospel of the kingdom is not going to Israel anymore, and there’s going to be a reorientation towards the Gentiles.
Now there are still numerous Jews that will become saved, but in terms of God’s program, in terms of His over-all plan for humanity, that plan to bring the kingdom into an historical existence with Israel has been postponed because of Israel’s rejection of the truth.
Negative volition has consequences; and there are times when our negative volition, even in our individual lives, has such a consequence that the results, the negative results, are irreversible.
This is what happened as we saw in the last chapter with what was called the unforgivable or unpardonable sin, when the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of doing what He did in the power of [Beelzebub].
This is not a sin, as I pointed out the last two weeks, that applies to any other generation. It applied only to that generation. It was not a sin that was related to the individual’s eternal salvation, but it was related to God’s plan and purposes for the nation Israel. This is evident from the context which sees the shift that takes place where no longer is the kingdom offered to Israel.
The consequence of divine judgment on the nation that will come in AD 70 with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the scattering of the Jews to the four corners of the earth is, at this point, irreversible. It is set in concrete.
Now that doesn’t mean that there’s not a legitimate offer of the kingdom when you get into Acts; but that offer of the kingdom, if accepted, would not have changed this irreversible judgment that would come in AD 70. It would have just shortened the Church Age a good bit. We covered all of that in the Book of Acts.
Now what we see in the flow of the material in Matthew is that up to this point, Jesus taught openly. Now, He begins to teach the crowds in parables. He taught clearly before. Now He obscures His message. He was obvious in His meaning up to this point, but now it becomes opaque to those who are not responsive to His teaching.
So let’s remember a little bit about the structure of Matthew up to this point. In the first three chapters we have the birth of the King. The birth of the King—when Jesus comes by the virgin conception and birth, and He is born to the line of David, which gives him His credentials to be the promised Messiah from the Old Testament.
In Matthew 4, with John the Baptist also in fulfillment of many Old Testament passages, that stated that there would be someone who would come as the forerunner, the announcer of the Messiah.
Just as in the Old Testament, for those of you listening on Tuesday night in Samuel, we will see that before a king is crowned, he is first of all anointed by a prophet because the king serves under the authority of God. He is not autonomous.
In this same way, Jesus is preceded. He’s announced by the forerunner who was a prophet, and then the King comes on the scene in Matthew 4, and the King announces the same message as the forerunner, which is, “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
In Matthew 5–7, known as the Sermon on the Mount, we see the preaching of the King as He is contrasting the divine perspective on righteousness with that of legalism, the superficial tradition-based teaching of the Pharisees.
Then in Matthew 8–9 the proclamation, the message of the King is backed up by the works of the King, the power of the King, and Matthew there organized various groups of miracles to show that Jesus was who He claimed to be by the miracles that He performed: giving sight to the blind, healing the lepers, forgiving the lame man. These were all miracles that could only be performed by the God-Man, by the Messiah.
Then in Matthew 10–11, we see the rejection of the King building, where the people are condemned by the Lord, where He announces that there will be a judgment on Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, because if the miracles that had been done there had been done in Gentile cities, like Sodom and Gomorrah and like Tyre and Sidon, then the people would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. In other words, with the heightened level of revelation given to the villages in Galilee, through the message of the disciples and the message of the Messiah, and the miracles of the Messiah, more was required of them. More was expected of them, and yet, they are rejecting.
This leads to this confrontation that I talked about already, Matthew 12, where Jesus cast a demon out, and the Pharisees accused Him of doing this by the power of Beelzebub, by the power of the Devil; and the question that the people asked is couched negatively in the text. They’re looking for a negative answer. They said. “This can’t really be the Messiah, can it?” When they asked that question, the Pharisees are going to justify their position by giving an explanation: that is that Jesus does this by the power of the Devil, accusing the Holy Spirit of being the Devil. This is a national sin, not an individual sin. They represent the nation, and so this leads to the shift that takes place.
In that context, Jesus talks about the fact that a tree is known by its fruit. Now that’s a passage that we need to understand a little bit more, just as background at what we’re looking at in Matthew 13 because He is not talking about the fact that you know truth, or whether a person is a believer or not by what they do, how they live; but He is specifically talking about the fact that what a person says in this context and what the Pharisees have said about Him—that He has received His power from the Devil—that that reveals what is going on in their thinking and their heart.
The word “heart” in Scripture refers to the core of a man’s soul and where a man is thinking, the decisions he’s made; and that’s revealed by their words in this context. It is what they have said about the Messiah.
At that point, He gave them their last chance, and He says either make the tree good and the fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad. For a tree is known by its fruit, and He’s talking specifically in terms of what they have said about Him.
That brings us up to what happens in Matthew 13. Here we’re going to be introduced to the mysteries of the kingdom parables. We have seven parables that are grouped together by Matthew, and they all relate to teaching something previously unrevealed about the kingdom.
Now what I just said is huge! It’s a very important statement, but you will not find too many people who accurately understand the concept. We’ll get into that as we go through this. Some of you have been accurately taught on this. I would dare say that many of you have not been accurately taught on this, and what I say may cause you to lift an eyebrow or two in the process. This is one passage that is difficult for many people to understand. So we’re going to learn about the mysteries of the kingdom and look at the first parable which is the parable of the soils.
Again with our chart, this is how we see this framework in the synoptic gospels develop, that there’s the offer of the King and kingdom in the first part of their outline of the life of Christ. Then there’s the rejection of the King and the kingdom, and then everything changes.
The focus is now on the training of The Twelve for what will come in the future. They haven’t even used the word “church” yet, so don’t read “the church” into Matthew 13 and the mysteries of the kingdom. It’s not the mysteries of the church. We have to clarify that. We’re talking about the kingdom, and so all of this leads up to the crucifixion, the death, and the resurrection of the King.
Now as we look at this, we recognize that what happens is that Jesus starts to teach in parables.
“Then He spoke many things to them in parables.”
A couple of things you ought to know:
1. Jesus hasn’t taught in parables yet.
2. No rabbi is known in history to have ever taught in a parable prior to Jesus.
So this is a distinct way of teaching that comes as a result of the rejection of the King by the religious leaders of Israel.
The word “parable” is from the Greek word PARABOLE, and it is used also in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, to translate the Hebrew word, mashal. This is really a broad word. It’s a broad word and can refer to any kind of story or saying that illustrates a truth.
A parable basically takes one thing—a story, an event, something that happens in everyday life—and lays it alongside parallel to a spiritual or a universal truth, a didactic point, a teaching point.
The purpose of a parable is to teach. So the term “parable” came to mean some form of an illustration, some form of an analogy that would be used to teach something.
In the Old Testament, the word mashal had a very broad range of meanings, where it begins to be narrowed a little bit when you come into the gospels.
A parable differs from a fable in that a fable uses personification of animals to teach general principles. We know of fables, like The Tortoise and the Hare, where animals are given human characteristics and differ from a myth in that myths derive from pre-historic times or non-historic times. But a parable is using something from everyday life and lays it alongside of a universal principle in order to teach something.
Another thing you should note as we go through Matthew—and I will say this so many times you’ll be sick of it—and that is that the parables in the gospel passages are parables related to the kingdom. Now what’s the kingdom? That’s an important concept! It hasn’t changed!
In the Old Testament, the prophets in the Old Testament predicted a future utopic time in Israel’s history, where Israel would be living in peace, that the Messiah King would be ruling over the world, and that it would be a time of unparalleled prosperity, happiness, and peace. It was a literal, geo-political kingdom centered in Jerusalem with a king who was a literal, physical, biological descendant of David’s, sitting on the physical throne in Jerusalem. That’s the kingdom.
When John the Baptist came on the scene, did he change the meaning of “kingdom”? Not at all! He meant the same thing. If Israel would turn back to God, then God would bring in this literal, physical kingdom.
When Jesus came on the scene, Jesus didn’t change the meaning of the word “kingdom.” It’s still meant the same thing. When He sent out His disciples, He didn’t change the word “kingdom.” It still meant the same thing—a literal, physical, geo-political kingdom ruled by the Son of David on a throne in Jerusalem.
When we get into Matthew 13, we’re going to hear about the mysteries of the kingdom, and the meaning of the word “kingdom” doesn’t change! It’s not talking about Christendom, it’s not talking about the church; it is talking about mysteries related to this literal, physical, geo-political Davidic kingdom that will be ruled by the Son of David from a literal throne in Jerusalem. So it’s talking about some new information, and we’ll get into that in just a minute.
So Jesus is going to shift His teaching style at this point and begin to use parables. He’s going to begin to use these parables in order to do two things: He is going to use the parables in order to conceal truth from many of His hearers, and He is going to also use it to reveal truth to His disciples. He’s going to use it to conceal truth to many of those in the multitudes that are coming to hear Him, and He’s going to use it to reveal truth to His disciples. So He’s concealing for many and revealing for some.
As you look at this, what you’ll see in this collection of parables is that He gives the first four parables to the multitudes, but He only explains the first two to the disciples. He goes off in private to explain to them. He just leaves everybody else out there scratching their head and wondering what that was all about and what was He really teaching because He’s concealing truth to the masses for a number of different reasons. Primarily, it is because they have already rejected him as King and rejected the offer of the kingdom.
So instead of teaching more openly, which would fuel their rejection and their antagonism and hostility toward Him, the Lord is concealing what He is saying to the masses. He’s not going to get them all riled up as He teaches more and more negative things about what may transpire with the coming of Israel.
So when His disciples asked about this in Matthew 13:11–12, He says, “He answered and said to them”—that’s His disciples who just said, “How come you’re teaching in parables?” He said, “Because it has been given to you”—that is the disciples, The Twelve—“to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Now we’ll come back and look at that phrase, but that is one of our most significant statements and phrases that we need to understand here. “It’s been given to you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away [from him].”
Now in these verses the Lord is quoting from a passage in the Old Testament, Isaiah 6:9–10, and He’s using that by way of application. In Isaiah 6:9–10, Isaiah is announcing judgment upon the Southern Kingdom of Judah that will ultimately come to fulfillment in 586 BC. He is facing the Southern Kingdom and their negative volition; and he is announcing that because they have already chosen to reject what God has provided for them, that God is going to (or the natural consequences of their negative volition is that God is going to) harden their hearts, harden their hearing.
It is not that God interferes with their volition. It is that their volition has already engaged, and they have rejected what God has given them. So God is saying these are the consequences of that negative volition. You will become further hardened, you will become further distanced and divorced from reality because that’s the nature of negative volition.
It’s the same thing we read Paul saying over in Romans 1:18 and following, where he says that the ungodly, the unrighteous, suppress the truth in unrighteousness. The unbeliever rejects that, and as a result of that, the more you reject the truth that God has given you, the more God is going to harden your hearts.
What He does is He pulls back the restraints, and the natural result of that is that you become more and more divorced from reality, more and more hardened to truth; and it’s a result of a decision that you have already made. We have to understand that the issues in life flow from volition.
In the very beginning, God created Adam and Eve; and He placed them in the Garden of Eden, and He gave them a choice. He set one tree in the garden, and He said, “You can eat from all the other trees, all the fruit, everything else I’ve given to you for food; but if you eat from the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you will instantly die. It’s your choice. Are you going to obey Me and have life, or are you going to disobey Me and have death?”
Now that was not physical death at that point. That was spiritual death, separation from God, and all of the horrors and corruption, and everything that followed from that that we see in human history; famines and wars, and global warming and global cooling. All of these things are all part of the corruption of the universe because of Adam’s sin to disobey God.
Ever since Adam sinned, it has been God’s plan to reverse that curse, reverse that judgment, which is done through grace; and ultimately has to be resolved with the starting point of the redemption price being paid for sin, which is what occurred on the Cross.
This payment price was made in AD 33; and eventually, this is going to roll the curse back on the physical universe; and when people trust in Christ as Savior, it begins to roll the curse back in our individual lives because we are regenerated. We are made spiritually alive; we’re no longer spiritually dead, and that again is our volition.
We decide whether we’re going to accept God’s free offer of salvation or not, whether we’re happy living in the death world of Adam, or we want to have the life that Jesus Christ has promised us and that He has given to us.
We see that this is often described as the first divine institution, the Divine Institution of Individual Responsibility. The more that that is negated by human cultures and human conventions, the more difficult it is for people; but it doesn’t negate their individual responsibility.
It doesn’t really matter what your circumstances are. It doesn’t matter what your background is. It doesn’t matter what your nature might be, that is in terms of your inherited trends—trends from your sin nature, trends from genetics, physical traits—and it doesn’t matter what the nurture is ultimately—your family training or lack thereof, the environment in which you were raised, the education you had, or economic situation.
Ultimately, the most important influence in your life is your own individual volition. You decide the kind of life you are going to have, and your life is a product, and my life is a product, of the decisions we make.
We all make good decisions, we all make bad decisions; but ultimately, we need to make the most important decision which first and foremost is to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior, so that we have eternal life; and secondly, to pursue the life that God has given us—develop it, nourish it, build it—so that we are what Matthew described, what the Lord described as disciples or learners of Christ, who are applying that in our life. Volition is the issue.
Now a great example of that was brought to our minds just a couple of days ago, as we awakened to the news that B.B. King had died. When B.B. King died, a lot of people went back and looked up things related to his life; and he had a fascinating life, but it was the result of the decisions he made.
When he was born, he was born into a black sharecropper family in Mississippi. Now those aren’t good circumstances! He’s economically deprived, he’s deprived educationally, it’s very difficult, and there wasn’t a whole lot of love in his family. When he was four years old, his mother ran off with a man, and he ended up being pushed off to a grandmother and was raised in his grandmother’s home.
As a young child, he’s experiencing economic deprivation; he’s got a lack of education; he has a lot of things going on that are negative. He’s rejected by his mother, rejected by this father, all kinds of negatives; but he made positive decisions, and when you look at how his life turned around as he made numerous decisions over the course of his life, he had quite a success, quite a prosperity, and he impacted many of us. We love and enjoy his music, but that’s a result of his volition.
Our lives are not determined by external circumstances. Only somebody who is pretty much a waste of time blames their circumstances, blames their parents, blames their culture, blames their background.
Everybody has deficits. Doesn’t matter who you are. You’ve spent a lot of time learning about people. Everybody has deficits. Everybody grows up in families that are controlled by people who are sinners! It’s what you do with it that counts. It’s not the hand that you’re dealt. It’s what you do with that hand that’s important. It’s up to your individual volition to make life what you want it to be.
So these Jews at the time of Christ made their bad decision. There are consequences for their bad decision, and it reflects the same kind of bad decisions that two previous generations of Jews have made.
You have the generation in the wilderness that had been freed by God from Egypt, and they hardened their hearts against God while they were in the wilderness. And God said, “Okay, because you have rejected Me, you’re not going to go into the land. It will be your children that go into the land.”
Then years later the generation of the time of Isaiah was rejecting God in favor of idolatry. And God said, “Because you’ve rejected Me, I’m going to harden your hearts.” So this is what is being applied now to the generation at Jesus’ time.
They are doing the same thing that their fathers did in the wilderness and that their fathers did at the time of Isaiah. They are rejecting what has been provided for them by God, and they are going to go against God.
As a result of that, Jesus is now going to hide what He is teaching. He’s going to conceal it in parables. That doesn’t mean that people can’t exercise positive volition. It doesn’t mean that God has reached in and tweaked their volition. It’s the result of their own decisions and their own volition.
Now we see Jesus saying in verse 13, “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear.” See, they’re the ones who have already made the decision. They saw, but they refused to accept what they saw. They heard, but they refused to accept what they heard.
This isn’t any different from a lot of people living in California. They just can’t understand that the liberal policies of the environmentalists have created this drought situation. No matter how bad that drought situation goes, they are so enmeshed in their negative volition to truth, that they can’t see the truth when it’s slapping them—it’s a dry slap—in the face!
But that happens when you reject truth. You have only one way to go and that is to go further and further into a fantasy world; and the more that you justify that your fantasy world, whether it has to do with Darwinist evolution, or global warming, or all the other environmentalists myths that are so popular today, then the result is you’re going to adopt policies for your life and for your country that just create more and more trauma simply because you are blind to the truth. You have blinded yourself to the truth, and you have made yourself deaf to the truth.
So this characterizes that generation.
What happens now is something distinctive as Jesus teaches to the multitudes. In the first verse we get the context, “On the same day”—a very precise term in the Greek. It means that on that day, on the very day that had witnessed the casting out of the demon, that had witnessed the Pharisees saying that He did it in the power of Beelzebub, not in the power of the Spirit. In the very day that He announced that this was the unpardonable or unforgivable sin, and that the ultimate judgment on Israel was now irrevocable. On the same day that they had told Him, “Hey, you need to really forget all this talk about the Gentiles. You need to focus on your family. By the way, they are standing right outside.” All those things we’ve covered; that’s on the same day.
Now, He leaves the house where He’s been, and He goes out, and He sat by the sea. I want you to notice—you might want to circle this—in verse 1, He “sat by the sea,” and then as this huge crowd—Luke tells us they came from other villages—this great multitude was gathered to Him so that He got into a boat and sat. Twice we’re told He sat.
Why do you think we’re told He sat? Because when a rabbi would teach, a rabbi would sit down and the people would stand up. We do it differently. Pastor gets up, stands up, everybody else sits down. But that’s a position of a teaching rabbi. It’s His position of authority.
He goes into this boat, and He begins to speak. In verse 3 we’re told that He spoke many things to them in parables; and we get the first parable.
Now He states, or the first parable is recorded from Matthew 13:3–9. And then there is an interruption of the parables; and in verse 10 the disciples came and said to Him, “Why are You speaking in parables?” That’s where we have this statement where He talks to them about why He is speaking to them in parables. And I’m going back to this slide…
…where He is speaking to them about the mysteries of the Kingdom, verse 11. It says, “He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom.’ ” Now He’s talking to His disciples—that’s important.
The mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven are not for everybody. It’s for a restricted number of people to understand what is going on. As He says this, He is going to talk about some new information regarding the kingdom.
Now let’s just review a couple of things that we’ve learned from the general context:
First of all, the kingdom could no longer come because the King had been rejected, and His kingdom message had been rejected. So the kingdom can’t come at this point. Matthew 12 solves that. It’s ended. It’s over with. No more offer of the kingdom. The kingdom can’t come because the people have to repent before the kingdom can come. That’s important to understand. The kingdom is not coming anymore.
Second thing is that Jesus can’t talk openly about the kingdom and what’s going to happen. Now that the kingdom isn’t coming, something else is going to happen. He can’t talk openly about the “something else” because it’s just going to anger the multitudes.
Think about it. If the average Jew that’s sitting there listening to Him couldn’t understand or accept the Person of the King or the offer of the kingdom, then they certainly wouldn’t understand or accept the postponement of the kingdom. If they are not willing to accept what He has said about His person and His offer of the kingdom, then the postponement of the kingdom certainly wouldn’t be understood; and it would just anger them even more.
Then we come to what He says in Matthew 13:34–35. It says, “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them.” He’s not trying to make things clear to the multitudes.
[In] verse 35 it says, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.” So we have another fulfillment here in Matthew 13:35; that this is fulfillment of prophecy, application of what happened from Isaiah.
He says, “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.” What He’s going to talk about in these parables has never been revealed before. That’s another really important thing to understand. Number one, the kingdom’s not coming. So He’s not going to be talking about some new form of the kingdom because the kingdom’s postponed. He can’t talk openly about it because He might get stoned or crucified early. He is teaching that this is going to be something that has been kept secret. It’s never before been revealed and this helps us to understand the next key term we have to talk about, and that is the term “mysteries” from verse 11, the mysteries of the kingdom.
“He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom…’ ”
Now what do we mean by the word “mystery?” It’s not a “who done it.” It’s not a suspense novel. The term “mystery” from the Greek word MUSTERION referred to something that was previously unrevealed.
Now it really clears up the meaning of this when we translate it this way and say He is now going to talk about previously unrevealed information about the kingdom. This is the same kingdom He has already been talking about, so now we’re going to learn that because the kingdom can’t come in because of rejection, something is going to take place between this point and the coming of the kingdom. It’s important to understand that.
There have been some important errors that have developed around this whole phrase of the Kingdom of Heaven. The liberal concept is that instead of it becoming a Jewish kingdom, it’s now become a universal, spiritual kingdom.
There’s a conservative version of that that it really developed from, and that was known as Amillennialism—that there’s a spiritual form of the kingdom today, and Jesus is ruling from a spiritual throne of David in Heaven, and the church roughly equals the kingdom. Okay, that is not an accurate view. The kingdom has been postponed.
Jesus isn’t talking about—and this is a second error—a new form of the kingdom. Unfortunately, an error has developed around that from a number of dispensationalists. You’ve probably heard some or have heard of some who have taken that view. They read-in to the passage that Jesus is talking about the mystery form of the kingdom. Do you see the word “form” in there anywhere? It’s not in the Greek either. It’s not even in the Hebrew. It’s not even in the Latin!
They read this, and they thought, “Well, He’s going to be talking about what happens in the Church Age.”—He doesn’t use the word “church.” “He’s clearly talking about what’s going to happen before the kingdom can come in, so this must be a mystery or previously unrevealed form of the kingdom.”—But that would imply that we’re in some form of the kingdom today. But the Kingdom’s been postponed. This is an erroneous view that dominates a lot of evangelicals today, and it’s called, The Already-Not-Yet-View of the kingdom; that we’re already in some form of the kingdom, but it’s not yet fully here.
I’ve talked a lot about this in Acts, and this is a root of a whole lot of error and a lot of misunderstanding about the role and purpose of the church today. There are elements of this that are at least consistent with Christian anti-Semitism. I’m not going to say that it’s a necessary connection, but it’s consistent with it. Because it changes the kingdom from being a Jewish kingdom to being something related to the church.
Once you start doing that, you’re taking away from Israel and giving to the church what God will still give to Israel. So the mysteries of the kingdom describe previously unknown and unrevealed information about the kingdom because it has now been rejected.
Unfortunately, some historic dispensationalists, like Scofield and Chafer, Dwight Pentecost, and others held to this view of the mystery form of the kingdom. That’s why I said at the beginning, you probably heard this from some people, some pastors, and some Bible teachers, but I don’t agree with that at all. There’s no mystery form of the kingdom.
The greatest work that’s been done on the kingdom was a work by a man named George N. H. Peters who is a Lutheran pastor, an itinerant Lutheran pastor in Ohio back in the late 1800s. This guy was impoverished, way below the poverty line, most of the time of his adult life.
He wrote—and the hard copy is back in the library—a three-volume work called, The Theocratic Kingdom; three volumes of 8-point print with footnotes in like 6-point print.
He didn’t have enough money most of his career to buy paper to write on. This was long before word processers or anything like that, and so he wrote on napkins—on any scrap of paper he could write on—he wrote this three-volume work. Each volume is about 400 pages. This guy controlled the data. It was a phenomenal job.
This is a view that George N.H. Peters takes. Alva J. McClain, who was founder of Grace Theological Seminary, also takes this view, along with Stan Tuissant from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a number of other people you know and love also take this view: That this is not a mystery form of the kingdom, but it’s talking about what will transpire between the ascension of Christ and His return at the Second Coming when He establishes the kingdom.
The information here is talking about the intervening period between the ascension and the Second Coming. It’s previously unrevealed. In many passages Paul uses the term “mystery” to refer to the church.
The Church Age takes up the lion’s share of that time. It doesn’t include the Tribulation. This is important for us to understand. We’re not living in any form of the kingdom today. The King is not present, the King is not on His throne. He’s not in Jerusalem. The throne that He’s sitting on in Heaven is the Father’s throne; it’s not His throne. We are in no form of the kingdom. That’s the error of progressive dispensationalism, the error of covenant theology, and a number of other things.
Another thing we need to recognize is the kingdom is only comprised of believers. So all believers, Church Age believers as well those at this time who were Jewish believers, are all going to end up in the kingdom. Matthew 8 talks about them as the sons or heirs of the Kingdom.
Colossians 1:13 says, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” That doesn’t mean the kingdom’s here now. We are the sons of the kingdom.
That’s what Jesus says in Matthew 13:38, talking about the parable of the wheat and the tares, or the wheat and the darnel. The field is the world; the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom.
That’s us! We’re not in the kingdom yet… but we will be. That’s our destiny. That’s where we’re headed. We’re going to be in the kingdom. So this terminology is used of Church Age believers and of some of these Jewish converts at the time of Christ because they’re going to end up in the kingdom.
One of the issues that we’ll see here is that in the organization of these parables, neither the first parable nor the last parable, have the language that the kingdom of God is like something. That’s not there. The five in the middle compare something to the kingdom of God, but the first parable and the last parable are expressing more universal type truth.
The reason we have the parable of the sower is to describe the fact that there are going to be different responses to the message that Jesus gives, and explains why there were different responses, and why the kingdom has been rejected. There’s application to the Church Age, but it’s primarily focused on what’s going on at that time.
So He says, “Therefore, hear the parable of the sower.” He explains it in Matthew 13:19–23, and this is really pretty simple to understand. There are four different responses. The first one is the unbeliever. Two, three, and four are various responses from believers.
You will hear from some people that the first three are unbelievers, and the last one is the only believer. That is because for a lot of legalistic evangelical Christians, they believe that the only way that you know you’re saved is by the fruit that you bear. But the Bible never says that.
The Bible says salvation is by faith alone and not by works. Works are not the evidence of your regenerate status. They’re the evidence of your growth. There’s a difference between birth and growth. They missed that. That’s evident, especially in this first parable. That there’s a difference between birth and growth, and what they want to do is make growth the evidence of birth. But there are a lot of people who don’t grow much beyond infancy. This is true even in the spiritual life.
So what we see here, “Therefore, hear the parable of the sower:”—I put Matthew and Luke up here because they’re saying the same thing, a little bit different language, which helps us to understand what’s going on. In verse 19, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom”—that’s the message of the kingdom—“and does not understand it, then the wicked one”—that would be Satan—“comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.”
So the picture is this sower. He’s a farmer in the ancient world, so he doesn’t have nice neat rows. He’s got his sack of seeds hanging from his side, and he reaches in and grabs a hand full, and he just scatters it.
Some of it falls on the roadside, but the roadside is hard, and it is beaten down, and there’s no way that the seed can germinate and grow at all, so this is what happens here: The birds come along and take the seed away. This represents an unbeliever who has no response whatsoever to the message of the kingdom.
The Luke passage states it a little more clearly. It says, “Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” Very clear! This first soil represents the person that does not believe and is not saved. That is very clear from Luke’s language.
Then we’re going to go to the second soil. The second soil is the rocky soil, or the stony soil. This is where the seed lands in an area where there are a lot of rocks, and Luke puts it this way. Luke says, “Some fell on the rock; and as soon as it sprang up.”
For seed to spring up, what has to happen? Regeneration and life. If you’ve ever tried to plant, you go to the store, you go down to Lowes. I did this recently. Got some cilantro in these little bitty cups, and you’re just supposed to put it in the soil and water it, and seedlings are going to come up.
We had a few seedlings and the whole thing died. Seedlings are evidence of what? Death? No—Life! There’s life there! That’s regeneration!
There’s no life in the first one. There’s life here, but due to external circumstances, there’s no growth! This seed produces life. There’s regeneration. These people are saved. It springs up, but then it withers away because of lack of moisture. I think mine withered away because of too much moisture.
Verse 13, “But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy.” Now your Lordship crowd is going to say, “Well, this is superficial. They’re just having an emotional conversion here.” But the word “receive” is the Greek word DECHOMAI, which is used in a number of places to indicate the reception of the gospel. I’ll give you some passages in just a minute. What happens is that they don’t grow very much, and when temptation comes, they just fall away. But they are saved.
Matthew 13:20 uses a different word than DECHOMAI. “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the words and immediately received it with joy.” The word there isLAMBANO. Again, he “receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”
So there are external circumstances, and he just doesn’t have enough truth, he’s not given any content after he’s saved. He’s a baby that’s born, but doesn’t get any nourishment, so he can’t grow to withstand the testing, the tribulation, the adversity.
This word LAMBANO is important because we find it in John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
LAMBANO is another word for believing in Christ. So they receive it.
DECHOMAI, which was the first word that we saw, in Acts 8:14, talks about those in “…Samaria had received the word of God…” In context, they became believers.
Acts 11:1, the Gentiles “…had also received the word of God…” with Cornelius. They had become believers.
Acts 17:11, talks about the Thessalonians. “…they received the word with all readiness…”
1 Thessalonians 1:6 is talking about them as well. Paul says, “And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.”
Both of these words indicate the reception by faith of the message of the gospel. Salvation is by faith alone, and they’re believers.
Then we come to the third response. The third response is the thorny response. The seed is cast among the thorns according to Matthew 13:22. This is the one who hears the Word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word, and he becomes—the word there is GINOMAI, means to become something you weren’t—he becomes unfruitful. That suggests that he started to bear fruit, but then he became unfruitful. I have tomato plants like that. I get one tomato, two tomatoes, and then no tomatoes.
Luke 8:14: “Now the ones that fell among the thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” They are not a seedling like the rocky soil. There’s growth, but there’s no fruit.
I always want to say, “Don’t you guys ever grow anything?” The Bible talks about fruitfulness, but fruitfulness isn’t growth. You have to have a lot of growth before a plant produces any kind of fruit. First you have birth, then you have growth, then you have fruit.
Lordship salvation comes along, and they say, “If you don’t have any fruit, you weren’t saved!” Well, basically what they’re saying—although they don’t understand it—is, “If you don’t grow to maturity, then you weren’t really saved.” It’s just a violation of the whole gospel!
So both Matthew records it, and Luke records it. The issue here is in the second soil, there’s some growth. It’s not just a seedling; there’s more growth, but there’s no fruit production. They don’t reach maturity.
Then the last, the final type of reception, is the good soil. Hears the Word, understands it, and bears fruit. But there are different degrees of fruit production; 100 fold, 60 fold, 30 fold.
The response at that time in context, Jesus is talking about the fact that in Israel there were a lot of people who didn’t receive the message of the kingdom. There were two kinds that received the message initially, but it didn’t go very far because of the details of life; and their concerns about other things choked it out. There’s only a minority that responded that bore fruit. The same thing happens today.
There are people who hear the gospel. Some of them reject the gospel. They don’t want to become a believer, they don’t want to have anything to do with it. And their destiny is the Lake of Fire, as we see.
Then there are those who respond. Some just respond, and there’s a new birth, but they never take in the Word to grow and mature, and when adversity comes, they say God doesn’t work, Jesus doesn’t work, Christianity doesn’t work. I’m out of here. I’m going to go be a Buddhist or a Hindu or an atheist or whatever. They’re still saved. They’re going to be in Heaven.
Then you have the third type which again reflects a certain number of believers who get saved. For a while they are excited. They go to church, they grow a little bit, they mature a little bit, and then they just get distracted with education. They get distracted with raising their kids. They get distracted with their family issues. They get distracted with work and career. All kinds of things come in, and they just don’t have time for the spiritual life.
They don’t have time to go to church on Sunday morning. They don’t have time to go to Bible class. They don’t have time to read their Bible. I’ll do that when I get older. You keep hearing that until it’s time for the Lord to take them. That’s the third kind; non-productive, probably won’t have any rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Then you have the [fourth] kind that bears fruit and for that, they will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Next time when we come back, we’re going to see how the next five parables relate to the trends in this intervening age between the ascension of Christ and His Second Coming; but the question you need to take home and think about is, “What kind of soil are you?”
With our heads bowed and our eyes closed.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things, and we pray that we might be like the fourth soil. That we might be responsive to Your Word, and that we might grow and mature as believers; and that God the Holy Spirit would richly produce in our lives, that the fruit that is born will glorify You, and our salvation will be something that will provide a tremendous testimony in the heavens.
Father we pray that if there’s anyone here who has never trusted in Christ as Savior and never taken care of the eternal issues, that they would take this opportunity to do so. That God the Holy Spirit would just impress upon their mind the reality that we are all sinners.
As Isaiah said in the Old Testament, all we like sheep have gone astray. We’ve turned everyone to his own way. But You provided us a solution. This verse goes on to say, ‘but the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’ As Isaiah also goes on to say in Isaiah 64:6 that ‘all of our works of righteousness are like filthy rags.’ Nothing that we do gains any approval with You if we haven’t trusted in your Servant, the Messiah, who died on the Cross for our sins.
Father, we pray that you will challenge us with what we studied this morning. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”