Mysteries of the Kingdom: The End of History
Matthew Lesson #080
June 7, 2015
“Father, we’re thankful for this opportunity to come together to be refreshed, to be encouraged, to be challenged by Your Word. We know that You have breathed out Your Word through the writers of Scripture, the prophets of the Old Testament and apostles of the New Testament and that You have overseen this process of inspiration in such a way that without violating their individual personality, style, or volition, they wrote that which was true, that which is without error. Therefore, we can count on it, we can rely upon it, rest upon it.
Father, we pray that as we study Your Word today that God the Holy Spirit would take what we study, that He would challenge us, make it clear to each one of us what Your Word is saying. Even though things at times are difficult to understand in Your Word, that You will help us to put things together that we might have a clear picture of what You have revealed to us.
We pray above all things that what You might make clear to us is Your plan and purpose in our lives. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”
Our passage this morning is still in Matthew 13, but before we get into Matthew 13 and do some review on the mysteries of the Kingdom, I want to give you a little review or little update on the trip.
As you know, we went on this trip that was led by Dr. Steve Austin, who has his PhD from Penn State in Geology. Steve is about 68 years old, and I think he got his PhD in ’73 or ’74. For much of his career he has focused especially on the catastrophic impact of the Noahic flood in geology, which as most of you know, runs counter to the prevailing notions. But he has really carved out a niche in terms of his own impact and his own influence. He is an expert. He has done tremendous ground-breaking studies on catastrophism in geology, especially due to his ground-breaking studies on Mount St. Helens.
Many of you remember the explosion as the volcano at Mount St. Helens erupted in May, 1980. One of the things that happened when that exploded was that as you had this enormous slurry of mud and debris and rocks and timber and everything being pushed down the side of the mountain, eventually as all of that pushed in front of the lava flow coming out of the volcano, it created its own dam. As the lava cooled, as all of that liquid began to cool, it formed a crust, as it were, on the top.
Interestingly enough, I saw a little report this morning about how much rain they’ve had up in Oklahoma. As people were outside walking around, the ground would just—it wasn’t like they sunk down in the mud because the top layer had dried—but it was like they were walking on almost a mattress. You know how it just sort of depresses as you walk along?
That’s what it was like, because under the top six inches to a foot that had dried out and was fairly solid, it was just like you were walking on brownie batter. It was really kind of soft, so that’s kind of like what happened in about two or three years after Mount St. Helens exploded.
After all this slurry and mud flow had gone out, and it had dried to some extent, it created its own dam in front of it, the dam broke. That’s like filling your bathtub up with—let just use the same illustration—you filled your bathtub up with brownie batter, and the top six inches or so has become fairly solid, but the bottom part is still very liquid, and all of a sudden you pull the plug on the bathtub, and all of that liquid just goes sshhlluup right out the drain!
What that created when that happened at Mount St. Helens, was a system of canyons that was 1/40th the size of the Grand Canyon. It didn’t happen over millions and millions of years. It happened over the course of about six months. Then you had this incredible canyon system.
Well, according to historical geology, which is grounded upon the principle known as uniformitarianism—that the present is the key to the past—the idea that has been for years, many of us heard this we were coming up in school, is that it took millions of years as the Colorado River eroded out the canyon. And the results of what you see is this erosion.
There are a lot of problems with that, and that’s one of the reasons why even a lot of evolutionary geologists no longer believe in gradualism forming the canyon. A lot of it is due to the studies that Steve has done. They realize that catastrophism is more likely the cause of the formation of the Grand Canyon rather than some sort of long, slow, gradual process.
One obvious problem you have is how in the world can a river coming down from Colorado that goes through a lower elevation, climb up to the Kaibab Plateau and then erode a channel through the Kaibab Plateau. Last time we all checked, water doesn’t run uphill, so that’s just one of many problems that you have with the standard evolutionary view.
I want you to think in your mind about a multi-layered cake. We’re going to have about a 15-layer cake. Each layer has different colors. That’s what you see when you’re down in the Grand Canyon. You see all these different layers. What has happened is that the very top layer is what we’re usually walking on. In Arizona, you’re walking on what’s called the Kaibab Plateau, that’s ground level, and the canyon cuts down below that.
As you go down through all of the various levels from the Kaibab to the Toroweap, all the way through all these different layers, which I still haven’t memorized, you get down to a layer down below, which historical geologists refer to as the Great Unconformity. Now think about that. This is not creation science. This is standard geology—which calls this the Great Unconformity.
Now why is that? That is because between the bottom of that Great Unconformity, you have one layer that sits flush on top of the next layer. There’s about six inches there. But the layer below, according to historical geology, is a hundred and thirty five to a hundred and fifty million years older than the layer that is sitting on top of it. They can’t figure out where all that time went. They can’t explain that.
The explanation from a creationist’s view is that the layers that you have on top, which is from roughly this line up going all the way up to the different strata —this is all sedimentary rock, and this is laid down by the worldwide flood described in Genesis 6–8. And that is exactly what we would expect to find if the Genesis account were true. Then you would find sedimentary rock all over the earth, that in which is buried millions and millions and millions of dead things. That is exactly what you find in reality. The earth is covered with all these layers of sedimentary rock.
Well just below this area, as we see in this picture, this is the Great Unconformity. It’s the area between our thumbs and our little fingers. That’s the Great Unconformity. What we see below that is also sedimentary rock, but this was laid down, we believe, in creation week. This is in Day 2 when God separated out the dry land, so you would still have sedimentary rock there.
This was one of the insights I got from looking at this that I hadn’t really understood that clearly before. As many of you know, I’ve been going through studies of creation/evolution for about 45 years. But that was a new idea that came across, and of course, you probably recognize those two disreputable characters there. That’s Dan Inghram on the left, if you don’t know him, the pastor of the National Capitol Bible Church. We had one other pastor besides the two of us on the trip—Todd Atwood from Grace Bible Church in Rockwall, TX. We had a great group of people, and it was a fascinating trip. Of course we heard a lot about rocks.
But the thing that we also took away from this is that the Grand Canyon is a monument to judgment: that the worldwide flood that’s described in Genesis 6–9 at the time of Noah was a judgment on the world that then was because of the evil that permeated the world at that time. This is ultimately exemplified by what both ancient Jewish tradition, as well as ancient Christian traditions, identify as a very odd situation.
Seems very strange to our ears, and that is when the sons of God, a term in the Hebrew Old Testament, bene ha Elohim, intermarried or took human wives and basically polluted the human gene pool. So God said He was fed up with the human race at that point, wiped out everybody but Noah, because Noah and his family were righteous and unpolluted genetically. They went on to repopulate the earth after the flood.
The flood is a picture, and it is used also in both the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament, as well as in the New Testament as a picture, as an analog to God’s future end-time judgment: that just as God judged the earth in the days of Noah, so God will also again judge the whole earth at the end of time.
That is where these parables in Matthew 13 take us as we go through the sequence of these parables which Jesus taught in Matthew 13.
Now just as a reminder of where we have come in our study of Matthew.
Matthew, like Mark and Luke, follows basically a chronology of the life of Christ, unlike the approach that John takes in his gospel. Each one of these begins roughly with an offer of the kingdom, and Jesus presents Himself as the Messiah, the Messianic King, the Son of David.
At first there’s great acceptance, and then there becomes the increasing rejection until you see this final sort of conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees when they reject His claims to be King and His offer of the kingdom. They accuse Him of doing His works through the power of Beelzebub, which is another title for Satan, and they reject Him.
At that point, there is a pivot or shift in the ministry in the life of Christ. He has publicly offered Himself, and now His ministry becomes more private. As He makes this shift, because the people for the most part have rejected Him, He begins to teach in parables, which is designed to disclose truth to those who are willing to think about what He is saying. But for those who have already rejected Him, it veils the truth.
During the last part of His ministry, His focus is not so much public as it is private on the training of the twelve disciples for their future ministry in the time period in which we live, which is the Church Age.
There is an increase of His ministry during the first half, then rejection, and then a focus on the training of The Twelve, and that rejection culminates in His crucifixion and then His burial and resurrection.
As we come into Matthew 13, the focus here is on how Jesus is now describing what is going to happen since the kingdom has been rejected. Because it’s been rejected—it’s going to be postponed. He’s offered the kingdom, just as John the Baptist came along and offered the kingdom. Jesus offered the kingdom, the disciples went out preaching, “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” but they were rejected. So now there’s going to be some new information given.
I covered this fairly thorough way last week going through each of the parables, but I want to go back this morning and just review that. I’ve had a couple of questions since the last time, and I want to answer one in particular because this is a foundational passage for understanding many of the parables that comes up in this second half in Matthew.
There are a number of other parables that relate to the kingdom, and we find repeated this phrase, “the kingdom of heaven is like…” And so in Matthew 13:11, Jesus is talking to His disciples, and He says to them, “…it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them…”—that is those who’ve already rejected His offer of the kingdom—He says, “… it has not been given.” They’ve heard Him teach. They’ve heard Him explain things very clearly. But they have rejected that, so now He’s going to veil what He’s teaching in the form of these parables.
The word, “mysteries,” as I pointed out that last time, is a word that is used in the Bible in the sense of a previously unknown or unrevealed truth. It’s not a mystery like a “who-done-it,” where you’re trying to figure out the clues to it. It is simply just referring to something that God has not previously revealed.
So the term, “mysteries of the kingdom” describes previously unknown and unrevealed information about the kingdom because it has not been revealed. Each of these parables describes something new in relation to the kingdom. That’s an important phrase I’m using in relation to the kingdom, and describes them.
- So you have the parable of the soils, which is the first parable. It’s not said to be “like the mysteries of the kingdom.” That phrase is not used in the first or in the last parable.
The first parable just describes four different responses to the message. The first one is the person who rejects it. Then two, three, and four represent different soils that respond in different degrees to the message, and each of those represents someone who accepts it, believes the message initially, but for different reasons, two and three end up drifting away. But the fourth produces fruit.
- Then we have the parable of the wheat and the tares, the mustard seed, the leaven, the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price, the parable of the dragnet—each giving new information in relation to this kingdom.
So we had a question that came up last week that was clearly well articulated, and it was a question that bothered me for a long time, trying to understand this particular passage. The question is, when you see the phrase, “the kingdom of heaven is like” something, the descriptions that follow do not seem to be what the kingdom is like at all.
So the question is, in what way is “the kingdom of heaven like” these descriptions when it seems that the kingdom isn’t like this at all?” That’s it.
It doesn’t seem like these things really describe the kingdom, but that phrase when we read it in English, “the kingdom in heaven is like”, sounds to us like whatever follows is describing the kingdom. That’s how most people read it. But we have to think about this a little more before we actually get into it.
So I want to take you through this in terms of just understanding the basic issues that are here.
Going to Matthew 13:24, 31, we have the statement, “Another parable He put forth to them, saying ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.’ ” He’s not really comparing the kingdom of heaven to the man sowing good seeds. It’s not compared to the man. It’s not a comparison to the good seed. He’s just making a comparison of a certain characteristic.
Matthew 13:31, “Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…’ ” So the question is what is the significance of this particular comparison?
The first time we run into the phrase, in Matthew 13:24, which introduces the parable of the wheat and the tares, the Greek word that is used is HOMOIOO. It’s a verb form there, and it means to make like something, to compare one thing to another, to one thing that’s similar to something else.
In the subsequent parables, when it says “The kingdom of heaven is like…” He uses the noun form HOMOIOS, meaning that something is like or it’s similar or corresponds to, so there’s some truth in this parable that He is bringing out. It’s new information that is going to help us understand the intervening period. So we want to understand this issue a little better.
In what way does this phrase, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” explain what is going on? It doesn’t seem like the kingdom is like these things at all.
One principle we have to remember is articulated in two different ways in Sherlock Holmes mystery novels. The first is—Sherlock Holmes says, “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth?” I always liked Sherlock Holmes.
You’re looking at a problem. You’re looking at a puzzle. You’re trying to decipher all the clues and look at it. What you do is you use logic. Sometimes you have to work backward in logic, work from what you have and work backward. That’s part of deductive reasoning. So you have to eliminate all the things that just don’t work. That’s sort of the way we approach this passage to eliminate various hermeneutical or interpretive options.
A more simplified way Sherlock Holmes stated this was, “If you eliminate all of the factors, the one that remains must be the truth.” So that’s how we’re looking at this.
My answer to the question is, “Yes, it doesn’t seem like the kingdom, that these parables really describe in the kingdom.” So my answer is to that question…
Precisely! The descriptions that we get from the parables themselves do not describe what is actually going on within the kingdom.
What’s the conclusion going to be? Therefore, they must be saying something else. They’re related to the kingdom. They’re not talking about what’s precisely going on in the kingdom.
We have to understand what the kingdom is. So we go back to the Old Testament as it were. We have to go back to the Hebrew Scriptures to understand how the kingdom was defined in the Old Testament. We’ve done that before, and I’ll just review it a little bit.
In the Old Testament the kingdom is a geo-political kingdom ruled by the Messianic Son of David from a literal throne in Jerusalem.
It is a time when the provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant; the Land Covenant—that God promised all of the land, which is much greater than the land Israel has today or has ever had; the Davidic Covenant—that a descendant of David would sit on David’s throne forever and ever; and the new covenant—that Israel will be re-gathered forever and ever as a regenerate people in Israel. This is a time when these covenants will all be fully realized.
What we see in terms of all of these passages, just as sort of a summary of what the kingdom consists of, is we see that Israel is portrayed at the time of the kingdom as being in possession of all of the land designated by the Abrahamic Covenant, from the Mediterranean [Sea] to the Euphrates River, and all the way south down to the Wadi El-Arish, which is between modern Israel and Egypt.
Israel will be re-gathered again from all of the nations. I believe that process is already underway.
Israel is portrayed as a regenerate nation fully worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
A new Temple will be rebuilt as described in Ezekiel 40 and following, and the ritual sacrifices of that future temple will be overseen by a Levitical line of priests from the Zadokite line.
The Messiah will rule on the earth with righteousness and truth.
He will have perfect government. It will be a true utopia.
There will be a time of unprecedented prosperity, peace, and productivity.
It’s a time also when portions of the curse have been rolled back. For example, the wolf and the lamb will lie down together; a child will be able to put his hand into a cobra’s den; and swords will be beaten into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks.
There will be a time of no wars whatsoever during this time the Messianic rule.
Now I doubt you’ll write all these Scriptures down, but this is just a small portion of the numerous Scriptures from the Hebrew prophets in the Old Testament that describe all of these different features I’ve just mentioned:
Isaiah 2:1–4; speaks to the fact that all of the world, all the nations will come to Jerusalem to worship at the mountain of God. This is further described in passages like Isaiah 4:1–6.
Isaiah 9:6–7 talks about the Ruler of the end times. The Messianic Ruler will called Mighty God indicating that the Child who is born, the Son who is given will be called God. He is divine, as well as human. He’s human because He’s born, so that prefigures the God-Man in Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 10:20–22; 11:1–16; 14:1–6; 16:5; 24:23; 43:5–7; 49:13; 51:3–9; 59:21; all of 61; 62:1–12; 65:25. Many of those chapters and much, much more in Isaiah focuses on this time when Israel is re-gathered to the land.
Jeremiah 30:1–3, 9; all of 31; 33:14–26.
Ezekiel 11:17–20; 16:60–62; 28:25–26; 34:11–31; 39:21–29 also talk of this time, as well.
Hosea 3:5; 14:4–8
Joel 2:28–32 talks about the Messiah coming back to rescue the Jewish people and to establish the kingdom.
Habakkuk 2:14 are just a microcosm of these passages.
We see again and again and again that the Old Testament emphasizes future re-gathering of the Jewish people to their land when God will fulfill all of the Old Testament promises He made to the patriarchs. They will be resurrected, and they will live and rule and reign again and realize all of those promises that God made.
The kingdom, the fact that the kingdom promise did not change and the meaning of kingdom did not change, is indicated by the question the disciples asked Jesus just before He ascended to Heaven.
In Acts 1:6 He said, “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ ” They still understood it as a physical, geo-political kingdom as it is portrayed in the Old Testament.
And Jesus said, “No, no, no, no, no, you don’t get it! It’s just going to be a spiritual kingdom.” Is that what He said? No, of course not.
He didn’t correct them! He said “[No] it’s not for you to know [the] time…” in other words, “I’m not telling you when it’s going to come. It’s still going to come. And it’s still going to arrive, and it will be this future kingdom. Nothing has changed from the time of the Old Testament.”
- So the first thing that we understand as we look at this description is that the definition of kingdom does not change.
- The second thing is that since Israel at the time of Jesus rejected the King and His offer of the kingdom, the kingdom could not then come into existence. It couldn’t come into existence because the people weren’t ready for it. So it was postponed. He ascended to Heaven to wait the Father’s awarding of the kingdom.
This is described in Daniel in the Old Testament—Daniel 7:12–13 the Son of Man comes to the Ancient of Days Who then gives Him the kingdom.
This is a description in Daniel 7:13. Daniel says, “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.”
Daniel 7:14 “Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.”
This hasn’t happened yet. We know from what the New Testament says Jesus ascended into Heaven. He sits at the right hand of God the Father waiting to be given the kingdom. When He is given the kingdom, then He will come to the earth. This will occur at the end of what we call the Tribulation, and He will establish His kingdom. It will be this literal kingdom.
- So under point #3: Since the kingdom was postponed, an unexpected unannounced intervening age was coming into existence. This was never described in Old Testament prophecy. That’s why it’s a mystery. It was unrevealed truth. Nobody in the Old Testament knew this was going to happen. That was because it was contingent upon whether or not Israel would accept Jesus as Messiah when He came.
Since He wasn’t accepted, the kingdom is postponed, and we have this new intervening age. That’s what Jesus is describing now—this mystery, this previously unrevealed information.
Here we have a timeline. I want to walk you through this:
In the Old Testament you have the Age of Israel until the Cross.
Then Jesus ascends into Heaven.
We have a new age that begins 50 days after the crucifixion, the Church Age.
At the end of the Church Age we are raptured. The Scripture says we’re snatched out of here, uses the word HARPAZO.
The Lord returns in the air.
The dead in Christ will rise first, and we who are alive will be caught up together with Him. That’s HARPAZO.
The Latin word “rapturo” means to be caught up. That’s where we get our English word “rapture.”
Then there is a transition period, a short time, we don’t know how long it will be.
And then according to Daniel’s prophesy from the Old Testament, Daniel 9, there will be a seven-year period during which time there will be this anti-Christ figure that will rise up, and he will seek to destroy Israel.
He will be the personification of all anti-Semitism throughout all of history, and it is at that time that Israel and the Jewish people will recognize Jesus corporately.
There are many, many throughout the ages that have accepted Jesus as Messiah, but corporately, they will accept Him at the end of the Tribulation, and Jesus will return to rescue them from the anti-Christ, and He will then establish His kingdom.
Now this period of the mystery covers from the period that Jesus is rejected until He returns at the Second Coming, so it’s not just related to the Church Age. It’s related to the intervening period from His official rejection by the Pharisees in Matthew 12 until He returns at the Second Coming.
- So we know that the kingdom was postponed and then we see that, fourth, the term “mysteries” describes previously unrevealed truth about this intervening age. Jesus here begins to disclose this unrevealed information.
Everything about what the kingdom itself is like has been revealed in the Old Testament, so this is now giving new information related to the kingdom.
George N. H. Peters, I’ve mentioned him a couple of times, this guy was unbelievable. He was an itinerant Lutheran preacher in Ohio back in the late 1800s. He was very poor, and he wrote out this three-volume work that each volume is about two inches thick and about 10-pt. type face, and you have to put on glasses or a magnifying glass to read it. He didn’t have a word processor. He didn’t have a typewriter. He barely could afford a pen, and he just had to write it on scraps of paper. It’s an in depth study of what all of the Scripture teaches on the kingdom. And he says related to Matthew 13:
“…the very outskirts of the subject already force the conclusion that those mysteries refer not to the nature of the kingdom,—that’s obvious!—but to the manner of its establishment, the means employed, the preparation for it, the time for its manifestation, and such related subjects.”
In other words, when we come to this passage, when Jesus says the kingdom is like, He is really talking about aspects related to the kingdom that haven’t been revealed, and so He’s talking about the intervening age.
- So under the fifth point, in only one sense could the kingdom be said to exist during this period, and that is that a portion of the people who live during this age will form the nucleus of those who will rule and reign with the King in His Kingdom.
That includes Old Testament saints. It includes those Jews that accepted Jesus as Messiah. It includes Church Age believers, and it includes those who believe in Jesus as Messiah during the Tribulation Period.
These are all referred to as the sons of the kingdom—those who will be present in resurrection form in the Millennial Kingdom in Matthew 13:38.
So let’s put it this way, in terms of logic:
The major premise is the kingdom is a time of unprecedented spiritual and economic perfection when Satan is confined. This is part of the passage I read earlier in Revelation 20:1–7. During the kingdom, Satan is confined to the abyss so that he can no longer deceive the nations.
The minor premise is the kingdom parables describe a time of both positive and negative response when Satan is active and deceiving people. He is the one who sows tares among the wheat.
So if Satan is present in Matthew 13 in the second parable, and he’s not present in the Millennial Kingdom, then we have to conclude that the parables cannot be describing the character of the kingdom itself, so must be describing the new information related to the postponement and future arrival of the kingdom.
We see that these phrases HOMOIOO and HOMOIOS basically need to be understood to refer to something related to the kingdom. They are not talking about the kingdom itself. It’s clear that the statements related to the comparison do not mean that the kingdom of heaven is symbolized by the wheat and the tares or the enemy who sows bad seed.
Remember Satan is in the abyss during this time. He is, as we see in Revelation 20:2–3:
“He laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the abyss and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed.”
Therefore, we see that the kingdom of God could not be symbolized by the mustard seed or the leaven, or any other object in the parable.
The formula “the kingdom is like” is an ellipsis—that’s when you leave a word out—is an ellipsis of the phrase “the mystery of the kingdom of God is like.”
Verse 11 is the first time we have a reference to the kingdom of God that uses the whole “the mystery of the kingdom of God.” So each time you see this, say the mysteries of the kingdom of God, or the unrevealed truth related to the kingdom of God is like this. That’s the comparison: focusing on just new information as it relates to that intervening time.
Now as we look at this, and as we come to each one of these particular parables, we see that in the second parable, we learn that in the intervening period, there will be great deception.
The sons of the kingdom are sown in the world by the sower who sows the good seed. This is representative of the Lord Jesus Christ and His representatives. The sons of the kingdom are sown in the world, and they will co-exist side-by-side during this intervening age with the unbelieving unrighteous tares. So this covers the entire period from the announcement of and the rejection of the kingdom until Jesus returns at the Second Coming.
The second parable, the parable of the mustard seed, talks about the expansion of the message and the blessing by association that comes with the acceptance of the message.
The imagery there of a tree and the birds coming and nesting in the tree is an image that’s found many times in the Old Testament where it talks about, for example, Isaiah 2:2. The kingdom is established. The Messianic Kingdom is established, and all the world comes to the mountain of God to worship; the blessing by association that comes.
The third parable, the parable of the leaven, talks about while the influence and the blessing that comes by association with the expansion of the message during this time, there’s also the expansion of the influence of evil represented by leaven so that throughout this time, we will see evil increase. Ultimately this finds its fullest manifestation during the time of the Tribulation and the rule of the anti-Christ during that time.
Then we have the parable of the hidden treasure, the treasure hidden in a field. As I pointed out last time, there are numerous passages in the Old Testament that speak of Israel as being God’s special treasure. This is a picture of God’s love for Israel. He sells all that he has and buys the field—that is a picture of God’s redemption that provides salvation for Israel.
Then we have the parable of the pearl of great price. A pearl is produced by an oyster. This is an unclean animal in the Old Testament, and the sea often in the Old Testament refers to gentiles. So the pearl of great price that is purchased is a representative of the gentiles who will be included in the kingdom.
Then we come to the final judgment that takes us back to a theme I introduced when talking about the Noahic flood, and that is the theme of judgment:
“Again the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind.”
Those of you who have been on trips to Israel with me have gone out on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, and we’ve seen a demonstration of a dragnet. This is a circular net, usually about 9 or 10 ft. in diameter. It’s weighted all around the circumference. The way these fishermen out there fold up the net, it’s rather small, and it’s circular, and they throw it out over the water, something like a Frisbee. When they do that, it unfolds and spreads out to its fullest diameter, and those weights spread it out spinning.
When it drops into the water, the weights pull the outer circumference down; whatever is below it gets trapped by the net, and then the fishermen pulls it back in, and this closes the net around whatever is below it. Then it pulls in whatever is there—fish who are clean as well as those that are unclean. Then the fishermen have to discard the catfish and the carp or whatever else is there, and they keep the clean fish. There’s a lot of tilapia in the sea of Galilee, also called St. Peter’s fish. We’ve usually eaten that while we’ve been over there; usually very boney.
But anyway, that’s the picture that’s used here. There will be a judgment!
See, modern man, when they believe in evolution, with evolution things always get better and better. There’s an advance that goes on, and there’s no end. It just always goes on into the future.
Of course, they scare everybody to death with threats of global warming or global famine. Or we’ll all destroy each other in some sort of nuclear holocaust.
But the Word of God says that’s not how it’s going to end. God is going to bring everything to a conclusion, and it’s not going to be because of man’s own efforts to destroy himself. It’s because God has a plan and a purpose, and it will culminate in judgment.
This is seen from Daniel 12:2 in the Old Testament, that in the end there will be a judgment, and there will be a resurrection. The righteous will be resurrected to eternity with God in Heaven, and the unrighteous will be resurrected to an eternity in Sheol or in eternal condemnation or punishment.
This is exactly what is described here at the end of the age. That is at the end of this period, right before the coming of the kingdom. There will be a judgment. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from the just, and cast them into a furnace of fire; and there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Again and again both in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, there is a depiction of those who have obeyed God by trusting in Him. It’s not by works which we have done, it’s according to His mercy!
In the Old Testament, how was Abraham declared righteous? He was declared righteous by faith. Genesis 15:6, that “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
That’s the only way we can get into Heaven, is if we possess perfect righteousness. It can’t come from ourselves, as Isaiah said, “All of our works of righteousness are as filthy rags.” We can’t do it on our own. God must give us that righteousness. This is the picture of salvation. Isaiah 53 says that the Messiah will come to provide justification for His people.
Earlier in the parable of the wheat and the tares, we have this same depiction that:
“… at the end of the age, the tares will be gathered.” Matthew 13:40, “… and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather out of this kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness.”
This is the cleansing that occurs at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom when the earth is cleansed of population. It’s cleansed so all those who go into the kingdom are those who are righteous—those who have trusted in Christ as Savior. Those who aren’t [righteous] will be cast into a furnace of fire where there’ll be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Now this isn’t pleasant! This is a difficult thing for many people to understand, but God will bring judgment on those who have rejected Him. Because they have rejected Him, they do not possess righteousness. He has extended grace to all, either through general revelation, which has been rejected by many, or through special revelation. But there will be judgment. This is harsh.
Even the writers of Scripture understood this. Daniel said it was horrible. John sees this in Revelation.
He says that when the angel revealed this to him in this little book, the angel says to him, “Take and eat it; and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”
It’s sweet because we know that God will justify Himself and God will bring His truth to a perfect conclusion. But it will be something horrible, as we see those who have rejected God’s offer of salvation will face eternal condemnation, and it will make their stomach bitter.
So this is the picture. There will be these judgments that come at the end of the Tribulation period, and this is when God judges those who are alive.
That’s the judgments that are depicted in these parables. And, in this chart—I’m just referring to these judgments here in the dotted box: The judgment of surviving gentiles; the sheep and the goat judgments, the judgment of surviving Jews at the end of the Tribulation.
The Old Testament saints will be raised and resurrected, and they will be judged and given their new positions in the kingdom, and Tribulation saints—that is believers in Christ who survived the Tribulation—will be judged, and their destiny is certain, but their role in the kingdom is what will be the result of this evaluation.
There’s also mentioned at that time that the anti-Christ and the false prophet will be cast in the Lake of Fire, and Satan will be bound in the abyss.
So this brings us to this conclusion: The kingdom’s been postponed. We live in the intervening age, so that God can continue to extend His grace to mankind, offering the gospel.
Scripture makes it very clear from both Old Testament passages and New [Testament], it’s not about what we do. It’s about what Christ did on the Cross for us, where He paid the penalty.
Just as it’s depicted in the Old Testament, that a lamb would bear the sin of Israel during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. One goat was slaughtered—was sacrificed. The other is taken out into the desert and released, depicting the fact that the sin penalty must be paid.
Then the sin issue is completely removed from the individual so that God can save them based on the fact that they have trusted in the Sacrifice that paid the penalty.
John the Baptist said, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The only way that we accept that is as Jesus said to Martha, when He said, “I’m the resurrection and the life.” He said, “Do you believe this?” That is the only issue.
With our heads bowed and our eyes closed.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to come together and once again reflect upon these parables, to come to understand how they depict the character of the present age. They depict the expansion of the gospel message from a small insignificant beginning of 12 disciples to where it influences a large portion of earth history; and through the impact of Christianity, the world is blessed. But it also depicts the rise of rejection, hostility, the influence of evil throughout this age which culminates eventually in the anti-Christ and complete rebellion against You.
Father, but we know that the issue for us is simply one of our response to Your grace, trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior.
Father, we pray that if there’s anyone here who is unsure of their salvation or uncertain of their eternal destiny, that they would take this opportunity to make that both sure and certain. Scripture says that we have all sinned. The Old Testament says all we like sheep have gone astray. We’ve turned everyone to his own way, but the Lord has laid it on Him the iniquity of us all. The “Him” is the Messiah who pays the penalty for our sin.
Now Father, we pray that You would challenge each of us with the application that we must prepare for the future. We must live today in light of eternity, that we must live today in light of our future destiny to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ when He comes in His kingdom.
And we pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”