The kingdom of heaven is God’s rule during this present age and after. The expression, “kingdom of heaven,” used over and over my Matthew, comes by implication from Daniel where the messianic “Son of Man” came in “the clouds of heaven” to God the Father, “Then to Him was given…a kingdom” (Daniel 7:13, 14). A basic theme of the kingdom of heaven parables involves a king giving a marriage feast or taking a journey, followed by a long period in which some come to the marriage feast or work diligently for the king; then comes the king’s surprise return, his reward of the faithful, and his punishment of the wicked. Thus these parables show how Christ will administer the church and the world during this present age, and how He will judge all upon His return.
A New Testament parable is an earthly story that parallels a scriptural truth. Why did Christ teach in parables? He explained part of the answer in Matthew 13:10-17. Parables vividly communicated from the known (earthly) to the unknown—unseen (spiritual), and providentially discriminated among the hearers. Those whose ears had been opened by God would understand (Matthew 13:9) and be blessed (Matthew 13:16, 17), while the unsaved and uninterested would hear but not comprehend (Matthew 13:13-15; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14). Today these parables still help our understanding of what is going on in the world, what God is accomplishing, how He is working, how different segments of mankind will react to the gospel message during our age, and what God will do when Christ returns to set up His earthly kingdom. Each one is a rare beauty capable of unending study and admiration.
47-1 The Sower
(Matthew 13:3-9; 18-23)
This parable is easy to understand, because the Lord Jesus interpreted it for His apostles (vv. 18¬23):
1) The sower is one who sows the Word of the kingdom in the world.
2) The seed is the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; cf. John 3:17, 18).
3) The ground onto which the gospel seed is sown is the heart of man (Romans 10:9, 10).
There are four different responses to the gospel message – four different types of ground upon which the seed of the gospel falls. Christ did not teach that all of the world would be converted during this age (Matthew 7:21-23). The various reactions are not caused by different qualities of seed – for example, more thrilling or compelling preaching. Christ placed the responsibility for faith or unbelief on the soil – the hearer.
1) The first response comes from a hard heart (v. 4; cf. John 12:37-41; Hebrews 3:7-13). Wayside soil is hard and unprepared for seed. The fowls that devour the seed that fell on the hard ground are Satan and his demons.
2) The second response comes from a shallow heart (vv. 5, 6). Such a person has no spiritual depth, no commitment to God’s Word. He holds to his religious decision for a while; but when tribulation or persecution com, “because of the word” of God, he is offended and falls away from his profession of faith (vv. 20, 21; cf. Matthew 7:21-23).
3) The third response comes from a worldly heart (v. 7). A heart that loves this world system is a heart alienated from God (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). The love of money, success, and the pleasures of this world choke out the influence of the Word of God in the life of the professing believer so that he becomes unfruitful (v. 22). Many profess Christ but love the world and the things of the world more than they love God (1 John 2:15-17).
4) The fourth response comes from an understanding heart (vv. 8, 23). Note that only one man understood the Word of God, and brought forth fruit (Acts 8:26-39).
The parable of the sower will apply to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ until the harvest at the end of the present age (John 4:35-39). This parable should warn unconverted people that they need to receive the “good seed,” the message of Christ’s forgiveness, into their hearts. It also should encourage Christians to witness boldly, because the seed does produce fruit. However, the parable also puts to rest the unbiblical expectation that everyone who “hears” will enter the kingdom. Only those who hear, understand, and believe will make the true entrance.
47-2 The Tares
(Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)
As He did with the parable of the sower, our Lord interpreted this parable for us:
1) The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ (vv. 24, 37).
2) The field is the world (vv. 24, 38). While here on earth He sowed the good seed in person; but before ascending into heaven, He commissioned His church to proclaim the gospel to every person in every nation (Matthew 28:19, 20).
3) The good seed in this parable is not the gospel, but rather the children of the kingdom (vv. 24, 38). He began to sow (scatter) the good seed (the children of God) first in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria; and He continues to scatter His children among all parts of the world. The good seed, as they are sown, are to share their faith with that part of the world in which they have been scattered (Acts 1:8; cf. 8:1-4).
4) “The tares are the sons of the wicked one,” Satan (vv. 25-38). Jesus said to the unsaved religious leaders of His day, “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). Where Jesus sends His children, Satan also sends his. You will find in most churches children of God and children of the Devil (Matthew 7:21-23).
5) The enemy that sowed the tares is the Devil (vv. 28, 39).
6) The harvest is the end of the age (vv. 30, 39). Christ’s second coming will conclude this age. He will send His angels to reap the harvest and separate the wheat from the tares. He will rapture the “wheat,” the children of the kingdom, and burn the “tares,” the children of Satan. Note the contrast: The children of the Devil will be cast into “the furnace of fire” (hell), while the children of God “will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (vv. 30, 40-43; cf. Revelation 20:15).
47-3 The Mustard Seed
(Matthew 13:31, 32)
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field” (v. 31). The mustard seed is one of the smallest of seeds.
1) The mustard seed is the church in its numerically insignificant beginning – Christ and the twelve apostles. On the Day of Pentecost, the small kingdom began it phenomenal expansion. Like the mustard tree it continued to grow, branching out into other nations of the known world.
2) The man who sowed the seed is the God-Man, Christ Jesus.
3) His field is the world.
4) The fowls of the air that lodged in the branches are probably the same as in the parable of the sower – Satan and his demons (Matthew 13:4, 19).
This mustard tree (the church), in its early existence, was pure and powerful until Satan’s followers found a way to nest in its branches. Christendom will continue with the true children of God, as well as the imposters who profess to be God’s children. Just as the wheat and the tares will grow together until the harvest, so the saved and the unsaved will nest in the mustard tree until Jesus comes to separate the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats, the saved from the unsaved (Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46).
47-4 The Leaven
1) The woman is the harlot church (Revelation 17).
2) The leaven represents the subtle working of evil, for which the same symbol is used elsewhere in Scripture (e.g. Exodus 12:15, 19; Matthew 16:6-12). It is religious hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). The leaven is the evil doctrine of the apostate church.
3) The three measures of meal represent Christendom from its inception through the Tribulation. After the true church is raptured, Christendom will be totally corrupt (1 Corinthians 5:6-9). The “mystery of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:7) has been working as leaven in the church from its early days (Revelation 2:2-15) and will continue to work until the whole of Christendom is evil.
This parable teaches that as the years and centuries roll on, the pure Christianity of the early church will become progressively corrupt until the entire lump (Christendom) is leavened.
47-5 The Hidden Treasure
This profound parable is one of the deepest and most misinterpreted of all the parables. It involves both revelation and mystery (Romans 16:25, 26; cf. Mark 4:11, 12).
1) The revelation is that the hidden treasure is the kingdom of God, not specifically the church, although the church is part of God’s kingdom. This parable deals with the total kingdom, and not merely with a part.
2) The mystery is that when the Lord Jesus found the treasure in the field, He hid it. The kingdom of God in its totality is still a mystery, hidden from man. However, Christ has revealed to us the King’s manifesto, found in the Sermon on the Mount.
3) The treasure is hidden in the field (the world). When Adam and Eve sinned and were driven from the Garden of Eden and God put a curse upon the world (Genesis 3:4-19), Satan, the God of this age, attempted to usurp a kingdom (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan’s kingdom, the kingdom of evil, is seen everywhere. The treasure, the kingdom of God that is hidden in the world, will be revealed in all power when the King returns and establishes His kingdom.
Jesus journeyed to Calvary with the promise of joy before Him (Hebrews 12:2). It was the joy of knowing that on the other side of the Cross was His purchased kingdom. After His resurrection He went back to heaven to await the Father’s time, when He will return to this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords to claim the kingdom (Matthew 25:31-46; cf. Revelation 19:16).
47-6 The Pearl of Great Price
(Matthew 13:45, 46)
The “pearl of great price” (v. 46) is perhaps the easiest to understand of all of Jesus’ parables.
Again we have the merchant, representing the God-Man, Christ Jesus, who came into the world “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The merchant came seeking beautiful pearls, and found one pearl of exquisite beauty. This speaks of the church, the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18). It is a beautiful picture of the growth, unity, and purity of the church.
The seeking savior comes, and men, women, and children hear the gospel of how He was pierced, “wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5). A pearl is formed in an oyster – a grain of sand lodged in the oyster’s shell causes irritation, triggering a secretion that surrounds the sand… and in time a pearl is formed. Similarly, through the centuries the Lord has been adding to the church those who are being saved (Acts 2:47). Thus, all born-again children of God together are valuable pearls in the eyes of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, because we were spiritually shaped by the blood that came from the Savior’s pierced side.
This is a great mystery: that billions of individuals, living and dead, of differing backgrounds, cultures, customs, and languages, are one body. Tragically, sometimes differences in doctrine, opinion, and will are so pronounced between believers that it seems there will never be unity among them. Many refuse to “speak the same thing” and “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Nonetheless they are alone in “the unity of the Spirit,” in “one body” (Ephesians 4:3, 4). And just as the merchant sold all that he had and bought the one pearl of great price, so “Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
This pure, pearl-like unity of the church may never be visible on this earth, during this age. It will be realized, though, when the dead in Christ are raised and, with those who are alive, are caught up to meet Him in the air (l Thessalonians 4:16-18). Then we will be perfect in body and mind – “conformed to His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21) and knowing ‘just as [we] also [are] known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Then we shall be revealed as one body, one bride, or, as in the parable, “one pearl of great price” – paid for by His death, burial, and resurrection.
47-7 The Net
This parable depicts the consummation of what the foregoing parables describe, as the kingdom moves from mystery to open, visible presence.
1) The kingdom of heaven is a net filled with fish – a catch of all kinds.
2) The sea is the nations of the world who will come before the King to be judged.
3) The catch is made up of good and bad. Just as the King allows the tares to grow amid the wheat until He comes to establish His kingdom, so the good and bad fish will co-exist until the Master Fisherman casts his net and draws them into His presence at the end of the age (v. 49). The angels will then separate the good from the bad (Matthew 25:31-46). The good (the saved, who did the will of God – John 6:40) will be received God’s kingdom. The bad (the lost, who were disobedient) will be “cast… into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (v. 50).
Master Outline 47 – Seven Parables of the Kingdom of Heaven
 The Kingdom of Heaven is what?
 What Old Testament scripture gives us the foundation for “Kingdom of Heaven?”
 What is a parable?
 Who is the sower, what is the seed, and who is the ground in the parable of the sower?
 How many different responses are there in the gospel?
 The various reactions are caused by the quality of the seed. TRUE or FALSE. Explain.
 Describe the four (4) responses.
 How should this parable warn uncommitted people?
 Will everyone that hears the gospel enter into the Kingdom? YES or NO. Explain.
 Describe the six (6) major divisions of the Parable of the Tares.
 Is the good seed, in the Parable of the Tares, the gospel? YES or NO. Explain.
 You will not find children of the devil in most churches. TRUE or FALSE. Explain.
 In the Mustard Seed Parable, what does the mustard seed represent?
 The fowls of the air in the Mustard Seed Parable are representative of what?
 Will the church always have the fowls of the air in it?
 Describe the three (3) major divisions of the Parable of Leaven.
 What does the Parable of Leaven teach us about the church?
 What two (2) aspects does the “Hidden Treasure” represent?
 What is the mystery of the “Hidden Treasure?”
 What was the promise of joy set before Jesus as He journeyed to the cross?
 In the “Pearl of Great Price” the merchant is who?
 The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price teaches us all born again believers are what?
 What is the “great mystery?”
 Will this pure pearly-like unity of the church be present in this World? YES or NO. Explain.
 Explain the three (3) main divisions of the “Parable of the Net.”