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Entries in Parables (10)

Tuesday
Aug252015

The Stone That Is Rejected

Luke 20:9-19.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 23, 2015.

The materials that are used in a building project are a critical factor.  If they are not of good quality they can affect the looks, durability, and especially the safety of the structure.  This is important because God has been building a structure Himself.  However, this structure is not made of wood or stones.  It is made out of people who put their faith in Jesus.  Yet, much like stones, they are being cut, shaped and placed next to other believers.  This structure becomes a living temple, both as individuals and as a group, in which the Spirit of God dwells.  Today we are going to see that our Lord, Jesus, is a critical stone in this structure.  If we are thinking of a rectangular building then Jesus is the critical foundation stone.  If we are thinking of a pyramid shape then he is the critical capstone.  Another critical stone in architecture can be seen in the keystone of an arch.  The center stone becomes the one thing that holds all the others up.  God has made Jesus the most critical part of this structure we can refer to as the Kingdom of God.  He is that one thing that holds all the others up.  When we reject the authority of Jesus, like the religious leaders of his day did, we do so to our own folly.  They were more interested in asserting and defending their own authority than to recognize the authority that God had given Jesus.

The Parable Of The Vineyard

In Luke 20 we are in the last week leading up to the cross.  Jesus is in the temple compound teaching daily.  The religious leaders have challenged the authority of Jesus to kick out the merchants.  Though Jesus turned them away with his own challenge regarding the authority of John the Baptist, in verse 9-19 he turns to the people and shares a parable that is intended to be heard by those leaders.

In this parable there is a vineyard that is owned by a certain man.  Jesus is clearly using Isaiah 5:1-7 as a background to this parable.  In that passage God tells Isaiah that Israel is like a vineyard that God planted to grow good grapes.  Yet, it kept producing wild grapes.  Thus the vineyard is not so much Israel as a national entity, but rather, the kingdom of God’s people who had been drawn together under His leading.  God’s purpose in drawing the children of Jacob into this kingdom was to bring forth good fruit.

In the story the vineyard is put in the charge of certain vinedressers, we will get to them in a bit.  At harvest time the owner would send servants to check on the fruitfulness of the vineyard and to bring back a sample of the fruit.  But these servants were beat and turned away by the vinedressers.  So who are these servants?  The servants are the prophets that God periodically sent to Israel to both check on the fruit and to instruct them on how to be more fruitful.  In 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 it is recorded, “And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place.  But they mocked the messengers of god, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy.”  This testimony of how Israel rejected the prophets when they spoke is sad.  Notice that God uses the phrase, “rising up early,” of Himself.  It means that He was faithful and diligent to do a good job of trying to help them be fruitful.  This phrase is used by Jeremiah (the prophet that prophesied during the destruction of Jerusalem) 7 different times.  Although this parable only mentions the servants being beaten, we know from the Old Testament that many of them were put to death as well.

Finally the owner, God, reaches an impasse.  “What shall I do?”  We see here the perplexity and difficulty that God has with trying to help mankind.  No matter how faithful and diligent He is, we tend to reject Him and go after others.  So the owner determines to send his beloved son.  Surely they will respect the owner’s son.  Of course the Beloved Son is none other than Jesus.  Here we see that Jesus the Messiah is much more than another prophet (i.e. servant of God).  He is prophet, priest, and king.  He is the one ruler from whom all proper authority finds its authenticity.  Clearly the parable shows that this is a last resort option of the owner, God.

Now let’s deal with the vinedressers.  They are the leaders of Israel who have been given authority over the vineyard, but for the purpose of growing good grapes.  Yet, they have abused their authority.  Instead of pruning, irrigating, and fertilizing the vineyard, they had used it for their own purposes and for their own promotion.  So in the parable the vinedressers do not respect the owner’s son.  Instead they conspire to kill him in order to keep the vineyard for themselves.  Regardless of how they thought they would get away with it, this clearly demonstrates that Jesus knew they would kill him.  They rejected his authority and even more would seek to remove him.  In John 7:7 Jesus says to his brothers, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil.”  Though the religious leaders would justify their rejection of Jesus through pious and noble justifications, Jesus makes it clear the real reason they were rejecting him.  He exposed their wickedness.

Though the vinedressers have had their way with the servants of the owners and now with His Beloved Son, they will not get away with it.  What will God do?  God will judge Israel’s leaders and put the vineyard in the hands of others.  His purpose is not just to create a people, but to create a people who bear good fruit.  The religious leaders were content to just be a people.  But they didn’t fear God enough to recognize that it wasn’t good enough to just bear His Name.  They had to produce righteousness that was worthy of the character of God.  Yes, Israel as a nation is going to be destroyed, and in so doing, the political and religious leaders of Israel will lose their place in the vineyard.  Yet, there is still some good clusters of grapes (the faithful remnant).  The faithful believers who attached themselves to Jesus and who will produce good fruit, are plucked up and sent into the nations as a new group called the Church.  They are put under new vinedressers:  Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors and Teachers.  Let me just pause to give warning to those of this age who are in positions of religious authority.  You have a duty before the owner of these people to exercise your authority in such a way as to increase the fruit of righteousness.  Just as God judged the religious leaders in Israel, so He will judge those who abuse their authority in His Church.  Do not be deceived, God will not be mocked for long until His judgment comes to bear on wicked leaders.

The Judgment Of The Priests And Elders

In Matthew’s account of this interaction (Mt. 21:43) it is clear that Jesus makes the parable very explicit.  He flat out states, “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.”  Of course the religious leaders do not like this and respond with great incredulity and raging anger.  This categorical rejection of the idea that God would remove them from leadership and put others in charge shows that they are not interested in the proofs of the authority of Jesus.  They cannot even conceive of the idea that God would judge them.  In a sense they see this as blasphemy.  Be careful that you do not confuse statements against your actions as the same as statements against God.  In so doing you can blind yourself to the merciful attempts of God to turn you away from a wicked path.  Even today the idea that God might hold pastors and leaders of the Church accountable through judgment and removal is unthinkable to many.  In many places throughout the Church in the USA we are producing wild grapes and slapping a “God approves” sticker on it.  But this is folly. 

Jesus reminds the leaders of Psalm 118.  Now this is the same Psalm from which the people were quoting when they cried, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosannna!”  It is a messianic Psalm that is very interesting to read.  The same Psalm that blesses the coming of the messiah states, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”  Jesus asks them what could it mean, but that the leaders would actually reject the very messiah that God was making the central stone in His work.  The Psalm also warns those who would stand against God’s plans.  They will be destroyed if they insist on standing against Him.  We can often be very blind to things in God’s Word because we can’t conceive of their possibility.  How we ought to humble ourselves and have enough respect of God to recognize that we have a place in His kingdom only by His grace.  If we eat up His grace and use it to produce sour grapes, will this be acceptable?  Of course, not.  God forgive us of using grace as a license for immorality and a license for using the Church for our own purposes.  The messiah was and still is today a stone that is rejected not just by the world, but also by many within the Church itself.

Jesus says that this rock will trip people up and grind others to powder.  This alludes to Isaiah chapter 8.  There we are told that the cornerstone of God (Jesus the messiah) would be a rock of offense.  The rock is first and foremost a stone of stumbling.  It is intended to cause those who are oblivious to their sin and looming judgment to trip over it.  Though they may injure themselves in the fall, they can at least now have their eyes opened and repent.  They can come to trust the ways of Jesus and not their own.  However, those who reject even this mercy will be ground into powder in a final judgment of God.  We see this in Daniel chapter 2 where the image that represents the kingdoms of this world is struck by the rock of God.  It grinds the kingdoms of this world to powder and fills the whole earth.  Let us recognize that God loves us too much to let us blindly walk in wickedness.  He is faithful to trip us up and try to get our attention.  But eventually judgment will fall on those who reject His attempts to get us to turn from our wicked ways and turn towards the truth of His Beloved Son.

There was no repentance in the souls of the religious leaders of that day.  Yes, there were a few like Nicodemus.  But, most of them hated what Jesus was, a blinding light exposing their wickedness.  They will go on to fulfill the words of the parable even while rejecting the truth of it.  The book of Revelation mentions 4 times that the people did not repent in the face of the increasing outpouring of God’s wrath.  God’s judgment always comes in birth pangs.  They are increasing in pain and closer together.  This is to give us fair warning and plenty of time to change.  Do you not see the birth pangs all around us today?  God has been faithful to send his servants and yet our nation has beat them and sent them away.  God has been faithful to give us warnings militarily, economically, and even in our weather.  But we still refuse to repent as a nation.  Friend, please recognize that this world has a sin problem.  Even when the truth is staring us in the face, we not only refuse to see it, but we also try to kill it out of anger and hatred.  The only way to save yourself from the coming judgment is to flee in faith to Jesus Christ.  Give your life to trusting Him and learning from Him how to please God.

stone rejected audio

Tuesday
Jul282015

Parable of the Minas

Luke 19:11-27.  This sermon was preached on July 26, 2015 by Pastor Marty Bonner.

The parable that Jesus gives us today is a picture of the whole church age from the leaving of Christ to his coming back again.  As we analyze this parable we will gain a big-picture view regarding what God has been doing over the last two millenniums, and what is happening in the now.  In fact we see that both unbelievers and those who call themselves Christians have a choice to make every day.  Am I going to trust Jesus as my King or not? Regardless of our decision, it will be the key to our fate when Christ returns.  This world and the United States of America will not continue on as they are.  Father God has declared Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords.  This will not be overruled.  The sooner we deal with that the better it will be with us.

Jesus Had To Leave To Receive His Kingship

In verse 11 we are given the reason for this parable.  Jesus was approaching Jerusalem and the people thought Jesus would institute the Kingdom of God on the spot.  Clearly Jesus wants to dissuade their expectations and prepare them for what was really going to happen: crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.  In fact this is a recurring dynamic that we saw back in Luke 18:31-33.  No matter what things looked like on the surface, Jesus was headed into a situation where he would be rejected and killed.

Now this parable is very similar with the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.  Though some details are different, the spiritual points being made are the same.  Jesus would not receive his kingship from the people of Israel or even the people of this world.  He is not appealing to people to vote him in as king.  That might be a bit of a shocker to those of us who are used to living in a republic.  But, rather, God the Father is his source of authority to be king of the earth.  This will not be given to any man, either now or in the future, but Jesus.

In this parable Jesus pictures himself as a nobleman with the promise to become king, but with some things to do in order to secure it.  The distant country his is traveling to is heaven.  In Matthew 25 we are told that the return is not till after a long time has passed.

Thus the world experiences a period of time when there is rightful king is not present, but his servants are. These servants are tasked with taking care of his affairs. Though it has been 2,000 years and some would scoff at the idea of Jesus returning to earth, this is the testimony of the one who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  He told us in advance of the Resurrection so that we could understand and believe what was going on now. 

Jesus has received His kingship and that kingship is over the whole earth, not just Israel.  In Psalm 2 we are given a glimpse into this global decree of God the Father.  “Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.”  This would be a good description of the world today.  In fact, we are actually seeing many countries, who appeared to want Jesus to be king, changing their minds (AKA USA and Europe).

Before the nobleman (Jesus) leaves, he divvies out money to 10 servants, at one mina apiece.  Now a mina is about 3 months wages.  So what do these minas represent?  Jesus clearly gave the gifts of Truth, Wisdom, and Spiritual Gifts to the church as he left.  On another level we who become Christ’s servants by faith in his absence also receive gifts of him.  Now we have natural gifts such as: money, position, power, and we have spiritual gifts.  So what am I doing with these things?  Am I serving the business of my Lord Jesus, or am I using it for my own benefit?  In Matthew 25 differing amounts are given to the servants according to their ability.  But in this parable it is an equal amount.  Why this difference? Some gifts of the Lord are given in differing amounts, and others are given equally to all.  Think of it this way.  All believers receive the same Gospel and same Holy Spirit enabling them.  And yet, other things are not equal.  Not all have the same amount of money, influence, and abilities.  The question is not how much I have received, but what am I doing with it?  If you feel like God has not given you very much and you are envious of other servants who have great amounts, be careful.  God has not slighted you and if you are faithful you will be blessed.  Thus the mina really represents our life and the opportunity it gives us to serve Jesus.  No matter how long it is, we all have only one life with which to serve him.  So let’s make it matter!

“Do business till I come” implies that we should be doing the business he wants done versus the business we want done.  Thus verse 10 is critical.  Jesus has come to seek and save the lost.  That is his business.  We are to use all the gifts that come to us in life to add people to the house or Church of Christ, or better bring them into relationship with him.  Now notice that Jesus does not leave task masters behind to whip us and make us work.  He only leaves us with the means to do the work and the knowledge that he will return. 

Lastly, the citizens in this parable are the lost who do not want Christ to be their king.  Matthew 25 does not have this aspect.  But it can initially be seen as Israel’s rejection of Christ as king.  The country men of Jesus would not have him as king.  It is interesting that such a situation happened when Herod the Great was to become king.  He had to go to Rome in order to secure the kingship.  When the Jews found out about it, they sent a group to Caesar to protest.  Of course he was a wicked man and worth resisting.  But Jesus is the righteous one they said they were awaiting.  Yet, it goes beyond Israel.  To this day many individuals and nations have rejected Jesus as King.  They make it abundantly clear to God the Father that they do not like his decree.  Thus Psalm 2 becomes very descriptive of the world back then and today.  Even America is in the middle of changing its mind on who it will serve.  Initially we threw ourselves at the mercy of God.  “Our cause is just, save us.  We have no king but King Jesus!”  These are the kinds of things we said.  God was merciful and we were able to prevail against the British Empire.  But now we will not have Jesus as King of this nation. And, this is being made abundantly clear to God in heaven.  How we ought to warn people of the coming judgments upon those who refuse to trust God’s ways.  Regardless of our objections, Jesus will return and he will be king.

When He Returns He Will Begin His Rule On Earth

The day or hour of the return of Jesus is not known by anyone, but the Father.  Thus Jesus is pictured preparing a place for his servants and waiting the command of the Father to go back.  In verses 15-26 we see this return.

The first thing he does is settle accounts with his servants.  Part of his kingship is to settle accounts with his servants who served him while he was gone.  It is possible to see a hint towards the rapture in the phrase, “he then commanded these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him” in verse 15.  The judgment seat of Christ is described in 1 Corinthians 3.  This is where each Christian’s work will become clear, whether it was valuable for Christ or not.  Even some who work will find that their work is not up to par.  But they will still be saved.  This shouldn’t be confused with the Great White Throne Judgment that happens after the millennial reign of Jesus.  It is a judgment of believers only and they are not being judged for salvation, but for rewards.  This parable adds another possibility (which we do not see in 1 Corinthians 3) that some will not work at all, but justify their lack of concern for Christ’s things.  This surface profession has no desire to work for his kingdom beneath it.  Only 3 of the 10 workers are revealed.  One turned a mina into 10, another turned a mina into 5 and the last did nothing with it. Those who are faithful will receive a reward that involves their activity in the future kingdom.  Even though there is varying levels of success, those who work all receive reward.

Yet we see a different situation with the servant who does not work. These servants have obviously done something, but they have done nothing in regards to the Lord’s business.  They are content to live life for themselves and give lip service to their connection to Jesus and take hold of his gifts.  In the end they only surrender back to the Lord what he gave them in the first place (their life), but no goods and no increase.  This is a description of all who live for themselves.  They use God’s gifts for their own benefit and eventually surrender them one by one until in death they surrender it all, only to be found wanting.  They were only servants in name.  They never really put their faith in Jesus as their kings, or in the reality of his coming back.  It is sad to see the self-justification of this individual.  It is made by blaming his actions on the Lord himself.  “You are harsh, rough, and rigid,” (see vs. 21).  Also he complains that the servants do the work, but Jesus reaps the benefits and then holds us accountable.  Matthew adds a motivation of fear.  He is afraid that if he doesn’t have at least what he was given that he will be judged.  The hypocrisy of the answer is that they then should have done a bare minimum so that there was at least an increase.  Thus to them who accuse God of being harsh and use it as an excuse, God will show himself harsh.  But to those who recognize the grace of God and use it to motivate themselves, God will show that He is gracious.  Jesus is a good king.  Why would we fear if we are doing our best to work for him?  This makes the harsh things being said about Jesus and God in the modern age dangerous.  We have much to answer for.  In Luke this servant just loses his mina.  But in Matthew 25 the unprofitable servant is cast into utter darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Thus some who claim to be believers will find themselves losing what was given to them and kicked out of the kingdom.

The last thing the king does is to deal with the citizens who reject him as king.  These citizens are executed.  Let us never fool ourselves.  In this life there is a heaven to gain and a hell to avoid.  God will bless those who in righteousness serve him and he will punish those who in wickedness rejected His attempts to give them Truth.  God is leading this world into the greatest era of peace it has ever known.  But mankind will not have it.  It fights against His purposes and refuses to cooperate.  Thus a date of judgment has been set.  Until that day comes our judgment is not set in stone.  We can affect it to the good or the bad.  Make sure you become a servant of Jesus today and ensure your place in his kingdom.

Parable Minas audio

Tuesday
Feb242015

The Narrow Way

Today we will be looking at Luke 13:22-30.

In this passage a man in the crowd asks Jesus a question, “Are those being saved few?”  It is not clear if this was a subject of debate for that day, or whether the teachings of Jesus have stirred this question within him.  Regardless, the answer that Jesus gives is to the crowd.  Thus he uses the man’s question to launch into important teaching for all. 

However, Jesus does answer his question.  We ask questions typically for the sake of satisfying curiosity.  But Jesus always points us back to ourselves.   He teaches us to ensure we are right with God rather than speculate on others.  Jesus gives a short parable to answer the question; a parable about a narrow gate.

Strive To Enter The Narrow Gate

His answer begins in verse 24 with the instruction to strive to enter the “narrow gate.”  Clearly being used as a metaphor, we must ask to what the narrow gate corresponds.  In the passage he goes on to talk about the Master’s house, being shut out of it, and the Kingdom of God.  Thus the narrow gate is access to the Master’s house and the Kingdom of God.  God restricts access to the Kingdom and only those who satisfy His requirements are able to get through. 

This narrow gate shows up in the teaching of Jesus elsewhere.  In Matthew 7:12-14 the narrow gate leads to life and is contrasted with a wide gate that leads to destruction.  In that passage many go through the wide gate, but few go through the narrow gate.  Thus being a part of the Kingdom is equated with receiving life and not being a part of the Kingdom is equated with being destroyed.

In John 10 Jesus refers to himself as the door (or gate) that leads into the sheep pen.  The picture here is clearly being a part of the “flock of God” (i.e. God’s people).  Later on in chapter 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  With all of these verses we can see that the narrow gate is Jesus himself.  Jesus becomes the point of access to the Father, being a part of his people, being a part of His Kingdom, and having life.

It is the narrow nature of the gate through which few are able to enter that answers the man’s question.  Yes, in some ways few are being saved.  Many will attempt to enter, but in the end they will go through the wide gate instead.  Why?  Clearly it is easier to go through the wide gate.  The restrictive nature of the narrow gate is a tight fit.  They will, no doubt, have to leave some things behind in order to get through it.  Yet, too many will not pay such a price.  Instead they cling to the things of this world and find a wider gate.  This brings up an important point.  Few are being saved because of the difficulty, not because of a quota nor because the gate is hard to find.

In the midst of this we can see why Jesus doesn’t give a simple answer to the man.  In some times and in some places many people can be saved.  On the Day of Pentecost after Peter’s sermon 3,000 people came to know the Lord.  Yet, at other times precious few repent and believe.  The question is not are only a few being saved.  The real question is, “Am I pressing through the narrow gate?”  The more people who ask that question the more likely we will see many people coming to the Lord.  Even then, historically it is clear that the majority of the world will continue to go through the wide gate.  Ultimately a large number of believers will be brought together before the throne of God, but they got there by choosing to be a part of that small remnant that follow Jesus in spirit and in truth.

Thus seeking for God is not enough to surmount the obstacles you will incur.  Those who seek will find because God wants to be found.  Yet, then the challenge to enter through Jesus presents itself.  The call to pick up our cross and follow Jesus presents itself.  In Acts 17:30 we are told that, “truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.”  Also, in Acts 4:12 it says, “nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  Up to Jesus God had overlooked the sins of the nations.  But, now that His solution, His messiah, has shown up it is a new day.  He requires all men everywhere to repent of sin and believe on Jesus.  This is presented in the metaphor as going through a narrow gate.  Thus if you feel that this idea is to simplistic and too narrow-minded, you might pause at this point and recognize that even God says it is narrow.  Only those who will humble themselves and put their faith in Jesus can continue on into Life and this will require striving.  This word in the context of enemies would be translated as “fight.”  Thus we must recognize that I will run into resistance to going through the narrow gate.  This resistance will come from within me (flesh) and from my own past choices.  There will also be resistance from people around me, family, friends, and enemies.  A spiritual enemy also fights against us going through the narrow gate.  Through temptations and difficulties (trials) he seeks to discourage us and seduce us back to the wide gate that doesn’t require so much effort.

Enter Before The Gate Is Shut

In verse 25 the parable shifts.  Now the gate has become a door to God’s house.  In fact this could be included with the previous inability to enter.  Once the door is shut no one will be able to enter.  Much like the door of the ark shutting, the judgment rain began to fall, but it was too late to get into the ark. God had shut the door.  We can wait too long to put our faith in Jesus.  We live in an Age of Grace, in which the door to God’s Kingdom is available to all.  Yes, you must strive and it won’t be easy.  But any one (whosoever) can go through the narrow gate if they want it more than this world.  In 2 Corinthians 6:2 we are told, “Now is the day of salvation.”  Like a spouse who doesn’t try to shape up until divorce papers are filed, we can be guilty of too little too late.  When Christ comes at his second coming, it will be too late to make things right.  The die has been cast and the time to pay the piper will be here.  Yet, this shutting of the door also has a personal application.  It is possible that we can cross a line of taking God’s grace for granted for too long.  We may ruin our own hearts ability to respond to the grace of God.  Ultimately we may do so right up to the day of our death.  Once we die, it will be too late to try to make amends with God.  Now is the day of salvation.  Then will be the day of judgment.  Either way, this time of grace is coming to an end.  We need to be pressing in now and encouraging others to do so rather than traveling the wide and easy path.

On that day that the door is shut no amount of pleading and crying will help us.  They will all be rejected.  In the parable the master tells those pleading to be let in that he doesn’t know them (vs.27).  Here the word is one of recognition.  “You do not look like mine.”  Also, he calls them workers of iniquity.  They may have heard his teachings and even attended his “churches.”  However, in the end they lived a life of working (doing) sin rather than pressing through the gate of Jesus.  Jesus truly is a litmus test of whether we love God or love our sin.  Not in the sense of an instantaneous test, but over the course of our life, Jesus forces us to choose.  Or, better yet, to follow Jesus forces us to choose.  Such people will weep and gnash their teeth as they watch others entering into the Kingdom and yet, they see themselves being shut out.

Not All Is As It Seems

Verse 30 ends this section with a warning.  We become so used to trusting our senses that we can forget that God deals with truth not imagery.  God makes decisions based upon the Truth of the matter, not upon what a person looked like.  Thus not everything is as it seems and not everyone is as they seem.  There are some who are great in the Church in this world.  They have high positions of authority, or people think highly of them.  The first of this life will not necessarily be first in the Age to come.  In fact many great people will not make it into the Kingdom of God.  They will be shut out.  And some of those who do make it in will be the least in the Kingdom.   The opposite is also true.  Many who are nothing in this life will be the greats of that Kingdom.  Those who appear to greatly serve God and have a high place within the Church today may end up in the same place as the High Priest of Israel in the days of Jesus; shut out.  We must be careful of not letting such praise of our fellow man mislead us in any way.  We must also make sure that we do not let such great people mislead us from the narrow way, simply because we think they are close to God.  Jesus is the gate.  It is the revelation that He gave us through His Apostles that we are to believe upon and follow.  There is much deception, both intentionally and unintentionally, happening under the umbrella of the Church.

Yet, these things are not categorical.  What I mean is that it is not an automatic thing, that the greatest will be the least and vice versa.  Rather it is a warning to us about the reality of being judged by a holy God who is not affected by sinful desires.  It is not ours to worry about future greatness, but to ensure that we are striving to enter.  No, salvation is not up to our works, but salvation will be met with resistance from our flesh, the world, and the devil.  We are going to have to want Jesus more than this world.  Without such a battle, there will be no place in God’s kingdom.  Thus we must take hold of the Faith that has been once and for all delivered unto those who believe God.  We must also stand fast in the Grace of Christ as we follow His teachings and grow to become more and more like him every day.  May God help us to press through the narrow gate and enter His Kingdom and the place that He has for us.

NarrowWay Audio

Tuesday
Feb172015

What is the Kingdom of Heaven Like?

Today we will be looking at Luke 13:18-21.

In this passage we have two parables that explain what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like.  They are very small parables and so only give a small view of the Kingdom.  However, in Matthew 13 we have these same parables along with 5 others.

Now it is important to understand what Jesus is referring to when he uses this phrase, “Kingdom of Heaven.”  Jesus is speaking about the Church Age that was about to begin.  The faithful remnant of Israel had been awaiting the day when the Messiah would come and rule over Israel and the whole earth in righteousness and truth.  God had promised to bring the rule of God that exists in Heaven to the earth.  Of course they did not understand that this Kingdom would have two stages.  The first stage is a time when Christ would only interact with His people spiritually.  He would not judge the nations and rule over them literally.  However, He would rule over a remnant of every nation, tribe and tongue as the Gospel was received by people everywhere.  The second stage will be when Jesus comes back literally (visibly, physically) to the earth.  He will judge the wicked rulers and armies of the nations and establish a visible administration upon the earth.  Now that Jesus was here and they believed Him to be the Messiah, the questions on their mind had to do with when he would do this.  Yet, Jesus knows that they don’t completely understand what is coming.  Thus his descriptions of the coming Kingdom of Heaven are not exactly what they were expecting.  Let’s get into the passage.

It Is Like A Mustard Seed

The Gospel and the Word of God are often referred to as a seed.  This makes sense because they are information and have the power to cause spiritual life and growth.  Yet, in this passage it is clear that the seed is a reference to the visible size of the Church or Kingdom of Heaven.  When it is planted it will look small and unremarkable.  Yes, Christ initially had a huge following of people who listened to him.  However, the closer he came to the cross less and less people followed him.  On the Day of Pentecost there are only 120 believers assembled together.  This small seed may not look like much but it had a destiny that was given by God.

This very small seed would grow into a remarkable tree.  In fact on the Day of Pentecost we see the remarkable growth that the Kingdom would experience- 3,000 people were saved on that day i.e. 25,000% growth.  This small group would grow into a large community that would spread throughout the whole earth, which is much greater than any would have thought.  If you look at the statistics of the Church today we see large numbers that claim to believe in Jesus in every corner of the globe.

The parable also points out that the tree will be a place of rest and shelter.  Especially in the Middle East, a tree is a source of shade from the intense heat.  Both people and animals can use trees for resting but also for protection from predators.  It is important to recognize that the Old Testament uses the image of a tree to speak of the empires of Assyria and Babylon.  In fact in Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream where he and his kingdom are described as a large tree covering the whole earth.  He is told that the tree will be cut down and its branches stripped off.  This is interesting because whether we want to admit it or not the Church has become like a great empire throughout the earth.  The nations have long recognized this truth and the institutional power that is wielded by the Church.  We can see this in the fact that the Vatican has over 110 embassies throughout the world and 80 nations have embassies to Vatican City.  It is here that we begin to sense a sinister turn to the revelation.  Why would Jesus use a metaphor that was used of wicked empires in the past?  We could say that the Church would be different and not be wicked.  Yet, history teaches us that the institutional aspect of the Church has not been good at following Jesus. 

We also must notice the reference to the birds resting in the branches.  Yes, it can be a simple reference to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the air (common folk and those who rule over them and are of higher station).  Yet, Jesus had used the image of the birds in the Parable of the Sower.  Here the birds of the air are the evil spirits of the Devil who are working to eat the seed of the Gospel out of people’s lives.  Also, in Revelation 18 verse 2 we see a statement during the judgment of Mystery Babylon, who is a promoter of false doctrine and false worship in league with the Last Days empire of the Antichrist.  “And he cried mightily with a loud voice saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!”  Notice the clear connection between the literal “demons” and the metaphorical “hated bird.”  Now I admit that based upon this parable alone one might hesitate to say that the birds of Luke 13:19 are intended to be pointing to demons.  In fact, I tend to see a double meaning here.  Yes, the Church would become a good thing that would give rest and shelter to the weary and righteous.  However, all earthly institutions have a kind of institutional creep in which at best it loses focus on its true purpose and at worst is taken over by those who are opposed to the purpose.  On top of this we have the prophetic announcements that there will be a great apostasy in the last days leading up to the rise of Antichrist.  Typically apostasy has not simply left a church.  Rather, apostasy always tries to take over the group and only leaves if made to.  We can also recognize that in Matthew 13, four of the seven parables have unquestionable sinister elements.  Thus the Church would be a good thing.  But the visible institution would eventually evidence evil spirits roosting throughout it.  With that said, let’s move to the next parable.

It Is Like Yeast

Leaven or yeast is used in cooking for causing bread to rise.  Thus in the culinary field it is a good thing.  Yet, in the Bible yeast is used symbolically as a picture of sin.  Sin operates by the similar principle of puffing up a person or group with pockets of empty vain things.  Sin also may start small but it will affect the entire loaf if it is not removed.  This is why Israel was to eat unleavened bread during the feast after Passover.  Those who were saved by Christ were to follow Him in His righteousness.  Thus Jesus is clearly saying that the Church as a visible institution would be stained with sinful people who would begin to affect the whole.  Yes, we could try to make this speak well by saying it represents the ability of the Church to work throughout and affect the whole world for good.  But the sinister things keep stacking up.

It is like yeast that a woman has hidden…  As if the image of yeast wasn’t bad enough.  Why is the woman hiding the yeast in the grain?  Clearly it is not supposed to be in the grain and she is doing what she shouldn’t.  Here intentions are not good.  At this point it is god for us to remember that in Luke 12 Jesus had warned his disciples to watch out for the “leaven” of the Pharisees.  The leaven referred to the corrupting influence of their false teaching.  This woman has sowed false teaching among the grain (the Lord’s harvest) and, like the Jezebel of Revelation 2:20, she will affect all who allow her and her influence to stay.

Next we notice that she is hiding the leaven in “3 measures of grain.”  As I said, the Grain represents the visible Church that is the harvest of the earth to the Lord.  Yet, the amount referenced would stick out to the original hearers as the amount that was used for the Grain Offering at the temple.  It was also used when Abraham fed the Lord and the angels before Sodom was destroyed.  Thus the worship and fellowship of the Church, both among itself and with its Lord, is affected by the work of this woman who promotes false doctrine.

Christ warns that the false teaching will affect the whole thing.  Paul warns against this in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, “Your glorying is not good.  Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?  Therefore, purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened.  For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”  Paul was telling the Corinthians to remove the “leavened lump.”  This is first of all false doctrine and second of all anyone who will not cease promoting it.  The early Church had to fight in order to keep the Gospel free from the leavening influence of sinful teaching.  Over time, however, some leadership quit resisting false teaching and eventually began embracing it.  As false teaching took over an institution, true Christians would have to separate in order to spare themselves from the corrupting influence.  Some point to the multitude of denominations today as a condemnation of the Church because it does not love.  Although there is a sliver of truth in this, we are told to separate from those who call themselves Christians but promote false teaching and ungodly lifestyles.  Thus the multitude of denominations is proof that no institution is safe from the corrupting influence of this woman and her yeast.  In all of this, only the institutions and those who cling to them are corrupted.  The true Church of God always follows Jesus through the difficult path of the wilderness.  He always leads us forward in victory, if we will follow and listen to him alone.

Final Thoughts:

It is important today for Churches to stand with Christ uncompromisingly.  That does not mean we should lack love and service for the lost.  However, the Gospel has always been a call to the hurting of this world to save themselves from this wicked and corrupt world that is under the judgment of God.  It is a call to shelter from the storm.  We have to be about our Father’s business of calling all who will to enter into the shelter that Jesus provides.  He is our covering and shelter from the coming Judgment.  Pointing people to Jesus and following him is primary.  False doctrines have a way of making something other than Jesus primary.

We also need to keep up the work of the Lord in the midst of growing resistance and apostasy within the Church.  Stand for the Faith that has been delivered, once and for all, to the saints.  If you are in a church that will not put up with such warnings, but instead embraces the false doctrines of today, then find a group of believers that will stand for Truth.  They do exist.  Don’t listen to the Devil’s lie that you are the only one.

Lastly, we must do so until the Judgment day arrives.  Even when all the world is falling apart around us, our job is to simply remain faithful at the work the Lord has given us to do.  Work now while it is day, for the night comes when no man can work.  Don’t let the corruption that happens in the world and in the Church weaken your resolve to live for Jesus.

Kingdom of Heaven audio