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The Seven Prophetic Parables from Matthew 13

In the seven parables in Matthew 13 we find the most complete description in the entire Bible of what the body of Christ will look like in the church age we presently live in and how she will continue until the end of the age! In Matthew 13 we read about, by way of seven parables, the present spiritual reign of Christ while He is absent from the earth.

In Matthew 13 we find both hints of success and failure! Jesus Himself explains in the Parable of the Sower that the reception of the Gospel would only be a weak “one in four” – those sown beside the road, on the rocky places and amongst thorns did not bear any fruit! We also find, “while men are sleeping”, satanically sown imitation tares growing amongst the “good seed” planted by Jesus – “An enemy has done this!” But then we find a passionate and joyful merchant who sells all he has to buy the field where the treasure is hidden.

Let’s Back up a Moment…

The Old Testament prophets saw only the 1st and 2nd coming of Jesus the Messiah. They did not see the “church age” we presently live in, from Pentecost to the “Glorious Appearing”. With clear voice they prophesied of a “virgin with child”, who would be “born in Bethlehem”. He would be called Emmanuel – “God is with us”. This long awaited One would be “pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities” (Isa 53)

Surprisingly then, they jumped ahead to the Messiah’s Second Coming, as if the time in between was of little to no importance. They saw “His Day of Vengeance”, His robe “splattered with blood”, His winnowing fork in His hand to “separate the wheat from the chaff”. After His return to earth they describe the “Millennial Kingdom”, with the King ruling the nations from Jerusalem with a rod of iron. (Ps 2, Daniel 2, Rev 19, Zech 14) The wolf will lie down with the lamb and the infant will play near the hole of the cobra. (Isa 11) The person who does not reach the age of one hundred will be thought accursed. (Isa 65)

All these are signs of Millennial blessing! But the prophets did not see the church age! They give us no clues to the condition of the church between the 1st and 2nd Comings of the Messiah. Only in the NT do we find the portrayal of the church in this period. These descriptions are mostly found in the epistles and in the Matthew parables of Jesus. For a mature bride, we must grow up in our understanding of Matthew 13. We need to handle accurately the messages of these parables and discern the genuine, “Jesus inspired” view of His church.

”I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.”

To me the starting point in dealing with this chapter is verses 34-35:

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.”

Jesus, in describing the church age from His departure to His Second Coming, tells the people that they are hearing things hidden since the foundation of the world. That means that they could not look back into the Old Testament to find descriptions of the church age and her condition until the harvest at the end of the age. If we keep this in mind we cannot use the millennial texts to cover “this present age”.

I have tried to get at this before but we are not to see this present age as one in which the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa 11) That is a Millennial text as surely as Zech. 14:9:

“And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.”

”In that day” from this verse is so insignificant that it is easily overlooked but it is the KEY to understanding much of the Old Testament prophecies. It is announcing the day of the Lord, “the actual DAY” of His return to earth. Until then we are not to expect universal success or triumph of the Gospel but rather a gospel “witness” or testimony to spread over the entire globe!

Jesus told us that BOTH wheat and tares would grow up together until the harvest at the end of this age. He said that the kingdom of heaven would be like a net that takes in BOTH good fish and bad fish until it is full and then the fish are separated – at the end of the age!

He also said that the kingdom of heaven was like a mustard seed that would grow inordinately (abnormally) so that it would become a tree! Most of us have been taught that this means the universal success of the gospel as it travels into all the earth. From a small, insignificant beginning to world wide success and triumph. YET was not Jesus also just telling us that the kingdom of heaven would be a mixture of wheat and tares, good fish and bad until the end?

The reality is that Jesus was not predicting a spiritual success story but a breakdown of the church to remain in its “mustard seed form” and grew into a bizarre concoction of a great tree, in whose very branches nest the “birds of the air”. These same birds, it is so important to see, had already been explained BY JESUS in the Parable of the Sower as the “evil one”! I know it is difficult to renew your mind about this in one article but I offer this anyway!

In real life a mustard seed is an annual. It dies every year. It does not become a great tree. This is then either an incredible success story or hints at not just growth but growth with attending corruption! I believe the context of all the seven parables in this chapter render the second option the more accurate.

Just what is leaven?

We might just as well go on to the famous Parable of the Leaven. Short and sweet:

“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”

Here again we are brought to either an incredible success story or growth with attending corruption! In this parable leaven is the focus. This makes it difficult to go with the incredible success story because every other time in the Bible leaven is tied to corruption!

Jesus told His disciples to “watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees…” Then they understood that he was not telling them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Mtt 16)

Luke 12:1 expresses the same thing: “Be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

The apostle Paul had the same usage of leaven: “Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor. 5:8)

Please notice that the leaven is “hidden in the flour” by the woman, not unlike the tares (a type of corruption) that satan sowed amongst the wheat while men slept. This “hidden” evil, once introduced, would be dealt with by Christ’s angels at the end of the age. It is extremely hard to make leaven in this one instance something as a metaphor for good. I believe it cannot be done. Again, the context of all the seven parables in this chapter renders this the more credible response.

Leaven is corruption in and of itself. It is called “sourdough” in Martin Luther’s German translation and, as such, renders the whole batch sour and, if not baked quickly, also corrupt.

The task at this hour is to see clearly the kingdom and to live as those who have insight among the people in the last days.

“Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many.” (Daniel 11:33, 35; 12:3; 10)

In Him,

Jeff Gilbertson

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Gisela
    February 9, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    Beautiful, just beautiful. Dr. M.R. Dehaan made this same crucial point unforgettably, decades ago, in his magnificent little book, “Coming Events in Prophecy”. He quotes someone else to the effect, “The key to the NT is the book of Matthew; the key to the book of Matthew is the middle chapter, chapter 13. The key to that chapter is the middle of seven parables, the parable of the leaven. If one is off on this, he will be off on God’s entire plan for the Church Age.”

    • February 18, 2010 at 6:43 PM

      Excellent quote from Dr Dehaan. Thanks. Jeff

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