Friday, January 3, 2014

The Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven

The glories of Heaven--->
<---150 reasons why I´m a Catholic

The Kingdom of God has been one of the dominant topics of New Testament study in this century.
The reason is obvious. Many scholars, both conservative and critical, regard the kingdom of God as “the central theme” of Jesus’ public proclamation. In fact, is made the case that Jesus’ teaching was profoundly Jewish, drenched in intense eschatological hope.
This new view contended against nineteenth century views, which moralized the kingdom and made it palatable to modern taste by arguing it was merely an expression of ethical sensitivity raised up in the hearts of men. The concept of the universe as a divine kingdom over which God as King rules sovereignly is a familiar theme in the Scriptures (cp. 1 Chron 29:11-12). The Psalmist for instance wrote: “Jehovah hath established his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all” (Ps 103:19)

Within the universal kingdom of God, however, various subdivisions exist. Matthew 12:26 refers to Satan’s kingdom, i.e., the sphere of rule which God has permitted Satan. The Scriptures also recognize earthly kingdoms over which God has allowed evil men to rule (Dan 4:17). It was this sphere of the kingdoms of this world which Satan offered to Christ when was tempted (Matt 4:8).
In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him.
"Incorporeal things are not in place after a manner known and familiar to us, in which way we say that bodies are properly in place; but they are in place after a manner befitting spiritual substances, a manner that cannot be fully manifest to us." [St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Supplement, Q69, a1, reply 1]

WHAT IS HEAVEN EXACTLY?

Heaven is Fullness of Communion with God. Heaven as the fullness of communion with God was the theme of the Holy Father's catechesis at the General Audience of 21 July 1999. Heaven "is neither an abstraction not a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity. It is our meeting with the Father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit," the Pope said.

1° - When the form of this world has passed away, (the moment of our death) those who have welcomed God into their lives and have sincerely opened themselves to his love, at least at the moment of death, will enjoy that fullness of communion with God which is the goal of human life.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "this perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed is called "heaven'. Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfilment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness" (n.1024).

We will try to understand the biblical meaning of "heaven", in order to have a better understanding of the reality to which this expression refers.

2° - In biblical language "heaven"", when it is joined to the "earth", indicates part of the universe. Scripture says about creation: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gn 1:1).

Heaven is the transcendent dwelling-place of the living God.

Metaphorically speaking, heaven is understood as the dwelling-place of God, who is thus distinguished from human beings (cf. Ps 104:2f.; 115:16; Is 66:1).
He sees and judges from the heights of heaven (cf. Ps 113:4-9) and comes down when he is called upon (cf. Ps 18:9, 10; 144:5). However the biblical metaphor makes it clear that God does not identify himself with heaven, nor can he be contained in it (cf. 1 Kgs 8:27); and this is true, even though in some passages of the First Book of the Maccabees "Heaven" is simply one of God's names (1 Mc 3:18, 19, 50, 60; 4:24, 55).

The depiction of heaven as the transcendent dwelling-place of the living God is joined with that of the place to which believers, through grace, can also ascend, as we see in the Old Testament accounts of Enoch (cf. Gn 5:24)
and Elijah (cf. 2 Kgs 2:11). Thus heaven becomes an image of life in God.
In this sense Jesus speaks of a "reward in heaven" (Mt 5:12) and urges people to "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (ibid., 6:20; cf. 19:21).

3° - The New Testament amplifies the idea of heaven in relation to the mystery of Christ. To show that the Redeemer's sacrifice acquires perfect and definitive value, the Letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus "passed through the heavens" (Heb 4:14), and "entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself" (ibid., 9:24).
Since believers are loved in a special way by the Father, they are raised with Christ and made citizens of heaven. It is worthwhile listening to what the Apostle Paul tells us about this in a very powerful text: "God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:4-7).
The fatherhood of God, who is rich in mercy, is experienced by creatures through the love of God's crucified and risen Son, who sits in heaven on the right hand of the Father as Lord.

4° - After the course of our earthly life, participation in complete intimacy with the Father thus comes through our insertion into Christ's paschal mystery. St Paul emphasizes our meeting with Christ in heaven at the end of time with a vivid spatial image: "Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thes 4:17-18).

Sacramental life is the anticipation of heaven.

In the context of Revelation, we know that the "heaven" or "happiness" in which we will find ourselves is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity. It is our meeting with the Father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit.
It is always necessary to maintain a certain restraint in describing these "ultimate realities" since their depiction is always unsatisfactory. Today, personalist language is better suited to describing the state of happiness and peace we will enjoy in our definitive communion with God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up the Church's teaching on this truth: "By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has "opened' heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ" (n. 1026).

5° - This final state, however, can be anticipated in some way today in sacramental life, whose centre is the Eucharist, and in the gift of self through fraternal charity. If we are able to enjoy properly the good things that the Lord showers upon us every day, we will already have begun to experience that joy and peace which one day will be completely ours.
We know that on this earth everything is subject to limits, but the thought of the "ultimate" realities helps us to live better the "penultimate" realities. We know that as we pass through this world we are called to seek "the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God" (Col 3:1), in order to be with him in the eschatological fulfilment, when the Spirit will fully reconcile with the Father "all things, whether on earth or in heaven" (Col 1:20).

THE KINGDOM OF HEAVENS

In this expression the innermost teaching of the Old Testament is summed up, but it should be noted that the word kingdom means ruling as well; thus it signifies not so much the actual kingdom as the sway of the king — cf. Daniel 4:28-29.
The Greek basileia of the New Testament also has these two meanings — cf. Aristotle, "Pol.", II, xi, 10; II, xiv; IV, xiii, 10. We find the theocracy sketched in Exodus 19:6; in the establishment of the kingdom, 1 Samuel 8:7: "They have not rejected thee, but me, that I should not reign over them." Still more clearly is it indicated in the promise of the theocratic kingdom, 2 Samuel 7:14-16.
It is God Who rules in the theocratic king and Who will avenge any neglect on his part. All through the Psalter this same thought is found (cf. Psalm 10:5); it is constantly insisted that God's throne is in heaven and that there is His kingdom; this may explain St. Matthew's preference for the expression "kingdom of heaven", as being more familiar to the Hebrews for whom he wrote.

The Prophets dwell on the thought that God is the Supreme King and that by Him alone all kings rule; cf. Isaiah 37:16-20. And when the temporal monarchy has failed, this same thought of God's ultimate rule over His people is brought into clearer relief till it culminates in the grand prophecy of Daniel 7:13 sq., to which the thoughts of Christ's hearers must have turned when they heard Him speak of His kingdom. In that vision the power of ruling over all the forces of evil as symbolized by the four beasts which are the four kingdoms is given to "one like the son of man".
At the same time we catch a glimpse in the apocryphal Psalms of Solomon of the way in which, side by side with the truth, there grew up among the carnal-minded the idea of a temporal sovereignty of the Messias, an idea, which was (Luke 19:11; Matthew 18:1; Acts 1:6) to exercise so baneful an influence on subsequent generations; cf. especially Ps. Sol., xvii, 23-28, where God is besought to raise up the King, the Son of David, to crush the nations and purify Jerusalem, etc.
In the Greek Book of Wisdom, however, we find the most perfect realization of what was truly implied by this "rule" of God — "She [Wisdom] led the just man through direct paths and shewed him the kingdom of God", i.e. in what that kingdom consisted.

In the New Testament the speedy advent of this kingdom is the one theme: "Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand", said the Baptist, and Christ's opening words to the people do but repeat that message. At every stage in His teaching the advent of this kingdom, its various aspects, its precise meaning, the way in which it is to be attained, form the staple of His discourses, so much so that His discourse is called "the gospel of the kingdom".

And the various shades of meaning which the expression bears have to be studied. In the mouth of Christ the "kingdom" means not so much a goal to be attained or a place — though those meanings are by no means excluded; cf. Matthew 5:3; 11:2, etc. — it is rather a tone of mind (Luke 17:20-21), it stands for an influence which must permeate men's minds if they would be one with Him and attain to His ideals; cf. Luke 9:55.

It is only by realizing these shades of meaning that we can do justice to the parables of the kingdom with their endless variety. At one time the "kingdom" means the sway of grace in men's hearts, e.g. in the parable of the seed growing secretly (Mark 4:26 sq.; cf. Matthew 21:43); and thus, too, it is opposed to and explained by the opposite kingdom of the devil (Matthew 4:8; 12:25-26). At another time it is the goal at which we have to aim, e.g. Matthew 3:3. Again it is a place where God is pictured as reigning (Mark 14:25).

In the second petition of the "Our Father" — "Thy kingdom come" — we are taught to pray as well for grace as for glory. As men grew to understand the Divinity of Christ they grew to see that the kingdom of God was also that of Christ — it was here that the faith of the good thief excelled: "Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom."
So, too, as men realized that this kingdom stood for a certain tone of mind, and saw that this peculiar spirit was enshrined in the Church, they began to speak of the Church as "the kingdom of God"; cf. Colossians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Apocalypse 1:6-9 and 5:10, etc.
The kingdom was regarded as Christ's and He presents it to the Father; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:23-28; 2 Timothy 4:1. The kingdom of God means, then, the ruling of God in our hearts; it means those principles which separate us off from the kingdom of the world and the devil; it means the benign sway of grace; it means the Church as that Divine institution whereby we may make sure of attaining the spirit of Christ and so win that ultimate kingdom of God Where He reigns without end in "the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:2).

THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

The presence and coming of the Kingdom of God was the central message of Jesus. For example, "his teaching was designed to show men how they might enter the Kingdom of God (Matt. 5:20; 7:21). His mighty works were intended to prove that the Kingdom of God had come upon them (Matt. 12: 28). His parables illustrated to His disciples the truth about the Kingdom of God (Matt. 13:11).

And when He taught His followers to pray, at the heart of their petition were the words, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10). On the eve of His death, He assured His disciples that He would yet share with them the happiness and the fellowship of the Kingdom (Luke 22:22-30). And He promised that He would appear again. on the earth in glory to bring the blessedness of the Kingdom to those for whom it was prepared (Matt. 25:31, 34)."

The term "Kingdom of God" occurs four times in Matthew (12:28; 19:24; 21:31; 21:43), fourteen times in Mark, thirty-two times in Luke, twice in the Gospel of John (3:3, 5), six times in Acts, eight times in Paul, and once in Revelation (12:10). Matthew actually prefers the term "Kingdom of heaven" which he uses over 20 times in his gospel.
While Matthew primarily uses the term “kingdom of heaven” and other gospel writers (notably Luke) use the term “kingdom of God,” it is clear that these two expressions mean exactly the same thing (e.g. compare Matt. 5:3 with Luke 6:20). In the past some have tried to maintain a distinction between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God; however, the vast majority of theologians today recognize the terms as synonymous.

THE THIRTEENTH CHAPTER OF MATTHEW IN KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

The thirteenth chapter of Matthew marks a new division in the gospel, in which Jesus addresses Himself to the problem of what will occur when He goes back to heaven as the triumphant King. The gospel of Matthew began with the proofs that Jesus was indeed the promised Son who would reign on the throne of David (chap. 1), supported by the visit of the wise men and the early ministry of John the Baptist (chaps. 2-3).
After His temptation, Jesus presented the principles of His coming kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount (chaps. 5-7), emphasizing spiritual and moral principles that govern the kingdom of God, but especially as these applied to the prophesied kingdom on earth, which the Messiah-King was to bring when He came. The Sermon on the Mount accordingly contained timeless truths always applicable, some truths that were immediately applicable to Christ’s day on earth, and some truths that were to have their fulfillment in the future kingdom.

Following the presentation of the principles of the kingdom, in Matthew 8-10, the miracles which served as the prophesied credentials of the King were itemized. It becomes apparent, however, that increasingly, the Jews were rejecting these evidences that Jesus was indeed their Messiah and prophesied King. Accordingly, in chapter 11, His rejection and the postponement of the kingdom were anticipated. In most severe language, Jesus itemized their sinful rejection with severe indictment upon the cities where His mighty works were done.

Chapter 11 closed with an invitation to individual believers to come unto Him for rest. The further rejection of Jesus is recorded in chapter 12, climaxing in the charge of the Pharisees that He performed His miracles in the power of the devil. Jesus likened the state of His wicked generation to a man possessed of eight evil spirits (12:45).

With this as a background, chapter 13 faces the question,
What will happen when the rejected king goes back to heaven and the kingdom promised is postponed until His second coming?

The concept of a kingdom postponed must be understood as a postponement from the human side and not from the divine, as obviously God’s plans do not change. It may be compared to the situation when the children of Israel, bound for the promised land, because of unbelief, had their entrance postponed for forty years. If they had believed God, they might have entered the land immediately.

Jesus deliberately adopted the parabolic method of teaching at a particular stage in His ministry for the purpose of withholding further truth about Himself and the kingdom of heaven from the crowds, who had proved themselves to be deaf to His claims and irresponsive to His demands… From now onwards, when addressing the unbelieving multitude, He speaks only in parables, which He interprets to His disciples in private.

THE SEVEN PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

In this chapter are presented in the seven parables the mysteries of the kingdom. Only Matthew records seven parables. The parables of the sower and mustard seed are found in Mark 4:1-9, 13-20, 30-32, and in Luke 8:5-15.
The parable of the leaven is found in Luke 13:20-21. The other four parables are only in Matthew. The parables are designed to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom, that is, the present age.
Mysteries, a word used of secret rites of various religious cults, refers to truth that was not revealed in the Old Testament but is revealed in the New Testament. More than a dozen such truths are revealed in the New Testament, all following the basic definition of Colossians 1:26, which defines a mystery as that “which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.”

A mystery truth, accordingly, has two elements. First, it has to be hidden in the Old Testament and not revealed there. Second, it has to be revealed in the New Testament. It is not necessarily a reference to a truth difficult to understand, but rather to truths that can be understood only on the basis of divine revelation.

The Old Testament reveals, in clear terms, the earthly reign of Christ when He comes as King to reign on the throne of David (which truths are not mysteries). Matthew 13 introduces a different form of the kingdom, namely the present spiritual reign of the King during the period He is physically absent from the earth, prior to His second coming.
The mysteries of the kingdom, accordingly, deal with the period between the first and second advent of Christ and not the millennial kingdom which will follow the second coming.

1° - PARABLE OF THE SOWER, Matthew 13:1-23

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.
Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

The scene of this prophetic sermon of Jesus was the Sea of Galilee. Because of the great multitudes thronging the shores, Jesus went into a small boat a short distance from the shore, and by this means, was able to command a view of the entire multitude. While they stood, He sat in the boat in the role of a religious teacher.

The first paragraph does not have the precise formula of the later paragraphs, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto,” but is, rather, an introductory parable, serving as a basis for all that follows. In the parable, a sower went forth to sow, sowing his seed upon four kinds of earth. Although sometimes the ground was prepared by plowing, in other cases, seed would be sown with no preparation whatever, which seems to be the case in this parable.

Some of the seed fell on the wayside (i.e., the hard-beaten path), where there was no receptivity, and fowls came and devoured it. Some seed fell on the second type of soil defined as “stony places” (v. 5). This refers to stony ground with sufficient soil to allow the seed to sprout but with insufficient depth to allow adequate roots. Beginning to grow, the new plants withered in the heat of the sun.
Some seed fell among thorns, that is, soil that was good enough but full of weeds. Here, the competition of the thorns was too much, and the young plants were choked out. The fourth soil receiving the seed was described as “good ground” (v. 8), bringing forth seed up to one hundredfold. In each case, the seed is the same, but the difference is in the receptivity of the soil.

In the conclusion of His presentation of the parable of the sower, Jesus made the challenge, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (v. 9). Later, after Christ had sent the multitude away (v. 36), the disciples came to Him to ask why He spoke unto them in parables. His explanation was that it was proper for them, His disciples, to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to the people who were largely unbelieving, it was not.

Christ declared the principle, “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath” (v. 12). Accordingly, Christ stated that He spoke in parables that the unbelievers might not understand and would thereby fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 6:9-10, that the people would not hear the message. His disciples, however, were to be blessed by this new revelation which was not revealed to the prophets and the righteous men of old but was now being revealed to them (Mt 13:17).
This confirms the previous definition of a mystery as a truth not revealed in the Old Testament but now revealed in the New Testament.

Some have found it difficult to harmonize the concept that truth is revealed in such a way that unbelievers cannot understand it. The point is that there is a long background of unbelief and disregard of previous revelation.
Accordingly, when additional revelation is given to believers, it is couched in terms that only they will understand. In a sense, unbelievers have sinned away their day of opportunity. It is in keeping with the principle that darkness follows and light is rejected.

In Matthew 13:18-23, the parable of the sower is explained. The birds that devoured the seed by the wayside represented satanic influence, which supports the hardness of the heart that rejects the message. The seed on shallow ground pictured superficial reception of the Word, where the Word does not bear fruit. The seed among thorns depicted “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches” which choke the Word and make it unfruitful (v. 22).
The seed on the good ground, which brings forth fruit up to an hundredfold, represented the one who not only hears the Word but understands it and lets it bring forth its fruit abundantly.

As this parable makes plain, there is no anticipating in the present age that there will be universal reception of the truth of Jesus, such as it is teached. Most of those who hear the message of the kingdom will reject it. Some, however, will receive the message, cherish it in their heart, and believe in the truth of the kingdom.
This first parable establishes the basic character of the present age, awaiting the return of the triumphant King. Each age will include some who believe and many, unfortunately, who will not believe.

2° - PARABLE OF THE TARES, Matthew 13:24-30

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

In the second parable, Jesus likewise used the figure of a sower, but this time, dealt with the character of the seed rather than its reception. In this parable, the sower sowed the good seed, described as wheat, and the enemy sowed tares, referring to rye grass, the darnel which often grows up with the wheat. One side effect of the darnel seed is that it is subject to a parasite fungus, which infects seed and is poisonous to both men and animals.

In the parable, when the servants asked whether they should uproot the tares, the instruction was to let both go to the harvest time, because uprooting the tares would also uproot the wheat. Accordingly, Jesus stated, “Let both grow together until the harvest” (v. 30). As some theologists comment, “Magistrates and churches may remove the openly wicked from their society; the outwardly good who are unworldly worthless they must leave; for the judging of hearts is beyond their sphere.”

At the harvest, the tares are gathered first, then the wheat is gathered into the barn. In the interpretation in Matthew 13:36-43, when the disciples later privately asked Jesus concerning the meaning of this parable, He identified the field as the world, the sower as the Son of man who sowed the good seed, the enemy as the devil who sowed the tares. The good seeds represented the children of the kingdom, and the tares the children of the wicked one, that is, the devil.

The reapers were identified as the angels; the time of the harvest was “the end of this world,” or more properly translated, “the consummation of this age.”
The judgment was described as a work of the angels gathering out of the kingdom of the Son of man any that would offend, and casting them into a furnace of fire.
The judgment is parallel to that described in Matthew 25:31-46, where the sheep are separated from the goats.

Adversity have made much of the order of the judgment described in 13:30, that is, that the tares are gathered first and that later the wheat is gathered into the barn.
Matthew 13 is not dealing specifically with the church age, the period between Pentecost and the christian belief, but with the entire period of the kingdom in its mystery form, that is, the period between the first and second advents, during which the King is absent and which includes the period between the christian belief and the second coming. The rapture is not in view at all. As far as the order of events is concerned, in the seventh parable, where the good and bad fish are separated, the order is reversed with the good gathered first.

A reasonable conclusion is that the order of events is indeed the destruction of the wicked and the ushering of the righteous to the millennial kingdom. However, both are simultaneous events in fulfillment, although actually the tares are destroyed before the kingdom is brought in fully.
The second parable, as a whole, makes clear the dual line of development within the sphere of profession, with the true believer not clearly identified until the time of judgment. This parable is not a picture of the universal triumph of the gospel; neither is it a fulfillment of an earthly reign where Christ is supreme on earth. Rather it is the period before the return of the King, who was rejected in His first coming.

3° - PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED, Matthew 13:31-32

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

In this parable, the kingdom of heaven was compared to the small mustard seed which became such a large plant that birds were able to lodge in its branches. This mustard plant is a species different than the common one used as a condiment. Although left without interpretation, it anticipated that Christendom will grow rapidly from a small beginning to an organization with great power and wealth. While the plant included both true believers and those who professed to believe, the mustard plant was distinguished from the birds lodging in its branches which were unbelievers (cf. Dan 4:20-22).

Some have noted that the mustard seed described as “the least of all seeds” is not actually the smallest seed, and that this is an error in the Scriptures. The answer is twofold. The Greek word translated “the smallest” (mikroteron) is actually a comparative and should be translated “smaller,” as it is in the New English Bible and in the New American Standard Bible. The thought is that it is “very small.” Second, it is pointed out, “Jesus is speaking of the seeds that were ordinarily planted in ancient gardens. Jesus remarks that the seed of mustard is small, becoming a great plant, thus our faith can begin small and becoming greater till become a great faith.

The parable of the mustard seed is also found in Mark 4, where it is related to the kingdom of God. This has supported the view of many that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are identical, as they are occasionally found in parallel passages. There is some indication in Scripture, however, that the kingdom of heaven emphasizes the professing character of the kingdom as including unbelievers who look like believers, as illustrated in the tares, in contrast to the kingdom of God, containing only true believers.

It is significant that the kingdom of God is not compared to the second parable, that of the wheat and the tares, as those in the kingdom of God are genuine believers. Putting Matthew and Mark together, the conclusion can be reached that both the number of true believers (the kingdom of God) as well as the sphere of profession in the present age (the kingdom of heaven) will grow rapidly.
This is in contrast to the future kingdom, which Christ will bring at His second coming, which will begin abruptly as a worldwide kingdom, rather than as a product of gradual growth.

4° - PARABLE OF THE LEAVEN, Matthew 13:33-35

Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying;
I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the creation of the world.

In this parable, the kingdom of heaven is likened unto leaven hidden in meal (cf. Lk 13:20-21). In biblical times, it was customary to retain a small portion of leavened dough from each batch to mix in with the next batch of dough, thereby leavening the new dough. In modern times, yeast is usually used.

What does the leaven represents?

It is usually assume dogmatically that leaven cannot represent evil in this parable, although it is universally used to represent evil in both the Old and New Testament.
For instance, “It is impossible to use leaven in this sense when picturing the kingdom.” The kingdom of this world includes both good and evil. Can be that the leaven be synonymous in the gospel as a permeating and ameliorating principle the world but this is not sense with this chapter in its presentation of the present age.

It is more evident than ever in the last third of the twentieth century that the gospel has not permeated the whole world and that evil tends to permeate the entire professing church, which is exactly what Matthew 13 teaches. In the Old Testament, leaven is used consistently to represent evil. In sacrifices, which represent Jesus Christ, such as the unleavened bread on the table of shewbread, no leaven was permitted. In cases where leaven was permitted, they inevitably represented human situations, as the peace offering of Leviticus 7:11-13, and the two loaves anticipating typically the professing church, mentioned in Leviticus 23:15-18.

In the New Testament, leaven was used by Christ of the externalism of the Pharisees, of the unbelief of the Sadducees, and of the worldliness of the Herodians, and in general of evil doctrine (Mt 16:6-12; Mk 8:14-21). In Paul’s letters, likewise, leaven represents evil, as in I Corinthians 5:6-8 and Galatians 5:7-10.

In the parable, the meal represented that which is good, as it was made from wheat and not from tares. The professing church, however, is sorrounded by evil doctrine, externalism, unbelief, and worldliness, which tend to defeat the church and make its defeat be larger in appearance, even as the leaven it make grow the dough but actually adds nothing of real worth.
The history of the church has all too accurately fulfilled this anticipation, and the professing church in the world, large and powerful though it may be, is permeated by the leaven of evil which will be judged in the oven of divine judgment at the end of the age.
The parable applying to the kingdom of heaven in its mystery form applies to the militant church which will continue in the world after the true church. To some extent, evil will extend even to the kingdom of God, which includes the body of true believers. As in Luke 13:20-21, even true believers fall far short of perfection and can embrace to some extent worldliness, externalism, and bad doctrine.

5° - Parable of the Treasure, Matthew 13:44

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

The parable of the treasure is linked with the sixth parable, the parable of the pearl, and the final parable of the good and bad fish, as three parables reflecting the divine point of view rather than the historic human point of view, which was presented in the first four parables. Like the third and fourth parable, no explanation is given, and expositors have tended to find support for their overall view of the chapter.
A common interpretation and very correct meaning, of the parable can be, that the man who finds the treasure is the believer who finds Christ, with the same interpretation carried over to the merchant who finds the pearl.
Everyone agrees that Christ is a treasure whom all the world has not discovered, but upon close examination, the interpretation is shallow and unsatisfactory.

In the parable, the man was represented as hiding the treasure and selling all he had to buy it. The facts are, of course, that a believer in Christ has nothing to offer and the treasure is not for sale. The believer does not buy a field, representing the world, in order to gain Christ. Further, upon discovery of the treasure, a believer shares it with others rather than hides it.
The key to the parable in the ancient interpretation was to determine what the treasure was that was held in the field. Although the interpretation should not be dogmatically held, there is scriptural evidence that what was referred to here was none other than the nation Israel.

Although Israel is an obvious factor in the world, apart from scriptural revelation, no one would recognize Israel as a treasure, and especially a treasure for which anyone would sell all that he has to buy. An important point of view to stand out, from Israel would come the saviour of the world.
Scriptural support is given for interpreting the treasure as Israel. According to Exodus 19:5, God declared to Israel, “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine.” According to Psalms 135:4, “The Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.”

The present interpretation is that hidden treasure is our Lord Jesus Christ.
The fact that Israel is a treasure not recognized by the world and therefore hidden is all too evident today. Even among evangelical Christians, there are those who question whether Israel is an important biblical nation today with a prophetic future. Yet as we trace the gospel narratives, it is clear that Jesus came first, with a special purpose of redeeming Israel, although at the same time He reconciled the world unto Himself.

It was Jesus, therefore, who sold all that He had in order to buy the treasure, Israel, and to purchase it with His own blood (Phil 2:7-8; 1 Pe 1:18-19). During the present age, Israel is a hidden entity in the world, only to emerge at the end of the age as a major factor in the prophetic fulfillment leading up to the second coming of Christ.

6° - Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, Matthew 13:45-46

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it".

In this parable, the same thought was presented as in the preceding one; only here, the pearl seemed to represent the church rather than Israel. In the world of gems, the pearl is uniquely formed organically. Its formation occurs because of an irritation in the tender side of an oyster. There is a sense in which the church was formed out of the wounds of Christ and has been made possible by His death and sacrifice.

The parable emphasized that the church has been made possible by the merchant who sold all that He had to secure the great pearl. So Christ, leaving the glory of heaven, made the supreme sacrifice of dying on the cross in order to make possible the formation of the church.
The concept of the church as a living organism, composed of living stones which are added each time a believer is saved, was an apt portrayal of the formation of the true church in the present age, and made clear that this is one of the major purposes of God.
In the treasure and the pearl are the two major purposes of God for world and the church from a spiritual point of view, and His purposes for both are realized, even though there is the dual line of development of good and evil and will culminate in the second coming of Christ.

7° - Parable of the Net, Matthew 13:47-50

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full of fish, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good fish into baskets but threw away the sea the bad fish.
So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth".

The seventh parable, similar in many ways to the parable of the wheat and the tares, summarized the main ideas of the entire chapter. Like the first two parables, it was interpreted immediately. The kingdom of heaven was compared to a large net. Because of its large character, the net collects a multitude of different kinds of fish, described in the text as “every kind.” Nets of this size were too large to empty into a boat and had to be drawn to shore.
Here the fish were sorted. Those that were bad, or for any reason unusable, were cast back into the sea.
The good fish were gathered into the vessel for eating.

This familiar operation on the shores of the Sea of Galilee was compared to the judgment at the end of the age.
Angels were described as separating those who are wicked from among the righteous, the wicked being described as wailing and gnashing their teeth as they were cast into the furnace of fire (Mt 13:50).
The situation is parallel to the judgment of the nations in 25:31-46. The righteous who remain after the wicked are gathered out are able to enter into the kingdom. The general situation is the same as the separation of the wheat and the tares and their judgment, described in 13:41-43.

The fulfillment of the prophetic truth in this parable will occur at the second coming of Jesus Christ, when the world be judged and the kingdom instituted. It is clear from this parable, as those preceding, that the present age does not end with a evil triumph, with a entire world almost Christianized; neither is fulfilled the kingdom promises of the Old Testament nor does is described the period when all nations will serve the Lord. Rather, as in preceding parables, it describes the dual line of good and evil, continuing until the time of the end when both the good and evil are judged according to their true character.

It is significant that the net representing the kingdom of heaven that included all kinds, both wicked and righteous, and that the separation did not come until the end. This passage serves to distinguish the kingdom of heaven from the kingdom of God, the power of God, and the triumph of righteous. Refers to God's kingship, or rule, from heaven. The kingdom of heaven is focused in the Person of Jesus Christ, and is especially manifested where He rules in the hearts of men - Lk 17:20-21.
Neither the parable of the wheat and the tares nor the parable of the good and bad fish, as related to the kingdom of God, is mentioned in the other gospels.

Concluding Statement About the Parables, 13:51-52

At the conclusion of the parables, Jesus asked the disciples, “Have you understood all these things?” Amazingly, they replied, “Yea, Lord.”
It is rather obvious that they did not understand the parables, except in their general teachings. It would have required much more perspective, the clear revelation of the present age, and, to some extent, perspective of history, for them to have really understood these parables. At this time, they did not understand it totally that there would be a second coming of Jesus. Christ did not challenge their knowlegde, but he told them that if they were truly instructed in these truths, they would be able to bring the word of God like a treasure house of the truths learnt till edge of the world.

WHO WILL ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?

What does God require of a person before granting him the gift of eternal life and assurance of entry into the Kingdom?

Must the truly-converted Christian, through combining good "works" with his faith, reach a certain level of spiritual perfection before he is qualified for entry into the Kingdom?

The Bible teaches that anyone who "places his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Blood shed at Calvary is eternally secure. He can never lose his salvation.
No personal breaking of God's or man's laws or commandments can nullify that status."

When, precisely, can a person experience the joy of salvation, with full assurance that if he were to die tomorrow he would rise to meet Christ at His return, and live eternally in the Kingdom of God?
Jesus was asked if few people are going to Heaven. Jesus replied that many will seek to enter into Heaven, but only a few will be allowed. This Scripture passage should frighten many people.

Many people will seek to enter into Heaven in eternity, even blaming the Lord Jesus when they are turned away.
We read in Matthew 7:22-23...

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?
and in thy name have cast out devils?
and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

These religious people, what Jesus says, were lost and on their way to Hell. They were shocked and dumbfounded when the Lord rejected them. They had spent their lives teaching in Jesus' name and doing many charitable deeds in Jesus' name. How could this happen? What went wrong? They were so sincere and now they're are being told they cannot enter into Heaven. Despite trying to blame the Lord, they will be cast into the Lake of Fire forever.

Perhaps you ask, what groups of religious people today are doing wonderful things in Jesus' name, and are speaking in Jesus' name; but are lost and on their way to Hell?
Namely: Lutherans, Catholics, Church of Christ, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Scientology, Muslims, Judaism, Christian Science, Greek Orthodox, United Church of Christ, Russian Orthodox, Unitarian Universalist, Moonies, New Agers, Episcopal, the Lordship Salvation crowd and many more.

So, who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Jesus said it clearly:
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21.

WHO WILL NOT ENTER IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?

The apostle Paul wrote, "Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, those who profit of sex, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God",Galatians 5:19-21.

Paul's warning was not restricted to those who had not yet been "saved." Anyone, he said, who engages in the "works of the flesh" shall not inherit the Kingdom. Had he been speaking of the unsaved only, it would have been pointless to say, "I warn you..."--that is, you who have received the Holy Spirit, you who have had your sins blotted out through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

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