The Present Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven,
AS set forth for the called of this dispensation in the seven parables of our Lord, recorded for our instruction in Matthew xiii.
The 12th chapter of this Gospel had been filled with solemn warnings and predicted judgments, by our Lord, upon that generation, for rejecting the testimony of the Holy Ghost to His death and resurrection. Foretelling the last state of the nation as it would be found at the end of this age, in Jerusalem and their land again, and still rejecting the only sign to be given, (that of the prophet Jonah and the Son of Man as above,) to be worse than their then state; for, being found of Satan, returned to their own land in the same unbelief, still seeking to establish their own righteousness, he would enter into them with sevenfold power, causing them to worship him who will come in his own name, the beast and his image, and to blaspheme the God of Heaven; so that everlasting destruction will come upon them from the presence of the Lord, with the Gentiles, who know not God and obey not the gospel, so long professed by and proclaimed among them. Thus, will the destruction of these transgressors (the Jews) and sinners (the Gentiles) be together, being those who agree to forsake the Lord and are consumed. Yea, they shall both burn together and none shall quench them. Isaiah i. 28, 31.—"Nevertheless, saith the Lord, as the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it; so will I do for my servants' sake, that I may not destroy them all. And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah, an inheritor of my mountains, and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there." "But ye (the transgressors mentioned above) are they that forsake the Lord, that forget My holy mountain, that prepare a table for that troop (the Antichrist and his followers), that furnish a drink-offering to that member (the image of the beast); therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter, and you shall leave your name for a curse unto My chosen (the faithful remnant of Israel in that day); for the Lord God shall slay thee, and call His servants by another name." Isaiah lx. 8, 9, 11, 12, 15.
Thus, having disposed of Israel and their earthly hopes for a time, and declared that He could own no relationship with those born after the flesh, but only with those who, accepting life in Him, would do the will of His Father in Heaven, Jesus went out of the Jewish house, and entering a ship which lay by the sea shore, and set forth in seven parables to the multitude who stood there, the characteristics of the present dispensation until the close of the age, and His coming forth from Heaven to set up His kingdom in Israel, and over the whole earth.
The principal and leading characteristic of which, that the gospel is a voice from Heaven! The Son speaking from Heaven, and the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven, bearing testimony to Him as seated in Heaven, and sealing all those who believe upon Him Who is in Heaven! The gospel of the remission of sins must be from Heaven, from Him Who having by Himself made purgation of our sins on the Cross, and by His death, has gone up and now is seated at the right hand of God expecting till His enemies are made His footstool.
There is, therefore, now no voice from earth, no one coming to speak as sanctioned upon earth, no centre gather round upon earth. It is the Word of the kingdom commenced in Heaven by the raised up Son of Man as the Son of God's love, seated at God's right hand, Who as sower of the seed (the Word of the kingdom), sows it broadcast over the whole earth under Heaven. Col. i. 23.
Satan, the prince of the power of the air, the prince of this age of the world, by his evil agents is watching to take away and nullify the power, and hinder the fructification of the seed during this sowing time; almost overwhelming success is accounted for in the first parable by the general hardness and sensuality of our fallen nature, so that the mere doctrine or preaching the Word by man, will not take effect unless the hand of the Lord be with them, and God who prepares the heart gives also the increase.
The speciality of this dispensation is, as I said above, that the Word is from Heaven, and the power of it immediately from Heaven. There is nothing set up by it upon earth. Those also are gathered to Christ in Heaven, quickened with Him by the Word, united with Him in life, become strangers upon earth, are unrecognized by the world as any power from God, and rejected as surely as they become living stones through union with the rejected One. Succession upon earth there is none, either Apostolic or Christian. A succession of blessing and power in the Word from Heaven; but no taking root upon earth. The rooting is in Christ in Heaven, from Whom, as the Head, each one alone is nourished. (Col. ii. 19.). The rooting mentioned in the first parable is the rooting of the Word as a life-giving principle in the heart of the hearer.
The whole character of the apparent results that take place in the earth, by the preaching of the gospel among the nations of the Roman earth or kingdom of the fourth beast of Daniel, is thus graphically described, with its true heavenly results, as carrying out the purpose of God, in the following six parables: four of them being embraced in the one inclusive parable of the tares of the field. The sixth being a summary of the whole result.
The first parable refers especially to the agency of God all through the dispensation by the gospel preached from Heaven; Christ being all that time seated at the right hand of God. The parable of the tares of the field, with the two of the grain of mustard-seed, and the woman with the leaven, shews the apparent results upon earth, for a time, of that agency from Heaven interfered with by the agency of the enemy upon earth; the whole world being still under the power of the evil one.
These six parables set forth by similitudes, what must be mysteries to the natural mind, but which are explained to those who will be disciples indeed; for to them it is given to know them. Yes, those who, ceasing from man, yield themselves up to God as those alive from the dead, abiding in Christ, shall know the truth, and the truth shall make them free.
Hear, then, the parable that setteth forth in a similitude the present kingdom of Heaven, with its effects during this evil age. We have the scene of its action, the world. "The field is the world!" We have several agents at work. The Son of Man at the right hand of God, sows good seed in the world; the good seed are those who are quickened by the Word. They are the children of the kingdom. They are translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of God's love. They are brought into subjection to God in Christ—are the true subjects of Christ their Lord here, and co-heirs with Him of His coming kingdom. Heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. They are also called servants; they serve the Lord Christ. Then there is an enemy, the devil. He sows tares among the wheat, who are the children of the kingdom! He sowed the tares while the servants slept. There is a special warning for the servants not to sleep; but, as children of the coming day, to watch and be sober; nevertheless, they do sleep, and the enemy sows his tares. False brethren these, who "come in unawares, and privily bring in destructive sects, even denying the Lord who bought them." Nevertheless, when they do appear, they must not be rooted up, but let alone until the harvest. The servants cannot undo what their carelessness has done; but none of them shall be lost, for "whether they watch or sleep, they shall live together with their Lord" Who quickened them; they are co-heirs with Him.
The enemy also, by the simple agency of the carnal man, the natural man, sows a seed in the field under the name of Christianity. At first it is as small as a grain of mustard seed; but assumes a wondrous growth through the fostering power of Satan, and the three potent fleshly principles, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life," until a religion, under the name of Christian, rears its monstrous head, and spreads its branches over a large portion of the field, the civilized world, wherein can safely lodge every evil demon and selfish wicked principle that war against the truth, even the fowls of the air, who employ themselves in snatching away the good seed, lest it should sink into the hearts of men. The enemy also works by another agency, symbolized by a woman,—Jezebel, who, assuming the title of the called body of Christ, takes to herself the power and authority of the Lord Himself, spoiling and seducing even the true children of the kingdom, by introducing the leaven of Herod, the leaven of the Pharisee, and the leaven of the Sadducee; and as the serpent beguiled Eve, so doth he by his subtlety, through this woman, corrupt the minds of those who, by the gospel call, are betrothed unto Christ as a chaste virgin; thus to all appearance, the whole is leavened. Nevertheless, the harvest shall make manifest the children of God and the children of the devil. For in the time of harvest, the tares will be first gathered together into bundles, parties, or sects. The Pharisees or Ritualists, with self-righteous religionists—the free-thinking liberals, denying atonement, eternal damnation &c.,—with the Sadducees, not knowing the Scriptures, neither the power of God; those who, separating themselves from Him in Heaven, Who is our resurrection and life, are in their religion and ways of worship earthly and sensual. Yes, as that time of harvest commences, they will be manifestly separating themselves; while the children of the kingdom, by the voice of the Bridegroom, or rather by the testimony of the Word, "Behold, the Bridegroom cometh," will be waking and looking upward to the Head and Lord in Heaven, in earnest expectancy, and will be gathered up into the barn of their great Husbandman previous to their open exhibition as the first fruits from the earth. Then shall come the ending of this age! The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and, coming in the power of His majesty, shall cast out of His kingdom into the fire, all they that offend and work iniquity. This kingdom is professing Christendom, acknowledging Jesus Christ with the lip; but in heart and way, far from Him. Then the righteous, who have been previously gathered, shall shine forth like the sun in their Father's kingdom in the heavens; while the Son of God and Son of Man shall rise upon the earth as the Sun of Righteousness, with healing upon His wings, and reign with His elders on Mount Zion, over Israel and the nations of the earth.
Let us now, however, look again at the two parables which our Lord introduced, immediately after that of the tares in the field, and of which He offers no explanation when questioned by His disciples afterwards, unless it be by setting off against these two, other two, namely, the Treasure in the Field, and the Pearl of Great Price.
The parable of the grain of mustard seed seems to set forth Satan's work by his agent man. The monstrous growth of this little seed manifests itself in its future history, of which we are now fully cognizant. It is seed sown by a man on earth, not by the Son of Man in Heaven. It takes root in the earth, and gathers its nutriment from earth, not from Heaven. It reacheth not up to Heaven where Jesus the Life is, but provides lodging and shelter for all the fowls of the air, who, as demons of the prince of the power of the air, are diligently occupied, as described in the first parable of the sower, in catching away the good seed from the hearts and understanding of men lest they should be saved. It is not difficult now for the true children of God to discern the answer to this parable.
Look at Christendom now, and mark how the apostacy from Divine teaching and our heavenly calling commenced after the death of the apostles, when the wolves entered in, not sparing the flock, when among the very elders, men arose, leading the disciples of Christ after them, when the wisdom, philosophy, intellect, and interests of man gradually took the place of the Holy Ghost and the headship of Christ, until at last it was universally received that our Lord had delegated His authority and power to a man, and a succession of men! "When the voice of the Holy Ghost in Christian assemblies, who led their hearts by spiritual ministry to their one Lord Jesus, who built them up solely in Christ, pointing them to things to come, was silenced by the voice of man. Then was the heavenly calling and standing in the grace of the Head of every true Christian, the doctrine of the Cross of Christ, whereby believers are crucified to the world and the world to them, the blessed hope of glory and waiting for the Son from Heaven, lost, and Christianity becoming a carnal system of religion, was adopted by the world. Yes, the true Cross of our Lord Jesus, whereby believers know themselves saved from their sins, and separated from the world, was changed into an outward emblem, carved in stone, or worn as an ornament or charm, or worshipped as a molten calf.
Professed Pagan temples were abolished and restored again as Christian temples! Pagan priesthood put down to make room for a so-called Christian priesthood.
Then did the head of this earthly sensual religion, inflated with Satan and his demons, anticipate in impious assumption the reign of Christ, and proclaiming himself King and Priest upon his throne, presume to dictate at large to kings and provinces spread over the wide Roman earth, declaring his power and dominion as extensive as the world. Wherever this greatest of trees did spread its baneful branches, there lodged and flourished every evil demon, every evil principle that had ever been manifest in the Gentile dominions from the time of Nebuchadnezzar.
The parable of the grain of mustard seed is therefore a prediction of the kingdom as it has been and is still. Satan, as it were, still reigning under the name of Christ, introducing this human influence into his so-called Christian religion, and all the abominations of his once Chaldean empire.
The spiritual power of this monster is further illustrated by the parable of the woman leavening the three measures of fine flour. Under the mystical name of Jezebel, as introduced by our Lord in His letter to the assembly at Thyatira, is set forth the assumption of what is now called the church, which declaims its or her infallibility, and that the Lord has given His authority to her, with power to set aside or supersede the Scriptures with her traditions, has succeeded in corrupting even the true disciples from the simplicity of truth as it is in Christ Jesus, inducing many true Christians to hold fellowship with the world's vanities and honours, to join in the ambitions and factions of the Gentiles, and thus have fellowship with those things that are sacrificed to idols; riches, honours, titles of human glory! &c. Thus, while this woman produces her own children, who set up a sensual idolatrous religion, a renewal of Chaldean idolatry, worshipping the "queen of heaven" (so-called), and shall be "killed with death," (Rev. ii. 23.); she also succeeds in seducing the children of the kingdom with her threefold leaven—leaven of the Pharisee, of Herod, and of the Sadducee—apparently corrupting them all in measure, even the true children of God, represented by the fine flour. For are we not all in some measure separated from the simplicity of Christ? Who can say now that he is perfectly simple and pure in his faith and hope? I have considered the parable of the tares, and our Lord's explanation of it, as setting forth a general outline of the aspect of this dispensation until the return of our Lord. I would now suggest that the first two of the parables mentioned by our Lord to the disciples in the house, when at their request, He was explaining the whole, are especially spoken to encourage and comfort us during the bitter experience of the darkening power of the monstrous tree of human sowing, and the corrupting influence of the woman's leaven; while the last is a further explanation of the time of the end.
We have now seen that the first four parables were spoken by our Lord to the multitudes, who were assembled on the shore as He sat in the ship, or fishing vessel, under the open canopy of Heaven. He spoke in parables to show that His audience had been proved blind and incapable of receiving truth into their hearts or understanding, unless they first believed on Him as sent from Heaven and opened their ears to Him as the Christ of God. He contrasted the caviling multitudes with His disciples, who, believing on Him as the Son of the Living God, had their eyes and ears opened to know the things that prophets and righteous (or justified) men of the past ages had desired to see and hear, and had not.
He declared emphatically the way of God towards us all, that whosoever used and improved the privileges and opportunities given him by faith and submission to the Word, and the truth already set before him, should have more; but he, who had not received nor used the measure of light or grace bestowed, should, after a certain time of longsuffering and waiting, upon God's part, have taken from him that which he had; and if while he had the light, he refused to believe in it, that he might become a child of the light, darkness would come upon him, and the light he had despised would shine on him no more.
"When, therefore, the Lord had sent the multitude away, to whom He had spoken in the open air, in significance of the universality of the present testimony from Heaven, and characteristic of this dispensation, He retired into a house with His disciples, who gathered round Him, as a son over his own house, to whom, as sharers with Him in His Father's love, it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, and expounded unto them not only the things concerning Himself, but things hitherto hidden from the sons of men; and it is now through the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven, after our Lord had assumed His seat at the right hand of God, that we are enabled to know them as revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.
We have had included in the parable of the tares and wheat (which describes the outward character of this dispensation to the end of the age), two parables setting forth most trying and distressing aspects of the kingdom of Heaven, as the result of the gospel preached among the Gentiles, this Word of the kingdom spoken from Heaven to every creature upon earth.
In the first parable, a monstrous influential power overshadowing the nations, and affording shelter for all the evil demons and their false principles that ever lodged in the branches of the Pagan Roman empire—(the fowls of the air declared by our Lord to represent the wicked one taking away the good seed from the hearts of the hearers). In the second parable, we have the corruption of the fine flour, which represents the true seed, or the children of the kingdom! In seeking some explanation of these depressing results, we wait on the Lord for some relief of mind under this apparent failure and ask once more, as in the prophet Isaiah, "Hast Thou again laboured in vain, O Lord, and spent Thy strength, and extended this day of grace, obtained this accepted time in vain, and for nought?" The Lord answers, No! My judgment is with God My Father, My work is with My God; for again the kingdom of Heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field, the which, when a MAN hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field.
This parable or similitude lieth over against the parable of the monstrous tree, that grew from a little seed which a man sowed in his field, as he thought, and this explains how the Watcher and Holy One in Heaven is ready to come forth with the cry, "Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit; let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from off his branches." (Daniel iv. 14.)
The Lord Jesus had foreseen His inheritance in the world and His heirship of the throne of David and accepted the conditions of His glory as the Second and the Last Adam! The first Adam had not kept his estate but fallen into the hand of Satan the adversary through disobedience and unbelief. Thus, under the baneful influence of Satan and his own evil and independent heart, man has ever since usurped authority over his own will, carried out his own lusts, and lived it in the world as though it were his own; nevertheless, his purposes cannot stand. Man, his works, and imaginations, which are all evil, shall come to nothing unless he turn to God by the atoning blood of Jesus, shall come into judgment and condemnation with the devil and his angels as rebels against God. Now, God has decreed man to be His vicegerent and head over all this creation, according to the Word, “the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head” and destroy the devil and all his works.
But this Man must undo what the first man has done. By man came sin and death; by Man, He must bring righteousness and life! The first man brought in sin, the second Man must put away sin by voluntary death and being made sin. The condition of his headship and lordship over Heaven and earth, was his obedience into death. His laying down His life as the price of the world's redemption. All that He had upon earth was His life, and at the command of His Father, He laid it down that He might take it again as Lord of Heaven and earth. Yes, He emptied Himself, and took the form of a slave, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross; therefore, God hath highly exalted Him and given Him a Name above every name. (Phil. ii. 7-10.) But we see Jesus, Who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour. (Heb. ii. 9.)
In the fifth chapter of Revelation we have a vision of ONE sitting on a throne with a roll in His right hand and sealed with seven seals, written within and without. This roll was the title deed of this earth's inheritance forfeited by Adam, the first man; but purchased back by the Second Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, as the slain Lamb; (See Jeremiah xxxii.) the title deeds, evidence of purchase, written without and within and sealed. And when the Lamb, which had been slain, taketh the roll out of the right hand of the Sitter on the throne, not only the redeemed rejoice in His death and blood shedding to save them from hell; but all the angels sing, "Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain to receive power, and riches, and strength, and honour, and glory and blessing;" and thus the universal cry goes forth, "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him who sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever!"
The only explanation, therefore, given to us the disciples, for our comfort, who groan under the usurpation and wickedness of false, worldly Christianity, is the setting before us the fact, that the field in which this tree is flourishing belongs not to fallen man, but to the Christ of God. That in the Prophets and Psalms, we are told the end of this usurpation. The treasure hid in the field is the kingdoms of this inhabited earth and the glory of them, which are the Christ's, the Son of the living God, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Son of David, the Lamb slain, by the title of purchase by His Own precious blood.
It has pleased God in each successive dispensation since the fall, each being set up in grace, in unconditional blessing to faith, to suffer man in his self-will and unbelief, to mar and spoil the things and truth of God, whereby hath been displayed not only His longsuffering, but the necessity for man's new creation by regeneration. So, His mountain in the field, Mount Zion which He loved, has been again and again given up for its wickedness, and trodden down by the Gentiles; nevertheless, it is the Lord's purchased treasure. He has hidden it in His heart. His eye and heart are on Jerusalem continually; Immanuel's land hath been purchased by Immanuel's blood, as surely also is the whole earth our Lord's and the fulness thereof.
The Son of Man will in due time be brought before the Ancient of Days, and receive the kingdom and dominion over all nations, and tongues, and languages under the whole Heaven!
Why, therefore, should we quail before this mystery of iniquity? The setting up of the world's Christianity, whether by the Pope or the kings of the earth? "He that sitteth in the Heavens shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision! Yet will God set His King upon His holy hill of Zion." Surely will He, receiving the nations for His inheritance, and the uttermost part of the earth for His possession, dash the usurpers in pieces with a rod of iron. Yes, the day of the Lord will be revealed with "flaming fire, taking vengeance on them who know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thess. i. 8)
Yes, it shall come to pass in that day, "the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, (the prince of the power of the air and his demons, (see Revelation xii. 7,) and the kings of the earth upon the earth; then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed, "when the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and among His ancients gloriously." Yes, the kingdoms of this world (the field) shall become the kingdoms of our God and His Christ. This treasure in the field now hidden shall be then displayed under the whole heavens. The heavens will declare His glory in His Father's kingdom as the Son of God, and the earth, His footstool, will be filled with His glory as the Son of Man, the Melchisedec!
Thus then, doth our Lord comfort us concerning the other similitude of the great and evil tree now flourishing in the field, by this parable of the treasure hidden in the field, which He has bought, and which treasure He now hideth for a season only; for as surely as Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylon and image set up for human worship, were cut down as in a moment, that all might know the Heavens do rule, so surely in a little while the wicked one shall not be, and the meek shall inherit the earth. Just when he is flourishing as a green bay tree in great power, he shall pass away and not be found. So shall this vine of the earth, his grapes being fully ripe, be trodden in the wine-press of the wrath of God, and the worshippers in Heaven will fall down, saying, "We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power and hast reigned"; for behold the hidden treasure, the kingdom of the Son of Man, the Son of David, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah shall be displayed upon earth! The song of Moses and the Lamb shall be sung upon the sea of glass. The Lord with His right hand hath dashed in pieces the last great Pharoah; He has delivered His people Israel; He will bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of His inheritance, in the sanctuary He hath built for them. The Lord shall come with all His saints; the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and all nations shall flow into it.
This blood-purchased field shall no more groan under the evil one! The treasure of the kingdom shall be no more hidden; but the earth shall be filled with His glory! Let us now look to the Lord for the comfort to be derived from the parable of the Pearl of Great Price, as set over against the parable of the woman and her leaven.