UNVEILED - THE HISTORY OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (4) (iii) THE PARABLES OF THE COMPOSITION OF THE KI
John Griffiths, Port Talbot, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Parable No 5
|The Treasure||Israel (a believing remnant)|
|Parable No 6||The Pearl||The Church|
|Parable No 7||The Dragnet||Tribulation Saints|
Parable No. 5 The Treasure, v. 44 – Israel (a believing remnant)
This is the first parable told exclusively to the disciples in the house. The house may be representative of the nation of Israel. The disciples represent a believing remnant of Israel. The believing remnant is a constituent part of the interim kingdom both before and after the church era. In addition, ‘Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace’, Rom. 11. 5. The passage quoted proves that even in the church era there is a believing remnant of Israel.
This parable is told to the disciples in private, the multitudes having been dismissed, v. 36.
The church is never described as ‘treasure’ in the Bible. It is Israel that is identified as ‘treasure’. ‘Now therefore, 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’, Exod. 19. 5. When Peter uses similar imagery of the church he substitutes ‘a peculiar people‘ for ‘a peculiar treasure’, 1 Pet. 2. 9.
‘For the Lord hath chosen Jacob for himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure’, Ps. 135. 4. ‘And they shall be mine . . . in that day when I make up my jewels’, or ‘special treasure’, Mal. 3. 17.
As to Israel being ‘hid’ in the field, i.e., the world, we know that ten tribes went into captivity to Assyria and two tribes to Babylon. The return that took place in stages involved a sizeable remnant from Babylon. Many chose to remain where they settled. Effectively, Israel was scattered among the Gentile nations.
When Messiah came to His own people, the population of Palestine was predominantly of the two tribes referred to collectively as ‘Judah’. They rejected Him at His first advent, just as Moses had been rejected when he first presented himself to the people centuries earlier. Nevertheless, notwithstanding their rejection, He sought them and secured them by purchasing the whole ‘field’ in which Israel was hidden.
If we are to maintain consistency of interpretation in this series of parables then the ‘man’ has to be the Son of Man.
‘Goeth and selleth all that He hath and buyeth that field’.
The ownership of this world lay in the hands of the Creator. Satan appeared to usurp this authority. He took the Lord, during the temptation, to a high mountain. On offer were ‘all the kingdoms of the world’. The price: bow down and worship me – Satan. The kingdoms of the world become the ‘kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ’ only as a result of Calvary. This is borne out in Revelation chapter 5 when Christ takes the title deeds of earth out of the Father’s hand. Satan does not challenge for them, for Christ takes them by right, in His character as ‘a Lamb as it had been slain’. The world belongs to Christ by creation and by purchase.
He has not redeemed the field but he has purchased it, and at what great price! He ‘emptied himself’ and He ‘gave himself’ in order to buy the field and claim the treasure for Himself, 2 Cor. 5. 19; Col. 1. 20; 1 John 2. 2.
The joy is associated, not with the sacrifice He made but with the pleasure of obtaining what He had set His heart on – the treasure.
Similarly, but in a wider context, we read, ‘Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God’, Heb. 12. 2.
‘He hideth’. Israel was ‘hid’ once again from AD70 to 1948, both nationally and politically. Indeed, she still remains hidden in the graveyard of the nations but will be resurrected metaphorically as depicted by Ezekiel in his writing about the Valley of Dry Bones, chapter 37. The division of the Nation from the days of Jeroboam and Rehoboam will also be healed. Ezekiel envisages the sceptres of Judah and Ephraim being joined together. Her festival of trumpets and Day of atonement will find the Nation recovered, redeemed and restored to the Lord and to the Land.
Israel has a brilliant future; she is the Lord’s special treasure out of all the nations of the earth.
The parable of the treasure presents God’s viewpoint of the kingdom of heaven incorporating a believing remnant of the Jewish nation.
Parable No. 6 The Peal, vv. 45-46 – The Church
If the treasure was hidden in the field, the pearl was found in the sea. The sea probably hints at the Gentile nations, Acts 15. 14.
The man, albeit a merchantman, I suggest represents the Lord Jesus Christ in His humanity. If the emphasis in the previous parable was upon the treasure, in this one the stress is upon the merchantman.
How He Searched!
He does not search for individual sinners here, as in ‘the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’, Luke 19. 10. Rather, the search is for an outstanding pearl; ‘Christ also loved the church’, Eph. 5. 25. Here, the multiplicity of believers is seen in a single pearl, the church of the dispensation.
How He Succeeded!
‘Found one pearl of great price’.
The pearl never appears on the page of Old Testament writings. The margin of Job chapter 28 verse 18 indicates that ‘pearls’ should read ‘crystals’. Pearls were never of value to the Jews. The Assyrians (Gentiles) were among the first to recognize the worth of pearls. In the New Testament the pearl is mentioned only in the books of Matthew, 1 Timothy and Revelation. In the singular it occurs only twice; here and in Revelation chapter 21 verse 21. In both these cases the context is the church.
A sovereign would take a precious pearl and mount it in his crown above his forehead or he would have it mounted in a brooch and pin it over his heart. Whether brow or bosom, the purpose was display; to show it off. The pearl of the church is close to the heart of Christ and will be displayed to a wondering universe as the recipient of ‘the exceeding riches of his grace’ in a future day.
The pearl is the product of a living creature, the oyster, and is linked with the sea. The church is the product of the living Christ and is linked with the Gentiles. The pearl is the product of the suffering of that living creature. Sand or grit enters the shell causing pain and suffering. The church is the product of the suffering of the living Christ even unto death. The pearl is formed when the suffering oyster covers the irritant with layer upon layer of nacre. This takes place unrecognized by the human eye. The church is built up generation upon generation, largely unnoticed by the world at large. The unity of the pearl distinguishes it from other precious gems. These are found in the earth and increase in attractiveness and value when they are cut and polished. Not so the pearl. The church is a living organism wondrous in its unity – its beauty and value cannot be enhanced by human hand.
The church will be presented to Christ as a chaste virgin, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Being one pearl of great price emphasizes its rarity, beauty and exclusivity. The church is the nearest and dearest of all companies in the affections of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the only one of its kind.
How He Secured it!
At infinite cost to Himself, the Lord paid the price upon Calvary to secure the church as His eternal complement. We are, wonder of all wonders, the complement of Him that filleth all in all! What a price He paid! What a privilege conveyed!
Parable No. 7 The Dragnet, vv. 47-50 – Tribulation Saints
The Medium – ‘the sea’.
The fishing takes place not in rivers or lakes but in the sea, again, the hint of a Gentile context. This leads us to believe that the ‘catch’ is predominantly, if not exclusively, Gentile in character.
The Means – ‘a net’ i.e., dragnet.
A dragnet is that which envelops the catch and is used to draw the catch ashore. It represents the results of the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom.
During the Tribulation, the message preached is the gospel of the kingdom, Matt. 24. 14. The preachers will likely be the 144,000 Jewish males, Rev. 7. 4-8; 14. 1-5. The gospel of the kingdom was first preached by the disciples who declared, ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand’. The message heralded the presence of the King and the setting up of the Messianic kingdom during the millennium. When the King was rejected the kingdom was deferred, this period is sometimes called the interregnum. The parables of Matthew chapter 13 describe an interim form of the kingdom during the interregnum. In contrast to the millennium, it is not a publicly manifested display but the kingdom in mystery. Where the church appears to be simultaneous with the kingdom, it is the gospel of the grace of God which is preached. The gospel of the kingdom will be resumed following the rapture of the church to glory. Believers of the church era are both members of the body of Christ, the church of the dispensation, and subjects of the kingdom of which Christ is King. The church and the kingdom are distinct entities, however, and should not be confused.1
As the treasure relates to the believing remnant of Israel and the pearl relates to the mainly Gentile composition of the church, so the dragnet illustrates the degree of blessing resulting from the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom during the Tribulation. This is the subject of Revelation chapter 7 verses 9-17, where mainly Gentile believers are seen to be the fruit of the work of the 144,000 sealed ones.
The dragnet includes profession, for the good and bad, just and wicked are contrasted.
The net is full. The catch is separated on the basis of whether they are good or bad; just or wicked. The good are gathered into vessels; the bad are cast away. Just as in the parable of the mustard seed, so here we see the net is full due to the mixture of genuine and professors.
The angels come forth to separate the good and the bad. They then sever the bad. The time note is ‘at the end of the world’, better the ‘consummation of the age’, when the Lord returns in company with His angels, Jude 14, 15, ‘to execute judgement upon all that are ungodly’. A similar task for angels follows in the parable of the wheat and the tares which covers the whole period of this phase of the kingdom. The dragnet covers the period of the Tribulation. Both finish at the same point.
The linking of angels with judgement is to be found at the judgement of the living nations, Matt. 25. 31-33, and at the harvest and vintage judgements Rev. 14. 14-20. The angels are God’s agents in assisting the judicial process following Christ’s second advent, just prior to the inauguration of the messianic kingdom on earth.
Those who were ‘cast away’ are now ‘cast into’ the furnace of fire. What a contrast between the furnace of fire that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego experienced and this one! They knew the presence and preservation of the Son of God who was with them in the furnace. They escaped unscathed.
In the parable, the wicked are alienated from the Son of God. Their furnace is not one of temporary but eternal duration. They know what it is to be abandoned by God in a realm of darkness and unutterable loneliness. Their punishment produces ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’. What interminable misery!
Parable No. 8 The Householder, vv. 51-52
Greater Revelation, v. 51
The Lord has discoursed on the parables of the kingdom of heaven. Mysteries have been revealed that were unheard of previously. The disciples are the privileged recipients of revelations which could never have been envisaged.
The Lord now quizzes them, ‘Have ye understood all these things’? Note, not simply have you heard all these things but have you understood them. Israel in response to the giving of the law chorused, ‘All that the Lord hath spoken we will do’, Exod. 19. 8. They then proceeded to break the law. In response to their comprehension of the parables, the disciples chorus, ‘Yea, Lord’. We can only hope that their understanding of these momentous truths was clearer than their grasp of the Lord’s teaching about His death and resurrection!
The response, ‘Yea, Lord’, occurs seven times in the New Testament and will repay study.
Greater Obligation, v. 52
Greater light brings with it greater responsibility. The new order of scribes instructed in this teaching about the kingdom, should be able to draw on the treasure store of spiritual truth in order to teach others these staggering unveilings given by the Saviour. They should be able to appreciate Old Testament prophecies concerning the future millennial kingdom and draw on the new teachings of Christ regarding the current aspect of the kingdom.
The challenge to us is do we understand all these things? Are we capable of delving into the storehouse of scripture to teach others? Do we accept the principle that the greater the revelation of God from His word, the greater our obligation to do as the Lord instructed the disciples?
Can we say, in all honesty, ‘Yes Lord, we understand’?
- Passages identifying present-day believers with the kingdom are: Rom. 14. 17; 1 Cor. 4. 20; Col. 1. 13; 4. 11; Rev. 1. 9.