Summary: God grows his life in his people until his power renovates them wholly.
Read Matthew 13.31-33. Pray.
Revelation 20.1-6: Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
The phrase, “thousand years” appears in nine places in the Bible, six in the passage I just read. It also occurs in 2Peter 3.8, which quotes Psalm 90.4. In both of those places, the authors say that time does not work for God like it does for us: “a thousand years in God’s sight are like one day, and a day like a thousand years.” The only other use is in Ecclesiastes 6.6, where Solomon says that even if you live a thousand years twice over, eventually you will die, as all must.
So Revelation 20 is the place which speaks of the “millennium,” or the thousand years, in relation to the rule and return of Jesus, the binding and release of Satan, and the resurrection of the saints. Bible students argue a great deal about exactly what this thousand years might be like, and when it will occur. In fact, the different interpretations even have names.
Pre-millennialism says that Jesus will return to the earth, physically and bodily, and then reign here for an earthly and future kingdom of a thousand years. His return is pre-millennial, before the thousand years of peace and prosperity as Satan is bound for that time.
Post-millennialism teaches that Jesus’ return is “post” or after the thousand years. The millennium will be created by the spread and triumph of the gospel which powerfully transforms societies and brings peace and justice on earth for a thousand years. Only then will Christ return, after the thousand years of success of the kingdom.
A-millennialism believes that the thousand years of Revelation 20 is not a literal time period, but a symbol of the church age. It is now that God restrains Satan’s power in some way as the gospel advances and converts people to Christ. There will be no future millennium of earthly perfection; instead, we are now in the time of Christ’s reign on earth through the church.
Then if you have been around the church for long, you may have heard the gag that some Christians are pan-millennialists, they believe it will all pan out in the end.
I tell you all that because I am not going to talk about the millennium in the sermon today. So why would I tell you what I am not going to tell you?
Because the two parables we are considering from Matthew 13, for better or worse, are often interpreted in relation to post-millennialism. For example, the prominent Welch minister, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones notes that when pressed for Biblical support for their view, postmillennialists “quote some of the parables in Matthew 13: the parable of the yeast, for instance, which spreads until it makes all the dough rise. Then they point to the parable of the mustard seed, the smallest of all the seeds, but it becomes a great tree and the birds of the air nest in its branches, and so on. They say that these parables teach quite clearly that the kingdom, as the result of the preaching of the gospel, will be extensive and world-wide and they point out that so far we have had nothing that corresponds to that” (The Church and the Last Things, 216). Lloyd-Jones was an a-millennialist, but he rightly noted that these two parables are often discussed in relation to end times.
Something else I found interesting in my studies this week was the wild variety of interpretations of these parables. Serious and committed Bible students have proposed completely contradictory meanings for Jesus’ words! For example, during the time of the reformation, the mustard tree was said to be the papacy and the birds those who were misled to join that church. The three measures of flour are the elect, and the yeast the evil of romanish theology. More modern Bible teachers have gone in a similar direction, supposing that yeast must be evil and that the mustard plant represents the church growing wrongly by adding false professors to its membership.