Summary: Matthew 13 contains the prophetic parables of Jesus.
Preaching of the King –Part 8
Matthew 13 contains the prophetic parables of Jesus. For almost fourteen centuries, as "Church-history" clearly shows, prophecy was neglected. Those known as the "Church fathers," with only one or two exceptions devoted their time debating doctrines and the ordinances; while prophecy was ignored. In view of 2 Peter 1:19 and the general neglect of prophecy for fourteen hundred years, those centuries have appropriately been called “The Dark Ages"—dark because the light from the lamp of prophecy did not illumine them.
The Reformer’s focus was on preaching the Gospel to a people who were utterly ignorant of it, translating the Scriptures into their own mother-tongues, and expounding the great fundamentals of the Christian faith. So busily occupied were they in those good works, they had little or no time to give to the real study of prophecy itself. As a matter of fact, practically all that the Reformers saw in the prophetical portions of Scripture was the foretold judgment of God upon the satanic system of the Papacy, out of which they had been mercifully delivered.
Those who have any knowledge at all of human nature can readily understand how it would be with men who had been cradled in Romanism and who later had, by the grace of God, been enabled to see its blasphemous errors. When they came to the prophecies of Scripture, their thinking was colored by Romanism, and consequently when they met with an object which was the predicted subject of God’s judgment, they viewed it through colored glasses. "Babylon’’ was the Papacy; the "Man of Sin" was the Pope; the "Beast" was Rome, and so on. The sad thing is that most of those who have followed the Reformers, instead of studying the prophecies of God’s Word for themselves, have done little more than echo what the Reformers before them said. In consequence, little or no advance has been made, and God’s people today have very little more light upon prophecy than had their forefathers of three hundred years ago. Although it is generally denied or ignored all Christians should give at least part of the time they spend in reading the Scriptures to studying its predictions.
It is impossible to understand God’s prophetic program and the events occurring in the world and Christianity if the parables of Matthew 13 are ignored. In this present age as in the past the parables of Jesus recorded in Matthew 13 are misunderstood and misinterpreted by the majority of the Christian community and Satan is using this against them.
In Matthew 13:11 the Lord Jesus has designated these seven parables "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven." This expression "the kingdom of heaven" is used to introduce each of the last six parables. What is meant by this expression? There is perhaps no term in Scripture used so extensively, but which is so little understood. Though it is found in Matthew’s Gospel only, yet it is used no less than thirty-two times. The interpretation of this expression affects a great deal of Scripture, and a correct definition of it supplies the first key to the understanding of Matthew 13; for it should be obvious to all that none can begin to understand its seven parables until they have obtained a right definition of that term.
There is a great deal of confusion and of misunderstanding concerning the scriptural meaning of this expression, "the kingdom of heaven." There are some who think that it refers to Heaven itself. There are others believe it refers to the Church of which Christ is the Head. But there is one scripture in the New Testament which conclusively refutes both of these definitions. In Matthew 16:19 we find Jesus saying to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." Jesus didn’t give Peter the keys of the Church or the keys of Heaven itself. What did Jesus give Peter? How would you explain what Jesus meant when He told Peter “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven"? Could you give a simple and satisfactory explanation of this verse? A great majority of Christians, including most of their leaders and teachers are not able to give a correct explanation of the "the kingdom of heaven" that they encounter so much in Matthew’s Gospel.
Before we can give a satisfactory explanation of the subject of "the kingdom of heaven" we need to first examine the expression "the kingdom of God," and in considering this we must begin where Scripture begins, and that is in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament there are two aspects of the expression, “the kingdom of God.” The first refers to the unlimited kingdom of God, namely the sovereign rule of the Most High over all His vast dominions. This aspect is referred to in Daniel 4:34-35. This rule of God over all His creatures is universal, absolute, and eternal. In the Old Testament there is also to the limited kingdom which is restricted both in its scope and time, which is neither eternal nor universal.