5-9 Parables of the Kingdom
The Mustard Seed
There are a number of insights throughout the parables into how the Lord perceived His future Kingdom. Significantly, His emphasis in the parables of the Kingdom is upon our spiritual status then, rather than on the physical wonders which His reign will bring on the earth. He foresaw how although our faith is so puny now, as a mustard seed, we will be those who will be as a solid tree, a real place of refuge, to the nations of the Millennium (Mt. 13:31,32 = Ez. 17:23,24). Just a very small amount of real faith during this life will enable us to move " this mountain" , surely referring to Mount Zion in the immediate context (Mt. 17:20). The idea of Mount Zion being moved sends the mind to Zech. 14:4,5, describing how Mount Zion will be moved at the Lord's return; and also to Ps. 125:1, which speaks of how they who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be removed; and yet Christ said we will remove it by prayer. The point of these allusions is surely to show that real faith will bring about the coming of the Kingdom, which is a totally super-human achievement; the unshakeableness of Mount Zion is likened to the solidity of true faith. The Lord's point seems to be that if we truly believe, then the coming of the Kingdom will be brought about by our faith; the outcome of our faith in this life will be seen in the Kingdom. But what our faith will achieve in the Kingdom will be hugely out of proportion to what it really is now.
But there is another way to read Mt. 17:20: " If ye have (now) faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall (in the Kingdom) say to this mountain (of Zion), Remove hence..." ; as if in the Kingdom we will be control of the physical world as the Lord was even in His mortality. In this case, His commanding of the sea and waves will be shared by us in the Kingdom; not just sea and waves, but mountains too (Mt. 8:27).
Handing Back The Money
The parables of the Kingdom speak of the eternal consequences of the judgment. The Lord will require His own at the judgment (Lk. 19:23). This doesn't mean, as the one talent man thought, that Christ will require us to give back to Him the basic doctrines of the Gospel which we were given at conversion. The Greek means to exact regularly, in an ongoing sense (s.w. Lk. 3:13); Strong defines it as meaning " to perform repeatedly...not a single act" . When the Lord examines our achievements at the judgment, He will expect to keep on receiving the result of what we have achieved for Him in this life. This is the ultimate encouragement for us in our preaching and encouraging of others, as well as ourselves; what we achieve now will yield eternal, continual fruit to the Lord.
But Mt. 25:27 says that at the judgment, the Lord will receive back His own. Strong defines this as " to carry off, away from harm" (the same word is used in Heb. 11:19 re. Abraham receiving Isaac from the dead). There is the suggestion that the Truth which the Lord has given us is valuable to Him, and He fears our losing it; those who lose the faith lose the personal possession of the Lord Jesus. But at the judgment, when we hand it back to the Lord, He (not to say, we) will have that deep knowledge that now we can't fail Him any more, we no longer have the possibility of causing harm and loss to the treasured wealth which has been entrusted to us.
The Limitation Of Immortality
There is a theme presented in the parables of the Kingdom which one is cautious to develop. But with child-like enthusiasm to enter deeper into the Hope of the Kingdom, I offer the following point for consideration: The Angels are in some ways limited, in power and understanding, despite possessing God's nature. It's more than likely that we in the Kingdom will eternally grow in knowledge (and perhaps power?) as the Angels do (1). This lack of full knowledge and comprehension is hinted at in the parables:
- " They said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds" (Lk. 19:25) suggests that " them that stood by" somehow questioned the Lord's judgment; their sense of equality was not that of their Lord. They felt that the gloriously strong brother with his wonderful reward didn't need it to be made even more wonderful. " Them that stood by" could refer to the Angels, or to the way in which the judgment will in some sense take place in the presence of all the believers (2). The fact is, even with God's nature, it will be difficult to appreciate the principles of judgment which the Lord uses; and so how much more difficult is it today!
- Those hired into the vineyard first " supposed (on judgment day) that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house...but he answered one of them (what's the significance of this?) and said, Friend (a description of the faithful, Jn. 15:15; James 2:23), I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is...I will give unto this last, even as unto thee" (Mt. 20:10-15). If the penny represents salvation, the harder workers only started questioning once they saw, to their amazement, the weaker and shorter workers receiving a penny. They received the promised reward of salvation, but couldn't understand the principles on which the Lord rewarded the weaker servants. If the hard working faithful will have a problem with this even at the judgment, how much more now?
Taken individually, none of these points from the parables of the Kingdom is very convincing. But put together, I suggest we see the emergence of a theme. It may be that these are the thoughts which pass through the minds of the responsible as they watch the judgment process; for it seems that in some sense it will be public.
(1) I have outlined the Biblical basis for this in The Last Days Chapter 27 (London: Pioneer, 1992).
(2) See Parables Of Judgment.