The Kingdom Parables
Parabolic Mysteries about the Kingdom (Matthew 13:1-53; Mark 4:1-34; Luke 8:4-18). It was
spring time along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, when warmth bounds and throbs with the vigor of
youth in Northern Palestine. The grass of fields is deck with flowers. The first fruits of the barley harvest
is over and the fields show promise of an abundance of much fruit with the wheat harvest in the month of
Sivan (May-June). Four months have passed since Jesus challenged the disciples to look for a spiritual
harvest of souls (John 4:34-38).
In the face of rejection by the religious leaders, Christ withdraws from Capernaum to teach a great crowd
by the seaside. Sitting down in a boat, Jesus speaks to the crowd on the shore by concealing revelation in
parables. The thrust of these parables is that the Kingdom of Heaven during the King’s absence on earth
will be a mixture of good and evil, true and false. Here the kingdom of heaven is equivalent to our term
“Christendom”—“the Universal Church.” It is made up of all who profess allegiance to the King,
whether in truth or pretense.
The parables of Matthew 13 begin with the sowing of the Word in Christ’s day and continue to the end of
this age. Jesus is the Sower in Parable of the Sower and Soils. It shows the four responses to His
preaching and teaching. Whenever Christ “plants” true believers to bear fruit for His glory, Satan plants
false Christians who oppose the work and hinder the harvest. Christians are seeds, and the kingdom of
heaven is a mixture of true seed (children of God) and the counterfeit (children of the Devil). Genesis
3:15 is the first mention of two seeds in the Bible. God said the woman would have a seed (Christ) (Gal
3:16; 4:4), and the serpent (Satan) would have a seed (cf. 1 John 3:10). It also states that there would be
constant enmity between the serpent’s seed and the women’s seed.
The serpent’s seed opposed John the Baptizer (Matthew 3:7) and did nothing when he was killed by
Herod. They opposed Christ (12:34; 23:33) and demanded His crucifixion. At the Cross, Satan struck
Christ’s heel but Christ crushed Satan’s head and defeated him forever.
The seven parables on the mystery of the kingdom of heaven correspond to Christ’s letters to the seven
churches in the Book of Revelation. These parables outline God’s program and Satan’s opposition during
this present age.
The period covered by these parables extends from Israel’s rejection until Israel’s future reception of the
Messiah. This means the program began while Christ was still on earth, and it extends until His return to
earth when He comes in power and great glory.
Mark records a second parable by Jesus on the theme of sowing seed (Mark 4:26-29), which was
designed to teach that the fruit depends not on the sower but on the life that is in the seed itself. The
Apostles were commissioned to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:19-20); it
would have been easy for them to feel that the harvest depended on their efforts. Christ wanted to make it
clear that the harvest would be the result of sowing the seed and then allowing life in the seed to manifest
itself by growth and fruit (cf. Colossians 1:3-6).
The parable of the mustard tree shows that one insignificant seed would grow a tree large enough for
birds to nest in it. Daniel 4:12 and Ezekiel 31:6 use the figure of a spreading tree in which birds lodge to
indicate a great kingdom that can protect many peoples.
Surveying the parables, we find that this present age with its form of the kingdom is characterized by the
sowing of the Word to which there will be varying responses, depending on the preparation of hearts
(Sower & Soils). The harvest that results is from the life in the seed itself (Seed Growing Itself). There is
a false counter-sowing in the kingdom (Tares & Wheat). The new form of the kingdom has an
insignificant beginning but will grow to unnatural portions (Mustard Seed). Evil will permeate the
kingdom (Yeast & Dough). God will gather a peculiar treasure to Himself through this present age
(Hidden Treasure & Pearl of Great Price). The present form of the kingdom will end in a judgment to
determine who are righteous and eligible to enter the future millennial form of the kingdom (Net &