Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.(Matt 13:11, NASB)
This post, the first of two parts, shall primarily consider the parables of the Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God – but particularly the mystery truths about God’s Kingdom Program – in the nine parables of Matthew 13:1‑53 (so also the parallel Mark 4:1‑34 and Luke 8:4‑18). The first part shall consider the purpose of parables and the God’s Kingdom Program. The second part of this post shall consider the actual parables.
First, context: Matthew 12:22‑45 records the national rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus on the grounds of demon possession. When the leadership of Israel officially rejected Yeshua, they became guilty of the unpardonable sin. From that point on, they were under the judgment of A.D. 70, the year in which Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans.
Now, parables are designed either to answer a question or to solve a problem. In Matthew 13, Jesus began teaching a series of parables, which were spoken on the very day that the national rejection of His Messiahship occurred. The question being answered is, “In light of Israel’s rejection of the Messiahship of Yeshua, what is the course of God’s Kingdom Program in the period between His two comings?” The problem being solved is, “Why was the Messianic Kingdom not set up?”
I. THE PURPOSE OF THE PARABLES
Yeshua’s parabolic method of teaching began the same day that the national rejection of His Messiahship occurred and the unpardonable sin was committed (Mat. 12:22‑45). Matthew 13:11‑17 explains exactly the purpose of these parables. After Yeshua’s first parable, the disciples asked Him a question in verse 10 “why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus’ shift in teaching, of course, surprised the disciples, because they knew that Yeshua had taught them clearly up to that point. Yeshua responded by stating three main purposes for this change in His method of teaching.
- First, parables would illustrate the truth for His disciples in verse 11a
- The second purpose was to hide the truth from the masses by teaching them in terms they could not and would not understand (11b-13).
- The third purpose was to fulfill prophecy (14-17). In this passage, Yeshua quoted Isaiah 6:9‑10, which prophesied that the Messiah would speak to the Jewish people in such a way that they would not understand.
II. THE KINGDOM PROGRAM
A fourth purpose of the parables was to expound and explain the mysteries of the Kingdom Program in light of Israel’s rejection of the Messianic Kingdom. Therefore, it is necessary to explain the five different facets of God’s Kingdom Program, the fifth facet being introduced in Matthew 13. A good definition of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven – two phrases that are interchangeable – is “God’s rule.” There may be degrees of authority in different aspects of God’s Kingdom Program, but the basic root meaning is that God rules the sphere over which He is sovereign.
1. The Universal or Eternal Kingdom
The first facet of the Kingdom Program is the Universal Kingdom or Eternal Kingdom, which means that God is always in control. Nothing ever happens outside of God’s will, be it his directive or permissive will. The term “Eternal Kingdom” emphasizes its timeless aspect, the fact that God is eternally in control. The term “Universal Kingdom” emphasizes the sphere and scope of the Kingdom; no matter where things exist, everything is within the sovereign will and control of God (see 1 Chron 29:11‑12; Pss 10:16; 29:10; 74:12; 90:1‑6; 93:1‑5; 103:19‑22; 145:1‑21; 148:8; Prov 21:11; Jer 10:10; Lam 5:19; Dan 4:17, 25, 32; 6:27; and Acts 17:24). This is the kingdom that the believer enters upon death (1 Cor. 15:50; 2 Tim. 4:18).
2. The Spiritual Kingdom
The second facet of God’s Kingdom Program is the Spiritual Kingdom, which is God’s rule in the heart of the believer. The Spiritual Kingdom is comprised of all who have experienced the new birth by the Holy Spirit for all times. This is the Kingdom of God of which Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in John 3:3: Except one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God. So from Adam onward, the Spiritual Kingdom has existed. In this present age, from Acts 2 until the Church is removed in the Rapture, the Spiritual Kingdom and the Church are synonymous. However, the Spiritual Kingdom existed before the Church was born, and it will continue to exist in the hearts of believers after the Rapture (see Matt 6:33; 19:16, 23‑24; John 3:3‑5; Acts 8;12; 14:22; 19:8; 28:23; 1 Cor 4:20; 6:9‑10; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:5; Col 1:13‑14; 4:11; 1 Thes 2:12; and 2 Thes 1:5.
3. The Theocratic Kingdom
The third facet of God’s Kingdom Program is the Theocratic Kingdom. This facet refers to God’s rule by means of and through a theocracy over one nation, Israel. Established by Moses, the Theocratic Kingdom was God’s rule over Israel. The foundations of Israel as a Theocratic Kingdom were laid when the Law was given, which served as the constitution of this kingdom. The Theocratic Kingdom underwent two aspects in its history: (1) The mediatorial form, during which God ruled through mediators, and (2) the monarchial form, during which God ruled through the monarchs of the House of David. Samuel marked the transition between the two forms, not only because he was the last judge, but also because he anointed David. David, in turn, began a dynasty, which continued to occupy the throne until Zedekiah. It was during the latter stages of the monarchial form that the Theocratic Kingdom went into a decline in quality. With the decline, the prophets began to announce a future, better form of God’s Kingdom Program, the Messianic Kingdom. Finally the Theocratic Kingdom came to an end in 586 B. C. with the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. At this point in Israel’s history, the Times of the Gentiles began and continue until this day (see Ex 19-2 Chron 36).
4. The Messianic or Millennial Kingdom
The fourth facet of God’s Kingdom Program also has two names: the Messianic Kingdom or the Millennial Kingdom. The name Messianic Kingdom emphasizes that Messiah Himself will rule directly over this kingdom. The name “Millennial Kingdom” emphasizes the duration of this kingdom, one thousand years. The form of the Messianic/Millennial Kingdom will be an earthly, literal kingdom during which Yeshua will rule from the Throne of David and from Jerusalem over the saved nation of Israel and the Gentile Nations. The Messianic Kingdom is rooted in the Davidic Covenant. When God made a covenant with David, He promised that David would have an eternal house, an eternal kingdom, an eternal throne, and an eternal descendant (see Pss 2 and 72; Is 9:6‑7; 11:1‑16; Jer 23:5‑6; 32:14‑17; Ezek 34:23; 37:24; Hos 3:4‑5; Mic 4:6‑8; 5:2; and Mal 3:1‑4). The Messianic Kingdom was a major area of Old Testament prophecy. This was the kingdom John the Baptist proclaimed to be at hand (Mat. 3:2; 4:17). It was the kingdom Jesus offered to the Jewish people (Mat. 10:7; Mk. 1:14). It is this kingdom that the Jewish leaders rejected, and as a result, the offer was rescinded or taken away from that generation. From a human perspective, the Messianic Kingdom was postponed, since it was not set up at that time. From the divine perspective, the rejection was part of God’s plan and the means by which the Messiah would die to provide the atonement and extend the gospel to the Gentiles (Is. 49:1‑13). The Messianic Kingdom will be re‑offered to the Jewish generation of the Tribulation, when it will be accepted.
5. The Mystery Kingdom
The fifth facet of the Kingdom Program is the Mystery Kingdom. This name is derived from Matthew 13, where, following the rejection of His Messiahship, Jesus introduced this facet of God’s Kingdom Program by means of the mysteries of the kingdom (Mat. 13:11a). A New Testament mystery is a divine truth that was not revealed in the Old Testament but is revealed in the New Testament (Eph 3:3‑5, 9; Col 1:26‑27). These passages can be combined as follows: “In the Old Testament, this divine mystery was not made known to the sons of men because it has been hid in God for ages and generations. In the New Testament, it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in order to make all men see the mystery that has now been manifested to his saints.” The Mystery Kingdom is the one facet of the Kingdom Program that was not revealed in the Old Testament. The parables of Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 describe the mystery form of the Kingdom Program, a Kingdom that covers the age between the First and Second Comings of the Messiah. More specifically, it began with the rejection of His Messiahship in Matthew 12 and will continue until Israel accepts His Messiahship just before the Second Coming (Mat. 23:37‑39). Perhaps the best single‑word definition of the Mystery Kingdom is the term “Christendom.” The Mystery Kingdom must be kept distinct from the other facets for four reasons.
 This post is a modified version of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s original Messianic Bible Study. The full version may be obtained here.
 One point of clarification is needed. Some have assumed that if Israel had accepted Jesus as the Messiah, He would not have had to die. This is incorrect. The Messiah’s death was inevitable because it was essential for the atonement, which could only be by accomplished by the shedding of blood. Whether Israel accepted Him or not, He still would have had to die. The atonement comes only by blood, not by kingly rule.