The Parables Of The Kingdom
Christendom as described in Matthew 13
by Hughie Seaborn
It Doesn't Add Up!
In Christendom we have been taught, and most of us have believed, that the symbols used by the Lord in the parables of Matthew 13 are to be interpreted to represent the influence of the Kingdom of Heaven upon the peoples of the world - how the Word of God will spread throughout the earth and bring vast numbers of new believers into the church. Multitudes will hear and respond to the Gospel message and be converted, vastly swelling the numbers in the churches. For some reason, I have never been able to reconcile all of the parables with what I have been taught. For me, there has constantly been confusion with the interpretations that have been presented by our pastors and visiting teachers. On a great number of occasions, there seemed to be contradictions to their meanings.
As Christians, we believe and proclaim that God's Word is truth and so, if there are perceived contradictions in the given interpretations, it becomes obvious that the problem has to do with our ability to interpret the intended meanings of the Scriptures and not with what God has had faithfully preserved in His Word, written for our instruction.
I believe that we need to take a closer look at the parables that the Lord Jesus spoke and that were consequently recorded in Matthew 13. It has recently been revealed to me that, perhaps, we have been under wrong teaching regarding these parables and that we should interpret them in the light of Jesus indicating to His followers what would take place predominantly within Christendom, and not what would take place in the world. The peoples of the kingdom of this world, the ones who don't want to hear the Gospel, and so reject the lordship of Jesus Christ, are indicated in the second parable, the parable of the wheat and the tares, but these people are not the principal focus of these parables. Jesus plainly said that these parables are all symbolizing events that will influence the Kingdom of Heaven, that is Christendom. In all of the parables, except the parable of the sower, Jesus begins his message with the words, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like..."
Let us first read the Scriptures that are at the centre of our study hoping that I will not have to apologize for using copious passages from the Bible. It is my conviction that the primary problem facing Christendom today is that most 'professing Christians' do not study their Bibles and are, therefore, ignorant of the requirements of God. Though they may confess with their mouths that the Bible is their final authority, though they may hold their Bible up high for all to see (mostly within the four walls of the sanctuary) and proclaim "Thy Word is Truth", it soon becomes obvious that a great multitude have not the faintest idea of what Truth is or what the Bible is an authority on. However.....
So, we see that Matthew 13 is a collection of parables about the progress of the Kingdom of Heaven throughout the earth. All of these parables belong together, examining the progression of the Kingdom from different perspectives. They are addressing a variety of issues that will influence the Kingdom of Heaven (Christendom) from its inception up until Christ returns to claim His bride. However, the essence of the Matthew 13 parables is, for us who live in the closing of the Church age, that of all of the vast multitude in the realm of the Kingdom of Heaven, there is actually only a percentage, a remnant you might say, of genuine and sincere believers.
The Parables also indicate that, somewhere in the future, there is coming a time of separation - a time when the Lord will gather to Himself those who are truly His and cast aside those who, although they are convinced in their heart that they are serving Christ, have been deceived into following after other gods.
Could such a thing possibly be true? Could there ever come to pass such a time when people who genuinely aspire only to serve and please the One True and Living God would be separated from the body of believers and cast aside by the Lord?
In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus enlightens us to the answer of this question with the ominous, prophetic warning,
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
What a terrible and frightening Scripture this is. It is actually saying that there are those within the professing Body of Christ, within Christendom, who believe that they are serving the Lord Jesus with all their hearts, even supposedly performing 'miracles, signs and wonders' in His name, and yet they are rejected and told to depart from the presence of Jesus. Jesus says that they have been practicing works of iniquity or lawlessness and that He never knew them. They have presumed that they have been serving the Lord, but it was a 'lord' of their own imaginations. These servants of the 'lord' had evidently strayed off the straight and narrow path in various ways, being led astray from the "will of the Father" to follow other gods. They were guilty of doing what was right - in their own eyes!
Also, in Matthew 22:11-14 we read another fearful account that further confirms the answer to our question above.
"And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen."
Doing The Will Of God
Judging by the above Scriptures, it would be in our best interests to do a Bible study to find exactly what the will of God is. Doing the will of God is the deciding criteria and should not be confused with doing good works! Obviously, prophesying, casting out demons, doing marvelous works, performing signs and wonders, etc., is not the answer. What is the will of the Father and what is it that could possibly exclude one from the presence of the Lord despite an outward display of actually 'doing His will'?
Although "the will of God" is not the purpose of this article, I will mention two Scriptures that should instigate a study into why these Charismatic, Pentecostal Christians were denied by the Lord Jesus and separated from His presence.
The first Scripture is Romans 12:2 where we are encouraged,
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
The second Scripture is 1 John 2:15-17 which reads,
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
Conforming to the world - worldly thinking or beliefs, worldly principles, ideals, standards and morals, worldly programs and agendas, worldly influence (eg. Music? Government influence?), worldly associations and friendships, worldly desires to elevate self and acquire wealth, etc., etc. The list could go on. The world, with its pride and lust, is a snare to even the most zealous and well intentioned Christian. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Being Led Away By False Doctrine
Could it possibly be that these people who cry "Lord, Lord", mentioned in Matthew 7:21-23 above, were led astray by an experiential Christianity, deceived by their experience into believing that they were truly serving God? Could it be that their experiences took precedence over the written Word? Could it be that they had listened to false teachers and false prophets and had not done as the Bereans had, as recorded in God's Word in Acts 17:11, checking what they were being taught against the Scriptures? Could it possibly be that these professing followers of Christ had not heeded the explicit warnings of our Lord and Saviour - the clear and specific warnings of God in His Word through Paul and others, warnings inspired through His Holy Spirit which were written down and recorded for our protection - warnings regarding the events that would take place within the professing Church at the end of the age? Read the whole of Matthew 7 in context and discover what the subject matter is. The subject is clearly about doctrine and the context is clearly about the terrible consequences of departing from His teachings. (See the article posted on this site entitled "By Their Fruit You Shall Know Them" with regard to the context of Matthew 7)
We have been cautioned repeatedly in Scripture to beware of a multitude of false teachers and false prophets who will come, in the latter days, from within the professing Body of Christ, with a gospel that is no gospel at all. These unlearned and self-proclaimed teachers will come with stories that they have made up for the express purpose of pandering to the self-centered, worldly appetites of a great host of superficial Christians. The Bible reveals that these teachers will gathering great numbers of followers after themselves by preaching eloquent messages which are designed to be pleasing and non-confrontational to their audience's lifestyles. But the messages will be merely myths and fables that the teachers have manufactured specifically to tickle the itching ears of the listeners. We are warned that a great number of these false teachers will exploit the members of the professing church by abusing them financially and by making merchandise of them in a number of other ways. Other sincere, but undiscerning teachers within Christendom will pick up these erroneous teachings and practices and run with them, further compounding the problem.
We are also warned in Scripture that Christians will embrace a message that will ultimately condition them to accept the teachings of an enormous end time church organization which will be under the leadership and total authority of the False Prophet who is described in the Book of Revelation. False teachers will preach love and unity in the name of Jesus and deceive many who genuinely desire to serve God. But the love and unity that they promote, which will appear ever so commendable and upright to the undiscerning and uninformed, will be at the expense of Biblical truth. They will preach a gospel of compromise and, as Jesus clearly warns in Scripture, they will lead many unwary churchgoers astray.
Honouring God With The Mouth But Not The Heart
Another area of deception that we are clearly warned of is recorded in Matthew 15:7-9, where Jesus said,
"Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me." But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
We participate in what we perceive to be the most magnificent praise and worship services today. There is an emphasis on worship - and there is nothing wrong with that, in its context. But I believe that people are becoming caught up and emotionally moved by the worship and the loud, worldly music. They become enraptured by the feelings inspired by the 'worship' songs and they presume that the Holy Spirit is ministering to them. But it is simply emotionalism, an excitement of the soul. Their soul is being stimulated. With their lips they are praising God, but their hearts are seeking a non-Scriptural experience which has been encouraged by teachers of false doctrine.
For we gentiles, upon whom the ends of the age will be fulfilled, the parables we have read above are talking about Christendom. "The Kingdom of Heaven is like..." becomes, "The Church down through the age is like..." The particular parables we address in this article speak symbolically of something bad being mixed in with something good. Among other things, they also speak of a separation that is to come between people who are vigilant and sober and who will stand for God's Word without compromise, and people who have been led astray by servants of Satan who have convinced a multitude that they are servants of righteousness. In other words, wolves in sheep's clothing. False teachers who have convinced the congregations that they are ministers of the Gospel. Let us work our way through the meanings of the parables and see what Jesus is actually presenting to us.
In Matthew 13:18-23, Jesus explains about the parable of the sower. There is no doubt about what the symbols represent and we should not try to make of the symbols anything other than what Jesus plainly said to His disciples. He clearly expounds to His disciples what the parable was speaking about.
The seed, we are told, represents the message of the Kingdom, the Word of God, the Gospel message of salvation.
The different types of soils are symbolic of the hearts, personalities and attitudes of different types of people who are presented with the Gospel message.
Although we are not told so specifically, there is no question that the sower is representing an evangelist, a believer who takes the Gospel message and presents it to someone else.
The birds represent the evil one, the devil and his demons, who come and steal the message from the heart of the one who hears but does not understand. In 2 Corinthians 4:1-4 the apostle Paul describes these people.
"Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
"But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
The rocky places from verse 5 are clearly meant to represent the hearts of people who receive the Word but fall away under the persecution and pressure that always comes when someone responds to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and takes positive steps toward becoming a Christian. 1 Peter 4:3-4 explains that our former worldly friends become angry with us, heaping abuse upon us and speaking evil about us in an attempt to return us to their camp.
"For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you."
These ones who turn away because of the mocking and abuse received on account of the Word are people who are susceptible to peer pressure. To avoid confrontation, they allow what people think about them to dictate their course and lot in life. However Proverbs 29:25 tells us,
"The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe."
And Matthew 10:32-33,
"Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."
The thorns from verse 7 indicate people who are more influenced by wealth and worldly cares than things of the Kingdom. As Jesus pointed out in Matthew 19:24,
"I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."
1 Timothy 6:7-10 also speaks of those who acknowledge Christ with their mouth but who will be influenced more by riches and the cares of this world than the Word of God.
"For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
The seeking after prosperity and the temporal things of the world cause the person to compromise what they think and believe about the Word of God, dulling the truth of the things of the Spirit.
The good soil from verse 8 is the heart of the man who hears and understands the Word and lives a life of commitment and service to the Lord. He is the one who hears the words of the Lord in Luke 9:23-24 where He said,
"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it."
This person is able to understand and accept that becoming a Christian requires him to make some drastic changes and, in all probability, some sacrifices for His Name's sake. He is also one who takes the message of the Gospel to others, bringing forth fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Tares Among The Wheat
Once again, in verses 36-43 Jesus expounds to His disciples the meanings of the symbols in His second parable, the parable of the tares in the field of wheat.
According to Scripture, the man who sowed the good seed in this particular parable is representing the Son of Man, Jesus, and not just any evangelist who comes with the Gospel, as it did in the previous parable about the sower.
Likewise, the soil of the field is no longer representing just the heart and personality of an individual type of man, nor even the Church, but we are told by Jesus, the field represents the whole world.
So too, the seeds take on different meanings from that described by Jesus in the parable of the sower. The good seed represents the sons of the Kingdom that eventually produce a crop of wheat. They have been planted in the field by Jesus. These are the children of God. The seeds that produce the weeds have been planted in the same field by the evil one. These are the children of the devil.
So we see from the explanation of these symbols that Jesus has come to the world and has planted His people, the Christians. However, the devil has also come and planted his people in the world, people who couldn't care less about God and who are usually openly hostile toward anyone who does. These unregenerate people and the Christians coexist together in the world. And they grow together in the one field until the end of the age, whereupon one group is gathered to the Lord and the other is gathered and thrown into the furnace.
The harvesters are the angels and the harvest is the end of the age. These angels of the Lord are spoken of in Revelation 14:14-19.
"I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one "like a son of man" with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, "Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested."
"Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, "Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth's vine, because its grapes are ripe." The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God's wrath."
The Field Is The World!
There is a teaching currently (1998) doing the rounds of the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches that asserts that the field in the above Scripture refers to the church. However, Jesus explains the symbols to His disciples and explicitly declares that the field is the world. I have found that there is a very sinister reason behind contesting the definition of the field in this parable. If a teacher can change the intended meanings of the symbols in the parables, they can be misconstrued to declare just about anything that will support whatever erroneous preconceptions the teacher might have.
Let me illustrate.
Because he has his own interpretation for the meaning of the field, I have been contested by a former friend (from the AOG fellowship from which I was expelled) for my stand against the introduction of Word of Faith theology into my former church fellowship. He said that he could see what I was saying with regard to false teaching infiltrating the fellowship, but that he believed that I was wrong in my commitment in trying to expose the false teachers and their heretical beliefs. He based his challenge to me upon his understanding of the parable of the "Wheat and the Tares". According to this portion of Scripture, he said, we were to leave the false teachers alone! I asked him to explain.
My friend related to me that the field represents the church and that the parable was showing that there would be true teachers and false teachers existing along side each other in the church. When the servants asked the man who owned the field if they should root up the tares, he said that they should not for fear of damaging the good, young wheat plants. Therefore, according to my friend's understanding, we are not to try and expose false teachers and their heresies because we would destroy the faith of young Christians by our contentious actions. Apparently the faith and walk of young Christians would be damaged beyond repair by witnessing controversial people such as myself who were making a stand for the truth and authority of the Scriptures by denouncing false teachers and their obvious lies. I was incredulous.
Shockingly, if my friend's interpretation could be proven to be correct then we have an injunction from the Lord commanding us to neither expose false teachers in our midst nor oppose their erroneous teachings, the very idea of which contradicts numerous other Scriptures which encourage us to do otherwise.
Salt & Light & Preaching The Gospel
I pointed out to my friend that Jesus explicitly says that the field is the world and not the Church, nor even the Synagogue. This particular parable is simply showing that the true Church, consisting of the faithful and obedient followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, is expected to coexist in the world alongside the unbelievers, the children of the devil. And that is so for a very important reason. We have been called to a task whereby we are to go throughout the field of the farmer proclaiming the message of the Kingdom of Heaven.
In Matthew 5:13-16 we read the words of Jesus,
"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Romans 10:13-15 explains beautifully why the Christians must coexist in the field with the unredeemed.
"... whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!"
Philippians 2:14-15 also confirms to us that we are growing up in the field along side tares.
"Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world."
In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus plainly tells us that we are to go all over the field preaching the message.
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
We are to shine as lights before the unbelievers in our communities, showing the way out of darkness, giving hope in a depraved and wicked society. We are to be salt preserving righteousness in amongst wickedness, causing a thirst in the hearts of the lost to partake of the Living Water of Christ.
In The Field, But Not Of The Field
Paul writing in his second letter to the Corinthian church had to correct a serious misunderstanding in which the Christians were separating themselves from the unbelievers in such a way as to be useless in the propagation of the Gospel. The owner of the field had plainly said that the servants were not to pull up the tares and throw them away. The wheat and the tares are to grow together until the harvest.
In 2 Corinthians 5:9-13 he wrote,
"I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person."
Paul was very careful, on this occasion, to point out that it is not the 'unbelieving' fornicators, thieves and idolaters of the field that we are commanded to separate from. On the contrary, we are to separate from any persons who declare themselves a brother or sister in the Lord, that is a Christian, and who by practicing such ungodly behaviour deny their calling, bringing a reproach upon the church and causing the gentiles to blaspheme the name of Christ. We are in the world, but not of the world.
Paul's final words, in the above passage of Scripture, contradict my friend's mistaken assumption that we should allow false teachers to coexist in amongst the children of the congregation. The principle is set; "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person!"
Even after pointing out the error of his interpretation and the inconsistency of his belief, which is contradicted by numerous other Scriptures that command us to expose false teachers and their heresies, to expel wickedness from our midst and to contend for the preservation of sound doctrine, he still holds to his teaching that the parable of the 'Wheat and the Tares' tells us that we are not to take any action against false teachers because of the damage it can do to new Christians. Frighteningly, this man is a teacher in the local church Bible College!!!
Does interpreting the field to be representative of the world, rather than the church, mean that Christendom will be free from the influence of the children of the devil? No, it does not! Obviously, the children of the devil will infiltrate the church. Not only does the Word of God tells us so, but current events within Christendom confirm it as so. Verses 41 and 42 of Matthew 13 is but one passage of Scripture that confirms this by telling us that,
"The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
So, we see, there are those "which do iniquity" within his Kingdom. Despite there being numerous prophetic accounts in Scripture to support my friend's understanding that false teachers will be in the Church, the parable of the Wheat and the Tares is not one of them. We need to comply with the intended meaning of a symbol when it is plainly given. By misinterpreting the meaning of the field we end up with a parable that appears to sanction fellowship with people who call themselves 'brothers' in the Lord, and yet, who preach another doctrine and engage in all manner of worldly activities. This scenario is not supported by the 'whole counsel' of God. In fact, as previously stated, it is condemned by numerous other Scriptures.
The Parable Of The Mustard Seed
Because of the failure of a great number of professing followers of Christ to abide in His Word and heed the clear instructions of Scripture regarding what should be done about such things as apostasy in the End Times, about false teachers rising from within the ranks of the church, about blatant sin being performed by leaders and also members in the congregations as well as a host of other things that weaken the testimony of the church, we arrive at the next parable in Matthew 13.
In verse 31 and 32 of Matthew 13, we find the parable of the mustard seed. However, Jesus omits to explain to His disciples the meanings of the symbols. Perhaps He doesn't need to. In verses 11 and 12, He explained to His disciples that "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them." In other words, because they were His disciples, because they were Kingdom people, they would be able to understand the meanings, whereas others who were questioning the ministry and validity of Jesus would be blinded to the spiritual significance of the parables.
Unfortunately, most genuine believers today have listened to man interpret the meanings of these symbols and types without spending their own time, prayerfully in the presence of the Holy Spirit, studying the Scriptures to see "if these things be so." Consequently, we have had a crowd of teachers giving different interpretations to the parables which frequently contradict each other. Most people, even though they are aware that something just doesn't add up, do not bother to take the effort to pursue the matter further, and so, give up in indifference, passing them by as unimportant. The general consensus held by the average Christian today is that "...the pastor and teaching staff of the church are responsible to find out what these things mean anyway, so why should I bother to try and work it out?"
The mustard plant is a herb. Believe it or not, it is not an enormous great tree as I, and many other Christians, have been led to believe by our pastors and teachers. To further compound the problem of misrepresentation, there is confusion among Bible commentators as to which variety of mustard plant Jesus was referring to in His parable. Apparently, there was more than one variety growing in the Middle East in Biblical times. More confusion reigns because different plant 'experts' disagree about the height to which mustard plants normally grow.
For example, a number of sources have the mustard plant growing to only a bit over a metre in height. They say that it is a small bush type plant. On the other hand, the IVP New Bible Dictionary agrees that much controversy surrounds the identification of the actual plant Jesus was referring to, but never-the-less claims that in abnormal circumstances one variety of the plant can attain a height of up to five metres. However, they qualify that statement by adding that, usually it grew much smaller.
Another source, the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, claims that the mustard plant was a thick stemmed plant which under good conditions could grow higher than a man can reach. That would be about two and a half metres. In their publication they also have a picture of the plant which looks very similar to a small stand of bamboo consisting of perhaps half a dozen very straight upright poles with a scarce amount of foliage. Which ever description one appeals to, none of the described plants seem to fit with the tree described in the Lord's parable. For example, the Mustard plants described in all of the sources I referred to would hardly be the type of plants in which birds could take refuge. They are either too close to the ground or else they are lacking in foliage.
This parable tells us that the mustard seed, that the man took and planted in his field, grew and grew until it became a large tree with branches that the birds of the air could come and 'lodge' in. Notice the word that is used to describe what the birds of the air do. They don't simply perch in the branches, or nest, or rest there. They lodge in the branches.
As we work our way through this parable, using the interpretations for the symbols in the previous parables, we find that the man again represents the Lord. The field is the world. "The Kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed" said the Lord, so the seed is The Kingdom of Heaven, Christendom, the professing church in the world.
So we understand by this parable that the Lord comes into the world and plants His Kingdom. The seed germinates and sprouts forth beautifully, becoming one of the largest plants in the herb garden, about two to three metres in height. However, the parable indicates that it doesn't stop there as it should have under normal circumstances. In fact, for some reason, the mustard plant accelerates in its growth and becomes a huge tree with many branches. It becomes so huge, in fact, that we are informed that the birds of the air come and 'lodge' in those branches. The portrayed feeling is that they have become firmly entrenched therein and that it would be nigh on impossible to extract and expel them
The Spreading Of The Gospel
Because of my teaching, I always understood this parable to mean that, although the church began as a small seed with a few people, it would grow and grow until it spread its influence throughout the whole world and that it would provide shade and shelter for those weary pilgrims of life who eventually become Christians. The way it was explained, the parable seemed to be indicating something nice and comforting happening. The Gospel would be preached throughout the world and vast multitudes would get saved and come into the Kingdom of Heaven, and we would all live happily ever after. So we were told!
This interpretation would perhaps be plausible if we didn't have to take into consideration the meanings of the preceding and following parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. Nor would this lovely definition be hard to accept if we didn't have the rest of the Scriptures clamoring for our attention, urgently warning us about the state of Christendom just prior to the return of Christ. Contrary to popular teaching this parable has to be indicating that something is terribly wrong with the professing church, not that everything is going along nicely, thank you very much.
Something has gone terribly wrong with the mustard plant and visions of Jack and the Beanstalk come to mind. The parable is revealing abnormal growth. The plant has grown out of all proportion to its natural and intended size. It has also grown great branches in which the birds are lodging, or taking up residence.
Now for some bad news that will shatter the dream of a worldwide evangelistic triumph culminating in unprecedented revival. Jesus explained to his disciples in verse 19 that the birds mentioned in verse 4 are, in fact, symbolic of the evil one and his demons. If we appeal to the interpretation that Jesus gave for the birds in verse 19, as we surely must, we would have to conclude that demons have taken up residence in the different branches of the enormous tree representing the Kingdom of Heaven!
The article on the mustard plant mentioned above from the IVP New Bible Dictionary actually states that "...one interpretation sees the 'mustard' as a monstrous plant foretelling the worldly expression of Christendom, with evil, as exemplified by the birds, in its branches." So this is not some novel interpretation that I alone have concluded. Apparently, this interpretation has been around for some while but it has not been the teaching that the Charismatic or Pentecostal strains of Christendom have been espousing. At least, not in my experience.
What are the branches representing? There is nothing in the previous parables to give us a clue as to what the branches are symbolizing, however, I believe that the branches are indicating denominations. The Kingdom of Heaven was never intended to be split and divided into a host of different denominations. The church is supposed to be one. One in faith, one in spirit and one in doctrine.
But don't despair, because the good news about all this is that the true Church (capital "C") IS ONE, and ALWAYS HAS BEEN ONE. It is the 'PROFESSING' church wherein lies the problem.
The Kingdom of Heaven, Christendom, consists of all who name the Name of Christ, whether in sincerity or otherwise. Additionally, as we move closer to the end of the age something previously unheard of will take place. People of different faiths, that is, pagan religions, will be welcomed into Christendom to culminate in the massive false church that is described in the Book of Revelation. "Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots." False churches and pagan religions are infiltrating Christendom and they are mixing together portraying a huge religious organization and, in the natural, it will be difficult to try and discern what is false and what is real. It's all one tree. However, God is revealing to many of His true followers the seriousness of the hour and they are heeding the call to come out and be separate.
Perhaps we could describe the situation like this, the professing church of Jesus Christ, which represents the Kingdom of God in the earth, has become a huge organization. It has many branches, or denominations and lately, many religions. But only a part of the church, a remnant, is the real Church. There is a large proportion of Christendom that is false, even though it claims itself as the real Church. We can even go so far as to say that a great many of the denominations are influenced more by demon spirits than they are by the Spirit of God. Demon spirits have lodged, or taken up residence in the branches, the different denominations of Christendom.
Is it possible that my interpretation of the symbols could be correct? How could I be bold enough to claim the possibly that Christendom, the professing church in the world, has been infiltrated by demons, false teachers and even pagan religions? A recap on verses 41 and 42 reminds us that,
"The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
Jesus says He will gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity. Out of His Kingdom??? It is plain language that there are those in His Kingdom who do not belong and when the final curtain falls they will be found to be wearing clothes unfit for the wedding banquet. Also, we read in Revelation 18:2,
"And he [the angel] cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird."
Babylon, the false religious system that will seduce the whole world and enter into the tribulation period as representing the church on the earth, will be a habitation of demons and birds of the air. The birds of the air are already lodged in the branches. Amazingly, the Greek word kataskenoo, translated 'lodge' in the King James Version can also be translated as 'haunt'. In other words, demons are haunting the denominations!
Over the last twenty years or so there has been an emphasis on church growth. The churches have become influenced by worldly advertising campaigns and have even sought counsel with non-Christian businesses and consultants in their bid to have people attend their churches. Consulting the heathen for ideas on how to run God's household! Going down again to Egypt in other words. New Age techniques and pagan principles are endorsed in an all out effort to increase attendances. Worldly programs are then put into place in an attempt to keep the people from defecting to other churches. Gyms and sports facilities, theme parks and weight loss programs - you name it - are a sample of the church's efforts to retain members. It is unfortunate that mostly the motives for the desire of building bigger congregations has to do more with raising money to pay for property and church building programs than it does for bringing people through to repentance and salvation, or even having meat in the storehouse for the needy. If you preach the 'right' message, members = money! And more members = ??? I will leave you to work it out.
Today, big means success and pastors are becoming more to resemble company managers and business executives than servants to the flock. The image that the pastor displays to the public must be one of "success" and he and his entourage need the trappings to keep the image alive. Big, new cars, flash houses, a boat in the yard, swimming pools, expensive clothes, jewelry, etc., etc.
But what does the Bible have to say about success and size? The words of the Lord Jesus recorded in Matthew 7:13-16 echo down through nearly two thousand years, reminding us,
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them."
Shouldn't this Scripture cause us, just a little bit, to question the professed size of Christendom? Shouldn't we be just a little suspicious of the beliefs that the church will conquer all of the secular institutions, that we will convert great multitudes of people to Christianity and present a perfect society to Jesus upon His return?
It is amazing that the warning about the wide and narrow road is followed immediately by the warning about false prophets and teachers who appear as sheep but are actually wolves in disguise. When looking for false teachers and false prophets, don't look for wolves. Look for sheep! Look for sheep who preach a word that contradicts the Word of God! They look like lambs but when they open their mouths to bleat, they sound just like a wolf. It is by the sounds coming forth from their mouths that we will know them. God's Word tells us that "By their fruit you shall know them." The fruit that we are to look for is teaching that is contrary to the Word of God, which is the important reason that we should be grounded in Scripture. If you do not diligently study the Word you will not be qualified to discern wolves masquerading as sheep.
In Ezekiel chapter 31, there is a very interesting prophecy given through Ezekiel to Pharaoh, king of Egypt. We know that Pharaoh and his horde and Egypt represent, to the Christian, the devil and his demons and our position in life before we repented and submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We were in captivity and subject to sin and worldly passion. This prophecy uses the symbol of a great tree to represent Egypt. The branches were a haunt for the birds of the air and the shade beneath became a place where the beasts of the fields gave birth to their offspring. It seems like a nice place until you see that the judgment of God destroyed it because of its pride and wickedness. The tree was not representing something nice, but rather, something evil.
So with the Mustard tree. This parable has absolutely nothing to do with the true Church taking dominion in the world, as we have been taught by our false teachers. It is more to do with the world taking dominion in the false church. It is talking of apostasy in the professing church, a false manifestation of the size of Christendom, divisions within creating a multitude of denominations and evil, demonic influences lodged therein.
What a terrible, negative conclusion I have come to regarding this particular parable. Especially considering the one we have been traditionally taught by our respected teachers. Could it be possible that what I have written is true? Could Jesus really have meant that the Kingdom of Heaven, Christendom, would end up as the terrible picture that I have painted? I believe that the next parable will confirm that we have been led astray by false teachers who have corrupted our understanding of what Jesus was attempting to convey to us.
The Parable Of The Leaven
"The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened."
Here, once again, Jesus omits to explain the symbolism, but we should not be concerned. He has said in His Word that we, as His disciples, would be able to understand the meanings. I believe that with the leading of the Holy Spirit, the knowledge of what we have learned so far from the other parables and with the use of other Scriptures, we will be able to interpret the meanings of the symbols and types and come to the correct interpretation.
Similar to the parable of the mustard seed, I have always been led to believe that the leaven was representative of the Gospel and how it is supposed to permeate throughout the whole world, which is represented by the flour, and consequently bring a veritable multitude into the Kingdom. Vast numbers, I have been led to understand, would flock into the Kingdom causing the Church to be the most influential organization in the entire world. As a young Christian, influenced by my pastors and teachers, it sounded like a good story and made a lot of sense when read in the light of our 'old' interpretation of the parable of the mustard seed and others. However...
By Stealth The Enemy Infiltrates The Kingdom
The age in which we now live is called the "Times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24) or, more commonly, the Church Age. The "Times of the Gentiles" (the Church Age) is a specifically ordained period of time that has a beginning and an ending. We are now approaching that period in the history of the world when God will close the Church Age and, once again, deal exclusively with the nation of Israel. We are told in Romans 11:25
"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in."
Satan, the deadly adversary who is dedicated to opposing the plans of God, and who is also acutely aware of the prophetic Scriptures that speak of him, is going out of his way to ensnare as many of the children of God as possible before the Church Age closes and Jesus returns to present His Bride to Himself. We are graphically warned in Revelation 12:12
"Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."
Our enemy, the Devil, will not come and openly introduce himself to us and then inform us that he has come to deceive us. We are actually informed in Scripture that the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety. By stealth, he deceived Eve, pretending that he was on her side and then led her away from God's plan for her. Satan is a brilliant tactician and we do ourselves no favour by kidding ourselves that we are somehow in his class when it comes to strategies. The unadulterated Word of God is our double edged sword, our only offensive weapon with which we can protect ourselves from his lies and deceptions. However, Satan, by stealth, is removing that weapon out of the hands of the children of God in these final, closing days of the Church Age, and replacing it with a blunt, artificial replica. Most professing Christians are not even aware that their God given sword has even been replaced.
We have an endless supply of Bible translations in this day in which we are living. Some are relatively good, some are bad and some are simply a tool of Satan to lead us away from the unchanging truth of God's Word, and should be avoided at all cost. When we consider God's multiple warnings in Scripture about changing His Word by adding things to it or taking things away from it, it is an amazing thing how some of these so called Bible translators can sleep peacefully at night. I think it has something to do with the fear of the Lord - that is, a lack thereof.
In the Authorized King James rendering of His Word, in 2 Timothy 2:15 God instructs us,
"Study to show yourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Sometimes it is a good idea to check the Hebrew or the Greek to arrive at just what God might be saying and also to see if the translators have done their job. You might be surprised at what you discover. Or even shocked! You don't have to be a Hebrew or Greek 'expert' to see if a word in the original language has been rendered to say something entirely different from the writer's intended meaning. There are many tools available today that make it relatively easy for the person who would like to inquire into these things.
For instance, the very popular NIV, in this portion of Scripture, has a exceptionally weak rendering of the original Greek which can give us an entirely different picture from the one that God is attempting to communicate. This version of the Bible, the NIV, tells us that the woman simply 'mixed' the yeast with the flour. The NRSV also uses the word 'mixed'. One of the latest additions to the vast array of contemporary Bible versions is Eugene Peterson's 'The Message' which says that the woman 'works' the yeast into the dough. Nothing remarkable or suspicious about any of those renderings. There is nothing there to alarm us or cause us to suspect that the woman has sinister motives. And why should we suspect that there would be? It's the Kingdom of Heaven that we are discussing - right?
However, the King James version renders the verse to show that the woman actually hid the yeast in the flour. She incorporated the leaven in the flour by concealment. Upon checking the Greek we find that this is the correct definition. And this casts a significantly different light upon the interpretation of the parable.
Why does Jesus tell us specifically that the Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven and that a woman hid it in amongst the flour? Why was a woman hiding the leaven in the flour? If this parable is supposed to be conveying that the woman was putting something good in amongst the flour, why didn't she just do it openly? Why hide the fact? Obviously, the answer is that there is something that the woman doesn't want us to know. I am very suspicious about people who have something to hide. The Word tells us in 1 John 1:5-7,
"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."
John 3:19-21 also tells us something that should cause us to question the woman's motives and be cautious.
"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."
The woman is up to no good! If she wasn't, she would be out in the open in what she is doing so that her good deed would be manifest for all to see.
Leaven = The Gospel???
One of the ignored problems with our 'traditional' interpretation of the woman with the leaven is that Scripture always uses leaven as a type for sin and false doctrine. Never once in the entire Bible is it used to represent the Gospel or the Word of God. 1 Corinthians 5:8 tells us,
"Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
Why would God, here in this parable, use leaven to symbolize His Word when everywhere else in the Bible it is used to portray hypocrisy, lies, corruption and all manner of evil? I believe that the very clear answer to that question is, "He doesn't!"
The original Greek word used to portray what the woman did in this parable is ekgrupto, which means to conceal in, or to incorporate with by hiding within. It carries with it a feeling of stealth and an insinuation of something sinister. As mentioned above, the King James version gives the correct rendering of this word as 'hid'.
Again, I ask, "Why would the Kingdom of Heaven need to be hidden?" Why would the Gospel message need to be hidden from the world? That is clearly not the purpose of the Kingdom. We are commanded to go into all the world and preach the Gospel and proclaim the message of the Kingdom. In Luke 9:60 Jesus said,
"... you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God."
Preaching the Good News and the message of the Kingdom was the primary function in the original commission given by Christ to the twelve disciples in Mark 3:14. The Gospel message is not to be as a lamp hidden under a bowl. In Mark Chapter 4, which also records some of these same parables of Jesus that we find in Matthew 13, we are told in verses 21-23 that,
"He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.""
Jesus is saying here that the Gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven, needs to be declared out in the open. He doesn't want it hidden.
As already stated above, the symbol of leaven, as used in the Scriptures, represents false teaching and heresy. It is not just a symbol of sin as some suppose, and, as also pointed out above, it is certainly never used as a symbol for the Gospel message. We read in our Bibles in Matthew 16, verse 6, the warnings of Jesus to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. The disciples were at first confused thinking that Jesus was talking of bread, but eventually they understood Him to be meaning false teaching. Just like the disciples of Jesus in their day, we have foolishly been led into thinking about bread (the Word, the Gospel message) when we should have been thinking of false teaching and heresy (the leaven of the Pharisees).
The book of Jude, verses 3 & 4, warns specifically about leaven being secretly introduced into the pure, unadulterated doctrine of the Word of God,
"Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord."
In Matthew 24:4-5 Jesus also warns,
"Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many."
And again in verses 10 and 11,
"At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people."
And again in verses 24 and 25,
"For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect - if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time."
2 Peter 2:1-3 also warns us, upon whom the ends of the age has come,
"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them - bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up."
Also 1 John 4:1 warns us,
"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."
Unleavened Bread Of Sincerity And Truth
In verse 33 we are told by Jesus that "the kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened." The number three represents the divine perfection of the Godhead - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The leaven is introduced by stealth to work against the perfection of God.
Leaven represents, hypocrisy, corruption and false teaching. In this instance, it is heresy. Even minute doses of error hidden in amongst the truth that, if not detected, will subtly alter one's perspective of the doctrine that was delivered to the saints. Like an insidious cancer, it spreads through the entire body until the whole is infused and death, in victory, claims its victim.
Do we have corruption and false teaching mixed in with the true Gospel message in the Church today? Surely Jesus was not a false prophet. If Jesus has said, through this parable, that there will be false teaching and corruption in the Church in the last days then we had best take a serious look so that we won't be deceived and led astray with the vast multitude who simply want to brush aside these Scriptures and pretend that all is well. We do well to remember also that the deception will not be something obvious that any Christian who is not studying the Word will be able to recognize. It will be a delusion, so refined by the master of deception himself, that even the elect could possible be led astray by it.
Jesus claims in the Bible that He is the Bread of Life. In John 6:31-35, He tell us,
"Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always." And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst."
Jesus was also our Passover Lamb. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 reads,
"Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
Leaven was never used in Passover bread, it was forbidden. Unleavened flour is made into unleavened bread. Unleavened bread is a picture of Christ, the Word. The leaven is a picture of something that would permeate through and corrupt the Word. Hypocrisy and false Teaching! The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees! There is a woman who is determined to adulterate the purity of the Word of God.
Three Types Of Leaven
Apart from its obvious usage to depict sin, there are three types of leaven mentioned in the Bible in the context of something spoiling the purity of the Word of God and the teachings of Scripture.
In Matthew 16:6 Jesus warned His disciples,
"Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees."
So, firstly, we have the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy and religiosity. In other words, making the Word of God ineffective by religious formalism. Abiding by rules and regulations that make the person to appear, on the outside, as righteous and holy. The word hypocrite originated from the Greek and Roman theaters and referred to actors acting out a part in a play. The introduction of ceremonies, rituals and liturgies and being legalistic to the letter was the basic doctrine of Pharisaic leaven.
Paul, in his rebuke to Peter, Barnabas and the other Jews who were playing the hypocrite, had to bring a word of warning and correction for the benefit of the Galatian believers and also for those of us who would be saved in the future and who would reverence the Bible as our yardstick for everything pertaining to life and godliness. We read in Galatians 3:1-3,
"O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?"
That's the leaven of the Pharisees!
Secondly, there is the leaven of the Sadducees. In Mark 12:18 we are told that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection.
However, there were other beliefs that they adhered to that made them a danger to the faith of the young Christians of the newly established churches, for they upheld the doctrine that there was no reward or punishment beyond this life. They also denied the existence of angels and demons. They did not believe that God was concerned with what people did. Rather people were totally free. The Sadducees were materialistic in their outlook. They were politically oriented, supporters of ruling powers, whether Seleucids or Romans. They wanted nothing to threaten their position and wealth, and so they strongly opposed Jesus and His teachings.
However, with regard to the resurrection at least, Paul refuted the leaven of the Sadducees in 1 Corinthian 15:12-17 where he taught,
"Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty."
"Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up; if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!"
With regard to the materialistic age in which we find ourselves today we would do well to give an attentive ear to the instruction that the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:6-10
"Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
Also today, we see an ever increasing example of respected Christian leaders desiring to become involved in politics and other secular institutions of influence. In fact, it is being promoted from the pulpits of many of the Protestant churches that the way to change society is for the church to infiltrate all government and secular departments and legislate against the evil that is now rampant in our society. In this way, the influence of the church and the Gospel will ultimately have free course into society and peace and righteousness will reign. While these ideas might appear good and noble on the outside, nowhere in Scripture does God even remotely suggest that we should attempt to change society and present people with the Gospel in this way. Was it by legislation (law) that the early church turned the world upside down? Read the Old Testament and you will discover that law never, ever worked!
That's the leaven of the Sadducees!
With regard to political affiliations, Jesus speaking to Pilate in John 18:36 said,
"My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."
It was by the preaching of the Gospel, converting the wicked hearts of the sinners, that society was changed. Not by taking over the government and legislating for morality.
Finally, the leaven of the Herodians is mentioned in Mark 8:15 where we read,
"...Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod."
Herodians were a cult who mixed Jewish faith with Greek paganism. The Herodian heresy was syncretism - the blending together of beliefs from different religious systems - spiritual fornication. That's how the Roman Catholic church had its beginning, and it is also how it will have its ending.
Anyone who has eyes to see what is taking place in Christendom today will recognize the leaven of the Herodians that Jesus warned of. The ecumenical movement is classic Herodian leaven.
Have you encountered any Herodians lately? Just this week a lady member of our group was taken to task for daring to make a stand against the false teaching being promoted in her fellowship. Another lady quite strongly chastized her for suggesting that perhaps members of the Jehovah's Witnesses and a host of other false movements are not be saved and are in need of the Gospel. This lady strenuously believes that all who name the name of Christ, whether it be the Catholic 'christ' or the JW 'christ' or the Mormon 'christ' or the Christ of the Bible, are saved and, therefore, are members of the Church.
That's the leaven of the Herodians!
Their teaching clearly endorses the contemporary Herodians to be a major part of the monstrous religious system that is already taking shape before our very eyes - "Babylon the Great, The Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth". But Revelation 18:4 warns us,
"Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."
Take heed, brothers and sisters in Christ. God hates an admixture. Beware of the leaven of the Herodians.
Jack And The Beanstalk Revisited
One of the effects that leaven has upon dough is to aerate the mixture through a process of fermentation. It causes the mixture to puff up to a size out of all proportion to the original batch of dough. This causes the dough to feel light despite its vast size. It is full of air. The other thing that happens is that the yeast permeates through the entire batch of dough. It affects the entire mixture. There is no part of the dough that will not be touched by the leaven and influenced by its fermenting process.
The Word of God, in this parable, tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like secretly introducing yeast into the flour that was intended to make unleavened bread. Again, there is a symbolism of bad in with the good. As with the parable of the mustard seed, the bad influence has caused the Kingdom of Heaven to increase in size giving it an appearance out of all proportion to its 'real' size.
As stated in the explanation of the parable of the mustard seed, I believe that the puffed up size of Christendom, the Kingdom of God in the earth, is not real. The stories of church growth that are related to us by excited evangelists are not representative of the real size of the church. What we see in the world today, what are claimed to be great and mighty moves of God, are in fact an illusion that will deceive the unwary. This growth has come about by false teaching and compromise, according to this parable. Church growth seminars and campaigns have succeeded at the expense of the pure and unadulterated Word of God - growth has occurred at the expense of truth. The church has preached a contemporary gospel according to man to reach the lost of our age, denying Paul's message in Romans 1:16-17 where he stated,
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith."
From my understanding of these parables, if we believe that we are living in the last days (as most born again Christians claim that we are), then we need to be looking for teaching ministries that are causing phenomenal growth within the Christian community. Then we need to very carefully look at their teaching.
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits." Matthew 7:13-16.
Who Is The Woman?
There are basically two women types in the Bible. Others are archetypes of these two. One is the bride of the Christ - the Church and the other is the bride of Devil - the great harlot of Revelation 17. Mystery Babylon!
It is the duty of the church to keep the faith from corruption. The Gospel has been entrusted into our care for safe keeping.
In the Book of Jude, verses 3 and 4 we read,
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ."
We are exhorted (implored) to earnestly contend (struggle earnestly) for the faith as it was once delivered (entrusted or given over into our care and responsibility, as a prisoner put into the care of a prison guard) to us. God wants us to resist people who will change the Scriptures, who will distort the truth for their own agendas. The Scriptures have been delivered into our trust and we are to struggle against those who would defile them. We see, once again, that the ones who will defile the Word come into our midst by stealth. They are secretly amongst us.
Are you aware of anyone who is (present tense) secretly infiltrating the Church and promoting false doctrine? Are you looking for people in your congregation who look just like any old sheep but sound like a wolf? The Bible, the prophetic Word of God, assures us that there are a multitude of these types of people, masquerading as servants of righteousness, within the congregations of the Christian Church in this very day. If you have not seen any, does this perhaps suggest that there is something amiss with your commitment to being sober, vigilant and watchful as God's Word warns us to? God, who cannot lie, has said these people are in the Church! I've found mine! and you had better find yours before it is too late.
If you want to remain safe in these evil days it is not wise to pretend that these conditions do not presently prevail and that all will be well. You will need to cultivate the spirit of a watchman upon his tower. You will need to be strengthened to resist the scoffing of your friends who will say that you are too critical spirited, judgmental, suspicious, lacking in trust in your leaders and lacking in faith in your God. You will be accused of being non-submissive to leadership, brainwashed, extreme and fanatical and an enemy of the Church and Christ Himself. A troubler of Israel, no less. But if you wish to remain safe and ultimately find yourself in Heaven instead of Hell, you must not mind being laughed at and ridiculed or even abused and threatened.
We have been adequately warned that it is the agenda of the harlot to secretly corrupt the purity of the Word of God and from the evidence that has been presented to us we identify the woman in this parable as the bride of Satan - "Babylon the Great".
Revelation 17:1-6; 9 & 18
Something of great importance to the Church of Jesus Christ is revealed in the interpretation of these particular parables. My understanding of the accepted meanings of each of them has been challenged, especially the ones we have so far dealt with in this article. As pointed out, I believe that these parables are speaking of a great apostate 'end time' church that is materializing even now before our very eyes. They are not speaking of an 'end time' revival that will sweep untold millions into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Prominent teachers within Christendom are leading the flock, as modern day Pied Pipers, off into heresy in preparation for accepting an unholy alliance with Babylon the Great of Revelation 17, the vast harlot religious system of the closing days of this age. The Charismatic Movement, the Word of Faith Movement, and more recently, movements such as Alpha, Promise Keepers, the Toronto Blessing and Pensacola Outpourings are being used as vehicles to condition the unwary into accepting all religions and all denominations as valid extensions of the Kingdom of God, despite their theological differences. As long as they name the Name of Christ and experience the same manifestation it apparently matters little about doctrinal differences.
I know that people will deny that they are being seduced by the ecumenical movement and other seemingly helpful and godly organizations, but they are simply uninformed. However, being uninformed will not protect anyone from the judgment to come. Being unaware that you have a fused tail light on your car will not stand in a court of law as defense for your driving during the hours of darkness. You are responsible to check that everything is in order.
The words in Hosea 4, verse 6, "My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." have never been more appropriate since Hosea recorded it than they are for today's professing Christian community.
Even my own former denomination, the Assemblies of God, has been flirting with the Great Harlot, Catholicism, for years - unbeknown to practically all of its members. See the article "The Tie That Binds" posted on this site, for details of the Assemblies Of God playing the whore with the Ecumenical Movement and bowing down to Rome. Will the ignorance of this fact keep the 'ignorant' from harm? No it will not, if they have been warned! Willful ignorance will not protect anyone from the judgement to come. Proverbs 24:12 tells us,
"If you say, 'Look, we did not know this' - does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay all according to their deeds?"
People are being led astray in droves by groups preaching gospels other than the Gospel we have received from God. The teachings of groups such as the Word of Faith Movement are clearly heretical, but because of the huge outcry from genuine scholars of the Word they have mostly gone underground with their erroneous beliefs. A lot no longer preach their heresies publicly but their beliefs still influence what they do preach. A great many have become far too wise to always say all that they think, or to show their whole hand and mind. No servant of Satan is about to come and openly vend his poison. No! He will come appearing as a servant of righteousness or an 'Angel of Light'. Some faithful followers of these false teachers deny that they could possibly be guilty of the charges laid against them, but their teachings are on record and are available, on tapes and in books, for whoever would like to check. However, the adoring fans do not bother, even when someone else has gone to all the bother of collating the information for them, and consequently they are being led away into deception.
People who have gone to the bother to check the doctrine of these false teachers have attempted to sound a warning, only to be called Pharisees, liars, critical spirited, or some other such name that would cause others to think that by bringing a warning they are somehow an enemy of God. Speaking out and warning of the danger is seen as being divisive. But the Bible clearly teaches that we should keep watch for error and anything else that could be detrimental to the well-being of the flock that has been purchased with the very blood of Christ. We are admonished repeatedly to sound an alarm.
When someone as influential on the Christian scene as Benny Hinn or Chuck Colson become part of a group that want to bestow upon the Pope of Rome the blasphemous award of 'The Prince Of Peace', then we have something to worry about. When someone with a name as big as Billy Graham has audience with the Pope and arranges for the Catholics to gather to themselves any ex-Catholics who might come to his rallies, thereby reintroducing them back into the Catholic church and 'another' gospel instead of into salvation, then we have something to worry about. When such big names as Chuck Colson, J.I. Packer, Pat Robertson, Bill Bright and others of influence co-author, with the Catholic church, an ecumenical and un-Biblical document entitled "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium" which proclaims that all active Catholics are true Christians and are not to be evangelized by Protestants, denying Catholics the opportunity to hear Truth, then we have something to worry about. When a Christian can be removed from the fellowship of his congregation because he speaks against ministries that espouse such teachings as Christ completing our redemption by dying spiritually in Hell and becoming the first born-again man, and when all his former friends support his expulsion, then we have something to worry about. And in these final closing hours the list goes on and is continually being added to.
In Psalm 94:16 God is asking,
"Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?"
"When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him."
It is time for all who name the Name of Jesus Christ and who walk according to His Word to stand up and fight the good fight of faith, to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
PO Box 292W
Westcourt Qld 4870
Sunday, March 14, 1999
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