What is the Kingdom of God like? How does it appear? The parables of Christ often use similar language to make Jesus’ point, but some interpret the Kingdom to mean the place God rules when sin is put out of the way. Is this what Jesus said? I don’t think so! Matthew 13:3-23 unveils the Kingdom of God in the hearts of his children. God is glorified in the good fruit his word produces in our hearts. What Jesus claimed nearly 2000 years ago is as true today as it was back then.
According to the parables of the Kingdom in Matthew 13, the Sower, Jesus (Matthew:13:37) plants seed in a field. The seed is the believer or the child of the Kingdom, and the field is the world (Matthew 13:38). Christ also spoke of the tiny mustard seed (viz. Israel in the OT and the church in the NT) which when planted grew very large. The birds in the parable are the enemies of God (Matthew 13:4, 19), and they were able to find rest in the tree and help themselves to the fruit or the seed produced by the plant. Thus, the enemies of the Kingdom found in the nation of Israel or having crept into the church are seen to either take away the word of God from the heart of a prospective believer (Matthew 13:4, 19), or they deprive the Lord of his heritage by devouring the fruit in the lives of believers, using the fruit instead for their own ends, whatever end that might be (Matthew 7:21-23). Through their destructive traditions they have either made the word of God of no effect in the hearts of people hearing about Jesus, or lived off God’s heritage establishing a name for themselves, depriving Christ of his glory, the fruit of his labor in us (Luke 11:14-16). The owner or Sower, as I’ve already said, is Christ (Matthew 13:37). People were believing Jesus and wanted to receive him as their Messiah, but the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day prevented them by labeling Jesus as a servant of Satan (cp. Matthew 23:13), thus they kept the seed or the children of the Kingdom for themselves (Luke 13:19). The same occurs in the church today when God’s children are used to build up the name of a man or his organization, rather than encouraged to lift up the name of Jesus.
Jesus also compared the Kingdom of God to leavening three measures of meal. Using leaven with burnt offerings for the purpose of worshiping God was strictly forbidden in his word (Leviticus 2:11; 10:12). God’s portion, or offering, in Jesus’ parable is the three measures of meal, which was most holy (Leviticus 10:12). Wrong doctrine acts as a leavening agent in the truth we speak in the name of Christ (Matthew 16:6, 12). The Gospel or word of God can be made to have no effect, it is mixed with it the traditions of men (Mark 7:13), thus leavening what should have been God’s portion, and in effect keeping him from enjoying the fruit of his word.
In both the parable of the mustard seed and that of the three measures of meal, the evil comes from the outside to deprive the Lord of the fruit that should have been his (cp. Luke 13:6-9). There is a very real danger for us to become fruit for a man’s use instead of Christ’s glory, or to grow in man’s word (tradition) instead of the word of God. Peter spoke of God’s people being made the merchandise of false teachers (2Peter 2:1-3), depriving God of fruit in our lives that should have gone to him.
It seems to me the Kingdom of God involves his people living in the middle of the world. It is not some future entity nor is it completely free from evil—at least not in the beginning. The children of the Kingdom must confront and overcome spiritual evil aimed at controlling the children of the Kingdom and keeping God from benefiting from the fruits of his labor in his children’s lives.
I remember when I was another man’s paycheck. He told me what to do and how to believe. If there was real fruit born to God in my life during that time, I am unaware of it. Everything I learned in God’s word was bent for the profit of a man and his organization. I gave my allegiance to him. I trusted him. I paid him. Had I been yielded to Christ, I would have borne fruit to God. His word would have caused me to have compassion upon others who lacked the blessings I had in abundance. I would have mourned over the condition of the world around me and loved them as Christ did, but I was arrogant, considering all of them cursed who were not like me. When Christ freed me from this bondage, I was given a kind of awakening as to what was happening. I look back in amazement at the immediate effect it had upon my heart toward God and man. Nevertheless, I nurtured a “root of bitterness” within me for those who offended me, until the work of God’s Spirit worked into me the willingness to forgive. I have found the Kingdom of God within me is more powerful than the intimidation of men in the world (Luke 11:15), more powerful than the effect of their traditional doctrines (Luke 12:52), and, praise God, more powerful than my own hard heart (Luke 6:45; Mark 7:20-23). What a wonderful Savior!