May I, therefore, stir up your minds with another question: where, in the Scripture does it say that it was? Is it not purely inferential? Now inferences may be allowable if there are divine declarations to build on, but it seems that even this is hard to find for the postponement theory. Seems to me that the evidence is all in the opposite direction. After unbiased scrutiny of the matter it seems to me that:
The form — or manifestation of the kingdom was
changed, but the kingdom continued, nevertheless,
in a form which was not disclosed before.
As I do not want to appear dogmatic in this, but only as a prober for pure divine truth, I appeal to anyone who is more enlightened. to correct me, if I am wrong.
For the sake of brevity our investigation will deal, mainly, with the book of Matthew, the book of the King and the King' dom parables. No doubt there is much evidence outside of this book, but we must pass that up at this time.
We must also, for the same reason, forego the preview of the essential features that leads up to the rejection of the King and kingdom, although these are the natural background for what I desire to present. We must start at the 12th chapter of Matthew, where a crisis is reached.
In this chapter we find that the opposition from the leaders of the nation has grown into a challenging attitude towards Him, and there are positive plans to destroy Him. This is equal to an open rejection of the King and the kingdom by His own. Indeed, "He came to His own, but His own received Him not." — Jn. 1:11.
In the last part of this chapter the request by His family to see Him while He is preaching to the throngs gives Him the occasion to announce a NEW relationship, not based on physical ties, but on spiritual relationship to the Father and obedience to Him.
Now reading the last part of the 12th and the first part of the 13th chapter connectively we see that "in the same day (in which He had announced the new relationship), He went out of the house and sat by the sea side." This is not incidental. It is deliberate, and highly symbolical.
Jer. 12:7 throws light on this: "I have forsaken My house, I have left Mine heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of My enemies. Mine heritage is unto Me like a lion in the forest; it crieth out against Me: therefore have I hated it."
Heb.3 tells us more about this "house," that it is Israel.
And the "Sea"? — Isa. 60:5 explains this. The "sea" is, figuratively, the great masses of mankind—the Gentiles. And the sea that He was, actually, sitting by, or on, was no doubt, a figure of the commercial highways of the nations. The ocean is this.
The unusual importance of what He is now teaching is strongly emphasized by the fact. that. this new method of ministry, as well as the subject matter involved had been prophesied about several hundred years before, as it is stated in the 34th verse: All these things spake Jesus unto the multitudes in parables; and without a parable spake He not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world."
Are we able to catch the significance of this? That in these parables is being announced something for the first time in human history? If we do not get this tremendously important fact clear we will, inevitably, associate it with some. thing which has no relationship with it. Did I not, myself, for many years associate it with the "secrets" of Paul? And thousands are doing the same. But Paul is just as emphatic in his declaration (Eph. 3) that the secrets that he is announcing had never been disclosed before. And how could they, and yet be secrets? So these are two different matters entirely. The Old Covenant prophets had nothing to say on Paul's secrets. As to the secrets of the kingdom, announced by the Lord, the same prophets foretold that it should be announced, but they knew nothing of what nature it was. If they did, it sure had not been kept secret up to the time of Christ's announcement of it.
With this we will go over to the inquiry as to what these secrets were.
"Behold, a sower went forth to sow." Is the past tense used thru out this parable of no significance? Pointing, perhaps, to the sowing which He had already performed.
The Sower is the Son of Man (V. 37). Why not the Son of David? indicating relationship to Israel. Is it not to indicate that the sowing here is world,wide? "The :field is the world"—v. 38. For this reason "the Son of man"—world-wide relationship.
And the seed is of two kinds. In the introductory parable the seed is "the word of the kingdom"—v. 19. In the wheat and tares parable it is "the children (or sons) of the kingdom"—v. 38. These are the persons which the first seed—the word—has brought into being as sons of the Kingdom. Just as the word was sown so are these "children." It is essential to notice these two kinds of seed.
And as there are two kinds of seed so are there two realms of sowing. To begin with it is "the heart"—v. 19. When the word has done its work in the heart of the individual and made him a son of the kingdom he is qualified to be "sown" in the wider realm, the world.
In the introductory parable it is not said that the field is the world, evidently for the reason that that sowing was only within Israel. This sowing was not the "sons" or "children" of the Kingdom, but the WORD, and it was sown in the heart. In the wheat and darnel parable it is the world.
Then on the side of evil the seed is "the children of the wicked one." It is a solemn thot that each kind reproduces itself.
Two outstanding facts in the wheat and darnel parable have direct bearing on the central question of our investigation, namely: WHEN is it that the kingdom of the heavens is like the conditions portrayed here? Is it in the time of Christ on earth? Is it in the Pentecostal era? Is it later, clear up to His coming again? Or is it only after His coming and the rapture of the Church?
Was it in the lifetime of Christ on earth? It could not have been because the world-wide scattering of the "sons of the kingdom" could not commence before Pentecost. It could not commence before "Jews, pious men from every nation under heaven. . . proselyte, Cretans and Arabs" (Acts 2) had received the kingdom gospel at Pentecost and become "sons of the kingdom." But when these went home to their respective domiciles, and brot the message with them, that the Messiah had come and the kingdom had been proclaimed, then the sowing began.
How many were made sons of the kingdom in the same individual way as the Ethiopian (Acts 8), no one knows. He is just an example. And that it was not Paul's gospel that Philip preached to him is clear. "He preached, Jesus" (Acts 8:35) and not the glorified Christ. He preached the kingdom—Acts 8:12.
Another illuminating passage for this question is in Paul's recounting of his conversion and his commission (Acts 26): " . . . Delivering thee from the people (the Jews) and the Gentiles unto whom I send thee that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which have been sanctified by faith that is in Me."—C. V. "Who have been sanctified."
Two items of this text places Paul's ministry, or at least part of it, strictly within kingdom limits. First forgiveness of sins. We ought to know that this is not the same as justification. The burden of Paul's ministry in the beginning was that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.
The second item is, inheritance among them which have been sanctified.
At the time Paul received his commission nothing but the kingdom gospel had been preached, and it had been preached only to Jews—Acts 11:19. Thus we can see that they (the believing Jews) were the only ones who had been sanctified at that time, and their inheritance was not among celestials, as that of the Body. It was in an earthly kingdom. That, of course, does not say that it was not also of a spiritual nature. It was, but its location was on earth. Paul was to qualify certain Gentiles for inheritance with these. In other words, make them "sons of the kingdom."
It is thus easy to see that the "children of the kingdom" which was "the seed of the kingdom" were then under preparation—to be scattered thru the world.
Don't miss the vital point that we now have moved up to. The Lord said that when the "seed" is scattered it is a phase of the kingdom activity. In Acts 8:4 we have this scattering definitely stated.
It is clear then that the first fulfillment of the sowing that the Lord predicted in the parables in Mt. 13 could not begin before the book of Acts period. But the question is now: Was it discontinued after that period? or did it go on indefinitely? The answer to this question we will find in the kingdom parables.
To begin with, we notice that the good and the evil seed were to grow together till the harvest, which is said is "the end of the age." No cessation of this together-growing condition is. indicated. Once the two kinds of seed, the evil and the good are placed in the field the condition remains. If the condition of this mixture discontinued it could be in no other way but that the "seed" that existed at that time (after Pentecost) died out—were obliterated from the earth. But then, they certainly could not grow together in death. And there is no alternative, they either died out, or they stayed together in the field. The word is clear as to that part. The condition is unbroken yet—until the harvest. Then—and not before—shall there be a segregation. The just and the wicked shall be separated. And how could it be otherwise? Is not the seed always left in the field till harvest time?
But "the harvest is the end of the age"—Mt. 13:39.
The seed is in the world prior to the harvest.
And the harvest is prior to the setting up of the Millennial kingdom.
And the seed in the world and the harvest is a condition of the Kingdom.
Therefore, the kingdom is in the world before the Millennial kingdom is set up. It is there in the new form, announced in the parables. It is in the "secret" manifestation. The mystical phase of it.
THE DRAG NET PARABLE
What we have seen so far is also presented in the drag net parable—Mt. 13:47-52.
The first step is the casting of the net into the sea. This is parallel with the sowing. When it is full it is pulled ashore and the segregation commences. The gathering process of the. good and bad fish goes on uninterrupted till it is pulled ashore. It seems to be all thru this age.
And may we not ask: If the secrets of the kingdom are not fulfilled during this age when are they? It certainly cannot be in the millennial kingdom for then it shall assume the form and order of the O. T. prophecies. That that which is ascribed to the "secrets" cannot be pressed into the short time between the rapture and the Coming to set up the kingdom we shall see further on.
THE PARABLE OF THE VINEYARD LABORERS
This is another picture of the kingdom. Mt. 20.
This parable covers the kingdom from "morning"—v. 1 till "even"—v. 8—which can mean only one thing: All the time to be covered by the kingdom in that particular form of manifestation as is here pictured.
That this cannot be the Millennial kingdom seems also to be clear by the fact, that, in that kingdom "the first" (which can mean no one else than the Covenant people of God) shall be "the first," but here they are "the last."
And we find here a repeated appeal for laborers thru out the whole course of the kingdom—from "morning" till "even." Nothing like this is to be found in the O. T. prophecies. There the kingdom is set up and ALL Israel is saved, and the perpetuation of the kingdom affairs is not dependent upon renewal of "crews" to keep it up. In fact, there is no such appeal made. It is compulsory. Those who will not submit to the rules of the Kingdom will be done away with. Those who do submit are under equal rules, as far as we know.
But if we place this parable in the time from the first coming of Christ thru this age, it fits perfectly. Let us see.
As indicated already, I believe that the "morning" coincides with the beginning of the kingdom in its "secret" manifestation, as presented in Mt. 13. We notice then from the parable, that the early morning hiring is done by strictly legal principles. This corresponds to the time before the death of Christ and His fulfillment of the law.
The third, sixth and ninth hour hiring is on the ground of promise. "Whatsoever is right I will give you." Some respond and go to work. This, we believe, corresponds to the bulk of time after the death of Christ, when grace and faith have been preached and responded to by many.
The 11th hour hiring, corresponding to the time before the second coming of Christ, does not seem to have even a promise to base their expectation on. (The last part of verse 7 is not in any of the three great MS.) It is thus unmixed faith in the One Who hires them that prompts them to respond and go to work.
The dispensing of the hire seem to coincide with Mt. 25:19 when "the Lord of those servants cometh and reckoneth with them," and also Lu. 19:15.
Another essential to be noted is that this parable has no national appeal. It is intensely individualistic. Therefore, it cannot be during the time of national appeal to Israel. It must be after the nation has been set aside. This can be counted from Mt. 13.
But whatever interpretation is placed on the details of it
this is undeniable: It is a picture of the kingdom, and where
does it fit, except in this present age? In some respects we
have a parallel to this in
THE PARABLE OF THE MARRIAGE FEAST OF THE KING'S SON—Mt. 22.
The first two calls to those who have been invited (which cannot be any but Israel) must be the call to the nation before the death of Christ up till the destruction of Jerusalem. The latter is a clear time mark in the parable. Then goes out the order to go into the highways (outside of Israel) and extend the invitation to "as many as ye find." Thus the distinction between Jew and Gentile relative to the kingdom invitation is set aside. Now we all know that Israel, as a nation, was set aside before the destruction of the Jerusalem. This tragedy was the close of the great drama.
With the destruction of the Holy City, we are told, was gone the last chance for the kingdom until He shall return and set up His Millennial reign. But it does not seem so, according to the words of the Lord here is the parable. For the highway ministry is just as much a part of the kingdom picture as that which goes before. Or can you find any indication that what is after the destruction of "their city"—Mt. 22:7—is not in the picture? All of the parable depicts "what the kingdom of the heavens is like" and there is no limitation of it within the parable. Considering all this how can we help but believe that the kingdom has been in existence all down thru these centuries in its "secret" form?
Oh yes, I am familiar with the theory that between the 7th and the 8th verse of Mt. 22 lies the centuries of time between Israel's final rejection of the kingdom till the proclamation of the kingdom gospel in the 70th "week" after the rapture of the Church.
That these centuries are leaped over in many scriptures I do not doubt, but I do doubt that it is the case here and in the other parables that we have been dealing with. And the undeniable fact remains, that, according to "the secrets of the kingdom of the heavens" this kingdom did exist after the scattering of the sons of it, which scattering continued after what we have been told was an official kingdom offer to Israel was closed, and it will exist BEFORE the Millennial kingdom is established. This is not inferential. It is what is declared by the Master Himself.
THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS
In this we have more positive evidence, it seems to me, of the continuity of the kingdom clear to the coming of the "Bridegroom."
Here we find the same as before: The kingdom is here before the coming of the King. That the going in to the marriage feast is synonymous with entering into the Millennial kingdom most all of reputable, teachers of prophecy hold, and there cannot be much doubt about the correctness of this.
Now let us notice that it is not said that this depicts a preparation for the kingdom, a forecast of it, or something like that, but it is the kingdom that is here pictured. "Then shall the kingdom of the heavens be like," etc. Thus shall it be at that time—at the time before the coming of the Bridegroom. The picture is made up of easily perceived Oriental customs.
Who or what constitutes the kingdom in this parable? Advanced Bible students have long since given up the erroneous idea that it is the Church. Furthermore, it is not Israel. Neither Israel nor the Church are "bridesmaids." THE VIRGINS ARE NATIONS. In Ps. 45 we see the "queen" which is Israel, and "her virgins." We have here the same as in Matthew. The bride is not mentioned in Mt. 25 at all. She has been put in there because the theologians wanted her there; but the Lord did not put her there. In Psalm 45 "the daughter of Tyre" is one of the virgins. Other "king's daughters are among thy honorable women"—v. 9. And who is "the daughter of Jerusalem" if not Israel? Who "the daughter of the Chaldees"? — "the daughter of Babylon"? and many others? Are they not nations? Of course, they are.
Thus we find the surprising information here that the Gentile nations are in the kingdom before the Millennial Kingdom is set up. "Then shall the kingdom of the heavens be likened unto ten virgins" which the scriptures show plainly are Gentile nations.
And the conditions in this parable are such that it is impossible to press them into the short space of time between the rapture and the setting up of the millennial kingdom. It must reach further back—into the "church age"'—the present time.
First: There is only one way in which these nations can become adherents to the kingdom faith, namely, by hearing the kingdom gospel; but it takes longer time for a nation to become an adherent than an individual.
If it should be objected that it is hard to believe that nations, as such, could qualify as kingdom subjects we can only answer that we have the same in 25:31 following. In fact, I believe that the virgins are the same (that is the wise ones) as the "sheep" nations in the same chapter. The virgin parable speaks of qualifications for entrance into the kingdom, the next portion (v. 14 and foll.) speaks of qualification for position in the kingdom, and vv. 31 and following takes up the matter of testing out the qualifications by judging.
Secondly: All these virgins (nations) lived in expectation of the coming of Christ. This expectation moved them to go "forth to meet the bridegroom." This indicates spiritual alertness. No nation is brot into such a condition overnight.
Thirdly: The Bridegroom tarried; and He tarried so long that all the virgins fell asleep. The spiritual-mindedness and the watchfulness were overcome because it took much longer than they had expected for the Bridegroom to arrive. This inward change could not be wrought very suddenly either.
Fourthly: Sometime after their falling asleep the mid, night cry sounded: "Behold, the Bridegroom! Go ye out to meet Him."
Fifthly: Then the awakening. Next, the conversation, and, finally, the going out to secure more oil.
Now if I am right in this basic statement that these virgins are nations, which can easily be proved, then ALL these steps represent movements on a national scale, and that cannot be accomplished in the brief span of time elapsing between the rapture of the Church and the setting up of the Millennial kingdom.
The inevitable conclusion then, is that these kingdom conditions are in the world long before the coming of the Lord to reign. And let us not forget that all these details pictured by the parable are in the world before His coming, and this is the kingdom. If it is not the kingdom how can it be "likened," pictured or illustrated? It is not rational to liken a thing that does not exist with things that do exist.
And let us here note the first word of this parable: THEN. This is the pivot upon which the proper interpretation of the parable must balance.
Before the coming of the Bridegroom; and not only immediately before this, but long before it, as I have tried to show. It is all the time in which all the consecutive steps indicated in the parable are enacted. "Then shall the kingdom be likened."
What can the "midnight cry" and the expectation represent but the revived proclamation of the coming of Christ, and the ensuing expectation which has been seen in many nations now for many decades?
May I now summarize some of the facts which we have seen so far:
1. The information about the kingdom given in the kingdom parables was never disclosed before He had, both by words and symbolic actions indicated that the kingdom, in the form in which it was promised in the Hebrew scriptures, would not be inaugurated at that time.
(This does not intimate that God had intended to bring in the kingdom at that time, but the people expected it to come then, as the question in Acts 1 and other things indicate.)
2. The oft repeated statement that the kingdom IS like the certain things in nature as well as in society proves that, although the kingdom is not set up in its pre-prophesied form, is, nevertheless, in existence.
3. As the Master said that one phase of this kingdom would be a world-wide sowing of the sons of the kingdom, and as the kingdom, in this particular form, or state, was contingent upon this sowing, it is unthinkable that it could exist before this sowing had been commenced; and this did not commence before long after Pentecost. Furthermore, the kingdom gospel, which was the only known agent to produce "sons of the kingdom" — Mt. 13:19 — was preached long after the Pentecostal era, and is preached yet. Logically, the "sowing" of the sons of the kingdom goes on as long as this gospel is producing this kind of "seed."
4. That the kingdom is in existence BEFORE the coming of Christ to reign is evident by the fact, that, "the angels shall gather out of it the things that offend," and,
5. by the fact, that, the gathering process of the "net" goes on until the segregation of the bad and good fish starts at the end of the age, and,
6. that, the seeds — the bad and the good — shall GROW TOGETHER until the end of the age. 7. The hiring of the kingdom laborers — Mt. 20 — gives both the characteristics of a continuous replenishing of kingdom laborers from morning till evening of the kingdom, and also an individual appeal which is not found in the pre-prophesied kingdom order; but which fits perfectly in this present age,
8. The parable of the marriage of the King's Son has the same element of continuity, and,
9. What is presented in the parable of the ten virgins is impossible to press into the brief compass of time between the rapture of the Church and the setting up of the Millennial kingdom, and it must, therefore, cover the present "Church age."
10. In addition to this I want to mention the parable of the mustard seed and also the leaven. Both of these give us a picture of the kingdom that cannot find its fulfillment after the coming of the Lord to reign; but fits perfectly into certain conditions in the world in the present age.
The accumulative evidence of all this, it seems, is impossible to neutralize if we are honest in our use of the scriptures.
E. A. L.
Last updated 27.10.2008