Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN”

Matthew 13.11

Last Sunday morning I brought a message from God’s Word titled “Stewards Of The Mysteries Of God,” taking First Corinthians 4.1 as my text. The point of that message was to establish that the Apostle Paul and his co-laborers, as well as those called to preach the Word of God since Paul’s day, are charged with the responsibility of ministering grace to their hearers by handling, by teaching, by preaching, by imparting the truths of the New Testament that reveal treasures previously hidden from view in Old Testament scriptures.

If you have ever read a harmony of the gospel accounts of the life and earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, you will notice that the Savior’s three and one half year earthly ministry, which commenced when He was baptized by His cousin John the Baptist, and which culminated in His final arrival in Jerusalem and His passion, consisted of numerous tours of different geographical regions. Initially, His public ministry concentrated on tours of the region of Galilee. Then He concentrated His efforts on that region east of the Jordan River known as Perea. Finally, He mainly kept Himself to the southern region around Jerusalem, known as Judea. It was in Galilee, at the outset of His public ministry, that the Lord Jesus toured the region three times, beginning to travel with His twelve apostles in the second tour.

During the Lord’s second tour of Galilee, with His newly called apostles at His side, the episode recorded in Matthew 13 occurred. When you find Matthew chapter 13 in your Bible, please stand and read along with me:

 

1      The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.

2      And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

3      And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

4      And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

5      Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

6      And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

7      And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

8      But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

9      Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

10     And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

11     He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

12     For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

13     Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

14     And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

15     For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

16     But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

17     For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

 

Imagine the scene. One day, a year or so into His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ steps outside from the house He is living in, very possibly Simon Peter’s house that he lived in with his wife and brother and mother in law. That would be the woman our Lord healed that Sabbath day early on in his ministry.[1] On that particular day, with the warmth of His sun shining on Him and caressed by a light breeze, the Lord Jesus strolled to the nearby north shore of the Sea of Galilee and sat down. Soon a large group of people had gathered and were milling about, so He waded out to a nearby fishing boat and hoisted Himself into it, where He then stood and turned to throngs of people on the shore. From that vantage point, the Master began to teach a number of parables.

My own opinion is that Peter and Andrew, as well as James and John manned the fishing boat, because of what we read in verse 10: “And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” It could be that they approached Him in another boat, or they could have waded out from shore to the boat He was standing in, but the simplest and most likely explanation was that the boat He climbed into was theirs. Whatever the case, it was in response to this question, posed to Him after He had taught one parable and just before He interpreted that parable, that the Lord Jesus Christ mentioned a subject the gospels record Him making mention of only here in His earthly ministry.

Our text for today, Matthew 13.11, records the beginning of the Master’s answer to His disciple’s question: “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” Can you envision the scene? He climbs into their boat, turns to the people standing on the nearby shoreline, lifts up His voice and says,

 

3      . . . Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

4      And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

5      Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

6      And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

7      And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

8      But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

9      Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

 

Possibly saying nothing for a moment or two, to allow the impact of His words to sink in, the disciples in the boat with Him quietly asked Him, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” It is probable that His answer to the disciples was also in a conversational tone: “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”

Rather than give you an overview of the mysteries of the kingdom, which would be more intellectually interesting than spiritually beneficial, consider three propositions related to the kingdom:

 

First, THERE ARE MYSTERIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE KINGDOM

 

That there are mysteries associated with the kingdom is certain because the Lord Jesus Christ clearly asserted that His disciples were “to know the mysteries of the kingdom.” Thus, there are mysteries of the kingdom and His disciples would know what they were and would understand them. That is beyond dispute. However, our Lord’s declaration raises two questions.

First, what are mysteries? I described the nature of mysteries last Sunday morning, but it would help us to be reminded. The notion of mysteries was not a new one to anyone in Jesus’ day, since the pagan religions commonly incorporated mysteries, hidden rites and rituals, and supposedly hidden truths, from the uninitiated and from outsiders. There are religions and organizations today that adhere to the notion of mysteries, things hidden from outsiders, all the while claiming they are profound truths. Scientiologists, Mormons, Masonic Lodges, Eastern Star, Job’s Daughters, Knights of Columbus, and other groups have mysterious secrets that they promise not to tell anyone. Christianity, too, has mysteries, but with some differences. First, “A ‘mystery’ in Scripture is a previously hidden truth now divinely revealed.”[2] Notice, too, that mysteries in the Bible are truths previously hidden by God and not men, details of the divine plan of the ages not discoverable by investigation, and not truths withheld by men for supposedly gaining advantage over the uninitiated. Of importance to note is that many of the mysteries revealed in the New Testament are mysteries of the kingdom, which suggests they are mysteries connected to predictive prophecy.

As well, what is the kingdom? Perhaps you have heard people refer to advancing the kingdom, or some such thing as that. Be advised that most references people make to God’s kingdom are erroneous. Therefore, to bring clarity, let me read a brief article by a wonderful Bible scholar named Stanley Toussaint, titled “The Kingdom Of God.”

 

The kingdom of God is a theme that embraces the entire Bible. It includes the Lord’s eternal sovereign reign over all creation (Ps. 10:16; 29:10; 103:19; Dan. 4:35) and the temporal and local reign of God known as His theocratic kingdom.

God’s earthly theocratic kingdom began with the creation of Adam and Eve and the authority God delegated to them (Gen. 1:26-28). They were to reign over the earth under the authority of God even after the Fall. However, because of Adam’s sin God’s reign on earth over an earthly kingdom was brought to an abrupt halt.

From Adam to Moses, God reigned over the world through various agencies, but not through a theocratic kingdom on this earth. All of this changed at Mount Sinai, where God entered into a covenant relationship with Israel (formalized in Ex. 24:1-8), and that nation became God’s kingdom on earth with the land of Canaan as its manifest destiny. For the first time, the word “kingdom” is used of God’s kingdom in the Bible (cf. Ex. 19:4-6). God mediated His rule over Israel first through Moses, then Joshua and then through the judges. Eventually, the people demanded a king, a request God granted (1 Sam. 8:9-22). The first king, Saul, proved to be disobedient, and God terminated that dynasty. God then chose David to be king and gave him promises and a covenant in which He committed to give David an eternal throne, kingdom, and house (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Ps. 89:3-4, 28-37). The glory of the Davidic house reached its apex with David’s son and heir, Solomon.

After Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, inherited the throne, the northern tribes, under the leadership of Jeroboam, seceded from the kingdom of Rehoboam. Only Judah remained as the nation over which the line of David ruled. The Northern Kingdom failed spiritually and was deported to Assyria in 722 B.C. Tiny Judah continued to be God’s theocratic kingdom in spite of the apostasy of so many of its kings and the increasingly rampant idolatry practiced there. Finally, the painful, tragic, and deliberate departure of God’s glory from His chosen people took place (Ezek. 10:4, 18-19; 11:23), and Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 586 B.C. God’s theocracy on earth was terminated. The “times of the Gentiles” had begun (Luke 21:24).

The New Testament opens with the message of John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the twelve apostles that electrified lsrael—“the kingdom of God (heaven) has drawn near!” Israel was called upon to respond in repentance in preparation for its arrival. Of course, the kingdom was to come by way of Christ’s crucifixion. Because of Israel’s rejection the kingdom still has not come and is yet future. God is today ruling over His universe, and He is calling out people for Himself, but the kingdom is not present in any form.

But one day there will be a massive turning to God by Israel (Zech. 12:10-14; Matt. 23:39; Rom. 11:25-27). Then the Lord will restore Israel (cf. Acts 1:6). The kingdom will come, first, in the form of the millennial reign of Christ and, finally, in its eternal form. When the Lord returns to reign, there will come to pass the shout of the heavenly host (see Rev. 11:15). And so with John we pray, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).[3]

 

Just so you will be clear on this point, I agree with Stanley Toussaint that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are interchangeable phrases that refer to the same thing. Further, I am of the opinion that whenever the kingdom is referred to in the gospel accounts the Jewish people had in their minds the theocratic kingdom which finds its full expression in the one thousand year reign of Jesus Christ on earth sitting on the throne of His father David. When and how God would institute the theocratic kingdom after Christ’s second coming, the nature of Messiah’s deliverance and rule, as well as the citizenry who would populate His kingdom, were mysteries to the Jews, but have been revealed in the New Testament.

 

Next, THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM WILL NOT BE REVEALED TO EVERYONE

 

Look at our text and picture the Master standing on the small fishing boat as He answers His disciples. “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” Not that none of the multitudes would have the mysteries revealed to them, but that most of the multitudes would not have the mysteries revealed to them.

Listen to what Charles Spurgeon wrote about this verse in his Spurgeon’s Commentary on Matthew:

 

To his own disciples our Lord would explain the parable, but not to the outside unbelieving throng. If any one among the multitude became sincerely anxious to know the Lord’s meaning, he would become his disciple, and then he would be taught “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven”; but those who rejected the Messiah would, while listening to parables, hear and not hear, see and not perceive.[4]

 

Though not written to comment on this verse, Edward Payson’s thoughts are very applicable. Here is a paragraph concerning the fate of those who reject the gospel:

 

It is God’s invariable rule of proceeding to deal with His creatures, in some measure, as they deal with Him. Hence we are told that, with the upright, He will show Himself upright; with the merciful, He will show Himself merciful; and with the froward, He will show Himself froward (Psalm 18:25, 26). When, therefore, persons come to Him with a pretended desire to know their duty, but, in reality, with a view to find some excuse or justification for their errors and sins, He will suffer them, as a punishment, to find something which will harden them in their wickedness. Thus He will suffer the obstinate believer in universal salvation, to deceive himself with his delusive dreams, till he wakes in torments. He will suffer the proud, self-righteous opposer of His gospel, to trust in his moral duties, till it is too late to discover his mistake. He will suffer the self-deceived hypocrite to please himself with his false hopes of heaven, till he finds the door forever shut against him. All these persons did, in effect, wish to be deceived; they hated the light, shut their eyes, and would not come to it; they leaned to their own understandings, instead of trusting to the Lord; they never prayed Him to keep them from self-deception and from false paths; they chose to believe Satan rather than God, and therefore are justly left to feel the effects of it.[5]

 

Finally, THE MYSTERIES ARE BOUND TO JESUS CHRIST

 

I have previously made mention of how preachers who devote themselves almost exclusively to prophetic ministries tend to drift away from the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ to a concentration on dispensational charts, how current events relate to unfolding prophecies, and sometimes even coming perilously close to predicting the date of Christ’s second coming. Keep in mind what Jesus Himself said about the timing of His second coming, in Matthew 24.36: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” Thus, anyone who predicts when the Rapture will occur, or who predicts when the second coming of Christ will occur, is clearly departing from revealed truth and is deep into speculation. Pay no attention to such charlatans.

How can we know that prophetic matters and the mysteries of the kingdom in particular, are best understood as being bound to the person and work of Jesus Christ? It is really quite simple, when you pay attention to the context in which our text is set. Keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ taught a parable, was then asked a question by His disciples, and then answered their question, part of His answer being our text.

What I have not yet shown you is that after answering His disciples, beginning in verse 11 and concluding in verse 17, the Lord Jesus Christ then interprets the parable He had taught moments before. This He does in verses 18-23.

 

18     Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

19     When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

20     But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

21     Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

22     He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

23     But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

 

Therefore, you see, our Lord’s comments about the mystery of the kingdom are wrapped, both before and afterwards, in this parable of the soils. And what is this parable all about? It is all about the different ways people respond to the gospel, with the gospel being the good news that Jesus saves. Thus, you cannot rightly separate Jesus and the gospel message from the mysteries of the kingdom.

One more illustration to show you the importance of seeing the gospel message about Jesus Christ being inextricably bound up with the kingdom. Most people know that John chapter three is where Jesus told a man named Nicodemus that “Ye must be born again.” However, people frequently ignore the context in which Jesus says those words. In John 3.3, Jesus said these words to Nicodemus: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Notice, as well, what Jesus says to him in John 3.7: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Proof positive that the new birth and the kingdom are rightly seen to be inseparable in the Bible, with the gospel message and the new birth never being much separated from any study of prophecy or consideration of the kingdom of God.

 

The study of prophecy can be one of the most interesting areas of Bible study. Who does not want to know how the headlines in today’s newspaper may relate to Bible prophecy and our march through the end times? What must be kept in mind, however, as events lead toward the second coming of Christ and the establishing here on earth of the millennial kingdom, is that Jesus Christ is the king of the kingdom.

As the king of the kingdom, as the King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ is the final arbiter of those applying for a visa to pass from this kingdom to His kingdom. In fact, He is the only arbiter of those applying for visas to pass into His kingdom. What, pray tell, are the requirements that He insists upon before granting a visa permitting entrance into His kingdom? Visas are granted only to those who are fleeing the tyranny of sin and who seek refuge and asylum. However, it must be understood that refuge and asylum can only be granted by the Lord Jesus Christ. You must come to Him for refuge. You must come to Him for asylum. Only He delivers from sin. That is why He told Nicodemus that to see His kingdom, and to enter His kingdom, you must first be born again.

If you cannot see His kingdom, and if you are barred entrance into His kingdom, how can you possibly expect that you will understand the mysteries of His kingdom? It simply will not happen. Thus, my friends, you see the importance of being saved from your sins, the significance of knowing Jesus Christ as your personal savior. Apart from the salvation which only Jesus provides, to those who come to Him for salvation and forgiveness of their sins, there will be no real perception and understanding of those vital truths related to Christ’s kingdom.

A final thought. How can you really even pray without knowing Jesus and being able to see His kingdom? After all, do not all real prayers embrace the concept of the Lord’s Prayer? Our Father, who are in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. So you see, knowing Jesus is not only the beginning of it all, but He is also the end of it all, and the center of it all. That understood you really do need Him as your savior.



[1] Mark 1.29-31

[2] See footnote for Matthew 13.11 The New Scofield Reference Bible, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), page 1014.

[3] “The Kingdom of God” by Stanley Toussaint, an article in Tim LaHaye, Tim LaHaye Study Bible, (AMG Publishers, 2000), page 1022.

[4] Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Commentary on Matthew, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[5] Edward Payson, Legacy Of A Legend, (Vestavia Hills, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2001), page 31.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org