Although the parables of Matthew 13 are somewhat difficult to understand they are our compass to guide us through the days in which we live. Specifically, what do they teach? How do they apply? To answer these questions, we must understand the background leading up to chapter 13. The major theme of the book of Matthew is Jesus Christ presented as King. The King and kingdom are the predominant ideas in the book. It is around these two key concepts that we must formulate our thinking.
This brief outline of Matthew leads us up to chapter 13 and provides us with the context. Chapters 1-10 present Jesus as the rightful King of the earthly kingdom promised to the Jewish nation. However, His rejection as their King follows in chapters 11 and 12.
The rejection of Jesus as the King by the nation presents us with a couple of theological problems. Will there be a kingdom and when will there be a kingdom?
God made a covenant with David that promised an everlasting kingdom for Israel (2 Sam. 7:8-14). Matthew presents Jesus as the King of that kingdom. However, the Jewish nation rejected Jesus as the Messiah. This was the unpardonable sin (Phil. 2:6; Matt. 3:16; Matt. 12:22-24; 28--32). Therefore, the earthly kingdom will come to pass at some future time. Why is the kingdom on earth so important? Why did God not eliminate the kingdom completely?
The Promise of the Kingdom
God made an unconditional covenant with David promising to establish an earthly kingdom for the nation of Israel (2 Sam. 7:16). Since God promised a kingdom, it will happen.
The Rejection of the King
Since God knew that Israel would reject their promised King, there was no possibility of a kingdom at that time. God’s plans were not fouled up forcing Him to put another plan in place. There can be no kingdom until Israel accepts the King. For God’s promise of the kingdom to be fulfilled, Jesus must reign internally in the hearts of his subjects (Jer. 31:31-33) and externally upon the throne of David as prophesied in 2 Sam. 7:8-16). This will come to pass only when Jesus Christ returns.
The Interim Period
So, what about the period between Christ’s rejection and his return that some refer to as the parenthesis? Jesus referred to this interim period as a mystery in Matt. 13:11. In the Bible a mystery is something previously unknown but now revealed. This interim between Christ’s two comings was not revealed in the Old Testament. Matthew 13 is the first revelation of this interim period between His first and second coming, and it tells us what it will be like. The mystery form of the kingdom and the church age are roughly synonymous.
Why He Spoke in Parables
The Parables of the Kingdom of Heaven (The Mystery Form of the Kingdom)
The Kingdom of Heaven
God gave Adam dominion over all creation, but Adam surrendered that dominion to Satan when he sinned. The Kingdom of Heaven is the first step in recovering what Adam lost.
The Holy Spirit helps us understand what the Scriptures say about prophecy (John 16:7-13), and the parables of Matthew thirteen provide us with a compass to guide us in this age.