The Gospel in the Prophets

“At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it…” – Jeremiah 3:17

  1. Israel’s rebellion from God leads them to desire a king like the nations of the world. How did this go against God’s original plan for them?
    • 1 Samuel 8:6-9
  1. God promises to re-establish his Kingdom through the lineage of Israel’s second king, King David (2 Samuel 7:8-16). But their overall rejection of God continues. Despite their rebellion, God never gives up on them for his overall mission to the rest of the world (1 Kings 3:6,8:56).
    • How does the vivid example given in Hosea 3:1-5 reflect God’s position with Israel?
    • What is Israel doing or not doing that makes God so angry?
      • Hosea 6:1-6
      • Isaiah 1:11-16
      • Isaiah 10:1-4
      • Jeremiah 2:29-37
  1. Ultimately, Israel’s unfaithfulness gave God no choice but to follow his own covenant and send Israel into exile, but he did it in a way to restore them and not undo the promise to bring a king through David. (2 Kings 17, 25)
    • Jeremiah 3:6-18
    • Isaiah 55:1-5
    • Isaiah 56:1-8 
  1. Why did the exiled people need continuous reminders from the Prophets?
  1. What role did the promise of a Messiah play in sustaining the Israelite community during exile?
    • Genesis 3:15
    • 2 Samuel 7:10-13
    • Isaiah 9:6-7
  1. God didn’t only send the Prophets to the people of Israel, but he sent them to all the kingdoms of the world around Israel, including the nations that God would eventually use to punish Israel like Assyria, Babylon, and Persia. How does this present God’s vision for his Kingdom?
    • 1 Kings 10:1-9
    • Jonah 3:4-10
    • Daniel 4:28-37
    • Esther 10:1-3
  1. What was John the Baptist’s role as the last prophet of the old covenant (Luke 16:16)?
    • John 1:19-34
    • Matthew 3:1-17
    • Luke 7:28-30
  1. The kingdom of Israel pointed forward to the coming of God’s eternal kingdom. What the prophets foretold has come about: God’s Kingdom is here! That day has come! How is the good news even bigger than most Jews realized in Jesus’ day? Who ended up being the subject of the promises?
    • Ephesians 3:1-6
    • Galatians 3:13-14
    • Isaiah 60:1-3
  1. While God’s Kingdom has deep roots with the kingdom of Israel, the scope and blessing of God’s Kingdom was always meant to go beyond any national border (Isaiah 2:2, 49:6). The promise of the Kingdom inheritance is not restricted to a national border or an ethnicity (Galatians 3:28-29). There is good news for the poor, liberty to the captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed (Luke 4:18-19). That’s the gospel of God’s Kingdom! And that’s the gospel Jesus proclaimed (Luke 4:43).

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The Gospel in Torah

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” – Genesis 12:2-3

  1. After the fall of Adam and Eve and the fall at the Tower of Babel, God chose Abram (Abraham) to be the father of a special nation (Genesis 12:1-3,22:15-18)
    • What do you notice about the blessing in these passages? Who receives blessing?
  1. Basic history: Abraham’s grandson Jacob is later renamed “Israel” by God (Genesis 32:28). One of Jacob’s 12 sons is sold into slavery, but eventually God establishes him as high-ranking official in Egypt. During a famine, Jacob’s family journeys to Egypt (with 70 people—see lesson #3) where Joseph ensures they are cared for. After over 400 years, a new Pharoah is in power, and the descendants of Jacob are no longer respected. They are subjected to harsh slave labor (Exodus 1:8-14). God raises up Moses as a deliverer. After many plagues, the Pharoah lets Moses’ people go, only to change his mind and pursue the fleeing people. God delivers the Hebrews through the waters of the Red Sea and crushes the Egyptians when they dare follow (Exodus 14:10-31).
    • God delivered his people out of this nation, a system of the world, and brought them into a nation of his own.
  1. He then gives them the Law, which totals over 600 different commands. However, it is not meant as a list of “dos or don’ts,” but rather a way of living that would be his shining example of his Kingdom to the world.
    • What do you think the world would look like if God’s reign was recognized by all?
      • Leviticus 19:9-18
      • Deut 15:1-11
      • Deut 16:18-20
    • How does this communicate the Kingdom of God?
      • Exodus 19:3-6
      • Leviticus 19:2
      • Deut 4:1-9
      • Numbers 24:1-9
    • Was the vision of God’s Kingdom meant to only impact Ancient Israel?
      • Leviticus 19:33-34
      • Exodus 12:38,48-49 (Numbers 9:14)
      • Numbers 14:21
    • How do the commandments ultimately point to Jesus?
      • Hebrews 9:11-28
  1. Israel’s relationship with God is a constant roller coaster of obedience and utter failure, but God was continuously faithful to his covenant promises. Why do you think God exercised such gracious and steadfast love for such a “stiff-necked” people (Exodus 33:3)? What encouragement does that give us today?
    • Exodus 34:6-7
    • Joshua 21:44-45
  1. Don’t miss what the Pharisees missed. Jesus summed up the heart of the Law with Matthew 22:37-40 – “And He said to him, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” God doesn’t get mad at the Israelites for wearing a polyester blend or lighting a candle on the Sabbath. Rather, he gets mad at them when they aren’t loving God, when they aren’t loving their neighbors, and when they are being greedy, cruel, or unfair.
    • God’s laws in the Torah for his people were meant to bring them to an understanding of his love, grace and mercy. They were a shadow of the life to come under Christ the King—the ultimate sacrificial lamb who is seated at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:1-12).

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The Gospel at the End

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” – Matthew 24:14

  1. What are the aspects of the Kingdom we’re still waiting for?
    • Return
      • Philippians 3:20-21 – Citizens of his Kingdom now but waiting for the return of the King.
      • James 5:7
      • 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
      • Acts 1:9-11
    • Restoration
      • Acts 3:18-21
      • Romans 8:18-25
      • Deuteronomy 30:3
      • Isaiah 65:17-25
    • Re-inheriting of the nations
      • Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (see Gen 10:1-32, 11:9; Deut 4:19-20; Luke 10:1-20; Acts 2:1-13)
      • Psalm 82:8
      • Revelation 7:9-10; 22:1-5
      • Micah 4:1-7
      • Jeremiah 48:47 – Restoration is promised even for the Gentiles
    • Resurrection
      • 1 Corinthians 6:14
      • 1 Corinthians 15:12-23,47-58
      • Philippians 3:11-12,20-21
      • Acts 24:15
      • 1 Peter 1:3-5
      • Isaiah 26:19
    • Retribution
      • Genesis 3:15 – The end was proclaimed at the beginning!
      • Matthew 13:30,41-43,49-50
      • Psalm 82:1-8
      • 1 Corinthians 15:24-28
      • Daniel 12:2
  1. How does the Bible use creation language to point to the Kingdom coming in its fullness?
    • 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 – Old creation has died; New creation has come.
    • Isaiah 43:18-19; 65:17
    • John 11:25-26
    • Ephesians 4:22-24
    • 2 Peter 3:13
    • Revelation 21:1-5; 22:1-5
  1. What does the Bible say about the Kingdom of God’s permanence and status over the kingdoms of the world?
    • Daniel 2:31-45; 7:14
    • Isaiah 9:6-7
    • 1 Corinthians 15:24-28
    • Revelation 11:15
  1. There are aspects of the Kingdom in its fullness we are eagerly waiting for, but we can still enjoy the blessings of the Kingdom now! Jesus’ Spirit lives within us (Romans 8:10-11). We spread God’s goodness through our community of believers to each other and those outside (Matthew 5:13-16, Galatians 6:10, 1 Peter 2:9-12). We have been raised with Christ and are seated with him in his Kingdom (Colossians 3:1-4, Ephesians 2:6, Philippians 3:20). We can rest in his eternal rule (Matthew 11:28).

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The Gospel in the Beginning

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion…’” – Genesis 1:26

  1. How does the Creation narrative in Genesis 1:1-2:3 frame the Kingdom of God?
    • Throughout the ancient world, the temple was a significant part of the cosmic landscape. It was considered to be at the center of the cosmos, the place from which the cosmos was controlled, and a small model of the cosmos—a microcosm” (Walton, J. H. (2011). Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology)
      • Could the creation narrative be a way of talking about God inaugurating the world as his temple?
        • Isaiah 66:1
        • Psalm 132:7-8
        • 1 Kings 8:62-9:3 (The inauguration of the Temple was a 7-day process, after it took Solomon seven years to build it (1 Kings 6:38))
      • What does “rest” mean in Genesis 2:2-3? What does a “god” typically do in a temple?
        • They reign and rule from their throne
        • This part of the narrative isn’t a footnote, it’s the climax! God has taken his place as an engaged ruler on his throne over his newly ordered system.
          • Who does he expect to be working with him to continue to maintain this order?
            • Genesis 1:26-31
            • 1 Corinthians 3:9
            • Jesus reflects on this in Matthew 11:28-30
  1. How does the Garden of Eden reflect God’s Kingdom?
    • A connection between the heavenly realm and the earthly realm (Genesis 3:8-9), which is also reflected in the Tabernacle and Temple.
    • The Tree of Life (Genesis 2:8-9)
      • God invited Adam and Eve to live by his life, but they chose to go their own way (Genesis 3:6-7). God then sends them out of the Garden and blocks them from access to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22-24).
      • When Jesus comes, he is the return of the Tree of Life. Following him means coming back into God’s Kingdom rule.
        • John 6:53-58,19:41,20:15
        • Revelation 2:7,22:2
    • https://bibleproject.com/articles/were-adam-and-eve-priests-eden/
  1. What was God’s purpose for Adam and Eve before they sinned?
    • What does “work and keep” mean in Genesis 2:15?
      • These two verbs ‘abad (עבד) and shamar (שמר) are used together as a phrase to refer to the priestly roles of the Levites who serve God in the temple and who guard the temple (Numbers 3:7-8; 8:25-26; 18:5-6; 1 Chronicles 23:32; Ezekiel 44:14).
    • As God’s priestly representatives, Adam and Eve were to be mediators between God and others—relating with God on behalf of other people and reflecting his character to others. Like all people, they were called to be his image-bearers, his representatives, and exercise rule over the creation (Genesis 1:26-28).
  1. God’s plan for his Kingdom has existed from the very beginning. Adam and Eve were created to keep and guard God’s dwelling place and represent his Kingdom to the world. When sin interrupted their mission, they were removed from this role. Salvation will be needed to deliver them back to his presence. In the same way for us, salvation is a deliverance back to living under God’s rule and reign so that we can represent him as his image, working and keeping his Garden, his Kingdom.
    • Romans 12:1-2 – We worship God by being who he made us to be—His Image! That’s how we keep from taking his name in vain (Exodus 20:7).

(Click here for referenced Scripture printout.)

Introduction: What is the Gospel?

(We’re starting a new study on the Good News of God’s Kingdom. Join us!)

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” – Isaiah 52:7

“The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.” – Psalm 103:19

  1. What has the term “gospel” meant to you?
  1. Word Study – The English terms “good news” or “gospel” come from these words in the original texts:
    • https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/euangelion-gospel/
    • Hebrew Old Testament – bśr (verb), bĕśōrâ (noun) (Royal announcement)
      • 2 Samuel 18:19-31
      • 1 Kings 1:38-48 (especially vs. 42)
      • Isaiah 52:7
    • Greek New Testament – euangelizō (verb), euangelion (noun) (Good/eu – Announcement/angelion)
      • Luke 3:1-20 – What is the significance of vs 9 specifically? What is about to be cut down?
      • Matthew 4:23
      • Mark 1:14-15
    • What was the “good news” centered around in those Old Testament passages?
    • What was the “good news” centered around in those New Testament passages?
  1. The word “Kingdom” (in relation to the Kingdom of God) is mentioned in the New Testament 139 times! In contrast, “Resurrection” (which we know is a critical concept to the Christian faith!) is only mentioned 42 times.
    • Has this Kingdom already arrived? Are there aspects of the Kingdom that have not yet arrived?
      • Mark 1:14-15
      • Ephesians 2:6
      • Colossians 1:12-13
      • Matthew 25:31-34
      • 1 Corinthians 4:16-20
      • 1 Corinthians 15:24
      • Hebrews 2:8-9
      • Luke 4:17-21 – The Lord’s favor is “already,” his vengeance is “not yet.”
  1. How does the whole Bible story shape what that “good news” entails?
    • Genesis 1:31
    • Genesis 12:2-3
    • 2 Samuel 7:12-13
    • Daniel 2:44
    • Luke 4:18-21
    • Matthew 24:14
    • Romans 8:18-25
    • 1 Corinthians 15:20-28
    • Revelation 11:15
    • Revelation 19:16
    • Revelation 21:1-4
  1. What is the believer’s role in spreading this “good news” of God’s Kingdom?
    • Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15
    • Acts 1:8
    • 2 Corinthians 5:16-20
  1. The “Good News” has always centered around God’s desire to establish his Kingdom with his followers. He wanted to co-rule with Adam and Eve in the Garden. He wanted to display his Kingdom to the nations through Israel. Now he wants to display his Kingdom through the Church. The King has come, and he brought the new Kingdom with him. He didn’t come just to be a “personal savior.” He came to take his rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords. Are we proclaiming that good news? Do we believe it? (Matthew 6:33)

(Click here for referenced Scripture printout.)

A Kingdom of Mixture

Matthew 13 is a loaded chapter in the Gospels. It’s so full of rich parables that we often break them up into smaller pieces. That’s warranted and necessary at times, obviously. After all, the whole Bible is a unified story, but we can’t digest the fullness of the Bible in one sitting. However, if we only ever feed on disjointed fragments, and never bring those pieces together into a full picture, we end up not being able to see the forest for the trees. So, we’ll try to take a section of the trees in Matthew’s gospel and see what that part of the forest looks like.

First some ground rules: Read Matthew 13:1-52 before this article. Read it a few times. Then remember—context, context, context. Any study of the Bible requires an understanding of context. This involves understanding what all is being spoken as one continuous narrative, but also how that narrative fits into the greater story and the historical and cultural factors that influence the speakers/hearers. This will be a lengthy article, but to break it into sections would go against this very point! (Hah)

A general overview of Matthew 13’s context: Jesus is speaking to a crowd initially, but there are also places where he is teaching only his closest disciples. Jesus understands the dynamics of a crowd. You’ll always have a mixed audience. Some will be enthralled by the message, some will be indifferent, some will be enraged, and some aren’t even listening. A striking example of this is in John 6—right after Jesus feeds the five thousand, the crowd is offended by His claim that he is the true bread of life, and many turned away from him. Perhaps they were like the crowd in John 2:23-25, who really only followed Jesus to catch a glimpse of an exciting miracle. The crowd that gathers in Matthew 13 isn’t any different. With that in mind, and with the goal that we want to look at a full “episode” of teaching from Jesus instead of disjointed fragments, let’s examine a continuous episode from Matthew 13:1-52.

The Sower (Matthew 13:1-23)

This is one of the few parables in this section that Jesus provides an interpretation for. There is one sower (Christ), one seed (“the word of the kingdom”), and four different soils that the seed lands on. Only one of those four is soil that actually allows the seed to produce fruit. When the disciples ask Jesus privately to explain this parable, he confirms that not everyone who hears a message actually “hears” the message (“…seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Matthew 13:13). Let’s look at the mixture of different soil types that Jesus describes.

1) First there’s the path. The seed that is sown here is eaten up by the birds, who Jesus equates with the evil one. Ground that is trampled into a path is firm and compacted. It has been shaped over a long time and is not easily molded. We can easily see the metaphor for a hard heart and a stubborn mind. That seed isn’t sinking in, and it’s not going to germinate. If we reject the seed because of our hard hearts, it’s easy pickings for the enemy.

2) Then there’s the rocky ground. There’s more opportunity for the seed to get buried here—in fact, there may be a perfect crevice that the seed could fit through, receive some moisture, and germinate. Jesus said this is like people who eagerly receive a teaching, but they have no root. As soon as difficulty comes, that plant withers away. This is reminiscent of the John 6 example mentioned earlier.

3) The soil with thorns will allow that seed to grow for a time, but then the thorns, which represent “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches,” choke the life out of the plant so that no fruit is born.

4) The good soil is one who hears the word, understands it, lets it take root, and allows God to produce fruit.

The “word of the kingdom” is sown over a mixture of soil types and is taken up (or not) at varying degrees. The types of soil may represent the mixture of different individuals overall, but also, we may display a mix of all these soil types throughout our own lives. Maybe we have thorns we need to remove. What cares of the world are preventing you from bearing fruit for the Kingdom? Worrying about things that might happen or about things outside of your control? That anxiety is choking out the truth of God’s word. Even worry about good things! Parents, are you constantly worried about your children? Is that consuming your heart? (I know some of you need to hear that—anxiety is something I’m working on pulling out of my own soil…) Maybe we need a tiller to break up the ground of our own heart. What or who are you hardened toward? Maybe some rocks need to get thrown out. What area of your life is suffering from an inability to receive God’s word? May your heart become increasingly good soil as you walk with Christ and bear much fruit!

As we go through the rest of this narrative, keep this initial teaching in mind: There’s mixture in the kingdom of God. It will be purified in the end, but right now we deal with the good and the bad. It’s not a utopia—not yet. It seems strange to consider God’s Kingdom as something that contains flaws, doesn’t it? But even if we discount those that actively look to sabotage the Kingdom from within, we know that none of us are perfect. John Nugent puts it well in his book, Endangered Gospel: “God’s treasure was meant to be carried in clay jars (2 Corinthians 4:7). The weakness of the messenger does not negate the strength of the message. The reality is, there can be no such thing as a perfect church. A church that fulfills its responsibility attracts new people. When new people come, they bring all of their imperfections with them. So the church is constantly in the process of helping imperfect people who do not yet seek first God’s kingdom to begin seeking it first.”

Jesus continues this theme in the following short parables. Reading them within that context sheds a lot more light on what he was getting at.

The Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30,34-43)

In the parable of the weeds, Jesus shifts the image from one good type of seed falling on a mix of different soil types to a mixture of seeds being sown in a field: one for wheat and one for weeds (or tares). The servants are confused—why are their weeds in our perfectly sown field of wheat? Why is there a mixture of good and bad, fruitful and non-fruitful? Should we go ahead and try to clean out the bad? The master tells them an enemy has sown the weeds, but they must wait until the time of the harvest or else when gathering the weeds, they would root up the wheat as well.

Jesus privately explains the meaning of this parable to his disciples as he did with the parable of the sower. The Son of Man is the one who sows the good seed, the field is the “world,” the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. Seems pretty straight forward, but consider that the weeds are growing right alongside of the wheat. They aren’t subdivided in any way. Jesus explains that at the end of the age the angels “will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers and throw them into the fiery furnace.” What do we do with this? There are weeds in God’s Kingdom?

(Wheat, left. Walther Otto Müller, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Darnel, right. Winkler, Eduard., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Darnel is the type of weed that Jesus would have been referencing. As you can see in the image, it looks very similar to the wheat!

We must realize that we’re all weeds without Jesus. It’s his life within us that has transformed us from weeds to wheat. He didn’t make us wheat just so we can point out those who we think are not wheat. We should be people that are willing to live as wheat among weeds, with the hope that our witness to the one who transformed us would impact those around us.

What about the teachings we have on church discipline (Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 5, for instance)? Isn’t that “identifying a weed?” I pondered on this question a lot and sought some insight from several folks I trust. To quote John Nugent: “He has not appointed his followers to be kingdom police checking out everyone else’s kingdom work. We should focus on what God has given us to do. We should not be going around looking for weeds. We should be sowing the seeds of God’s word. It’s a matter of focus.”

Certainly, if someone is leading the flock away from the truth, we should intervene, just as we should if we see a brother or sister walking away from Christ. But, as John Nugent continued, “We are not really in the business of driving people out who don’t quite get it right. We need to be patient, give God time to work on people, and trust him to judge when his time is right.”

And to that point, we should reference what Jesus says at the end of the Matthew 18:15-20 passage. He is with us if a decision of expulsion must be made. He is taking the lead. We must be sure that we always surrender the reins to him.

And so, I believe part of Jesus’ emphasis here is simply that we need to set realistic expectations, not that we need to be looking for weeds on an individual basis, trying to root them all up. The quote from Endangered Gospel above is again pertinent.

The enemy wants to sabotage the King’s field. We know that he ultimately won’t be successful, but we still have to deal with his attempts. That involves weeds masquerading as wheat. Many of the letters in the New Testament warn us of this threat. In Acts 20:29-31, Paul warns the Ephesian elders of fierce wolves that will be present within their own number. So as a general principle, this comes as no surprise. What was surprising to me is that those people are, for now, considered to be part of God’s Kingdom. But then I remember, even Jesus had a Judas in his inner circle!

In Gerhard Lohfink’s book, The Forty Parables of Jesus, he says: “Jesus’ preaching and practice did not correspond to [a] model of a holy, self-separating community…Above all, the Jesus movement was made up of despised people, social outcasts, and sinners. So, Jesus gathered, but he did not segregate…Jesus would certainly not have equated the sinners with whom he associated with poisonous weeds. The point of comparison would have been the association of holy and unholy, good and evil. Now, at this hour, a clear and clean distinction cannot be drawn. In fact, Jesus said elsewhere, we have to suppose that the real wickedness does not lurk among the sinners but is at home with those who elevate themselves above the outcasts and the sinful.”

Ouch! Have I acted like the Pharisee who despised the tax collector (Luke 18:10-14)? Our efforts are not to be directed at identifying and uprooting those we see as weeds. We live in him and by him, we grow, and we bear fruit. Just as he is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:1-11), so too is he the soil and we are the fruit from it.

The Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32)

Who hasn’t heard this parable? It’s often presented as a picture of the gospel growing from a tiny seed into a huge tree—it seems small and insignificant from the start, but it will become a great kingdom. To be clear, God’s Kingdom will certainly overcome all and is the everlasting kingdom! I fully affirm this fact. I just don’t believe that’s the point of this parable. If we look at this story without extracting it from its context, we’ll come away with a different interpretation.

First, what is this mustard seed that Jesus is referencing? There is no consensus among scholars. One common herb grown in that region was Black Mustard (Rhamphospermum nigrum), which has been said to grow up to ten feet tall. Typical growth, however, is only about three feet tall with a thin and wispy branching pattern. Since Jesus seems to be talking about a garden and that was a popular spice, I’m inclined to think this was the plant in mind, but I can’t say for certain. Another possibility is Nicotiana glauca, which is a woody plant (more of a shrub or small tree). If we go too far down this rabbit trail though, I think we’ll miss the point.

(Black Mustard, Rhamphospermum nigrum. Katrin Schneider, korina.info – CC-BY-SA-4.0, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

While growth rate is a point of emphasis for sure, I believe the emphasis is actually an abnormal growth rate. Black Mustard can grow rapidly, but for it to grow into a “tree” that birds could nest in would paint a picture of something highly unusual, especially in someone’s garden as Luke records it (Luke 13:18-19). This abnormal growth might even be looked as deviant, as the plant overshadows the rest of the garden. When we read all of Matthew 13, there is a lot of undeniable negativity—3 out of the 4 soils are bad, the weeds are bad, the net has a lot of bad fish, leaven is always bad (contrary to popular belief in this chapter). Jesus isn’t speaking in a bunch of disjointed short stories—he’s painting a consistent picture. There’s something about the Kingdom that he wanted his disciples (and us) to understand. He’s warning us that in this “already but not yet” period of the Kingdom, it’s not going to be perfect. There will be bad soil in the ground, there will be weeds in the field, and we may see some “mutant growth.” Doesn’t world history illustrate this perfectly when Christianity became the official state religion of the Roman Empire? When Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, suddenly becoming a Christian was a politically advantageous position. “Nesting” in this puffed-up “tree” of the Kingdom becomes a comfortable spot for the corrupt rulers of the day. And that leads us to the birds…

The nesting birds are a clear picture of corruption. Remember what the birds were an example of in the first parable. In fact, birds very often are used as symbols of the evil one or something unclean, so Jesus’ analogy is hardly a new thing. See Genesis 15:11-16 where birds of prey represent an evil omen of Israel’s future bondage in Egypt (which is cross referenced in Deuteronomy 28:26 and Jeremiah 7:33). Also, in Genesis 40:16-19, Joseph interprets the chief baker’s dream to mean that Pharoah will behead him, and the birds will eat his flesh! Hardly desirable images. This is certainly not to say that there are not positive usages of birds (the Holy Spirit is represented as a dove, for instance), but it is important that we interpret passages in their immediate and wider contexts. It bears repeating: Jesus is in mid-stride with a consistent teaching here. He has already defined the birds (Matthew 13:19). He has also already clearly established in this same conversation the idea of a mixture of good and bad together. Since we don’t have a side-bar explanation of this parable like we do the soils, the wheat and weeds, and the net (as we’ll see), it behooves us to base our interpretation of this parable alongside the others. The birds are like the weeds—making their home in and amongst the true kingdom citizens. And this home is made even more hospitable due to some abnormal growth.

Sometimes a lack of direct explanation is frustrating. Why can’t it just be laid out in black and white? Jesus’ first disciples wondered the same. But we know that Jesus wanted his message to reach only those who were truly seeking. All the disciples ever had to do was ask Jesus what he meant, as they did many times. Those who don’t have ears to hear or eyes to see won’t ask. They won’t seek. They won’t knock. (Matthew 7:7-11) Jesus is an artist. His metaphors and comparisons paint incredibly rich portraits for those who look on them intently. And the more we seek, the more we see! (Matthew 13:12).

When this parable is examined on its own (as is often the case), it’s easy to extract another meaning altogether. But that’s precisely the point: We were never supposed to lift these tiny fragments out of their place in the story. I believe this part of Matthew’s gospel is a notable example of the pitfalls of that study method. And another perfect example of that comes in the next verse…

The Leaven (Matthew 13:33)

We’ve all heard this verse in isolation. It’s commonly cited as a way to say that the gospel will slowly spread throughout the earth until everyone comes to the King. I wholeheartedly believe that one day every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11), and the Kingdom will one day be the only kingdom left standing. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus was talking about here. Not only does that idea not fit the flow of the narrative, but it completely ignores the consistent symbolism of leaven in all of Scripture.

Part of the context we always have to keep in mind is the audience Jesus is speaking to and their cultural background. The Jews listening are all too familiar with the symbolism of leaven—they’ve heard the story of the Exodus every year for their entire lives, and they’re quite familiar with the sacrificial system. Let’s start with Exodus to get more of that context.

The Israelites have been in bondage in Egypt for 400 years. God has raised up Moses for the mission of bringing them out of Egypt and into the promised land. Pharoah has not responded to the plagues, as God knew he wouldn’t. The warning of the final plague has gone out. The Lord will strike down every first born in the land unless the blood of a spotless lamb marks the doorway of the house. But first, some preparation! (See Exodus 12 for all the details.) For seven days, they were to only eat unleavened bread. Not only that, but they also had to get every speck of leaven out of their houses. And if they failed to do that, they would be cut off from Israel! (Exodus 12:14-15)

That sounds awfully harsh, doesn’t it? But look at the great mercy that God shows when the Israelites leave Egypt. It wasn’t just the Israelites who left. A “mixed multitude” left with them (Exodus 12:38)! God had an open-door policy to join in with his people. He even provided an avenue (circumcision) for that mixed multitude to officially become part of his people, to be as a native Israelite (to be “wheat,” if you will). If they didn’t want to be circumcised, God was merciful to still allow them to be with the people as a “stranger who sojourns among you” (Exodus 12:48-49). What an awesome and merciful God. Raise your hand if this is the first time you heard about a “mixture” leaving Egypt with the Israelites…

And certainly, Israel’s history is full of examples of “outsiders” that became great blessings—two perfect examples being Rahab and Ruth, who are even in the genealogy of Jesus! But we can’t ignore the problems that would come about because of this mixture either. For example, a son of an Israelite and an Egyptian blasphemed the Name. A decree was given that whether a native or a sojourner, blaspheming the Name would result in death (Leviticus 24:10-12). Also, the “rabble” (as the mixed multitude was called) had a strong craving for meat while they wandered in the desert. This influenced even the native Israelites to complain to God about the manna he provided. God, in his mercy, provided quail. But because of their lustful desire, they gorged themselves on God’s gift and he punished them severely. There are many more examples, both good and bad, of the results of mixture in the nation of Israel. It was most definitely a foreshadowing. And Jesus didn’t want his disciples to forget that just because he was inaugurating the new kingdom, a mixture was still going to be present.

(www.yourbestdigs.com/reviews/best-bread-machine/, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Why leaven? Why was that such an important symbol?

For one, the unleavened bread serves as a practical reminder of their rescue from Egypt. They had to leave in haste. They had no time to allow their bread to rise. They had to escape!

We know what the spotless lamb represents—it’s a picture of the blood of Christ. A gift that washes us, cleanses us, and makes us holy (Colossians 1:22). And because that blood represented a cleansing and allowed the Lord to “pass over” their house, they had to actually cleanse the impurity out of the house. Leaven represented that impurity. God was making Israel into his holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6). They are leaving behind their old life and being consecrated to God in a new life. This is a “new creation” story. They are starting fresh. Paul makes this same connection in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8. The word translated as “sincerity” there in vs. 8 is the Greek word for purity.

Jesus himself compares the bread of the Passover meal to his own body—the purity of the unleavened bread is matched with the purity of the body of Christ (Luke 22:19).

The Feast of Weeks, also known as Pentecost, also involves leaven—but this time Israel is told to present leavened loaves to God. So, it must represent something good and pleasing here, right? Nope. They are to present these loaves to God as a “wave offering,” and then seven spotless lambs, one bull, and two rams as a burnt offering. The leavened bread actually represents their own sin as a nation, while the burnt offerings represent the atonement for those sins. (Leviticus 23:15-18)

Leviticus 7:12-14 discusses more offerings of bread. First mentioned here is the peace offering. It is an offering of unleavened bread, and it’s a foreshadowing of the peace that Christ is to us, who through his perfect sacrifice reconciles to God (Ephesians 2:13-18). The second is the thanksgiving offering which involved leavened bread. Similar to the offering at the Feast of Weeks, this offering is one of thanksgiving that God has offered this peace to even impure beings. These leavened loaves are not burned (Exodus 23:18, Leviticus 2:11); they are actually given to the priest for food.

Again, we’re talking about the symbol of leaven, not leaven itself. Clearly the Israelites used leaven in their everyday lives to bake bread. In Matthew 16:6-12, Jesus even has to clarify that he’s speaking symbolically of leaven when he tells his disciples to beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They start looking around for literal bread to get rid of, completely forgetting that Jesus just did two huge miracles with leavened loaves of bread.

In addition to Matthew 16 and 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, other New Testament passages also carry forward the allegorical use of leaven for evil or sin (see Luke 12:1, Mark 8:15, Galatians 5:9). Paul uses the phrase “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” That’s not an original line from Paul—he took it straight from Jesus’ teaching here! “Purging the leaven” from the body of believers is also a direct reference to the Israelites purging the leaven from their houses during the Passover.

Jesus isn’t pulling a fast one on his listeners. He isn’t trying to get them to see leaven in a new light. He’s trying to get them to see the Kingdom in a new light! It’s precisely because of their understanding of the symbol of leaven that makes this a mind-bending exercise. Just as his other parables in this section are paradoxical, this one is no different. Yes, there are weeds in the kingdom and there is leaven in the kingdom…for now.

“But,” some might ask, “didn’t Jesus say the Kingdom of Heaven Is like leaven? If leaven is bad, how could God’s Kingdom be bad?” Let’s say, for instance, that leaven is equivalent to false teaching (which is what it was compared to in Matthew 16:5-12). Jesus isn’t saying the Kingdom of Heaven is like false teaching, but rather that there will be false teaching within the kingdom. The many warnings in the New Testament letters attest to that fact.

This sure is a long discussion for just one verse! Jesus is quite the artist—his words are rich, and those riches are inexhaustible (Ephesians 3:8)! As such, we have a few more items to mention for this parable:

Jesus says the woman hid this leaven in the flour. This has the connotation of a subversive act. The Greek word used in Matthew, enkryptō, can mean simply to “put in.” However, in Luke’s account of this parable (Luke 13:20-21), the Greek word more specifically means to “conceal” or “keep a secret.”

The mention of “three measures of flour” would have also brought to their minds the fellowship offering in Genesis 18:1-15 (see vs. 6 for the same measure of flour!). That wasn’t just some random coincidence. And that much dough makes way more bread than anyone would make on a typical day. No, Jesus is purposefully leading his hearers to this story. For Jesus’ Jewish audience, adding leaven to the fellowship offering, a meal with God and his angels, would have brought horror! This was a clear act of sabotage. It’s interesting too that Sarah is a point of focus here in Genesis—her lack of faith in God’s promise and her flippant attitude. Who did Abraham ask to make the “cakes” (unleavened, round, flat loaves)? Who did Jesus say hid the leaven in the flour? Sarah’s laughter, which she tried to hide from God, is the woman’s leaven, hidden in the dough. Whoa!

One other item of note that I make no conclusions about here but will mention out of sheer curiosity—there are seven kingdom parables in this teaching of Jesus. There are seven letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3. This parable of the leaven is the fourth parable told. The fourth letter to the church in Thyatira is about a woman (Jezebel) who sabotaged the church there by concealing false teaching under the guise of prophecy. In fact, there may be some interesting correlations with all the letters to the churches and these kingdom parables. I leave that to you to investigate!

The Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13:44)

The next parable of mixture Jesus presents is the treasure hidden in the field. The treasure is buried, covered by dirt and impurities. The man doesn’t just buy the treasure itself—he buys the whole field that contains the treasure. Going back to the wheat and the weeds, that field contained the true treasure (the wheat), but the master owns the whole field, weeds and all. At the proper time, the treasure will be taken up out of the field and enjoyed in its pure state.

There are two different perspectives we can examine this parable from:

Imagine the man in this parable represents Jesus. When he gave “all that he has” on the cross, he gave it all for the whole world (Philippians 2:5-11). He bought and redeemed the whole world (John 12:44-50), even dying for those who nailed him to the cross. But there is something incredibly special to him in this world—his bride, his church, his body. He gives us all an opportunity to be a part of that treasure.

Now imagine that you are the man. You’ve come upon that treasure that is God’s Kingdom. This is a free gift from God, but it comes at a great cost. We know what it cost Jesus. Just as it cost him his life, it should cost us ours as well! If we truly value this treasure, it’s not a difficult decision to give up everything else. Trading earthly treasure for heavenly treasure is an easy choice if we understand the true value (Matthew 6:19-21). Mike Breen in Building a Discipling Culture uses the parable of the dishonest manager (Luke 16:1-13) and the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30) to discuss “spiritual capital” versus “financial capital.” We can only serve one of these two masters, and we will ultimately choose the one we assign the highest value. We know which one the rich young ruler valued most—he went away sorrowfully when Jesus confronted him with the truth in his heart. The disciples retort that they’ve given up their homes and lives to follow him. Jesus affirms their choice, saying that indeed they’ll receive so much more by laying aside the treasures of earth (Luke 18:28-30).

And this is one way that the “rabble” in the field will identify themselves in the end—they won’t forsake all to take hold of the treasure. They won’t buy the field. And in that choice, they will be weeded out of the Kingdom.

Have ears to hear! Ask deeper questions. Seek the treasure and you’ll find it. (Proverbs 2:1-5)

The Pearl of Great Value (Matthew 13:45-46)

This parable is similar to the treasure hidden in the field. Again, the merchant can represent Jesus or us.

Jesus gave it all for the pearl—his bride, his church, his body. This is the most precious jewel in Jesus’ eyes. He gave up even his equal position with God to obtain this jewel (Philippians 2:6-7).

Likewise, when we see the value of this pearl, it’s not a hardship to give everything else up for it. We value it most of all.

There seems to be many pearls in view here, but only one in that mix is the precious pearl of the merchant’s eyes. At first glance to the unsuspecting person, they might just see a collection of common pearls (like the weeds might look like wheat at first glance), but when we have eyes to see, the one pearl of great value comes into focus, and it is the only thing worth having.

(Muséum de Toulouse, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s also worth noting that an oyster is actually considered unclean by Jewish law (Leviticus 11:10-12). This precious jewel is enclosed in something unclean. Jesus is making something clean inside the unclean. There’s a purification going on in this mixture.

The actual process the oyster undergoes to create the pearl deserves a closer look. A contaminant (like a grain of sand) infiltrates the oyster’s shell. It endures this adversity by excreting a substance called nacre, coating the grain of sand with layer after layer of this beautiful component. The result is a precious pearl, the redemption of the suffering the oyster endured. Without Christ covering us and making us pure, we would be nothing more than that contaminant.

Again, the rabble won’t endure the hardship to create the pearl. They also won’t pay the cost to buy the pearl.

Frank Viola, in The Insurgence Podcast (episode #110) said: “We know we value something if we are willing to sacrifice for it.” Amen!

The Net (Matthew 13:47-50)

Jesus comes full circle with this last parable here, and again this time, like the wheat and the weeds, he offers an interpretation and highlights his teaching of the current mixture in the kingdom that will be sorted out in the end.

The sea of Galilee was full of all kinds of fish, but only a few species were edible. When fishermen lowered their net and dragged it through the water, they caught all the fish indiscriminately. It wasn’t until the nets were drawn onto the shore that the fish were sorted.

Jesus gives the interpretation: there are evil among the righteous. They’re together for now—in the same ground, in the same fields, in the same garden, in the same loaf of bread, in the same market, in the same net. At the proper time, He will do the sorting.

(Mehr News Agency, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Conclusion

We think of God’s Kingdom, and we think of perfection. And it will be so! But now we are still in the refining stage. And we thank God for his mercy! If we had to come to the Kingdom already refined, I’d be on the outside myself.

Jesus has invited all to his feast. In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus compares the Kingdom to a king giving a wedding feast. When those who were invited first refused to come, the king tells his servants to extend the invitation to “as many as you find.” And so, the servants went out, gathering “all whom they found, both bad and good.” Both bad and good! But when the feast commenced, the king sorted through the guests. When the king determined a guest to be unworthy, he was cast out. Many are called, many are invited, but only a small number are chosen in the end (Matthew 22:14). The way is narrow, and few find it (Matthew 7:14).

Again, Jesus compares the Kingdom to ten virgins who took their lamps to meet the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13). Five of those virgins were foolish, five were wise. When the bridegroom came, the foolish missed his arrival because they didn’t have oil for their lamps. The bridegroom shut them out of the feast.

In The Insurgence Podcast (Episode #111), Jeffrey Harley brings out an interesting note from T. Austin-Sparks: Even Cain and Abel represent this mixture. They both acknowledged God and offered sacrifices to him. But when faced with the ultimate choice of following God or his own desires, Cain chose the latter (Genesis 4).

Don’t misunderstand—there is another kingdom that is totally outside God’s Kingdom. There are many fields of all kinds of other weeds, if you will, that are not included in this mixture. Afterall, Jesus said as he was handed over to be crucified: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36) Satan is referred to as the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11), the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). Satan has his own claim on this earth right now, but God has already won the victory. He is reclaiming the earth for himself, and we get to play a part in that! (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21) Satan’s rule and reign is on borrowed time. He and all who pledge allegiance to that world order will be destroyed in the end (1 Corinthians 15:24). The weeds in God’s Kingdom will also join them (Matthew 13:40-42).

So, we know we have enemies outside, but we must be aware that there are weeds within too. Rome wasn’t in Jesus’ inner circle, but Judas certainly was. We pray for refinement of those weeds, and we praise God for the refinement that he is currently offering to us. We shouldn’t be worried about pointing out the weeds in the field because we are all still in the process of refinement ourselves! If you are part of his body, you are at present being transformed, your mind is being renewed (Romans 12:2). Let us not focus on putting magnifying glasses on others in the kingdom, but rather let us continually examine ourselves. Do I have ears to hear and eyes to see? Am I keeping my heart open to his truths? May my soil never be so hard that his seeds cannot penetrate the surface.

Don’t label the soils of others, just sow the seed. Don’t try to pluck out the weeds, just be the wheat that produces the fruit. Don’t try to identify the fish, just be the good fish.

After Jesus tells these seven parables, Jesus asks the disciples if they understood. They claim to have grasped it—who’s to say if that was actually true at the moment. But Jesus explains that they are being trained to take what they have known and what is being revealed to them now. They are being specially prepared to paint the complete portrait of God’s Kingdom that until that time had been shrouded in mystery.

And even following this episode, the disciples get to see play out exactly what Jesus was teaching. That mixture in the kingdom is present even in Jesus’ hometown (Matthew 13:53-58). The Jews in Nazareth didn’t want to believe in him because they thought they already understood who he was. They were wise in their own eyes. They only treasured what was old and their current understanding and had no openness to what was new.

I sincerely hope this deep dive into the parables of the Kingdom in Matthew 13 was valuable to you. This subject has been marinating in me for a while—many conversations over breakfast with a dear brother, bouncing thoughts off my wife, in-depth studies with friends, listening to podcasts, reading articles, and having many brothers and sisters critique my notes. Much of it is still marinating now, but I had to go ahead and compile what I had, if for no other reason than for my own study down the road. I encourage you to do your own deep dive! Find another set of parables and dig in. Parables are meant to go well beyond the superficial. After all, Jesus used the parables to mask the message from those who were “wise in their own eyes” (Matthew 13:13, Isaiah 5:21) His kingdom truths are hidden from the wise but revealed to the children (Matthew 11:25-26, Matthew 13:16-17). It’s the great mystery that Paul speaks of (Ephesians 3:4-13, Colossians 1:26-27). Explore the mystery. The riches are inexhaustible!

I also encourage you to check out these awesome resources for further study into God’s Kingdom. A lot of the material in this article can be credited to these guys:

Being Reclaimed!

He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God…So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:3,6-8

Have you ever wondered where you fit into the story of the Bible? Has that story seemed disjointed and too complicated to follow? How can I relate to all the wild things we read in the Old Testament? What is God doing right now? 

If so, you’re not alone. Seeing the Bible as a unified story is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. I mean, the New Testament is difficult enough anyway, why try to add the seemingly enormous complexity of the Old Testament to that? 

I’ve recently gone through a study by an author I follow that shed a tremendous light on a significant unifying thread throughout the whole of Scripture—the gospel of God’s Kingdom. 

Let’s start in Acts. Jesus has resurrected from the grave and is about to ascend into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God. He tells his disciples that they will receive the Holy Spirit, and they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). Highlight that part in your Bibles…

Then the day of Pentecost arrived. A “wind” (which is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word “Ruah” meaning spirit, wind, or breath) filled the whole house (Acts 2:2). Divided tongues represented by fire rested on each of the disciples (Acts 2:3), and they began to speak in other languages so that Jews from every nation under heaven could understand them (Acts 2:4-5). They were bewildered because they could understand these men in their own tongues (Acts 2:6). People from Parthia, Media, Elam, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Rome, Crete, Arabia—all were amazed and wondered “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:9-12). 

We might ask the same question…

To get the full picture, let’s go back to Genesis.

In the beginning… 

God created the earth and he dwelt with his chosen people in the perfection of the Garden of Eden. Then the people there rebelled and took authority into their own hands. They were banished from the garden. Evil corrupted the population to such a degree that in Genesis 6, God is faced with no choice but to start all over again to establish His Kingdom. He chose a man and his family who he would use to usher that Kingdom into the new world (Genesis 6:1-8). 

When the waters receded, God gave Noah the same commission he had first given Adam and Eve—“Be fruitful and multiply”—and even reminded him that God made man in His image (Genesis 9:1-7). 

But it didn’t take long for things to go awry again. The descendants of Noah’s son Ham are the perpetual antagonists throughout the Old Testament. Ham brought the evil that God wiped out with the flood right back into the new world. Again, this evil culminates into a colossal event that is recorded in Genesis 11—the Tower of Babel. 

The story starts off sounding really quite positive—people from the whole earth had one language and were united in one purpose. Except that purpose was born of the same evil root that caused Adam and Eve to rebel against God—the desire to make a name for themselves instead of living under God’s authority. 

God again is faced with a difficult choice about how to handle the corruption in the human race. He confused their languages and scattered those people all over the face of the earth; exactly what they were trying to avoid (Gen 11:4, 11:8-9).

Genesis 10 is a record of what all those nations and languages were and then Genesis 11 tells how they came to be. Depending on the manuscript, there are 70-72 different nations described in this “Table of Nations” record. 

Right after this account, we have God calling Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). Just like with Adam and Eve and with Noah, God establishes a covenant with Abraham. He will make him exceedingly fruitful; the father of many nations (Gen 17:4-8). 

So, God divided the nations of the world up and established a new nation just for himself. He didn’t destroy the others like he did in Noah’s day. He disinherited them. He gave them over. But to who? 

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage. – Deuteronomy 32:8-9

He gave the authority of those other nations to other celestial beings, the heavenly hosts. He divided mankind (interestingly the same word used in Acts 2:3) and confused (same word used in Acts 2:6) their languages. But he kept a remnant for Himself. Israel would be HIS inheritance and it started with Abraham. 

But drama unfolds again. The heavenly hosts ruling the nations also rebel against God. Just like Adam and Eve, they wanted to be in the place of God himself, so they seek worship and allegiance. They become the false gods of the nations that we read about throughout the Scripture. 

Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 10:20-22 that the false gods of the world are truly spiritual entities, demons ruling over the world. Paul again in Ephesian 6:12 reminds us that our struggle isn’t physical, but rather against the “cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

In the apocalyptic book of Daniel, the archangel Michael is said to be fighting against the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece (Daniel 10:20-21). These aren’t human princes! They are the celestial powers over those nations. 

This was mind-blowing to me. Where did I think the false gods came from before? I guess I thought someone just imagined something and then somehow convinced a lot of people to go along with their imagination. But it’s much more potent than anything we as humans could come up with. So potent that God warned Israel over and over not to be influenced by the other nations of the world and not to follow their gods. 

And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. – Deuteronomy 4:19-20

Israel was God’s inheritance. He allotted those celestial beings to the other nations, not to Israel. They were His! 

But alas, Israel was seduced by the gods of the other nations. They worshipped idols (Deuteronomy 29:26) and sacrificed to the false gods (Deuteronomy 32:17). The Old Testament is an awesome epic of the Israel against the nations and God against the false gods. 

What is God to do? He’s dealing with rebellious people and spiritual beings. In Psalm 82, we see God is presiding over his heavenly court. He doesn’t withhold judgment from these spiritual beings (2 Peter 2:4). Because they have revolted against God, he decrees that they will be stripped of their immortality (Psalm 82:6-7). More importantly, it is declared that God will one day re-inherit ALL the nations (Psalm 82:8). He will reunite those who were scattered. 

Seeing the connection yet to our Acts passage?

Remember how many nations are recorded in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10? 

How many disciples does your Bible say Jesus sent out in Luke 10? 

The decision to pick 12 people to be his first disciples was no coincidence. The decision to send out 70-72 disciples wasn’t either. 

This was a rescue mission. This was a RECLAMATION of the scattered nations. Jesus was announcing the coming of God’s Kingdom—reclaiming people under the dominion of the fallen celestial powers and bringing them back under the authority of Almighty God. God was re-inheriting the nations just as he said he would. Isaiah 66 was being fulfilled (Isaiah 66:18-23). All authority in heaven and on earth was being given to Jesus—he was sending his disciples out to all nations to reclaim them for His Kingdom (Matthew 28:18-20). 

The reclamation has begun. God is laying claim on the nations again after handing them over to the heavenly hosts at the Tower of Babel. The gospel of God’s Kingdom is going out. Jesus started it in Mark 1:14-15, passed it on to his disciples, and it continues today!

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14

Why? Why does God want to re-inherit the nations? So we can all go to Heaven when we die? It’s so much more than that… He wants to deliver us from the dominion of darkness and transfer us to the Kingdom of His Son! (Colossians 1:13). He wants to set us free from the power of the evil one. He wants to break us free from bondage. He loves us so much that he gave his only son in order to accomplish this! Never has John 3:16-17 had so much meaning.

So, what’s happening in Acts? Babel is being reversed!

At the Tower of Babel, the people were dispersed and divided. In Acts 2, these many people are being brought together. Languages were made different and people were confused at the Tower of Babel. Now a miraculous utterance and understanding of different tongues removes that confusion and places a whole new bewilderment on the people. The Spirit of God comes down on them like fire and signals that there’s a new temple and a new Kingdom in place now. 

Jesus said the gospel of the Kingdom would go out from Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. 

Acts is a record of that very thing. 

In the first part of Acts (chapters 2-12), the gospel is being proclaimed to the Jews and in Judea and Samaria. In the second part of Acts (chapters 13-28), the gospel is being proclaimed to the Gentile nations. 

Paul takes the message and heads west, to the end of the earth. In Romans 15:22-24, Paul tells the church there that he will be passing through Rome on his way to Spain. In the Table of Nations, what is the most westward nation recorded? Tarshish. And what is Tarshish today? Spain! Paul is carrying out God’s plan to re-inherit the nations. 

In Romans 11:25-27, Paul says that when the full number of the Gentiles has heard the gospel of the Kingdom and God has reclaimed the nations, then the end will come. All of us who are disciples of Jesus are part of this global reclaiming of the nations that God has been doing since Jesus sent out the 70! 

We are part of Jesus’ promised inheritance. By his blood, he ransomed the people of all nations and is regathering the scattered of Babel (Revelation 5:9, Revelation 7:9). 

“And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” – Daniel 7:14

Have you pledged allegiance to that Kingdom yet? We have been called to something with glory beyond our full comprehension. We have been called to be a people of his inheritance. To be seated with him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). We should be shouting this from the rooftops!

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nationa people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:9-10

The Christian Perspective in Troubling Times

Brothers and Sisters, our friends in the world are desperately searching for answers right now. There is division, confusion, chaos, and it’s been going on for quite a while now. Are you confident that YOU have the answer? I’m here to tell you that you do. And I encourage you to share it.

Our friends need a leader. You have the King. (1 Timothy 6:13-15)

Our friends need peace. You have the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Our friends need guidance. You have the Wonderful Counselor. (Isaiah 9:6)

Our friends need shelter in the time of storm. You have the Good Shepherd. (John 10:11-18)

Our friends need a sure foundation. You have the Rock. (2 Samuel 22:2-3)

Our friends need truth. You have the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6)

How easy it is for us to get distracted from these truths of our faith. It’s easy to start chasing things in the world, and then begin looking for worldly answers to worldly problems. But when your focus is on taking up your cross daily and following Jesus, worldly problems don’t threaten you in the same way. And you certainly don’t look for worldly answers anymore.

Paul encourages the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 to keep their perspective in their spiritual reality, and not on their flesh.

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

You are a NEW CREATION in Christ. Are you still living from the perspective of your flesh, the part of you that has already died (Romans 6:4)? Paul says in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!”

What an awesome perspective. Paul had strength in his trials because he had already surrendered his body and his life to Jesus. His life belonged fully to Christ. Can I say that? Can you?

Paul shows that perspective in action in Acts 16. The Holy Spirit prevented Paul and Silas from going into certain areas to preach, and were instead led to Macedonia (Philippi). After making disciples of Lydia and her household, they were later brutally beaten and thrown into prison. The Holy Spirit led them…to that? What would my response be? Doubt, confusion, fear? Not so for Paul and Silas. Their bodies were already crucified with Christ. The life they lived in the flesh they lived by faith in the Son of God. They had peace and joy in the midst of dark circumstances—so much so that they were praying and singing hymns to God in the prison. Their faith led to a miraculous working of God which led to the conversion of one of their persecutors and his household. They suffered well for the glory of God’s Kingdom.

We see another awesome example of this recorded in Acts 5:40-42. After defying orders by the Jewish leaders not to preach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18), Peter and the apostles are arrested. When questioned, they simply answered: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). After deliberation, the council opted to release them from prison, but not before inflicting a severe beating on them. And what was the apostles’ response to this suffering? REJOICING. They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Jesus. And they surely didn’t stop preaching.

What an example.

Jesus encouraged his disciples to have this eternal/spiritual perspective when he told them not to fear those who can only kill the body (Matthew 10:28).

You know, don’t worry, all they can do is torture you and kill you (and your family). NBD.

I can’t help but think of the perspective of our brothers and sisters in Iran and China. They face this real persecution daily, but rejoice in the name of Jesus. I have much to learn. Truly, they’ve taken to heart the words of Jesus just before his message on fear.  Matthew 10:27 records Jesus saying: “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops!”

Do not fear! Proclaim the truth from the housetops! Even if it means an enemy may kill your body, they cannot kill your soul!

The group MercyMe has a song called “Even If.” It’s based on a passage from the book of Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego defy the orders of King Nebuchadnezzar to bow to his golden idol. If they don’t reconsider their position on the matter, they would be thrown into the fiery furnace, to which King Nebuchadnezzar mocks: “and who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands”? 

The three boys do not fear and they do not cave. Their response is awe inspiring.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” – Daniel 3:16-18

You know the rest of the story. God does save them from the furnace, and even King Nebuchadnezzar praises God. But the reality is this: Those three boys’ souls were saved by their faith regardless of whether God chose to intervene to save their flesh. They had that eternal perspective. They knew that no matter the circumstances in front of them, their God was bigger. Even if God didn’t save them from the furnace, their hope remained in Him. They had no doubts. They knew that golden statue was soon to be destroyed by the eternal kingdom that they already belonged to.

We must follow their lead. Don’t focus on this world; don’t take your eyes off of your true king. True peace is only found through the lens of the gospel and in placing your hope in Jesus. Where is your hope today? What are your eyes fixed on?

“In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” – Psalm 22:4-5

Can’t See the Kingdom for Our Dreams

Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.

Jeremiah 17:5

We often find ourselves inspired by the achievements of others. Famous athletes, powerful political figures, celebrities, and a host of other professionals become role models to so many who just know they can follow their dreams and become just like their heroes. But what should a Christian aspire to be in this world? A doctor, lawyer, preacher, professional athlete, president? What should Christian parents aspire for their children? How should faith shape the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

How often do worldly aspirations line up with our spiritual reality as a new creation in Christ?

Can a Christian achieve prominence in their field of choice? Maybe that’s the wrong question. Can a Christian achieve prominence in their field while living their life on mission as a disciple of Christ? That’s perhaps a bit harder to answer.

Certainly, the body of Christ is full of different people from all different walks of life, skills, and talents. God works through His people in different aspects of life to be His representatives and His ambassadors.

But what if God takes a back seat as a Christian pursues their personal life goals? Even apart from a relationship with God, it’s plain to see that many families have suffered turmoil because careers, aspirations, and other commitments can lead to irreversible damage of those relationships. Isn’t it naïve to think that isn’t a risk we take in our spiritual lives? It comes down to a simple fact: we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). If our aspirations become our master, we begin to serve a god other than the Almighty, sometimes serving only ourselves.

As someone who has spent over 9 years in higher education pursuing advanced degrees and 4 years in the military, I can attest to the stress that is put on relationships, both spiritual and physical. I believe God has been with me and helped me grow throughout my life—even on the days that I barely acknowledged His existence. I also believe He gives us the freedom to choose just how many detours we want to go down during that growth process. I have no doubt He can and will use some of the roads we choose for good, even if we sometimes choose those roads for ourselves and not for Him (Romans 8:28). He has done that for me. I’ve made lifelong friends and spiritual bonds in both school and the military. I wore a uniform alongside some of the most dedicated and selfless individuals anyone could ever meet. My earthly job as a veterinarian has given me many opportunities to serve people, which I try to do with the attitude of Colossians 3:17 in mind. (I forget that truth more than I care to admit.) I even tried to shine the light of Christ while in the military, but it’s awfully easy to make an excuse as a “secret disciple” of sorts (John 19:38) and let Army policy dictate your interactions with your Soldiers.

I could have become completely consumed with my military career. I could let myself be consumed by business ownership as a veterinarian. Admittedly, I have some obsessive-compulsive tendencies, so I know I can go overboard with the attention I give to various things (like school or work).  But I recently realized that the most important aspect of my life was often not getting even close to that level of devotion. I needed to change my mindset and shift my goals. Don’t get me wrong, my current employer still gets very hard work out of me, and I do enjoy my earthly job. It’s just that I’m striving to change and improve my perspective. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24) I work for Christ. I serve Christ in all that I do. I work so I can provide for my family, but also so I can share with others (Philippians 2:4, Ephesians 4:28). I don’t work for position, promotion, or power. I’m not interested in chasing a higher salary. If I began to seek power or influence, then it’s my own power or influence that I want to spread, not God’s. I don’t want to work in any capacity that could lead me to put the spotlight on myself. I am just a struggling Christian trying to let go of me a little more every day and cling only to God.

Now, I acknowledge and appreciate that someone has to do those very consuming jobs, hold those tough positions, and wield a particular level of power in our society. I’m thankful to have those people in our society, and I believe, especially in the case of governments and authorities, that they are appointed by God for a specific and respectable role. I’m just saying that’s not for me. I can’t and won’t say that it’s not for you. I do hope to at least encourage you, fellow Christian, to prayerfully consider whether it should be. Whatever you do, don’t do it for yourself. Let go of your “self.”

The ultimate example of letting go of self to serve God is none other than Jesus himself. He was seated in Heaven with God from the very beginning—the preeminent of all—and yet he chose to empty himself, become a servant, and voluntarily die the cruelest of deaths for you and for me (John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:15-20, Philippians 2:5-8). An example such as that simply cannot be matched by any of us. But what a standard it is (Ephesians 5:1-2). Think about it for a minute. We won’t ever earn or deserve that sacrifice—the love that was poured out for us.

Another example we can look to is that of Paul. Paul was at the height of his game in the world at one point. Just check out his resume in Philippians 3:4-6. In comparison to our day, we could think Paul’s parents were so proud of the man he became. Certainly, he would have been held up as a role model for all the young Jewish boys of his day. And even after he became a follower of Christ, we might even think that his status would provide such a great platform that he could use to reach people for Jesus. But Paul wanted nothing to do with that platform. He would even go on to become a messenger to primarily Gentiles, a group of people who would care very little of his prior position as a Pharisee. He threw all of that away. It became very clear to him that all of those things—the status, the accolades, even his race and tribe—all of that was rubbish! (Philippians 4:7-9)

Paul’s goals in his life had a drastic shift. He went from pursuing life as a zealous Pharisee with all the wealth, power, and status that came with it, to humbling himself as a servant of the same Christ he persecuted. His new goals? To “know Him and the power of His resurrection,” to “share in His sufferings” and “become like Him in His death” so that “by any means possible [he could] attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11) Does that compute with us? His new goal for his life was to suffer and die just as his Savior did. He knew that it was “no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) How could he even think of boasting in his accomplishments in the flesh? No, rather he would boast in his weaknesses and his need for a savior. What a powerful truth to grasp: when we are weak, then we are strong! (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, we read an encouragement from Paul to run the race to receive the prize. But he wasn’t referring to the rat race of this world. Far from it. We shouldn’t be chasing after a perishable wreath. No, we are living for an inheritance much more valuable than that—an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for us (1 Peter 1:3-4).

Are we holding on to or striving for something that Paul would call rubbish? Are we letting garbage get in the way of our walk with Christ? Are we running the wrong race? What are we pursuing? Are we following our hearts or following Jesus?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9

Like Paul, Nicodemus climbed the ranks of the Pharisees. There may be only a few Scriptural references to Nicodemus, but I believe it’s more than fair to say he ultimately decided to surrender his status and reputation to become a disciple of Jesus (John 19:39). Similarly, Matthew achieved prominence in the Roman world as a tax collector. When Jesus called, Matthew threw that status away (Matthew 9:9). He voluntarily left a life of luxury, wealth, and security to follow Jesus.

I’ve got a long way to go to live this out. My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Thank you, God, that your power is made perfect in our weakness!

Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the persecuted (Matthew 5:3-12). Jesus came to proclaim the good news to the poor and pronounce liberty to the captives and the oppressed; give sight to the blind; and to proclaim the coming of God’s Kingdom! (Luke 4:18-19). It’s not our earthly status that Jesus came to improve. He didn’t come to help you climb the ladder to success in this world (Luke 12:15). He didn’t come to fix the world; He came to save you from it! We are not of the world any longer (John 17:16), so let’s quit looking for our identity in it. The rich young ruler that came to Jesus walked away sorrowfully when Jesus told him to separate himself from his earthly treasures (Matthew 19:16-30). The man who had a great yield of crops was more worried about his 401K of sorts rather than his eternal retirement plan (Luke 12:17-21). Even some of Jesus’ disciples came to Him celebrating that they were able to cast out demons through the Spirit, and Jesus had to redirect their focus—don’t rejoice in what you do on earth, rejoice that your name is written in Heaven! (Luke 10:17-20) Truly, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).

The same is true for you today, Christian. We get to be citizens in God’s Kingdom. That should be the highlight of our lives! Sure, use your talents, skills, education, etc., but never let them lead your life (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). You may be following God’s will for how you can best be on mission for His Kingdom. On the other hand, you may be chasing after garbage. Let God lead you, and you will soon find out.

My aspiration for myself, my wife, and my children: to be a servant for our Lord and His people. To be a worker in His vineyard in whatever capacity He wills. What else is there for a Christian to pursue?

Give up your own ambitions. Surrender them all to Him. Give up your flesh and embrace your life as a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). If you haven’t become a new creation in Him, there’s no better time than now. Let us introduce you to our Savior. Jesus came so we would have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Choose that life—it’s the only one that lasts.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:1-11

Bandwagon Fans…

“…These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat…” – Matthew 20:12 

Is there anyone that gets more sideways looks than a bandwagon fan? All along they mocked your team. They knew during that loss early in the season that you were a fool for wearing that jersey. They’d never cheer for that team. Then it happens. The season is almost done, everyone knows your team is going to win it all. Just like that, your coworker is your team’s biggest fan. He didn’t put in any effort to cheer them through the season. He wasn’t sweating bullets during that crazy overtime finish that sealed the spot in the playoffs. He didn’t sow any of the seeds, and now he’s trying to be part of reaping the harvest. Now that it’s widely accepted, he’s happy to join in.   

Isn’t that exactly the feeling of some of the workers in the vineyard in Jesus’ parable recorded in Matthew 20:1-16? The first group started working early that day. They knew what they agreed to work for and got started immediately. Others were added shortly thereafter—they worked most of the day and shared much of the hard labor; sweating for hours under the blazing sun. More were added later, some even added with just one hour left in the work day. How could they be paid the same wage as those who’d been working all day long? It wasn’t even that hot anymore. Where is their sweat equity? How is that fair?   

How is anything we’ve been given from God “fair”? What do we truly deserve? Death—we deserve to die in our sins (Romans 6:23). For God to be fair with us is something that we really don’t want. His only son was sent to die a horrendous death for sins he didn’t commit. Talk about something that isn’t fair… What grace and mercy God’s followers have been shown! We know the great love of God because we’ve experienced it. We know the price that was paid for us. We should be thrilled to share that gift with someone else, even up to the very last second of our work in the vineyard. 

See, those early workers misjudged the attitudes of those last-hour additions. They weren’t relishing in the fact that they got paid the same wage for a fraction of the work. They knew they were blessed to be given a position in the vineyard, and they put in as much hard labor as the remainder of the day allowed. They simply weren’t aware that the vineyard was hiring (Matthew 20:7). They didn’t hear the call to join the work until that final hour. If they had recognized or been given the opportunity earlier, they would have jumped at the chance. 

The fact is, not everyone is going to recognize the Kingdom or it’s worth right off the bat. Many won’t. The Kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world. It doesn’t come with the bells and whistles with which the world defines a powerful and attractive empire. It starts off as something as unassuming as a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds (Matthew 13:31-32). Who wants to join the team that appears so small and insignificant? How does something like that stand a chance? What impact could it possibly have on the world around it? Won’t it always be outnumbered, overpowered, and destined to fail?  

Nope. That upside-down, unassuming kingdom, the Kingdom of God, is everlasting, and it will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:14). God wins! Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:24: “Then comes the end, when [Christ] delivers the Kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.” Those authorities that seem to the world almighty and indestructible will be crushed by the eternal Kingdom of God (Daniel 2:31-45). That tiny mustard seed actually grows into the biggest plant in the garden, towering over everything else that was planted.   

Wouldn’t you want to be in on that from the beginning, before it’s widely known and accepted? Part of the joy of a championship win is experiencing every turn it took to get there. You may have even played a role (albeit possibly only very small) in the overall effort. There’s a cost to following through all the way to the end, of course, including being ridiculed after that one embarrassing loss. But you’re happy you paid it in the end. Sharing in that final victory is more than worth it. The longer you’d been a fan, the more pain you experienced during those dark seasons—that just translates to more joy and reward when that great victory is finally realized. A bandwagoner just can’t really share in that, can they? 

Jesus’ first disciples had an awesome opportunity to be part of something special from the very beginning. Jesus brought the Kingdom of God to earth (Mark 1:15). His mission was to proclaim that Kingdom (Luke 4:43; 8:1). He commissioned His disciples to proclaim it to the world around them, perhaps even before they had a full grasp of it themselves (Luke 10:1-12). The gospel of the Kingdom was proclaimed boldly during the few years of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He commissioned more of His disciples to assume their role in the Kingdom by continuing to proclaim it boldly to the world as He ascended to His throne in Heaven (Matthew 28:19-20).   

Even today, there’s an important role to be played in God’s Kingdom, as we grow ever closer to the end of life on earth as we know it (Romans 13:11). Kingdom people are still His ambassadors to the world (2 Corinthians 5:20). He chose imperfect people, “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7), to hold that treasure and display it to the world. The cost? Your life on earth, however much is left. The spoils of victory? Eternal life with God in the eternal Kingdom (Matthew 16:24-25; Galatians 2:20). What an uneven trade… 

Despite any widespread proclamation of the final victory, there will be people that only realize who wins after the season is over. They won’t have the chance to represent those colors, but they will ultimately recognize who the true champion is. As Paul writes in the letter to the Philippians (Philippians 2:10-11): “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” Widely accepted by all in the end, because it is the ultimate truth that many simply deny.   

What should Kingdom people’s response to that fact be? We should be rooting for bandwagoners! We should be proclaiming the Kingdom as God’s ambassadors until the final whistle blows. There is room at the victory celebration. God is patient, and God is gracious (2 Peter 3:9). Our mission is to display the Kingdom, where the last will be first and the first will be last (Matthew 20:8,16; Matthew 19:30; Luke 13:30). We proclaim God’s eternal victory so that as many people as possible might join us working in the vineyard, regardless of how much time might be left in the workday. Any distractions from our mission may mean less potential bandwagoners get the message in time to make the choice to jump on board. After all, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). The Kingdom needs workers for the harvest, even those that are jumping on the bandwagon—because in reality, isn’t that what we’re all doing these days?   

Today, those imperfect jars of clay that God has entrusted the treasure of His Kingdom with are people who at some point in their lives realize what Jesus ushered into the world 2,000 years ago. Bandwagoners that missed the part before the truth was revealed in full. Missed the part before we could hold the full revelation of Scripture in our hands. There was a time when the Holy Spirit was yet to be granted as a gift to live within the believer—we missed that part. We missed the part where our Savior would be nailed to the cross while the world mocked His followers who had proclaimed that He was the Son of God. “Some king,” the world thought. Some King, indeed.   

The end is written; we know how the story ends. God wins. No, we aren’t bandwagoners in the sense of an insincere allegiance. The Kingdom has no place for that (Luke 9:62). We are simply late to the party. Just like the workers who were hired late in the day, it is not necessarily any fault of our own. We have an awesome God who is offering us the same wage as those disciples who have gone before us—eternity with Him in His eternal Kingdom (Romans 6:23). We have the luxury of knowing the end before we begin. Jump on the bandwagon with me, and let’s look for others! 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” – Romans 1:16-17

-Chris