The objective of this lesson is to identify the Kingdom of God and to learn how it relates to us interacting with God and living a godly life. We are going to learn about the Kingdom of God by examining the many parables that Jesus gave concerning it.
The Kingdom of God Defined
Matthew 4:17 (NKJV) 17From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Mark 1:14 through Mark 1:15 (NKJV) 14Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
Jesus’ first message was of repentance because God’s Kingdom was near. What is God’s Kingdom? The Kingdom of God is the realm over which God rules. We can best think of it as a realm where His WAY is the fundamental mode of operation. In other words, God’s Kingdom is a system of operation that is consistent with God’s WAY. As a matter of fact, this system of operation is God’s WAY.
The Kingdom of God does not refer to heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven describes a WAY within a realm of operation. For example, you have heard the term "the animal kingdom." This describes a realm in which animals operate. The concept is the same for the Kingdom of God. It is the realm in which God operates.
Prior to the Kingdom of God
We operated in the Kingdom of this world before we were born again. The world system is very different then God’s system (God’s WAY). In order to comprehend and enter the Kingdom of God we must be born again (See John 3:3,5). However, we must repent in order to be born again. The word repent means that we have decided to change our life, that is, turn from our way to God’s WAY.
This is why salvation is so important in order to be reconciled with God or to have fellowship with God. If we were not born again then we would attempt to relate to God according to a completely different system. Even those who profess Christ still try to relate to God using a system other than that of God’s Kingdom (ex. religious rituals, good works, etc.).
After the New Birth
What should a person do once they put their faith in Jesus Christ and become born again? Live! That’s all that is necessary. We have the new life of God in us and all we have to do is to live it. How do we do that? Well this is where the Bible becomes very important. We can examine the teachings that Jesus gave us pertaining to the operation of the Kingdom of God. We can also look at other New Testament scriptures to get insight on how a Christian should govern himself or herself.
The important thing is that we have to learn to live the new life that we have. We have to learn how the Kingdom of God operates and begin to incorporate that WAY into our hearts so that we can live it naturally. Just as we learn how to function in the world when we are born from the flesh (physical birth), we also have to learn how to function in the Kingdom of God once we are born into it. So let’s examine what the Kingdom of God is and use this information to lead us to living God’s WAY.
The Parable of the Wheat and Tares
Jesus gives us insight into the Kingdom of God in this parable (Matthew 13:24-30). It starts off as follows.
Matthew 13:24 (NKJV) Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;
This does not imply that the Kingdom of heaven is like the man. Instead, the message of the entire parable what the Kingdom of God is like. It was common in rabbinic teaching to begin a lesson with "such and such is like...." or something of that nature. So we have to view the entire parable in order to see what Jesus is telling us about God’s Kingdom. Remember that the Kingdom of God is not a place. It is a system of operation.
The message of the parable is simply that God’s judgment on humanity will occur at the end (the harvest). Both the enemy and God’s people will grow together (exist together in the world). The evildoers (non-regenerate people) and the redeemed will be separated. The evildoers will be sent to eternal damnation and the redeemed will be sent to "heaven."
The main point of this parable is to show that the final separation of God’s people and the wicked will be done at the end. This gives some relief when we consider the question of why does God allow evil people to exist and practice their trade, namely evil. In the end they will have to answer for what they have done. This is the great hope of justice, among other things, that many look forward to and use to endure the seemingly unfairness of this world (remember that the world operates via a different system then God’s Kingdom).
The Parable of the Mustard Seed and Yeast
Matthew 13:31 through Matthew 13:32 (NKJV) 31Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."
Again insight into the Kingdom of God must be viewed in light of the entire parable and not one component. This parable simply reveals how a seed is planted, grows, and then becomes significant. We take the message of the Kingdom and pass it on. This parable therefore reveals the fact that the Kingdom of God constantly grows and has great influence on people.
Matthew 13:33 (NKJV) 33Another parable He spoke to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three £measures of meal till it was all leavened."
Again, the Kingdom of God grows and increasingly influences everything around it.
Note that the terms "Kingdom of God" and "Kingdom of Heaven" are synonymous. Matthew uses Kingdom of Heaven whilst others use the term Kingdom of God. They mean the same thing however.
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure
Matthew 13:44 through Matthew 13:46 (NKJV) "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
These two parables give basically the same message. It reveals the great value of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is revealing how absolutely important the Kingdom of God is. It is so important that it is like a man selling all that he has to get it. This is not to say that we can buy our way into the Kingdom of God. It only shows the great value of the Kingdom of God even though we may not know it.
The Parable of the Net
See Matthew 13:47-50. This parable gives the same message as the parable of the wheat and tares. There will be a final separation of the good and the evil at the end (the harvest). The two will exist together until this "end of the age" comes.
What have we learned about the Kingdom of God so far? We have learned that it identifies a system of operation and not necessarily a place. We know that the Kingdom of God is of great value to us and we see that the good and the evil will exist together and at the end God will separate them. That is God’s system of judgment, which will not occur until the end.
This along with part 1 will help us to understand how God's kingdom operates and therefore how we should operate as citizens of that Kingdom.
Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) 33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Here Jesus says to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and our needs will be met. What is the Kingdom of God (Kingdom of heaven) such that we can seek it? We defined the Kingdom of God as the system of operation or realm over which God rules. It is the realm in which God’s Way is the mode or system of operation. Now we will continue to gather more information from the Scriptures on how this system operates. What is God’s system of operation? Furthermore, what is God’s Way?
Entering The Kingdom of God
Clues on the operation of the Kingdom of God can be found by evaluating how we enter the Kingdom of God. Consider the following scriptures.
Matthew 7:21 (NKJV) 21"Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
So entering the Kingdom of God is dependant on doing God’s will. We can deduce that doing what God says also has a lot to do with the operation of the Kingdom of God.
John 3:5 through John 3:6 (NKJV) 5Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Here we see that we cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless we are born again of the Holy Spirit (washed). We can reasonably suppose that since the Holy Spirit is necessary for entering God Kingdom, that is we must be saved, then those things that are of God and according to His Spirit would be the Way that we should operate within the Kingdom as well.
Colossians 2:6 through Colossians 2:7 (NKJV) 6As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
The following are more parables that we can evaluate to get a better understanding of how we should operate within the Kingdom of God.
Forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35)
Before we examine the subject parable, we must first review verses fifteen to twenty. Let me summarize these verses for the sake of context of the subject scripture.
Jesus outlines a judicial procedure for dealing with a fellow believer that is involved in a sin. The procedure is given as follows.
- Tell him his fault
- Take witnesses to tell him his fault
- Take the matter to the local congregation
- Treat him like a pagan or tax collector (non-believer)
The next level would be exercised if the previous level didn’t produce repentance. So for example if he wouldn’t listen to you when you alone told him his fault, then you are to take witnesses. The purpose of this procedure is two-fold. First, it protects the Christian community’s image to non-believers by upholding Christian moral standards. Secondly, it provides a way for a person to realize that they are in sin and offers the chance of repentance and then forgiveness. The whole purpose is to win the brother back to the congregation (fellowship).
Next the forgiveness aspect of the entire process is addressed.
Matthew 18:21 through Matthew 18:22 (NKJV) 21Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
There is some debate as to why Peter used the number seven as a limit to forgiving someone that sin against him. Regardless, Jesus’ answer is certain and the parable that follows reinforces his teaching on the subject. Jesus basically told Peter that you should keep on forgiving someone when he or she sins against you. There is no limit to forgiveness.
Now Jesus gives a parable that reveals a message about forgiveness. There are some rather important facts that will help to put the parable in its proper perspective.
- Ten thousand talents could have been up to 60,000,000 denarii (6,000 denarii per talent). One denarius was about one day’s wage for the ordinary worker (servant). Even a king would not have had 60,000,000 denarii in a whole year. So the number is ridiculously high to show that the debt would be impossible to be paid.
- 100 denarii were about 100 day’s wages. This amount was ridiculously small compared to the other amount.
The message is clear. Forgive others so that God will forgive you. A sin committed against you pales in comparison to our sins against God. We need an unfounded amount of forgiveness from God than we do from each other. Therefore, forgive people when they sin against us and God will forgive us when we sin against him. See also Matthew 6:14-15 and Mark 11:25-26.
From this we see that the Kingdom of God operates on a system of conditional forgiveness. Even the forgiveness that comes with salvation is conditional on the fact that we repent and turn our lives over to Christ by believing in Him.
The Ten Virgins—Be ready (Matthew 25:1-13)
This parable follows a discussion on the last days (see Matthew 24:36-50). Consider the following scripture.
Matthew 24:44 (NKJV) 44Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Weddings in ancient Palestine were joyous occasions. Friends of the bride would congregate at her house and wait until the groom came with his friends. The announcement of his arrival occurred many times during the evening (he was usually late). People lit candles and torches (lamps) to light the way of the procession of the groom’s arrival and the departure to the groom’s house.
In the parable five of the virgins didn’t have enough oil for their torches. They had to go and purchase some when the announcement of the groom came. When they returned, the procession had already entered the house, which there was a custom of bolting the door once the procession entered the house. The five foolish virgins were thus locked out of the wedding celebration.
The message of the parable is simply to always be prepared for Christ’s coming. That is, follow God’s Way all of the time because you don’t know when he is coming back. The parable of the ten virgins simply highlights the previous fact of being ready. Don’t be caught unprepared because you will be shut out if you do.
The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
Matthew 25:14 through Matthew 25:15 (NKJV) 14"For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.
We note that in this parable that a man gave his servants talents (money) according to their ability. It seems reasonable to suppose that the talents in this parable represents something that is supposed to be put to action. If this were not true then the fact that their abilities were mentioned would be meaningless.
It was customary for wealthy landowners to entrust their money to trained accountants or servants in order to gain a profit. The money could have been lent to moneychangers, who would then return a profit on the fees that were charged. The money could also have been lent with interest. It was relatively easy to make a profit in those days. The safest and least profitable way of protecting the landowner’s money was to bury it in the ground. The money could also be put in a savings deposit. This method would have been as safe as burying it but would not gain as much interest as the other methods.
Matthew 25:16 through Matthew 25:18 (NKJV) 16Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.
Next we see that two of the servants actually invested what they had and received a profit. However, the third servant hid his talent and did nothing with it (people actually did this). When the man returned from his journey, he inquired of the servants to see what they had done with his money. The two were rewarded for what they had done but the third was condemned. The fact that he was condemned was not merely because he hid the money and didn’t receive a profit. His actions demonstrated that he didn’t care about his master’s property.
What are you doing with what God has put in your charge? We are stewards of what God has given us and we should take care to do our best in managing what God has put in our care. If we really do not care what happens to what God gives us, which may impact others, then we will do nothing.
What God gives us does not have to be religious in nature. He may have given you management abilities or organizational abilities. Regardless of what it is, we should do our best to nurture and manage effectively what God gives us until the "end."
We see that the Kingdom of God operates on a system of conditional forgiveness. As we forgive others then God will forgive us. We also do not know when Jesus will return so we should always be ready. Thus we may say that the Kingdom of God demands consistency in the Way of God. We also see that the Kingdom of God operates on a system of growth by stewardship. What God gives us should produce fruit. This is actually an application of the seed principle, which the Kingdom of God operates on.