I. Article Title. Present Age Course.
The age from the rejection of the Messiah by Israel unto His reception by Israel at His second advent is outlined in two portions of the Word: Matthew thirteen and Revelation two and three; the former from the viewpoint of God’s kingdom program, and the latter from the viewpoint of the church program. The course of this present age will be traced from these two passages.
A. Matthew 13.
Matthew 13:11 reveals that our Lord is speaking in order that He may give the
course of the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” This instruction comes through the proper interpretation of the parables which are recorded here. There are three different basic approaches to this chapter. There are, first of all, those who divorce any prophetic significance from this passage and study it only for its spiritual or moral lessons as it affects believers today. Since they emphasize the unity of God’s purpose from the fall of man until the eternal state, they fail to make any distinction between God’s program for Israel and that for the church and, as a consequence, they see only church truth in this portion. In spite of the contradictions that such a method entails, they persist in it.
There are those, in the second place, who, recognizing the distinction between
Israel and the church, hold that this portion is totally limited to God’s program for Israel and relegate it to a revelation concerning Israel in the tribulation period when God is preparing them for the coming King. This is the ultradispensational approach
Then there are those, in the third place, who believe that this portion of Scripture gives a picture of conditions on the earth in respect to the development of the kingdom program during the time of the King’s absence from the earth. These parables describe the events of the entire inter-advent period. Such is the approach to the passage adopted in this study.
1. The use of the parabolic method. There seems to be a note of surprise and
amazement in the question “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” (Matt. 13:10). A variation in emphasis in the reading of this question will indicate several possible causes for this surprise. If it is read, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” the question would raise the problem as to why the Lord would speak to the multitude, as He is in Matthew 13:1-3, when, in the previous chapter, after the manifest rejection of the testimony of the Holy Spirit to the person of Christ by the nation Israel, He has characterized them as “an evil and adulterous generation” (v. 39). The problem thus would be: Why do you continue to teach a nation that has publicly announced their decision that you are a son of Satan?
The nature of the Lord’s reply in the verses that follow would indicate that the
question ought to be understood, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” There was nothing new in the use of parables themselves, for the Lord had used such with frequency before, both to instruct and to illustrate the truths He desired to convey. The disciples must have recognized a new emphasis in our Lord’s teaching method.
In reply to the disciples’ question the Lord gives three purposes in the use of this parabolic method of instruction. (1) It was a means of substantiating His claim to Messiahship (Matt. 13:34-35). In addition to the other signs to prove His claim there was the sign in relation to Isaiah’s prophecy. (2) It was a method of imparting truth to the believing hearer (Matt. 13:11). (3) It was a method of hiding truth from the unbelieving hearer (Matt. 13:13-15). The reason why it was necessary to hide truth will be seen in the following consideration.
2. The setting of the chapter in the Gospel.
a. The Gospel of Matthew is the Gospel which presents the Lord Jesus Christ as Yahweh’s King and Israel’s Messiah. It unfolds the presentation of the Messiah to Israel.
[(Lexicon: 3068, Yahweh, the proper name of the God of Israel; also LORD, all caps: Gen 4:26, “At that time people began to call on the name of Yahweh.”) Gen 4:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (God = Elohim, Lexicon, 430, elohim: God, god) Phonetic Spelling: (el-o-heem). a generic term for deity. God, Elohim, a generic term for deity, as well as a proper name for the true God. It is used of pagan gods. The form of the word is plural. NASB translation, divine (1), divine being (1), exceedingly (1), God (2326), god (45), God’s (14), goddess (2), godly (1), gods (204), great (2), judges (3), mighty (2), rulers (1), shrine (1).]
b. More than any other of the Gospels, Matthew’s is allied with the Hebrew
Scriptures in theme and tone.
1. Their subjects are its subjects, the Messiah, Israel,
the Law, the Kingdom, the Prophecy.
2. Jewish ideas and terms characterize the whole record.
3. Its witness would not have impressed either the Roman, for whom Mark wrote, or the Greek, for whom Luke wrote, but to Jews its significance would be inescapable.
c. This fact is borne out by the numerous references to the Son of David (1:1, 20; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9, 15; 22:42, 45), to the fulfillment of prophecy (1:22; 2:5, 15, 17, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4, 42; 26:31, 54, 56; 27:9-10), to Jewish customs (15:1-2; 27:62), to the Mosaic Law (5:17-19, 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43; 7:12; 11:13; 12:5; 15:6; 22:36, 40; 23:23), to the Sabbath (12:1-2, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12; 24:20; 28:1), and to the holy city and the holy place (4:5; 24:15; 27:53). Christ is related to prophecy throughout. This will have important bearing on the meaning of the term “kingdom of heaven.”
d. This thirteenth chapter holds a unique place in the development of the theme of the Gospel. Throughout the book Christ is seen in His presentation as Messiah. In chapters one and two His legal right to the throne is presented; in chapter three is depicted the dedication of the King; in chapter four the moral right of the King is demonstrated; in five through seven the judicial right of the King is shown; in eight through ten is presented the authority of the King, as his prophetical right is demonstrated by His ministry to Israel; and in chapters eleven and twelve we see the opposition to the King. The great question before Israel is: “Is not this the son of David?” (Matt. 12:23). It is evident that Israel is answering in the negative. Christ shows that both He and His forerunner have been rejected (11:1-9), and this rejection will result in judgment (11:20-24). Because of the ultimate rejection of the cross Christ can give a new invitation (11:28-30), an invitation to all. In chapter twelve the rejection comes to a climax. The populace was debating the person of Christ (12:23). The answer
given by the Pharisees was: “This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils” (12:24.) The Holy Spirit had borne His witnesses to the Person of Christ through His words and His works, and the leaders who examined the evidence have decided that His credentials are the credentials of hell, not those of heaven. The great warning of judicial blindness and judgment is given by the Lord to the nation (12:31-32). As the chapter closes (12:46-50) the Lord indicates that He is setting aside all natural relationships, such as Israel sustained to Him and to the covenant promises by a physical birth, and establishes a new relationship, based on faith.
e. Jesus renounced all earthly connection for the present time. The only tie He
acknowledges now is relationship to a heavenly Father, formed through the word of God received into the soul. Thus we have in this chapter the Lord closing with Israel, as far as testimony is concerned. In the next chapter we shall find what comes dispensationally of those new relations that the Lord was about to unfold.
f. Now that Israel has rejected the offered kingdom, the question naturally arises, “What will happen to God’s kingdom program now that the kingdom has been rejected and the King is to be absent?” Since this kingdom was the subject of an irrevocable covenant it was unthinkable that it could be abandoned. The chapter gives the events in the development of the kingdom program from the time of its rejection until it is received when the nation welcomes the King at His second advent.
3. The use of the term kingdom of heaven. (1) the Gentile kingdoms, (2) the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, (3) the kingdom of Satan, (4) God’s universal kingdom, (5) a spiritual kingdom, and (6) the millennial Davidic kingdom. It is noted that there is general agreement among theologians concerning the first four of these classifications. The last two are concerned with the realm of Eschatology and are the subject of debate. It is necessary to make some observations concerning these.
a. The spiritual kingdom, which is closely related with God’s universal kingdom, is composed of believers of all the ages, who have experienced a new birth by the power of the Holy Spirit. This kingdom can not be entered apart from such a new birth. It is referred to in Matthew 6:33; 19:16, 23, 24; John 3:3-5; Acts 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23; Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 4:20; 6:9-10; 15:50; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:5.
b. The millennial kingdom is declared to be a literal, earthly kingdom over which Christ rules from David’s throne in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7:8-17; Matt. 1:1; Luke 1:32). This kingdom is the subject of Old Testament prophecy (2 Sam. 7:8-17; Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-16; Jer. 23:5; 33:14-17; Ezek. 34:23; 37:24; Hosea 3:4-5; Micah 4:6-8; 5:2; Zech. 2:10-12; 8:20-23; Psalm 2:6, 8-10; 72:11, 17; Mal. 3:1-4). This kingdom was proclaimed as being “at hand” at Christ’s first advent (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:5-7); but was rejected by Israel and therefore postponed (Matt. 23:37-39). It will again be announced to Israel in the tribulation period (Matt. 24:14). It will be received by Israel and set up at the second advent of Christ (Isa. 24:23; Rev. 19:11-16; 20:1-6).
c. In regard to the terms kingdom of God and the kingdom of the heavens, while not synonymous, they are used interchangeably. What distinctions there are are not inherent in the words themselves, but in their usage in the context.
d. Both of these terms are used to designate the millennial kingdom and the spiritual kingdom. While we recognize the distinctions between the earthly and the eternal aspects of the kingdom program, we must guard against making the terms kingdom of God and the kingdom of the heavens absolute. Only the context can determine the meaning intended to be conveyed by the terms.
4. The time element in Matthew thirteen. Ryrie writes to show that these parables are limited to the inter-advent period, which extends from the rejection of Christ by Israel until the second coming of Christ.
“The kingdom of the heavens has become like unto.” This sets the time limit
for the beginning of the subject matter involved. In other words, the inter advent age is described in the parables as that time when Christ was personally ministering on the earth. The end of the time period covered by these parables is indicated by the phrase “end of the world” or more literally “the consummation of the age” (verses 39-49). This is the time of the Second Advent of Christ when He shall come in power and great glory. Therefore, it is clear that these parables are concerned only with that time between the days when Christ spoke them on earth and the end of this age. This gives a clue to the meaning of the phrase “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” i.e., the inter advent age includes more than the church, as it overlaps the church age. On the other hand, it must be observed, this mystery, the interadvent age has reference to things that were hitherto unrevealed, is definitely limited as to time, and represents the entire sphere of profession in the present age. Re: the end of the age scriptures: Notice that the subject is not addressed in Mark, Luke, John.
Matthew 13: 39-40. “39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the “end of the age;” and the reapers are angels. 40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the “end of the age.”
Matthew 13:49. “So it will be at the “end of the age;” the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous,”
Matthew 24:3. As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the “end of the age?””
Matthew 28:20. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the “end of the age.”
5. The interpretation of the chapter. There are several keys to be used in the interpretation of this passage which will keep one from error. (1) First of all, some of the parables are interpreted by the Lord Himself. There can be no uncertainty as to their meaning, nor the method by which the rest of the parables are to be interpreted. Any interpretation of the whole must, of necessity, be in harmony with that which has been interpreted by the Lord. (2) A second important key is to observe that, while many of the parables are in figurative language, these figures are familiar ones throughout the Word and, therefore, will have the same usage here as used consistently elsewhere. The fact that these are not isolated figures makes interpretation easier.
The key to the interpretation of these parables is in ver. 52 of this chapter: “Every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” These words are spoken of the things which precede, and surely speak of the parables as some new and some old. But which are old and which are new? In ver. 1, we read that our Lord “went out of the house, and sat by the seaside” and taught; and in ver. 36 “then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house” and taught. Thus the parables are divided into four spoken in public, and three spoken in private; and the evidence goes to show (if ver. 52 is the key) that the first four are the new treasures of truth, and the last three are the old —that is, truths revealed before. Assuming this, the present Age is presented to our view in a series of seven progressive pictures, describing the course of the kingdom in mystery.
B. Parables Preview.
1. The Seed and the Soils: The Proclamation of the Kingdom. 2. The Wheat and the Darnel: false Imitation in the Kingdom. 3. The Mustard Tree: Wide, visible Extension of the Kingdom. 4. The Leaven in the Meal: insidious Corruption of the Kingdom.
The Old Things.
5. The Treasure: The Israelitish Nation. 6. The Pearl: The Jewish Remnant during the Tribulation. 7. The Dragnet: The Judgment of the Nations at the end of the Tribulation.
C. The interpretation of the parables will be seen in the following article.
II. Article References.
Lewis Sperry Chafer, Th. D. (1871-1952). J. Vernon McGee, Th. D. (1904-1988). Merrill F. Unger, Ph. D. (1909-1980). Charles L. Feinberg, Ph. D. (1909-1995). John F. Walvoord, Th. D. (1910-2002). J. Dwight Pentecost, Th. D. (1915-2014). Charles C. Ryrie, Ph. D. (1925-2016). Robert L. Thomas, Th. D. (1928-2017). Stanley D. Toussaint, Th. D. (1928-2017). Robert P. Lightner, Th. D. (1931-2018). Harold W. Hoehner, Ph. D. (1935-2009). Thomas S. McCall, Th. D. (1936-2021). Edward E. Hindson, Ph. D. (1944-2022).
III . Article Considerations.
A. One of the most difficult and most important factors of writing an article is related to sources of information. A writer must ensure that such sources have a high degree of knowledge on the subjects that are being written, and also must have a high degree of respect from other writers. A second factor that must be considered relates to how to lawfully use material of other writers. In this web site, copyright statutes are not violated. Also, “public domain,” is to be considered. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain
B. In this article, I have chosen theologians whom have proven themselves to be highly respected by others in the Biblical doctrine of eschatology (the study of what Scripture teaches about the end times), and other doctrines of scripture. All of the references in this article have a connection with Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) as graduate or instructor.
C. For education and other supporting data for each source of information in this article, please refer to my Page, “About My References.” The following links show information about Dallas Theological Seminary; I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Seminary. It is important to understand that DTS is not a denominational seminary, and is totally independent of such.
D. About Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS).
1. General Info. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dallas_Theological_Seminary
2. Doctrinal Statement. https://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinal-statement/