“The Kingdom of Heaven is Like”
These words fall from the lips of Jesus again and again: “The kingdom of heaven is like”—and are recorded for us in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew. Picture Him standing there in the little boat as it rocks quietly in the water, and before Him crowded right up to the water’s edge a great multitude, listening intently to every sentence from His lips.
“The kingdom of heaven.” These are surprising words. Is there then to be a kingdom heaven born, heaven bought, and heaven sent? That is exactly what Jesus is saying, and furthermore He is showing by speaking to them in parables just how it is to come.
Like Breaking Waves
His words roll to them like tremendous breakers along the coast in a storm. Six times these words break on their ears—“The kingdom of heaven is like”—and each time accompanying the words comes a parable to explain the kingdom to those who have ears to hear. As the great waves on the beach break suddenly and then burst into foam and run up the sands, so this phrase “The kingdom of heaven is like” would break and then would foam forth the explaining parable. With each breaking wave the kingdom program becomes clearer.
The Program of Man
These waves are beating too against a stubborn world program of man. In the breast of the men before him is a program of the earth earthly, of the flesh fleshly, and of the devil devilish. There is there before Him in living breathing men a kingdom of this world and He has come to start a kingdom of heaven. He is finally, when He has gotten His subjects, to come back to this world and set up His kingdom with all authority and power.
His Kingdom Here
Yes! Hear me if you will. He will set up His kingdom right here in this world; right here where the garden of Eden grew; right here where the devil tempted Adam and Eve and they fell; right here where the curse came, where Adam walked out of the garden and because of sin started to work and earn his bread by the sweat of his brow; right here where Eve because of sin brought forth her first-born in pain and anguish; right here where because of the fall sin entered and the devil became the prince of this world, and Cain killed his brother Abel and went out from the presence of God marked with the sickening mark of a murderer. Yes, He will set up His kingdom right here where passion has wreaked its awful toll of infamy, here where hearts have been broken, where man has fought his brother, cheated his brother, lied about his brother, robbed his brother, where he has hated, envied, coveted, blasphemed God, laughed at His laws, poo-pooed His miracles, even denied His very existence, and tried to tear His blessed book, the Bible, to pieces, and tried to choke the faith of babes and clog the minds of the young that would seek after Him. Yes, praise God, Christ is to set up His kingdom here where His rich holy blood flowed from His side; here where He suffered, here where He rose again. Yes, it is here where the nations are warring for supremacy that He will take His throne and reign in righteousness.
This great stupendous event is in the future, and may be very, very close, but the part of the program now being carried out before the kingdom shall be ushered in is the recruiting of subjects. The gospel is the good news, telling how whosoever will can become a subject of this kingdom.
The belief of the kingdom of this world presided over by the devil is that sufficient, that his brain, his brawn, his wonder-working ingenuity, his will, can guide him safely through all the waves that roll against him, and men speak of this as the first law of nature, the great law of self-preservation. The outcome of all this is what they love to call natural religion, and of course in this religion man and man alone is the god. There, so-called culture and learning have led them away from idols of wood and stone, neither do they call the wind, the sun, or the moon by names to indicate them as gods, but they deify the reason of man. They worship the works of his hands in invention and art, in science and industry. They are pleased to refer to this as their second law of nature, which is the law of self-expression.
The Last Law of Nature
There is only one law of nature left and this they do not care to talk of for it is an awful nightmare. This is the law of self-mastery. Oh, hide your face now. Stop your ears. Close your eyes, and try not to think. The shock will be awful if you are a devotee of the god called man. He has lost all control over himself and must yield all his houses, all his land, all his power, all his pomp, all his hopes, all his plans, all his loves and labors to a strong enemy called death. He may drink the best concoctions of his genius, he may hold with all his might, with his wonderful will, to life, but death will take him. Man is not master of himself.
Life and a Kingdom
Jesus came to this world and from this little boat throws out the great life-giving promises of His kingdom. He had no subjects for His kingdom when He opened His eyes in that little manger cradle, for all men are the subjects of sin and death. There is not a one that is not a born and willing subject of the kingdom over which the devil is ruling; not a one who is not under the dominion of sin.
Hear what God has to say about this statement: “By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
Again hear God’s word: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities like the wind have taken us away.” And still again God says: “We all like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” We see then that Jesus started without a subject and if He was to have subjects He must get them from the ranks of the devil, who in league with human nature and as prince of the world sits in the place of world power, and by his power of temptation holds the hearts of men captives to sin, the world, their flesh and himself.
He Must Create His Subjects
Jesus then before He can have a kingdom must have subjects, and before He can have subjects He must set them free from their old leader and master and make them new creatures. This is the first task to which He directs Himself when John has baptized Him in Jordan, and God has baptized Him with the Holy Ghost. He goes immediately into the wilderness, and there after fasting until His flesh, in almost death, calls, cries for food. He meets the devil.
The battle is on. The devil offers all he has, even to the kingdom of this world lying in his power, if Christ will but fall down and worship him. All the devil’s temptations and pleadings are in vain. Christ will have nothing to do with him. The battle is over. Christ is true to His Father and does His will.
Christ is Victor
Christ returns to announce that He is the victor, as the Scriptures had prophesied He would be. Now He is ready to announce His program as God had written it down in His word, and arises in a little church the first Sunday and reads out of the Bible thus about Himself: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, He hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord…And he closed the book and sat down…and He began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
He has conquered the devil then. He is to be the deliverer. The prince of this world before whom every other living soul has had to bow and become a sinner has found one now who will have nothing to do with him. He is an active victor, going on to offer help to any that are bound by Satan, and are his subjects.
To Destroy the Devil’s Work
Jesus Christ stands there talking to the multitude from the little boat then as the conqueror of the devil. The Scriptures go farther and say that He was “manifested to destroy the works of the devil.” So this, then, is the first battle Jesus Christ had entered on His campaign of conquering and before He finishes He is to destroy the works even of the devil: the very results of sin? Yes! The devil then I recognize as my enemy, but he has been defeated by Jesus Christ who comes lifting His victorious banner, asking all who would be free from sin to enlist, and become His subjects in this new kingdom He is to bring in when He has gotten all His subjects from all lands.
Jesus Offers Joy
The world with all its allurements and charms for sin, its amusements that take hold on hell, its fascinations that exalt man and the devil and forget God, all this, which is the world, is my enemy. It was all offered to Jesus but He turned it down flat. He has conquered the world, and offers instead of worldly joys a joy which He alone can give, but which the world cannot give and cannot take away. Jesus then raises His banner of joy and offers it as lasting and real, without a sting, and calls to men to leave the world and its pleasures and the devil that is running them and enlist under His banner of joy that will last forever. This world gave Him nothing, but He could be filled with the deepest kind of joy and peace without needing anything the world could give or the devil had to offer. Everlasting peace and joy is on the banner under which He asks subjects to enlist and this same blessed banner is to float over the palaces of His kingdom forever.
The Final Enemy
At last the hour comes in the life of Jesus when He must go against the enemy called death. Jesus has broken the power of sin by conquering all the devil’s temptations and offering His conquering power to His subjects. But all mankind are under the power of death: the awful wages of sin. If Christ is to have subjects this bondage of death must be broken, and He must be able to offer life instead of death to those who come under His banners.
He has made His boasts and the devil and his subjects are mad and planning to Him out of the way. Their very anger and wrath and love of murder is to be the means in God’s hands of letting Jesus get into death so He can conquer it. His very enemy the devil is pushing a program of hate that will cause men to kill Jesus, and by the devil’s very efforts to destroy Him he is giving Him the great chance for which He has come into the world: namely, to die man’s death and conquer death by rising victor over it. He is to be the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. The hour comes. They nail Him to the cross and in the dark, with God’s face turned away from Him, He dies, taking the place of men with all their sin.
He Pays the Debt
The wages of sin is death, and He takes all that wages for a whole race on Himself. He dies an accursed thing of sin, with God’s face turned from Him as the curse. He pays the old debt that every subject whom He will afterward get owes, and the subject can come to Him with no old scores unpaid to his old master, sin.
Let us say, for example, that I wish to have a young fellow who is working hard for a certain firm come and work for me, but when I approach him on the subject he tells me that he is heavily in debt to the company. Before he can come to me those debts must be paid, and if I pay all his debts and tell him he can go free he is then in a position to work for me. Jesus by His death not only paid the debt of sin which His subjects owe, but He conquered death itself, and arose from the grave the living victor over it, and with this tremendous, staggering, offer of sharing His victory with any who would believe Him and become His subjects, He called for recruits. He has added life then to the list of victories on His banner, and offers to those who will become His subjects life instead of death. Praise God! “Death is swallowed up in victory,” as the Scriptures say.
When Jesus consented to enter death for humanity and conquer it, He did not consult with His flesh. The flesh, the natural mind, draws back from death, but Jesus delivered up the flesh to the death of that shameful cross, and became the victor over the flesh.
When the blessed feet of Jesus left the earth and with that resurrection body He made His victorious way back to the throne of God, He left behind Him a complete victory over the world, the flesh and the devil. This all may have who believe Him, they may have it here and now. He conquered death and Himself became the first fruits of them who have slept the sleep of death, and when He comes again before long to get His subjects and usher in the kingdom, He will give all His subjects (those who have left the devil’s ranks and the ranks of the world) a glorious body like unto His own glorious body, and with Him here in this old world we will rule and reign, having gotten back all that Adam lost in Eden, and, oh, a thousandfold beside all that.
King of Kings
By His life, death and resurrection He has become King of kings and Lord of lords, and has a name far above every name, and there is coming a day soon when every knee shall bow to Him, even the devil and all his subjects. The world system as it is shall be done away. The curse shall be lifted from the ground and the living creatures below man. No more place of vice, no more graft and poverty and wrangle and hatred and suffering, and misrule, but righteousness and joy under His loving scepter.
Our High Calling
But we who have taken Him as our Savior and King and Conqueror are called into the highest of callings. We who have been sinners, servants of the devil, rebels before God, refusing to obey His voice, have come over now under His banners and are not only to be His subjects, but are to be His bride. Think of the great grace and love in the heart of God that could plan such a glorious redemption that one who was a sinner and rebel could become the queen with the King upon the throne of this wonderful, everlasting kingdom. If this vision strikes your heart you will never think of life the same again. Everything around you will glow with a new meaning, and souls for whom Christ died will become dearer and more valuable than any treasure of earth. You will catch the call of His love to things which angels would love to have, and you will allow nothing that the world has to offer to keep you from the glories that are in Christ, and the majesty that shall be revealed in His Kingdom when He appears with ten thousand of His saints and sets up His rule over all the earth. Yes, God and humanity are going to get together by and by, and the kingdoms of the earth shall become the Kingdom of our Wonderful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and we shall be His bride. Praise the Lord.
Jesus Christ has defeated all our enemies. Jesus Christ has returned to the throne of His Father, there to wait while men filled with the power of His spirit carry the news of His victory around the world, and call upon men to forsake their sin and their service of the devil, and join Him and His Kingdom. By His wonderful life He offers men a new life. By His wonderful victory He offers victory now. By His wonderful death and victory over death He offers life forever to all who will take it, and He is now patiently waiting for men to believe Him and turn from darkness unto light.
When the last subject has given his heart to Jesus and the bride of Christ is made up, then our blessed Savior, “The Lord Himself, shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Thus shall all the believers be caught up and changed in a moment in the twinkling of an eye. Then will they be given their place in the Kingdom and return with Him to the earth clothed with power and great might to rule and reign with Him and put down the kingdom of Satan and sin with all world powers under man’s rule. Yes, praise God, we will return.
Listen to God’s word: “And I saw heaven open and behold a white horse, and He that sat upon him was called faithful and true; and in righteousness He does judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire and on His head were many crowns, and He had a name written that no man knew, but He Himself, and He was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses clothed in fine linen, white and clean, and out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He hath on His vesture, and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
All Will Not Come Under This Banner
Standing in that little boat on the little lake Jesus did not seem a king but He is indeed a King of kings and Lord of lords. From that little boat He announced what the kingdom would be like while He was in the Glory and was calling through men by His Spirit for subjects. He plainly shows that while the invitation to participate in His glorious victories and to become one with Him in the coming Kingdom is extended to all, that all will not come, and that of the many many who do profess to come there will be a great number of pretenders who really do not break with the world and the devil and the flesh, but make a profession only. He shows that a large organization will come into being, which people can join, but that it will not be made up of real subjects of this coming kingdom but of some who are real subjects and many who are pretenders but who in fact are of the world, and have not stood against Satan in the power of Jesus’ name and sought to do His will.
Some Hear His Words
Out of the boat speaking to the multitude that day Jesus shows by the parable of the sower that the whole world will not be saved before He ushers in His kingdom. He shows that some hear of His great offer but pay no attention to it. These are the stony ground sort. Some hear it and start but they can’t stand to be laughed at, and they stop. These are the shallow-soil quitters. Some start and get a good growth, but the world calls too loudly and they keep company with the same old gang, and they get choked, and you never hear any more about them but that “they started, but—.” Some get busy and believe with all their heart and love Him and trust Him and expect Him to do all He promises, and stick true to Him and the interests of His Kingdom—these are the real subjects. He’ll rule the Kingdom with these.
Another Wave of Parable
Then He lets another wave roll and break in parable form, saying “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed wheat in his field, but while he slept his enemy sowed tares.” Here He shows that while true Christianity will be in the world, while He is in the glory waiting for subjects, the enemy will start something that looks like Christianity and get folks to join it and it will all be under His name; the organization will be called a church and will act like a church, and yet it will be no more made up of His real subjects than tares can be wheat, though they may look alike to some folks. In this parable He asks a question: Shall the tares be pulled up? The answer is that they shall both grow along together until the harvest or the time when He gathers His subjects, then He’ll catch up His own, but the bluffers, the four-flushers, the hypocrites, or as the parable calls them, the tares, He will put in the fire. That doesn’t sound like the world was going to get better and better, until it would all be good at the harvest time. No, sir, wheat is wheat and tares are tares up to the harvest, and then the wheat gets the kingdom and the tares get the fire.
Next He says that the kingdom of heaven, while He is in the glory waiting for subjects, is like a mustard seed planted in a field that, though it is small it somehow has a very peculiar growth and keeps it up; yes, a very unnatural growth until it becomes a tree so that the birds of the air lodge in its branches. Here He shows that the organization upon which men put His name will become very popular so that the demons of hell will roost around in it but it will not be sincere and true throughout. What better picture than this of a place called a church pulling off a show or an organization calling itself Christian giving a dance, could be found? They have the name and the gathering but they are not of the kingdom. They seem to do big things but the big things are roosts for the devil and not for the one who conquered the world, and was not of the world.
Again He speaks of His buying a field because it has a hidden treasure. You remember God’s great promises to the Jews and you must remember they are never forgotten. The Jews are scattered, yes, many of the tribes lost, but they are in this field called the world, and Christ has bought and paid for this world, and His own treasure the Jew is in it, and He will fulfill all promises to him.
A Precious Pearl
Yet again Christ speaks of the kingdom of heaven as a goodly pearl for which a man sells all he has and buys it. Jesus gave up all He had for this believing crowd of His subjects, which He calls the ecclesia—the called out one—the church. This is His bride. Through them He is speaking to the world today. They have not all been gathered in yet, but when the last one has said yes to Him and come under His banner, that long expected shout will fill the heavens and the voice of the archangel and the trump of God shall sound, and we will be with our king, and sit down to the bridal supper. The Kingdom will come.
What Have You Done?
Think of all that He offers you, my friend. What have you done with this wonderful offer of life and a kingdom? Are you professing without possessing? Have you come out openly for Jesus and cut a clean line between yourself and the world, or are you trying to play both sides? Have you sworn a fight in Jesus’ name against the flesh, are you enjoying victory in Jesus? Line up now. If you are ashamed of Him before men He will be ashamed of you before His Father in Heaven.
You must do something with Jesus—
Neutral you cannot be.
Some day your heart will be asking
“What will He do with me?”
He is waiting for subjects. Powers are being shaken. His kingdom will soon be ushered in.