The Coming Kingdom (7)
Dr. Andy Woods
Because today's evangelical world equates the church with the messianic kingdom, we began a biblical study about the kingdom. This earthly kingdom is anticipated in the office of Theocratic Administrator lost in Eden, the biblical covenants, the predictions of the Old Testament prophets, and the Theocracy governing Israel from the time of Moses to Zedekiah. This arrangement terminated with the initiation of the "Times of the Gentiles," when the nation had no king reigning on David’s Throne as Judah was trampled by various Gentile powers. Eventually Christ, the rightful Heir to David's Throne, appeared. Had first-century Israel enthroned Christ, the earthly kingdom would have materialized. Sadly, Israel rejected this kingdom offer (Matt. 12:24) leading to the kingdom's postponement. Consequently, Christ began to explain the spiritual conditions that would now prevail during the kingdom's absence. This interim program includes His revelation of the kingdom mysteries (Matt. 13) and the church (Matt. 16:18).
The first aspect of this interim phase is the kingdom mysteries (Matt. 13:1-52). These represent the course of events to be experienced by the kingdom's heirs or the “sons of the kingdom” (13:38) between Israel’s rejection and future acceptance of the kingdom offer. Thus, these mysteries cover the time period between Israel’s formal rejection of the kingdom and the Second Advent (13:40-42, 49-50). The kingdom mysteries represent new truths concerning the kingdom that were undisclosed in the Old Testament. Jesus made this point clear when He said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted... But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it" (Matt. 13:11, 16-17).
When the eight parables of Matthew 13 are understood harmoniously, they reveal a complete picture of this “mystery age.” First, the parable of the sower teaches that the gospel will be preached throughout the course of the mystery age with varying responses based upon how the heart has been prepared. Responders to the truth will be given additional revelation (13:1-9, 18-23). Second, the parable of the wheat and tares teaches that it will be difficult to distinguish between the saved and unsaved within professing Christendom throughout the mystery age. The separation between believer and unbeliever will not be made until the Second Advent (13:24-30, 36-43). Third, the parable of the mustard seed teaches that Christendom will experience great numerical and geographical expansion from a small beginning (13:31-32). Fourth, because leaven in Scripture typically represents something pernicious or evil (Exod. 12; Lev. 2:11; 6:17; 10:12; Matt. 16:6, 12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; 1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9), the parable of the leaven working its way through the meal teaches that professing Christendom will experience increasing moral and doctrinal corruption as the age progresses (Matt. 13:33). This parable predicts increasing apostasy throughout the present age. Unfortunately, "kingdom now" interpreters miss this crucial point by interpreting the leaven as something good rather than evil. Walvoord explains:
Toussaint similarly notes:
Thus, the present age represents a period when the gospel is preached resulting in the salvation of some. However, a counterfeit sowing will also take place. Despite God’s work throughout this age, Christendom will experience an increasing corruption. This teaching concerning the increasing apostasy of the present mystery age can be found not only in the epistolary material (1 Tim. 4; 2 Tim. 3; 2 Pet. 3; Jude) but also in the Matthew 13 parables.
This teaching on the apostasy of the church does not mean that God cannot sovereignly send refreshing waves of revival and reformation, as He has done at various times. However, these refreshing seasons are not the norm but rather occur only intermittently throughout church history. A proper understanding of this apostasy represents a worldview that is diametrically opposed to “kingdom now” theology, which is the idea that the church will gradually Christianize the world thereby ushering in long-term cultural progress. The only way “kingdom-now” theology can be defended from Scripture is to ignore what the New Testament predicts concerning apostasy in the present mystery age.
Fifth, because Scripture refers to Israel as God's special treasure (Exod. 19:5), the parable of the earthen treasure teaches that Christ came to purchase Israel. However, Israel will remain in unbelief throughout the course of the mystery age and will not be converted until the age’s conclusion (Matt. 13:44). Sixth, the parable of the pearl of great price refers to Christ’s death that redeems members of the church throughout this age allowing the Lord to gain a treasure from among the Gentiles (13:45-46). Seventh, the parable of the dragnet teaches the coexistence of the righteous and the wicked throughout the age only to be separated by Christ at the age’s conclusion (13:47-50). Eighth, the parable of the householder teaches that these kingdom mysteries must be considered alongside Old Testament kingdom truth if one is to understand the totality of God’s kingdom agenda (13:51-52). In sum, when these eight parables are taken together, the Lord reveals the spiritual conditions that will prevail in the world during an interim period when the kingdom is not present.
MYSTERY FORM OF THE KINGDOM?
A mistake typically made even by dispensational interpreters is to contend that the Matthew 13 parables reveal a present spiritual form of the kingdom known as the mystery form of the kingdom. While not contending that the Davidic kingdom is present, they instead believe that the kingdom is spiritually present in mystery form only. However, even this perspective is to read far more into the text of Matthew 13 than what is actually there. Toussaint explains:
(To Be Continued...)
 John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come (Chicago: Moody, 1974), 102-4.
 Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold the King: A Study of Matthew (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 2005), 182.
 J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1990), 215-28.
 Stanley D. Toussaint, "Israel and the Church of a Traditional Dispensationalist," in Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism, ed. Herbert W. Bateman(Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 237.