The Expression of the Wicked

weeping-and-gnashing-of-teeth-300x236Matt. 13:50 says, “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (ESV). The word, “weeping,” from klauthmos, means, “to weep or wail, with emphasis upon the noise accompanying the weeping.” (Louw-Nida)

Have you heard people who wept loudly? That is the weeping of the wicked in hell. It is a loud emotional expression of crying. It is like the weeping of a girl who has lost her boyfriend. She weeps as if there is no other boyfriend left in the world. Well, you don’t need to weep as if he is the last guy on earth. It may well mean that God has somebody better for you.

Now why would the wicked weep and gnash their teeth in hell? Some people think that hell is a fun place to go on sinning.

I read a story of a man who dies and goes to hell. Satan greets him (he’s the usher there!), shows him three doors, and says, “There are three doors here. But choose only one door. Inside that door, you will spend the rest of eternity. Now choose.”

The man opens the first door, and sees people standing on their heads on a wooden floor, looking very uncomfortable. He opens the second door, and sees people standing on their heads on a concrete floor, looking even more uncomfortable. Finally, he opens the third door, and sees people standing around chatting and drinking coffee, up to their knees in garbage and filth.

“Hmmm,” he says, “that looks bad, but it’s better than the other two. I’ll take the third door.” Satan smiles and shows him in.

Ten minutes later Satan walks back into the room and says, “Alright, coffee break’s over, everyone back on your heads!”

Seriously, to the Jews, hell is never a fun place.To them, hell is the place of fiery judgment. Jesus taught that hell is the fiery furnace. In this fiery furnace, unbelievers are forever removed from the presence of God due to unbelief. They are forever excluded from the kingdom of God.

Thus, in the Parable of the Net, the wicked shall weep and gnash their teeth in hell, because they have put themselves outside of the kingdom of God.[1] By their unbelief, they have removed themselves in effect from the light of Christ. They have excluded themselves from the kingdom of God.

The act of loud weeping by the wicked, then, expresses a feeling of anguish, agony, and misery over their eternal punishment. They are thrown into the fiery furnace. They are cast into outer darkness. Consequently, they shall weep and gnash their teeth in hell. The realization of their punishment brings a feeling of pain and anguish, resulting to the acts of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The act of weeping connotes anguish. But the act of gnashing of teeth connotes anger—“anger at self, God, and others for this horrific judgment.”[2] It signifies anger towards God for removing them from the righteous in the kingdom. It indicates anger towards God for rejecting them. The gnashing of teeth shows anger towards God for judging them.


The kingdom of God is like a net that draws in all the wicked and all the righteous. When the net of God’s kingdom shall be filled, Christ shall come. When Christ comes, there shall be a separation of the wicked. Hell shall be the destination of the wicked. Weeping and gnashing of teeth shall be the expression of the wicked.

The pulling of the net is imminent, with the soon coming of Christ. Are you a follower of Christ? Jesus taught the Parable of the Net to the disciples, not to unbelievers. It should therefore encourage us to be faithful to Christ. It should assure us of the certainty of judgment of the wicked.

Are you a non-follower of Christ? Will you come to Christ now, while there is still time? Come to Christ today, and he will be your Savior. But if you do not come to Christ today, he will be your Judge tomorrow.

[1] D. G. Burke, “Gnash,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Vol. 2; rev. ed.; ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 483.

[2] Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew: A Commentary—Vol. 2: The Churchbook, Matthew 13-28 (rev. ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 542; cf. W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew (vol. 2; London: T & T Clark, 1991), 31.


The Destination of the Wicked

imagesWe ask two important questions at this point? First, who are the wicked? Second, where is the final destination of the wicked?

In the context of Matthew 11-13, the wicked reject Jesus. Conversely, the righteous receive Jesus.

The wicked do not repent their sin (Matt. 11:20-24). But the righteous turn from their sin.  

As the pathway soil, the wicked do not trust Jesus (Matt. 13:18). But the righteous trust Jesus.

As the stony soil, the wicked are false disciples (Matt. 13:20-21). They stop following Jesus because of trials and troubles. The righteous are true disciples. They endure in Christ.

As the thorny soil, the wicked are short-term disciples (Matt. 13:22). They fall away because of worldly cares and the love of money. The righteous are long-term disciples. They put Jesus first in their lives.

In the Parable of the Weeds, the wicked are the sons of the evil one who oppose the rule of God in this world (Matt. 13:38). The righteous are those who bow down to the rule of God.

The wicked cause others to sin and break God’s law (Matt. 13:41-42). But the righteous love the law of the Lord.

Notice that Jesus’ definition of the wicked has nothing to do with how nice you are, how moral you are, or how good you are. Rather, Jesus’ definition of the wicked has everything to do with how you reject Jesus, how you fall away from Jesus, how you oppose the rule of Jesus, and how you keep sinning against Jesus.

Where then is the final destination of the wicked? Jesus says that hell is the final destination of the wicked.

I read a story about a man in Manila who took a vacation in Davao. There, he waits for his wife to come the next day. He sends her an email. But he typed the wrong email ad. It was the email ad of a pastor’s wife, whose husband died the day before. The pastor’s wife read his email and fainted.

His email message says, “Having fun, but it sure is hot down here. I can’t wait for your arrival here soon.”

Matthew writes about hell in various ways.

1. Hell is a furnace of fire.The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire” (Matt. 13:50).The “furnace of fire” is literally, “the oven of fire” (kaminon tou puros), which symbolically, refers to hell. Jesus said that hell is a place—“in that place” (ESV), translating the adverb, ekei, “there, in that place” (Gingrich). This place, Jesus said, is a place of fire—“furnace of fire.” The emphasis of the phrase, “furnace of fire,” is not on the furnace but on the fire of the furnace.[1] The accent is on the agonizing torment of hell.

Some churches teach no suffering in hell. Instead, the wicked shall be annihilated on judgment day. But Jesus teaches the reality of torment in hell.

2. Hell fire is unquenchable. He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire(Matt. 3:12). The word, “unquenchable,” from asbestos, means, “inextinguishable” (Gingrich)—a fire that no one can put out [Louw-Nida]) (Matt. 3:12).

3. Hell is the place of fiery judgment (Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 18:9).   “It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell [gehenna] fire” (Matt. 18:9). The word, “hell” is from gehenna, which refers to an actual place called, “Gehenna,” or the “Valley of Hinnom” (Josh. 15:8), located southwest of Jerusalem. In the Valley of Hinnom, children were once offered to the god, Molech (2 Ki. 23:10; Jer. 7:31). Much later, they burned garbage in the same place. The burning of garbage in Gehenna made it a symbol of eternal fire and divine judgment.[2] Jeremiah prophesied divine judgment there (Jer. 7:32; 19:6).[3]Gehenna is the place of fiery suffering for the wicked.

In the book of Revelation, hell is called, the “lake of fire that burns with sulfur” (Rev. 19:20; cf. 20:14-15). Have you been to a sulfur spring?

There is a place in Murcia, Negros Occidental, called Mambucal Resort, a place of sulfur springs. People can literally remove the feathers of a chicken there. They can boil their eggs there. It is so hot you could see the vapor going up.

Hell is a place of burning sulfur.

4. Hell is also the place of eternal suffering (Matt. 10:28). But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). Destruction does not mean annihilation here. That the place of destruction is “in hell,” indicates that there is no annihilation on the day of judgment. The Jews believed that sinners will be cast into burning flames as eternal punishment (1 En. 103:8). Jesus does not deny this Jewish belief, but affirms it. He affirmed the throwing of the body in hell (Matt. 5:22, 27-30). It thus indicates eternal suffering in hell, instead of extermination into nothingness. That there will also be weeping and gnashing of teeth in hell affirms eternal destruction there, not total destruction (Matt. 22:13).

5. Hell is darkness. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness” (Matt. 8:12).

Have you been in a dark place where you see nothing? There is no light in hell. You cannot see anything there.

Hell is not merely physical darkness, but spiritual darkness as the opposite of the light of Christ (Matt. 4:15-16). Jesus said that many Gentiles will come from east and west and join the banquet table with Abraham in the kingdom. But the “sons of the kingdom,” meaning, the Jews who reject Jesus, “will be cast into outer darkness.”[4]

The outer darkness is the place located just outside the brightly lighted banquet hall. The outer darkness, therefore, is where unbelievers are cast away from the bright light of the banquet hall of Christ.

Hell then is the place of the absence of the light of Christ. Hell is the place of exclusion from the presence of God.

6. Hell is the place of everlasting fire. Jesus said, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting [aionios] fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matt. 25:41). The word, “eternal,” from aionios, means, “without beginning or end” [Gingrich]). The fires of hell have no end.

[1] The genitive in the phrase, “furnace of fire,” is most likely a genitive of quality (attributive genitive), wherein the noun, “fire” gives a quality to the noun, “furnace,” thus, “fiery furnace” (ESV).

[2] Hagner, Matthew 1-13, 117.

[3] Morris, Matthew, 115 n92.

[4] The Jews believed that darkness is the dwelling place of sinners; and the worms, their bed (1 En. 46:6; 63:6; Pss. Sol. 14:6; 15:11; cf. Mk. 9:43-44). Sinners will enter into darkness, chains, and a burning flame (1 En. 103:8). Jesus affirmed this belief by saying that unbelievers shall be bound hand and foot and cast into “outer darkness” (Matt. 22:13).

The Separation of the Wicked

The net is built with ropes at the top and weights at the bottom.Fishermen would tie one end of the net to the shore. They would pull the other end through the waters in a semi-circle, using one boat.The men would come ashore, pulling in all kinds of fish.

I remember when my brother and I went to Roxas City, Panay, for a summer vacation. I went to the beach, finding a group of people pulling at a net. I could see the net extending from the shore to the sea. A little boy, I put my hands on the net and pulled on it. It was hard to pull; the net never moved at all. After the men pulled in the net, I saw all kinds of fish in the net. There was a hammerhead shark, “butiti,” crabs, and other fish.

The kingdom of God is like a net that pulls in all kinds of people.The net of the kingdom is filled with all kinds of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation in human history. All the uneducated sinners in the mountains and all the educated sinners in the cities will be caught in the net of the kingdom.

At the end of the age, the angels shall come. They are the divine agents of eschatological separation. They shall separate the wicked from the righteous. The word, “separate,” from the Greek, aphorizo, means, “to exclude or remove someone from an association.” (Louw-Nida) The angels shall remove the wicked from the righteous.

Their action is universal—each single wicked person in history will be included in this judgment. No wicked person shall be left out.

A story is told about a good Christian engineer who died and went to Hell. Once there, he went to work. He installed air-conditioning, refrigeration, the works. Meantime, up in Heaven, God sent a message down to Hell. “Return the engineer you have there. He belongs with us!”

“No way,” replied the Devil, “here he came, here he stays.”

“If you do not comply instantly, I will sue you!” exclaimed God.

“And where are you going to find a lawyer up there?” came back the Devil.

The angelic action is methodical—no wicked will enter into Christ’s presence.No righteous person shall be thrown into the fires of judgment.[1]

Note the phrase, “from among the righteous” (ESV).It literally reads from the Greek, “out of the midst of the righteous” (ek mesou ton dikaion). They shall take the wicked from out of the midst of the righteous.

The Parable of the Weeds speaks of the same act of separation. In the Parable of the Weeds, the angels “will gather out of his kingdom [Gk. ek tes basileias autou] all causes of sin and all law-breakers” (Matt. 13:41, ESV). In the same way, in the Parable of the Net, the angels shall take away the wicked from out of the midst of the righteous.

In the present age, the wicked mix with the righteous. But at the end of the age, the wicked shall be removed from out of the midst of the righteous.

This is one reason why I think that the end of the age is at the end of the Tribulation Period. Jesus does not indicate the timing of the end of the age. But the end of the age may well be at the end of the Tribulation Period, after the seventh trumpet (cf. Rev. 11:15). At the end of the Tribulation Period, Christ shall come with his angels in power and glory. His angels shall take away the wicked from out of the righteous in this world. When that happens, the kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-10). This is not the Great White Throne Judgment of Rev. 20. The Great White Throne is the judgment of the dead. This judgment however, at the coming of Christ, is the judgment of the living.

                [1] Phil Newton, “The Distinctions of the Kingdom.” Cited July 8, 2013. Online: http://archive. matthew_13.47-52.php.

The Final Separation: The Parable of the Net

imagesIs the kingdom of God concerned with the wicked of this world? The answer is yes, according to the Parable of the Net. Matthew 13:47-50 reads,[1]

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind,

48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.

49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just,

50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The Kingdom of God, Jesus said, is like a net that was thrown into the sea. The net gathered fish of every kind. When the net was full, the fishermen pulled it to the shore. There they sat down and sorted out the fish. They put the good fish into containers, while throwing out the bad.

Jesus then interprets the parable as follows:

Kingdom of God = net

Men = angels

Filled net = end of the age

Sorting of good and bad fish = separation of the wicked from the righteous

Throwing away of bad fish = throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace

Note that Jesus interprets the Parable in terms of judgment of the wicked. The force of the Parable centers on the certainty of judgment. The kingdom of God, therefore, is a kingdom of judgment. It brings judgment to the wicked.

The Parable of the Net is similar to the Parable of the Weeds. Both tell of the separation of the righteous and wicked at the last day. But there is one big difference between the two. The Parable of the Weeds tells of both the punishment of the wicked and the reward of the righteous. But the Parable of the Net tells only of the punishment of the wicked. The emphasis is on the absolute certainty of a coming judgment of the wicked.

We note three acts of divine judgment on the wicked in this parable.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New King James Version (NKJV).

The More You Understand the Great Value of the Rule of God, the More You Will Sacrifice Everything to Gain It

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls” (Matt. 13:45). Note the word, “again.” Jesus is emphasizing the same point, but a different parable. In the parable of the Pearl, the man is a merchant. The Greek word for “merchant” is emporos, where we get our English word, “emporium” (a large store). He is a wholesaler, not a retailer. (Friberg) He is looking for beautiful pearls. It means that this man has money.

In the parable of the hidden treasure, the man is poor. But in the parable of the pearl, the merchant is rich.

When he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matt. 13:46). This merchant finds the most beautiful pearl. It is a very expensive pearl. The word for, “great price” (palotimos), means, “very precious, valuable.” (Gingrich) Pearls in the ancient world are more valuable than gold.[1] He has been looking for this pearl of great value. But it is very expensive. His money is not enough to pay for it.

What does he do? He goes and sells all that he has and then buys the pearl. In the parable of the treasure, the man sells all that he has and buys the field. In the parable of the pearl, the merchant sells all that he has and buys the pearl.

What do we learn about the Kingdom of God? First, the rule of God is worth more than everything. Second, the more you understand the value of the rule of God, the more you realize that it is worth having. The more you realize it is worth having, the more you will sacrifice everything to gain it.

Since the rule of God is worth everything and worth having and worth sacrificing everything to have it, the more you make it your one priority in life. The more you will seek first the kingdom of God. The rule of God is worth everything so that the only right response is absolute commitment to God.[2]

What makes the rule of God precious and priceless? It is not the benefits of the kingdom. It is not the blessings of the kingdom. Rather, it is the King of the Kingdom. Jesus is the hidden treasure. Jesus is the pearl of great value.

Oftentimes, we are like the child who plays in the mud, since she does not know the joy of playing in a swimming pool. We are like the farmer who sells his land for P1,000, since he does not know its real value, which is P1,000,000.

“The story is told about a miner who struck gold and carried his bag of nuggets with him everywhere. One day he died and went to heaven, still carrying his precious nuggets. When hearrived, an angel asked him why he was carrying asphalt.

“‘This isn’t asphalt,’ he explained, ‘it’s gold.’

“To which the angel replied, ‘On earth it’s called gold, but here in heaven we use it to pave our streets.’”[3]

We value the things that are worthless in heaven. We seek the things that are worthless in eternity. We chase things that do not really matter. We pursue non-eternal things that will not last. We seek temporal things that will just pass away.

We feed the lust of our eyes. We feed our sinful natures. We feed the pride of possessions. We love money. We feel that we need these things to enjoy life. We feel that we need these things to find satisfaction.

Yet in the end, there is no joy in these things. We are no happier with these things. We are never satisfied with these things.

But when you discover the value of the rule of God, you discover the value of God Himself. The value of the kingdom is the value of the King. When you discover the value of God, you become willing to lose everything in order to gain God Himself.

God is worth far more than anything in your life. In other words, to use John Piper’s words, God is the gospel. God is the greatest gift of the gospel. God is the goal of the gospel. God is the gospel.

Why has God forgiven your sins in Christ? So that through God’s forgiveness of your sins, you will know the ultimate value of God in Christ; and worship Him. Why has God given you eternal life in Christ? So that through the gift of eternal life, you will enjoy eternally, God Himself.

God is the goal of the kingdom. God is the goal of the rule of God. The rule of God leads to God. The rule of God gains God.

When you seek the rule of God, you get God. When you seek the rule of God, God is your reward. God is your treasure. God is your priceless pearl. At the end of the day, you discover that God is all you need.

[1] Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1-13 (WBC 33A; ed. Ralph P. Martin; Dallas: Word, 1993), 397.

[2] Hagner, Matthew 1-13, 397.

[3] Vernon C. Grounds, “Heaven’s Asphalt,” Our Daily Bread (June 11, 2005). Cited June 22, 2013. Online: 2005/06/11/heavens-asphalt/.

Worth Losing Everything: The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Value

We shall now study two parables—the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Value. What is the Kingdom of God like? Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God is like a hidden treasure. The Kingdom of God is also like a priceless pearl. A hidden treasure is very valuable. A pearl of great price is obviously immensely valuable. Thus, these two parables teach about the immense value of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is infinitely valuable, precious, and priceless. The rule of God is invaluable, inestimable, and incalculable. In short, the Kingdom of God is worth more than anything. We learn two things about the Kingdom of God in these two parables.

The Rule of God is So Valuable That Losing Everything You Have to Gain It is Worth It

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” (Matt. 13:44).[1] Jesus says that the Kingdom is like a treasure. In those days, people did not have banks to keep their money. They did not have safety deposit boxes to secure their papers. They did not have jewelry boxes to protect their jewels. One way to keep their treasures is to bury it into the ground. At the time, it is always safe to hide treasures in the soil.

But the owner may go out of town. If he fails to return, the possessions would remain in the ground.

The country of Israel has seen many wars. In times of war, people would hide their treasures in the ground. At times, the owners would not survive the war. Nobody knows about the treasure unless someone finds it.

Now anyone who finds treasure in the land rightfully owns it. Today, if you find money on the road, you get to keep it. In those days, if you find buried treasure, you get to keep it. You own it only by “lifting” the buried valuables.[2]

Usually, a laborer of the field would find treasure there. The problem is that the owner may claim it also. He will claim that his laborer only acted as his agent.

What will the laborer do? He will buy the land first; and then claim the buried treasure.

In the parable, the man does not obviously own the field. So he decides to hide the treasure. Then joyfully, he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field.

The point of the parable is that the Kingdom of God, the rule of God, is like a hidden, priceless treasure. It is very valuable. It is worth more than anything. You realize that the rule of God is worth losing everything, so that you can gain it.

Jesus is not saying that you pay your way into the Kingdom. Jesus is saying, rather, that the Kingdom is so precious, that you are willing to lose everything to gain it. The Kingdom is so valuable, that you will count all things worthless for the Kingdom. The rule of God is worth everything that losing everything in order to gain Christ is worth it.

That is the point of the parable of the hidden treasure.

Note that the treasure is free for his taking. The man did not pay for the treasure. It is free. But he had to sell all that he has in order to buy the field. He had to buy the field in order to get the treasure. The treasure is free. But it cost him everything.

Similarly, the kingdom of God, the rule of God, is free. The grace of God is free. But it will cost you everything. It will cost you your family. You will have to suffer for Jesus’ sake. It will cost you your favorite sins. You will have to forsake your sins. It will cost you your favored status. You will have to endure ridicule for following Jesus. It will cost you your finances. You will have to give your money to God as a sign of your worship and commitment.

But don’t worry—you will gain what you will lose. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25).

If you study Matthew, the emphasis of Matthew is perfection. You must be perfect in order to find treasure in heaven. What is perfection to Matthew? Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matt. 19:21). To be perfect in Matthew is to go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.

That is perfection according to Matthew. It is the act of losing everything for Christ. The rule of God requires losing everything for Christ. Jesus said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a       hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29).

That is the point of the parable of the hidden treasure. The Kingdom of God, the rule of Christ, is worth everything that sacrificing everything to gain Christ is worth it.

[1] All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, is taken from the New King James Version (NKJV).

[2] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (PNTC; ed. D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 359.

The Hidden But Extensive Effect of the Kingdom of God

imagesSome disciples may have asked about the effect of the kingdom. “If the kingdom of God is upon us, why do we not see it? What is the effect of the kingdom of God in this world?” Jesus answers this concern with the Parable of the Leaven.

Matt. 13:33 reads briefly, “Another 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.” There were no bakeshops back in Jesus’ day. Instead, the women would bake the bread in the homes. Every day, the women would mash wheat into flour. They would pound flour into a lump of dough. They would then hide a lump of leaven inside the lump of dough. The lump of dough is “leaven.”

Leaven was a piece of last week’s fermented dough. It was just a small lump of leaven. It normally had yeast in it. The baker would wait and let the leaven puff up the new dough. She would then put the dough into the oven.

Now leaven represents the negative influence of evil (Matt. 16:6). But in this Parable, Jesus is stressing the positive effect of leaven. Jesus says the woman hid the leaven in three measures of flour. Three measures of flour make a large mass of dough. Three measures of flour can feed a large family or 100 people.[1]

I note six characteristics of leaven.  The leaven is small. It takes just a small lump of leaven to expand a large lump of dough.[2]

It is hidden. The baker cannot see its work inside the dough.

The leaven is internal. No external force can cause the dough to rise, but only the internal work of the leaven.

It is extensive. The leaven extends in the dough, causing it to rise.

It is permanent. Once the leaven pervades the dough, the process is irreversible. The baker cannot stop the work of leaven inside the dough.[3]

Lastly, leaven is unpleasant. The continued use of leaven or yeast can lead to infection.[4]

Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like leaven. The kingdom of God comes in small amounts. But the small amounts affect the whole world.

The kingdom of God is hidden. You cannot see its work but it works inside your life.

The kingdom of God is internal. It is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of God. There is no external force, but the quiet work of God.

The kingdom of God is extensive. Once the rule of God is inside you, it will do something powerful and wonderful in your life.

The kingdom of God is permanent. The spiritual work of God inside your life will be irreversible.

Lastly, the kingdom of God is unpleasant. Michael Green writes that leaven is offensive to Judaism. To most Jews, leaven or yeast signifies bad things. You could imagine that some Jews were shocked to hear Jesus using leaven as a symbol of the kingdom of God. To reputable Jews, Jesus’ followers looked like leaven. They were poor and uneducated fishermen and farmers. They were women, tax-collectors, and carpenters. To decent Jews, they were unpleasant leaven.

But isn’t Jesus like that? Jesus takes the leaven of this world—the sinners, unworthy, the smelly, the poor, the powerless, the uneducated and simple. He forgives them, saves them from their sins, puts a new divine nature in them, transforms them, and then transforms the rest of humanity through them.[5]

Are you a leaven? Jesus can take you just as you are—a smelly leaven. He can forgive you sins. He can give you new purpose for living. He can redirect you from destruction to eternal life. He can change your life.

Only come to Him turning from your sin. Come to Him and trust Him as your Lord and Savior. He will transform you from someone sinful to somebody beautiful for His kingdom.

[1] Eduard Schweizer, The Good News According to Matthew (trans. David E. Green; Atlanta: Westminster John Knox, 1975), 306; Robert H. Mounce, Matthew (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 132.

                [2] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (PNTC; ed. D. A. Carson; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 353.

                [3] J. Dwight Pentecost, The Parables of Jesus: Lessons in Life from the Master Teacher (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1982), 55.

                [4] Morris, Matthew, 352 n83.

                [5] Michael Green, Matthew for Today (Dallas: Word, 1988), 138.

The Insignificant Beginning But Significant Outcome of the Kingdom of God

Matt. 13:31-32 reads,

Another 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, which 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.[1]

Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in his field. Some have said that Jesus was wrong in saying that the mustard seed is the “smallest” (ESV). In botany, the mustard seed is not the smallest of all seeds. Actually in the Greek, the adjective, “smallest” (mikroteron), means, “small, little.” When used comparatively, it means, “least, insignificant.” (Friberg) The word is used comparatively here—the small mustard seed compared to all the other seeds. Thus, it should be translated, “the least of all seeds” (NKJV); or “smaller than all other seeds” (NASB).

Jesus said that it is the least of all the seeds. Thus, Jesus emphasizes a small beginning with a small seed. But when it is grown, it is larger of all the garden plants. It becomes a tree, sometimes up to twelve feet in height. Jesus is emphasizing the big thing that comes from a small thing. He is stressing a significant result from an insignificant cause.

Jesus said, “the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”  We find almost the same words in Dan. 4:21, “in whose branches the birds of the heaven had their home.” In his vision, Nebuchadnezzar saw a great tree of great height; and the birds came and lived on its branches (Dan. 4:10-12). Daniel explained to Nebuchadnezzar that the tree represented the latter’s kingdom. The birds represented the nations benefiting from his kingdom.

Against this background, the kingdom of God is like a very little mustard seed that is so small, insignificant, and even despised. But when it is grown, it becomes so momentous and consequential, affecting the lives of all peoples and all nations in this world. The kingdom of God will become so great that it will bless all the people who will enter it.

As you read the NT, you will notice that this kingdom of God did start small and insignificant. The Son of Man grew up from Nazareth, an insignificant small town, in the province of Judea, a despised province. The Son of Man spent only three years of public ministry. He taught for two to three years in small unimportant towns. He taught in Jerusalem only occasionally, but not much. He had only a few followers—twelve of them, who were mostly poor and uneducated. One worked for the hated “BIR”; another was an “ex-NPA.”

But “he healed the broken-hearted. He set the captives free. He made the lame to walk again; and set the blind to see.” He cast out demons in some; he forgave some; he rebuked some. He taught the radical ethics of the kingdom. He overturned the false beliefs of religious tradition. He opposed the religious leaders, attacking their hypocrisy and shallow religion.

The kingdom of God did start small and inconsequential. But one day, 120 of his followers gathered and received the Holy Spirit of Jesus at Pentecost. On that day, 3,000 are saved and added to the church. The 3,000 become 5,000 in the coming months. Many more became believers in Judea and Samaria. Soon, thousands are saved through the churches planted by the apostles throughout the Roman world. Many more millions from around the world are added to the kingdom down through the centuries until today. The mustard seed has become a great tree, blessing many.

I remember one Sunday at New Life Baptist Church, Tacloban City in 1990. Pastor Ed Rayos announced that they will plant 20 churches by 2010. When I heard him say that, I reacted silently, “How can a small church of less than a hundred plant 20 churches in 20 years?” I was cynical.

Twenty years later in 2010, I invited Pastor Ed and his wife, Jan, for dinner. At dinner, I asked how their church-planting was doing. I said, “Did you achieve your target of 20 churches?” He replied, “Yes, Henry, we have 20 churches now under our umbrella throughout Leyte-Samar. In fact, we were able, by the grace of God, to plant 20 churches in less than 20 years.”

Amazed, I asked him, “How many people attend your 20 churches on an average Sunday?” He said, “About 30-40 people per church. Our mother church has only about 170 people attending. But all in all, we now have about 1,000 people attending our churches under New Life.”

I asked him my last question, “How did you do that?” He said that they trained their own home-grown leaders constantly, faithfully. Holding back tears, I confessed to Pastor Ed that when he first announced their vision back in 2010, I was skeptical. He listened with a warm smile. Pastor Ed is not the eloquent preacher that you would hear on TV. He was no church-growth expert. He was just a faithful pastor and mentor of leaders. What a joy to know how God can make big things out of little things! 

Are many people hard-hearted and unbelieving in Christ? It’s okay. The kingdom of God continues to grow, welcoming many through Christ.

Do many people stop following Jesus because of trials? The parable of the mustard seed tells us that the kingdom of God keeps growing with people who endure suffering for Christ.

Are believers today suffering persecution for their faith? Yes, they are. But the parable of the mustard seed tells us that the kingdom keeps growing with people who experience the victory of God through the resurrection of Christ!

Do you feel discouraged when we see people rejecting Christ; or when we see unbelievers prospering while believers are suffering? Why keep inviting people? Very few people want to follow Christ. But we should never quit sharing the Gospel!

One day, my first cousin visited us at home. She opened the Bible and share the gospel to us. I received Christ that day. If my first cousin did not do that little thing of opening the Bible to a group of lost teenagers, where would I be now? Because my cousin did that little thing, I am now standing before you preaching the Word and leading this church.

Where would you be if someone did not tell you the Gospel? Maybe you are still discouraged and lost. You are still miserable and unforgiven. Maybe you will have been wasted many years of empty living.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed tells us that the kingdom of God grows with every single person who comes to Christ. It encourages us that small things produce great things! Small things produce great things in the kingdom of God! So do not quit doing the little things.

It seems like a little thing to share the Gospel to someone. It seems like a little thing to preach the Word to a small church, and not to a big church in front of the TV cameras. It is a little thing to help a poor person. It seems like a little thing to forgive someone. But big things start with little things. Little things produce great things in the kingdom of God!

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New King James Version (NKJV).

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven: the Effect of the Kingdom

Teachings_of_Jesus_5_of_40._parable_of_the_mustard_seed._Jan_Luyken_etching._Bowyer_BibleMatthew put the two Parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven right after the two Parables of the Sower and the Weeds. From a literary viewpoint, the Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven appear to answer the concerns raised in the Parables of the Sower and the Weeds.

The Parable of the Sower raises the issue that many people will not enter the kingdom due to unbelief (the hard soil). For some who seemed to follow Christ, they turn out rootless, falling away after tribulation and persecution (the rocky soil). For others, they turn out fruitless, no longer following Jesus, due to the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of money (the thorny soil).

The Parable of the Weeds also raises the concern of the activity and longevity of a rival kingdom—the kingdom of the Devil—opposing the kingdom of God. Jesus’ kingdom will not terminate the enemy kingdom after all. The citizens of Jesus’ kingdom will have to fight the satanic kingdom. Thus, many disciples must have asked the question, “How effective will be the kingdom of God against the kingdom of the Devil?”

Jesus answers these concerns in the Parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven (Matt. 13:31-33). The two parables give the same message—that the kingdom of God, though starting small and seemingly insignificant, produces far greater things in one’s life and in the whole world. Since they give the same meaning, we will thus study the two together.

We learn two things about the kingdom of God in these two parables.

The Continuing Conflict Between the Two Kingdoms Until the End of the Age

wheat-and-weedsMatthew 13:28-30 reads,

28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’

29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.

30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’

In this text, the servants ask the Master if he’d like them to pull out the weeds and gather them. He said no, lest they root up the wheat along with the weeds. The roots of the weeds are usually entangled with the wheat. It is stronger and deeper than the roots of wheat. If they pull the weeds, the wheat would also be pulled out.  

So in v. 30, the Master tells them to just let both weeds and wheat grow together until the time of harvest. At harvest time, the reapers shall gather the weeds first. They shall bundle them as fuel for burning.

Brethren, the field is the world. In this world, at this present age, the weeds and wheat co-exist. There are the sons belonging to the evil one. Then there are the sons belonging to the Kingdom. For now, the plan of God is to make them co-exist. It is not yet the plan of God to separate them.

We learn two things from this parable. First, it is the time of spiritual war between the two kingdoms. Second, it is not yet the time of harvest of the two kingdoms.

While the two kingdoms co-exist, there is conflict. There is war. Where there is war, there are casualties of war. There is contradiction. There is confusion.

In this war, the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer, it seems. In the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew writes about the sufferings of the righteous and the prosperity of the wicked. He writes about Jesus warning his disciples about persecution.

Matt. 10:16-18 reads,

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues,

18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.

The sons of the Kingdom are like sheep among wolves, seemingly powerless before the wicked.

Matthew writes about John the Baptist in Matt. 14:3-11. Herod had John the Baptist put in prison. Herod was having an affair with Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. John had been preaching to Herod that it is wrong to have another man’s wife. Herod wanted to put John to death, but he was afraid of the people, who believed him to be a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday, Herodias’ daughter danced before Herod. Herod promised to give her anything she wants. Herodias’ daughter, coached by her mother, asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod had John killed and his head delivered on a platter.

In this conflict between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. It is a confusing situation. But it is a temporary situation. This present age shall end. There shall come a harvest at the end of the age.[1] The harvest is the time of separation of weeds and wheat. It is an eschatological judgment—judgment at the last day.

Brothers and sisters, the Kingdom of God has indeed come. With the arrival of Christ, the Kingdom of God is upon you. The kingdom of God is already here spiritually, but eschatological judgment is not yet, physically.

Also, it is Jesus, the Son of Man, who will judge the world. Since He will judge the world, we are not to judge it. It is not our job to root out the weeds. It is His job to root out the weeds.

It does not mean that we will no longer impose church discipline on members who do grievous sins. But the parable of the weeds is not about church discipline.

It does not mean that we will no longer uphold a pure church. We should continue to uphold a pure, NT church. But the parable is not about church membership. It is about the existence of the sons of the Kingdom and the sons of the evil one in this world. The field is the world, not the church.

It does not mean also that we shall no longer fight evil. But the parable of the weeds is not about giving up the fight against evil and relinquishing the will to do good. Rather, we should be persevere in Christ. We should face opposition in the strength of the Lord. We should keep on preaching the Gospel to everyone. We should keep making disciples. We should be faithful to the Lord, knowing that the time of harvest is at hand.

We are to let both weeds and wheat grow until the harvest. We are to wait until the harvest. The Son of Man will do His job and separate the two.

      [1] Hagner, Matthew 1-13, 394.