"A 'mystery' in Scripture is a previously hidden truth, now divinely revealed, but in which a super-natural element still remains despite the revelation" (Dr. C. I. Scofield).
In studying God's Word we should always remember: "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever. . ." (Deut. 29:29).
I. The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.
A. In Matthew 13 we find seven parables spoken by our Lord in His teachings concerning the kingdom of heaven.
1. The first of these is the parable of the sower, found in verses 3 through 9, and its interpretation is given by the Lord Himself in verses 18 through 23.
2. Jesus said to His disciples and to the multitude following Him:
''Behold, a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundred fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty fold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt. 13:3-9).
B. We need to realize that to know the mysteries of the kingdom is a gift given to man by God's grace.
1. We know this because when the disciples came and asked Jesus, "Why speakest thou unto them in parables?" (verse 10), He answered them in the following manner:
2. ''Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.''
3. The scribes and Pharisees refused to accept the divinity of Jesus and His miraculous power; therefore these things were hidden from them, but they were revealed to ignorant and unlearned fishermen, tax collectors, and all who believed in Him, from all walks of life.
C. The entire thirteenth chapter of Matthew gives us a picture of what Jesus taught about the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.
D. In the seven parables given in this chapter the rejected Messiah sets forth the conditions under which His kingdom exists during a specific period of time.
1. This period of time extends from the rejection of Christ and His kingdom by the elect nation Israel until the return of Christ to sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem.
2. The number "seven" in the Bible stands for completeness--and the seven parables that set forth the mysteries of the kingdom give a complete view of the present dispensation, extending from our Lord's rejection to His personal return at His second coming.
E. Although the promised earthly kingdom has been set aside during this present period, it is not totally dormant.
1. The kingdom presently encompasses the entire sphere of Christendom (all religions, whether true or false, which profess belief in Jesus as the Christ).
2. This, then, is the mystery; and these parables in Matthew 13 explain the operation of those hidden forces which either retard or accelerate the Lord's work in this dispensation of the Day of Grace.
3. It should be pointed out that there are three phases of the kingdom in Matthew's Gospel:
a. FIRST is the period when the kingdom is "at hand" (Matt. 3:2). This was from the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist to the rejection of the King.
b. SECOND is the mystery phase of the kingdom, described in the seven parables which are given in Matthew 13. This is the phase we are discussing tonight.
c. THIRD is the prophetic phase of the kingdom. This covers the period when the kingdom is set up after the second corning of the Lord Jesus Christ, when He will sit on the throne of His father David and reign for one thousand glorious years. This is known as the Millennium.
II. Two Distinct Kingdoms
A. The Kingdom of Heaven.
1. The phrase "kingdom of heaven" is peculiar to the Gospel of Matthew and signifies the Messianic rule of Jesus here on this earth as the Son of David (the third phase of the kingdom).
2. It is called "the kingdom of heaven'- because it is the rule of the heavens over the earth and will literally take place when Jesus sits on the throne of David and "the knowledge of the Lord" covers the earth " as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).
3. It is a literal, earthly kingdom and will have its full manifestation when Christ rules from David's throne in Jerusalem in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant (II Sam. 7:8-17).
a. This covenant was reaffirmed when Gabriel spoke to Mary before the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:32, 33).
b. This kingdom was proclaimed as being "at hand'' (phase 1) at Christ's first coming.
c. It was then rejected by Israel, thus ushering in phase 2.
d. However, it will be announced again in the tribulation period, and it will be received by many and will be set up at the second coming of Christ after the tribulation (phase 3). (See Isaiah 24:23 and Revelation 19:11-16; 20:1-6.)
4. Isaiah chapter 11 describes the earth during the Millennium.
a. It will be a place of glorious peace; the curse will be lifted and righteousness will reign supremely.
b. Those of us who are born again, members of the bride of Christ, will reign with Him during this thousand years of peace on earth when there will be "good will toward men."
c. Please note that this third phase of the kingdom of heaven was no mystery, for the Messianic earthly reign was foretold by the prophets and looked for by God's chosen people, Israel.
B. The Kingdom of God.
1. The kingdom of God is to be distinguished from the kingdom of heaven.
2. The kingdom of God is inward and spiritual.
a. Jesus said: "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20,21).
b. And in Romans 14:17 we read: ''For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
3. The kingdom of God is entered only by being born again.
a. Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God...he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (Jn 3:3-5).
b. Believers have been brought into "the kingdom of His dear Son" (Col. 1:13); and believers are enjoined to suffer to "be counted worthy of the kingdom of God'' (II Thess. 1:5).
III. The Two Kingdoms have Much in Common.
A. The terms ''kingdom of heaven" and "kingdom of God," while not synonymous, are sometimes used interchangeably.
B. What distinctions there are, are not inherent in the words themselves but in their usage.
C. Many people have become confused in trying to understand certain passages of Scripture because they have not made a proper distinction between the two terms.
D. One must always refer to the context in which the phrase is used.
1. Since the kingdom of God refers to the spiritual kingdom made up of born again believers, it is a perfect kingdom;
2. Whereas the kingdom of heaven refers to a physical kingdom, and during phase 2 (discussed earlier) the chosen of God co- exist with the unsaved (the present dispensation).
3. Thus when a parable refers to wheat and tares, good fish and bad fish, etc., it must refer to the physical kingdom, since it is impossible for the kingdom of God to be defiled.
IV. The Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.
A. We have seen that the kingdom of heaven is the earthly reign of Christ on the throne of David mystery form of the kingdom and that it is in three phases.
B. The mystery phase of the kingdom is something new and is presented in the parables in Matthew 13.
1. The mystery form of the kingdom, then, has reference to the age between the two advents of Christ.
2. The mysteries thus relate this present age to the eternal purposes of God in regard to His kingdom.
3. In Matthew 13:11 Jesus said to His disciples, ''. . . it is given unto you to know the mysteries. . . but to them it is not given.''
a. This was because at His first coming Jesus was rejected by His chosen people.
b. Thus He did not reveal to the multitudes that He would return again to set up the kingdom.
c. This was revealed only to His disciples.
d. Note that the kingdom was not discarded when He was rejected, but only postponed.
e. During our present age the kingdom is in a veiled form.
1) Remember that this phase of the kingdom encompasses all of Christendom; that is, all earthly religions that name the name of Christ (true and false, modernists, liberals, fundamentalists).
2) Thus the tares and the bad fish in the parables refer to the false and perverted religions and doctrines operating today.
1. The kingdom of heaven is the earthly reign of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was rejected at His first coming.
2. This kingdom will be established for one thousand glorious years when Christ returns after this Day of Grace at the end of the tribulation period.
3. The kingdom of God is spiritual and within you, entered by the new birth.
4. The mystery form of the kingdom of heaven is the continuance of the kingdom in this present age while the rejected King is absent.
5. The earthly kingdom is in abeyance in the sense of its actual establishment, yet it remains as the determinative purpose of God.
6. In the final consummation of all things, the kingdom of heaven will merge into the universal kingdom of God; and the vast eternity that lies ahead will be God's eternal kingdom when perfection will reign and nothing shall enter the kingdom that defiles or 'worketh abomination, or maketh a lie."
7. Only holiness and righteousness and godly perfection will enter that everlasting kingdom of God.