the parables of matthew 13

The Seven Parables of the Kingdom in Matthew 13


In Matthew 3:2, John the Baptist proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom is at hand.” Unfortunately, Israel rejected Christ as King, and the Kingdom, without its King, was delayed.

In Matthew 3:2, John the Baptist proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom is at hand.” Unfortunately, Israel rejected Christ as King, and the Kingdom, without its King, was delayed.

We are now in the interim Kingdom referred to in Colossians 1:13, “who rescued us from the authority of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son of His love.” The full Kingdom expressed in Matthew 25:34 which states, “...come...inherit the kingdom, which has been prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” doesn't occur until the Second Coming of Christ after the Tribulation.

These 7 Parables explain this interim period.

The parables may be viewed as three couplets and a final seventh parable. While the first two parables, the sower and tares, illustrate the nature of the kingdom, the second couplet, the mustard seed and leaven, illustrates the kingdom's power. The third couplet, the treasure and pearl, illustrate how the kingdom is appropriated. Finally, the parable of the Net wraps up the end of the Church age and the end of the interim kingdom, where Jesus finally separates the true believers from the false and initiates the final Kingdom of the Millennium.

A little eschatological background. The next event on Christ's calendar is the Rapture, where true believers will be “caught up” to join Christ in Heaven. This is followed by a 7-year tribulation, where Anti-Christ will rule earth, and Christ will judge men for their rejection. At the end of the Tribulation, Christ returns in the Second Coming. He will separate the believers from non-believers on earth in what is known as the Judgment of Sheep and Goats and will establish His full and final kingdom with the 1000-year Millennium. This will be followed by the eternal New Heaven, New Earth, and Lake of Fire.

The Sower and the Tares - The Nature of the Kingdom

The parable in Matthew 13:3-8 which is repeated and explained by Jesus in 13:18-23 explains how men respond to the gospel. The sower is identified in Matthew 13:37 as “...[the] Son of Man” or Christ Himself, the seed is the Gospel, and the soil is the human heart.

There are four heart conditions: hard, prideful hearts which continually reject God [seeds sown beside the road], shallow emotional hearts which accept Christianity initially but quickly apostate under pressure and persecution [seeds sown on rocky soil], worldly hearts that appear to accept Christianity but remain entangled in the sinful desires of this life and in time reject the gospel [seeds sown in thorns], and pliable hearts who become true believers and bear fruit [seeds sown on good soil].

In Matthew 13:24-30 the Parable of the Tares pictures the commingling of true and false believers, the difficulties of distinguishing between them, and God's ultimate disposition. It pictures tares, or false believers, sown among the wheat or true believers.

Both God and His angels in Revelation 14:17, will separate the true from false believers and is referenced in Matthew 25:32-33 in the judgment of the sheep and the goats.  This also refers to Matthew 7:22-23 where “...many will say to me Lord, Lord...and I will declare to them ‘I never knew you.’” Sadly, many tares will have even deceived themselves.

The Mustard Seed and Leaven - The Power of the Kingdom

The parable in Matthew 13:31-32 contrasts the mustard seed's diminutive size with the Kingdom's massive growth. Despite pervasive evil, false believers, Satan, and the world system, the Kingdom's growth and impact are staggering.

Growth is witnessed not only by the salvation of so many saints throughout history, but even though many of the things we see today; hospitals, universities, how women, children, and orphans are treated, the legal system, government, etc., many have their source in the Kingdom of Christianity. And all from a minuscule beginning.

The parable in Matthew 13:33 of the leaven also refers to the growth of Christianity. Here it illustrates the pervasive, penetrating, and persistent internal growth of the Church from a single small lump of leaven which touches every aspect of human life.

The Hidden Treasure and Costly Pearl - How the Kingdom is received

The parable in Matthew 13:44 and 45-46, the Hidden Treasure and the Costly Pearl, are identical pictures of salvation so valuable that those granted it are willing to give up everything to obtain it.

In verse 44, a man working in a field stumbles across a hidden treasure. According to Rabbinic law, the treasure was his – finders, keepers. But he sells all he has, buys the whole field, and then gets the treasure in it. This is a picture of where salvation finds the sinner, like Paul on the Damascus Road.

In verse 45, a man desires to find a precious pearl and searches until he locates exactly the one he wants, sells everything, and buys it. The pearl is salvation, which is diligently searched for and sought after. Here, the sinner finds salvation.

How does one become saved? Some people will come without ever seeking, as C. S. Lewis put it, Surprised by joy.  Other people will spend time and effort endeavoring to find the truth.

To obtain salvation by “selling all he had” indicates that salvation is not without cost. Salvation is by faith alone and not works, but there is a price. True believers will give up something for their salvation. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus states, “If any man desires to come after Me, let him deny himself.”  In Matthew 19:16-24 the rich ruler asks what he has to “do to have eternal life,” and Christ responds, “sell your possessions...and follow Me.” Unfortunately, the price was too much.

The Net

The parable in Matthew 13:47-30, the Net, is similar to the Tares in describing false believers, but with a different emphasis. The Net is the Gospel that is sent into the world and, much like a fishing net, collects various kinds of fish, including unusable ones or “the bad ones they threw away.” Again this refers to the end of the tribulation or “the end of the age”  where “angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous” and “they will be thrown into the fiery furnace,” as detailed in Matthew 13:48-50.


Seven simple parables with profound contemporary significance explain the interim kingdom after the rejection of Christ and before the full Millennium kingdom – the time in which we currently live.

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