For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
The church should be rid of all that is earthly to express all that Christ is.
Readings: Matthew 13:1, 10-11, 24, 31, 33, 34-35.
The meaning of the parables
In Matthew chapter 13 the Lord uses several times the expression: "The Kingdom of the heavens is similar to...", and He then makes a comparison between the Kingdom of the heavens and a figure –a parable– taken from everyday life. Therefore, the parables are used to exemplify something that has to do with the Kingdom of the heavens.
For that reason, in the first instance, they are easy to understand. But what is not easy to understand is their spiritual meaning. So, when explaining the first two parables, the Lord gave us a principle: that the evident meaning of the parable hides a spiritual meaning that is not obvious to human understanding. For that reason, the Lord Himself is required to interpret the parables, that is to say, the help of the Holy Spirit.
Although the language of the Lord seems simple, its meaning is not simple. Verse 35 tells us that the Lord spoke in parables, "... so that it would be fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet, when he said: I will open my mouth in parables; I will declare things hidden from the foundation of the world". As the Scripture also says: "things that the eye has not seen, nor has the ear heard, nor have they entered into man's heart, the things that God has prepared for those that love Him". Things hidden, secret, to which man doesn't have access, because they are hidden from man since the foundation of the world.
The Kingdom that was hidden
As you can see, the theme of these parables in general is the Kingdom of the heavens. When the Scripture -particularly the gospel of Matthew- speaks of the Kingdom of the heavens, to what is it referring? If we read Matthew 6:9, the well-known prayer that the Lord taught, and we pay attention to the first two parts of it, we will see that it explains to us what is essentially the Kingdom of the heavens.
It says: "Pray, then, in this way: our Father who is in the heavens - here, then, is a "kingdom of the heavens"-, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come". That is to say: Father may your Kingdom that is in the heavens, come to the earth. For that reason it says: "Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven". That that which is in the heavens may come to the earth; that that which happens in the heavens, may also happen on the earth.
Therefore, the Kingdom of the heavens speaks to us, firstly and essentially, of the government of God in the heavens. When the apostle John, in chapter 4 of Revelation, is invited to ascend to the heavenly places, the first thing that he sees in heaven is a throne, and on that throne, someone seated. Consequently, we find that God governs in heaven and his will is obeyed in heaven. The angels run to carry out His will; the archangels bow before His authority; and the cherubim and seraphim rejoice in doing His will.
God governs in heaven. But, does God govern on the earth? When we look at what happens on the earth, we should admit that God doesn't govern the earth nor the world. In truth, God governs all things. God still governs the movement of the universe, of the galaxies and of the planets in their orbits. He also governs the seasons, life, growth and death. But when speaking of the world, we refer to the earth and men; to the nations, people and tribes that inhabit the earth. Does God govern man's heart? We must confess that He doesn't.
But look at what we just read: "I will declare things hidden since the foundation of the world". Why are these things hidden since the foundation of the world? In other parts, the Scripture uses the expression "from before the foundation of the world".
But here he doesn't say from before, but since the foundation of the world. This means that it was not in the eternal counsel of the will of God that these things would be hidden from man.
They should have been revealed to man in the beginning; however, they were hidden. Why? Because God lost man in the beginning. You remember what happened in Genesis chapters 2 and 3. When God expresses His will and His eternal purpose: "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness".
There is the expression of the eternal thought of God concerning man: That man would have the image of God, that he would bear it and express it. And that then –having the image of God– he would be able to domineer, to govern, and to exercise the authority of God upon the earth. That is to say that the Kingdom of God would come and would be expressed on the earth through man. But, for that, there was a requirement: "let us make man in our image". If the man doesn't possess that image, he can not exercise the authority of God and can not represent God, nor the Kingdom of God. That is to say, man can not be the testimony of God on the earth.
Kingdom and testimony
Our topic is the recovery of the testimony of God. And here we can observe that the purpose of God is that man should be the expression of that testimony on the earth.
What is the testimony of God? That which represents God in a perfect way, with which He can identify Himself. When something expresses God on the earth, then we have the testimony of God upon it. For that reason, in the Old covenant, the ark of the covenant was called the ark of the testimony, because it represented God.
The ark was the testimony of God. God had identified Himself with the ark. And this is a figure. But do you see, brother that in the eternal thought of God, that which was predestined to represent God is not an ark, a physical object, but man.
"Let us make man in our image". "That man may be our reflection, and that he may be our testimony on the earth". This was expressed there in the beginning it is the essence of the testimony of God. But, so that the man could bear the image of God, in the middle of the garden God planted the tree of life, so that, in that way, he might show that that tree is at the centre of his thoughts. And in the New Testament, when the apostle John begins his gospel, in the prologue he tells us that the Word was with God, and also that the life was in that Word. Therefore, now we know that the tree of life represented the Lord Jesus, the Word of God.
So then, we have seen that God has as a purpose that man should bear His image, that is to say, be His testimony on the earth, and that he should express His authority and heavenly will on the earth, so that the earth might become a reflection of heaven. But, in order for the man to enter into that purpose, first he should eat of that tree of life; that is to say, he should eat of Jesus Christ. That is what the tree in the middle of the garden means.
Even man, called to such a magnificent destiny, is under the supreme and pre-eminent purpose of God that is his Son Jesus Christ. Therefore, the man had to know Jesus Christ and to receive His life inside himself, to be constituted in the corporate man which is the church. Only then could he bear the image of God and express His authority on the earth; and, in this way, become the testimony of God. Therefore, the testimony of God, would not be man in his earthly state, even before the fall, but a corporate man that would have Christ as its life and head.
We know that that didn't happen in the beginning. That is the tragedy of the human race. Adam didn't eat of the tree of life, and he did eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Therefore the door closed. The purpose of God was closed for man, and the Kingdom of God remained hidden from him. Why? Because God closed the way to the tree of life. And without the tree of life that is Christ, all the purposes of God concerning man are inaccessible.
For that reason the Lord says: "I will open my mouth in parables; I will declare things hidden since the foundation of the world". Well, those thoughts and purposes that God had prepared for man, remained hidden. Because everything was shut up in Jesus Christ, the tree of life, and only He could make it known.
The recovery of the Kingdom and the testimony
But, blessed be His name! He came. We could not go to him, but he came to us. Because, in the fullness of time, the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory. And that tree of life that had been hidden from man at the beginning of everything, now appeared again on the earth, and once again made the fruit of life available for man.
The Lord has come, and with him the Kingdom of the heavens has come to the earth. For that reason, His first words were: "Repent, because the Kingdom of the heavens has come near". What good news; that is the gospel: the Kingdom of the heavens, the will and the eternal purpose of the Father that had been lost, has now returned to the earth by means of Jesus Christ.
And so, my dear brother, when the Lord comes to the earth, he makes known to us what was hidden. And in the parables, where He speaks to us of the likeness of the Kingdom of the heavens with one thing and another, and shows us, in this way, the principles through which that Kingdom comes to the earth, the attack against that Kingdom on the earth, and finally the triumph of that Kingdom.
All that, I believe, is here in these parables, because you should understand that when man fell, he didn't only remain excluded from the will of God and from the Kingdom of God. That was our tragedy, our loss. But God also lost something. Man not only lost something; man lost God, and with God he lost life, and lost everything. But God also lost something: he lost man, and with man He lost the earth. And without man and without the earth, the eternal purpose of God cannot be carried out.
When God lost man, he also lost a fundamental piece for the execution of his will. But, the fall was not only that man rejected the tree of life and disobeyed God, eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but rather it was also that he allowed himself to be seduced and deceived by the enemy of God. He allied himself with the power that was wicked and hostile to the will of God, that rebellious angel whose purpose is -if it were possible-to remove God himself from his throne.
Man has allowed himself to be seduced by this enemy power of God, he has submitted himself to his directions, and has ended up completely at his mercy. For that reason, we find that in Genesis he is only a snake, but in Revelation, when many years have passed, he is no longer only a snake: now he is a dragon, because he has taken dominion over man. By the measure in which man has grown and has multiplied on the earth under his dominion, he has also grown.
Man has given the power and the authority of the earth to the dragon. So, from the point of view of heaven, the earth is hostile and enemy territory. An enemy has entered and has taken dominion of what belongs to God; it has taken dominion of the human race and of the earth. There is an enemy that is occupying the territory in which God has intended to carry out His will. And God needs to recover that territory from the hands of his enemy.
To do that, God sent his Son to this world, to the heart of his enemy's territory. Because, if on the earth Christ was under the government of the heavens, then the Kingdom of the heavens was also on the earth.
If God has only one man on the earth who obeys his will from the heavens, then the whole earth belongs to him again. Therefore, Satan can not allow there to be something that represents God on the earth, because if that happens it means that he has to leave the earth; and that his dominion is ended. Therefore, if we read the parables attentively, we will see that from the first one onwards, the immediate opposition of Satan appears together with the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Parables and restoration
"Behold, the sower went out to sow". The Son of God came, and brought the word of the Kingdom of God, the purpose of God, to the earth. But, when he went out to sow, the birds came. Who are the birds? The Lord said: "the evil one comes, and snatches what was sown in his heart". Thus, from the same starting point of the coming of the Lord to the earth, Satan began to work in order to obstruct and to hinder, and –if it were possible– to put an end to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
From the point of view of God, all His work from the moment in which man fell, until the moment when the Lord returns, is a work of recovery. When we are saved and we receive the word of the Lord, we enter into that restoration work on behalf of God. And if we enter into it, we also enter immediately into antagonism with the prince of this age, because obviously he doesn't want anything of the world to be recovered for God. He doesn't want man to be returned to God; For that reason, if you come onto the side of the work of the restoration of God, you put yourself on enemy territory with regard to Satan. And his work of destruction, discouragement, and deceit begins immediately.
For that reason, brothers, we speak of recovery and restoration. When we speak of recovery, it means that something has been damaged, has been lost or has been deformed. Something has been taken far from the purpose and original thought of God. We speak of restoration because something has moved away from God and has to be brought back.
In the parables of Matthew chapter 13, we find, then, the coming of the Kingdom of God, the coming of the purpose of God to the world, with Christ, and at the same time, we find the opposition and the obstacles that the enemy of God puts against the manifestation of the Kingdom of God in the world.
The beginning of the restoration
Let us look with close attention, then, at how this fight develops. In the first parable we find the sower sowing the word of God. This is the word that includes the thoughts of God with regard to man. It is the word of the Kingdom of God; it is not only the word of salvation. Notice that the Lord doesn't call it the word of the gospel of salvation, but rather he calls it the word of the Kingdom, because what is at stake here is the government of God over man and over the earth.
The word of the Kingdom of God comes to man's heart. And immediately the wicked forces that are in this world begin to work to prevent that word from completing its purpose in man's heart. Obstacles arise and barriers intervene: seductions and attractions of the world, are hurled upon those that receive the word. In some cases, Satan snatches it away; in others, the anxieties of life drown it. Satan has many ways to envelope us, to try to move us away from the purpose of God and to snatch it from our heart; to make us become useless and stop us from producing fruit for God.
The attack of Satan
Later on, in verse 24, there is a second parable, that of the wheat and the weeds. What he relates is a common occurence. When wheat is sown, if somebody wants to harm it, they sow weeds among the wheat. When the weed springs forth from the earth, it is very difficult to distinguish it from the wheat. But if you allow them to grow enough time, you will discover that when they are both developed, they are totally different: the wheat produces fruit, but the weed does not. It is necessary to let them grow and mature to be able to distinguish the one from the other.
That is a meaning that any person who knows something about sowing will understand immediately. As most of us are city people, we don't get it so easily. But, what is the spiritual meaning of the parable? It is in verses 37 to 43. When we look at what happened in the history of the church, beginning from the time when the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost, and the first church arose in Jerusalem, we will see that this is precisely what happened.
When Satan saw that the children of God had been sown in the world, he reacted by sowing his own seed in the world. Now, when the parable says: "The field is the world", we should know that Satan can not sow his seed in the body of Christ. The church is Christ's body and belongs to Christ alone. Therefore, Satan can not be introduced into what belongs to Christ. For that reason, observe carefully that the field is not the church.
Many theologians, especially of the reformation, interpreted this parable saying that the field is the church, and that there is therefore an invisible church that only God knows and that is made up of the true children of God, and another visible church, where there is a mixture of everything, of those that are children and those that are not. However, nobody knows with certainty who are and who aren't. But the Lord didn't say that the field was the church. He said: "The field is the world".
The church is Jesus Christ's territory, it belongs only to him. When the Scripture speaks of the church, it speaks of the Body that only expresses Jesus Christ. The Scripture only uses the word church to speak of that which belongs to Jesus Christ.
Then, when we read that he says here, "The good seed are the children of the Kingdom", he means that the church is the good seed. But the field is the world. Now we can understand that, if the church is in the world –but not in the system of this world– it inhabits the same physical space as those that are children of the evil one. And since we share the same space and the same land, then yes, in the assemblies of the saints, the weeds –the children of the evil one– can grow and be present. In fact, this is a part of Satan's strategy to deform and destroy the church.
In the times of the apostle John, it had already begun to happen that in many assemblies it was no longer possible to distinguish who were true brothers and who were not. If we read carefully John's first letter, we will find that there was already an enormous problem among the brothers. What is it that Satan wants? He wants the children of the Kingdom to be immobilized, hindered or obstructed, so that they can not express the Kingdom of God on the earth. From the beginning, he tried to introduce these elements that are not of Christ into the midst of the saints. And this means that we should be aware of how Satan attacks the church.
In John's time, many had already entered. The apostle John says: "they went out from us, but they didn't belong to us". The mixture already existed then; and that was to continue. What was the problem with all of it? That, in this way, Satan was going to introduce strange elements into the church. Now then, everything that is of this world and of this earth, when it is introduced into Christ's church, becomes a hindrance and an obstruction for the manifestation of the Lord and of his Spirit.
Beloved brother, the territory of the church is the territory of Jesus Christ, and Christ's territory is the ground of resurrection. Only what belongs to the resurrection life, belongs to Jesus Christ. So then, the church is on the side of the resurrection life. That is the ground where the church should grow, feed, mature and produce fruit. But when the church slips down to the natural man's ground, that is, of the thoughts, works and capacities of the natural man, it loses its ground. And it returns to that old ground, where it becomes sterile and empty. There it loses the testimony of Jesus Christ and it can no longer express nor represent the Lord.
You should know that this is, indeed, what happened in the history of the church. When one reads the book of Acts, you see how the Lord lived in the church, how he was expressed through the church, and how He governed His church. Because the Spirit had all things under His control. But, we arrive at the end of the first century, and we discover that men had begun to take control and that human thoughts were beginning to govern the church.
When reading the situation of the seven churches in Asia we discover that they are no longer like that first church that lived for Christ and that was governed only by him, but rather there are elements of contamination and confusion: lies, heresies, sinful hidden practices, and death. Four times in the seven letters of Revelation the work of Satan is mentioned. Why? Because it wants to warn us that Satan is always working to hinder the purpose of God. For that reason we need to know in what type of battle we, the children of God, are wrapped up in.
Beloved brother, the greatest danger is not in sins, nor in sin itself which is certainly a great danger. Satan can be much subtler than that. He knows that it is enough simply to bring us to the sphere of what is earthly, and he has already obtained the victory; because all that belongs to the natural man is subject to him.
Only what belongs to Christ is not under the dominion of Satan. Everything else can be managed by Satan. So, if he is able to introduce things that are merely human amongst us –thoughts, ideas, concepts, ways of seeing things that don't come from Christ–, he has then gained an advantage over us. That is how he sows the weed next to the wheat, and for that reason it is so difficult to distinguish between the two in the beginning. Man's work, the imitation of the soul, can be so similar to the life of the Spirit. We can even use the same language, speak the same words, but do it from the ground that is merely natural, and not from the ground of the spiritual; and there is a universe of difference between the one thing and the other.
The restoration work of the Lord is a restoration in the resurrection life and in the ground of the Spirit. It consists of bringing us to the ground of the Spirit, where God is governing and reigning through His Son Jesus Christ.
Deformation and full restoration
When continuing reading, we discover that the Kingdom of the skies is also similar to a grain of mustard that a man took and you sowed in your field. If we read with attention this parable and the following one, because they are twin, we discover something that has a certain unnatural character. Naturally, a seed of mustard produces a bush. But here the Lord you says that one makes a tree. And you says, also that the birds of the sky come and they make nest in your branches.
Now, if you want to be consistent when understanding the Word of the Lord, you should consider that those birds have to mean the same thing that those of the parable of the sower. And also that this parable is related with king Nabucodonosor's dream who saw a big tree whose branches extended and they played the sky, while all the birds of the sky came and they nested in your branches, and the beasts were covered under them. This speaks to us of the natural man's work, and of how the church, the work of God in the world, you can be deformed, and to end up growing in an unnatural way, in such a way that even the birds of the sky, that is to say, the wicked elements, end up entering in her.
Indeed, if one revises the history, after the years in those that the church was pursued and decimated continually, we find that starting from the 312 D. of C., Satan changed tactics. Then, a called emperor Constantine, "you became" to the Christianity, and you declared to the Christianity the official religion of the Empire. In that moment, many siblings were happy and they took it like a blessing of God, because ten years before I/you had happened the biggest in the persecutions, under emperor Diocletian.
The siblings said: "This is a sent man of God". But, starting from Constantine, the doors of churches opened up so that any thing can enter; that is to say, the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth. For it, the tree grew and you became enormous. But you didn't grow with the life of God, but rather you grew with the things and the elements of the earth and of the world. That growth brought a tremendous confusion and damage until today's day.
For that reason God leaves in the necessity to restore, of recovering, because something abnormal, something that doesn't belong to the nature of the church has been introduced among the children of God; you sew that they come of out, of the world, of the man, and even of the same Satan. And the church has to come off of all that, to be only and exclusively the testimony of God.
What comes from the man can not be testimony of God on the earth, for very good, exact, efficient, organized and productive that is. You will never be able to express to God. If there is something of the man added to the work of God, if there is a human thought introduced in the work of God, then that work becomes unable to express to God.
We see this enormous tree, full with birds and beasts. You was never the Christendom so big as in the Half Age. You was never so powerful and you was never so far from to express to the Lord. For this cause, God began a recovery work that slowly has come us bringing from return to the land where Christ, and only he, is our life, foundation and our everything.
Which is the testimony? That Jesus Christ is enough for us. That we only need it to him, and nothing else. Until everything the rest has been discarded and excluded. And that will be our victory: the victory of him in us.
For it, siblings, at the end, we find other two parables: that of the hidden treasure and that of the pearl of great price. I think that those parables have two meanings. A first meaning refers to the value that God gave us in your grace, and to Christ's work in favor of us. Certainly, the Lord you looked for us, you found us, you gave your life for us, and you saved us. But, also, they refer to how we can recover Jesus Christ.
He says: "The Kingdom of the skies is similar to a treasure hidden in a field". The treasure was hidden. Can you see you that, do I lower layers and layers of Christianity and of so many things added to the work and the churches in the earth -la earthly expression of the testimony of God-is there really a hidden treasure? That treasure is Jesus Christ. But there is a single form of obtaining it: you have to come undone of all that possesses, to only have Jesus Christ. That is the price. The same one that the one paid for us. Then we will be able to recover it in fullness and, with him, the testimony of God. Amen.