But I want to build a foundation going forward in regards to my thoughts, and I want us to understand the difference. I would submit to you that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of eternal life in the Kingdom of God through His work on the cross, while the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is a call to interface with God in His Kingdom ... in both the earthly realm and the Heavenly realm. In more precise terms, the Kingdom of God is the realm in which God is King (with the understanding that He resides in all realms and all dimensions). We also know that a kingdom is a government. Every kingdom needs a founding document, and God’s Kingdom on earth is founded on the Bible.
Here's another concept to consider: Every kingdom has an expansion agenda for its growth. The agenda is to expand and take territory for the King so that He might gain more influence in the world. Has that been God's intention from the beginning? How does the Word explain our part in that plan? And if that is the plan, why did Jesus tell the Disciples in Matthew 13, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted"? [NOTE: Some versions of the Bible use the word "secrets" instead of "mysteries".]
First of all, we Western-minded Christians need to come to a very important understanding of Jesus's mission while He was on the earth. Jesus was born a Jew; into a Jewish family and was raised according to the Jewish laws. He chose Jewish disciples, and His mission, which fulfilled the prophecies of the Jewish prophets, was to the Jewish people. BUT, that does not mean that His ministry was exclusively for the Jewish people! However, in Matthew 15, when the Canaanite woman comes to Him to ask for help with her demon-possessed daughter, Jesus actually dismisses her with the statement, I was commissioned by God and sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But she persists, even when the disciples beg Jesus to send her away. When Jesus insists that it is not appropriate to take "the children's bread" and give it to "the pet dogs", she responds with one of the most poignant statements in the Bible: "Yes, Lord; but even the pet dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their [young] masters’ table". Jesus's response indicates that His power and compassion has been recognized by this woman. He says, "Woman, your faith [your personal trust and confidence in My power] is great; it will be done for you as you wish". Then the Bible states, "And her daughter was healed from that moment". Her trust and confidence in Jesus's power to heal her daughter has great implications for us and the rest of the world who would come to believe and trust in Him.
So, let's go back to that seemingly exclusive statement in Matthew 13... Jesus makes the statement that the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom have been granted to His Jewish disciples, but not to "them". At this point in His journey, Jesus had spent between one and two years preaching to Israel in plain, uncomplicated language about His mission. But here, He is sitting by the Sea of Galilee when a large crowd gathered around Him, and He is forced to begin teaching from a boat offshore. Remember, that most of Israel had rejected His message; they had mocked him and most certainly ridiculed Him. But He's still focused on reaching them. And because their rejection had reached a critical point in His mission, He introduces the parables in order to speak the Truth, but hide it from those who did not want to hear it nor believe it. He would later explain the meanings to His twelve disciples.
Why did He reserve the explanations for a private conversation with just the twelve? It is important to understand that throughout the Old Testament we find the prophets predicting that a Messiah would fulfill all the promises and covenants that YHWH had made to Israel, and set up His Kingdom on earth. Isaiah and Jeremiah's writings are full of these sacred promises. Daniel says it as plain as it can be said: "In the days of those [final ten] kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will its sovereignty be left for another people; but it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it will stand forever" (Daniel 2:44). And Zechariah states, "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord shall be the only one [worshiped], and His name the only one". So, Israel had been schooled in the anticipation of a heavenly king establishing his kingdom on the earth. But sadly, so many of the Israelite's in Jesus's time had not been faithful in teaching their children to look for the promised Messiah of the Old Testament! [This is an important lesson for us, as well]! Since these promises, hope, and doctrines had not been passed down to the next generations, there was so much spiritual knowledge that was missing in Jesus's time. [Which is why my husband and I constantly sound the alarm for our generation: My people perish for lack of knowledge!].
And since much of Israel was steeped in ignorance, doubt, and unbelief when Jesus showed up on the scene, it was difficult to recognize Him as the Messiah. In fact, when He intimates that He was sent by the Father, they would not recognize the passionate prophecy of Him as The Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53. Please take the time to read this important Chapter! There is so much in Isaiah that points us to Israel's coming Messiah, but this chapter is without a doubt, the most convincing. But because of their unbelief, the Jews that Jesus came to did not see that their ancient prophecies were fulfilled in Him. They had lost the promise and the hope that Israel was destined [in God's plan] to host His earthly kingdom. Jesus came to teach them so they might reclaim that role. Hence, His statement to the Canaanite woman that He was "sent only to the lost sheep of Israel".
So, to summarize what Jesus means by "the mysteries the kingdom of heaven" in Matthew 13, He is referring to the principles and aspects of God's plan to redeem Israel so they might reveal Him to the world -- to both unbelieving Jews and the pagan Gentiles. And He relates this concept to them in the parables. But they were "mysteries" to the crowds because Israel had ignored all the divine revelation YHWH had given them through the Old Testament prophets. The truth is, the crowds did not what to hear it or believe it, so Jesus saved the explanation for His loyal disciples, who had hearts to believe.
But I also want to stress that this is not the end of Israel's redemptive purpose for all mankind. I urge you to read Romans Chapter 11, to see how God plans on using them again to redeem the world before Christ's Second Coming! It is a truly exciting prophecy! But suffice it to say, that the mysteries that Jesus revealed were given to a small flock of Israel's believers. They could not, and would not, be fully understood until after Calvary, in order to defeat Satan's plan to keep Israel from becoming a kingdom of priests to influence the Gentiles, thereby continuing with God's redemptive plan for the entire world. And that leads me to my next blog post, Part 3, which will be titled "What Did Paul Mean by the Mysteries of God"? I will attempt to explain how God would use Paul to reach the Gentiles and reveal His hidden mysteries. Oh, what a Great God we serve, and I thank Him for revealing Himself in His sacred Word! Stay tuned!
Matthew 13:16 But blessed [spiritually aware, and favored by God] are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.