What is the Kingdom of God? Part Seven

SERMON 02-11-23

       Today will be part seven of my multipart series on the Kingdom of God. In the last two sermons in this series, we discussed the first 8 of Jesus’ 14 parables about the kingdom of God. Today I hope to discuss the remaining 6 parables about the Kingdom.

PARABLE #9: Working in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16).

       In this parable the Kingdom is likened to a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agrees to pay them a certain wage for the day.  Several hours later he hires others to work in the vineyard.  He goes out three more times at different hours of the day and hires workers to work that day in his vineyard.  When evening came, all the workers are paid the same amount regardless of how many hours they worked.  This did not set well with the workers who had toiled all day and got paid as much as those who had worked a lot less hours. Here is what the land owner said:

       Matthew 20:13-16: “But he answered one of them, `Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Commentary on Parable #9: Working in the Vineyard:

       This parable of the Kingdom appears to be telling us that regardless of who you are or when you come into the Kingdom, you will receive the same level of grace. The last being first and the first being last appears to be a way of saying all are equal before God as to God’s granting of grace.  Whether a person comes to Christ today and dies tomorrow, he will experience the same level of forgiveness as the person who came to Christ 50 years ago and now dies. 

       Now I know there are scriptures that indicate we are rewarded according to our works.  Apparently this parable is not dealing with rewards as such but with the basic mercy and grace of God that produces forgiveness of sin which allows for the granting of eternal life in the kingdom.  

PARABLE #10: The Two Sons (Matthew 21: 28-31).

      Matthew 21:28-31: "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, `Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' "`I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.  "Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, `I will, sir,' but he did not go. "Which of the two did what his father wanted?"   "The first," they answered.   Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Commentary on parable #10: The Two Sons:

       Matthew does not identify this saying as a parable but it is a saying that relates to the dynamics involved in entering the Kingdom so I thought it should be included in our review of the Kingdom parables.  Jesus seems to be teaching that it is not enough to just pay lip service as to the tenets of the Kingdom but to actually practice Kingdom living.  The religious leaders paid lip service to the teachings of the Law but didn’t obey the Law. They refused to repent of their unrighteous behaviors.  The tax collectors and prostitutes did not live by the behavioral standards of the law but once it was brought to their attention, they repented and changed their behavior as witnessed by several NT examples.

PARABLE #11: The Tenants (Matthew 21:33-45).

       In this parable Jesus is addressing the religious leaders and speaks of a landowner who planted a vineyard.  He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. He then rented it to some tenants and left to go on a journey. When it came time for the harvest, the owner of the vineyard sent his servants to the tenants to collect the fruit of the harvest. The tenants seized his servants and beat one, killed another and stoned a third. The owner of the vineyard sends more servants and the tenants treated them the same way. Finally, the owner sent his son.  When the son came, the tenants threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.  Jesus then asks the religious leaders what should be done to these tenants.  Here is what they said.

       Matthew 21:41: “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

       They answered that he will bring those wretches to a wretched end and will rent the vineyard to other tenants who will give the owner his share of the crop at harvest time. Jesus replies with a quote from Psalm 118: 22-23, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes."  Jesus then tells them that the kingdom of God will be taken away from them and given to a people who will produce its fruit.  He further says to them that “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed."  In verse 45 we read that when the religious leaders heard Jesus say these parables, they knew he was talking about them.

Commentary on parable #11: The Tenants:

       This parable has elements of a parable found in Isaiah 5. While some of the details in Jesus’ parable are different, the theme is the same.  In both parables, the keepers of the vineyard fail to behave righteously and are subsequently destroyed.

       Isaiah 5:1: I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. "Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it." The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

       In Jesus’ parable, the owner of the vineyard appears to be God the Father. The servants who are sent appear to be the OT prophets who were sent to Israel to warn of the consequences of their sinful behavior. In Matthew 23:31 Jesus is seen as telling the religious leaders that they are descendants of those who murdered the prophets.  The son in the parable appears to be Jesus.  As Matthew reports in verse 45, Jesus was directing this parable at the religious leaders of His day.  He was predicting how the Kingdom designed for them would be given to others.

PARABLE #12: The Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14, Luke 14:16-24).

       Here the Kingdom is said to be like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He twice sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.  Instead, some of the invitees seized his servants, mistreated them and even killed some of them.  The king was enraged and sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.  He then told his servants to invite to the banquet anyone they could find, both good and bad and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

       However, when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes and inquired of him how he got in without wedding clothes.  The man had no answer.  The king tells his attendants to bind this man hand and foot and throw him outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  This account ends with the words "For many are invited, but few are chosen."  Luke’s account is similar but differs in that it doesn’t tell of the man arriving at the banquet not wearing wedding clothes.

Commentary on parable #12: The Wedding Banquet:

       This parable appears to be about God the Father facilitating the marriage between Christ Jesus and those responding to the Kingdom message. The indication here is that the invitation to enter the Kingdom was first extended to the Israelites and their leaders but when many of them didn’t respond, the invitation went out to the masses.  The Gospel message going to the Gentiles may be in view here. We also see here an apparent allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem. Those initially invited (the Jews), refused to come and in some cases mistreated and even killed the king's servants who invited them to the banquet. The king sends his army to destroy the murderers and their city. 

       This is a very telling prediction of what was going to happened after Jesus ascended to the Father. After Jesus ascended to the Father, the religious leaders of the Jews persecuted those teaching about Christ and the Kingdom as seen in the book of Acts.  Some were killed as we see in the account of the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. Forty years after the ascension of Jesus, the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed. 

       What about the man who showed up without the proper wedding garment?  In ancient times it was the custom that the one giving a wedding banquet would provide the appropriate dress for the invited guests.  In this parable, it is apparent that a man failed to obtain the appropriate garment that was freely being offered.  Instead, he tried to sneak in wearing inappropriate clothes for the occasion.  It would appear the wedding banquet parable represented the time when the saints would join Jesus at the wedding banquet pictured in the Revelation.

      Revelation 19:7-8:  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints).

       It is instructive that the wedding garments pictured here stand for the righteous behavior of the saints. This being the case, it is apparent the man who showed up at the wedding banquet for the son of the king in the parable showed up in an unrighteous state, not having accepted Jesus as savior. Because of his unwillingness to believe Christ, he is thrown into darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. This parable parallels what Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 8.

       Matthew 8:11-12:  I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

PARABLE #13: The Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).

       Here we have it said that “at that time” the Kingdom will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise took oil in jars along with their lamps.  It took a long time for the bridegroom to arrive and the virgins all fell asleep.  Finally, a cry rang out that the bridegroom had come.  All the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.  The five foolish ones asked the five wise virgins for some of their oil because their lamps were going out.

       The five wise virgins refused to do this for if they did there wouldn’t be enough oil for all ten.  The five wise virgins instructed the five foolish to go and buy some additional oil.  While the five foolish were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. And the five wise virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet and the door was shut. Later the five foolish virgins arrived and asked that the door be opened but were told they weren’t known and were not allowed in. This parable ends with the instruction to“keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

Commentary on parable #13: The Ten Virgins:

       Jesus appears to be teaching those He was addressing that the Kingdom will arrive for them at a yet undetermined time and there needs to be a readiness for when that event occurs.  Here the Kingdom is seen as future to the time Jesus is making this statement. It is instructive that Jesus makes this statement immediately after the Olivet Discourse wherein He discusses the end of the age. (Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21). Jesus follows the Olivet Discourse by saying "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins” (Matthew 25:1). The “at that time” Jesus is referring to is the end of the age time described in the Olivet discourse recorded in Matthew 24. It is apparent the dialog recorded in Matthew 24 is continued in Chapter 25.

       What we have here is the end of the age associated with the arrival of the Kingdom.  Both are seen as occurring together at the same time.  What end of the age is Jesus referring to?  When Jesus says “At that time.” What time is He referring to?   As promised in previous sermons in this series, I will discuss the issue of the end of the age in the final sermons in this series.      

PARABLE #14: The Talents (Matthew 25:14-29, Luke: 19:11-27).

       Here the Kingdom is likened to a man called a master who before he goes on a journey, calls his servants in and entrusts them with his property.  He gives five talents (Greek talenton: weight of money) of money to one servant, two talents to another and one talent to another, each according to his ability.  As the story goes, the man given five talents gains five more and the man given two talents gains two more.  But the man given one talent digs a hole in the ground and hides his one talent.

       After a long time, the master of those servants returns and settles accounts with these three servants. The man who gained five talents and the man who gained two talents are both commended for doing a good job and are invited to come and share in their master's happiness.  The man who buried the talent is called a wicked and lazy servant. The talent given to him is taken away and given to the servant having ten talents.  This parable ends with this saying:

       Matthew 25: 28-30: For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

       Luke relates a similar but different parable about the kingdom. This could be seen as the 15th parable about the kingdom.  We see Matthew’s parable of the talents given right after Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse recorded in Matthew 24. We see Luke’s parable in Luke 19 given before the giving of the Olivet Discourse which is found in Luke 21.

       Luke records Jesus’ parable on the heels of telling the story of the tax collector Zacchaeus who climbed a sycamore tree to get a look at Jesus as he was passing through Jericho which is south of Jerusalem.  Jesus is seen as staying at the house of Zacchaeus and subsequently being accused of associating with a sinner.  Zacchaeus is seen as repenting of his past sins and receiving salvation. While the people of Jericho are witnessing this, Jesus says the following:  

      Luke 19:11: While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.

       In the Matthew parable, Jesus has a master going on a journey and giving five talents (Greek talenton: weight of money) to one servant, two talents to another servant and one talent to a third servant. Luke has a man of noble birth going to a far country to be appointed king and before leaving he gives ten minas (Greek mna: a certain weight) to what appears to be ten different servants.

       Luke 19:12-13: He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.  So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. `Put this money to work,' he said, `until I come back.'  But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, `We don't want this man to be our king.'

       When he comes back as king, he finds one servant had doubled the ten minas he was given and another servant has increased his ten by five. This would suggest each servant was given ten minas to begin with as opposed to Matthew’s account which breaks it down as five and two. Like in Matthew’s account, the one servant did nothing with what he was given.

       The rest of Luke’s account is similar to Matthew’s account but different enough to suggest we are looking at two separate parables given at separate times with both having a similar theme but different in content. Luke’s account ends with, “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them--bring them here and kill them in front of me.”

Commentary on parable #14: The Talents:

       Unlike Matthew’s account of the parable of the talents, Luke’s parable account shows Jesus saying"His subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, `We don't want this man to be our king.”  The parable ends with, “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them--bring them here and kill them in front of me.” Some interpret this parable as relating to the rejection of Jesus by first century Israel and its leadership and the judgment they experienced for this rejection as being the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem some 40 years after the ascension of Jesus to the Father.  As promised, in the final sermon in this series, I will be addressing the two major perspectives as to when the events described in the kingdom parables are seen as occurring.

       What is also interesting about this parable as seen in Matthew is that it seems to teach that we all have different levels of ability and we are given opportunities commensurate with our ability to take advantage of the opportunities we are given.


       In view of what we have covered thus far in this series, all indications are that the Kingdom of God is multifaceted in its nature.  We can and are expected to experience and practice its spiritual dynamics of righteous behavior in the here and now. Many of the behavioral standards of the Kingdom appear to pertain only to the physical realm and, therefore, are provisional in nature. 

       For example, prohibitions against adultery, fornication, murder and drunkenness would not appear to apply to being in the kingdom in the afterlife. These are spiritual laws that relate to physical beings.  All indications are that in the after life there will not be sexual relations so laws against adultery and fornication would not apply.  Law against murder would not appear to apply in the after life as such life is seen as eternal life which cannot be terminated. 

       Presumably we would not be subject to such behavioral standards once we have a spirit body. Yet, failure to adhere to these behavioral standards as physical Beings is seen in the NT as preventing one from inheriting the Kingdom.  On the other hand, it is also seen in the NT that the sacrifice of Christ atones for our failure to measure up to the behavioral standards of the Kingdom and allows us to enter the heavenly Kingdom upon physical death despite our behavioral shortcomings.

      The Kingdom appears to be both temporal and eternal. It is multi-dimensional.  It has both temporal and eternal dynamics.  It is a present reality as to its behavioral requirements for us humans living in the physical realm. It is an eternal reality and has eternal dynamics for us humans subsequent to biological death. 

       It is apparent that upon physical death we will enter a dimension of the Kingdom that far exceeds what we experience of the Kingdom at the physical level.  Very little is Scripturally revealed about this dimension except that it is a glorious dimension that is far superior to the physical/temporal dimension we live in at the present.  We should all I look forward to that new dimension of living.