|I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.|
The Gift of the Kingdom
Part II: The Little Flock
By A. Disciple
Do you see the kindgom of God?
It is boldly visible to anyone that qualifies according to this statement by the Lord:
Jn.3:1 Now there was [a] man out of the Pharisees, [the] name to him [was] Nicodemos, [a] ruler of the Jews. 2 This [one] came to him in [the] night and said to him: Rabbi, we know that you have come [a] teacher from God, for no one is able to be doing these signs that you are doing unless God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said to him: Truly truly I say to you, if someone not be begotten from above, he is not able to see the kingdom of God.
Do you see it? Do you see the kingdom?
Wonder of wonders -- if you can see it, you also possess it! This is the Word that we will examine here.
Part I of this two part series examined the significance of the first portion of the Word of the Lord in Matthew 21:43:
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you. . .
We established that the nation of Israel/the Jews, specifically the whole nation and people, had possessed the kingdom of God (the promise of the kingdom). It was to be taken away from them. This raises questions that are the focus here in Part II.
I. The reason?
Why did the Lord take the kingdom away from the nation of the Jews?
The Parable of the Unfruitful Fig Tree reveals the answer:
This parable informs us that the Father in heaven -- the God of the Jews -- was looking for fruit from the nation of the Jews, but in vain. He abandoned the nation to destruction by its enemies (cut down the tree), but we find the Son (Jesus of Nazareth) prevailing upon the Father to permit him to try once more to obtain fruit. The Lord Jesus therefore came and toiled within the nation, only to be rejected. The nation, as such, produced no fruit, therefore it was abandoned -- the tree was cut down. A few individuals responded to his call to become his disciples and follow him, but not enough to represent the nation. The Lord then announced its desolation with these words directed to their great city:
Lk.13:6 But he was saying this parable: A certain man has [a] fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to his vinedresser: Behold from which three years I come seeking fruit on this tree and found none. Cut it down, why also waste the land? 8 But answering he said to him: Lord, leave it even this year, until I dig around it and throw dung, 9 and for result it may give fruit. Otherwise, cut it down.
Mt.23:37 Jerusalem Jerusalem, who killed the prophets and stoned those sent to you, how often I would gather your children, just as [a] bird gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not. 38 Behold your house is abandoned to you desolate.
The nation was abandoned because it did not bear fruit. It was soon desolate.
II. What is the desired fruit?
It comes in two primary manifestations. They are interdependent so as to amount to one thing. One is the proclamation and multiplication of the Word (as uttered by Jesus) in the world. The other is the begetting of children of the Father through the impregnation of the human heart by that same Word. These are distinct, the one from the other, as the sowing is distinct from the harvest. Another set of metaphors for this comparison is the begetting and the birthing.
The sowing of the Word in the world is the continuation of the work of the Lord, and is itself a fruit in that it comes from the heart where the Word has already been deposited by the Holy Spirit thorugh the testimony of other disciples. The Lord speaks indirectly of this manifestation of fruit in this rebuke of his opponents -- in their case, wicked fruit:
Mt.12:33 You will either make the tree good and its fruit good, or you will make the tree and its fruit rotten. 34 Generation of vipers, how can you speak good, [You] being wicked? For the mouth speaks out of the fullness of the heart. 35 The good man out of his good treasure brings forth [the] good, and the wicked man out of his wicked treasure brings forth [the] wicked. 36 But I say to you that every idle word that men will speak, they will require from him [a] word in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
The Parable of the Sower similarly speaks of the Word, coming from the heart, as the manifestation of fruit -- in this case, good fruit:
Mk.4:20 And these are those having been sown upon the good soil, which hear the word and receive [it] and bear fruit in thirty and in sixty and in a hundred.
We find a similar comparison in the Parable of the Vine:
His genuine disciples bear fruit. They first become his disciples by opening their hearts to the Word. Thereafter they necessarily become fruit bearers by sowing the same fruit in the world. The love of the Word of the Father -- the utterances of Jesus of Nazareth -- motivates them to bear such fruit. This is the fruit that every true disciple bears while abiding in the world and it is a joy -- not a burden -- to bear it.
Jn.15:1 I am the true vine, and my father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and every [branch] bearing fruit, he prunes it in order that it bear more fruit. 3 Already are you clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Dwell in me, and I in you. Just as the branch is not able to be bearing fruit from itself if it does not dwell in the vine, thus you neither if you do not dwell in me.
5 I am the vine, you are the branches. The [one] dwelling in me and I in him, this [one] bears much fruit, because apart from me you are able to be doing nothing. 6 If anyone be not dwelling in me, he was thrown out like the branch and was withered, and they gather them and throw [them] into the fire and it is burned. 7 If you dwell in me and my words dwell in you, ask whatever you want, and it will come to pass to you. 8 In this was my father glorified, that you be bearing much fruit and become my disciples.
The first fruit is the multiplication of the seed by sowing, without which there is no harvest. The harvest is the ultimate produce of the field. The Father wants children! This is the ultimate fruit that was lacking from the nation of the Jews. Every sowing aims at an eventual mowing without which all is vain, even the very creation of the world. The Lord identifies the ultimate harvest in these parables:
Mk.4:26 And he was saying: The kingdom of God is thus, as [a] man throws the seed upon the earth 27 and he sleeps and gets up night and day, the seed sprouts and grows when he did not know it. 28 By itself the land bears fruit, first grass, then [an] ear, then full grain on the ear. 29 When the fruit permits, immediately he sends the sickle because the harvest has come.
The emphasis here is on the process of growth and development leading up to the harvest of fruit. The Parable of the Tares also speaks of the harvest in the same way:
Mt.13:24 Another parable he placed before them saying: The kingdom of the heavens is like [a] man sowing good seed in his field. 25 But while the man sleeps his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and left. 26 So when the grass sprouted and bore fruit, then the tares also became manifest. 27 So when the slaves of the householder came they said to him: Lord, did we not sow good seed in the field? Whence therefore does it have tares? 28 But he told them, [An] enemy did this. So the slaves say: Do you wish therefore when we go that we gather them? 29 But he tells them, No, lest gathering the tares you uproot the wheat with them. 30 Allow them to grow together until the harvest, and in the time of the harvest I will say to the harvesters: Gather first the tares and bind them into bundles in order to burn them, but the wheat gather into my storehouse.
The Lord interprets this parable:
Mt.13:36 Then having left the crowd he came into the house. And his disciples came to him saying: Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field. 37 So answering he said: The [one] sowing the good seed is the son of man. 38 And the field is the world, and the good seed these are the sons of the kingdom, and tares are the sons of the wicked [one]. 39 And the enemy who sows these is the devil, and the harvest is the completion of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 As therefore they gather the tares and burn them in fire, thus it will be in the completion of the age. 41 The son of man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all [those] causing stumbling and those doing lawlessness. 42 And they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. 43 Then the just will shine as the sun in the kingdom of their father. The [one] having ears to be hearing, let him be hearing.
There is one more application of the fruit/harvest:
Jn.4:31 In the meanwhile the disciples were asking him saying: Rabbi, eat. 32 But he said to them: I have bread to eat that you do not know. 33 So the disciples were saying to one another: Did [someone] bring to him [something] to eat? 34 Jesus says to them: My food is that I do the will of the [one] having sent me and accomplish his work. 35 Are you not saying that there is yet four months and [then] the harvest comes? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and behold the fields that they are white already for [the] harvest. 36 Already the [one] harvesting receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal zoe-life, so that the [one] sowing and the [one] harvesting together rejoice. 37 For in this the word is true that one is the [one] sowing and another [is] the [one] harvesting. 38 I sent you to be harvesting what you have not labored [for]; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.
This is a unique application of both fruit and harvest and cannot apply to the harvest at the close of the age as indicated in the Parable of the Tares. The harvesters then will be angels, not disciples. The disciples are the fruit! Examine the text of vs.38:
I sent you to be harvesting what you have not labored [for]; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.
It is very unlikely that harvesting is the correct translation here, because it makes harvesters of disciples. The Greek word has a secondary definition, to receive a benefit. This fits perfectly in the context of vs. 38 and so it should best be read. The disciples are the harvest -- not the harvesters! With this translation, the text reads:
I sent you to benefit from what you have not labored [for]; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.The Patriarchs and Prophets had labored, sowing seed, but there had been no harvest. The fruit that the Father desired to reap from Israel was a gathering of children into his kingdom. That function was expanded to the disciples of Jesus that make up the Little Flock. Israel, the fig tree, bore no fruit and was cut down.
III. To what nation did He give the kingdom?
There was the taking away from one nation, and the giving too another:
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you
and given to [a] nation producing the fruits of it. Jesus, Matthew 21:43
The kingdom was taken away from the nation of the Jews and given, as he stated, to another nation that produces the desired fruit. The Lord later identified this fruitful nation:
Lk.12:32 Be not fearing, O little flock for your father delights to give to you the kingdom.
He was addressing his immediate disciples. From other contexts we know that all disciples in all places and times are as one with them, as also with the Lord and the Father.
Therefore our hearts are filled with gratitude knowing that he has given the kingdom to us, for we are the sheep of his Little Flock. However, a question arises and rightly so. The Jews were a nation in their own right; how is it that his disciples are a nation? Aren't we just individuals from every nation?
Jn.17:20 But not concerning these only do I ask, but also concerning those believing in me through their word, 21 in order that they all be one, just as you, father, [are] in me and I in you, in order that they also be in us, in order that the world believe that you sent me. 22 And the glory that you have given to me I have given to them, in order that they be one just as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, in order that they be completed into one [thing], in order that the world know you sent me and [that] you agape-loved them just as you agape-loved me.
This question requires that we go to the Greek word that lies behind the English:
We cannot say that all disciples are united by culture, common traditions, national origin or people. We can say (and we must) that we are united by kinship and that of the dominant type, which is spiritual. Our former nationality was cancelled when we were born from above through having received the Word into our hearts. Our citizenship in a nation of the world was dissolved. We all now have one Father and have become brothers and sisters and are citizens of a single nation. For an extended discussion, visit this paper: http://www.voiceofjesus.org/detachment.html
ἔθνος, ους, τό
a body of persons united by kinship, culture, and common traditions, nation, people1
The children of the Father have been born of God through having received the Word. As children of the Father, like Jesus of Nazareth, we are to be exalted to the kingship for ours is the kingdom of God. While we abide in the world we are subject to humiliation and are comparable to sheep in order that we be exalted. The kingdom is ours!
Jn.10:14 I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, 15 just as the father knows me, and I know the father, and I lay down my psyche-life in behalf of the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this sheep-pen, and I must lead [these], and they will hear my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.
Lk.12:32 Be not fearing, O little flock for your father delights to give to you the kingdom.
Mt.5:10 Blessed are those persecuted because of justice,
For theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.
Mk.10:13 And they were bringing to him children in order that he touch them; but his disciples were rebuking them. 14 And when he saw, Jesus was indignant and said to them: Permit the children to come to me, do not be hindering them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Truly I say to you: whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as [a] child, he may not enter into it. 16 And taking them into his arms he blesses them, laying his hands upon them.
Mt.25:31 But when the son of man comes in his glory and all his angels with him, then will he sit on the throne of his glory. 32 And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on his left. 34 Then the king will say to those on his right: Come you blessed of my father, Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Of such is the kingdom of God!
Do you see it? Do you possess it?
1. Arndt, William ; Danker, Frederick W. ; Bauer, Walter: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2000, S. 276