The Kingdom in Heaven
The Kingdom of God is now both in heaven and on earth. However, they are in different guises. Christians are citizens of the New Jerusalem (Gal. 4.26, Phil. 3.20) and are now ambassadors on earth (2Cor. 5.20). Clearly, an ambassador is an alien in the country where they serve; they represent a foreign entity. This is what Abraham was as he stood alone in his relationships with the Egyptians and Philistines, among whom he lived: For he [Abraham] was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11.10 NIV). Also, the other heroes of faith that are referenced by the preacher of the sermon that comprises the book of Hebrews: All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (Heb.11.13 NIV).
The Kingdom on Earth
The Kingdom of God on earth is in a compromised condition since it has been infiltrated by the sons of the evil one. Just as in the O.T., there are false prophets and evil people among the saints (2Pet. 2.1, Acts 20.30). Jesus gave three parables in Mt. 13 to describe the Kingdom on earth in the interim of His two appearances. In the parable of the “weeds-zizania” (wheat and tares in some versions), found in vss. 24-30, Jesus indicates that the devil is responsible for this infiltration. Also, these evil people are not to be rooted out by the holy angels until the final disposition (vs.30). These “weeds” (zizania) are characterized as looking like the wheat in its early stages of growth, but, ultimately, they were weeds that were often infected by a fungus, which was a poison that could kill its eaters. This is an apt picture, since those who follow these “weeds” will not be nourished, but, instead, be led astray.
In Vss. 31-32 of Mt. 13 is the “parable of the mustard seed,” which starts out as a small seed, yet grows to the largest garden plant that was typical in that locale. Today, Christianity accounts for 31% of the globe’s demographic and is the largest religion of the world. A feature of this “large tree,” however, is the “birds of the heaven” would find a place to perch in it. This is a reference to evil spirits (who inhabit humans) that still have access to heaven and have not yet received their sentence (see Eph.6.12: “spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies,” among other verses). Earlier in this same chapter, Matthew records Jesus using this same term for the birds who snatched up the seed on the path, in vs.4, and are equated with the devil’s legions (vs. 19).
The earthly Kingdom of God can also be compared to leaven (yeast), which puffs up the wheat dough, in that it appears larger than it really is. In reality, only a few will be saved relative to those who claim Christ. Paul tells the Corinthians to whom he ministered that they were an unleavened loaf, one of substance, like the Passover bread eaten during that festival (1Cor. 5. 6-8). Here, Paul reproves this church for being proud (boasting), which resembles the action of leaven. He tells them to rid themselves of things which pertained to their former life before they came to know the Lord: “malice and wickedness.” It’s not that they were not saved, but that the evil impulse needs to be countered and suppressed in the same way as he would later encourage them in this letter (1Cor.9.24-27).
I realize that, historically, most Christian thinkers have not brought out the negative aspects of the two later parables. Nevertheless, I am not the only one who sees the references to evil contained in these parables.
Characteristics of the Citizens of the Kingdom
Matthew gives two parables of Jesus, in 13.44-46 (“Treasure in the Field” and “Pearl of Great Price”), to show aspects of those who turn to Christ on earth, the real citizens of the Kingdom. These two parables describe the dedication of those, who on earth, have finally found the treasure of Christ after a prolonged search. These parables speak of the characteristic of total surrender of the seekers who found the treasure they were looking for: the truth of the King and His salvation.
The Kingdom’s Net
The Kingdom of God will have many adherents is what the “Parable of the Net” is about, as spoken of in Mt.13. 47-50. This is obviously not about those who claim Christ and those who don’t, since Jesus is speaking about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like (or the Kingdom of God, a synonym). Here, Jesus indicates a division and separation of the righteous and wicked in His Kingdom at the judgment. This net description is like the parable of the weeds since the wicked will be removed first from among the righteous who remain.