“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44, ESV)
I may seem like I’m going off on a weird rabbit trail and it might not be obvious at first why I reference the other passages that I do in this entry to talk about just this one verse, but bear with me. Remember as I mentioned previously that the kingdom of heaven being LIKE a mustard seed.
“It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matt 13:31b-32)
Right after that we’re told “the kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened” (v.33).
In both of these examples of seed and leaven, we’re given the image of something that starts off small, and grows and spreads and eventually fills all that contains it. When Jesus Christ set foot into this physical realm of ours nearly 2000 years ago, He planted the seed of the kingdom of God and it has been growing ever since. The tares have also been planted, and have been growing ever since in the same field (this world) both in linear history, and horizontally in our lives or relationships, and ministries.
Many believers understand the Gospel of salvation, but don’t often realize that the Gospel is about the KINGDOM of God manifested in all of creation, including the earth. The return of Christ draws nearer and nearer, and at that time He will begin to rule for 1000 years in a ‘tangible’ way—the full ‘manifestation’ of what we’ve been growing towards. He already rules now, and is seated at the right hand of God, but His literal kingdom doesn’t ‘exist’ yet. This kingdom of God keeps spreading like leaven, until it fills all creation—at His kingdom “finally” being set up—it’s part of the overlapping “not yet” and “already” ages we’re currently in.
The kingdom of God HAS come, through Christ, but is still “not yet here” at the same time. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19)—because it will be made manifest in that Day of Judgment—the wheat we discussed last entry will be separated from the tares and it will finally be obvious—the grey-headed tares will stick out from the rest of the true crop. We’re in a sort of overlap of two different ages—the ending of the old one that has been defeated and concluded by the work of Christ on the cross, and the beginning of the new one—simultaneously, that was ushered in BY the work of Christ on the cross.
While the kingdom of God–the wheat–grows and spreads in the field (the world)–likewise the kingdom of darkness keeps spreading until the tares are separated from the wheat at the end of the age and burned up. The verses following describe this, as Jesus gives the explanation of the parable of the wheat and tares that he had just previously shared.
There are not very many parables of Jesus’ that He explains in the Gospels, but in Matthew 13 there are two that He does as I’ve already devoted attention to in my last few entries—these parables are of utmost importance. Jesus says that at the end of the age:
“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then, the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (v.41-43)
This speaks of separation and distinction; the righteous separated from wicked, true from false, wheat from tare.
In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he told them:
“According to the grace of God, given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (emphasis mine).
Wood, hay and straw are stuff that grows or is found above the ground. Gold, silver, and precious stones are beneath the surface, and aren’t visible–they are buried and hidden and require seeking. If you went to Home Depot with several thousands of dollars, and you decided to buy piles of 2x4s, I’m sure you could get a good start on building a house. But if you were to take that same money and invest it in gold or silver, you would get a significantly smaller quantity amount with your investment. Wood on the one hand burns in fire. And when it burns, it’s gone, and all you have left are ashes.
Gold withstands fire and is purified. In order to get them from the ground, one needs to bow down and seek. When you put gold through the fire, you don’t diminish it or lose any of it. It changes form at a certain point from solid to liquid, but you don’t lose any of it when you put it through the fire, and the impurities are dissolved and the gold is given a purer quality by the fire.
I think gold is symbolic of your private and “unseen” devotional life;1 Peter 1:6-9 says:
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (Emphasis mine)
When I read this passage, I think of the Persecuted Church in parts of the world where the kingdom of God is growing exponentially, and we don’t know about it because it’s leaders are not well-known and flying in private jets with flashy ministries. They live in constant persecution and even to the point of losing their lives in some cases. They live in a realm we have no understanding of, yet have a more pure and genuine faith.
Of silver, Proverbs 10:20 says “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.” What are you saying? What do you spend your time speaking of? If you go back to Exodus and study the garments the priests were to wear before entering into the holy of holies, you’ll find it was embroidered with precious stones.
All of these items, gold, silver and precious stones are symbolic in one way or another of personal private devotional life in the believer’s life under the new covenant, while wood, hay and straw may be tall, large and mighty—looking great and standing erect above everything else,ultimately they don’t withstand the fire at the end time harvest.
What materials are you building the kingdom of God with?
In order to get them from the ground, one needs to bow down low, and seek for them, which is itself a posture symbolic of prayer and private devotion. This man described in the verse I began with (yes, I had a point in bringing up all that stuff about building to get to this), not only discovered this hidden treasure in this field, but feared lest someone else discover it also, and went and sold ALL he owned at once to purchase it. This seems to imply the treasure was not out in the open in plain site, but something that needed to be sought after in order for it to be discovered. And one that was purchased at no small cost.
When you put the fire to THIS gold, you don’t diminish it or lose any of it—but it costs you everything you’ve got to purchase it. It doesn’t look like a lot, but it will withstand the fire on that day of judgment. There’s not only going to be a lot of tares uprooted and thrown in the fire on that day of judgment, but there’s going to be a lot of public wood, hay and straw ministries going up in flames in that day also.
Why do you think 1 John 2:28 warns us not to shrink back in shame at His return? We wouldn’t be told this unless there was a possibility some of us would be, when we find out we have nothing left that has withstood the fire of His coming. If you’ve been building a self-glorifying exalted ministry in this lifetime, or doing anything that you may be seen for how spiritual you are, then don’t worry, that will be reduced to ashes at His appearing. You’d feel like a pauper and ashamed, shrinking back at His coming.
We are told not to be building with materials that won’t last—so what are you building with? The merchant in the next parable did the same thing when he discovered the pearl of great value and went and sold all he had to obtain it. Sacrifice is required of us in order to do works that withstand the fire on that Day of separation.