Mysteries of the Kingdom
"Why do you speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted" (Matt. 13:10,11).
A "mystery" as used in the New Testament is not something secret or difficult to understand, as we think of mysteries today. rather, it is something revealed in the New Testament that was not revealed in the Old Testament. It is a new revelation - something we would not know anything about if God did not tell us (see 1 Cor. 15:51).
The Old Testament prophets saw the sufferings and the glorious reign of the Messiah together in time, and they could not understand how He could be both a suffering Messiah and a Messiah who ruled and reigned in glory; a rejected Messiah and a glorious, worshiped Messiah. Jesus' disciples were looking for the kingdom to be set up momentarily. But in the parables of Matthew 13, Christ unfolded a mystery. He revealed that because of Israel's rejection of the Messiah, there would be a gap in time between His first coming to offer the kingdom and His second coming to establish the kingdom. How large of a gap, Jesus did not say.
When Jesus finished teaching these parables of the kingdom, He turned to His disciples and asked, "Have you understood all these things?" They said to Him, "Yes" (Matt.13:51). They had come to understand that He was revealing new information about the character of the kingdom and God's plan for preparing a people for the kingdom. They believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, and that He would rule over an earthly kingdom. However, they did not understand that the kingdom was not imminent. They could not see, as we can, that at least two thousand years would pass before the setting up of the kingdom.
Only a few years after Christ's ascension, mocking unbelievers had already caused the Christians to begin doubting the reality of an earthly kingdom. Peter addressed their fears by writing:
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation" ... But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:3,4,8,9).
Peter did not stop there. He went on to challenge them:
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you (2 Pet. 3:11-15).
The same challenge applies to us today. We need to conduct ourselves in light of what Christ has done for us on the cross. As we look forward to His kingdom, we will conduct our lives so that they will bring glory and honor to His name.
The Rapture of the Church will take place and the Great Tribulation will come. Jesus Christ will return to the earth to set up His kingdom. Peter reminded the believers that God will not forget His promise. This is a message that permeates the entire Bible. God will keep His promises; His words are true!
The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times. You, O LORD will keep them; You will preserve him from this generation forever (Psalm 12:6,7).
It is important for us to know what God says about the kingdom. We can have confidence in what God is doing in the world today. He challenges us to share the Gospel with those who have not heard; and motivates us to live in a way that will bring honor to His name until He comes.