The Kingdom Misunderstood
Background of the Parable of the Pounds
The study of the rewarding of the saints would not be complete without a discussion of the parable of the pounds set forth in Luke 19:11-27: "A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called ten servants of his and gave them ten pounds, and said unto them, Trade ye herewith till I come" (vss. 12b, 13).
We have already seen that there is one main point to be illustrated by each parable and that we are not to stress the details of any given one unless there is warrant in the context to justify such a procedure. There are, however, some parables which lengthen out almost into an allegory. Only the parable itself and its context can decide this matter. The parable of the pounds, as we shall see, is one of this type. Upon the surface it is evident that the details here have some significance.
Our Lord, attended by great throngs, was going up to Jerusalem the last time before His execution. In Luke 19:1-10 we have a record of Zacchaeus who longed to see the Lord Jesus, and his desire was granted. Christ did not disappoint him, nor will He fail anyone. The occasion of which Luke speaks was the greatest day of this man's life.
For some reason the great multitude thronging Jesus came to the conclusion that because He was drawing near to Jerusalem, the kingdom of God was immediately to appear (vs. 11). For this reason, Jesus gave us the parable of the pounds: "And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was immediately to appear."
Obviously the disciples connected His going to Jerusalem with the appearance of the kingdom of God. Why? A study of the Gospel records shows that the people were in great expectation. Jesus had left Jerusalem and Judaea and had gone into the more remote regions of Galilee two years previously and had confined His ministry to the more distant sections of the land. The reason for His action was the great hostility against Him on the part of the leaders at Jerusalem. Contrary to His practice during these last two years, Jesus was now going up to Jerusalem openly. What did He contemplate doing? Would He take the situation into His own mighty hands, overthrow the Roman government and establish His kingdom in that city? These and similar questions doubtless entered the minds of all.
Behind these questions there lies the more fundamental one: What grounds did the people have for connecting the appearance of the kingdom of God with our Lord's going to Jerusalem? This question can be answered only by a study of the Old Testament prophets.
The kingdom of Israel is called "the kingdom of Jehovah over Israel" (1 Chron. 28:5). And David's throne is likewise called "the throne of Jehovah" in 1 Chron. 29:23. This "throne of Jehovah" was overthrown at the time of the Babylonian captivity and the "kingdom of Jehovah" was taken from Israel at the same time.
Micah saw the overturning of the throne of Jehovah and the taking of His kingdom (3:9-12). Following this sad announcement the prophet proclaimed the glad tidings of what he saw in a vision concerning the restoration of the kingdom to Israel and the establishment of the throne of Jehovah in Jerusalem (4:1-8). In his visions the prophet saw Jerusalem as the metropolis of the earth and viewed the people of the world streaming to that city in one continous flow. Their object will be to worship Jehovah the God of Jacob who will be there.
At that time universal peace will encircle the globe and King Immanuel will be the one who arbitrates between the nations. The curse will be lifted and peace and joy will reign supremely. According to vss. 6, 7 the outcasts of Israel that have been driven from country to country will become a strong nation and "Jehovah will reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth even for ever."
This prediction is followed by an apostrophe to the tower of the flock--the regal palace. Hear this great seer as he proclaims to Israel: "And thou, oh tower of the flock, the hill of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, yea, the former dominion shall come, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem."
The multitudes knew these predictions and entertained the hope of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel when Jehovah sits upon His throne in Jerusalem: "At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of Jehovah; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it ..." (Jer. 3:17f).
The Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God: Our Lord's going up to Jerusalem in the face of great opposition evidently was interpreted by the throngs as positive proof that He would overthrow the Roman authority, set up the ancient government of David and mount the throne of Jehovah in the city of Jerusalem. Naturally, they interpreted His going there as the fulfillment of their expectations.
To this position some may object that Jesus had foretold His rejection by the Jerusalem authorities. He made this revelation to the apostles, but they did not understand it: "They understood none of these things; and this thing was hid from them, and they perceived not the things that were said" (Luke 18:34). From this verse I gather that the Lord supernaturally veiled these things so that the apostles could not comprehend their full import. But Christ did not make the disclosure to the multitudes concerning His being rejected by the hierarchy at Jerusalem; therefore they naturally expected Him to fulfill the predictions of the prophet at this time by restoring the kingdom to Israel.
The multitudes entertained these hopes even though earlier (Matt. 13) Jesus had thoroughly explained the nature and character of the kingdom of Heaven. Throughout His ministry He had foretold that the kingdom of Heaven was at hand. Before Him John had made this same announcement. Their preaching was likewise confirmed by that of the twelve and later by that of the seventy.
The kingdom of Heaven did draw near, just as John and Jesus announced, and began with the sowing of the seed by "the sower who went forth to sow." It has been continuing through the intervening centuries and will terminate at the conclusion of this age as is indicated by the parable of the dragnet (Matt. 13:47-50). It was to correct the misunderstanding in the popular mind that Jesus spoke this parable of the pounds.
But the "kingdom of God" is something different. It is the kingdom foretold in the Old Testament. Earlier, in Luke 17:20, 21, we are told that the Pharisees asked our Lord when the kingdom of God would appear. To this query He answered, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you."
This passage cannot be interpreted as a reference to the Church of Jesus Christ, the present, invisible, spiritual phase of the kingdom of God, for it was spoken to unregenerated Pharisees. From what we learn of them in the Gospel records, we know that they were not regenerated, saved people.
The Greek word translated "within" in many instances must, by the facts of the context, be rendered as is given in the footnote of the Revised Version, "in the midst of." The Pharisees were expecting the coming of the kingdom of God. From Luke 2:38 it is evident that there was a considerable group of those who "were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem." Among them was the prophetess Anna. Our Lord said to the Pharisees that this kingdom for which the people were in expectation would not come in such a manner that its approach would be observed. On the contrary, it would be a sudden, catastrophic event.
That He was speaking of the cataclysmic change which will attend His Second Coming, at which time He will establish the kingdom of God upon the earth, is evident from the verses which follow the record of his conversation with the Pharisees. In 17:22 we are told that Jesus spoke to His disciples saying that the time would come when they would desire to see one of the days of the Son of man and would not be granted that privilege. In the following statement He declared that men of themselves would begin to prophesy concerning His coming, localizing the event by saying, "Lo, there! Lo, here!" Such predictions will be false, for His coming can best be illustrated by the flashing of the lightning from one end of Heaven to the other.
Following this prophecy He spoke of the indifference, worldliness and lack of spiritual light and life which will characterize the days when He returns. These facts show very conclusively that the expression, "the kingdom of God" does not here refer to the Church but is used as a designation of the kingdom which will be established at the Second Coming of our Lord.
In this rather long and seeming digression, we have seen that the kingdom of God as presented by Luke in various passages evidently refers to the Millennial kingdom of our Lord.
Returning, let us look at the original passage under consideration, Luke 19:11-27. The multitude believed that the kingdom of God was immediately to appear. Enthusiasm and excitement were running high. The masses were expecting the Lord, upon His arrival at Jerusalem, to bring about the catastrophic event which would usher in His earthly kingdom. In order to disabuse their minds of this error, He spoke the parable of the pounds, to which we will give special attention in the next study.
[In an accommodated sense the Church of Christ is called a kingdom. "And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 16:18,19).
In this context undoubtedly the Church is called the kingdom. On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) the Apostle Peter was given the honor of unlocking the kingdom to the Jews and later he opened it to the Gentiles at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10). While these statements are true, is any man prepared to say that those two events exhausted the meaning of this passage? It is more reasonable to think of these verses as being completely fulfilled at the second coming of our Lord when the kingdom of God will be fully established upon the earth and all opposition will be put down.
In Rom. 14:17 the Church of Jesus Christ is again called the kingdom of God in this limited, accommodative sense. Once more, Paul to the Colossian brethren (Col. 1:13) spoke of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ as "the kingdom of the Son of his love."
The Church in other places (1 Cor. 3:16,17) is called the temple of God. This usage is a derived one. In the Gospel records where we have the historic account of our Lord's earthly ministry, we frequently read of the Temple where the sacrifices were offered. No one will interpret these passages as referring to the Church but will understand that they refer to the building in Jerusalem where God was worshiped.
After the Jews rejected Christ, the nation automatically lost her fellowship with God. The divine presence ceased to dwell in the Temple as in former days, but took up His abode in the hearts of the real believers, the regenerated ones. In view of this historic usage the Church became known as the temple of God. In its historic setting the Church of Jesus Christ is also sometimes called the kingdom of God. The context must always be consulted.]