“The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. The people of Judah are his pleasant garden. He expected a crop of justice, but instead he found oppression. He expected to find righteousness, but instead he heard cries of violence” (Isaiah 5:7, NLT).
In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus told a parable about a landowner who planted a vineyard (Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19). In the minds of its hearers this parable was a familiar Old Testament theme that alluded to Isaiah’s song of the vineyard in Isaiah 5 (see also Psalms 80:6-16).
“When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. Jesus said, I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God” (Luke 22:14-16, NLT).
The Passover meal had as its ultimate goal the messianic banquet (see Revelation 19:7).
Jesus’ death as the true Passover lamb (1 Cor 5:7) inaugurated the Kingdom of God that will be completed at Jesus’ second coming!
“If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it…For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 17:33; 18:14, NLT).
In Luke 17 Jesus told His disciples about His second coming to earth and how those that try to hold on to their life in this world will lose it in the end.
In Luke 18 Jesus told the story of a Pharisee who prayed he was thankful he was not sinful like other men, while a certain tax collector prayed and called on God to have mercy on him as a sinner. Jesus exposes the prayer of the Pharisee as self-exalting.
“I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.”
Christ’s coming inaugurated His Kingdom on Earth.
Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God is a spiritual nation that is active in this world now to prepare its citizens for an eternal, heavenly Kingdom that is to come.
The gospel of Jesus is a message of an everlasting Kingdom that extends its reign from the creation of the universe to this present age and into the ages to come.
“They will speak of the glory of Your kingdom and will declare Your might, informing all people of Your mighty acts and of the glorious splendor of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; Your rule is for all generations” (Psalm 145:11-13, HCSB).
The creative and redemptive activity of God in His universe is so inexplicable that we have to rely on figures of speech to communicate it. One of the figures of speech used to describe the reality of God’s rule and reign over the universe is to describe it as a “kingdom.”
A kingdom is a form of government. In the kingdom metaphor God is portrayed as a merciful monarch who loves the subjects of His Kingdom and solicits them to come under His loving care and righteous government. In God’s Kingdom He is both a Sovereign King and a Benevolent King.
“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest” (Psalm 126:5-6, NLT).
Do you sometimes seem to be doing everything right and everything goes wrong?
You are faithful to God, planting seed for His Kingdom by serving and obeying Him in every way. Then, in the middle of your faithfulness and obedience, first one problem or tragedy strikes, then another, and then another.
“When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, you are to consider the fruit forbidden. It will be forbidden to you for three years; it is not to be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit must be consecrated as a praise offering to the Lord. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way its yield will increase for you; I am Yahweh your God” (Leviticus 19:23-25, HCSB).
The prohibition from eating the fruit of a newly planted fruit tree may have had to do with the fact that the fruit of a young tree was not well formed and did not taste good in the early stages of its life.
Since the firstfruits belonged to God (see Numbers 18:12-17), the fruit of the fourth year was consecrated to God as a praise offering to indicate that the Israelites recognized that God was the One who gave them the good things the earth produced and blessed them with increased production.
“The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced” (Mark 4:16-19, NLT).
This well-known parable of Jesus has been taught and preached many times over and most of us know its lessons well.
According to Jesus, when the message of the coming of the Kingdom of God is told, there are four categories of people who hear the message.
“When He was alone with the Twelve, those who were around Him asked Him about the parables. He answered them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those outside, everything comes in parables” (Mark 4:10-11. HCSB).
Jesus made this statement to the twelve apostles after telling the all-familiar parable of the sower.
Now, a secret is usually some knowledge or information that one keeps hidden from others. But sometimes a secret is knowledge or information that is unknown to others but should be revealed.
“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too, and Jason has received them as guests! They are all acting contrary to Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king—Jesus!” (Acts 17:6-7, HCSB).
In Thessalonica the conversion of a great number of God-fearing Greeks and leading women prompted jealousy among unbelieving Jews. While the Apostle Paul had encountered resistance just about everywhere he went during his missionary journeys, here the Jews organized scoundrels from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot against Paul and Silas.