Thoughts on the Similitudes of the Kingdom; Part 12

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"Another parable spake lie unto them; the kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened." Matt. 13:3333Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. (Matthew 13:33).
As the parable of the tree gives us the power and authority of those who rule in the kingdom, so this sets forth the principle or doctrine which they teach, and which pervades the whole mass. And as leaven would affect a quantity of meal subjected to its influence, so also would this doctrine be received by all within the sphere of the kingdom.
Now, it is not absolutely necessary that the professed principles even of bad men should be evil. Evil principles invariably produce bad conduct, but the-converse has its exceptions. Therefore it would not be logically correct to infer that because evil abounds within the kingdom the grand leading principle is also evil. Proof of this also meets us constantly, we find very bad men holding sound doctrine-nay, even Christians sometimes do that which is opposed to their faith and their conscience. The question therefore-"What does leaven here signify?" is an important one. Many expositions of it have been given, which are not borne out by the word of God. For indisputably it is in the Word alone that we shall find the true idea of the symbol.
In general these so-called explanations are the mere working out of a theory already embraced, and which mainly has its foundation in the notion that the world is to be converted by preaching the gospel of the grace of God, and so the millennium brought in. This, as we know, is not founded on the word of God. Indeed the very reverse is foretold. The mystery of iniquity-Satan's imitation of God's mystery of godliness-which was working in the days of the apostle, is to increase until it culminates in the full revelation of the Man of Sin, that WICKED " whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit-of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming." 2 Thess. 2:88And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
The belief, once more prevalent than it is now, that the world is to be converted by the gospel is contrary even to the parables already looked at. For the whole field becomes in appearance a tare field; the tree gives shelter to and harbors the emissaries of Satan. Will any one contend that the tares are true believers, and that when the whole field abounds in them we shall see the blessed results of faith in the Lord Jesus? Are they not the work of "an enemy"? Is not their end to be bound in bundles and burnt? Can the birds of the air, lodging in the branches, represent the incoming of the nations, of souls submitting to the gospel, as is sometimes said, when this same chapter tells us that they are Satan's agencies? Against all such notions of the world's conversion no part of God's book is more opposed than the portion now occupying us. The angels come to purge the kingdom, and to cast them that do iniquity into a furnace of fire; the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. This is the end of the present time, and assuredly the wicked in bell, and the righteous in heaven do not constitute a millennium for the earth.
Now it would be manifestly contrary to sound interpretation if we drew from one parable out of three, a picture the very reverse of the two others; the three parables being given in one discourse and spoken of the same system. And there is one idea marking every picture which the Lord has given of the external condition of the kingdom and for which we are prepared in the first and introductory parable; for out of four casts of good seed, only one brings forth good fruit. We are then to expect the all but universal spread of evil, and, if we may so say, the failure of the crop. This is evident from the tare-field. The husbandman sowed his field with wheat-good seed-but it becomes a tare field. The tree, instead of setting forth the power of the King, is become a habitation for Satan's agents-not a word to intimate that any one branch shelters anything good. Clearly the parable of the leaven must show the same thing, else we should have the incongruity of these parables giving opposite and clashing impressions of the external appearance of the kingdom during the same time. But taking leaven as the symbol of some evil thing pervading the whole mass, we have the same truth taught, that evil of some kind would not only affect the kingdom, but would also subvert the principles originally intended to govern it.
In the Mosaic economy frequent mention is made of leaven. What position then has it in the Law? Generally it is forbidden: "Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven;" "No meat offering which ye shall bring unto the Lord shall be made with leaven." In some cases leaven was allowed (Lev. 7:11-1211And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he shall offer unto the Lord. 12If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried. (Leviticus 7:11‑12), and 23:15-17). But the reason is manifest. In all that which has special and sole reference to the Lord Jesus, no leaven was allowed, while in that which set forth the Church as to its condition or its functions here below, leaven must be present if it would be a true symbol. Perfectness could only be found in Christ. But the absence of it in that which prefigures Him, and the presence of it in that which is the type of our worship and service, prove it to be what pertains to us as men, and therefore " flesh."
Now, although " flesh" in the old dispensation was not authoritatively declared to be evil, it is so declared in the New Testament; and if that which is evil, and that alone characterizes anything, we say with truth the whole thing is evil. The New Testament is precise on its character of leaven. In this parable it is rather the process of leavening that is presented. Other Scriptures, however, give the real meaning of leaven: "Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matt. 16:66Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6)). It is the doctrine of -these sects. We read also of the leaven of Herod-the-maxims of the world, which prefer present ease and pleasure to God's service. (Mark 8:1515And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. (Mark 8:15).) When the Church is looked at as being in Christ, it is called unleavened (1 Cor. 5:6-86Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6‑8)); but looked at as being here encumbered with the flesh, the saints are directed to purge out the old leaven: Nowhere else is leaven used as a type of anything good, but always denotes evil. Therefore evil must be understood here; and so, not only is the same symbolical meaning attached to leaven throughout Scripture, but the homogenity of the three parables spoken to the multitude is preserved.
(To be continued, D. V.)