by Pete Coker
The “Parable of the Mustard Seed” and the “Parable of the Leaven,” spoken of by Jesus Christ in scripture, both indicate interesting aspects of God’s earthly kingdom in history and eschatology or “end-times.” Both parables describe a gospel kingdom that grows and expands, eventually encompassing and sustaining the whole earth. This view depicts a truly victorious gospel!
Popular dispensational eschatology, however, presents the view of a struggling end-times
Christian kingdom that is ever-thwarted and overcome by the secular world. Christ’s church, in this view, eventually becomes a diminishing remnant of believers overshadowed by an ever expanding secular world order. Christ’s victory ends up as a supernatural rescue of His people via a secret rapture, from an ever expanding, overpowering, evil world. This end-times scenario is perplexing in several ways. Here’s just a few:
First, the gospel of Christ appears to have relatively inconsequential power over a spiritually defeated enemy. Second, The Holy Spirit’s overall power and influence are, in
effect, weaker than Satan’s power and influence. Third, Christ’s death on the cross and subsequent resurrection accomplishes only a remnant of believers in the course of history. Fourthly, the dispensational perspective and outcome presents Satan’s overall strategy as outsmarting and overcoming God’s plan of redemption and reconciliation for all mankind – that is, until God intervenes and rescues an elite group of believers.
These perplexities, in general, indicate certain questions concerning popular
eschatology, which seems to depict God’s glorious gospel as inferior to the wiles of the devil in the course of history. In the dispensational narrative, Satan’s clever scheming would appear to win out over the gospel and the Holy Spirit’s power in history, except that God steps in to save the day in the end. If God’s ultimate plan from the time of Creation was to save mankind through His own sacrifice on the cross, and that “good” would eventually triumph over evil through the spreading of the gospel, why would He then have to end up rescuing believers from an overtly evil world? The view that evil continually triumphs over God’s spirit-empowered people and that God has to come to their rescue in
a last-ditch-effort, does not seem to imply an overall victorious plan. Certainly, God in His omniscience is capable of devising an optimal supernatural plan that would leave Satan frustrated and defeated.
The parable of the mustard seed, on the other hand, indicates another kind of kingdom. God plants a spiritual kingdom that grows to be greater than all previous earthly kingdoms. This kingdom grows not only in size, but also in stature, disposition, knowledge, strength and faith. The birds in the parable indicate a kingdom that sustains all life. As the parable of the wheat and tares imply, it sustains the lives of believers and unbelievers alike. This seemingly represents a growing culture where unbelievers co-mingle amongst believers who faithfully, from generation to generation, build strong, increasingly stable societies in God’s greater kingdom. The ungodly, knowingly or unknowingly, live and thrive on the strength, growth, and security of a gospel centered culture. Jesus’ parables of; The Sower, The Tares, The Mustard Seed, and The Leaven, all depict the nature, development, and impact of God’s growing kingdom on earth. The worldview of the victorious Christ in these parables appears to be a continuously growing gospel kingdom that surpasses and outgrows all previous ungodly kingdoms.