The Children of the Kingdom

THE title “children of the kingdom” was given by Jesus to his followers in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. This parable is recorded in Matthew 13:24-30, and Jesus’ explanation of the parable is recorded in verses 36-43. In this parable, even as in the Parable of the Sower, there is a sowing of seed. However, in the Parable of the Sower the seed is explained to be “the word of the kingdom,” whereas in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares the seed is said to be “the children of the kingdom.”—Matt. 13:19,38

These children of the kingdom may, and do, come into being through the power of the Word of God sown in their hearts, but in this parable they are themselves the seed. This is an important distinction to keep in mind as we examine the various other details of the parable.

In the wheat and tares parable there are two sowings. The good seed is sown, and then, “while men slept,” an enemy sows tares in the same field. The result of this is, as we would expect, that the tares threaten to choke out the wheat. The servants of the householder who sowed the good seed suggest that the tares be uprooted and destroyed, but the householder does not permit this, explaining that this might also destroy the wheat. He orders that both the wheat and the tares be permitted to grow together until the harvest, and that then the tares should be gathered into bundles and burned, and the wheat should be gathered into his barn.

Jesus’ own explanation of this parable begins with verse 37, and in verse 38 he explains that the field is the world, and that the one who sows the good seed is “the Son of man.” The application of the parable is worldwide. It does not represent the work of the Lord’s people as sowers of seed in every part of the age, as does the Parable of the Sower, but embraces the entire age, with a sowing by Jesus at the beginning of the age and a harvest at the end of the age.

The sowing of the seed by the Son of man evidently depicts the work of Jesus in the selection of his apostles and other faithful disciples who constituted the nucleus of the Early Church. These were the original children of the kingdom, as Jesus describes them in verse 38. And how appropriate is this title! These were attracted to Jesus by the Gospel of the kingdom. It was by the Spirit of this kingdom Gospel that they were begotten, and devoted their lives to the service of their Master.

Their successors in each generation throughout the age were likewise those attracted by, and imbued with, the Gospel of the kingdom. They are more than merely morally righteous people; they are people who are dedicated to the promotion of the good news of the coming kingdom of the Messiah. This is why Jesus calls them the children of the kingdom.

The Enemy

Jesus explained that “the tares are the children of the wicked one,” and that “the enemy that sowed them is the Devil.” This is plain language, but a true prophecy of what has actually occurred. It is stated in the parable that it was while “the men slept” [Greek] that the enemy sowed tares. The men referred to here would seem to be the apostles, who watched over the interests of the Early Church so faithfully. Paul said to the elders at Ephesus, “I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:29) Peter wrote, “There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”—II Peter 2:1,2

Not only did Jesus and the apostles warn the Early Church of the false teachers that would come among them, but history reveals that this is what actually occurred. Teachers of error are seldom limited to one falsehood, and this is true of those who swept down upon the church after the apostles fell asleep in death. Through the development of the doctrine of the trinity they “denied the Lord that bought them.” And by their falsehoods the loving God of the Bible was transformed into a torture demon by their blasphemous hell-fire doctrine.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares highlights still another false doctrine set forth by the tares,—the children of the evil one,—which is the claim that Christ’s kingdom was established by them through the uniting of church and state. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry the Devil offered to give him all the kingdoms of this world on the condition of being subservient to him. Jesus rejected this offer. But later those whom Satan sponsored, and who were begotten by all his various God-dishonoring doctrines, were quite willing to accept the proposition, and the result of this was the development of a counterfeit kingdom of Christ in the hands of the tares.

Historians reveal this gradual change of viewpoint. Beginning in the second century the hope of a coming kingdom on earth, to be established by the returned Christ, began gradually to be thrust into the background. Philosophical and theological speculation began to spread through the church, as well as “ethical reflection.” As large numbers of the nominal church came under the influence of this type of thinking, the hope of a future messianic kingdom on the earth lost its significance and appeal. Thus the way was prepared for the establishment of a counterfeit kingdom.

At that early period, before the division between the Greek and Roman churches, the hope of the coming kingdom of Christ was not completely set aside. However, as the Greek, or Eastern, Church took more definite shape, as separate from Rome, Dionysius, the Bishop of Alexandria, succeeded in having the Book of Revelation eliminated from the Greek Bible. The thought seems to be that this, at least, would do away with any scriptural support for the idea that Christ would return and reign over the earth for a thousand years. This biblical doctrine of Christ’s thousand-year kingdom is referred to in Greek church circles as chiliasm, and to this day chiliasm is bitterly opposed by the Greek Orthodox clergy.

The Western Church, which gradually tightened its organizational bonds under the leadership of Rome, did riot take such precipitous action against the messianic kingdom doctrine. The fact that Christ would return and rein for a thousand years was taught in one form or another by various individuals, seemingly without hindrance, until the 4th century. We quote from an article in the Encyclopedia Britannica:

“These facts show how vigorously the early hopes of the future maintained themselves in the West. In the hands of moralistic theologians, like Lactantius, they [the messianic kingdom hopes] certainly assume a somewhat grotesque form, but the fact that these men clung to them is the clearest evidence that in the West millennarianism was still a point of ‘orthodoxy’ in the 4th century.

“This state of matters, however, gradually disappeared after the end of the 4th century. The change was brought about by two causes—first, Greek theology, which reached the West chiefly through Jerome, Rufinus, and Ambrose, and, second, the new idea of the Church wrought by Augustine on the basis of the altered political situation of the Church. Augustine was the first who ventured to teach that the Catholic Church, in its empirical form, was the kingdom of Christ, and that the millennial kingdom had commenced with the appearing of Christ, and was therefore an accomplished fact. By this doctrine of Augustine’s, the old millennarianism, though not completely extirpated, was at least banished from the official theology.”

How clearly the historian has outlined the developments foretold by Jesus in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares! By the 4th century the tares, or imitation wheat, had just about completely taken over in the field. “The children of the kingdom” from that time forward held to their hopes, and proclaimed them with increasing difficulties. But as the parable foretold, the wheat was not to be completely uprooted and destroyed. Rather, it was to remain and “grow together” with the tares until the end of the age, when there would be a harvest. The historian reveals that this also was a true forecast. We quote from the same article:

“It [the messianic kingdom hope] still lived on, however, in the lower strata of Christian society; and in certain undercurrents of tradition it was transmitted from century to century. At various periods in the history of the middle ages we encounter sudden outbreaks of millennarianism, sometimes as the tenet of a small sect, sometimes as a far-reaching movement. And, since it had be suppressed, not, as in the East, by mystical speculation, its mightiest antagonist, but by the political church of the hierarchy, we find that wherever chiliasm appears in the middle ages it makes common cause with all enemies of the secularized Church. … If the church and not the state, was regarded as Babylon, and the pope declared to be the Antichrist, these were legitimate inferences from the ancient traditions and the actual position of the Church.”

The same historian explains that while the German and Swiss reformers for a time gave some consideration to millennarianism, they soon “took up the same ground in this which the Roman Catholic Church had occupied since the time of Augustine.” It is a well-known fact that essentially all the early reformers did join hand with civil governments, and applied to their organizations the misnomer of “Christendom.”

They Grew Together

In the parable, the householder instructed his servants to let the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest. The wheat did not live and mature while together with the tares because of any help received from the tares. They were nourished by God, quite independent of their surroundings, and what a true picture of this has been given to us by the historian! Those who held to the hope of Christ’s return and the establishment of his thousand-year kingdom were not crowded out of the “field” entirely, even though the tares held the dominating position. Seemingly up to and somewhat into the 4th century millennial views were even considered orthodox—at least in some quarters of the church.

The children of the kingdom were given this name because they were begotten of the great messianic kingdom hope which is so prominent throughout the Bible. When Augustine pronounced that the Roman Church was Christ’s kingdom on earth, and later when this apostate ecclesiastical system joined hands with the state, it was essential for the wheat—the children of the kingdom—to carry on their activities largely “underground.” But they were there in the field, and kept the light of kingdom truth from becoming completely snuffed out. Thus the “together” situation continued until the end of the age, when it was time for the harvest to begin.

The tares as a group continued their disinterest in, and oft times opposition to, the hope of the coming messianic kingdom on earth. There was a rebellion on the part of many against certain of the evils of the church-state system of government, but the idea of a manmade kingdom continued, and has been adopted even by present-day liberal theologians.

These do not, of course, advocate church-state government, but they do emphasize that in their opinion the only thing God will ever do for the human race will be accomplished, not by the establishment of a powerful government in the hands of Christ, but by the moralistic teachings of denominational churches, and by the extent that they can influence governments to enact and enforce righteous Laws.

But amidst all the cross currents of confusion brought about by conflicting “reform” movements and by the infiltration of higher criticism, evolution, and liberal thinking, some wheat survived. In every generation there were some children of the kingdom.

Early in the 19th century a wider interest than usual was stimulated in the hope of Christ’s return, through the leadership of William Miller. True, many of his teachings were erroneous, even as to the manner of our Lord’s return, but it did stir up people’s minds to realize that the Bible taught the second coming of Christ. But this all took place within the denominational churches. To whatever extent the wheat was involved in this movement, they were still together with the tares.

The “Angels” and the “Harvest”

In the parable the householder said, “In the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (vs. 30) Jesus’ explanation of this is, “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”—vss. 41-43

The Greek word in this passage which is translated “angels” more literally means “messengers.” The messengers of the Lord could be either animate or inanimate, or both. As devoted living servants of God, they could be the holy angels of heaven, or God’s consecrated people here on earth, or both. When we note all the various things accomplished by these angels, or messengers, it would appear that a very wide variety of agencies must be used.

There was a harvest work at the end of the Jewish Age, and Jesus sent forth his disciples in that work. He also asked them to pray “the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.” (Matt. 9:37,38) These devoted followers of Jesus were to do their part in that harvest by preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, even as it was preached by Jesus.

But in that harvest there was a burning of the “chaff.” John the Baptist foretold this, saying “He [the Lord] will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matt. 3:11,12; Luke 3:16,17) We believe that this is a prophecy of the destruction which came upon the Jewish nation in A.D. 70-73. The messengers largely responsible for this “fire” were the soldiers of Titus’ army.

This seems to be a revealing illustration of the two aspects of the harvest work at the close of the Gospel Age. Here, also, there is a harvesting of the wheat. In this latter harvest we have tares which are gathered and burned, instead of “chaff.” The messengers used by the Lord for this purpose are evidently not his consecrated saints, but whatever agencies and influences he may choose to use to rid the field of “all things that offend, and them which do iniquity.”

The wheat is gathered into the Lord’s barn. Jesus’ explanation of this is, “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” This explanation involves the exaltation of “the children of the kingdom” in the first resurrection to live and reign with Christ. These shine now only as “candles.” (Matt. 5:14-16) Even so, until the kingdom is established in “power and great glory,” the children of the kingdom in the flesh constitute the only light of the world. (Matt. 24:30) But when they are brought forth in the first resurrection to reign with Christ, they will “shine forth as the sun.” Indeed, they will be a part of that “Sun of Righteousness” foretold by Malachi.—Mal. 4:2

Manifestly, to bring forth the children of the kingdom to the divine nature in the first resurrection requires the exercise of power through agencies quite beyond our ability to comprehend, and this work is included in the total accomplishments of messengers sent forth in this Gospel-Age harvest. However, it is also true that an important part of this harvest work is accomplished by the children of the kingdom themselves through their proclamation of the Gospel of the kingdom, even as it was in the Jewish-Age harvest.

The Harvest Message

In his discourse relating to the time of his second presence and the end of the age Jesus said that he would “send his angels [messengers] with a great [sound of a] trumpet” and that they would “gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matt. 24:31) The words, “sound of a” are not in the Sinaitic Manuscript. Here the messengers are clearly the children of the kingdom, as also are the “elect” who are gathered. The gathering is accomplished by “a great trumpet,” which is symbolic of the proclamation of a message.

This is the kingdom message of present truth, the harvest message. It is the “everlasting Gospel” which was due to be proclaimed to those “that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” at this end of the age. Some of the details of the message are outlined by the Revelator: “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the. hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”—Rev. 14:6,7

Another aspect of the message is, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” (vs. 8) Babylon is the apostate church, made up of the tares. Her “fornication’ was her illicit union with civil governments. By the “wine,” or doctrine, pertaining to this union as being the kingdom of Christ, she made all nations intoxicated with the erroneous notion that the rulers were governed by God’s authority and direction. Justified by this monstrous teaching, they did not hesitate to wage so-called holy wars to fulfill their own selfish lusts for power and glory.

The Chief Reaper

Jesus said that he would send forth his messengers to gather his elect. This implies that he would then be present in the “field” to assume the role of Chief Reaper. This is further pointed out in Revelation 14:14,15. We quote: “I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”

Later in this chapter we are told of “another angel” or messenger, who had “power over fire.” (vs. 18) This messenger is assigned the work of reaping the “vine of the earth” and of casting it into the “great winepress of the wrath of God.” While the metaphor here changes from fire to the winepress of God’s wrath, the reference is undoubtedly to the gathering and destruction of the tares. Thus we have a confirmation of the harvest truths set forth in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.

In Revelation 18:1 we read, “I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.” This seems clearly to be a reference to the return of our Lord, and the light of his glory will eventually fill the earth. Concerning one of the first features of his work, we read:

“He cried mightly with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance [margin, power] of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”—Rev. 18:2-4

These scriptures indicate that the fall of Babylon coincides with the return of our Lord and the period of his presence, and that a part of the harvest message is the invitation to the wheat who were to grow together with the tares until the harvest, now to separate themselves—“Come out of her, my people.” This also harmonizes with the testimony of Jesus in his parable, and in his great prophecy relative to the end of the age.

Now in the Harvest

Are there any evidences to indicate that these prophecies have been correctly understood? This is an important consideration, for if there is sound reason to believe that we are now in the harvest at the end of the age, it would be one of the outstanding proofs of the “parousia” of our Lord Jesus as the Chief Reaper in this harvest. We believe that there is such evidence. Let us remember that the harvest has to do with both the wheat and the tares. And we think that the evidence is clear that there has been, and continues to be, a harvesting of the wheat, and a bundling of the tares, and a beginning, at least, of the burning of some of the tares.

Let us first consider the symbolic harvesting of the wheat—the children of the kingdom. There is evidence to show that about the year 1874 a little group of earnest students of the Bible began to understand clearly the glorious promises of the Bible pertaining to the time and manner of our Lord’s return. They also came to understand the purpose of his return—that he was first of all to be Lord of the harvest, and then, through the full establishment of his kingdom, accomplish the “restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”—Acts 3:19-23

One of that number, whom thousands of earnest Christians have come to think of as “that servant,” was blessed by the Lord with the ability and the assets, and had the sacrificing zeal to publicize these truths far and wide. They were sent in printed form to ministers and Sunday School teachers throughout the entire country. The children of the kingdom were no longer restrained as in the past. God had given them the message, and a way to proclaim it, and the “trumpet” began to sound.

This was not a work that was done in a corner, for in a few short years “Millennial Dawnism,” as it was called, became known throughout all Christendom. These Millennial Dawn people,—a people separated from nominal Christianity,—worked together to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom with ever-increasing volume and clarity.

These were, indeed, and in truth, the children of the kingdom, for they not only believed in the promises of the Bible relative to Christ’s thousand-year kingdom, but the glorious prospect of the kingdom filled them with a self-sacrificing zeal that allowed nothing to prevent them from proclaiming, on every suitable occasion, this glorious harvest and kingdom message.

In ever-increasing numbers the children of the kingdom became associated to proclaim the good news pertaining to the thousand-year kingdom of Christ, and the blessings of peace, health, and everlasting life that would reach the people through the administration of its laws of righteousness. Nor has this witness to the kingdom Gospel ever ceased. Satan endeavors to discourage, separate, and disrupt the children of the kingdom: through deception and otherwise, but they have always been able to regroup and continue trumpeting forth the harvest and kingdom message.

So it was that while these children of the kingdom did exist throughout the age, growing together with the tares, when the time for the harvest arrived God in his providence saw to it that they began to be separated from the tares and to have a separate identity. And how richly were those blessed who recognized what was taking place, and who joined hands with the reapers who were sounding forth the harvest message of present truth!

The Tares

The tares of the parable, Jesus explained, are “the children of the wicked one.” This does not mean that they are immoral people and professed servants of the Devil. It simply means that their viewpoints and lives are governed by the concept of Satan’s counterfeit teachings pertaining to the kingdom of God. Morally they are among the world’s finest, and hold sincerely to the false concepts of the kingdom which are so prominent in the “Christian” society of which they are a part.

The bundling and burning of the tares is explained by Jesus to mean their removal from the kingdom of which they profess to be a part. The “field” in which the wheat was sown was designed to be a wheat field. The tares were sown by an enemy, and did not belong with the wheat, so they are removed—the parable says “cast into a furnace of fire” where “there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

We understand that the tares are destroyed as tares, not as individuals. This is indicated by the statement that even when they are cast into the furnace of fire there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. This is an expression used by Jesus to denote great disappointment and chagrin. How disconcerting and disappointing it will be to the tare class to learn that their much vaunted conception of the kingdom of heaven is not acceptable to the Lord and, as a class, is therefore removed from the field.

The parable states, “Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them.” It is not necessary to conclude from this that the bundling and burning of the tares is all completed before the harvesting of the wheat begins. The thought is, rather, that the completion of the bundling of the tares, and their being cast into the fire, is prior to the time when the wheat is all gathered into the “barn,” which Jesus explains as the righteous shining “forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

It is reasonable to conclude that the furnace of fire in which the tares are burned is the great time of trouble in which the present evil world is destroyed. (Dan. 12:1; Gal. 1:4) In this time of great tribulation all the various elements of the present humanly constituted social order will disintegrate and vanish. (Matt. 24:21) This will include all the various tare organizations, or “bundles.”

Following quickly, the real kingdom of Christ will begin to function for the blessing of the people. This will be the wheat class, the children of the kingdom, brought forth in the first resurrection, and shining as the sun for the enlightenment and healing of all nations.

This thousand-year rulership of Christ’s kingdom will destroy all the enemies of God and of righteousness, even death. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God. This work accomplished, the prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” will be fully answered.—Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Rev. 5:13; Matt. 6:10

Dawn Bible Students Association
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