Matthew 13:52 “Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of Heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is old and new.” ESV
Stumbling onto this verse has opened up a door of lots of thoughts about the kingdom of Heaven. I am reading The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn (Multnomah Publishers, 2001), so my thoughts are mixed in with things that Alcorn’s book is stirring in me as well. Let me begin to explain my journey so maybe you can join in with it.
My first thought is about how maybe what we’re learning on earth isn’t really just for what takes place during our tenure on this planet, but it’s really about training us for the kingdom of Heaven. Matt. 13:52 mentions scribes being trained for the kingdom, but what if all of our spiritual gifts that God has given us are being honed for use later on?
By later on, I’m referring to the kingdom of Heaven, which I believe is the Millennium. That is the 1000 literal years where Jesus sits on the throne in Jerusalem. We will be there with resurrected bodies, and I believe human inhabitants will be there, Jews that will inhabit Israel and multiply over the course of 1000 years. When Jesus told His parables, most of them start with the phrase “the kingdom of Heaven is like…” The book of Matthew calls it the kingdom of Heaven, Luke calls it “the kingdom of God.”
Jesus’ parables are describing what the Millennial kingdom will look like, which begins with Jesus being the actual, physical king. In the time that Jesus was alive, they thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately so He was trying to tell them it was not now, but later and just what it would look like. How much later is still a secret. A lot of His parables are about a king or a master going away and then coming back and what it will be like when he comes back. Matthew records parables about vineyards and the owner of the vineyard and the tenants. The vineyard was Israel, but they were wild and rebellious, in contrast to Jesus, the True Vine. Matthew was writing primarily to the Jews, so he was telling them that’s who they were and one day when Jesus was going to come back and fix things.
The parables are about what happens at the close of the age, which is when Jesus is going to return. We spend a lot of time pondering and perhaps debating the details of Jesus’ return, but not much time is spent talking about the Millennium, which is what the parables are describing. Not only are we being trained here in giftings and roles that will be used when Jesus sits on the throne, but what we do now in this age determines our lot, our treasure and our positioning during that 1000 years.
Luke 19 records the parable of the talents, where the Master leaves guys with money and then comes back some time later to see what they did with them. Two of them doubled what they had and the Master commends them and says ‘you will be over ten cities,’ or five cities. What they did with what He gave them brought not just a reward of double their money, but it translated into cities that they would rule over. What we do here matters! What we do with what God has given us will be judged, rewarded and perhaps punished somehow.
I Corinthians 3:10-15 records, “If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burn up, he will suffer loss though he himself will be saved.”
There is a lot of talk about rewards of some sort woven into Jesus’ commands and descriptions of the kingdom of God. In Matthew 5:12 we find that if we’re persecuted, great is our reward in Heaven; Matt. 6:1-4 tells us that if we give loudly the acclaim of others is our reward, but if we give in secret, we will get reward from the Father; Matt. 10:40-42 says if we receive a prophet (listen to him and help him) we will receive a prophet’s reward; Matt. 19:28-30 tells that those who have given up houses, lands and families will receive them back 100 fold in the age to come–that’s the Millennium.
Matthew 6:19-24 commands to store up our treasures in Heaven where thieves cannot steal and the treasure can’t mold or rust. It also tells us that our hearts will be wherever our treasure is. If my heart is on Jesus, my eternal treasure and pleasure, then that’s where my preoccupation will be. And as my money and time follows that, then I’m storing up power, possessions and pleasures in what I call “Kingdom Next.”
In Hebrews 11:24-26, Moses is commended in the Faith Hall of Fame chapter for choosing to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ as greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”
He had long term, ‘Kingdom Next’ thinking. It is so easy to instead have short term, earthly centered thinking. Short term thinking has our hearts and minds hunkered down on going to work, raising kids, paying bills, saving for college and retirement, having some fun on weekends, maybe having some extra money for widgets of some sort. It is about sports and academic achievements, getting money and stuff and then living for your grandchildren, retirement and a nice nursing home. Perhaps there are some fleeting pleasures of sin mixed in there and fleeting pleasures that aren’t sinful, but consume our time and energy.
Moses’ long term, gratification deferring thinking includes treasuring the riches of Kingdom Next, of Jesus’ reproach, of Kingdom things as greater value. The guy that found the treasure in the field and sold everything to get it found Jesus and His kingdom, which is now and not yet. Kingdom Next thinking is giving away money to the poor and to ministry pursuits, not keeping it; it’s living simply so as to not be owned by payments; it’s spending time on people and spiritual things and not on sitting in the bleachers and deer stands and shopping malls; it’s knowing that what I sow I will reap eventually, so I keep doing good and serving God and others regardless of the pats on the back now; it’s living differently because we’re looking ahead to the reward.
What trips us up from this kind of living?
- The pull of the daily grind
- The love of money and of stuff, and the cares of the world (Matt. 13:22 says it chokes us)
- The pull of the world, driven by media
- The desires of the flesh, which immediate gratification feeds
What helps us keep our eye on “Kingdom Next?”
- Being in the Word to go against the pull of the world
- Walking by the Spirit so we won’t gratify the desires of the flesh
- Being around others who are running after Jesus, not around those who aren’t
- Clinging to Jesus, our treasure, and not letting other things distract and deter
- Understanding that what we do here matters and determines our lot for eternity