Parables of the Times
In the seven parables of Mathew 13, Jesus gave His disciples a picture of what the earth would be like after His departure. There would be two periods of time: first, the church age, in which we are now living, and then the Great Tribulation, which is yet to come.
Three of the Lord's parables describe life in the church age. The parable of the sower, the mustard seed, and the yeast. All tell how faith comes and how it grows. The theme of all three parables is that the kingdom of God will start with a small beginning, but it will grow and produce great results.
These parables are followed by two others that describe how, at the end of the age, the angels will separate the righteous from the wicked, throwing the wicked into the "fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Mathew 13:50)
Connecting the parables of the church age and those of the Great Tribulation, we find two parables of great sacrificial love. I believe these two short parables, one of finding treasure in a field, the other of finding the pearl of great price, are especially timely and significant for us, providing insights into God's design for these last days.
The Treasure in a Field
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." (Mathew 13:44)
The man in this parable found the treasure, hid it again, sold everything he owned, and then purchased the field. I believe this man was the Lord Jesus, and the treasure He found was the nation of Israel. The field He purchased was the entire world. Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world so that anyone who believed in Him would have eternal life, but He came first of all for His own people, Israel.
Israel is described here as a treasure which was hidden in a field. A treasure is made up of many types of precious gems, such as diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. In Scripture, God used twelve such gems to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. In Exodus 28, God commanded Moses to place twelve gemstones on the breastplate of the high priest, one for each of the twelve tribes. He goes into great detail, naming each of the stones by name and telling how to place them row by row. Then He told Moses: "And the stones shall have the names of the sons of Israel, twelve according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, each one with its own name; they shall be according to the twelve tribes." (Exodus 28:21)
When the man in the parable discovered the treasure, it was hidden. When he went to purchase the field, he hid the treasure again. As a nation, Israel was started in obscurity and has been returned again to that hidden place.
When the Lord began the nation of Israel, He found one man, Abram, and called him out from among the heathen. From this one man began a natural and spiritual race which numbers, today, as the stars of heaven (Genesis 15:5).
As Abraham and Sarah learned to trust the Lord, their promised son, Isaac, was born. The treasure was forming. From Isaac came Jacob and from Jacob the twelve sons. The nation grew in captivity in Egypt and left for Canaan with over two million. The treasure reached its peak when Jesus was born.
But when Jesus came to Israel, they did not receive Him. They rejected Him and finally nailed Him to the Cross. Jesus had already warned the Jewish religious leaders of His day that He would turn to the Gentiles if they rejected Him as their Messiah (Mathew 21:43). On the day of Pentecost, God turned to the Gentile nations and Israel was hidden again.
The good news is that Israel will not be hidden forever. Their time will come again. When the Church is caught up to heaven in the Rapture, God will dig Israel out of obscurity and use them again. The time of their unveiling will be the seven years of tribulation.
Jesus prophesied that Jerusalem would be "trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24). The Treasure will again be revealed to the world one day. It will be revealed by the One who purchased the entire field, the One Who paid for the sins of the world.
In the meantime, God is sculpting another work of beauty. He is building the pearl of great price until it is time to again unearth the treasure from the field.
The Pearl of Great Price
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it." (Mathew 13:45, 46)
When I was growing up, our ministers would tell us the pearl of great price was the Lord Jesus. We even had a hymn which told of Jesus, our pearl of great price.
But, as I found out later, this was not true. The parable of the pearl is not about Jesus. It's about the Church. You see, Jesus was never purchased - but the Church was. The pearl is the Church, of which you and I are a part. This pearl was so beautiful, the merchant man was willing to sell everything He had to buy it.
The merchant man is the Lord Jesus. After discovering us, He sold all by going to the Cross and dying for our sins. He did not do this for Himself, but for you and me. What a wonderful love Jesus has for us!
He died to redeem us, to purchase us for Himself. Once we accept Jesus, we belong to Him. The Church is our Lord's most valuable possession, His pearl of great price.
Of all the precious gems of earth, pearls are the most unique. Nothing else is like them. In the same way, the Church is unique - nothing like it has ever existed before. Peter calls the Church "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar (unique) people..." (1 Peter 2:9)
I have found several remarkable parallels between the uniqueness of the pearl and the Church:
1. Pearls are taken from the sea. All other gem stones come from the land.
The sea is a type of the many nations of the world (Daniel 7:2,3; Revelation 17:1, 2, 15)
Israel was established from one land and one nation, but the Church of the New Testament has been taken from every kindred, tribe, tongue, and nation. All races, colors, and nationalities are included.
2. A Pearl is one complete, indivisible unit.
No matter how large or small a pearl is, it is one complete unity. All other gems have to be cut, ground, and polished.
When a pearl is discovered, it is already complete. Colossians 2:10 tells us that we are (present tense) "complete in Him."
3. Pearls begin with one irritating stone.
At the center of a pearl is a single grain of sand. When that tiny stone becomes lodged in its shell, the oyster releases a film to coat the sand and relieve the irritation.
Jesus is our single stone, the very beginning of the Church. His our chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). There is no other foundation that can be laid. The pearl - The Church - exists because of the stone - Jesus.
Jesus irritates Satan's kingdom and all those who live in darkness. 1 Peter 2:7,8 says that this stone, Jesus, is precious to those who believe, but to the disobedient, He is a "stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence."
4. Pearls are "built" one layer at a time.
This makes the pearl unique among gem stones, as all other stones are not built in layers, but are formed.
Jesus said, "...I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mathew 16:18). We are all "living stones" (1 Peter 2:5), "layered" onto Jesus. One day, the final layer will be added to the original stone, and the Church will be completed.
5. Pearls can only be displayed when lifted out of their place.
One day. Jesus will come back and lift up His Church. He will lift us out of the earth and take us to heaven with Him.
"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17)
It is impossible for us to know how close we are to the day when the pearl of great price gets that one last layer, to the time when those who love Jesus "will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew 13:43).
These are the last days. And the Lord wants us to know that we, His Church, are His pleasure and pride. We are His pearl of great price and He loves us above all else. He will come one day and take us home with Him, where He will display us forever before all the hosts of heaven!