The Kingdom is like Leaven

From Paradise Restored, by David Chilton
Page 73-75

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The definitive defeat of Satan occurred in Christ’s death and resurrection. Again and again the apostles assured the early Christians of the fact of Christ’s victory over the devil. Through His finished work, Paul said, the Lord Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities”; “He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them” (Col. 2:15). The New Testament un- questionably teaches that through Christ’s bursting the bonds of death Satan was rendered powerless (Heb. 2:14). John wrote that “the Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the work of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Again, we must note that this is in the past tense. It is an accomplished fact. This is not a prophecy about the Second Coming. It is a statement of fact about Christ’s First Advent. Christ came to bind and disarm Satan, to render him powerless, to destroy his works, and to establish His own rule as universal King, as God had in- tended from the beginning. According to the Bible, Christ actually fulfilled what He had set out to do; Scripture regards Satan as a defeated enemy, one who must flee when Christians oppose him, one who is unable to resist the victorious onslaught of Christ’s army. The gates of his city are doomed to collapse before the relentless attacks of the Church (Matt. 16:18).

The Growth of the Kingdom

At this point some will object: “If Jesus is King now, why aren’t all the nations converted? Why is there so much ungodliness? Why isn’t everything perfect?” In the first place, there’s no if about it. Jesus is the King, and His Kingdom has arrived. The Bible says so. In the second place, things will never be “perfect” before the Last Judgment, and even the millennium described by certain popular writers is far from perfect (in fact, theirs is far worse; for they teach that the nations will never truly be converted, but will only feign conversion while waiting for their chance to rebel).

Third, although the Kingdom was established definitively in the finished work of Christ, it is established progressively throughout history (until it is established finally on the Last Day). On the one hand, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is now ruling the nations with a rod of iron; He is now seated in power above all other rulers in heaven and earth, possessing all authority. On the other hand, the Bible also teaches that the Kingdom develops progressively, growing stronger and more powerful as time goes on. The same letter to the Ephesians that tells us of Christ’s absolute rule over creation (1:20-22), assuring us that we are reigning with Him (2:6), also commands us to put on armor for battle against the devil (6:10-17). There is no contradiction here – just two aspects of the same reality. And the fact that Jesus is now ruling as King of kings is precisely the reason why we can have confidence of victory in our conflict with evil. We can experience progressive triumph now, because Jesus Christ definitively triumphed over Satan in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

Jesus told two parables which illustrate the Kingdom’s growth. Matthew tells us:

He presented another parable to them, saying, “The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

He spoke another parable to them, “The Kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened” (Matt. 13:31-33).

The Kingdom was established when Christ came. But it has not yet reached its full development. Like the mustard tree, it started out small, but will grow to enormous size (just as the stone Daniel saw became a mountain and filled the whole earth). The Kingdom will grow in size, spreading everywhere, until the knowledge of God covers the earth, as the waters cover the sea. The Kingdom’s growth will be extensive.

But the Kingdom will also grow intensively. Like leaven in bread, it will transform the world, as surely as it transforms individual lives. Christ has planted into the world His gospel, the power of God unto salvation. Like yeast, the power of the Kingdom will continue to work “until all is leavened.”

After looking at this parable, you might wonder how in the world anyone could deny a dominion eschatology. How can you get around the force of this verse? Here’s how: the defeatist simply explains that the “leaven” is not the Kingdom, but is instead a picture of how evil heresies are planted into the Church by the devil! Incredibly, his case is so desperate that he will resort to sleight-of-hand tricks, turning a promise of the Kingdom’s victory into a promise of the Church’s defeat. Note well that all is leavened; the verse is teaching total conquest, by one side or the other.

According to Jesus, therefore, which side will win? Contrary to pessimists, Jesus did not say that the Kingdom is like dough, into which someone sneaks destructive, evil leaven. He said that the Kingdom is like leaven. The Kingdom started small, and its growth has often been unobtrusive and sometimes virtually in- visible; yet it continues to ferment and transform the world. Where was Christianity 2000 years ago? It consisted of a mere handful of people who had been commissioned to disciple the nations-a small group who would be persecuted by their own countrymen and opposed by the armed might of the most powerful empire in history. What chance would you have given for their survival? Yet the Church came out of the conflict victoriously, the clear winner by a mile; Rome and Jerusalem didn’t get past the starting gate. The last twenty centuries have witnessed progress that only the willfully blind could deny. Has the yeast of the Kingdom spread everywhere? Of course not; not yet. But it will. God has predestined us for victory.

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The key here is this part:

“According to Jesus, therefore, which side will win? Contrary to pessimists, Jesus did not say that the Kingdom is like dough, into which someone sneaks destructive, evil leaven. He said that the Kingdom is like leaven. The Kingdom started small, and its growth has often been unobtrusive and sometimes virtually in- visible; yet it continues to ferment and transform the world.”

The Kingdom of God is like the leaven.

The Kingdom of God fills the world.

The Kingdom of God develops both in territory (like the mustard seed) but also in depth, in intensity like how leaven fills the whole loaf.

Summary:

God is going to win, in time and on earth. As well as in the afterlife.

Satan is going to lose, in time and on earth. As well as in the afterlife.

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