The church is overrun by enemy demons who have planted tares among the wheat.
It is Sunday morning and the mega-church is filled to the brim. Brother John is leading the congregation in prayer. He is drenched in sweat, praying with the same fervency with which he abused his driver on the way to the church. The praise worship leader has been sleeping with the choristers. The Sunday school teacher regularly beats up his wife. That pretty little sister in the second row has just had her third abortion. The usher is planning to steal again from the offering.
What about the pastor? But of course, he is also “in the spirit.” He is wondering just what technique to use this blessed morning to ensure that the people empty their pockets.
Meaning of Mustard Tree
But what does all this have to do with the kingdom of God? Indeed, says our Lord Jesus, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed which grows to be a large tree with birds of the air nesting in its branches (Luke 13:18-19). What exactly does that mean?
When Daniel describes such a tree, it turns out to be Nebuchadnezzar and the Lord orders it to be cut down (Daniel 4:10-14). When Ezekiel observes a similar tree, the Lord has it cut off and warns that no tree should ever grow like that again (Ezekiel 31:3-14). Ezekiel notes that the counsel of the Lord is to bring down the high tree and exalt the low tree (Ezekiel 17:24). Isaiah also warns that: “The day of the Lord of hosts shall come upon everything lifted up- and it shall be brought low- upon all the cedars of Lebanon.. and upon all the oaks of Bashan” (Isaiah 2:12-13).
It therefore becomes clear that Jesus’ mustard-tree is ungodly. Since the mustard seed never actually grows to become a large tree, this tree must be an aberration. Moreover, Jesus explains elsewhere that the fowls of the air nesting in its branches are actually demons, stealing the word of God from men’s hearts (Mark 4:4/15).
Jesus’ “kingdom of God” is therefore revealed in its perverseness as the end-time mystery Babylon which represents much of today’s Christian church. It is “a dwelling place of demons.. and a cage for every unclean and hated bird” (Revelation 18:2). The church is overrun by enemy demons who have planted tares among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). Some of these tares currently occupy strategic positions as blind leaders of the blind (Matthew 15:14).
Again, Jesus reveals that the kingdom of God is like putting yeast in a portion of dough (Matthew 13:33). “Nicodemus” pastors see this yeast as beneficial on the grounds that it promotes the rapid numerical growth of the church. But in truth the yeast is actually spiritually counter-productive precisely because it leads to the exponential growth of the church.
Yeast in the bible is a metaphor for a corrupting agent. Yeast quickly “infects” the dough and makes the bread puffed-up and “proud.” At the Passover, the Israelites were ordered to throw it all away (Exodus 12:15). No meal offering is acceptable with yeast (Leviticus 6:17). Jesus himself warns his disciples to beware of “the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). Therefore, orchestrated church growth is not a kingdom objective. Many are called but only a few are chosen (Matthew 22:12).
As the church grew from a tiny seed into a marauding mustard bush, it was as God intended it. But over time, it mutated into a freakish tree not in keeping with its genetic-code. It ceased to be God’s church when we perverted the doctrines of Jesus on the altar of church growth.
Therefore, what we see all around us today are counterfeit churches; many of them large, flamboyant and worldly. But God’s true church is a “little flock” (Luke 12:32) of “little ones” (Matthew 18:14) under one single solitary pastor: Jesus (John 10:16). By presenting the kingdom of God as a mustard seed which grows to become a large tree, Jesus was giving a prophecy about the coming perversion of church growth, which is already here.
Jeremiah warns: “Are you seeking great things for yourself? Seek them not” (Jeremiah 45:5). Thus, the parable of the mustard seed is meant to confound grandiose mythical and self-serving ideas about the kingdom of God. But thanks to glory-seeking pastors, the myth has once again recaptured the true portrait. We tell men the larger the church, the greater the pastor. So when we gather thousands of people somewhere, we say the kingdom is on the move there.
But Jesus teaches otherwise: “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’” (Luke 17:20-21).