The mustard seed, a symbol used in Scripture for one’s faith. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus tells us that if we have faith as a mustard seed, indicating even just a minuscule amount of faith, nothing will be impossible for us. That should be both comforting and exciting for us, knowing that even the smallest amount of faith we’ve received from God is more than enough to be and do whatever He has for us. While a lot can be said of faith, namely the faith God gives for salvation, as well as for whatever comes our way as His followers, I want to focus a bit on the mustard plant.
The mustard plant is just that, a plant. There are many different varieties grown throughout the world, each one playing a different role in herbal medicine and spices, and they are known to grow to around six feet high. There is a parable in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, as well as in the books of Mark and Luke, that talks of a mustard plant. In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus gives a parable of a mustard plant that becomes a tree, a tree large enough for birds to find shelter and shade within it branches. I don’t know about you, but I have always been perplexed about how a mustard plant could grow into such a large tree, as well as what the symbolism of the birds in the tree branches are. Over the years, I have heard pastors preach that this parable represents the growth of one’s faith, or the expansion of God’s kingdom here on earth, neither of which settled the questions I had regarding this parable and what Jesus was trying to tell us through it. It wasn’t until recently that I have a better understanding of what Jesus was telling us in this parable.
I’m currently reading a book by Andrew M. Woods called, The Coming Kingdom, and in it he takes a close look at this parable, as well as the others located in Matthew 13. In looking at this parable, he considers the popular views many associate with it, then he breaks it down even to the Greek and presents a view that clearly articulates another perspective worth looking at. I was so impacted by it that I wanted to briefly share it with you.
To begin with, attention is drawn to the fact that Jesus mentions a mustard bush growing into a mighty tree. Contrary to popular opinion and what I’ve heard some preach over the years, like I mentioned earlier, mustard is a bush and not a tree. It’s not simply a difference of species within a group of vegetation, but they are part of two completely different types of groups. As we know, contrary to the evolutionary theory that is vastly promoted, species can not develop into another species on its own. So, how is it that a mustard bush can become a tree? The second part of this parable that is addressed is the mentioning of birds nesting within the branches of this tree, and what they represent. Are you curious?
In summary, the perspective that Andrew M. Woods presents for this parable is very simple, yet disconcerting at the same time. The conclusion he comes to is that the changing of the mustard into a large tree represents the original form of Christianity in the early church, and how it became altered over time to become something much different and much bigger than what it was, namely a form of Christianity that has been overtaken by the many different deceptions promoted by the enemy of our souls. This point is further reinforced when we look at the symbolism of the birds nesting within the branches of this tree. Comparing Scripture with Scripture, we know that doves, and sometimes eagles, are symbolic of the Holy Spirit or that which is good. However, there are times when birds, or fowls, are mentioned as symbolic of Satan and his emissaries. In the context of this passage, and throughout the chapter, the Greek words used here represent Satan and those who work on his behalf. If this mustard bush turned tree represents the Church and the body of Christ, then how is that Satan and those who work on his behalf find shelter within it’s branches, as well as build nests within them?
As recorded by Paul McGuire in chapter seven of the book, Blood on the Alter by Thomas Horn, John D. Rockefeller wanted a one-world government and invested heavily to make that happen. One of the ways in which he did so was in helping with the League of Nations in the early 1900’s, an endeavor that was met with great opposition in the United States from Bible believing Christians who were aware of Biblical end-time prophecy regarding a coming one-world government. As a result, and I’m briefly explaining this, he was very instrumental in a plan to “infiltrate” churches, pastoral ranks, Bible schools and seminaries, with the objective to change the thinking and mindsets of Christians in a way as to make them more open to a future one-world government. Their primary means of accomplishing this was to redirect the focus of Christians away from the great commission and the life we’re called to lead as Christians, and to start focusing our attention and efforts in a direction for the betterment of society, and the need for global unity to accomplish this. While his efforts in this endeavor were short-lived, the effects of it can still be seen today as many churches are ripe for the embracing of a one-world religion led by the False Prophet mentioned in Revelation 13:11-18.
Also, around the same period of time, starting in the late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s, a new gospel was being birthed and promoted, and it was referred as a “social gospel”. This was an attempt to use Christian ethics to battle the various forms of social problems and society ills in that day, but in doing so it played a key role in much of what we see in modern Christendom. While this “social gospel” on the surface fizzled out after a few decades, it would pop back up at different times and became a catalyst of sorts to initiate, promote, or bully changes as was deemed needed at that time. I’m not going to say that what the proponents of this new gospel sought after and helped bring about was wrong, because some of those changes were good, in and of themselves, but it did do something more dangerous to the body of Christ than that which it was able to change for the good. What it successfully did, depending on what side of the fence you’re looking from, was to change the focus, purpose and objectives of Christians from what Christ had commissioned us to do. When I think of this new “social gospel” I can’t help but remember the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:6-10. In this passage in Galatians, Paul doesn’t just address the emergence of “another gospel”, but he goes even further by instructing them that the one who brings and promotes another gospel should be cursed, and in that day to be accursed meant that person was to be totally removed from the fellowship of the brethren and body of Christ.
What’s ironic in regard to when this “social gospel” and Rockefeller’s plans took place, was that in the 1880’s the focus of the church at large changed. Where the church had for centuries tried to establish Jesus’ kingdom here on earth, some of the leadership came out of a series of meetings with the realization that you can’t have a kingdom without the King being present, and they started looking at Bible prophecy and preaching the return of Jesus to the earth. What I find to be ironic in this is that the enemy kicked things in high gear to deter the focus and mindsets of the church away from Bible prophecy and the return of Jesus. Satan, the enemy of the Church and followers of Christ, knows that his time is short, and he’s doing all he can to at least change the mindsets and focus of followers of Christ away from what it should be so that they will be caught off guard and miss out on what God has for them.
Christianity in current times is very different than what it looked like in the first century. Even though it may be wrapped up in boxes of varying shapes and sizes, and with various forms of wrapping paper, there are some core mindsets that the Church has embraced that are not Biblically sound. For example, we can see some of these to different degrees within Kingdom Now, emergent church, and seeker-sensitive teachings, where the focus is on earthly goals and agendas within every aspect of society. They focus in part on building Christ’s earthly kingdom in the here and now, infiltrating all levels of society and government through politics and community programs and events. This way of thinking isn’t limited to any one or two denominations, though there are some who are on the forefront, but churches of all denominations are embracing these mindsets more and more. They are embracing and promoting world-based teachings that are earthly minded rather than heavenly minded teaching found in Scripture, recognizing that this is not our home.
Someone may ask what is wrong with all of this, and the answer is simple; it is in contradiction to sound Biblical doctrine. To begin with, the great commission given to us by Jesus as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, in no way resembles what has become the focus, and in some cases the battle cry, of most churches and a significant number of individual Christians. The great commission is all about going out to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching all of them to observe and obey all that Christ had commanded us. Nowhere in that do we see a call to build or expand the Kingdom and rule of God here on earth, to make a Christian utopia of sorts through government, entertainment, the seven mountains of influence, or community events. To reinforce what I’m saying, nowhere do we see in the New Testament that we are to be working to build God’s Kingdom and rule here on earth. And if that is not enough, what is very absent from what we read of the first century church is anything to suggest that they felt, said or did anything to deal with the social or governmental and political problems of their day. They were under an extreme persecution that we know nothing about here in the United States, extreme taxation, extreme immorality on all levels, and extreme corruption at all levels of government and even among those serving as the High Priests in that day, yet we don’t read of any complaining, fighting for change or for different causes, or calls to rebel against the political system and its corruption. What we do read about is how they shared the pure, unadulterated gospel of Jesus to whomever they could, instructions to be obedient to those in authority and the laws of the land, as well as to maintain respect for those in authority, righteous or otherwise. We read how that there was church discipline for those participating in strife and division within the body of Christ, whether it be through gossip, complaining or action, and for those who didn’t live in a way that was honoring and pleasing in the site of God. We read that we’re to submit to righteousness in all our ways, to nurture the fruits of the Spirit in our lives, dying to the flesh and its passions, as well as the fruits the flesh produces. They were taught to be Jesus’ ambassadors wherever they went, which required a mindset that we are not of this world, but we are here to point people to the lone Savior of the world who loved them so much He died for them, and an eternity beyond this world.
Getting back to the mustard becoming a tree, history shows that this very thing has taken place within Christendom. Where the teachings and the focus of followers of Christ remained largely consistent and in tact the first 300+ years, it has morphed and developed into something far different than what it originally was. The mustard represents the pure and unadulterated gospel of Jesus as seen in the first 300+ years of the church, and the tree represents a form of Christianity that embraces and promotes deceptive teachings like what I’ve described, as well as many others, teachings that creates a comfortable place for Satan and his representatives to rest and build nests within. Oh, like Satan when he was tempting Jesus, these deceptive teachings often use Scripture to support their purposes, but these Scripture’s are ether twisted or taken out of context to do this, and some popular Bible translations feed right into this, too. In response to questions by His disciples regarding end-time events, the first thing Jesus told them was to be careful not to be deceived (Matthew 24:3-4). In 1 Timothy 4:1, the Apostle Paul tells us that in the last days some will depart from the faith, following deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. I’ve heard pastors say that the doctrine of demons refers to teaching on and about demons, but that’s not how I understand it. I believe what Paul is referring to are doctrines inspired and promoted by demons. Having said that, I believe it is very possible a lot of the teachings the church at large is embracing and promoting are teachings inspired and promoted by demons, if for no other reason than they redirect our focus away from what we’re called to have, and to life here and the betterment of society more than watching for His return and the pursuit of lost souls.
Let’s not be deceived. Let us return to the pure gospel as clearly reflected within the New Testament, focusing more on spreading the good news of the gospel to lead lost souls into a saving relationship with Christ, and pointing to an eternity in heaven with Jesus for His faithful followers.