By Steven Lambert
In 1984 I published my book, The Mystery of the Kingdom. The article that follows is an excerpt from that book. I could not have known when I wrote the book just how applicable and prophetic some of what I wrote in the book would be all these years later. With the proliferation and profusion of hyper-grace and antinomian teachings, the topic of this excerpt is particularly vital in this hour.
Sadly, so many believers today hold the view that because they identify as Christians they are and will be subject to virtually or literally no kind of judgment whatsover. It has been disturbing and disappointing to me to learn over time that many in the Pentecostal and Charismatic streams have adopted this mindset as well. They have been indoctrinated with these utterly false, unscriptural, and demonically-inspired notions. In the case of some of these purporting believers, these “doctrines of demons” that are invented and promulgated by “deceiving spirits,” as Scripture foretells, have been seared into their conscience as with a branding iron (1 Tim. 4:1-2), meaning that without miraculous intervention from God (i.e., deliverance), these victims of deception will ultimately, upon their physical death, receive “the shock of their lives” as they are instantaneously confronted with “the One who has been appointed by God as the judge of the living and the dead,” (Acts 10:42), namely the Lord Jesus Christ!
The Apostle Paul premised his solemn charge to Timothy to “preach the word” on this irrefutable fact of Christ’s judgment: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:1).
The Apostle Peter declared that the mocking of the genuinely obedient righteous by intemperate “Christians in name only” will be met with having to account to the ultimate Judge: “but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5).
Among the culminating verses of the Bible is Jesus’ personal admonition: “"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward (lit., wages, compensation, recompense) is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12).
There are so many Scripture passages unequivocally citing the pending judgment of God of every person who has ever lived that recounting them all would require a book (many exist already). Suffice it to say, the concept of ultimate judgment is a constant underlying theme of the Word of God as a whole, and that the Good News is good news because it broadcasts the exclusive means God has ordained and offered to “whosoever will” to escape the everlasting horrors of certain eternal judgment.
Jesus indicated in His explanation of the meaning of the parable that The Parable of the Sower was the paramount parable that contained the essence of the key to understanding all the parables: “Then He said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand and grasp the meaning of all the parables?” (Mark 4:13, AMP).
Indeed, within this one remarkably ingenious parable is an allegorical revelation, in capsulated form, of the essence of "the mystery of the kingdom," that is, the "secret" of how the Kingdom of God operates and is formed, or reproduced, in the hearts and lives of believers. No other single passage of Scripture so effectively captures and depicts all that is involved in believers bringing forth the fruit of the Kingdom and Life of God in this world.
The Parable of the Sower is paradoxically simple, yet profound. Its meaning is uncomplicated and easily understood. Nevertheless, its import and scope are profound, revealing divine understanding concerning the most vital and essential elements of the Gospel of the Kingdom. As is the entirety of Scripture, the Parable of the Sower is like the proverbial onion—made up of layer after layer of revelation knowledge—and until perfect knowledge is come (1 Cor. 13:10), no one will fully exhaust its meaning.
In the parable, Jesus delineates four different categories of hearers of the Word of God, which are stereotypical of everyone who has ever heard it. Though each category of hearers heard the Word, it was productive in the lives of only one of the four categories. That is to say that only one category brought forth the fruit that the Word of God is intended and has the innate ability to produce in the lives of earnest and effectual believers. The parable reveals specifically what it was that prevented the first three categories of hearers from bearing the fruit of the Kingdom of God in their own hearts and lives, and what all believers must do to avoid the patterns that produce barrenness.
All things considered, no subject is more central to Christianity, or more vital to Christians. In sum, that is why I wrote the book, The Mystery of the Kingdom, which I commend to every reader and recommend you obtain—and read—a copy for your spiritual enrichment. In my humble, albeit obviously biased opinion, I believe the message of the book is especially relevant and needed by the ekklesia of today.
The Consequences of Barrenness
The Parable of the Sower is all about bringing forth fruit of the Kingdom of God, which is produced by the Seed of the Word of God when it is received in the "good soil" of a heart of yieldedness and obedience. Jesus gave us some tremendously enlightening insight into how this "mystery of the Kingdom" works. Any believer who will follow the procedure outlined in this powerful parable and explained in this book will bring forth fruit of the Kingdom of God in his or her own life. So effectual and infallible is this process that it is one of the few things in existence about which it can be correctly said, it is "guaranteed" to work; not just sometimes, in certain situations, merely for some people, but ALL the time, in ANY situation, for EVERYONE!
Now that we have dissected Jesus' paramount parable, examining the salient issues inherent within it, as well as delineated the specifics of the process by which a person can bear Kingdom fruit, one crucial aspect yet remains. I would be wholly remiss and derelict in my commission for writing this book if I ended it without addressing and admonishing regarding the absolute imperativeness of bringing forth the fruit of the Kingdom of God, as well as the sure and inevitable consequences for the failure thereof.
Most people, including the majority of professing Christians, simply do not understand and fully appreciate the imperativeness of bringing forth the fruit of Eternal Life and the Kingdom of God. At best, they seem to be of the mind that bearing fruit is optional, that it is nice if you do, but that it is not really mandatory. Yet, nothing could be further from the Truth. The consequences for not eventually bringing forth fruit of the Kingdom of God, which verify that a person has indeed been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light, are extensive and fearsome.
We have already seen in the previous chapter what the Apostle Paul said about the possibility of failing the test (2 Cor. 13:5). A person not competing in accordance with the rules can be disqualified after finishing the race, allegorically speaking (1 Cor. 9:24-27). The rules of the race we are running require the practice of righteousness (1 Cor. 6:9,10, e.g.).
The practice of lawlessness results in disqualification from Eternal Life and being relegated to the unspeakable punishment of eternal death (Rev. 21:8, et al.). As we saw in the previous chapter, in both passages wherein Paul spoke of the "test" believers should give themselves to verify they are bona fide Christians, he used a Greek word connoting being rejected by virtue of not being able to pass the test for quality to describe those who did not meet the criteria. It means to be a "reject," a "castaway," a "reprobate."
Jesus Himself also spoke of such a final judgment of people who have professed to be believers but who demonstrated fruits of unrighteousness (Mat. 7:21-23). He said He would say to such people on the day of judgment, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." These people also broke the rules, practicing "lawlessness," by violating God's Laws. They did not bring forth the fruits of righteousness, but rather the deeds of unrighteousness. Thus, they failed the test, and were rejected.
The weight of these Scriptures along with many others indicate the unequivocal and undeniable Truth that all those who do not bear the fruit of righteousness are "excluded from the Life of God" (Eph. 4:18), and will be excluded from Heaven and banished to the eternal fires of "the lake that burns with fire and brimstone" (Rev. 21:8) for eternal, unending judgment. I fully realize how grave, ominous, and even odious to some such an assessment and statement is, especially to ears that are accustomed only to being tickled by modernistic, so-called "positive preaching" so prevalent today, which denies or ignores the truth of Divine judgment. But, it is nonetheless precisely what the Word of God declares. I did not write the Bible; God did! I'm just reporting what it says. It is vital that we do not "sugarcoat" the Word of God, for it is the eternal destiny of us all that is at stake.
John the Baptist certainly did not sugarcoat the Word of God. He unabashedly preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, admonishing it was necessary to "bring forth fruit in keeping with your repentance" (Mat. 3:8). He also made it abundantly clear that bringing forth of such fruit was by no means optional, but rather, failure to bring forth fruit would result in eternal judgment:
And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Mat. 3:10)
Jesus also trumpeted forth essentially the same dire and severe warning:
"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Mat. 7:19).
He again referred to this same final judgment for not bearing fruit in His discourse regarding the Vine and the Branches:
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (Jn. 15:6)
Just so there is no possibility of misunderstanding, let me state categorically in direct opposition to the ludicrous argumentations made by devoid of the Spirit, purported "theologians" who attempt to "explain away" the matter of Divine retribution and even Hell itself, that all these references of being "thrown into the fire" are metaphorical references to "eternal punishment" (Mat. 25:46) in which those who have been rejected and disqualified from Eternal Life are cast into a very literal "lake of fire," which is Hell (Mat. 25:41-46; Rev. 20:11-15; 21:8; et al.).
Judgment Begins with Believers
You see, nearly two thousand years ago, the Apostle Peter wrote, "It is time for judgment to begin with the household of God" (1 Pet. 4:17). If it was "time for judgment to begin" way back then, it certainly is "high time" now. The rarely understood Truth is that God's judgment actually begins with the judgment of believers.
Further corroboration of that Truth is found in the message of John The Baptist, who many years before Peter wrote his words, said that God's winnowing fork was in His hand, and He had already commenced then the process of cleaning out His threshing floor, the end of which will be that "He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Mat. 3:12). That process continues yet today. God is separating the true wheat (i.e., true believers) from the tares (i.e., false brethren) according to their own fruit and deeds. "The end of the age" is quickly closing in upon us, and the fruitless tares are being gathered into piles for burning, while the real grain-bearing wheat is being gathered into the barn (Mat. 13:24-40).
Indeed, judgment has already begun with the household of God, and those who are real wheat are becoming more and more distinguished from those who are mere tares. And, as Jesus said, the true identifier distinguishing the fruit from the tares is the fruit, or produce, of the plant.
Tares, as already mentioned, are virtually identical to true wheat, except that it does not bear any fruit or grain. The barren fig tree, which Jesus cursed when He found it was barren of fruit (Mat. 21:18,19), is another allegory Jesus evoked to exemplify professing Christians whose lives are barren of fruit. It was a hypocritical tree because, though it was the fruit-bearing season and its green leaves portended of fruit, it had none. Jesus discovered the tree was barren when He approached it to pick some figs to satisfy His hunger. The hypocritical barrenness of this tree angered Jesus, and caused Him to curse it, which is to say He pronounced judgment upon it. Matthew recounts the effect was instantaneous, "And at once the fig tree withered."
Jesus demonstrated in the case of this barren fig tree that He utterly despised hypocrisy. But the story of this fruitless tree is not recorded in Holy Writ merely to testify of Jesus' disdain of barren fig trees. Rather, the barren fig tree was emblematic of the lives of barren people, and the incident appears in Scripture to illustrate Jesus' abhorrence of the hypocrisy of people who purport to know God, but whose lives are barren of Kingdom fruit.
Jesus also demonstrated His contempt for hypocrisy with His utter denunciation of the Pharisees for their religious hypocrisy (Mat. 23:1-33). Like the fig tree Jesus cursed and the Pharisees He denounced because of their hypocritical barrenness, there will come the day when those who have professed to be believers but failed to bring forth the fruit of Eternal Life will have judgment pronounced upon them. "Hypocrites," "false brethren," "tares," "deceitful workers," are some of the appellations God, in His Word, attributes to hypocritical people who purport to know and serve Him, but whose lives are barren of Kingdom fruit.
We have just discussed the actual historical incident involving a barren fig tree. Jesus also illustrated His complete disdain for hypocritical barrenness in a parable of a barren fig tree:
And He began telling this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'" (Lk. 13:6-9)
This parable illustrates the little understood fact that there comes a time when even God Himself will be looking for fruit in a person's life. The owner of the vineyard, who symbolized God, came looking for fruit on the tree for three consecutive years after it had grown to the fruit-bearing stage. But the tree was barren. The vineyard owner had allowed more than ample time for it to begin bearing fruit, but it continued to be fruitless year after year.
Consequently, the angry owner gave the order for the barren tree to be cut down, so as to no longer take up valuable ground. But the vineyard-keeper, who symbolized ministers, interceded for the fig tree, which represented members of the Body of Christ. He asked the vineyard-owner to allow him to dig up the ground around the tree, which was emblematic of the soil of the believer's heart, and to put in some fertilizer, symbolizing the Word of God, and allow the tree to remain in the vineyard for one more year. Then, if it still did not bear fruit after that year had passed, the vineyard-keeper would concede and carry out the vineyard-owner's command to cut it down.
God's Charge to Fivefold Ministers
God-appointed ministers truly knowledgeable of their Scriptural responsibilities to the Body of Christ have sometimes found themselves in the unfortunate situation portrayed in this parable. There comes a time when a professing believer who has persisted in bearing no godly fruit but has instead persistently brought forth the fruit of unrighteousness, needs to be reproved, rebuked, and subsequently even removed from the local body of which he is a part if he does not repent. This is the responsibility of the God-appointed shepherds in the Body of Christ.
The Lord is so merciful and forbearing, but after a period of time, God expects believers to begin to bear some fruit consistent with His Life. After what God in His infinite and perfect knowledge considers an ample time for fruit to be brought forth has elapsed, God Himself will "come looking for fruit," according to Jesus' parable. When He has come year after year looking for fruit in a person's life "without finding any," He may soon give the command to the minister, as He did in this parable to the vineyard-keeper, to "Cut it down!"
Now the initial reaction of a true shepherd who is truly "moved by compassion" to care for the sheep of God's Flock to God's command to cut down the tree, will be like that of the vineyard-keeper in the parable. He will be compelled to intercede for the person he has been diligently caring for and in whose spiritual well-being he has invested considerable time and energy. Also, he will beseech the Lord for additional time in order to "dig around," or plow up the soil of the person's heart with some forthright reproof and exhortation, as well as to "put in fertilizer" of additional teaching of the Word of God.
And then, if, after an ample period of time to allow for repentance and restoration, the person still does not bear some Kingdom fruit as evidence of being a true child of God, then the shepherd will reluctantly concede and comply with the Lord's command to remove the offender (1 Cor. 5:13), not from the Kingdom of God, of course, for only God has that power, but from the fellowship of the saints, until such time the offender repents and seeks restoration.
Nevertheless, though human shepherds only remove persistent offenders from the fellowship of other believers (i.e., the local church), those who do not eventually repent from their waywardness will at their final judgment find themselves excluded from eternal fellowship with God as well (Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6; et al.). The propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ does not extend to those who "go on sinning willfully AFTER RECEIVING THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH" (Heb. 10:22). God will not forever tolerate persistent willful, sinful conduct by professing believers who have had ample time to repent, but have refused to do so.
There is much Scripture to support this assertion, far too many passages to delineate here, but a prime example that will suffice for our purposes here is the Lord's condemnation of the church at Thyatira for their continued toleration of immoral and idolatrous activity among their members. Their rebellion was being induced by a rebellious and insubordinate woman, who, in violation of the Lord's explicit command that women are not permitted to teach or be in authority over men, was both teaching and leading in this church:
But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she TEACHES AND LEADS My bondservants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I GAVE HER TIME TO REPENT: AND SHE DOES NOT WANT TO REPENT OF HER IMMORALITY. Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. (Rev. 2:20-23)
Jesus' condemnation of the Pergamum church, likewise for immorality and unauthorized teaching, was similar:
But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality. Thus you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. (Rev. 2:14-16)
Even now, Jesus, as the Head of the Church, is coming to "make war" with such people who refuse to repent, with "the sword of (His) mouth," which is the Word of God, spoken through His anointed and appointed ministers. God is going to judge the churches and their shepherds who have tolerated evil members and not removed them as He has commanded (1 Cor. 5:13, et al.). God's charge to Ezekiel extends unto every shepherd:
Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, "You shall surely die"; and you do not warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, BUT HIS BLOOD I WILL REQUIRE AT YOUR HAND. Yet if you have warned the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself. (Ezk. 3:17-19)
The Body of Christ is just going to have to wake up to the harsh and unfortunate realization that not everyone who calls himself a Christian is a true Born Again child of God. Satan has infiltrated our fellowships with his counterfeits, who disguise themselves as "angels of light" (1 Cor. 11:14,15).
There really are "wolves in sheep's clothing" (Mat. 7:15). There really are "castaways" who have been disqualified from the prize (1 Cor. 9:27), and people who have fallen away from the faith to which they once adhered (1 Tim. 4:1). We must realize that these things are true and not merely religious fables or metaphors. Indeed, there really are spiritual frauds like those Jesus described in the parable of the tares, in which He alludes once again to the consequential judgment for barrenness:
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and BROUGHT FORTH FRUIT, THEN APPEARED THE TARES ALSO. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in the field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and BIND THEM IN BUNDLES TO BURN THEM; but gather the wheat into my barn. (Mat. 13:24-30, KJV)
There are several points in this parable relevant to our topic of discussion here. First, He said that it was "while men slept" that the enemy, which was symbolic of Satan, stealthily infiltrated his tares in among the wheat. Some people foolishly contend that we do not need to be concerned with what the devil is doing, and that we should merely ignore him and all his devices. That is "hogwash!" The Bible plainly tells us not to be ignorant of Satan's schemes (strategic battle plans) "in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan" (2 Cor. 2:11). The Body of Christ needs to wake up and quit sleeping while the enemy uncontestedly infiltrates the Church with hordes of barren frauds.
A second truth Jesus reveals in this parable is that the tares only became evident and distinguishable from the real wheat when the wheat "brought forth fruit," in contrast to the barrenness of the tares. Tares are useless weeds which look virtually identical to wheat. The only difference is that tares have absolutely no grain, or fruit, on the stalk as does real wheat. Tares are counterfeits. Jesus taught us, "You will know them by their fruits" (Mat. 7:30). Thus, we can distinguish the tares from the wheat by whether or not there is any fruit.
Tares are the natural enemy of wheat. If allowed to grow unchecked in a field of wheat, tares will either choke out the wheat crop or at the very least seriously impair its yield. So it is also with the false brethren Satan surreptitiously sows in our fellowships, if allowed to grow unchecked, they can bring serious spiritual injury to that body, especially to fledgling and less mature believers.
But, in the end, according to the parable, the true wheat of God's Field or Kingdom will be separated from the barren tares. The tares will be gathered into piles for burning, and the real wheat will be gathered into God's barn for eternal fellowship with Jesus.
Jude aptly described these false brethren with their ungodly, barren lives, and the judgment that awaits them:
These men are those who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees WITHOUT FRUIT, DOUBLY DEAD, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 12,13)
In the final analysis, bringing forth fruit is what the Parable of the Sower is all about. Jesus reveals in it the step-by-step process believers must follow in order to bring forth the fruit of the Kingdom of God. Moreover, what has been established unequivocally in this chapter is the fact that bearing Godly fruit is an absolute Divine imperative, as well as the incontrovertible fact that the consequences of failure to bear Kingdom-fruit is disqualification from "the race" to attain the prize of Eternal Life and eternal fellowship with God.
Dr. Steven Lambert was ordained in 1977 and holds several earned graduate/post-graduate degrees. Over more than four decades in ministry, he has served as a pastor, radio/TV host, adjunct-professor, Board Certified Doctoral Diplomate Christian Therapist/Counselor, and a speaker/commentator on a range of social, political, and theological issues, particularly as a recognized authority on the matter of ecclesiastical authoritarian abuse. He is the founder/Overseer of Ephesians Four Network (ephesiansfour.net) and its subsidiary, Ephesians Four Network of Deliverance Counselors (efndc.ephesiansfour.net). Dr. Lambert authored several books (catalog at realtruthpublications.com), many published articles, and is the founder/editor of Spirit Life Magazine (spiritlifemag.com). His bio, extensive blog, and scheduling information are available on his ministry website at: http://www.slm.org. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
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