What is the Kingdom of God Like

March 14, 2024 — Krystal Craven
The title text "What is the Kingdom of God Like?" over a large tree growing in a grassy field with birds flying near it.

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” (Luke 13:18-21)

I’ve often heard this section taught that the kingdom of God starts small and then grows to become huge as if that’s the epitome of success in God’s kingdom, and is often accompanied with examples of megachurches. However, when we look at Jesus’ examples given, that’s not what Jesus said.

Indeed, the kingdom of God will have a lot of people, as we can see in Revelation when multitudes of every tribe, tongue, and nation are there. But Jesus is not describing what His kingdom is like in heaven, He’s describing what it’s like on earth.

Mustard Trees

Have you ever seen a mustard seed or what it grows into? The seed is pretty tiny and when grown it’s a plant, not a tree.

Having a seed that is supposed to grow into a plant, grow into a tree instead isn’t natural. When God made plants and trees in the beginning of time, He made them according to their kind for their seeds to be within them so they would produce according to their own kind. But is it possible for a mustard plant to grow into a tree? Not unless man somehow genetically modified it to grow larger than the original design.

And this is the point, it was not God’s perfect design for His kingdom, which would later function on earth under His Church made up of smaller congregations, to be these giant mega trees. Yet with man’s ambitions and intervention, that’s what Jesus said it was like, much like the Tower of Babel we read about in Genesis.

Birds of the Air

Moving onto these birds of the air that make their nests in the branches of this mustard tree. Birds of the air in scripture is often symbolic of evil and workers of satan. There is a distinction, it’s not all birds mentioned in the bible, but in contexts like these or in the Parable of the Sower when the birds snatched the seeds that fell on the side of the path.

So having birds of the air come and make nests in the branches, is similar to wolves in sheep’s clothing. The birds of the air aren’t part of the plant, the way followers of Jesus are likened to branches abiding in the vine, the birds are using the plant for their own purposes. Their sin and corruption hide in the shadow of the church.

Leaven in Bread

Then Jesus moves on to another example, now using leavened bread. Have you ever baked bread? Leaven makes the bread rise. Without leaven, the bread would bake flat, not fluffy. But the thing is that leaven is used in the bible when speaking of sin and corruption.

Jesus even warned His disciples in Luke 12:1 to “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy”. A little sin gets in and before you know it, your ways are full of it.

Also take notice that the woman “hid” the leaven in the flour. If you’ve ever baked bread from scratch or maybe watched a cooking show or YouTube video about it, the leaven is a completely indistinguishable from the flour when you mix it in. They’re practically the same color and they are similar texture. The only way you’d know if there is leaven in the flour is to see if it rises or not.

So, in explaining it in the kingdom of God is to say that currently the church is intermingled with leaven. Sin of which causes a rise in the size and corruption of the church but not in a good way in light of the rest of scripture.

There’s also the added context that God told the people of Israel to bake unleavened bread during the Passover. When they were enslaved in Egypt and God was about to free them, they were to kill a lamb, spread its blood on their door post, eat of it with unleavened bread, and the angel of death would Passover their house when it came time for the last plague of Egypt to come.

Egypt was symbolic of being enslaved to sin. The lamb, in which the blood covered them so the angel of death would Passover them, was symbolic of Jesus’ future sacrifice as our perfect Lamb. And the unleavened bread, as we later saw instituted by Jesus in communion before He died, was symbolic of Jesus’ completely without sin, whose body was broken for us.

It’s A Warning

Why would Jesus describe the kingdom of God in this way then? In short, it’s a warning to us. There will be aspects in various churches that are unnatural to the way God intended it because of man’s ambitions, and if we didn’t know we couldn’t guard ourselves against it.

Now I’m not trying to make this an attack or judgment against megachurches, but I am saying that if you’re part of one, beware and heed Jesus’ warning. When we see early on in the book of Acts, the number of people being saved grew very quickly on the day of Pentecost and onward BUT we also see that they were gathering in their homes together, doing life together, and dedicating time to studying the word of God together, praying together, sharing meals together, and fellowshipping together often. The early church did life together the way Jesus modeled with His disciples and the way He intended His church to be.

It can be very easy in a large church to go to a service once a week and be rather anonymous the rest of the time, but that’s not how God designed His church. It can also be much easier in a large church for sin to abound and to have a lack of discipleship, simply because of the size, but that’s not how God designed His church.

And while I would never tell someone what church they can or can’t go to, I will definitely encourage everyone to have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying, being in your Bible regularly, testing the spirits, and living in accordance to what God designed and desires for you. Man’s ways may seem grand, as they can be larger than life and deceitfully exciting sometimes, but God’s ways are always better, and God always has your good in mind.

The text from Luke 13:18-19 "[Jesus] said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches." over a large tree growing in a grassy field with birds flying near it.