1. What was the intent of Jesus in giving the parable of the mustard grain, in harmony with what prophecy?
WHAT, now, must be the intent of Jesus’ parable of the mustard grain, a seed very tiny in its embryonic condition but developing into a tree? The intent must be to show something in harmony with the reference made by Jesus to the negative picture given in Isaiah 6:9, 10. (Matt. 13:13-15) In giving this third parable in a series of seven, Jesus said: “The kingdom of the heavens is like a mustard grain, which a man took and planted in his field; which is, in fact, the tiniest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the largest of the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that the birds of heaven come and find lodging among its branches.”—Matt. 13:31, 32.
2. In likening the mustard-grain tree to the nominal church, how did Zion’s Watch Tower as of May 15, 1900, interpret the lodging of the birds of heaven among the tree’s branches?
2 The issue of Zion’s Watch Tower under date of May 15, 1900, page 153, said: “The third parable-picture of the kingdom in its present embryonic condition of development is intended to show that from a very small beginning the nominal church of this Gospel age would attain to quite considerable proportions. . . . Yet this large development does not necessarily signify advantage or anything specially desirable, but on the contrary it becomes a disadvantage, in that the fowls of the air come and lodge in its branches, and defile it. The ‘fowls of the air’ in the preceding parable of the sower represented Satan and his agents, and we are, we think, justified in making a similar application here, and interpreting this to mean that the church planted by the Lord Jesus flourished rapidly and exceedingly, and that because of its attainments, strength. etc., Satan through his agents, came and lodged in the various branches of the Church. They have been lodging in the branches of this Gospel church for these many centuries, and are still to be found in her, a defiling element.”
3. What did The Watch Tower under date of June 15, 1910, say that the “tree” at its full development represented, along with birds?
3 Presenting a view similar to that just quoted, the issue of The Watch Tower for June 15, 1910, page 204, went on to say: “So then the teaching of this parable would lead us to conclude that the church of Christ, at one time, was so unimportant in the world that it was a shame and a dishonor to belong to it, but that ultimately it would become honorable and great and the adversary’s servants would have pleasure in its shade. This development the Scriptures represent as being Babylon, declaring that, as a whole, with the various branches and denominations, the nominal church of Christ is Babylonish. Hearken to the Lord’s words: ‘She has become the hold of every foul spirit and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird.’”—See also The Watch Tower as of June 15, 1912, page 198, under the heading “Like a Mustard Seed.”
4. (a) What did those two Watch Tower articles not say that the symbolic “tree” was? (b) As to time and location, what kind of picture and scene does the mustard-grain parable not illustrate?
4 Here we are now, in this year 1975, and the big question is, What does that grown mustard-seed tree picture? Babylon the Great, say the above-quoted two issues of the Watch Tower magazine. They do not say that this vegetable tree pictures the Kingdom class of 144,001 enthroned Christians in heavenly power. But what must we of today say? For one thing, we must bear in mind that this illustration of the mustard grain does not present a millennial picture, to show the final number of the Kingdom class reigning in heavenly glory and with all mankind taking refuge under this Messianic kingdom. It does not present a heavenly scene with regard to the heirs of the “kingdom of the heavens.” It pictures an earthly state of affairs at a particular period of time.
5. What is the special period of time in which the parable reaches the climax of its fulfillment, and where does that fulfillment take place?
5 The special period of time is that indicated by Jesus in the parables of the wheat and weeds and of the dragnet. In the parable of the wheat field oversown with weeds, Jesus said: “The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things, and the reapers are angels.” In the parable of the dragnet, Jesus said: “That is how it will be in the conclusion of the system of things: the angels will go out and separate the wicked from among the righteous and will cast them into the fiery furnace. There is where their weeping and the gnashing of their teeth will be.” (Matt. 13:39, 49, 50) The “harvest” takes place here on earth, where the “weeds” that need to be separated out are located. Likewise, the separating of the suitable “fish” from the unsuitable takes place here on earth, where the fishing ‘waters’ are. The symbolic “weeds” and unsuitable “fish” are the professed Christians whose hearts are unreceptive, whose ears are unresponsive, and whose eyes are pasted together so that spiritual healing of such professed Christians is impossible.—Isa. 6:9, 10; Matt. 13:14. Compare Acts 28:25-28. See the article “No Healing Till Houses Are Without Man,” in Watchtower issue of December 15, 1966.
6. What does this vegetable “tree” of today claim to be, and why, therefore, could that symbolic “tree” not be Babylon the Great?
6 By the “conclusion of the system of things” in our times the symbolic mustard-seed tree should be fully grown. That state of growth would correspond with the harvesttime. Since the harvest of the spiritual “wheat” or “sons of the kingdom” has been in progress since 1919 C.E., we can discern the symbolic mustard-seed tree now at its full growth here on earth. This vegetable tree claims to represent the “kingdom of the heavens,” for Jesus said that “the kingdom of the heavens is like” it. For that reason the mustard-grain tree could not picture Babylon the Great, for that organization is the world empire of false religion that started with ancient Babylon. Babylon the Great as a whole does not claim to be or represent “the kingdom of the heavens” or the Messianic “kingdom of God.” However, the most numerous and prominent part of Babylon the Great does claim to represent God’s heavenly Messianic kingdom. That most powerful part of Babylon the Great is Christendom, with its thousand or more religious branches and denominations.
7. To what has Christendom’s greatest growth in history been due, and when did she really start and how?
7 Christendom claims to have sprung from the original small Christian congregation in Jerusalem during the first century C.E. Today Christendom’s congregations number into the millions. She has attained her greatest growth! But her scandalous worldliness and lack of spirituality today make it certain that her tremendous growth has not been due to her spiritual virtues and her having the advancing light of Bible truth.
This corrupting of the tremendous mass of Christendom’s imitation “sons of the kingdom” has made the false earthly “kingdom of God” an excellent place for the agents of Satan the Devil to take refuge in, like the “birds of heaven” lodging among the branches of the full-grown mustard-seed tree.—Matt. 13:31, 32.
10, 11. (a) Why is nothing beneficial for mankind pictured in the parable of the mustard grain? (b) So, what “kingdom” today does the mustard-seed “tree” picture?
10 The lodging of all these symbolic “birds of heaven” in the many ramifications of Christendom has not been for the spiritual benefit of Christendom. It is just like the tree that grew from the mustard grain that the farmer planted in his garden or field. The birds of heaven that lodged in its branches were able to eat the mustard seeds, just like the birds of Jesus’ parable of the four soils who ate up the seeds that fell from the sower’s hand by the roadside. (Matt. 13:4) As far as Jesus’ parable went, the tree did not serve for any human benefit. For instance, the parable does not tell how, when the tree became full size, the planter came and chased those birds away and collected a large quantity of mustard seed for making a good sauce to season some foods. But, certainly, the farmer did not plant the mustard grain in his garden just to provide a lodging place for the “birds of heaven.”
11 All things taken into account, it is apparent that the symbolic mustard-seed “tree” of today is the counterfeit “kingdom of the heavens,” namely, Christendom, with her clergy lording it over the laity. The full-grown “tree” could not consistently picture the remnant on earth today of the sealed spiritual Israelites, for these are merely a fraction, not the full numerical growth of the 144,000 Kingdom heirs. In fact, for more than twenty-seven years the spiritual remnant has been getting fewer in number. At the Memorial celebration of 1975 their number had dropped to 10,454.
A MUSTARD PLANT DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE MIGHT EXPECT
12. On the basis of the Bible rule that a seed must bring forth its kind, what objection might someone logically raise to the explanation that the mustard-seed “tree” pictures Christendom?
12 Quite logically, someone might raise up against the foregoing presentation the following objection: In Jesus’ parable, the man who sowed the mustard grain did so with good intentions. From this grain he expected the growth of a mustard plant “according to its kind.” (Gen. 1:11, 12) He did not expect something foreign to what he had sown. He had in mind no counterfeit of a mustard plant. That being the case, how can we say that such a counterfeit is exactly what the sower got? Accordingly, how can we say, as above, that the “tree” that grew from the mustard grain represented Christendom, the counterfeit of the “kingdom of the heavens”?* Is that not contrary to God’s law that a seed must produce its own kind? Would not this divine law, when spiritually applied, rule out the idea of Christendom, the opposite of the “kingdom of the heavens”?
13, 14. (a) Why would there have been no Christendom if there had been no Jesus Christ? (b) According to what standard does God hold her accountable to Him, and of what is she the counterpart?
13 In this regard, things started with Jesus Christ. If there had been no Christ, there would have been no Christendom. A simple statement, but true nonetheless! In the fourth century of our Common Era Christendom pinned herself to the true Christ, not to a false Christ, a false Messiah, so as to make the counterfeit more undiscernible. She even took his official designation by calling herself Christendom. She has appropriated to herself the various things connected with Jesus Christ. She practices baptism in water, some of her churches even today practicing total immersion. She celebrates the Lord’s Supper with bread and the product of the grapevine. She has her elders or bishops and deacons. (Phil. 1:1, Authorized Version) And, as for the Holy Bible as a whole, the very Bibles that the Christian witnesses of Jehovah have used down till the beginning of the publication of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in 1950 C.E. have come to us from the Bible societies that Christendom’s churches have operated.
14 It is plainly evident that Jesus Christ is implicated with the formation of Christendom, which has professed till now to be his true Church. Furthermore, Jehovah God takes Christendom at her word and according to her own claims. For this reason Jehovah calls upon her to live up to her claims and holds her responsible for failure to live up to his requirements. For this he will bring upon her a due punishment. In this “conclusion of the system of things” he judges her as unfaithful to her religious professions. She is the modern-day counterpart of unfaithful Israel of ancient times.