Jan 21, 2012

The Parable of the Minas and the Future Coming of the Kingdom of God

Michael Vlach

Dr. Michael J. Vlach

Jesus' parable of the minas reveals significant information about the kingdom program and is evidence that Christ's kingdom was viewed as being in the future late in Jesus' earthly ministry. Luke 19:11 states:

While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.

The audience ("they") were those who heard Jesus' words regarding the salvation of Zaccheus which included both the multitude and the disciples of Jesus (Luke 19:1–10). Several important theological points should be noted from this verse.

First, Luke tells us that Jesus' parable was occasioned by the belief that "the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately." There was a heavy expectation that Jesus would soon establish the kingdom as He approached Jerusalem. This certainly included the expectation of the deliverance of Israel from oppression and the restoration of the nation.

Second, it does not appear that Jesus or His audience viewed the kingdom of God as having already been established or inaugurated. Jesus and the disciples earlier had preached that the kingdom was near (Matt. 4:17 and Matt. 10:5-7), but Luke 19:11 indicates that both Jesus and His hearers viewed the kingdom as future from their immediate standpoints. This supports the view that the kingdom was near in that it was imminent but it had not yet been inaugurated. There is no sense in Luke 19:11 that the kingdom had already officially arrived.

Third, the purpose of the parable is to correct the idea that the kingdom would be established immediately. It was not to correct the belief that the kingdom would come to earth or involve a restoration of Israel. In other words, the parable is about the kingdom's timing not its nature. McClain is correct that "the people were not wrong in looking for a very genuine appearing or manifestation of the Messianic Kingdom; but the error of which they needed to be cured was the supposition that the Kingdom could come at once without first a departure and a return on the part of the King." [1]

Moving on, Luke 19:12 states:

"So He [Jesus] said, 'A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return.'"

The historical background for this parable as McClain has noted, "was undoubtedly drawn from actual events in the political history of the times. It was a regular procedure for native princes to journey to Rome to receive their right to rule." [2] The case of Herod Archelaus, with whom Jesus' listeners would have been familiar, was probably the incident most on their minds. Archelaus was proclaimed a leader by his father Herod the Great and the army. But Archelaus did not claim the right to rule until he received official sanction from Caesar Augustus in Rome. This involved traveling for many months. During this process he was opposed by various Jews who followed him to Rome to contest his petition to rule over them. In 4 B.C. Caesar Augustus granted Archelaus authority over Samaria, Judea, and Idumea to the dismay of Archelaus's opponents.

The "nobleman" of Luke 19:12 is clearly Jesus. This "nobleman" travels to a "distant country" in order to "receive a kingdom" and then returns to begin his rule over his kingdom. The nobleman is not reigning before he travels to receive his kingdom. He travels in order that he may receive official sanctioning to rule.

The reason why the kingdom of God is not going to appear immediately is because Jesus needs to officially receive His kingdom before it can begin. For Jesus, this "distant country" appears to be Heaven, which He will travel to with His ascension. Just before His ascension, after His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18). At the time of His ascension Jesus receives all authority but the exercise of that authority awaits His second coming. A kingdom involves both the right and power to rule along with the actual exercising of that rule.

To make the comparison, Archelaus went to Rome to receive his kingdom from Caesar but his kingdom reign did not begin until he returned to Judea when he rewarded his servants and dealt with his enemies who did not want him to rule. Likewise, Jesus must travel to Heaven to receive His kingdom from the Father. He receives the right to rule there but His kingdom reign begins at His return.

Luke 19:13-15 continues the parable:

And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, "Do business with this until I come back." But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, "We do not want this man to reign over us." When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done.

The slaves who belong to the nobleman were each given a mina which is the equivalent of 100 days of work. They were to "do business" and try to turn a profit on behalf of the nobleman. These slaves appear to represent servants and believers in Christ. Christians are to use their gifts and talents for Jesus in this period between the Lord's return to Heaven and His second coming. The "citizens" who hate the nobleman appear to be the majority of Jews who do not want Jesus to reign over them.

Verses 16-26 discuss how three of the servants used their minas. The first took his mina and made it ten minas. The second made his mina five minas. But the third did nothing with his mina. He received a strong rebuke and his mina was taken from him and given to the one with ten. The citizens, however, who opposed him were slain (v. 27).

Also significant are the positions of ruling authority given to the faithful slaves. For the first servant who earned ten minas, he was given "authority over ten cities" (v. 17). The second servant was given authority over five cities (v. 18). When the nobleman begins his kingdom reign his faithful servants participate in that reign by also having positions of authority. Faithful service now results in positions of authority later. Neither the nobleman nor the servants were reigning while the nobleman was traveling to the distant country but they both began to reign upon the nobleman's return. These truths fit with other passages where the reign of the saints coincides with the reign of the Messiah (see Rev 2:26-27). Nowhere in Scripture are the saints said to be reigning with Christ now but they will in the future when He returns.

A Summary of the Parable of the Minas

  • Occasion: The people thought the kingdom of God was going to be established immediately as Jesus approached Jerusalem.
  • Main point: The kingdom would not be established until Christ returns from Heaven after He received authority to establish His kingdom from the Father. After that He will come and reward his servants abundantly giving more to those who were faithful and taking away from those who were not faithful.
  • Practical Application for Christians: Christ's servants are to be faithfully using their gifts and talents during this period between the two comings of Christ. When Jesus returns and establishes His kingdom He will reward those who have been faithful and grant them positions of ruling authority. The rewards will not be equal. Those most faithful will reap the most rewards.
  • Practical Application for Non-believers: Those who oppose Jesus will be slain when Jesus returns with His kingdom.

[1] Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom, 342.

[2] Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom, 341.