“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it (Matthew 13:45,46).”
This parable should be studied along with Matthew 13:44, the parable of the hid treasure. These two parables, we shall see, have several things in common. Both have to do with Christ and redemption.
We need to be careful as we approach the parables and interpret the parables in the light of clear passages of Scripture. Many have misinterpreted the parables, the parable of the pearl of great price being no exception. Both have to do with the tribulation.
One hymn writer said, “I have found the pearl of greatest price. My heart doth sing for joy, And sing I must for Christ is mine, Christ shall my song employ.” Note that this is the popular interpretation of this parable. The sinner is the merchantman and the pearl of great price is Christ. The sinner sells all that he has that he might buy Christ. WRONG INTERPRETATION! The merchantman cannot be the sinner, because he has nothing with which to buy salvation. Also, neither is Christ nor salvation for sale. Salvation is God’s gift. “For by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8,9).” (See also Romans 6:23).
Please remember, when Jesus Christ spoke in parables, he spoke not to reveal truth, but to conceal truth. Jesus said, in Mark 4:11,12, “And he said unto them (his disciples), unto you it is given to know the mysteries for the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without (unbelievers), all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may hear, and not understand; lest at anytime they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” Jesus Christ spoke to multitudes in parables and the disciples came to him privately, and Jesus explained the meaning of the parables to the disciples when they asked. We must be careful, therefore, when we approach the parables.
This explains why some of the most popular explanations of the parables are completely wrong. Matthew 13:45 begins with, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like…” The phrase, “the kingdom of heaven”, means the kingdom of the heaven, and it clearly represents the 1,000 year earthly rule of Jesus Christ called the millennium. It is called the kingdom of the heavens because it is the rule of the heavens over the earth. In the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:10) we read, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Never yet has this happened! When it does happen, there will be “Peace on earth, good will toward men (Luke 2:14).” This earthly kingdom of the heavens is told of in the book of Daniel as the kingdom which the “God of heaven” will establish here on earth after the destruction of the gentile world-system by Jesus Christ at His Second Coming (Daniel 2:34-44).
In the technical sense, the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” refers just to the 1,000 year reign (rule) of Christ (Revelation 20:4). In the broader sense, the phrase refers to the 1,000-year rule of Christ and the seven years of tribulation that precede it. The focus in the parable in Matthew 13:45 is on the seven years tribulation, which prepares the way for Jesus Christ, who is to come back and rule on the planet earth.
Who is the merchantman? From Matthew 13:37, we learn that the man is Jesus Christ. When Christ explains the parable of the tares in Matthew 13:36-43, He explains that He is the man.
“Seeking” is a reference to the task of Jesus Christ in redemption. “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).” Jesus is seeking the lost; not the lost seeking Christ as was suggested by the wrong interpretation referred to in the song described above.
We believe the pearl of great price refers to Gentiles who will be saved during the tribulation after the rapture.
We know that after the rapture, when all believers on the earth are caught up to meet the Lord in the air (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), there will be a large remnant of Gentiles that will come to know Jesus Christ as their Saviour and be saved. This is during the tribulation period.
There will also be a large remnant of Jewish people that will come to know Jesus Christ as their Messiah and be saved. This will take place after the rapture, during the seven years of tribulation that will precede the millennium (the kingdom of the heavens).
In Matthew 13:44, we learn of the Jewish remnant in the parable of the hid treasure, the hid treasure being those of Israel who are believers (Psalms 135:4). In Matthew 13:45,46, we learn of the Gentile remnant in the parable of the pearl of great price, the pearl being Gentiles who receive Christ during the tribulation.
Revelation 7:4-8 describes the Jewish remnant (hid treasure). Revelation 7:9-14 describes the Gentile remnant. Note, “After this I beheld, and, lo a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne…(Revelation 7:9).” These are Gentiles! When do they get saved? “…These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14).”
Note that the redemption is through the shed blood of the Lamb. In both parables, hid treasure and pearl of great price, the man sells all that he has and buys the treasure and the pearl.
The price of our salvation was one that required that Jesus Christ give his life (his all) for us. Look at II Corinthians 8:9 which says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through His poverty might be rich.” Also, “You are bought with a price; be not you the servant of men (I Corinthians 7:23).” “Forasmuch as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (I Peter 1:18,19).”
Shortly after the Lord comes at the rapture to catch us (all believers) up to be with Him, many Jewish and Gentile peoples will trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour during the tribulation. A large number of these believing Jews and Gentiles will enter the 1,000-year rule of Christ and enjoy “Peace on earth, good will toward men”. We who were saved prior to the rapture will come back to rule and reign with Christ! It could be very soon!