The Pearl of Great Price
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46) Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it" (Matt 13:45-46). Before getting in to the meat of this meditation, it is necessary that the reader understand what the "kingdom of heaven" is that Jesus is referring to in this parable. The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are two phrases that are used interchangeably in the Bible. The book of Matthew uses both phrases, while the other gospels only use the "Kingdom of God". For example, the phrase "kingdom of heaven" is used in the parable of the leaven in Mat 13:33, and the phrase "kingdom of God" is used in the same parable in Luke 13:20-21. The New Testament local church is God's kingdom on earth which began at the ministry of John the Baptist when he preached, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mat 3:2). The coming of the kingdom of God in those days was a fulfillment of the prophesy made by Daniel concerning king Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the statue made of gold, silver, brass, and iron mixed with clay (Dan 2:31-35). Daniel interpreted the four parts of the statue in the king's dream to be four great kingdoms of the earth, beginning with the head of gold which was Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom of Babylon (Dan 2:38). Three great kingdoms would follow after Babylon (Dan 2:39-40). During the time of the fourth kingdom, another kingdom would emerge and remain forever and consume all the kingdoms of the earth. "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Dan 2:44). The three great kingdoms that succeeded Babylon were the Medes and the Persians, the Greeks, and the Roman empire. The kingdom that God set up during the days of the Romans was the Kingdom of Heaven/God that John the Baptist proclaimed at the beginning of his ministry into which men actively entered by penitent baptism (Luk 16:16 c/w Mat 21:31-32 c/w Luk 7:29-30) to submit to King Jesus and be joined unto an assembly of believers, per Acts 2:38-47. God's kingdom is the kingdom of the local church which began about 2000 years ago and broke in pieces and consumed all the kingdoms of the earth and, regardless of what the Mormons say, has stood forever and "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mat 16:18). As with all parables, there is a natural _expression which has a spiritual application or parallel . Once the natural meaning is understood, the same reasoning can then be applied to understanding the spiritual meaning because it "is like unto..." The natural meaning is rather straight forward. A merchant man was looking for goodly pearls, not just any pearl. When he found that perfect pearl of great price, he valued it so highly that he sold all his possessions and bought it. That the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man searching for goodly pearls allows for an interesting spiritual parallel if one considers that the kingdom of heaven, which is the independent local church, is the pearl that the man was looking for. As such, the merchant man is likened to a believer that is searching for a true, faithful New Testament church. If all or most of the churches out in the world were true, faithful N.T. churches that were/are worshiping "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24), the parable would seem incongruous. The fact that the man was searching for goodly pearls implies that they were rare and when he finally found that pearl of great price, he stopped searching and gave up all that he had for it. In the context of the kingdom of God, the fact that a man had to search hard to find it and he gave up everything to be a part of it, suggests that there were not many true churches around, and the true churches that were around were not "goodly" but had problems in them. Many "churches" were not then, and are still not now, true churches and in the context of pearls would not be pearls at all. Of the churches that are true churches, the pearls, the majority of them had blemishes in the days of the apostles and still do today, for "there is no new thing under the sun" (Ecc 1:9). In the book of Revelation, Jesus had John write letters to seven churches, five of which had issues that Jesus condemned them for. Some of the issues in those churches included, leaving their first love (Christ), false doctrine, fornication, having a woman for a pastor (Jezebel), and being luke-warm. How many churches these days have one or more of those same problems in them? How many pastors now days would not dare to be "hot" (Rev 3:15) and preach "sound doctrine" (Tit 1:9) because of the fear that it might offend someone or cause division among those in the church? The church that is "the pearl of great price" is the church where the pastor preaches sound doctrine with hopes of provoking his listeners to repentance, even when he knows that it might cause some people to feel uneasy. In that church, the pastor teaches "them to observe all things whatsoever I (Jesus) have commanded you" (Mat 28:20), and to "keep the ordinances, as I (Paul) delivered them to you" (1 Cor 11:2), and does not add in any of the traditions[s] of men" (Mar 7:8). Just as the man in the parable gave up all he had for the pearl of great price, so should the man who finds the church which is the "pearl of great price". He should do as Peter who had "forsaken all, and followed thee" (Matt 19:27). Following Jesus Christ and being a member of His church are inseparable concepts. A person cannot identify with Jesus the Head (Eph 1:22-23) and not be a member of His church which is His body. Once a person hears and believes the gospel, the very first thing that he is commanded to do is "repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:38). Baptism is the means by which a person joins a local church, which is "the body of Christ" (1 Cor 12:27). "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42) And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:41-42). "...And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). A person cannot follow Christ without being baptized, which adds the person to a local church. If the church that a person gets baptized into is "the pearl of great price" and has the characteristics of the church described above, the person can be guaranteed to suffer persecution because "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim 3:12). But, "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Mat 6:33). For Jesus has promised us that "every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life" (Mat 19:29). If you have not found that "pearl of great price", remember the words of Jesus, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Mat 7:7), but be prepared like the merchant man to sell all that you have, to "count all things but loss..." (Phi 3:8). Be prepared like Jesus said to "deny [your]self, and take up [your] cross daily, and follow me" (Luk 9:23). For those of you who have found that "pearl of great price", you had better cleave to it and thank God for it. "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23) Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25) Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Heb 10:22-25). We should be like Moses by, "Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26) Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward" (Heb 11:25-26).