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Matthew 13:45-46
The Parable of the Pearl

Matthew has recorded this series of parables that Jesus told which show how God is obtaining His kingdom
of sons.

The first four parables - of the sower, the tares, the mustard seed and the leaven - relate to the kingdom in
the heavenly realm - the church. The last four parables - of the treasure, the pearl, the dragnet and the
scribe - then relate to the kingdom in the earthly realm - when Christ will reign on the earth for one
thousand years.

Last time we saw that the treasure represents the dominion - the rule over the earth. The first man, Adam,
was never able to exercise dominion over the earth because of his failure to rule over his own heart, and
submit to God. The creation of mankind that came from him failed in like manner, because they had the
same lawless heart.

But God reserved the rule over the earth for man - and it would be given to a man - the Second Man, the
Lord from heaven - Jesus. In the mean time, the scepter was hidden under Gentile dominion, and preserved
within certain OT prophecies.

The scepter was then unearthed in the coming of Jesus to the earth - only to become hidden again, as He
returned to heaven, without His earthly kingdom. But having obtained the redemption for all mankind
through the cross, Jesus had secured the subjects for His kingdom - and the heavens crowned Him as King.

When Jesus comes again, He will take up the scepter and rule over the whole earth - and His will be a
kingdom of righteousness and peace - the treasure will be His, at last.

We’ll now read this parable again, along with the next one, which concerns a pearl.

[Matthew 13:44-46]

Once again, we need to consider some misconceptions which are common, about the parable of the pearl.
Some think that the pearl of great price is the gospel, or Christ, as they also thought of the treasure, and the
mustard seed, and the leaven. The idea here is that the merchant is like a sinner, who, when he finds Jesus,
recognizes His value, and relinquishes everything he has, in order to have Christ.

But this ignores the divine initiative; God is always, everywhere seen to be the initiator in our salvation:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were
dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:4-5);

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rm
5:8);

“We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). God initiated; we responded.

In addition, how could it be said that the sinner sold all that he had and bought Christ? This problem was
encountered in the parable of the treasure, also. The sinner does not buy Christ; Christ is given to him, as a
free gift, the moment the sinner repents and believes in Him. You can see that the specific language Jesus
uses makes it clear that the pearl is not the gospel, or Christ Himself.
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Which leads to the other most common misconception - that the pearl of great price is the church. This fits
the wording of Jesus a bit better. Jesus is like the merchant, He seeks and finds the church, and He
redeemed it.

But there are several problems with this interpretation. We have established that the first set of parables
reflected the church age, and that the last set reflects the kingdom age. If the pearl of great price is the
church, this would be out of order.

In addition, the merchant finds this one pearl of great price at one moment in time. The church was not all
acquired at once. Believers have been found in every age, for over two thousand years. And the Lord
added to the church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:47).

And finally, the merchant was seeking beautiful pearls. Does that presuppose that there would be more
than one pearl? Of course. The one pearl of great price is being set in contrast to the many lesser pearls
that the merchant would have come across.

But there is only one true church, the Body of Christ. There are no other lesser churches. Once again, on
close consideration, we realize the church doesn’t fit, either.

So what is this parable about? Well, we can see it has some likeness to the parable of the treasure, right?
There’s something precious to a man, and he goes and sells all he has to obtain it.

But in the parable of the treasure, the man buys not the treasure, but the whole field - in order to secure the
treasure, for when he returns for it - at a later time. In the parable of the pearl, the man bought the pearl
itself. As soon as he found it, he went away and sold all that he had, and bought the pearl.

There is another significant difference. It is not said that the man sought the treasure; just that he found it.
Jesus did not have to search for the dominion; He came into it, by birth.

But the merchant was seeking beautiful pearls; he was looking and looking for them. A search has been
going on, over a period of time, before the merchant found the pearl of great price.

So what is this pearl? This pearl is the nation Israel. It’s one nation, among the many - in fact, the pearl is a
single generation, of the nation, Israel - which will be of great value, in the Lord’s eyes. And in order for us
to see that with our own eyes, we have to first consider what Jesus likened it to - a pearl.

A pearl is considered a gemstone. But it is the only gemstone that is made by a living process, and that
comes from the sea.

Now, a pearl doesn’t start out as a pearl; it starts out as some non-descript irritant that makes its way into
the shell of a mollusk - a living organism - and causes it injury. Out of the suffering caused by this irritant
comes a pearl.

But how? The living mollusk responds to the irritant by sending out a secretion to coat the irritant. Over
time, the mollusk continues to cover over and cover over the irritant with this substance - called nacre -
forming a larger and larger pearl. What do you think happens if there is no irritant to begin with? You get
no pearl.
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In fact, naturally-formed pearls are extremely rare - and that was the only kind that existed, in Jesus’ day.
They are so rare that back in that day many hundreds of pearl oysters had to be gathered and opened, in
order to find even one pearl. For centuries, this was the only way that pearls were obtained.

And even then, the pearl might be small; or misshapen; or dull. But if the pearl was a beautiful pearl -
meaning a choice pearl, an excellent pearl - it could bring an extraordinary price. Quality pearls could be
worth the equivalent of millions of dollars. Pearls were more highly valued in the first century Middle East
than diamonds in our culture.

An unblemished pearl was an ancient symbol of perfection. It was formed intact; it was not cut or polished,
to enhance it.

To the Greeks, the beauty of a pearl was unrivaled; and they associated the pearl with love and marriage.
To the Romans, the pearl was considered the ultimate symbol of wealth and social standing. In fact, in the
first century BC, Julius Caesar passed a law limiting the wearing of pearls only to the ruling classes.

A pearl is particularly notable among gems because of its luster; its iridescence. It is the unique interaction
with the light - on all of those successive, overlapping, translucent layers - which, we remember, were
produced by the mollusk - to cover what was originally an irritant. We could say that the history of the
pearl - in conjunction with the mollusk - is part of what results in its extraordinary beauty.

So, knowing that these qualities of the pearl were appreciated in His day, Jesus chose it here to represent
the nation Israel. But not Israel in that day, or any previous day - a future generation of the nation, that
would believe in Him.

Now, Jesus gave His disciples an understanding of all these parables. And because Matthew’s later Jewish
readers would have heard of the death and resurrection of Jesus, they would likely have recognized the
merchant to again represent Jesus as their Messiah, who is seen in this parable as redeeming His nation -
the merchant bought the pearl of great price.

This would have been reinforced in the Jewish mind by the many OT pictures and prophecies of the LORD
redeeming His nation (eg, Ex 6:6, Ps 130:7-8, Is 43:1).

We have an additional help that they didn’t have, at that time - because it wasn’t written yet. Turn to
Revelation chapter 21.

This is part of the description of the New Jerusalem - the heavenly home of the church.

[Revelation 21:10-12, 21]

v. 10-12 The home of the bride is secured with a high wall, with twelve gates, each bearing the name of one
of the tribes of Israel. This serves as a memorial to the nation, from whom the Lamb came into the world -
and the church came into being. Now look down in verse 21.

v. 21 So these gates, representing Israel, are each made of a pearl; perfect, complete, and luminous.

[Return to Matthew 13]

So we can see that later connection to Israel being represented as a pearl. Now let’s consider the parable
together, as Jesus told it.
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The action once again revolves around a man - and based on the previous parables, especially the parable of
the treasure, we should take it that this man is Jesus.

This time, He is portrayed as a merchant. This Greek word refers not to a retail merchant, but to a
wholesaler; we might call him a dealer. This man is a pearl dealer - he is seeking beautiful pearls.

This word for “beautiful” refers to quality; the dealer is seeking excellent, choice pearls. Imagine how
many countless shells were gathered, and opened, just to find the pearls which were set before this dealer’s
gaze!

The vast majority of those shells were empty; others had inferior pearls, which did not meet the standard of
this dealer. We can see in this an allusion to the rebellious Gentile nations.

But finally, after an exhaustive search, the man found one pearl of great price; of high value, to His
discerning eye. And this pearl, too, came out of the sea - for this represents the future remnant of the nation
Israel, which has been scattered among the Gentile nations for the last two millennia - in the sea of
humanity.

When the time comes for the revelation of this remnant of the nation Israel, she will have finally become
the nation that the Lord has been seeking for so long.

Israel was the nation that God had made for Himself; a people that were to be His own possession, with
whom Jehovah desired to have a personal, intimate relationship - as a husband, with a wife. The LORD
purposed to set Israel high above all nations of the earth, as the head nation (Deut 28:1, 13) - a most
excellent pearl.

But in Jesus’ day, Israel was instead a subject of the Roman Empire; and before that, Israel was subservient
to various Gentile oppressors. So it had been, for successive generations of the nation; they were the tail
and not the head (Deut 28:44), because as a nation, Israel was never faithful to her LORD, Jehovah.

So the parable is about the Lord redeeming His nation, but the nation has never yet come to Him, by faith,
to receive His redemption.

Israel was not unlike that irritant, injuring the living mollusk - the sin of the nation, which is an offense
against the living God.

But the LORD is longsuffering with His nation. He did not destroy them for their sin - but instead, He
covered over His nation - layer by layer - generation after generation - with the blood of sacrifices, that
pictured their Coming Messiah.

In this way, God could temporarily bypass the sins that Israel committed - until the Lamb of God came to
take their sins away (Rm 3:23-26).

But when Jesus came the first time, Israel as a nation refused to receive Him, and His redemption. The
pearl was not yet ready, and remained concealed within its shell, hidden in the plan of God. And the Lord
cast Israel into the sea of the nations for two thousand years, to perfect it.

In the parable, the merchant departed, and sold all that he had. This word for “sold” is different than that
used for the treasure, in verse 44. It is a most interesting word. It specifically means to carry across the sea
for the purpose of selling - something you could see a pearl dealer doing.
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Now, as we think back to the parable of the treasure, and the man selling all that he had to buy the field, we
realized that represented Jesus, in His work on the cross, to redeem the world.

The idea in the parable of the pearl is similar - Jesus, in His redemptive work on the cross - but specifically
reflecting His carrying His redemptive work across the sea - that is, out to the Gentiles - until such time
when Israel is ready to receive Jesus, as their Messiah. That’s when the pearl dealer returns, and buys the
pearl.

And this is precisely the idea we see expounded by the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans. Turn to
Romans chapter 11.

Paul devoted three entire chapters of this letter to explain that God is not done with Israel, despite their
unbelief.

In chapter 11, Paul explains that God still has His original purpose for His nation, which will be fulfilled by
a future generation.

And meanwhile, God is taking out a new people to Himself, through the preaching of the gospel - from the
Gentiles. We’re just going to skim through certain verses, to see this.

[Romans 11:2, 5, 11, 25-26]

v. 2a “God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew” - God still has His plan, for Israel.

v. 5 Even at the present time - when Israel had just rejected her Messiah - God could foresee, down the
corridors of time, a remnant of the nation, that will respond to His grace in Christ, to become God’s elect,
chosen people.

v. 11b “But through their [Israel’s] fall, to provoke them [Israel] to jealousy, salvation has come to the
Gentiles”. Jesus had departed, selling all that He had - His very life - across the sea of humanity throughout
the church age. This was designed by God to obtain for Himself a people from the Gentiles, as well as to
provoke the Jews over what they are missing out on.

v. 25-26 Once the church age is complete, God will again deal with His nation, and they will then be ready
to receive Jesus as their Redeemer and King. The remnant of Israel will be completely regenerate; God’s
pearl of a nation.

But this final perfecting of the nation will not be realized without further suffering, on the part of the living
God; He must suffer His nation to go through Great Tribulation, in order to accomplish His purpose for
them.

Turn to Zechariah chapter 13. Zechariah was prophesying of this perfecting of Israel, in the last days.

[Zechariah 13:8-9] Two thirds of Israel will perish in the Great Tribulation - the time of Jacob’s trouble
(Jer 30:7). Only one third will come through that fiery trial - that’s the remnant of Israel; a remnant is
always what is left. But what is left is an entirely refined nation, that now believes in the LORD. Israel will
receive her Redeemer at last.
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And this is how Jesus will find Israel, at His return to the earth: a perfect, regenerate nation. Turn to Isaiah
chapter 66. Isaiah prophesied of Israel during the Great Tribulation as being like a woman experiencing the
pangs of labor.

[Isaiah 66:7-8]

v. 7 What an enigma this prophecy must have been, when Isaiah was given it! But of course, we know that
Israel was the woman who gave birth to Jesus physically, long before Jesus was born to Israel as her
Messiah, through faith in Him.

v. 8 The regenerate nation will be born in a day - all at once, entirely - just like the pearl of great price was
found, in all of its completed perfection.

And how would that pearl have been obtained? They would have to have opened the shell, to get it. What
happens to the mollusk, when this is done? It dies. The regenerate nation can only come forth through the
death of the living God.

This is something that a Psalmist was given to see. Turn to Psalm 118. This was part of the hallel - the
praise to God - that was sung by Israel at all the feasts of the LORD.

[Psalm 118:1-4, 25-29]

v. 1-4 Let Israel now say - His mercy endures forever. This is the song of the remnant of Israel, that the
LORD in His mercy will deliver.

The psalm continues with a prophecy of Israel being pressed on all sides by their enemies, which will take
place during the Great Tribulation. But it will cause Israel to cry out to the LORD for deliverance, and He
will save them.

Let’s continue in verse 25.

v. 25-29 The remnant of Israel will bless “He who comes in the name of the LORD - their Messiah, Jesus.
And then, they will put their faith in Him.

This is seen by the imagery in verse 27 - Israel will finally offer to God the one and only acceptable
sacrifice, for the sins of the nation - the One pictured in their ceremonial sacrifices - Jesus. And on that
basis - on the death of the living God, on their behalf - God can now redeem His people.

What do you think that this pearl dealer would do with the pearl of great price - that had cost him his all, to
buy? Do you think he would stick it in a drawer, and forget about it? No; the pearl is beautiful, a choice
pearl; but its beauty can only be seen in the light. No doubt, the pearl dealer would delight in lifting it up -
displaying it, for all to see.

This is what the LORD will do, with His regenerate nation. Turn to Isaiah chapter 60. This is a prophecy of
the ascendancy of Jerusalem, as the LORD’s capital city of the entire earth. It reflects the LORD setting Israel
high above all the nations of the earth, as the head nation - no longer the tail.

[Isaiah 60:1-3, 19-22]


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v. 1-3 The regenerate nation Israel has been lifted up, and is radiant, reflecting the glory of the LORD to all
the other nations. The end of the prophecy indicates the source of her luminous glow.

v. 19-22 The little remnant will constantly reflect the glory of the LORD, throughout the Kingdom Age.

In that day, Jesus, the King, will take Israel as His bride-queen. This can be seen in Psalm 45, a prophecy
given to the sons of Korah. This foretells the marriage of the King; the royal wedding.

First, we have a description of the King.

[Psalm 45]

v. 1-2 “Fairer than the sons of men” is a description of the King’s splendor; His excellence; He is above all
men. And the King speaks forth the words of God, for that is who He is; the Anointed One.

v. 3-5 This speaks of how the King came into His kingdom; He had to do battle for it. He gained His
throne by virtue of His prevailing power.

v. 6-7 You may remember this text from our passage in Hebrews last time (Heb 1:7-8), where it was quoted
by the author to reflect the coronation of Jesus as King, when He returned to heaven. Now the earth is
resounding the refrain, as Jesus takes His throne on earth at His Second Coming.

v. 8 The compounds named are used for the anointing of a dead body. Jesus still carries the scent as He
leaves the ivory palaces of heaven, to return to the earth. In fact, Jesus will wear that forever as His
signature fragrance.

The psalmist goes on to now speak of the King’s bride.

v. 9 The King’s daughters would likely refer to those Gentiles who have believed into Jesus to be born
again, children of God. These are the Tribulation saints (Rev 7:9-17). So who would the queen be? The
wife of the King? That’s the believing remnant of Israel. Gold from Ophir was considered the purest,
finest gold.

The singular “daughter” mentioned next is this remnant of Israel.

v. 10-12 The idea here is that Israel must forget the past - her history of unbelief, as a nation. That is no
longer who Israel is.

Israel has been transformed, through the longsuffering and the grace of God, born again into a beautiful
pearl among nations - very pleasing, to her King - and is now able to reflect His glory, through her
submission to Him.

Verse 12 shows that Israel will reap material blessings from the Gentile nations, as the head nation on the
earth, through whom the King will rule.

v. 13-15 Verse 13 reads, the royal daughter is all glorious within; she is a glowing bride, fitted with royal
attire. The virgins may refer to the 144,000 Jews who preached the gospel of the kingdom throughout the
Tribulation; those who led Israel to the Lord now follow her, part of the glorious procession.

The psalmist now speaks of the children that shall be born to the King and His queen.
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v. 16-17 These are the sons of God that will be born to Jesus through Israel during the Kingdom Age; it
will be a fruitful union.

We have one final passage to look at, which shows Israel as that beautiful, choice pearl. It’s found in
Proverbs 31.

This is the counsel of a wise mother to her son, whose name was King Lemuel. Some ancient Jewish
traditions identify this king as Solomon; but what is certain is that the mother was counseling her King-son
about women.

The first section is a warning to the king to stay away from the kind of woman that would destroy a king.
Such a woman - the idea is a harlot - is like strong drink; a king will come under her influence, to his
certain demise.

The mother instead admonishes her king-son to rule righteously, and to find a virtuous wife - literally, a
wife of valor, in the sense of all forms of excellence.

You may have a notion that this could possibly pertain to a more significant King-Son, and I believe you
would be right about that. The first woman, the harlot, is like the world system, with its worldly kingdoms.
Jesus kept Himself away from her influence, when He came to the earth. Who do you think the virtuous
wife might be, that He found? The regenerate nation of Israel.

We’ll begin with the mother’s counsel about a virtuous wife, in verse 10.

[Proverbs 31:10-12, 29-31]

v. 10-12 There’s the pearl of great price - the believing remnant of Israel. What follows is a figurative
description of her industrious work, that will serve her husband-King well, in His Kingdom.

This excellent wife is a blessing to her entire household - which would be all the sons of God, born in the
Kingdom. And her husband praises her, for Israel will be a real asset to Him.

This is how it concludes.

v. 29-31 You excel them all. Israel will be a most excellent pearl of a nation in the hand of the King, as she
glorifies Jesus to the nations throughout the Kingdom Age.

Reading: Matthew 13:47-52; Matthew 25:31-46; Isaiah 2:1-5; Jer 31:31-34.