What is the treasure the kingdom of heaven is likened to in the parable of the hidden treasure

The most popular interpretation of this parable is that the treasure symbolizes the kingdom. It is a priceless treasure to be desired above all else, and as such a person should be willing to part with everything in order to possess it. In this interpretation the term "selleth all" is metaphorical. It simply means that one must transfer his whole heart from other interests to the one supreme interest, our Lord Jesus Christ. Another view is that Jesus Himself is the priceless treasure, and that we must sell all that we have to possess Him. These are both commendable views, but they are not what the parable teaches. Still another interpretation is that the treasure is Israel, which is called "God's peculiar treasure" in scripture (CP Ex 19:5; Psa 135:4). It would be easy to agree with this interpretation except for the fact that Israel was always openly in view as God's treasured possession right throughout scripture, whereas the treasure represented something hidden, even in Mt 13, as Jesus spoke this parable (CP De 7:6; Isa 62:1-5; Mal 3:16-17). Israel was never hidden like the treasure in the parable. Furthermore, Jesus did not pay the purchase price for Israel alone in His redeeming death, but for the whole world of sinners - Jews and Gentiles alike (CP Jn 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; 6:33,51; 11:51-52; 12:47; 2Cor 5:17-19; 1Jn 2:2; 4:14).

It is easier to understand this parable in the light of those scriptures. The word "world" means all mankind. This is not teaching that all mankind will be saved, but that the price Jesus paid was sufficient for all mankind. Although the man purchased the field in the parable, it was the treasure, not the field, that was the man's object. He purchased the field in order to possess the treasure. The treasure represents something that was hidden even at the time our Lord told this parable in Mt 13. It was the church that was hidden. The church was decreed in God's eternal purpose before the beginning of time, but it was not revealed even to the angels in heaven until Jesus revealed it to the disciples in Mt 16 (CP Mt 16:13-18). This is the first mention of the church in scripture (CP Ro 16:25-26; 1Cor 2:7-8; Eph 1:3-5, 9-10, 3:1-11; Col 1:25-27; 2Ti 1:1, 8-10; Tit 1:1-3; 1Pe 1:3-12, 18-20). The church is the treasure, and the man who purchased the field in order to possess the treasure is Jesus. The field represents the world of sinners - the whole of human society - for whom He died. It is significant that Jesus did not call the field His field in the parable, but a field. It became His after He purchased it with His life-blood at Calvary, which is what Jn 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; 6:33,51; 11:51-52; 12:47; 2Cor 5:17-19; 1Jn 2:2 and 4:14 all teach. This interpretation harmonises with the rest of Jesus' parables concerning the kingdom in Mt 13 and it also shows why neither Jesus nor the kingdom can be the treasure as so many Christians believe (see also comments on 13:3-9; 13:24-30; 13:31-32; 13:33).

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