The prodigal son parable, Part 2
Sep 18, 2014
Jesus always drew his illustrations from the Scriptures when giving parables. Though He applied it in a local context to the people of his day, the parables did not lose their prophetic character in the larger picture. In fact, the two levels are similar to what we have observed even today, where people walk out some Bible story, usually without realizing it.
In this case, the scribes and Pharisees were playing the role of the evil figs in Jeremiah 24 and were the hypocritical Judahites in Jeremiah 3:10, 11. The publicans and sinners (and harlots) were playing the role of faithless Israel, the open harlot of Jeremiah 3:6 and the entire prophecy of Hosea. The prophets foretold of the repentance of Israel, as God would remake the nation into another vessel (Jeremiah 18:4). But the hardened clay vessel of Judah and Jerusalem was to be smashed in gehenna, the city dump (Jeremiah 19:11).
For this reason, as we will see shortly, the prodigal son is said to repent and to return to the Father, while the elder brother grumbled. Like the nation of Judah, the elder brother had not gone on the far journey that his brother (Israel) had taken. Judah did not lack for the word of God, for it was available everywhere, even though understanding was limited. And so, as we will see, the Father tells the elder brother in Luke 15:31, “My child, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.”
Yet here we must understand that only the good figs of Judah would actually receive the inheritance of the Father. Jesus’ parable is incomplete, in that it does not deal directly with the two types of figs, nor does it distinguish between inheritors and those who are judged when the nation, city, and temple were to be destroyed by divine judgment.
It is only when we come to the final parable of the rich man and Lazarus that Jesus openly reveals the fate of the two nations. In that parable, Lazarus is the equivalent of the prodigal son, and the rich man is the elder son—the evil figs of Judah. We will discuss this in further detail later at the appropriate time, but this preview may allow readers to anticipate the flow of revelation as we progress.
The Prodigal Suffers Famine
Luke 15:14-16 says,
14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 And he went and attached himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he was longing to fill his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.
This is the famine prophesied in Amos 8:11, 12, saying,
11 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord. 12 And people will stagger from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”
When Israel was cast out of the land and exiled to Assyria, they began to experience a famine of hearing the word. During their time in Assyria itself, Ezekiel was sent to give them the word of God, but God made it clear to the prophet that the people would refuse to hear. After being transported supernaturally to the Israelites in Assyria, the prophet remained seven days in a stupor (Ezekiel 3:14, 15). At the end of seven days, which prophetically represents the “seven times” of their captivity, Ezekiel 3:24-26 says,
24 The Spirit then entered me and made me stand on my feet, and He spoke with me and said to me, “Go, shut yourself up in your house. 25 As for you, son of man, they will put ropes on you and bind you with them, so that you cannot go out among them. 26 Moreover, I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be dumb, and cannot be a man who rebukes them, for they are a rebellious house.”
Israel’s “seven times,” as I have said, ended from 1776-1800, at which time America and its capital was founded. This prophetically marks the time when the prophet would stand on his feet. However, as the biblical account shows, the people were still a rebellious house, and so the word of the prophet was still bound. Prophetically speaking, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. I believe this indicates the famine of hearing the word would continue throughout American history (and, by extension, the world as well).
The Famine Broken in 2013
It was not until late summer of 2013 that we were led to engage in a prayer campaign to break the famine of hearing the word. Our revelation at the time connected this word-famine to the famine in the time of David. 2 Samuel 21:1 tells us that there was a three-year famine toward the end of David’s reign. It was not caused by David’s actions, but many years earlier in the time of his predecessor, King Saul, who had broken Joshua’s treaty with the Gibeonites.
Because Saul was a prophetic type of the Church under Pentecost, having been crowned on the day of wheat harvest that was later known by the Greek term Pentecost (1 Samuel 12:17), his actions established the prophetic pattern that America followed later in all of its broken treaties with the Native Americans. Unfortunately, the Church largely supported the government in breaking these treaties. There was insufficient protest coming from Christian people to demand an end of such governmental practice.
Hence, the famine of hearing the word continued, even though the “seven times” of Israel’s captivity had ended. Because of continued lawlessness, God then put America (and the world) back into captivity to private banking oligarchs through the Federal Reserve Bank in December of 1913.
Our prayer campaign a century later has addressed the problem in the divine court. We now await the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which (we believe) will truly end the famine of hearing the word.
A century ago, the Pentecostal outpouring might have ended this famine, if they had known what to do in the divine court. But few—if any—understood the source of the problem. No one, it appears, understood that Saul was a Pentecostal. At any rate, the prophetic pattern shows that Saul’s house would not resolve the problem. We would have to wait for the death of “Saul” in 1993, after the close of the Pentecostal Age.
Saul’s forty-year reign in Israel prophesied of the 40-Jubilee reign of Pentecost from 33-1993 A.D. And so the problem could not be resolved until prophetic “David” was given authority some time after 1993. The prayer campaign served that purpose in 2013.
When Jesus said that the prodigal son had to find work feeding swine, the impact upon those listening to the parable was far greater than it is upon most people today. Jesus’ listeners would have been horrified, for to them it represented the lowest depths to which a man might fall.
But swine were also symbolic of people who had no appreciation for the word of God or the revelation of the word. We see this in Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:6,
6 Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
In the natural world, swine have no appreciation for pearls, even as swine-people have no appreciation for the revelation of the word. For this reason, Jesus said in the next verse,
7 Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.
In other words, if you wish to shed a swine personality, ask, seek, and knock, so that the word might be given to you. The significance of swine is seen in the food laws in Leviticus 11:7. Swine are unclean because they do not chew the cud. That is, they do not meditate on the word. They do not take the time to ask the Holy Spirit to turn the word into a spiritual revelation. They simply eat what is dispensed from denominational creeds or from the pulpits, but do not ask, seek, or knock on the doors of heaven to receive the pearls of revelation.
And so, in the parable, Jesus has the prodigal son feeding swine in the time of famine. It prophesies of a time where the famine of hearing the word would turn men into spiritual swine, people who have no revelation of the word, even though they “eat” the Scriptures every week from men who dispense the word from the pulpit.
This parable may have been directed against the grumbling religious leaders in the local application to Jesus’ listeners. They too had rejected the revelation of the word. Although they were the custodians of Scripture, their traditions of men developed with little revelation from the Holy Spirit. Hence, we see the conflict between the religious leaders and Jesus Himself, which was really a conflict over the word of God itself.
The Prodigal Repents
Luke 15:17-19 continues,
17 But when he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!” 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”
Here is the essence of the parable. God is not looking for righteous men, but for repentance. Luke 5:32 clarifies this principle, saying,
32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.
The series of Kingdom parables in Luke 15 and 16 was sparked by the religious leaders who grumbled that Jesus was receiving sinners and eating with them. The truth was that these “sinners” were returning to God because they were repentant. Just because they had not been reinstated officially by the temple priests did not mean that they were outcasts before God.
Not much has changed today. Much of my ministry is to those who have been cast out by one or more churches. It was the same with David while he was being hunted down by King Saul. His men were the oppressed, the dispossessed, the cast-out ones, and those generally discontented with the rule of Saul, the Pentecostal. 1 Samuel 22:2 says,
2 And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him [David]; and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him.
These are the kinds of people who make up the Kingdom of God. These are the ones who follow David (Christ), rather than Saul (the church). These are pictured collectively by the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable of the Kingdom, because the same category of sinners and publicans had gathered around Jesus, the Son of David.
Jesus was looking for repentance, not righteousness. The elder brother in the parable was the “righteous” one (in the estimation of the temple and its priests). So the decision of the prodigal son to return to the Father was Jesus way of answering his religious critics who grumbled that He would fellowship with such sinners.
(To be continued)
This is the second part of a mini-series titled "The Prodigal Son Parable." To view all parts, click the link below.
This is part of the eighty-fourth part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones