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Lowell Brueckner

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Seeking the Truth of the Kingdom, chapter four


Leaven never has a positive meaning in the entire Bible. The materials burnt on the altar symbolized an offering exclusively for God; therefore leaven was never part of a sacrifice offered to God by fire. It was forbidden (Lev.2:11). The only time when leavened bread was used in an offering was in Leviticus 7:13, where the peace offerings were described, and the leavened bread was eaten by the priest, who officiated the sacrifice. Then in 23:17, the bread represented the nation of Israel and symbolized the future body of believers, who participated at Pentecost. Even in these cases, the leaven signified something negative, namely sin, and was offered in recognition of the presence of sin still in those who participated. John taught us the importance of recognizing that reality in 1 Juan 1:8-9, warning that in refusing to acknowledge the fact, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

Therefore, in my opinion, it seems very inconsistent for Jesus to use leaven in one of His parables, as a positive symbol.  All right, you will have to study the entire chapter to see fully the doctrine presented and in this way arrive at a conclusion…


“He spoke another parable to them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” (Matthew 13:33)


This chapter is from the book,
Seeking the Truth of the Kingdom

The parable of the woman that hid leaven in the bread dough is also found in Luke 13:20-21. Again, we will be careful to completely study all that has reference to this parable. Through it, we should be able to get an idea about how the mustard plant became a great tree in the previous parable.

Precisely after this parable, Matthew adds that “all these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world” (vs. 34-35, citing Psalms 78:2).

His method of teaching parables and the reason why He did so, confirms the teaching contained in some of them. It was to reduce the number of disciples, until only those who were hungry and sincere in heart remained. As I have been emphasizing, after the multitudes left a few lingered behind with the disciples. They stayed to receive from the mouth of Jesus the spiritual significance of mysteries that no one had known since the foundation of the world until that time.

Paul obeyed the injunction that Jesus left with his disciples. Among all the nations, they were to be “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Mt. 28:20). Teaching in his epistles, Paul only built upon the foundation that Jesus laid in the Gospels. It would seem that he was directly referring to the parable in question, when he wrote to the Galatians, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough” (5:9), concerning a circumcision that did not proceed from the Christ, who had called them (vs. 8). Does it not seem to you that Paul here is using the same figure of speech that Jesus used, when he spoke of a woman that took leaven and hid it in the dough, “until it was all leavened”?

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul used exactly the same term: “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral people” (1 Co. 5:6-9). The Bible is totally consistent from Genesis to Revelation. Notice this description by the prophet Hosea: “With their wickedness they make the king glad, and the princes with their lies. They are all adulterers, like an oven heated by the baker who ceases to stir up the fire from the kneading of the dough until it is leavened” (Hos. 7:3-4).

Hosea is describing the people of Israel as a lump of dough that is being leavened, due to wickedness, lies and adultery or immorality. Paul, when he finds immorality among the Corinthians, sees the danger of falling into the same error, because of their pride (boasting). In the passage of Paul, he makes reference to the Passover, precisely the time, when God commanded the people to eat unleavened bread. He writes that Jesus is our Passover, not only the slain lamb of the Passover, but also the bread of life, which unleavened bread symbolizes. Unleavened bread signifies sincerity and truth, so then, leavened bread symbolizes the opposite: falsehood and lies. Consequently, the Corinthians should clean out, in a practical form, the things which leaven symbolizes, and live their lives according to that which unleavened bread symbolizes. “As you are in fact unleavened”: With these words, Paul describes the state of Christians, justified in Christ. They should live in that state as a testimony before the world.

The rule which should never be broken, concerning biblical interpretation, is that we must permit the Bible to be its own interpreter. History testifies to the ruin of many, who did not follow this rule. We could see many examples of symbols that remain constant throughout the Scripture, but now I would like for us to zero in more concretely, searching out the symbolism of leaven. You might want to take a good concordance and study the many passages that speak of it. God did not forbid Israel leavened bread for common usage, but you will clearly see that always in symbolic form, it holds a negative significance. When it is added to a loaf, the bread is corrupted. It may be that you have difficulty accepting leaven as something negative in this parable because of the statement, “the kingdom of heaven is like leaven…” However, this should not be a disturbance, because in chapter 25, it states, “The kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins… five of them were foolish”. Everyone recognizes that to be foolish is not something desirable and the student, who seriously peruses the Bible, should know that leaven is never desirable. In these parables, Jesus is not presenting the perfect essence of God’s government. Just the opposite, He is describing the actual imperfections that exist in the Kingdom, while we live on this earth. Here the Kingdom is exposed to the deceit of the devil and the hypocrisy of men.

First you should notice that there is no period after “the kingdom of heaven is like leaven”, nor is there a period after “the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins”. It is not the leaven or the virgins alone that are comparable to the Kingdom on this earth, but the whole situation, which is described: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” Just as in the parables  
of the sower, the tares, the fish and others, so here we see negative elements. We are assured that three of the four kinds of soil are not productive, and that the realities signified by bad fish, the five foolish virgins, the leaven and the tares will share the same fate: “They will gather out of His kingdom” (not out of the world, mind you, but out of His Kingdom), all stumbling blocks and lawless; they will be separated from the genuine, thrown out and burned.

The Holy Spirit, who instructed Paul to teach the same doctrine that Jesus taught, will say the same to us: “He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you” (Jn. 16:15). In these days of apostasy, we dare not be too optimistic, but wide awake to the reality that Jesus taught us. We are warned in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 that there will be people who “will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths”. For this reason, Paul commanded Timothy to “reprove (Greek dict. – confute, declare an error, censure), rebuke, exhort” (vs. 2).


When the Angel of the Lord visited Gideon, he offered a kid and unleavened bread (Jud. 6:19). God commanded the Israelites to offer unleavened bread in sacrifice. (Usually in God’s service no leaven was used. There are two exceptions in Leviticus 7:13 and 23:17, where “wave offerings” were offered. In Scofield’s notes, he makes this comment, concurring with 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” “The use of leaven is significant here… leaven fitly signifies, that though having peace with God through the work of another, there is still evil in [the believer]” and “the wave-loaves, typifying the church, are “baken with leaven,” for in the church there is still evil.”) In positive form, unleavened bread symbolizes that which sustains life and is solidly true and pure. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (Jn. 6:35).

Gideon’s offering soon would materialize in an “unleavened” militia that God would raise up to defeat the Midianite enemies. The Scripture does not give us the number of the enemy soldiers, because they “were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (Jud. 7:12). Gideon sounded a trumpet (6:34) and 32,000 men mustered immediately (7:3), few in comparison to the huge foe before them. Nevertheless God said, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me’” (7:2). Leaven is the proud thinking that credits salvation to the abilities and numbers of men and takes the glory away from God. The Lord had Gideon reduce the number to 10,000, but then He said, “The people are still too many” (vs. 4). He cut the number again in order to totally clean the leaven from His army until only three hundred were left. With this ridiculously small band, God conquered the Midianite enemy without number.

After the flood, there were only eight people upon the face of the earth and with these God repopulated it. The rest had been impure and evil – that is, they were leaven, which added nothing to the purposes of God. When Noah’s father named him, he had this in mind: “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed” (Gen. 5:29). It is alarming to think that a judgment as terrible as a universal flood was the only way to ease the curse that had fallen upon Adam’s race and save mankind from absolute extinction. Eight people, Noah and his family, found grace in the eyes of God and were spared.

What we are observing so far in this study, concerning leaven, is a principle revealed throughout the Bible. God discounts the insincere and superficial and continues with a small number so that, through those few, He can be glorified. In the New Testament, Jesus dismissed the crowd and remained with a small number of disciples. In the book of Acts, we see that, whereas more than 500 testified to the Lord’s resurrection, only 120 were in the upper room in obedience to His command on the Day of Pentecost. With these, He shook the world.

Considering these examples, it would seem that the Son of Man had nothing to do with hiding leaven in the dough. All doctrine must be based on the attributes of Christ, which are always consistent, as the writer of Hebrews stated, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings” (Heb. 13:8,9).

Immediately after the Parable of the Leaven (Luke 13: 20-21), Luke points to a question posed to Jesus, while He taught in towns and villages on His way to Jerusalem (vs. 22-24): “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” He answered, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” The proud are the first to be excluded, because the gospel comes through the grace of God, “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:9). Jesus taught us that it is for those who humble themselves as little children.

Jesus warned his disciples of the leaven in the recognized systems of that day: “Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Mt. 16:12). By this, we learn that leaven does not only symbolize a boastful attitude that makes men swell with pride, but it also signifies the teaching or doctrine that is conducive to such pride. The Pharisees and Sadducees’ spiritual arrogance was directly related to their beliefs. A pride that stems from good looks, intelligence or other physical attributes is more tolerable and less offensive than spiritual pride. Many times it is covered by a false exterior of feigned humility, but inside there is something fierce and stubborn that deceives and manipulates with fear and psychological tricks.

When a person or a group falls prey to the influence of a spirit of error, one of the signs that is evident, wise men tell us, is a rejection of instruction or any kind of contradiction. They are no longer open to criticism. The lessons of history are disdained and the practices and teachings of men of God, which have stood the test of time, are ignored. They shut themselves in with their own kind and consider themselves exclusive and above all others. Paul said to the Jew, “(You) are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature…” (Ro. 2:19,20). Although the Jew was convinced that the Lord had entrusted him with His plan and given vision for the future, he ended in ruins before God.

The arrogance of the Pharisees and the Sadducees brought them to believe themselves wiser than God and His word. They obviously exalted their own teaching above the Scriptures, because when the promised Son of God came, they rejected him and crucified the Word that became flesh. Later, doctrines entered the church, which produced that same kind of spiritual pride. In the book of Revelation, we can see in the Pergamum church “some who hold the teaching of Balaam” which caused them to “eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality” (Rev. 2:14). The doctrines produced a tolerance to sin. Also in Pergamum there was “the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (vs. 15, KJV).

The parable of the woman, who adds leaven to the loaf of bread, makes me think of the Thyatira church: “You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (Rev. 2:20). I seriously doubt that her name was literally “Jezebel”. The similarity with the foreign queen of Israel was in the doctrine, which, in the name of Christianity, caused the same damage, idolatry and sin that the Baal-worshipping monarch caused.

Today, when we see frequent, flagrant sins and failures among God’s people, especially among prominent leaders, you can be sure that they have entertained doctrines that foment and give place to sin. I have been thinking lately about church leaders, who have criticized and censured prayer meetings, because members conduct them outside their jurisdiction and introduce practices, which are different from their particular church traditions. At the same time, the church doors open to more and more of the world’s influences. These tendencies enter so subtlety that people are deceived little by little, but those, whose eyes are opened, can see that good is being called bad and bad is being called good. It seems inconceivable that such things can take place among God’s people.

Luke wrote about one circumstance in which “so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, (Jesus) began saying to His disciples first of all, ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy’” (Lk. 12:1). Here we see that leaven is also hypocrisy. Because of the prevalence of hypocrisy in great numbers of people, Jesus taught His disciples not to be impressed by the crowds that might congregate.
The crowds many times were a disturbance for sincere seekers. The crowd rebuked blind Bartimaeus, who shouted to Jesus for mercy. The multitude hindered Zaccheus from seeing Jesus, so he climbed a tree. It was an obstacle to the woman with an issue of blood, making it difficult for her to come to Jesus, as it was for the four men and the paralytic, who could not get near to Him.

As we have already stated, in the same chapter after the Parable of the Leaven (vs. 20-21), Luke immediately included the question in the text, relating to whether few would be saved (vs. 22-24) and then followed with a teaching from Christ concerning hypocrites. All is related material. Don’t be surprised if in the end, among thousands who profess to be Christians, only a few are found to be genuine. In the great crowds that surrounded Jesus, there were many hypocrites. “We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets; and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers’” (Lk. 13:26, 27)
In starting this chapter, I mentioned that the study of this parable would help us to understand also how it could be that the mustard plant became a great tree. As I understand it, the principle is the same, as that which pertains to the leavened bread, which swells up and appears to be much bigger than the measure of ingredients that went into it. When the yeast is mixed in with the dough, it forms one lump and people, who have become accustomed to eating it this way, are not able to make a distinction between the bread and the leaven. It is their normal bread and they know no other. That is exactly what happens, when spiritual leaven is mixed into the pure gospel. If Christians have only been exposed to this corrupted form, they think it must be true, biblical teaching and practice.

This has occurred largely because of permissive and tolerant teachings that has drawn the multitudes and produced hypocrites. It has the same effect as when pearls are cast before swine. The “swine” do not convert into “sheep”, but are accepted, as though they were Christians. They are entertained, possibly for many years, and are made to think that they have what they do not possess (Lk. 8:18). The church often gives them positions and responsibilities, and has them form part of the music and teaching ministry, but in the end, the swine returns to wallow in the mud. Jesus is not the one who hides leaven in the meal; quite the opposite, He reduces the crowd to a few faithful disciples.


To hide leaven in the flour is identical to the common practice of offering an additive to the name of Jesus. Similarly, when the Tower of Babel was built, a new name was introduced: “Let us make for ourselves a name” (Gen. 11:4). To be united under any other banner, but the name of Jesus, is a threat against the plan of God. Jesus is the pure bread of life. His person is pure and His word is sometimes hard to digest. Because it is so, when he asserted that He was the unique bread from heaven, some of His disciples said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?... As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore” (Jn. 6:60,66). His teaching was unleavened and tended to reduce the number of followers, instead of increasing them. He even gave the twelve the opportunity to abandon Him, if they so chose, and let them know that among those few there was one, who was “a devil” (vs. 70).

I am not suggesting that the purpose of God is to discourage people from accepting the gospel or that He does not long that many should come to Him. He never turns back anyone, who comes sincerely. What I do mean is that the tendency of human nature is to run away from the truth and Christ will never compromise truth or the purity of His word, in order to increase the number of “converts”.

Jesus helps us to understand through His discourse on the bread of life in John 6 that He, and only He, can sustain life in us. All that we are and all that we have must be reduced until only Christ remains. Leaven is anything that we might add to Jesus. Paul’s text follows and is essential and worthy of contemplation. Read it again and again: “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church… so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything…in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument… See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority” (Col. 1:16-18; 2:3-4; 8-10). What we learn here is that God would have us “just as you are in fact unleavened” (1 Co.5:7), complete in Him without additives.

Leaven always corrupts the purity of the bread, which is Christ. “In Gilgal multiply transgression! …Offer a thank offering also from that which is leavened, and proclaim freewill offerings, make them known. For so you love to do…” (Am. 4:4,5). When you read this in your Bible, it does not give you the impression that God is pleased, because the people are numerous, who are involved in such offerings. God’s business has nothing to do with popularity or pragmatism. Take away the leaven and let’s see what is left! Those who can say with the Psalmist, “In you alone do I trust,” are a small part of the “lump” that has risen today. Many are depending much more upon men and their organizations. They fear, respect, obey and love men. Are these among the ones, of whom Jesus spoke, that will have taken from them that which they think that they have? (look once again in Luke 8:18). Sooner or later counterfeit faith has to be revealed for what it is. It seems that God is showing us that not all that glows is gold. Let us keep ourselves then from leaven!

“Let no one in any way deceive you, for (the rapture) will not come unless the apostasy comes first…” (2 Th. 2:3). ‘Apostasy’ in Greek is related to the word ‘divorce’. The church in Laodicea had divorced from Jesus and for that reason we find Him outside, calling at the door. The break is clearly seen, because the mentality of that church was totally contrary to that of the Lord. They were deceived completely about their condition, believing that they had the pure bread. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17).

The so-called church will be in this lamentable, sad state towards the end of its history. I believe that we are living in the time, in which the church that dominates in the western world and, perhaps in many other places, manifests the characteristics of Laodicea. It is also my opinion that the European church now is in a moral, mental and doctrinal decay, which could be called “apostasy”, and the church in North America follows closely behind.
This state comes as a judgment from God, “because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Th. 2:10-12).

The call at the door is to the individuals, who are unleavened and can still hear the voice of the Bridegroom. They are people, whose soul is oppressed, as was the soul of Lot in Sodom, “oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds)” (2 Pt. 2:7,8). The difference today is that Sodom has entered the nominal church and you do not have to leave its doors, in order to feel what Lot felt. The riches of Laodicea promote the extension of its leaven over the entire world and the number of its supporters is multiplying. Hungry persons come to obtain some semblance of the bread of life, but when they chew it well, they are disillusioned because of the lack of real substance.

The leaven has done its damage and there is no remedy. It will end apostate, but the Head of the church, even from the outside, is calling individuals to follow him, hear His voice above all the others, love Him, reverence Him and obey Him. Only these will escape the powerful deception that ends in condemnation.


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