Over the past month we have been discussing parables that deal with the end times. These parables have taught us several important lessons. We have learned to watch for signs that will precede the Lord’s second coming. We have been urged to live expectantly and always be ready because Jesus could appear at any moment. We’ve be warned not to slumber as we patiently await His return and have been told that there will be no second chances to prepare after His arrival.
Today’s message covers the last two end times parables that we’ll mention in this series. Bothof them deal generally with the judgment that will follow the Lord’s return. The Bible actually speaks of multiple judgments during the last days, including the Bema Seat Judgment of the righteous and the Great White Throne Judgment of the unrighteous. A third judgment, often referred to as the “Sheep and Goats Judgment”, is also described in Matthew 25. All of these judgments will take place during the end times.
Many Bible students consider the “Sheep and Goats” passage to be a parable. You will find it included on most listings of Jesus’ parables. For that reason, I felt it necessary to briefly explain why I am not including it in this series. While I believe that the “sheep and goats” narrative has some parable-like elements, I would argue that it is not a true parable. I believe that the passage is extensively and directly describing a literal heavenly event, and is not representative to the degree of an actual parable. A comparison is made, but it does not constitute a parable in my view.
That said, “The Parable of the Tares” and “The Parable of the Dragnet” are definitely parables. They are both found in Matthew 13. They are part of a lengthy discourse of parables that Jesus tells in this chapter - 8 stories in all, many of which we’ve already talked about in this series. While the details of the 2 parables are quite different, they both have a similar meaning.
I. WEEDS IN THE FIELD - Matthew 13:24-30
“The Parable of the Tares” is about a farmer planted his field with good wheat seeds. However, while he and his laborers slept, the farmer’s adversary came along and scattered bad seeds among the good. Over time the wheat began to grow and bear grain, but the tares (weeds) grew up alongside it. The farmer’s slaves asked how the tares got there, and the farmer answered them that his enemy must have been responsible. The slaves then asked if they should go through the field and pull the tares up, but the farmer said to leave them there for the time being. Uprooting the tares might damage the good wheat. He explained that the reapers would gather and burn the tares at harvest time, thereby separating them from the wheat.
The tares that Jesus described in this parable are believed to be a weed called darnel. Darnel looks like wheat until the point of maturity. In the past darnel was a serious problem for wheat farmers. Modern advances in agriculture have helped, but these improvements weren’t around in Biblical times. Because of their similar appearance, farmers could not easily recognize or distinguish wheat from darnel until adulthood. By then, there was little the farmer could do to remove the weeds without harming his crop. Thus, he often ended up with a field that contained a mixture of good wheat and undesirable darnel weeds that would grow together side-by-side to be separated at harvest time.
II. AN EXPLANATION GIVEN - Matthew 13:36-43
After sharing this and other parables with the crowds outdoors, Jesus and the disciples went inside. While in the house, the disciples asked Jesus to explain “The Parable of the Tares”. Jesus identified the sower of the good seeds and The Son of Man, the enemy as The Devil, the field as the world, the wheat as the children of God, the tares as the sons of the evil one, and the reapers as angels. Jesus explained that during the last days there will be a final judgment, depicted as the harvest, during which the angels will gather the unrighteous and cast them into Hell while leaving the righteous to remain in God’s Heavenly kingdom.
It is important not to misinterpret this story. Jesus made it clear in His explanation that this parable is about the judgment. It reveals the Lord’s patience to withhold His wrath on the unrighteous for the sake of the righteous until judgment day. It is not intended to teach that some people are created as wheat and others as weeds. In fact, the Bible teaches that we are all sinners and can only find salvation and forgiveness in Christ. In terms of this parable, we are all weeds and can only become wheat through a saving relationship with Jesus. The planting of separate wheat and tares in the beginning of this parable is necessary to set up the proper ending, but it is not an adequate basis to conclude that some people are created specifically for condemnation to Hell. Such an idea is Biblically inaccurate and is not the point of this parable.
III. THROW AWAY BAD FISH - Matthew 13:47-50
“The Parable of the Dragnet” tells of fisherman who had cast a dragnet into the sea. Fish of various kinds were caught in the net. When it was full, they drew the net up and dragged it onto the beach. There there sat down and began to separate the good fish from the bad. The good fish were placed in containers to be kept and sold, while the bad fish were thrown away.
Jesus provided an explanation of this parable immediately after telling it. His explanation was practically identical to the one we just discussed. He associated the bad fish with the wicked and concluded that they would be separated from the righteous during the judgment and would be cast into the fiery furnace of Hell. On the other hand, the good fish - who represented the redeemed children of God - would be spared.
Because “The Parable of the Tares” and “The Parable of the Dragnet” both vividly describe a separation of the righteous from the unrighteous I believe these 2 stories must depict the Sheep and Goats Judgment in which Jesus places believers on His right and unbelievers on His left. This is the only judgment discussed in Scripture in which both the saved and unsaved are dealt with at the same time. I believe it will occur when Jesus comes physically to the earth following the tribulation and sets up His earthly millennial kingdom.
Judgment day is coming. The Bible is clear that someday everyone will stand individually before Jesus to be judged. Some will be declared righteous and receive eternal life in Heaven. Others will be declared unrighteous and will be consigned to eternal Hell. As uncomfortable as this may sound to the world today, it is the plain unadulterated teaching of Scripture. There are only 2 possible outcomes - life or death.
Knowing this, we as Christians are compelled to share the gospel of Jesus with lost people. He is the only way for anyone to be made righteous. Salvation through Christ is the only thing that can forgive and atone for sin. Apart from Him we are all bad fish trapped in a dragnet and unwanted weeds growing in the field. Jesus is our only hope. Give your life to Him now, before it is too late!