Judgment day is near. The end of the world will come soon. Tribulation will be in full swing. Harvesting angels will bring in the "last days" harvest of souls before its too late. Even now it is happening as the wheat and tares are easily discernible. ISIS, radical Islam and a back-slidden culture are sure signs we are near the end. Right?
This is the first in a series of Spiritual Myth-Busters, where I explode myths that we have believed about a few scriptures.
Will you look with me at Matthew 13 and let's clear up misunderstandings of this passage. Please notice that the disciples didn't even understand what exactly Jesus was talking about. So they demonstrated they were true disciples and were allowing the seed to fall on good soil by simply doing what the others in the crowd didn't do. They asked questions...
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
1. The context for these events is not heaven. It is the world. This is something that will happen on earth.
2. The good seeds/wheat are the sons of the kingdom. The tares are the sons of the wicked one, the devil.
3. Notice that John the Baptist uses this same imagery in Matthew 3:7-12:
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the WRATH ABOUT to come (Greek- mello)? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And EVEN NOW (Greek- mello) the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize YOU with the Holy Spirit and FIRE. His winnowing fan is (Greek- mello) in His hand, and He will thoroughly CLEAN OUT HIS THRESHING FLOOR, AND GATHER HIS WHEAT INTO THE BARN; BUT HE WILL BURN UP THE CHAFF WITH UNQUENCHABLE FIRE.”
The Greek word mello is a word related to time and it means “even now, about to be, about to do” in terms of something happening. It is used in John 18:32 for instance (NASB), “to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death he was ABOUT TO die.” No one would say that this means we are still waiting 2000 years later for Jesus to die! So to, John the Baptist describes the wheat and chaff separation and fire metaphor as something about to happen in their day!
4. The fire imagery is one that applied to their day, not ours. John the Baptist was the Elijah messenger spoken of in Malachi 4:
“1 For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,”
Says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch...
4 “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
John the Baptist fulfilled this verse and is the context for what he was saying. The fire's are not referring to "hell", but a literal fire as the city of Jerusalem burned to the ground in the war with Rome in AD70. By confusing this passage with a hell-fire scenario, we create an assumption that this is about the end of the world.
Here is an actual eye-witness, the historian Josephus. Notice the wailing in the terrible fire for those who refused to listen to Jesus' words and flee the city when they saw the Roman armies approaching (Mt. 24). Josephus records,
“While the Temple was ablaze, the attackers plundered it, and countless people who were caught by them were slaughtered. There was no pity for age and no regard was accorded rank; children and old men, laymen and priests, alike were butchered; every class was pursued and crushed in the grip of war, whether they cried out for mercy or offered resistance.
Through the roar of the flames streaming far and wide, the groans of the falling victims were heard; such was the height of the hill and the magnitude of the blazing pile that the entire city seemed to be ablaze; and the noise – nothing more deafening and frightening could be imagined.
There were the war cries of the Roman legions as they swept onwards en masse, the yells of the rebels encircled by fire and sword, the panic of the people who, cut off above, fled into the arms of the enemy, and their shrieks as they met their fate. The cries on the hill blended with those of the multitudes in the city below; and now many people who were exhausted and tongue-tied as a result of hunger, when they beheld the Temple on fire, found strength once more to lament and wail.
The Temple Mount, everywhere enveloped in flames, seemed to be boiling over from its base; yet the blood seemed more abundant than the flames and the numbers of the slain greater than those of the slayers. The soldiers climbed over heaps of bodies as they chased the fugitives." (Josephus' account appears in: Cornfield, Gaalya ed., Josephus, The Jewish War (1982); Duruy, Victor, History of Rome vol. V (1883).)
Among the tragic events that at this time occurred, the following is more particularly deserving of notice: A false prophet, pretending to be a divine commission, said that if the people would flee to the Temple, they should behold signs of their speedy deliverance. Accordingly, about six thousand people, chiefly women and children, assembled in a gallery that was yet standing, on the outside of the building. While they waited in anxious expectation of the promised miracle, the Romans, with the most wanton barbarity, set fire to the gallery. Multitudes, rendered frantic by their horrible situation, threw themselves from the gallery onto the ruins below and were killed by the fall. Meanwhile, awful to relate, the rest, without a single exception, perished in the flames. (Welton, Jonathan (2013-11-01). Raptureless: An Optimistic Guide to the End of the World - Revised Edition Including The Art of Revelation (Kindle Locations 1380-1385). BookBaby. Kindle Edition.)
5. This parable is about the end of the AGE, not the end of the WORLD.
Not only does Jesus say this about the end of the AGE, not the end of the WORLD (I hope you caught that). He says it was the age he was living in... he calls it "this age". Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4, "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law..." The age Jesus was born in was the age of the Law which would finally end in AD 70 with the destruction of the priesthood, temple, and sacrifices. (Hebrews 8:13)
Did you catch who this was directed to: "those who practice lawlessness"? This is covenantal language. As THE prophet Jesus is speaking to those under the Law. This cannot apply to us today because the Law ceased to even exist, covenantally, in AD 70. The temple, the sacrifices, the priesthood, the genealogy...the entire system of Law ended. There can be no one covenantally lawless today when the Law doesn't exist.
In addition, Jesus description of, “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” is a direct citation of Daniel 12:3 in which an angel swears in verse 7 “that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, ALL these things shall be finished.” This would be fulfilled exactly as Daniel and Jesus predicted, in 70AD at the destruction of the temple by the Romans siege which lasted 3.5 years (times, time and half a time). According to the oath of that angel, ALL described in Daniel would be finished in that event.
6. This cannot be an end of the world passage because both Isaiah and Jesus taught of an increasing kingdom. How can there be an increase of both darkness and light?
The theory is that this is a passage about the end of the world. Therefore we are witnessing the time of separation before the end. The wicked world will get more wicked, but the righteous world will get more righteous. In other words, they both grow up alongside each other until God has to come and destroy the devil, all the evil empires with tribulation and mass chaos.
But there is a huge problem with that theological theory. It creates inconsistency with the rest of the Bible.
The kingdom doesn't fully come until AD 70 when Jesus comes (spiritually speaking) and Rome destroys the entire Jewish system. (See Matthew 16:27-28). When the kingdom DOES come in power and glory, it comes as an ever increasing kingdom which cannot be destroyed. It comes like leaven until it leavens the WHOLE LUMP. That was Jesus' description in the same chapter of Matthew 13.
Or let me put it another way. Isaiah said,
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Is 9:7)
In other words, how can the kingdom of God continually increase in the earth while at the same time darkness increase? If a room is filled with darkness, and light comes into the room, the darkness diminishes. The more the light increases, the more darkness decreases. There is no side-by-side equally powerful kingdom of darkness. It was utterly dis-empowered by the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. So according to Isaiah, Jesus' KINGDOM AND PEACE can only increase over history.
7. What About the Angels?
The word for angel in the Greek language can also mean messenger.
So either (1) it refers to the messengers of the gospel who were sent out in that generation to preach, which had the effect of separating the wheat from the tares (believing Jews vs non-believing apostate Jews).
Or, (2) we must remember that Galatians 3:19 says it was angels that mediated (and enforced) the Law. Remember Herod was struck by an angel of the Lord in Acts 12:23.
So when Matthew 16:27-28 speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem, it speaks of angels involved:
For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
Without understanding this passage, many sincere Christians are doomed to fatalism at best. But when clarity dawns, hope awakens.
So what is this parable all about? It is about Jesus giving them inside information about events that were prophesied in the Old Covenant scriptures that were ABOUT TO come to pass in their day!
Mostly it was about the great separation that was coming. There were those who "say they are Jews but are not" (Revelation 2:9, 3:9) when they are actually apostate Jews of the "synagogue of satan". There were also the true Jews who believed Jesus and the New Covenant. 70AD would separate the wheat from the tares and a terrible self-destruction was coming upon those who refused.
The good news is that this was the past, not our future. We live in the covenant of everlasting righteousness and an ever-increasing kingdom!
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