Consideration of the Seven Parables of Chapter 13Sep 16th, 2009 | By admin | Category: Matthew, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
Consideration of the Seven Parables of Chapter 13
Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:1-23; Mark 4:3-20; Luke 8:5-15)
Matt. 13:1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
Matt. 13:2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
Matt. 13:3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
Matt. 13:4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
Matt. 13:5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
Matt. 13:6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
Matt. 13:7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
Matt. 13:8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
Matt. 13:9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
The Parable of the Sower was delivered with no explanation at first. Jesus began to teach on the shore itself, but as the crowds started to gather in numbers, he found it necessary to push off from shore in a boat. Sitting down in the boat (probably the stern), he spoke to the multitude from there. The nature of the shore prevented the people from reclining, so they all stood.
The parable did not seem unusual at first. Since Israel was an agricultural nation, many of the people were quite familiar with the sowing procedure and how some seeds fell variously by the way side, on stony ground, among thorns, and on good soil. However, Jesus hinted of something deeper toward the end of the parable (verses 8 and 9) with regard to some seeds bringing forth from the good soil a “hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.”
A large crowd was assembled, so Jesus would have spoken distinctly and in a loud voice. Even so, he spoke even louder at the end (see Luke 8:8): “Who[ever] hath ears to hear, let him hear!” This loud, dramatic ending should have aroused those who had some interest as to the meaning of the parable to inquire further for the deeper significance.
Matt. 13:10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
Matt. 13:11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
Subsequently a number of disciples (more than just the 12 apostles) went to Jesus privately and asked him why he spoke in parables to the multitudes. Actually, the disciples themselves did not know the meaning of the parable, but they camouflaged their own interest by inquiring about the multitudes.
The primary reason Jesus gave for speaking in parables was, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” In other words, Jesus spoke especially to those who inquired further and had a sufficiency of interest to bestir themselves.
These were the ones who had a “hearing ear.” The multitudes were given the framework of an important sermon but not the details and deeper understanding.
Matt. 13:12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
Matt. 13:13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
Matt. 13:14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
Matt. 13:15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
Why did Jesus quote Isaiah 6:9,10 to explain about this “way side” class? If we read all three Gospel accounts and consider the circumstances under which the Parable of the Sower was uttered, we will see that there are three reasons why some do not understand.
- The people are willingly ignorant. They sense immediately that responsibility comes with understanding, and they want no part of it. In other words, the individuals blind themselves.
- Satan blinds the eyes of men (2 Cor. 4:4).
- Jesus desired that this class would not understand “lest … their sins should be forgiven them,” that is, lest he should heal them (Mark 4:12). The point is that those who consecrate and have Jesus’ blood applied to them in this age will have no further opportunity in the future. If they have a completely nonreceptive heart, yet hear and accept and consecrate, they will fail and go into oblivion (Second Death). The principle is, “Let him who has an ear to hear, hear.” Jesus does not want superficial hearing.
Matt. 13:16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
Matt. 13:17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
“Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For … many prophets and righteous men have desired to see … and to hear [understand] those things [but it was not given them to know].” The disciples were given the understanding, but before Jesus explained the parable, he told them that they were in a unique position. The lesson is that before the Lord gives us advanced understanding and truth, we must act. We must have the desire and must hunger and thirst for further righteousness if we are to be filled. Holy men of old had this desire and were in the proper heart condition, but it was not yet due time for this understanding.
Before explaining the parable, Jesus asked, “Know ye not this parable?” (Mark 4:13). Jesus asked this question because he knew their question about others was a subterfuge (Matt. 13:10).
In reality, the disciples themselves were asking for an explanation of the parable; that is, Jesus was asking, “Aren’t you the ones who are interested in the parable?” He continued, “How then will ye know all parables?” This was another type of question—it was constructive criticism to stir up the disciples to attentively apply themselves to understand the Parable of the Sower. In a negative way, Jesus was commending them: “If you are to gain an understanding, you must inquire.” Then he said in effect, “I will tell you what the parable means, but you must diligently apply yourselves in order to get the understanding.”
Matt. 13:18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
The explanation of the parable follows.
Matt. 13:19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
First, some of the seed fell on the “way side” (the hardened soil on the route or pathway of travel), and of course the seed did not prosper. This ground was very hard because of the constant traffic going over it (“it was trodden down”—Luke 8:5). “Immediately” after the sowing, the “fowls of the air” came and ate up the seed (Mark 4:4,15). The “fowls” (plural) were Satan and his agents, who devoured the seed lest it prosper. Hence such seed was wasted; it did not bring forth fruit.
Not only was the soil trodden down and the seed thus prevented from growing, but this first class did not understand. Note: All four classes heard, but this first class did not understand. And nothing is said about the understanding of the next two categories, but the last class, the “good ground,” did understand (verse 23). Therefore, when we witness and the effort does not prosper, it is because Satan is watching and does not allow the “seed” to prosper. Satan renders the effort fruitless.
Matt. 13:20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
Matt. 13:21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
In regard to the second class, the seed fell on rocky ground, or “stony places” (plural). There was soil here, but the proportion of rock was too great for the seed to really prosper. The implication is that a rock stratum, or shelf, was under the soil, so the soil was too shallow for the seed to sufficiently prosper.
Those of this class hear the word and receive it “anon” (immediately) with “joy” and gladness. They are receptive to the truth. They acknowledge the message and what it has done for them.
The thought is that when they receive Jesus’ message, they endure “for a while,” but as soon as tribulation and persecution arise, they are immediately “offended.” Being unable to stand the persecution, they wither and do not prosper (Mark 4:17). Thus there is a time element for a while—until the sun arises and scorches them. The “sun” in this context represents trial, persecution, and hardship because of the Word. Seeing the responsibility of consecration, they do not endure. This class are not successful because they do not have any root and they lack moisture. (In trying to penetrate the rock, the seed pushes itself up out of the earth. Being exposed, the seed is scorched by the sun.)
Note: The soil represents the heart condition of the individual. Such a one does not have “root in himself.” The soil is the soil of the heart. When the seed of truth, the gospel message, falls on the heart, it can be graded into one of these four categories.
The “stony ground” class would be those who profess Christianity immediately upon hearing of it. They desire to share what they have heard but have not inspected the requirements and responsibilities of truth. They are “all mouth.” In short, it is profession without inspection.
Consequently, later on, when they begin to realize the responsibilities and cost, the truth becomes too strong for them.
Matt. 13:22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
With the third class, the seed fell among thorns. This seed fell on soil that did have some depth, but thorn seeds were there too. As the seeds of truth were growing, so were the seeds of thorns (compare all three accounts). Both kinds of seed grew side by side (somewhat like the wheat and the tares except that the Parable of the Sower presents the individual standpoint, and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is dispensational). The truth seeds and the thorn seeds both grew, but the thorns grew more plentifully and faster, so that they overshadowed and choked out the good seed. Therefore, the good seed brought forth no fruit “to perfection” (Luke 8:14).
The “thorns” choke or strangle the Word of truth. Like the second class, this class hear the Word, and in addition, they “go forth” something like the second class except that these have more soil, so they endure. However, they do not prosper; that is, they do not bring forth fruit to perfection.
“Thorns” are the “cares of this world,” the “deceitfulness of riches,” the “lusts of other [miscellaneous] things,” and the “pleasures of this life” (Mark 4:19). The Apostle Paul said, “This one thing I do,” not miscellaneous things (Phil. 3:13). When the lust of other things enters in, the Word is choked. This class are described as “unfruitful,” meaning that they do have some fruit, but the fruit does not properly mature.
This third class would be the Great Company. Their problem is mixing the world with the Spirit. They live two lives.
Matt. 13:23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
With the fourth class, the seed fell into “good ground.” Thus there are four classes (1) way side, (2) rocky ground, (3) thorny soil, and (4) good ground. The term “good ground” indicates an honest and good heart (Luke 8:15). This class hear the Word and understand it—this commendation applies only to the fourth class, and not even to the Great Company. Therefore, this “understanding” does not refer to superficial knowledge of the plan, etc., but means that the “good ground” class understand the responsibilities of the truth and what its significance should be in our lives. They “keep” the Word of truth; they press on without getting entangled with “thorns” and bring forth fruit “with patience” (Luke 8:15).
What does bringing forth fruit with patience signify? In the growth of seed, there are three phases of development: (1) “first the blade,” (2) “then the ear,” and (3) “after that the full corn [the fruit or kernel] in the ear”—the objective (Mark 4:28). We will consider these three phases in more detail.
1. The word “patience” means that time is needed to bring forth fruit, just as with the development of a child. Babies are adorable, generally speaking. God has blessed them in their simplicity, giving them an attractiveness before the formation of character is made manifest. And so the “blade” of promise is attractive in the development of fruitage—the promise of life and hope and encouragement.
2. The “ear” is the awkward stage of development. The fruitage is starting to develop but is somewhat ugly because it is undeveloped. The potential is there but is difficult to see. The “ear” corresponds to the teenage years with immaturity, lack of concentration, etc. We want to rush the ear (teenager) into maturity but cannot. Thus the awkward in-between “ear” stage is necessary but is somewhat undesirable. Even the word “ear” itself suggests “all ear” and not the perfection of the development of fruit to maturity.
3. With an “honest and good heart,” a change will come eventually, and mature “fruit” will be produced. The quantity may vary (30-, 60-, 100-fold), but the fruit does develop to perfection.
Mark 4:29 makes an important point that is generally contradictory to all the sermons we hear. “When the fruit is brought forth [to maturity—when it is ripe], immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.” Immediately, the mature fruit is taken home, into the heavenly “garner.”
We sometimes hear the question asked by an elderly brother or sister: “Why am I here so long?” That question is idle chatter and completely out of order. The first point is that if we are of the Great Company class, we will never mature to perfection no matter how long we are here, all things being equal. Therefore, we should not be so confident as to ask that question. According to the Parable of the Sower, if we have honest and good ground, then we will be harvested when the Christlike maturity is developed.
However, it takes time to develop fruit. Stephen was the exception. His development was rapid because he applied himself with great zeal. What about the apostles Paul and John and others who lived long lives? We usually reason: “If we are left here, there is a purpose whether or not we understand it,” but more is involved. The point, in harmony with this parable, is that if a person has great depth of capability or talent, it will take many more years to draw out what is in him. Unfortunately, some who linger assume they have developed the mark of perfect love and wonder why they remain in the flesh. Others are quite content to stay here awhile because they do not feel confident they have made the grade yet, and they want extra time to develop the fruitage. Whatever the reason one is left, we can be assured there is a reason because our time is appointed. When we are to go, we will go, whether we like it or not (Job 7:1; 14:5).
The Parable of the Sower suggests that when the fruitage is fully mature and developed, it is reaped—immediately (and not just prolonged for many more years). For Moses, Paul, and others who were very unusual in their character and knowledge, time was required to bring out their fullness of development because of the depth of the soil. When the seed falls on good ground, it brings forth 30-, 60-, and 100-fold; that is, it is increased. The one seed brings forth a multitude of seed.
1. The same seed fell on all four kinds of soil, and that seed was the Word of God as it pertains to the Kingdom, that is, to the high calling and being with Jesus (and not just restitution).
2. The kind of soil (heart condition) determines the type of reception the seed gets. If the seed goes into an honest and good heart, it will bring forth the required fruitage to the extent of its capability.
3. At first, the parable might seem to be discouraging because in only one category, the good soil, is the seed fruitful as far as reaching the objective. However, to the contrary, the parable is meant to be encouraging, for some of the seed does prosper. And so the Christian is told to sow his seed in the morning and not to withhold his hand at night, for he does not know which of it will prosper (Eccl. 11:6). Even if we personally do not bring someone into the truth, our life and doctrine may be fruitful, nevertheless. Thus we are to endure and to profess our calling and then leave the results with the Lord. Especially since we are living at the end of the age, the numbers coming in and consecrating are dwindling more and more as far as really deep, sincere followers of the Lord are concerned.
4. Initially, there is no emphasis in the parable on either the sower or the seed. Instead all of the emphasis is on the soil. In explaining this parable in Mark 4:21,22, Jesus made certain points in conclusion. To understand how the seed is received and brings forth fruit is one thing, but then Jesus discussed the sowing and explained it by using other terminology. For example, he used a candle, saying in effect, “Do men put a lighted candle under a bushel or under a bed?” No! The purpose of a candle is to place it on a lamp stand so that others can see it.
What exactly was being put under a bushel or under a bed? Jesus explained, “There is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.” Jesus was using the illustration of the sower in a subtle way by relating a candle to the sower. Here is a class who hide the light through fear. Secretly, this class are believers. They like the gospel and abide by it for the rest of their life, but they fear to manifest it to others. Lacking confidence in telling forth the truth, they do things in “secret”—have secret meetings that relatives, neighbors, business associates, etc., are unaware of. The light is kept confined to the home. When this class venture forth, they put the light under a “bushel” (themselves). Each Christian is a container, an earthen vessel, a bushel. The point is not to keep the light within oneself and retain it as a secret. This class keep the truth a secret between the Lord and themselves. Oh yes, they enjoy the light—it is lighting them—but they are not lighting (witnessing it to) others. With the mind, a man believes unto righteousness, but confession and profession are necessary to the salvation of the soul (Rom. 10:10). The light is set on a “candlestick.” We are the “candlestick” as well as the bushel. If we keep the light within ourselves, we are the bushel, but if we show the light to others—manifest it exteriorly—then we are the candlestick.
In regard to witnessing, many feel that we should just go out and prattle truth all over and that we do not have to do much study. “Just go out and tell what you know, and the Lord will bless you somehow” is the attitude. Some do not have much light to show to others because they are so busy witnessing that they do not have enough time to study. That can be a deception, for we should always be trying to understand the Scriptures better. Jesus cautioned us to be careful how and what we hear. In other words, when a Christian gets the seed of the gospel in his heart, he should begin to discriminate, analyze, and discern that which he hears and receives.
And he should be careful how the truth is meted (given) out to others. “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:2; Mark 4:24). The point is that if we give a superficial gloss of information to others, that is all we will get because we lack the hunger and the desire for deeper truth. And so we learn what it means to put our light on a candlestick: “For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken [away] even that which he hath” (Mark 4:25).
The seed that fell on the wayside was taken way. The seed that fell on rocky ground withered and died. The seed that fell among thorns was choked and did not bring forth fruit to maturity.
Only the last class—the good ground—had abiding fruit. Jesus was saying that those who apply themselves will get more. Usually we think only of the witness aspect when we quote Matthew 25:29, “For unto every one that hath [faithfully used] shall be given, and he shall have abundance,” whereas the Parable of the Sower treats two aspects of the disposition to inquire further: (1) We should be careful what we hear; we should be discerning. (2) We are to hunger for deeper, more accurate truth on how to do the Lord’s will better. We should read the Bible more carefully in order to understand it more perfectly and thus be able to obey it more faithfully.
The Master gave an illustration of “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9). In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus preached the Word. His responsibility was not to give the depth of the Word to everyone but to see who had a “hearing ear.” He threw out the “bait” with the Parable of the Sower. Only those who showed interest got more attention. And so today we are to find the wheat class, which is to be further fed and developed. Our effort should not be just to feed “babes”; rather, we should be concerned with and nurture all strata of development.
5. Next Jesus mentioned the “mystery” of the soil (Mark 4:26-29). Seed is put in the soil, and nothing happens for a while. In time, a tiny blade peeks forth from the ground and begins to grow visibly. Still later, as time goes on and on, the plant puts forth its stem, stalk, and leaves.
Finally comes a development of fruit: the ear. And as more time passes, the corn (fruit) reaches full maturity. This all takes time. The seed grows up—”he knoweth not how.”
The farmer knows that if he puts the seed in the soil and keeps the weeds and the thorns away, then it is up to the elements whether or not that seed prospers. It is “God that giveth the increase” (1 Cor. 3:7). The farmer has certain responsibilities in regard to the seed, but it grows mysteriously. And so it is with the Kingdom of God. Miracles can be worked in the characters and hearts of the humblest of God’s people. The power of the Holy Spirit acts on that soil. The seed itself has dormant life in it that can prosper based on the receptiveness of the individual.
The Holy Spirit makes the seed and the ground bring forth a new creation. A bare seed is put in the ground, but what grows up is entirely different in appearance, size, and value.
Jesus continued (Mark 4:30-32) but was sort of at a loss for words. “Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?” Jesus was trying to get the lesson across but realized that those he was addressing were not educated people who knew about chromosomes and genetic material. They did not know that there are “commands” even in seed with regard to a time element—that a “computer tape” (DNA and RNA) programs the seed to put forth leaves, for example, at a certain stage of development.
When that computer tape has fully run out, the result is mature fruit. Fruit, vegetables, animals, and man are all programmed. Today we understand a lot more because of advanced technology, but we still cannot manufacture a seed. We merely have a little deeper understanding of the genetic aspect. The point is that God-given grace is exercised on the seed to produce the fruitage.
The little seed is like the mustard seed, which can be the humblest and the tiniest of all the herb seeds, yet it eventually grows to such a size that it is like a tree. In fact, the mustard tree is so large that the fowls of the air can lodge under its shadow. (The mustard seed is treated in a favorable sense here, and not from the standpoint of Revelation 18:2, where Babylon is said to be the “cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”) If faithful, this class, who are humble in the present life, will be exalted to glory as kings and priests in the next age and bless mankind.
6. It is interesting that Jesus used the illustration of the fowls of heaven lodging in the shadow of the mustard tree, especially since the Apostle Paul said that we will judge angels as well as men (1 Cor. 6:3). In the first category, the “fowls of the air” plucked up or devoured the seed on the “way side.” The mustard seed class will judge the fallen angels, the fowls of heaven. We now wrestle not only against flesh and blood but also against this wicked, invisible spiritual element. In the next age, however, the mustard seed class will be elevated and grow to such a stature that even spirit beings will be made subject unto them.
7. Mark 4:33,34 tells that Jesus spoke the word unto the multitudes in parables “as they were able to hear [bear] it” (compare John 16:12). In other words, he schooled himself not to overextend. Later, when he was alone with his disciples, he “expounded all things” to them. It is interesting that Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:9,10 with regard to the blindness of the people, yet the same prophet also said, “If ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come” (Matt. 13:14,15; Isa. 21:12).
Q: Does the seed that fell on stony ground represent a consecrated class?
A: It is not certain whether the second class consecrate, but the third and fourth classes definitely consecrate. However, it is certainly possible that the second class consecrate and then wither and thus, by drawing back, go into Second Death. From this standpoint, the classes would appear as follows:
1. The first class are those who do not consecrate.
2. The second class consecrate but do not get life.
3. The third class consecrate and get life but on a secondary level as the Great Company.
4. The fourth class consecrate and get life on the highest plane (divine nature) as the Little Flock. Their ultimate degree of honor and position in the body of Christ will be according to their opportunity, capability, and application of zeal.
Q: Does 1 Corinthians 3:12 have an application to the Parable of the Sower?
A: That text mentions three overcoming classes (gold, silver, and precious stones). Those three are comparable to the three categories of the fourth class: the 100-fold, the 60-fold, and the 30- fold.
Q: What is the principle of the time element with the consecrated? Please explain this again.
A: As Moses, Paul, and others of great ability are given more time to be drawn out in the present life, those of lesser ability benefit by being fed. The Parable of the Sower gives us an insight with regard to the harvesting of the grain. When the crop, or “fruit,” is fully developed, it is harvested immediately—both in nature and with the Church. Otherwise, literal crops will spoil.
Q: Does the Parable of the Sower tie in with the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares?
A: Yes, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is another aspect of the Parable of the Sower.
Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matt. 13:24-30,37-43)
Matt. 13:24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
Matt. 13:25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
The translators used variously “darnels,” “weeds,” and “tares,” but “tares” is the best word, for (1) it most accurately describes what has happened in history and (2) tares are imitation wheat.
The Parable of the Sower preceded this parable. There the “seed” was the Word of God, and the emphasis was, first, on the different kinds of soil in which the seed developed. Next the fruitage was stressed. Here, in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, the emphasis is on the fruitage that develops from hearing the Word of God. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). The “good seed” (or wheat) are the “children of the kingdom,” and the “tares” are the “children of the wicked one” (verse 38). The sower (or man who sowed the good wheat seed) is the Son of man; the “field” is the world (verses 37 and 38).
“But while men slept.” These “men” are primarily the apostles, who kept the seeds of iniquity from sprouting or taking root while they were alive and on the scene. Being able to read the hearts, the apostles pointed out by name the enemies of the Church—pretenders, wolves, and those who were wicked. Therefore, the Church was relatively pure during the lifetime of the apostles. The early Church is likened to a woman arrayed with the glory of the sun and is described as a “white horse,” that is, relatively pure in doctrine (Rev. 6:2; 12:1). After the apostles fell asleep in death, the doctrine and practices deteriorated.
“But while men slept, his enemy [the enemy of the sower] came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.“ Why is the expression “went his way” used? If Satan had not disappeared from obvious view, the subtlety of his work might have been perceived more easily. By sowing the tare seed and then disappearing out of view, so to speak, Satan could more easily work his deception. Very few people analyze principles; instead they make decisions based on emotions, visible circumstances, and providences. Therefore, by withdrawing himself, Satan could deceive the greater percentage. Unfortunately, in the Church as well as in the world, most judge by emotion and the outer appearance rather than by analyzing principles.
Matt. 13:26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
The Parable of the Sower had to do with how the Word of God develops in the hearts of different individuals depending on the depth of soil in their hearts. The emphasis was on the reward to the believer according to the fruitage brought forth. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares gives more of a dispensational aspect. The time period covered extends from the sowing that took place at the beginning of the Gospel Age to the Harvest at the end of the age.
Hence this parable is a story of something that has occurred all through the history of the gospel Church. The blade springing forth and the fruitage developing of both wheat and tares is a long-range perspective. The Parable of the Sower was more personalized, showing what happens in each individual’s heart, whereas the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is more general, showing the history of the gospel Church and its experiences.
After the seed of either truth or error is sown and it begins to grow, the first evidence of growth is a sprout, or “blade” of grass. As time goes on, the plant continues to grow and mature until eventually it either does or does not bring forth fruit depending on whether it is wheat or a tare.
Matt. 13:27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
Matt. 13:28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
The servants of the householder asked, “Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?” This was the puzzling question to the true Church down through history. The Apostle Paul said, “Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). Christians asked, “How could an evil element arise in God’s pure Church?” Because the enemy who had sown the tare seed had disappeared from the scene (Satan “went his way”—verse 25), they could not understand how the evil had developed. Thus the mysteriousness of the tare development within the Church is emphasized here. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is considered from the standpoint of internal evil (not an external introduction of false doctrine such as is illustrated in the parable of the woman who hid leaven in three measures of meal).
The Master explained that he was not responsible for the introduction of the tare element but that “an enemy hath done this.” God’s Word tells us that He permitted evil to come into the Church (as well as into the world).
Matt. 13:29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
To the disciples’ question “Should we pull out the tares?” the Master replied, “No, let both the wheat and the tares grow together, for in forcibly extricating the tares, you would injure the wheat class too.” This was especially true during the Dark Ages, a period of simple faith and doctrine and of a paucity of the Word of God (described as a famine in which wheat was scarce—Rev. 6:6). Because true Christians were not sufficiently informed on prophetic matters to be able to survive the shock of “weeding,” some would have been injured. There was a relative lack of knowledge during the middle period of the Church’s history, but now, at the end of the age, when the focal rays of prophecy are beginning to converge, we have considerably more information—just as the Church did in the days of the apostles. (There are “early” and “latter” rains of much truth—James 5:7.) Therefore, the separation of the wheat and the tares was to take place during the “harvest” period at the end of the age (verses 30 and 39).
Matt. 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
The “householder” is the sower, that is, the Son of man, the instructor of the reapers. The Son of man said, “In the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” Notice that the gathering of the tares precedes the gathering of the wheat into the barn. This very important point cannot be vitiated by saying that the tare and wheat harvests exactly coincide in point of time. It is true there is a period of concurrency, but both the beginning and the ending of the wheat harvest occur within the time frame of the tare harvest.
Tare bundling/ Wheat harvest/ Tare bundling/ Wheat harvest complete;
harvest began: going into barn began: harvest complete: all wheat in barn: Tares are burned:
1846 1878 ? date (near future) ? date (near future) ? date (near future)
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The tares are first gathered together and bound in bundles—to be burned later. We should not assume that when the tares are gathered and bundled, they will be immediately burned. This does not occur either in nature (agriculture) or in the antitype. The gathering of the wheat into the barn is the more important work. Only when that work is complete will the Lord deal fully with the tare element. In other words, a little time period will occur between the bundling of the tares and the burning of them. The ultimate destiny of the tares is destruction (verse 40)— ”fire”! The destiny of the wheat is the “barn”—heaven!
The “barn” can be considered from two standpoints, and both thoughts are given in the Reprints. (1) As a position of rest and security, it can have a fulfillment on this side of the veil in the sense that the Lord’s people are gathered together around a message of truth. For a time at least, they are sheltered with the sunlight of God’s favor so that they can grow before the storms of persecution break upon them. (2) However, the ultimate purpose of the wheat is storage in a barn for future use. The full application, therefore, is the barn beyond the veil, in heaven, the Church’s final destiny. The Church will “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” in heaven, beyond the veil (verse 43). The destruction of the tares will take place after the wheat class is off the scene; that is, Babylon will not be destroyed until the Church has gone home. Hence the proper emphasis of the “barn” is that of the heavenly garner with Jesus.
Matt. 13:36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
Matt. 13:37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
Matt. 13:38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
Matt. 13:39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
Matt. 13:40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
Matt. 13:41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
Matt. 13:42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Matt. 13:43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
“The Son of man shall send forth his angels … [to] gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity” (verse 41). The usual application is that the “angels” are the Lord’s people this side of the veil who cooperate with Jesus, the Master Reaper, in gathering the wheat. Reaping (not sowing) is the primary work of the present Harvest time (although, of course, we individually do both as opportunity arises).
There is a seeming problem in this verse, which we will consider from the natural standpoint. From the mixed wheat and tare field, the “angels” (reapers) are to gather out (uproot and remove) the tares (those who “offend” and “do iniquity”). Then it would appear that only a wheat field would be left. However, as many other Scriptures show, the opposite will happen— iniquity will abound at the end of the age.
It is true that when the Harvest period began, there was a great blessing as different ones from the various denominations came together and fed on one centralized truth regarding the Ransom, but as time went on, deceptions arose. In fact, these deceptions will get worse and worse until finally only the elect will remain undeceived (Matt. 24:24). However, that is not the thrust of this parable.
The destiny of this parable is, “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (verse 43). All things that offend will be gathered out of the Father’s Kingdom.
Therefore, we must adjust our thinking for this parable because the opposite occurs in the flesh.
In other words, the Kingdom of heaven on this side of the veil, in the embryo state, has suffered violence in the past, suffers violence now, and will suffer violence in the future—as long as it is in the flesh. Indeed the tares so outnumber the wheat that the Church resembles a tare field, and the world is unable to distinguish between wheat and tares. Since the true Church will be revealed in the Kingdom, the final thrust of this parable pertains to the Church beyond the veil, in which there will be no tares. Thus gathering out “all things that offend” pertains to beyond the veil.
To state the matter another way, the word “angel” in the New Testament is spiritual in a ratio of about 50:1 (except, that is, for the Book of Revelation, a book of symbols, where the word “angel” has a variety of meanings). Here, too, the “angels” who gather out all things that offend are spiritual beings—literal angels. Notice, “all” things that offend (not “most” or “some”) will be gathered out. On this side of the veil, the true Christian is to watch out for corruption of doctrine and morals. However, the Scriptures show that those who are (and remain) pure in doctrine and morals will be greatly outnumbered, for the true Church beyond the veil must increase and the true Church on this side of the veil must decrease (that is, be outnumbered more and more as time goes on).
The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is saying that when the world “sees” this wheat field, all things that offend will have been previously gathered out and the righteous will be shining forth as the sun. Thus the “barn” is beyond the veil in the true, strict sense. And the “reapers” in the true, strict sense are angelic beings, for earthly beings are not capable of gathering out all things that offend. Literal angels will successfully do this work. Moreover, Christians in the parable are called “servants” (verse 27). Literal angels will be successful in gathering out “all things that offend, and them which do iniquity,” with the result that the righteous will “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” beyond the veil.
The destruction of the tare element is a part of this process of gathering out all things that offend. After all of the Church class are beyond the veil, the tares will be burned. With the tares gone, only wheat will be left—the ripe wheat beyond the veil and the unripe, immature wheat still in the flesh, that is, the Great Company class, who will subsequently be ripened in the Time of Trouble. However, the emphasis in the parable is on the tares and the Kingdom class and not on the Great Company. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares shows the true Church of 144,000 in contradistinction to the false Church.
Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leavened Meal (Matt. 13:31-33)
Matt. 13:31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
Matt. 13:32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the least of all seeds, but when grown, it is the greatest among herbs—so great that it became a tree and the birds of the air came and lodged in its branches.
Matt. 13:33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
Leaven pictures sin, spiritual pollution. The three measures of meal are faith, hope, and love (character-development doctrine), which were changed by the antitypical Jezebel. The nominal Church introduced doctrine that leavened, vitiated, and distorted these fundamentals. Instead of looking for a future marriage, a future kingdom, and a future return of Christ, the emphasis was changed to say these are available in the present life. For example, “You can reign in the present life,” “You can receive the rewards now,” and “There is no need for the Second Coming, for that will occur after everyone is converted.” These distorted doctrines vitiate faith and hope in a future reward beyond the veil. Faith and hope are related, and “faith [which precedes hope] cometh by hearing … the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Hope results when one exercises faith to the degree of real heart conviction that the reward will be his (or hers) if obedient. Faith leads to hope, and the culmination is love. All three have been distorted by the nominal system. The woman who introduced the leaven is Jezebel, the false Church.
Other parables in Matthew 13 show a wheat and tare mixture and a good and bad fish mixture.
Here the bread was unleavened to start with, but then leaven was introduced. That which was pure became leavened. Just as the tares began to outnumber the wheat, so the leavened bread outnumbered the unleavened bread. The nominal Church is a tare field; it is leavened bread.
Matt. 13:34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:
Matt. 13:35 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl (Matt. 13:44-46)
Matt. 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
In this parable, the Kingdom of heaven is likened to a treasure hid in a field. When a man found the treasure, he hid it and, for the joy thereof, went and sold all that he had and bought the field. The joyful “man” (Jesus) found the treasure (the Church) and hid it; that is, he did not immediately tell others about the treasure, for he did not want to jeopardize his own situation. Then he went and sold all that he had in order to procure the field which contained the “treasure” (primarily the true Church class).
God’s work in the present age is primarily the Church and secondarily the world and restitution, which will follow. The Father loves both the Church and the world (“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son”—John 3:16), but He loves the Church more and honors them more. By purchasing the “field,” Jesus accomplished both because both the Church’s and the world’s justification is based on his redemption, his Ransom price.
Comment: Jesus “hid” the treasure in the sense that the true Church is a Little Flock.
Matt. 13:45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Matt. 13:46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
The Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant man who is “seeking goodly pearls.” When he “found one pearl of great price,” he went and “sold all that he had, and bought it.” In the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, Jesus sold all that he had. The Parable of the Pearl states the same thing but, in addition, stresses the great cost to the “merchant man,” for the pearl had a “great price.” We are bought with the precious blood of Christ. Thus the “treasure” is equated to the “pearl.” The pearl is, again, mostly the Church.
The “field” is the earth, the dominion of man. After the sacrifices in the Old Testament, the blood was poured into the ground, showing that Jesus purchased both humanity and the right to this planet. Before Adam sinned, not only did he have life, but the Garden of Eden was his, as well as dominion over the animals. Jesus purchased all of these and will give them back to mankind. “The earth hath he given to the children of men” (Psa. 115:16).
Parable of the Dragnet (Matt. 13:47-50)
Matt. 13:47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind:
Matt. 13:48 Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
Matt. 13:49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,
Matt. 13:50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
This parable is a fitting conclusion to the series of parables in Matthew 13. Both the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares and the Parable of the Dragnet show the severing work of the just from the unjust and the destiny of the tares, or unjust, as being a “furnace of fire” (verse 42).
Also, both parables are dispensational—both have a beginning and an ending.
The net was cast into the sea of humanity to gather the true Church class, or good fish. However, fish “of every kind” entered the net (just as tares grew among the wheat, resulting in a mixed field). In other words, mixed fish came into the net, some good and some bad.
The net was “full” in 1881, when the general call was complete. At that time, the net began to be drawn to shore. The net was full (the number was complete) at that time from the standpoint that if all in the net had been faithful unto death, the Church would have been complete, and no one else would have been called. However, Laodicea, the Harvest period, is a period of crown losers. The warning of the Philadelphia period was, “Be careful lest any man take your crown,” the implication being that there would be many crown losers (Rev. 3:11).
Therefore, a Harvest work was necessary to replace and fill up the numerous crown vacancies.
What was not completed in almost 2,000 years of the Gospel Age is being finished in the 100- plus years of the Harvest period. Before the age ends, there will come a time when all who will make their calling and election sure will have been called. This point in time has not yet quite been reached. When it occurs in the near future, no more calls for replacements will go out. The net will then be full of all who will ultimately make their calling and election sure. At that time, the net will reach the shore, and only a sorting work will remain. No more fish will enter, and the good fish will then be severed from the bad—just like the harvesting of the wheat from the tares. In the final analysis, only the Church class will be left.
In the Parable of the Dragnet, both the sorting (separation) and the gathering work go on simultaneously, but the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, which is more important because it has far more detail, makes a distinction. While the harvests of the wheat and the tares are simultaneous for the most part, the beginning of the tare binding or sorting actually precedes the gathering of the wheat. Although the gathering of the tares starts first, the Parable of the Dragnet is valuable to show that for the bulk of the time, the binding (sorting) work of the tares is contemporaneous with the gathering of the wheat into the barn.
In verse 48, the pronoun “they” refers to the holy angels (verse 49; Mark 13:27; Matt. 24:31). It could not refer to the Church, for the Church does not sever the good from the wicked as individuals. With regard to principles and doctrines, Christians in the present life try to do what they can, but they are not successful. Just like Jesus, they are destined to seeming defeat. The permission of evil helps to develop the true Christian, but the successful overcoming of the Church will not be seen or appreciated until the next age. Therefore, for the separating and gathering work to be done unfailingly and unerringly, a superior spiritual agency would have to do it. In the present life, we merely discuss principles, truths, doctrines, Scriptures, what constitutes a true Christian, what true consecration and true justification are, etc. We do not label individuals and their final destiny.
Matt. 13:51 Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.
After discussing all of these parables (the sower, the wheat and the tares, the mustard seed, the leaven, the hid treasure, the pearl, and the dragnet), Jesus asked his disciples, “Have you understood all these things?” Their reply, ”Yea, Lord,” is rather humorous. Of course the disciples were thinking of these parables from a practical, natural standpoint.
Matt. 13:52 Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.
Then Jesus said, “Therefore every scribe who is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like … an householder, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.” Enlightened Christians of the Harvest period are likened to wise servants, but lest we get “overwise,” the Scriptures show that there is a wise individual (the Pastor), as well as a wise class of servants (Luke 12:37,42-44). Incidentally, the Luke account is important because it mentions the wise servant (an individual) right after the wise servant class, thus refuting those who discount the wise individual servant.
Additional Comments on the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
The tares will be burned, or destroyed, in the “furnace of fire” (the Time of Trouble) from the standpoint of their profession, not as individuals (although, of course, there will be some loss of life). To be a Christian then will bring severe persecution—Christians will be “sitting ducks.”
On the one hand, the tares will drop their profession to be Christians. On the other hand, true Christians cannot drop their profession if they want life. The faith and energy of the Great Company will be rekindled because they will have to take a stand in order to resist their persecuting experience—but too late to be part of the Little Flock.
In the full picture, which answers all the details in the Parable of the Dragnet and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, the “angels” (reapers) are literal angels. The “angels” cannot be the risen Church because they were not used in the past. Down through history, Jesus and the literal spiritual angels have been developing the true Church, and that procedure would not change in the Harvest period. Instead the risen saints are being instructed regarding their duties in the Kingdom. Hebrews 1:14 tells us that all the holy angels are employed as ministering servants to develop the Church class. Therefore, they have been, and still are, involved in developing the Kingdom class from beginning to end under the supervision of Jesus.
Guardian angels have a lot to do with a Christian’s making his calling and election sure; they watch out for physical, material, and spiritual interests in every circumstance, with the spiritual interests prevailing.
The bundling of the tares began in 1846, when the Evangelical Alliance was formed. At that time, the orthodox churches of Christianity got together to develop, if possible, a common creed or basis for identifying who was and who was not “orthodox.” In other words, the Evangelical Alliance was formed to determine who are “legitimate” and who are the cults. An agreement was reached in 1846. The Church of England was not part of the movement at that time, but in 1946, or more visibly in 1948, the Church of England identified itself with the other Protestant churches. Thus the bundling of the tares began in 1846 and has been proceeding ever since, with the bundles getting larger and less numerous. The hope is to make one huge ecumenical bundle, but the Scriptures show there will be at least two bundles (the two ends of the scroll—Isa. 34:4).
The gathering of the wheat began in 1878. The Lord returned in 1874, and his first work was to instruct that “faithful and wise servant” (Matt. 24:45). Then in 1878, the Harvest began. Since then and through today, both the bundling of the tares and the gathering of the wheat are going on at the same time. However, the burning of the tares will not take place until after the wheat are all garnered into the barn. Babylon will fall after the feet members go beyond the veil. The Book of Revelation shows the two harvests: the wheat first and then the vine of the earth shortly afterwards (Rev. 14:15,18).