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The Kingdom Is Like Wheat and Tares

The parable of the wheat and tares, unlike other parables in this group of seven about the kingdom, is found only in Matthew 13. It is one of the three parables Jesus gave on this occasion of which He offered an explanation. It is unique in that this parable is the only one of the seven which speaks of the kingdom in a broader sense: the other six use “kingdom” to refer to that which Jesus came to begin. In this parable the field out of which the tares are cleared away is the world, but in verse 41 Jesus tells that the tares are gathered “out of his kingdom.”

This parable tells that “the kingdom of heaven in likened unto a man that sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat and went away. But when the blade sprang up and brought forth fruit then appeared the tares also. And the servants of householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? Whence then has it tares? And he said unto them, An enemy hath done this. And the servants say unto him, wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he saith ‘Nay, lest haply while ye gather up the tares, ye root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together unto the harvest and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather up first the tares and bind them into bundles to burn them but gather the wheat into my barn” (Mt. 13:24-30).

Let us identify various elements of the parable. First, there is the man or household who sowed good seed. This is the Son of man (Mt. 13:37). The enemy who sowed the tares is the devil (Mt. 13:39). The field is the world (Mt. 13:38). The good seed is “the sons of the kingdom” (Mt. 13:38). The tares are the sons of the evil one (Mt. 13:38). The reapers are angels (Mt. 13:41). The harvest is the end of the world (Mt. 13:39). The fire is hell. The “barn” is heaven.

There is the eternal conflict between God and Satan — good and evil. On our earth tares were first sown when Satan came as a serpent to tempt and deceive Eve. Wickedness and evil are like leaven or cancer. It continues to grow and spread. There were ten generations from Adam to Noah, and in the span of those years wickedness grew to such proportions that every imagination of man’s heart was only evil continually and the fall into such depravity caused God to “repent that he had made man on the earth and it grieved him at his heart” (Gen. 6:5-6). We know God is — the Existing One. He has always been and always will be. From everlasting to everlasting He is. Of the origin of Satan we can only surmise. Peter wrote of “angels who sinned and were cast down to hell” (2 Pet. 2:4) and it is likely that Satan was in that number. We know that the eternal fire has been prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt. 25:41). In Revelation, John wrote of “war in heaven: Michael and his angels going forth to war with the dragon, and the dragon warred and his angels; and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan” (Rev. 12:2-9). Satan knows that he has just a short while and ultimately will be cast forever into hell (Rev. 12:2). His hatred is so intense against our Maker that he intends to inflict as much evil in this world as possible. He hates man and what a tragedy it is that so many are deceived with his lies so that they will share his same fate.

The tares which Satan sows are the sons of the wicked one. As they have been corrupted so they corrupt others. It is an ongoing cycle so that “evil men and imposters wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). The tare was a plant very similar to wheat but while wheat is wholesome, tares are just the opposite. The plant is poisonous to man and can bring physical death to him.

As long as the earth abides there will be good and evil. It has always been this way except in that brief period in our world’s beginning before Satan approached Eve in the garden. While God wishes His church to be pure and commanded that whenever a Christian turns from Christ to return once more to the world, Christians are commanded to “withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly and not after the traditions which they received of us” (2 Thess. 3:6). Paul made it clear, however, that such withdrawal applies solely to disorderly Christians: “I wrote unto you in my epistle to have no company with fornicators, not at all meaning with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous and extortioner, or with idolaters: for then must ye needs go out of the world” (1 Cor. 5:9-10).

We cannot “police” the world’s morals. We must warn the world of the nature of sin and that someday each man will be held accountable for his wicked deeds. Paul did this when he preached to the Athenians that “the times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained and whereby he hath given assurance unto all men in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). When he was in Roman custody and called by Felix the judge and governor to speak about Jesus, he “reasoned of righteousness, and self-control and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:24). Such was enough to cause Felix to be terrified and say, “Go thy way for this time; and when I have a convenient season, I will call thee unto me” (Acts 24:25). He never called him that he might obey the gospel for there is never a convenient season to give sin up.

The place for a boat is in water. The place for the church is in the world. But just as water in the boat can become disastrous, so it is when the world gets in the church. We are in the world but we have to be markedly different so that those who are honest and sincere can see where their hope of escape from eternal ruin is found. Someday God will surely send forth His angels, gather the sons of the evil one from among the sons of God, and cast them into eternal punishment.

Jim McDonald

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