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About The Kingdom of Heaven

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

 

It is wonderful to be together again as we look in to the Word of God.  The title of the sermon is: “About the Kingdom of Heaven.”   Our text comes from the New Testament book of Matthew, chapter 13, verses 47 through 52.  Listen to the Word of God:

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.  When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore.  Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.  This is how it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will come and separated the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  “Have you understood all these things?”  Jesus asked.  “Yes.” they replied.  He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

This is the Word of God.  May he add his blessing to the public reading of his word.

In this seventh parable of Matthew 13 we have another straight-forward parabolic teaching, teaching in parable form, that one would think has an agreed upon interpretation.  However, again this is not the case.  So again, we’ll survey some of the interpretations for comparative purposes and seek the Lord’s guidance as we include contextual scriptural support for the seemingly best interpretation.

This seventh parable is usually labeled the “Parable of the Net,” or “Fishing Net” in the NIV or “Dragnet” in the NKJV.  In Matthew 13:47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.”  The original Greek word used by Matthew implies a dragnet, a large hauling net of great length, weighted by lead and made to sweep the bottom of the Sea of Galilee, which was actually an inland lake.  This dragnet was used to most effectively gather fish in masses.  This dragnet dragged along the bottom of the water would gather all kinds of fish into its mesh-net.  The symbolic meaning to most is as stated by Herbert Lockyear in his book entitled “All the Parables of the Bible” he writes “The wide sweeping all-embracing net illustrates the wide reach and effectual operation of the gospel whereby men are drawn into the profession of Christianity.  Thus, the kind of net indicates the sweep of the Kingdom of God in its present work.  It brings into view God’s providence sweeping across the entire dispensation, through the whole course of the intervening time, until the eternal separation of the wicked from among the just.”

In Matthew 13:48 “When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore.  Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.”  Jesus’ listeners by the Sea of Galilee, as illustrated in Matthew 13:1-2, were well aware of this imagery they had often seen.  Once onshore fishermen sorted their catch of fish.  The good ones were placed in baskets and the bad fish, those inedible or considered “ceremonially unclean” by Jewish fishermen as revealed in the book of Leviticus 11:9-12, were thrown away.  The tie-in by this parable, and the present proclamation of the gospel throughout this church age dispensation is as Herbert Lockyear writes “In his call to service, did he not say, “I will make you to become fishers of men?”  Plying the sea with the gospel net, they were to catch men alive.  Taken out of the sea of sin, theirs is the privileged task of trying to rescue others.  All who have been forgiven should by fishers.  Soul-winners are God’s fishers.”

Matthew 13:49-50 “This is how it will be at the end of the age.  The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  So, very similar to Jesus’ explanation of the “Parable of the Weeds”, or tares, in Matthew 13:41-42 at the end of the age, Jesus Christ the judge, will send out his angels to sort out the wicked from the righteous by his angels who are extremely more qualified than we to separate the righteous from the unrighteous from God’s perspective, not man’s perspective.

This interpretation seems straight forward and plain enough to fit this parable.  But let’s go deeper and think on this.  James Montgomery Boice, a fine expositor of scripture writes: “What does this seventh parable teach that has not already been taught by the second?  The parable of the weeds in Matthew 13:24-30 and Jesus’ explanation of it in Matthew 13:36-43.  That is, why in view of this earlier parable is this one, the parable of the net, included?  It is true, …the others also involve some repetition.  But each parable nevertheless, adds something new.  Is there anything new in this last parable?  Is there anything we would lose if it, parable of the net, were not included?  The only element that might possibly be conceived of as new is the image of fishing, and it is tempting to think here of how Christ called fishermen to be his disciples.  “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” in Matthew 4:19. We would like to think that the new element is our role in drawing men and women into the gospel net.  But that is not the way Jesus interprets the parable.  He compares the fishermen to angels, not to his earthly messengers.  And the setting is not the time in which the church carries the gospel throughout the world, but the final judgement.  I believe that the “new” element is the warning to the wicked.  Their fate has already been described, but it was mixed in with other elements.  Here it stands out for the simple reason that it is conspicuously alone.”

Chrysostom (AD 347-407) a bishop of the early church whose eloquence earned him the nickname “golden mouthed” which is “Chrysostom in Greek, stated of the parable of the dragnet its “a terrible parable” meaning terribly fearsome, a sobering warning.  Gregory the Great, a pope elected in AD 590 said of the “parable of the dragnet” it was “rather to be trembled at than expounded.”

If only the terrible prospect were as concerning to us today as it was to earlier followers of Christ then surely our urgency in warning others to run to the Savior and flee the wrath to come to the unrighteous would be more evident.  As Christians today, our duty and commission is not judgment but proclamation of Christ and his salvation thru obedient faith whereby: in Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That this could be made known to those alien sinners that need the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The new element being the warning to the wicked in a more conspicuously recorded parable of Jesus has merit.  But there’s more that is new and conspicuous in the “parable of the net” verses the “parable of the weeds.”

Robert Garrett insightfully writes: “The key to understanding is in the words, “This is how it will be at the end of the age.”  The end of the age is marked by the Great Tribulation, in Matthew 24:15-31.  The letting down of the net has reference to the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom, that is to be made immediately after the removal of the church from the earth.  Here is a new gathering, apart from Israel and the church.  It is the result of God’s grace to the Gentiles, after the church has been caught up.  According to Revelation 14:6-7 during the time of the Great Tribulation the gospel will be preached by a mighty angel.  In the King James Version: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”  It is the gospel with an added urgent warning “For the hour of his judgment has come.”

Although we are to warn of the judgment to come, we today cannot say “the hour of his judgment has come.”  There is also the preaching of the two witnesses in Jerusalem in Revelation 11:3-7.  Also, it will be preached by 144 thousand servants of God out of Israel in Revelation 7:3-4.  And so, Matthew 24:14 will be fulfilled, Jesus said “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  This final preaching of the gospel is after the church is taken up.  This is the letting down of the net at the end of the age.  The separation of the good fish from the bad is synonymous with his judgment of the living nations when our Lord shall come in glory, in Matthew 25:31-46.

In verses 31-32 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

Warren Wiersbe, another fine expositor of scripture adds “Twice in this series of parables Jesus used the phrase “the end of the world” or age in Matthew 13:39 and 49.  He was not referring to the end of this church age because the truth about the church was not shared with the disciples until later in Matthew 16:18.  The “age” he referred to is the Jewish age at the close of the Great Tribulation described in Matthew 24:1-31 and Revelation chapters 6-19.  We must be careful not to “read into” these passages in Matthew the truths later given through Paul and the other apostles.”

Matthew 13:51-52 “Have you understood all these things?”  Jesus asked.  “Yes” they replied.  He said to them, “Therefore, every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasure as well as old.”  Some commentators interpret these verses to actually be an eighth parable in Matthew 13.

Warren Wiersbe writes: “When Jesus had completed this series of parables he asked his disciples if they understood them, and they confidently replied, “yes Lord.”  Understanding involves responsibility.  To explain this, the Lord added a final parable to remind them of their responsibilities.  They must be as scribes or teachers of the law who discovers the truth.  The scribes, teachers of the law, began as a noble group under the leadership of Ezra.  Their purpose was to preserve the law, study it, and apply its truths to daily life.  Over the years their noble cause degenerated into a routine task of preserving traditions and man-made interpretations, and adding burdens to the lives of the people in Luke 11:46-52.

We today search into truth.  God’s word is truth from John 17:17, that we might discover more truth.  We are as scribes, students, who sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to his words.  But we must not stop there.  The scribe emphasizes learning, but the disciple emphasizes living.  Disciples are doers of the word from James 1:22ff. and they learn by doing.”

But how is a teacher of the law like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasure as well as old?  John MacArthur writes: “The disciples were not to spurn, reject, the old for the sake of the new.  Rather the new insights they gleamed from Jesus’ parables were to be understood in light of the old truths, and vice versa.”  So, new insights from scripture are added to old truths of scripture.

The new truths we learn cannot contradict the old scriptural truths because God does not contradict himself.  And as students of the scriptures we have a responsibility to bring out these old and new scriptural treasures to others.  Today especially teaching the New Testament insights we have learned about the secrets or mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven now revealed, are to be taught and lived out.

 

David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.

 




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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10