The Parable of the Weeds

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 
So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.   And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 
He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 
But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” 

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.”  He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 
The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 
Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 
The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 
Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

This is another one of the more well known parables of Jesus.  Let’s start our study of it by examining the Lord’s explanation of it more closely.

Jesus said that “the one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man” (v. 37).  This would be Jesus himself, who often referred to himself as “the Son of Man” (cf. Matt. 9:6; Lk. 12:40).   He, like his cousin John, was preaching the gospel of the kingdom during this time (Matt. 4:17, 23; cf. 3:1-2).  Scripture speaks of the kingdom in different ways, as our study of this parable will show.

The field represents the world (v. 38), which would be God’s kingdom viewed in a general sense (cf. Ps. 47:2; 103:19; Matt. 28:18).  The good seed represents “the sons of the kingdom” (v. 38).  He’s talking about faithful Christians here, those who become disciples by being baptized and continuing to observe all of Christ’s commandments (Matt. 28:19-20).  This brings us to the more specific perspective of God’s kingdom taught by the New Testament, the perspective of viewing the kingdom as the church (cf. Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 2:12; Heb. 12:28; Rev. 1:4, 6, 9).  The parable will have more to say about this, which we will look at more closely soon.

“The enemy who sowed” the weeds is the devil (v. 39), and the weeds within the field sown by him are “the sons of the evil one” (v. 38), the ones who are “all causes of sin and all law-breakers” whom the angels will take out of Christ’s kingdom and cast into hell (vs. 41-42).  This refers to anyone who is not a Christian, as well as unfaithful Christians.  Jesus spoke of religious people who would not be allowed into heaven on Judgment Day because they didn’t obey his Father (Matt. 7:21-27).  These would be Christians who are unfaithfully, unrepentantly disobedient to God (cf. Heb. 10:26-31), as well as those who think they are Christians but aren’t because they tried to follow God without obeying what he has actually told them to do in Scripture (cf. 2 Tim. 4:3-4; 1 John 2:19; Rom. 16:17-18).  The Bible promises eternal condemnation to anyone whose name is not found written in the book of life (Rev. 20:15; cf. Ex. 32:32-33), while those whose names are in the book — the good seed, the sons of the kingdom — will be granted eternal life (cf. Dan. 12:1; Phil. 4:3).

The harvest represents the end of the age (v. 39).  Paul told Christians two thousand years ago that “the end of the ages” had come upon them (1 Cor. 10:11; cf. Heb. 1:1-2), which means that we today are also living in that last age.  At the close of this age, Judgment Day will occur.  On that day, Jesus will come again with his angels, the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the righteous from the unrighteous (Matt. 25:31-33), just as the wheat was separated from the weeds in the harvest of the parable.  The ones who will do the separating are the angels, represented by the reapers in the parable (v. 39).

There are several noteworthy points made by this parable which can help us in our walk with God.  First, notice again how the weeds represent all who are unrepentantly disobedient to God.  He will not permanently deal with them until Judgment Day (vs. 28-29, 40), and there are reasons for that.  For one, the Lord doesn’t want anyone to perish; he wants everyone to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).  However, the parable also shows that this is done out of consideration for those who obey him, the good seed.

Second, we should take note that on Judgment Day (“the harvest”), Christ will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace,” a reference to hell (vs. 40-42; cf. Matt. 10:28; 25:46; John 15:6; Rev. 20:14-15).  However, the “righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (v. 43), a clear reference to heaven (cf. 1 Cor. 15:24; 2 Pet. 1:11; 2 Tim. 4:18).  This shows very clearly that both heaven and hell exists.  It seems that some do not have any problem believing in the existence of the former while not really thinking it possible that the latter exists, at least existing in the sense that it would be possible for them personally to end up there.  Yet, the Bible makes it very clear that those who do not penitently obey God as faithful Christians will end up there (Matt. 25:41, 45-46).

This brings us back to how the Bible speaks of God’s kingdom.  The world (represented by the field in the parable) is the same place from which the angels would gather the disobedient, but the parable says that they will gather the disobedient out of Christ’s kingdom, which the Bible also speaks of as the church (and the church, as we know, is not made up of the entire world.)  This is why Scripture speaks of the kingdom in three senses:

In a general sense, all of humanity is God’s kingdom (Ps. 47:2; Matt. 28:18; Rev. 1:5).  The majority of humanity will not be saved because they choose not to walk on the narrow path which leads to salvation (Matt. 7:13-14), so the angels who gather the disobedient out of the kingdom on Judgment Day will gather them from the world, those outside of the church.

However, Scripture also defines Christ’s kingdom in a more specific way as the church.  This would be the kingdom given to Christ in Daniel’s vision, the kingdom which shall never be destroyed (Dan. 7:14).  Christians were told that they were transferred out of darkness and into Christ’s kingdom (Col. 1:13), that God calls them into his kingdom (1 Thess. 2:12), that they have received a kingdom (Heb. 12:28).  Members of the churches to whom Revelation was written were told that God had made them a kingdom and that John was their brother and partner in the kingdom (Rev. 1:4, 6, 9).  Since Christians make up the church, the church is Christ’s kingdom as viewed in a more specific perspective.

The kingdom is also viewed from a future perspective within Scripture.  Paul spoke of Christ delivering the kingdom back to his Father at “the end” (1 Cor. 15:24), the end being Judgment Day, “the close of the age” (Matt. 13:39).  At the end of his life, he could look ahead and know that in the future the Lord would bring him into his heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18), and he said this as a current citizen of the kingdom since he was a Christian and thus part of the church (cf. Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 2:12; Heb. 12:28; Rev. 1:4, 6, 9).  In like manner, Peter told current citizens of God’s kingdom — Christians — that if they continually grow in all the areas in which God wishes them to grow, that is how an entrance into the “eternal” kingdom of the Lord “will be” (future tense) abundantly supplied to them (2 Pet. 1:5-11).  Thus, the kingdom from a future, eternal perspective would be heaven.

So what can we learn from this?  Christians, it is possible to be in Christ’s kingdom right now…but not in the future.  Remember, on Judgment Day the angels will take OUT of God’s kingdom all stumbling blocks and all law breakers and cast them into hell.  This would not only refer to all non-Christians who are in a lost state.  Since the kingdom is also spoken of more specifically as the church, and since it is possible for those within the church to not be faithful to God by sinning unrepentantly (cf. Heb. 10:26-31), then the angels will also take out of the kingdom and cast into hell some who are within the church who live their lives unrepentant in sin.

That’s why it is so important for us to not let sin reign in our lives, Christians.  We must not be stumbling blocks to our brethren, those of whom Jesus said it would be better for them to drown with a millstone around their neck than be cast into hell (Matt. 18:6-9).  If we are the religious people of whom the Lord spoke who do some good things but still do not obey his Father, those who hear his words but do not do them, then this will be our fate (Matt. 7:21-27).  We may be in the kingdom now, but in the end will be taken out of it and spend eternity in hell rather than in heaven.  This is why Christians are warned, “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it” (Heb. 4:1).

I am thankful God is patient with us.  I’m grateful he is holding off final judgment because he is giving us time to grow (2 Pet. 3:9).  We need to use that time wisely, making “the best use of the time” and choosing to “look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,” working hard to “not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:15-17).  We do not know how much time he will still give us (James 4:13-17), so let’s make the best use of the time he has given us right now.

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