Tag Archive | "parables"

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The Lord Jesus gave His disciples a little help in understanding some of His parables.   For instance, in Mathew 13:24-30 we find a parable about wheat and tares growing together in a field. 

 

 

A Field at Harvest Time

 

Right from the start we know that the parable will teach us something about the kingdom of heaven, because we read in verse 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:

 

As the parable continues, we find that it concerns tares or weeds that have been intentionally sown in the man’s field.  In verses 25-26, we read:

 

But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.  But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 

 

The man in the parable sowed good seed in his field, but his enemy came and sowed tares in the field.  In time, the man’s servants discovered the problem and reported it, as we read in verses 27-28:

 

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?  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 man’s decision is to let both the wheat and tares grow together until the harvest.  He instructs his servants accordingly in verses 29-30:

 

But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.  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.

 

 

Even though that’s the end of the parable, there’s more about it.  When the Lord spoke this parable, there were many people gathered about to hear it.  A while later, after He had sent them away, His disciples asked Him to explain the parable.  The Lord begins His explanation by telling the disciples what is represented by the various elements in the story.   In Matthew 13:37-39, we read:

 

He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;  The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;  The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.

 

Notice that the harvest in this parable is at the end of the world.  The Lord continues His explanation in Matthew 13:40:

 

As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.

 

Tares are weeds that are to be bound in bundles and then burned; but they represent people in this parable.  They are the “children of the wicked one.”  The Lord compares their end with that of the tares, as we see in Matthew 13:41-42:   

 

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;  And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

 

The final verse explaining the parable is Matthew 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 parable really emphasizes judgment, as we have seen; but the Lord’s final verse about it is a wonderful promise for God’s people.

 

 

A Vineyard With Wild Grapes

 

There are many other verses using the word “field” besides those found in the parable of the wheat and tares.  God often uses ideas associated with a field to teach spiritual truths; but He also uses the idea of a vineyard to do this.

 

In Isaiah 5, we read about a vineyard that God planted.   Isaiah 5:1-2 tells us:

 

Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:  And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.   

 

Instead of bringing forth good grapes, this vineyard yielded wild grapes. In Isaiah 5:5-6, we read God’s pronouncement – delivered by the prophet Isaiah – of what will happen to the vineyard:

 

And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:  And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

 

Just as the Lord Jesus explained something about the parable of the wheat and tares, God gives us a verse about this parable of the vineyard in Isaiah 5:7:

 

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

 

If we had only the Old Testament writings of the Bible, our understanding of this parable would probably be limited to seeing it as a prophecy about the nations ofIsraelandJudah.  We know that Isaiah lived and recorded his message before they were destroyed (Isaiah 1:1).  The parable tells about their destruction, and so the prophecy was clearly fulfilled.   However, we find in the Gospels another parable that we need to consider.  

 

 

A Vineyard Taken and Given to Others

 

In Mark 12, we find another parable about a vineyard.  However, in this parable the vineyard is not destroyed.  Verses 1 and 2 provide the setting for this story:

 

And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.  And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.  

 

 

We know that God sent many prophets to warn ancientIsraelandJudahfor hundreds of years.  In the parable, the man’s servants represent those prophets.  What we read in Mark 12:3-5 shows us what happened to them:

 

And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.

 

If you read the books named for the “major” and “minor” prophets in the Old Testament, you will find many instances in which these men were persecuted.  God’s servants indeed were “shamefully handled” and even killed.  

 

As the parable continues, we see that the Lord predicts His death at the cross.  In Mark 12:6-8, we read:

 

Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.  But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.  And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.

 

In Mark 12:9, the Lord tells what will happen to the evil husbandmen:

 

What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

 

Who are these “others” that will be given the vineyard?  We know that God used ancientIsraelto represent His kingdom on earth.  TheKingdomofIsraelreached its height under King Solomon.  It was then broken into two different nations:JudahandIsrael.  After a couple of hundred years, the Assyrian Empire conquered the nation then calledIsrael.  Then, over a century later, the Babylonian Empire conqueredJudah.  EvenJerusalemwas destroyed at that time (Jeremiah 52:12-16).  Solomon’s mighty kingdom was completely gone.

 

WhenJudahwas conquered, some of its people survived.  Most were brought toBabylonin captivity.  After a few decades had passed (in 539 BC),Babylonitself was conquered (see Daniel 5:30-31).  That set the stage for the eventual return of some Jews back toJudea(see Ezra 1:1-2).  Some of these people were undoubtedly saved (e.g., see Nehemiah 8), and so we can say that they still (or once again) represented God’s eternal kingdom.

 

However, after the Crucifixion God made a major change.  To represent the eternal church, He no longer used those who were physical descendants of Jacob (to whom God gave the name “Israel”).  Instead, He began the Church Age and switched to using local congregations of Christian churches.  They would represent the invisible or eternal church throughout the Church Age.  That period lasted from 33 AD until 1988.  The overwhelming majority of these people were not Jews who could trace their ancestry back to Abraham through Jacob; but they were the “others” who would be given the vineyard (Mark 12:9).         

 

When the Lord Jesus told the parable of the vineyard as recorded in Mark 12, some of the Jews’ religious leaders were present.  Mark 12:12 tells us:

 

And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.    

 

These religious leaders wanted to arrest the Lord Jesus right there.  They understood that He was saying they would no longer be God’s people.  They would have known about the Old Testament parable of the vineyard with its wild grapes (Isaiah 5), and they certainly understood that this new parable was spoken against them.

 

 

 More Bad Grapes

 

Neither one of the two vineyard parables we have seen tells us about the end of the world, as does the parable of the wheat and tares.  However, there is a place in the Bible that uses the idea of grapes that are ripe and ready to be reaped when the Lord returns.  It’s found in Revelation 14.

 

In the Book of Revelation, we read about a series of visions given to the apostle John.  One of those visions is found in Revelation 14:14-20.   It’s a very strange vision, like all those recorded in Revelation; but the three parables we examined earlier help us understand it.

 

In Revelation 14:14, we read:

 

And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.

 

Perhaps you remember one or more similar verses associating clouds with the Lord’s return on the last day.  For example, in Mark 13:26 we read:

 

And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

 

There’s no doubt that Revelation 14:14 is telling us about the Lord Jesus on the last day.  Continuing with the account for this vision, we read in Revelation 14:15-16:

 

And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.  And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.

These verses don’t tell us what was reaped, but we will be able to understand what they are teaching after we finish reading about the vision and compare it against other things we have learned.  Continuing with the next verses in Revelation 14:17-19, we read:  

 

And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.  And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.  And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

 

Notice that more reaping is done.  In this case, we read about an angel who has power over fire.  We know that fire is associated with God’s judgment.  Matthew 7:19 is a verse illustrating this:

 

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

 

The same Greek word used for “fire” in Revelation 14:18 is also used in Matthew 7:19.  Also, notice that in the vision John saw a “great winepress of the wrath of God.”  This also tells us about judgment.  The final verse describing this vision is Revelation 14:20:

 

And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

 

This vision is actually a parable; but what does it mean?

 

 

“Here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:10)

 

The vision described in Revelation 14:14-20 is a parable about the destruction of the unsaved on the last day of the world; but in order to realize this we must understand several truths God reveals here and there throughout the Bible.  The three parables we examined earlier help us understand the vision.  We saw that God used the parable of the wheat and tares to show us a picture of the end of the world (Matthew 13:40).  The wheat gathered “into the barn” is a picture of the rapture – that’s when God gathers all the elect to bring them to heaven.

 

From other verses, we know that the unsaved will witness the rapture.  For example, in Revelation 11, we read about God’s two witnesses who prophesy in the last days.   Notice Revelation 11:12:

 

And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.  

 

Their enemies, who are unsaved people of the world alive on the last day, beheld them or saw them ascend to heaven.  The two witnesses represent all of God’s people who are still alive on the last day.  Therefore, the rapture precedes the destruction of the unsaved.   The unsaved of the world will see the rapture before they are destroyed, and it is the rapture that is pictured by the first reaping in Revelation 14:16:

 

And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.

 

What was reaped?  The verses describing this vision do not tell us.  They don’t plainly state that the first reaping pictures the elect being gathered in the rapture; but other verses – such as Matthew 24:31 – show us it is:

 

And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.   

 

Like the “wheat and tares” parable, Revelation 14:16 is a picture of the “wheat” being gathered into the “barn.”  It’s a picture of God gathering His children from all over the world when the earth is “reaped.” 

 

What about the second reaping?  Recall what we read in Revelation 14:18: “Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.”  Then in Revelation 14:19 we read:

 

And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

 

What do the grapes that are in “clusters” and the “vine of the earth” represent?  We know that the Lord Jesus told His disciples that He was the vine.  In John 15:5, we read:

 

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

 

Does the vine in Revelation 14:19 also represent the Lord Jesus?  Recall that in the parable of the vineyard in Isaiah, the vineyard was planted with “the choicest vine.”  Yet in Isaiah 5:5-6, God announced that He would destroy the vineyard:

 

And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:  And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

 

The vine in Revelation 14:18 is a wild plant that has produced wild grapes.   It represents the local congregations of Christian churches years after God finished using them to save anyone.  In fact, the destruction of the vineyard in the Isaiah 5 parable fits as a picture of God’s judgment on the local congregations.   The “vineyard” was taken from Jacob’s descendants and given to the local congregations.   This is what the Lord Jesus spoke of in the parable of the vineyard in Mark 12 (see Mark 12:9).  Then, many years after this transfer, God finished using the local congregations.

 

Even though the prophet Isaiah delivered his message centuries before God even began the Church Age, the message can be seen as a prophecy of the time when God would bring judgment on the churches.  The Isaiah 5 vineyard identifies with the congregations, and from the day it was destroyed there was “no rain upon it.”  In other words, God’s judgment had begun and no one would be saved in the churches anymore.

 

Revelation 14:18-19 tell us the “clusters of the vine of the earth” are to be gathered  – that is, the grapes – and cast into the “great winepress of the wrath of God.”  These grapes are like the “wild grapes” growing in the vineyard of Isaiah 5:1-2 and like the “tares” growing in the field.

Even though the word for “clusters” is only used in that verse and is of uncertain derivation, we know that grapes do grow in bunches or clusters.  The idea of clusters matches the idea of the bundles in which tares are bound before they are burned, as in the parable of the wheat and tares.

 

The Focus of God’s Anger  

 

It’s interesting to note that God’s anger seems to be directed more against some people than others.  For example, in Ezekiel 34:2, we read:

 

Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 

 

God directed this message especially against the religious leaders of Ezekiel’s day.  These men, instead of seeking the spiritual welfare of the people, used their positions for selfish gain.  The Lord Jesus also had harsh words for the scribes and Pharisees during His ministry.  In Matthew 23:14, we read:

 

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

 

Also, remember how God identified the people against whom He spoke the parable of the vineyard.  In Isaiah 5:7, we read:

 

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

 

The prophecy that this vineyard would be destroyed was apparently fulfilled when God ended the Church Age.  The wild grapes in this parable are not good grapes, but are like the grapes that are cast “into the great winepress of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:18-19).  They also appear to be like the tares in the parable of the wheat and tares. 

 

In that parable, Satan sowed the tares through a false gospel.  This false gospel may seem to differ from one church denomination to another; but wherever it’s found, it teaches that man has a degree of control over his own salvation.  This is what has been called a “do-it-yourself” salvation plan.  It’s a false gospel because it doesn’t give all the glory to God.   

 

Now we can understand the treading of the winepress in Revelation 14:20:

 

And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

 

The blood flowing out of this winepress has nothing to do with the Lord’s blood, the blood of the elect or a testing of the elect.  It represents God’s wrath against those following a false religion claiming to be based on the Bible in some way (see also Isaiah 63:3-4).

 

Notice that the winepress is “trodden without the city.”  In other words, this happens out of the city or away from it.  Remember that in this vision the first reaping represents the rapture.  When the winepress is trodden, the rapture has already happened.  The eternal city ofJerusalem(see Revelation 21:2), which represents all of God’s elect, is gone by this time; so we may understand the words “without the city” in that way.

 

Blood up to “the horse bridles” is another very striking image.  What are we to make of it?  In the Bible, both horses and chariots are used to represent strength.  For example, in Isaiah 31:1, we read:

 

Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!

 

The unsaved of the world do not look to God to do all the work required for their salvation.  They place faith in their own actions.  This way of thinking is represented by trusting in horses or chariots.  A horse is controlled by using a bridle; so blood reaching that height points to God’s vengeance against people who have not placed their faith in Him, but in their “horses” instead. 

 

Of course, the number of furlongs stated in Revelation 14:20 is also important.  The verse states the blood is “by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.”  We have learned that God uses certain numbers to teach spiritual truth.  In the number 1,600, we see the factor 40 multiplied by itself; but the number “40” is associated with testing.  Revelation 14:20 portrays the last day, so this way of understanding the 1,600 furlongs doesn’t fit.  It has nothing to do with testing.

 

There are several ways of looking at this number through its factors.  Here are factors that do fit our understanding of the vision: 

 

4 x 10 x 4 x 10 (or 4 x 4 x 100)

 

We have learned that the number 4 corresponds with the number of points on a compass and represents the farthest extent in time or distance that God spiritually has in view.  The number 10 (or 100) represents the completeness of whatever is in view.  Therefore, with the number 1,600 God seems to be showing us that His judgment will extend all over the earth and possibly even through time – from the end of the world back to a time shortly after the creation. 

 

It’s important to realize that 1,600 is a spiritual number.  It is not to be understood literally, and of course the 1,600 furlongs has absolutely nothing to do with a literal number of days or years.  In fact, none of the numbers in the book of Revelation can be taken literally except possibly for the 200 million mentioned in Revelation 9:16.  That’s because God calls our attention to this number with the words “I heard the number of them.”  This number represents God’s elect and might be the exact number of people God has saved out of all the human race.

 

 

Conclusion  

 

The two parables about a vineyard that we considered (Isaiah 5 and Mark 12) and the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13) all show us pictures of God’s wrath against particular groups of people.  The Isaiah 5 parable was directed against ancientIsraelandJudah, while the Mark 12 parable was spoken against their descendants who were alive during the Lord Jesus’ ministry. 

 

The Isaiah 5 parable also appears to show us a picture of God’s wrath against the local congregations of Christian churches, even though the Church Age was more than two thousand years into the future from Isaiah’s day.  We know from the Biblical timeline that God eventually finished using the local congregations in 1988.

 

The vision described in Revelation 14:14-20, which is also a parable, shows us something similar; except here the time setting is the last day.  This vision is a picture of God’s wrath against those who are following a false gospel – a religion that is supposed to be based on the Bible.  The great majority of those who claim to be Christians today are following such a religion.

 

Most people who think of themselves as Christians are not really God’s children.  They are pictured in the Revelation 14 vision as grapes that have become wild or otherwise gone bad.  In the parable of the wheat and tares, they are pictured as tares – weeds to be bound in bundles (Matthew 13:30) before they are burned.  On the last day, they pay for their sins with their lives.  In the vision, their end is pictured by a great outpouring of blood from “the great winepress of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:19).  

 

We have learned that God focuses our attention on His great anger against people who have deviated from Biblical truth.  He does that in the parables we examined and in many other places; but He doesn’t appear to mention all the other unsaved people of the world.  That includes all the people following any religion other than the Christian religion, and those who consider themselves to be atheists or agnostics.  That’s about two thirds of the world today.   What about them?  In Luke 12:47 and the first part of verse 48, we find something that appears to tell us about these people:

 

And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.

 

Here the Lord Jesus tells us there will be less punishment for those who did not know God’s will.  What is their punishment?  We have learned that the promise of life after death is only for God’s children.  Everyone else will be annihilated.  For them, it will be as though they had never existed.  By using the words “beaten with few,” God is telling us about this annihilation.   He is showing us that the end for all non-Christians will be merciful when it comes on the last day.

 

Of course, this way of understanding the verse raises another question: what is the additional punishment for anyone who “knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will?”  The same scriptural passage indicating mercy for non-Christians tells us that those “which knew his lord’s will” and “prepared not” shall be “beaten with many.”  What could this mean?     

 

God’s anger is especially directed against those who shall be “beaten with many.”  These are people who are following a false gospel and are confident they have been saved; but they won’t be – they will be annihilated on the last day in the same manner as all non-Christians.  Their additional punishment will come when they realize the Lord Jesus has returned to take His children to be with Him and they won’t be going.   That is when they shall be “beaten with many.”  They will witness the rapture and understand what is happening.  Matthew 24:41-42 helps us to understand this truth:

 

Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.  Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

 

From its context, we know that this citation is telling us about Christians on the last day.  It distinguishes between someone who is a true child of God and someone who has trusted in church doctrines and self-righteousness.  The one who is taken is caught up in the air to be with the Lord.  The other one was also “grinding at the mill,” but is left behind.  This person sees what has happened and now understands.  Luke 13:28 tells us about these people at that time:

 

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

 

A similar verse is Matthew 8:12:

 

But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 

Yes, there will be great sorrow when these people realize they have not been saved; but it will not be the kind of sorrow that a person feels when God has saved someone.  Notice that there will be “gnashing of teeth.”  These words indicate anger, and these “children of the kingdom” will be angry with God. 

 

Sadly, this is how it will end for most of the world’s Christians.  Many true believers have loved ones among them.  However, we can thank God for the many promises He has given His children and for mercy on the last day to all the unsaved – even to those who have been “bundled.”

 

 

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