A Study of Matthew 13:24-30
“Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 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. So the servants of the householder cam 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? 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.” (Matthew 13:24-30)
This is the second of the kingdom parables which our Lord gave to His disciples as is recorded by Matthew in chapter 13. This is the second, and last, of the parables which the Lord interpreted for the disciples as He spoke to them on the mount. While the first parable, the parable of the sower, does not state specifically that it relates to the kingdom, it is very clear from verse 11 and verse 19 that the kingdom is the subject. The way this parable begins does not leave it open to opinion. “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto…”. In this instance the kingdom of heaven was likened unto a sower who had sowed his field with good seed. After his sowing, his enemy came, under cover of darkness, and he also sowed the field, but this wicked enemy sowed it with tares and then sneaked away in the night. After the normal time, the wheat sprang up, the blade was evident, and directly it brought forth fruit. And during that same period the enemy’s tares began to appear also, so that now the whole of the field seemed to be intermingled with both good and evil seed. It was only a short while until the servants observed this calamity, and approached their master with this question – “From whence then hath it (the field) tares?” The Lord of the harvest was not disconcerted concerning this seeming disaster. Rather, His explanation was that it was an enemy that had done this foul deed. The servants were immediately excited with the notion of culling out all of these offensive ones, little realizing the difficulty of their plan. They spoke saying, “Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?” But the Master wisely instructs them thus; “Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.” And so, he instructed them to “let both grow together.” Those are sobering words; “Let both grow together.” It was not the Master’s intention that any interference come to either the tares or the wheat. They would both do well enough in their respective places until the time of the harvest. “Let them grow together.”
It would be worthwhile here to compare Matthew 15:12-14 in this connection. “Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” Observe the similarity, “Let them alone.” “Let both grow together.” The appropriate time would come for the tares to be rooted out. But until then, “Let them alone.” “Let both grow together” for His reason was that at the time of the harvest He would give appropriate instructions, and that would be for the reapers to go out and gather together, “First the tares.” How little attention is paid to the clear wording our Lord used here, “Gather ye together first the tares.” It is not the wheat that shall be gathered first, but rather the tares. There is no possible way that these words could be so construed as to mean the wheat would be gathered first, and the tares later, for the language is “first the tares.” As we humbly see it, this dashes to pieces the notion of the dispensational “rapture” of the saints of God and leaving the wicked behind. Pre-millennialism no doubt has its followers, but they shall never with honesty use this verse to teach it. Yes, the Lord says, “Let them alone.” At the appointed hour He will have the reapers bind the bundles of tares together for the purpose of burning, but the wheat will be gathered into His barn.
Before going on to the interpretation the Lord placed on this parable it would be well to investigate one point in Verse 30, and that is the comparison between the expression, “bundles” and “wheat.” This appears to mean that there will be bundles many, but wheat in such a quantity as to be easily stored in the barn; implying at least that there are many tares, but few wheat. And so the scriptures are in harmony with this in every instance. “Many be called, but few chosen.” “Straight is the gate, broad is the way,” etc.
Jesus had concluded the fourth parable, and then sent the multitude away, and went into the house. At that time the disciples came to Him imploring Him that He would declare unto them the parable of the tares of the field (verse 36). There was an obvious impression made in their minds concerning the mysterious tares; they didn’t ask for an interpretation of the parable of the wheat, but rather of the tares, seeing that was the point that had them so perplexed. And then our Lord begins in verse 37 giving what has to be as clear an explanation as could ever be rendered, and leaving all without excuse that deny the plain teaching of His words. “He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man.” Let there be no mistake; the Lord Himself, the Son of man, sows the good seed. He has not hired or authorized others to sow His field. He sows it Himself. He has not accepted volunteers to sow the seed. Only the Son of man sows good seed. And where does He sow His seed? In the church? in the assembly of worship? in the little isolated bodies of believers here and there? No, listen as we quote verse 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.” Clearly, and without any possibility of controversy, the Saviour said the field where He sowed the good seed was the world. We can fairly believe from this statement that our Lord has His seed scattered everywhere, from the four corners of this earth; throughout every region, nation, kindred, tongue, tribe, and affiliation of any and all sorts. The field is the world! And what are these good seed? They are the children of the kingdom. God’s children; kingdom children; those who have been born of the Spirit of God; those whose names are written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. They are those who have been treasured up in Jesus in covenant relation before the dust of the highest hill was ever laid. These, who our dear Redeemer came to ransom are the children of the kingdom, and He has sowed them in the field of the world. There should be no hesitation concerning this. They are safe there. There is no danger to them, though it might appear to be. There is no possibility that a single seed, a child of the kingdom, will ever be lost, or waylaid, or destroyed, or deceived into going off from His field, for they are as secure as though they were in the bosom of the Father in the everlasting heaven. No matter where He sows them, He is the Master, and the Lord of the field, and will see to their welfare both now and forever more.
“But the tares are the children of the wicked one.” This might cause a problem for some, but for those who believe the Word of God there is nothing to be hesitant about. The devil has children; he has not generated them as God’s children are generated, but they are his by virtue of their condition, and they are called tares. They are the children of the wicked one, and he has control over them under the superintendency of God in heaven, and so he sows them as recorded in verse 39. “The enemy that sowed them is the devil.” And where did he sow them? He sowed them in the world among the good seed, the children of the kingdom. He didn’t find his own field, he didn’t go off into the cesspools of iniquity, into the back-alleys of evil and vile doings, but rather side by side with those of the elect family, the children of the kingdom. Satan sowed his tares, knowing that he could do no more malicious work than to torment the good seed with tares being by their side from their beginning until their ending. The Saviour said this vile sower, who was an enemy, was the devil who is also the accuser of the brethren.
“The harvest is the end of the world.” At this point it is necessary to take exception to a popular view among the religions of today. Our Saviour, in the plainest of languages, says the harvest, when the tares are bound in bundles and the wheat is gathered into the barn, is the end of the world. But strange as it might seem, there are multitudes who say the end of the world is one thousand and seven years before the end of time. By that they mean that our Saviour will come secretly to gather out of the world all His children to hide them from a period of seven years tribulation. Some of them suggest He will set His feet upon Mount Zion in Jerusalem, and physically touch down on this earth again, though we think not. The Scriptures teach us that His coming will be in the air, (I Thessalonians 4:17) and He will never physically set foot on this earth again, which is, at this place, beside the point. But those that teach when our Lord comes He will gather out of the world all Christians, say without hesitation, there will not be one Christian left on the earth for a short space of time (seven years); that nothing but the wicked will be here. And they then paint a ghastly sight of automobiles being wrecked along every highway on earth, trains without their christian engineers jumping the track to awful devastation, elevators being emptied of believers while the unbelievers are left stranded, and all sorts of other things, as the Christians are secretly taken out of the earth in a supposed “rapture” of the saints. But the Scriptures are silent on such. The harvest is the end (very end) of the world and the harvest as here described is when the tares and the wheat are separated, and as our Lord Himself said, “Gather ye together first the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them.”
There is nothing here that suggests there will be a gathering of the Christians out for a short period of time and the binding of the tares in bundles to burn them being a thousand years later. The first order of the harvest, which is at the end of the world is in the Lord’s language to be the one and final end of the world. The reapers, who are the angels, will gather together “first the tares.“ They will bind them in bundles to be burned, and the wheat shall then be gathered into His barn. There will be no secret rapture. There will be no “next-to-last trumpet” when our Lord comes, before the last trumpet shall sound. There will be no second, third, or fourth resurrections. There will be no second, third, or fourth comings of our Lord. But when time shall be no more, when the end has come, which is the consummation of the ages, the end of the world, the harvest will come. The Lord will say then to the reapers, who are the angels, “gather ye together first the tares.”. Let there be no mistake about this; the tares are gathered first, and there is no possible way it can be construed to mean they shall be gathered at some later period of time.
The harvest indeed is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels. They are not soul savers, and they are not Jewish missionaries, but they are the angels of God. In verse 40, “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.” Could words be clearer? Language plainer? Was our Lord being duplicitous? We think not. The end of the world is the time the tares are gathered and burned, and many the texts there are that would support this position. Again, inverse 41, “The Son of man (being Jesus) shall send forth his angels and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend and them which do iniquity.” Isn’t it clear there that the emphasis in verse 40, and the emphasis in verse 41, is the tares first, the things that offend, them which do iniquity? The order of business is to bind together and to bring into one all of the enemies of righteousness, all the workers of iniquity, all of the things that offend, and clearly and plainly, the tares do offend, though our Lord is longsuffering and patient. All the while those tares were growing there with the wheat, He was offended with them; for they were not His. They were not bought with a price; He paid nothing to the Father for them; they belonged to an enemy; it was an offense for them to be among His children, the children of the kingdom, and though He waited patiently with them, His malice ceased not to rage against them. They were offensive and they were iniquitous, so as He said concerning the separation in another place, “the sheep would be separated from the goats.” The goats would be on the left hand and the sheep on the right. He would say, “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; I never knew you.” They who were with the wheat, growing side by side, might plead, “Lord, Lord,” but He never knew them; He never owned them. And so at the end of time, the end of the world, He would gather them out and no longer could they offend. No longer could they wickedly grow beside His dear children. They would be dramatically gathered out of His kingdom.
The kingdom would still be here. The kingdom would not cease to exist then for the kingdom is His both now and forever. And so, we find in verse 42, “And shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” There would be no waiting for another thousand years to cast them into a furnace of fire. But they shall be cast there then, at the time He gathers them out. And then we find in the final verse, “Then shall the righteous shine forth in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let them hear.” The texts begins, “Then”. Not later, not at some period of time a millennium away, but then. As soon as the tares are removed, the righteous children of the Heavenly King, the inheritors of the heavenly kingdom of their Father will begin to shine forth as the righteousness that they are. All the while that they grew with the tares, they were outwardly deified, they saw through a glass darkly, they cried, “Oh, wretched man that I am,” they found that when they would do good evil was present with them. And so it was, not only in their body, but in their companionship with the tares. But now the tares are gone; now the enmity is destroyed; the last enemy has been conquered, and death and hell can do no more than what our Heavenly Father pleases. The enemies of the saints are all gone. The glory now appears; the righteousness of God in them, and on them, is resplendent in its full array of holiness before the Lord, and they shine forth as the sun in the kingdom. The kingdom is here now, and even so the kingdom will be there then – T H E N. And so he said, “Who hath ears to hear; let him hear.”
Sad that so many appear to hear, but do not. They appear to know, but do not. They take the plain, clear, and concise words of our Lord, and twist them about every which way to try to make some sort of prophetic teaching out of this that the Lord never intended. As we see these things, the Lord’s meaning is crystal clear. In this world – the field – the righteous and unrighteous, the tares and the wheat, the sheep and the goats, and the wicked and righteous grow together until the end; the end of the world. Then shall be the end time, when the reapers come. Then they shall be separated, but not until then.
It was interesting to read recently an article on this parable which was concluded by the writer saying, “It is not necessary for the tares to remain such. If they will but repent, they also can be wheat.” Never in all of our life have we seen so blatant an arminian, free-will, workmonger statement as that. What audacity to say that tares could turn into wheat; goats could become sheep; evil could become good, etc. When the Good Master of this field planted His good seed, each had contained within them their being, their substance, their future fruit, and their ultimate end. They were by design sowed good seed; they would surely come up good seed; and they would be harvested as good seed. They were children of the kingdom when they were sowed; they were children while they abided, and they were children when they were harvested. Even so, with the tares. They were the devil’s when he sowed them, they were the devil’s when they grew, and they were the devil’s when they were harvested. They were nothing more or less than tares at the start, tares in the duration, and tares in the harvest. They never would, never could, in any possible stretch of the imagination, become wheat. Everything comes forth after its own kind. It has been so since the Garden of Eden down to this very hour. We have never known of a raven becoming a dove; we have never known of a horse becoming a dog, nor have we ever known of a child of God becoming a child of Satan or the reverse – a child of Satan becoming a child of God. It is so very true that God’s children are in the bonds of iniquity like others until such time as they are born of the Spirit of God. But there is the distinction. They were God’s children while they were dead in trespasses and sin and He gave them life. Not so with the children of Satan – they are dead in trespasses and sin and their father has no power to give them life. They were born tares, they will die tares, and there is no possibility of these things ever changing, no matter how much Arminians wish it to be different.
J.F. Poole – 1989