THE FINAL JUDGMENT WILL SEPARATE OUT THE WICKED AND CONDEMN THEM TO ETERNAL SUFFERING
Stu Weber: Here, as in the parable of the weeds, we find the coexistence of evil alongside the righteous, the discarding and burning of the evil, and the treasuring and protection of the righteous. Again, the angels are the agents of judgment whom Jesus will use. The description of hell (13:50) is identical to that in 13:42.
Charles Swindoll: The preachers of the gospel are not responsible for determining the genuineness of a person’s faith in response to the gospel; they simply cast the net.
Ray Fowler: This is a warning parable. It is a clarion call to all who hear not to ignore or reject the call of Christ but to make every effort to enter God’s kingdom while you still may. Yes, God allows evil and sin to continue in the world for now, but the final judgment is coming when God will judge all evil and sin, and those outside of God’s kingdom will be punished for their sins. . .
So, there are quite a few similarities between the parable of the weeds and the parable of the net. The main difference between the two is a difference of emphasis. The parable of the weeds focuses more on the co-existing of good and evil in this present world, whereas the parable of the net focuses more on the separation of good and evil at the end of the age.
Donald Hagner: The final parable focuses again on the reality of an eschatological separation of the evil from the righteous and the judgment of the former at the end of the age. In the present era, the evil persons are allowed to live together with the righteous— in their midst—even within that manifestation of the kingdom known as the Church. The dragnet of the kingdom thus includes a mixture of both good and evil. That such circumstances could exist in the era of the kingdom itself was nothing less than astonishing—something indeed worth calling one of “the mysteries of the kingdom.” That good and evil could be located within the net of the kingdom seemed equally strange, no doubt. Yet at the time of eschatological judgment an unavoidable separation would take place. At that time only the righteous—those who have received the kingdom with appropriate response in the form of discipleship—would survive; the evil would go to their punishment. Focus on judgment within the Church, of course, presupposes the wider context of the judgment of the world. Matthew never tires in warning his readers of the reality of judgment and hence the importance of genuine discipleship. It is a warning that both the world and the Church need.
Stanley Saunders: “things new and things old” mixes the categories, suggesting that Jesus is referring both to what is continuous with what came before (things old) and what is discontinuous (things new). Jesus himself embodies in his ministry both the fulfillment of Israel’s story and its turn toward a new reality, the kingdom of heaven. Discerning and preserving the relationship between these two is especially important given the ruptures, dislocations, and separations that Jesus’ ministry is generating, including the division his parables produce.
Jacob Whitaker: The parable before us this morning, in many ways, parallels the parable of the weeds found just a few verses earlier. Some commentators believe that Matthew is using what’s known as a chiastic literary style. What they mean is that Matthew is writing in a way that intends to help the reader better remember and grasp Jesus’ teachings. This chiastic literary style simply means that Matthew recounts Jesus’ parables using a certain pattern, repeating parables and teachings that coincide with one another.
And my point is that Matthew has a purpose in repeating himself, and Matthew has a purpose in his arrangement of the certain stories and teachings he includes, so when you see patterns of repetition within the Scriptures, the intent is typically to emphasis a point or to help the reader remember the point. Which may be the reason we see the Parable of the Net and the Parable of the Weeds repeating the same point twice within this chapter. . .
So on one hand we see Jesus’ insistence that final judgement will come, but not now, instead it will come at the end of the age. Therefore, we also see that this means his kingdom, here on earth, throughout this age, will remain mixed with both believers and unbelievers . This is what his disciples are to expect, this is what they’re to be prepared for going forward.
J. Ligon Duncan: The disciples, though they had expected the kingdom of Christ to clearly divide the righteous and the wicked, learned now that that division will not happen at the beginning of the kingdom, but at the end of the kingdom as the judgment day comes in. Jesus’ order of priority for them, then, is proclamation now, perfect purity only then. They were to focus their attention on the proclamation and not expect the kingdom to be perfectly made up of only those who love the Lord Jesus Christ.
John MacArthur: Now some people have asked, “Why this parable is included if the basic idea of separation is even also included in the parable of the wheat and the tares?” And the answer to that is several things.
- Number one, it is repeated because the wheat andthe tares emphasize particularly the co-existence. This emphasizes only the separation.
- It is repeated also because the Lord has a compassionateheart and He wants to add one more warning.
I. (:47) PREPARATION FOR FINAL JUDGMENT
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea,
and gathering fish of every kind;”
S. Lewis Johnson: The last parable, I mention simply because it is very similar to the Parable of the Tares and the Wheat. But the stress is on the consummation of the age. Just as the first parable in the sowing of the seed, in the Lord Jesus as the sower suggests the beginning of the age, so the dragnet in which all of the contents of the nets are dragged to the shore suggests the last of the age, and this series of parables moves from the advent of the age to the conclusion. And the stress rests upon the large net cast only once and hauled to shore only once, and the result is that the worldwide sweep of the present age, in the gathering out of the sons of the kingdom and sons of Satan in stressed.
Ray Fowler: The net was a common image of judgment in those days. For example, we read in the Old Testament book of Habakkuk: “You have made men like fish in the sea, like sea creatures that have no ruler. 15 The wicked foe pulls all of them up with hooks, he catches them in his net, he gathers them up in his dragnet; and so he rejoices and is glad.” (Habakkuk 1:14-15) Cf. Ezek. 32:1-3
John MacArthur: Now, what our Lord wants us to understand in this net is basically two things.
- One is the immense size of the net.
- And two, is the fact that it brings in everything,a conglomerate inclusive catch.
Now, once this has happened and the boat has moved through the sea, and this great vertical wall has swept up everything, living and dead. . .
And men live in this world imagining themselves to be free, moving about, fulfilling their own desires, going here and going there as they will, with little knowledge that the net comes closer and closer and closer. People float about in the liberty of the wide deep sea of life, not knowing the invisible lines of judgment move closer and closer and closer. And each time they are touched by it, they move a little further away. And they’re touched again and they move a little further away.
II. (:48) PRESERVATION OF THE RIGHTEOUS
“and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down,
and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away.”
Jeffrey Crabtree: The net (Greek sagēnē) was a large seine net (Louw and Nida I:55). This type of net hung on floats and was weighted at the bottom. The disciples, especially the fishermen of the group, were familiar with these nets and readily understood the imagery. This net caught all varieties of fish. Once the net was full, men working in boats or on shore dragged the net in and sorted the fish. God’s net, here God’s call to judgment, will gather every person and the angels will divide them into two groups (Wilkins 489), those who followed Jesus and those did not.
Jerry Shirley: Well in Bible days, there were 2 different kinds of nets used by fishermen. A casting net is small, bell shaped, and an individual could use it by himself. The other kind of net is a drag-net, and is much larger. In Bible days a drag-net could cover as much as 1 square mile of water surface area. A group of fishermen would spread out the drag-net between 2 boats and would drag it toward the shoreline. By the time they got the net to shore it would be filled with all sorts of sea creatures, and maybe a tire or license plate!
Men on the shore had the task of going thru the catch and separating the good from the bad. There were no game wardens and PETA was nowhere to be found…it was simply man having dominion over the earth and making a living. They would separate the useful from the useless, the edible from the bluegill! It was discrimination which led to separation.
This parable reveals to us tonite what God is doing among lost people today. The gospel of the kingdom involves two things: invitation and then separation.
The sea in the parable is representative of lost humanity. It’s a sea of despair and hopelessness. It’s a deep, dark abyss of iniquity.
John Schultz: The main stress in this story is on the future, when the net is pulled up on shore. This brings this parable in line with the parable of the weeds, in which everything is left until the time of the harvest. The pulling up of the net, when the world comes to its last day, is identical to the harvest. That makes this parable a worthy conclusion of the series, because it draws our gaze to the future to the goal to be reached. We still live in the days when the net is in the water, but the time will come when it is pulled ashore.
III. (:49-50) PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED
“So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Ray Fowler: Notice the role of the angels in separating the wicked from the righteous at the end of the age. This agrees with Jesus’ other teachings in the gospel of Matthew. For example Jesus says in Matthew 24:31: “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:31)
Angels also appear in Jesus’ teaching about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. We read in Matthew 25:31-32: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 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.” (Matthew 25:31-32)
John Schultz: The Lord emphasizes again the fate of the lost. There is in this story not even any mention of the bliss of the saved, which we find in the parable of the weeds. We may conclude from this omission that the Lord intended this story to be a warning to those who did not want to repent. In our day, such an approach to evangelism would be highly unusual. This is probably due to the fact that we do not take seriously enough the being thrown into the fiery furnace and the gnashing of teeth; so we don’t use those arguments. The fact that Jesus did it should give us food for thought.
Warren Wiersbe: The preaching of the gospel in the world does not convert the world. It is like a huge dragnet that gathers all kinds of fish, some good and some bad. The professing church today has in it both true and false believers (the parable of the tares) and good and bad. At the end of the age, God will separate the true believers from the false and the good from the bad. When Jesus Christ returns to earth to fight the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:11ff.), He will separate believers and unbelievers already on the earth. These are living people who are not a part of the church (which was already in heaven) or Israel. These Gentiles will be dealt with in righteousness: The saved will enter into the kingdom, but the unsaved will be cast into the furnace of fire. The same idea is found in the “sheep and goats” parable (Matt. 25:32ff.).
Twice in this series of parables Jesus used the phrase “the end of the world” (Matt. 13:39, 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 (Matt. 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 6—19. We must be careful not to “read into” these passages in Matthew the truths later given through Paul and the other apostles.
John MacArthur: Fire is God’s way of describing [Hell] because it is a tortuous, unrelieved kind of fire, more terrible than any fire that we would ever know. But fire describes the torment of the damned; blackness describes the torment of the damned, no light, no light ever, ever. No relief from the suffering, the agony and the pain, forever. . .
Some people think it’s just bad memories. No, it isn’t just bad memories. It isn’t just the inner thinking processes; it is that body as well. Transcendent, eternal bodies, greater than anything we have on this earth, are going to be given to the damned so that they can suffer in those bodies forever. And that’s the only reason that they’ll have those bodies.