The Ministry of Messiah (22)
THE PARABLE OF THE TARES
In our last study when we considered the Parable of the Sower, we pointed out that very possibly due to growing opposition to him, Christ developed a new style of teaching, namely through parables. The parables helped to sift out those who loved the word of God from those who did not. It would not be out of place to quote again the words of Jesus in Matthew 13:11-16:
“Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given … Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed … But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear”.
May we be among this number of the disciples.
This evening we are to consider the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. The distinction with the Parable of the Sower is that in this parable we are told who sows the seed, namely the Son of man and in this parable the seed represents the faithful individual who hears the word. Another aspect of this parable as far as I understand it is that it has particular relevance to the work of the Apostles and has to do in particular with the end of the Mosaic age. The end of the Mosaic age was marked by the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in AD 70. Let us read 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 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? 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”.
The key to understanding the parable is found in verses 37-42 when the disciples ask Christ to declare unto them the parable:
“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. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 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”.
What is significant about these words is that there are two different words for “world”. Where we read, “The field is the world”, The word is kosmos, which basically means orderly arrangement or world and its inhabitants. The world or kosmos is defined in the words of Jesus in John 18:20:
“Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world (kosmos); I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort”.
From these words we see that the world to whom Jesus spoke was the Jewish world or Kosmos. The field or world in the Parable of the Tares is the Jewish world. The second word for world is in verse 39 where we read “the harvest is the end of the world” and the Greek for world in this instance is aion. Aion means an age and by extension it also has the meaning of perpetuity and the world It can be applied specifically to a Jewish age or a Messianic age and is used in a past or future application. There is also another word, aionos which is derived from aion and similarly has the meaning perpetuity being also applied to past or future ages. We believe that the word aion in Matthew 13:39 applies to the end of the Mosaic age. The Mosaic age had a beginning and an ending. It began when Moses gave Israel the law from Mount Sinai and it ended in AD 70.
Zacharias refers to the beginning of the age in Luke 1:69-72:
“hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world (aion) began: that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers”.
Clearly Zacharias is speaking of Israel here and the beginning of the age must apply to the Mosaic age. We see this also from Peter’s words on Acts 3:21:
“Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his prophets since the world (aion) began”.
Again we believe that these words are referring to the beginning of the Israelitish or Mosaic world. This is reinforced by the words in verse 22: “For Moses truly said unto the fathers”.
And verse 24:
“Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days”.
Moses was the first of the Israelitish prophets and it was as a result of his words to Israel that the Mosaic age began. A good example of the use of this word is in Titus 1 where we read:
“In the hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world (aionios) began”.
The word world or age in this instance must apply to an age which began after creation. God promised eternal life to Abraham before the Mosaic age began.
THE MOSAIC AGE
These Scriptures show the beginning of the Mosaic age. The end of the Mosaic age is defined in Hebrews 9:26:
“For then must he (Jesus) often have suffered from the foundation of the world (Kosmos): but now once in the end of the world (aion) hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself”
These words do not make sense if we apply them to the end of our present age when nearly 2000 years have elapsed since the sacrifice of Christ. The background to the Epistle to the Hebrews is the end of the Mosaic age and it is fitting that these words concerning Christ’s sacrifice should be understood in this context (see Heb. 8:13).
The relationship of Christ’s death to the end of the Mosaic age was the obvious fulfilment of God’s purpose through his beloved Son for Jesus fulfilled the law and after his death and resurrection it waxed old and was ready to vanish away. The end of the Mosaic age therefore was spoken of in Christ’s ministry and formed the background of a number of Epistles which followed. One chapter in which it is particularly referred to is Matthew 24. In Matthew 24:2 Jesus said of the temple; “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down”, and the disciples asked Jesus the question in verse 3;
“Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (aion)”.
Up to the end of verse 29, in fact up to the end of verse 41 Jesus speaks of those things which will take place up to the end of the Mosaic age. Although we may find it hard to accept this, Jesus actually came in AD 70, not literally but through the medium of the Roman army. The Roman army under Titus destroyed Jerusalem in Al) 70, But they were overruled by Christ to whom all power had been given in heaven and in earth. It is this event which we believe Jesus is particularly concerned with in the Parable of the Tares.
When we perceive this we see that a number of things came to an end when the Mosaic age ended, as follows:
- Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were scattered throughout the Jewish world.
2. The work of the Apostles to preach the gospel throughout the world or Roman habitable was completed.
3. The Spirit gifts came to an end.
PARABLE OF THE WHEAT AND TARES
Let us return now to consider the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. The man who sowed good seed in his field (note “Kis field”) is the Son of man, even the Lord Jesus Christ. The enemy that sowed the tares is the devil. The good seed are the children of the kingdom. The tares are the children of the wicked one. Who is the devil? The enemy that opposed Christ throughout his ministry was the Chief priests, the Scribes and the Pharisees. They were both the devil and the children of the devil. Hence Jesus’s words in John 8:44 addressed to those Jews who sought to kill him. Let us note first Jesus’s words in verse 38. Here we see the distinction between the Son of man and the devil:
“I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father”.
And verse 44:
“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it”.
Jesus is speaking here of the carnal mind adopted by Adam as a result of the serpent’s lie, personified as the devil. This carnal mind was in those who opposed Christ namely the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees, therefore they were the devil. We see this from John 13:2:
“And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him”.
Who was the devil? The answer is in John 11:53 and 57:
“Then from that day they took counsel together for to put him to death” “Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him”.
The chief priests and Pharisees were the devil who had put this this thought in Judas’s heart. We conclude therefore that the tares were those, stirred up by the leaders of the Jews, who opposed Christ and the Apostles in their ministries. The harvest took place in AD 70 as we see in Matthew 13:40-41:
“As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 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 they shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth”
In AD 70 the angels used the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem and burn it with fire. This occurred 40 years after they had crucified their Messiah. Hence the words in Daniel 9:26;
“And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: the people of the prince (i.e. Messiah the Prince) that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined”.
The Prince is Christ and the people of the Prince were the Roman armies used by Christ to destroy Jerusalem in AD 70.
Some further thought is needed with regard to the tares. Let us go back to Matthew 13:30 where we read this of the wheat and the tares:
“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”.
As we saw earlier the field was the world, i.e. the Jewish world to which Jesus came.
The tares were those Jews who opposed Christ and the Apostles. Undoubtedly they had an effect on the ecclesias which led to the development of those who we call the Judaisers who tried to mix up the law of Moses with the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, but as far as I can see the Judaisers were not the tares because the tares were to be left until the harvest, whereas those who taught false doctrine were to be dealt with by the ecclesia as we are taught in the gospel records and the epistles. In the epistle of John we are taught not to even welcome into our house those who teach false doctrine. Let us turn to 2 John verse 9:
“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. . . If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed”.
Similar words are spoken of the fornicator in I Corinthians 5. It is for this reason that we conclude that the tares apply to the Jewish world who opposed Christ.
There is a counterpart to this in our days. The counterpart to the Jewish world who opposed Christ, is the Roman Catholic apostasy. They are the tares who will be judged at Christ’s return. The faithful are exhorted;
“Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues”.
It is noteworthy that when the Catholic church became associated with the state in the time of Constantine, the Donatists who held fast to the Apostolic faith separated from the Apostate church. So we can have no part with this apostate system (Bro. Thomas deals with this in “Eureka” Vol.2 ch. 7, p. 328).
Going back to Matthew 13, we have dealt with the tares; what of the wheat being gathered into my barn. The explanation of this is in verse 43:
“Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father”.
Verse 42 applies to the destruction of Jerusalem. Verse 43 takes us forward 2000 years to the return of Christ. It is noteworthy that there is a similar span of 2000 years between Matthew 24:29 and 30.
May we be among this number who will shine forth as the sun. Let us conclude with the words in Daniel 12:1-3:
“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that shall sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever”