In a previous article, I showed that the wicked are taken out of the picture before the gathering of the Church. In this article, I will show that this teaching is also found in the parables of Jesus, particularly in the Parable of the Tares.
Matthew chapter 13 first records the Parable of the Tares (13:25-30) and then its interpretation by Jesus (13:36-43). The parable is about a farmer who had an enemy. When the farmer sowed his wheat, the enemy came during the night and sowed “tares” amongst the wheat. Tares are a kind weed commonly found in Palestine, also referred to as “cheat” or “bearded darnel.”
The servants of the farmer wanted to go through the fields and rip out all the tares, but the farmer stopped them saying that the process of tearing out the tares would only make things worse because the wheat would also be torn. They were to be allowed to grow together until harvest time and then the tares would be gathered first and thrown into the fire. This would be followed by the harvest of the wheat.
You’ve probably already guessed the meaning of this parable, but in case you haven’t, Jesus interprets it for us. So, we have here one of the few occasions when Jesus interprets his own parable for his disciples.
Jesus says that the sower is “the Son of Man” (v. 37), a title that He frequently used to refer to himself. The field “is the world” (v. 38). This parable is not talking about wheat and tares growing up together in the church, but in the world. The good seed represents the “sons of the kingdom” (v. 38). These are the redeemed, that is, the Church of God.
The tares represent the “sons of the evil one” (v. 38). These are the wicked, those who refuse to follow the Christ of God. The enemy is the devil (v. 39). The harvesters are the angels of God who will participate in the judgment of the world (v. 41). The harvest is the Day of Judgment when the tares are gathered up and “thrown into the furnace of fire” where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 42).
The world is God’s field, but the devil will continue to sow wicked men and women in that field until the end of time. Christians are prohibited here from attempting to eliminate the wicked by force. Instead, the wicked and the redeemed are to grow up together until the day of harvest.
Now, in relation to the topic of this post, I come to the important question: WHO IS GATHERED UP FIRST, the Church or the wicked? Stop a moment before you answer that question. Go back to the text and read it. I’ll wait . . .
In the parable itself, the sower says to his servants: “First, gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up” (v. 30). In Jesus’ interpretation he says:
“The Son of Man will send forth his angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (vv. 41-43).”
Did you notice the words that indicate sequencing? FIRST, the wicked are gather up and thrown into the furnace of fire. THEN the wheat (i.e., the children of the kingdom) are gathered into the barn.
Remember that the word “rapture” means “to be gathered up.” The only ones “gathered up” in the Parable of the Tares are the wicked. More importantly, they are gathered up BEFORE the believers are gathered into the Lord’s barn (v. 30).
Dr. Greg Waddell
Director of Institutional Improvement
Mid-South Christian College
DrGregWaddell (at) gmail.com
See his Blog: www.SpiritOfOrganization.com