By Ryan Shaw
The 7th parable of the Kingdom in Matthew 13 directly deals with events taking place at the end of this present age. The parable is given in vs. 47 & 48 and Jesus’ partial interpretation starts in vs. 49.
The picture is of a large fishing net dropped into the sea and left for a time. After a while, when it is full, the fishermen return and haul the net in with all kinds of fish.
The net is brought on the beach and the good fish are gathered for use while the bad are thrown away. It was a common picture to His disciples, many of whom were fishermen.
Remember, this parable is only given to the disciples. He is speaking to people of faith, possessing spiritual sight and discernment.
It is the separation of the good from bad that Jesus focuses on in His partial interpretation. He tells us in verse 49, “So, it will be at the end of the age.” He is providing a picture of a process that will literally happen.
It is not difficult to discern the true meaning of the parable. The casting of the net is easily understood as the inauguration of the Kingdom of God through the life and ministry of Jesus in His first coming.
The time when the net is left in the sea is the intervening time between His first and second coming when the gospel is being demonstrated among all ethnic people groups.
The net refers to the Kingdom influence exerted throughout the world. Those within the net symbolize those from the time of Jesus’ first coming who have come into personal contact with the influence of the Kingdom of God.
The sea in Scripture often refers to restless humanity. The net (the message, facts and vision of the Kingdom) is put down into the teeming masses of humanity. It is “the gospel of the Kingdom” being proclaimed faithfully in the world. When the net is “filled” (when all ethnic groups have a witness) it is drawn in. The wicked are separated and destroyed.
Jesus’ words are meant to produce a somber response. The most tender and kind man the world has ever known is patiently waiting for every human being to voluntarily receive Him as King. Yet because of His holiness and justice, all who choose sin and evil over His rule and reign must be destroyed.
The coming of the Kingdom of God in Old Testament prophecies emphasized this sifting event as does the New Testament. It is interesting that the focus is not upon the “good” fish but upon the “bad.” The bad are thrown out, cast out from the presence of the holy rule of God throughout the eternal state.
At this stage all who have ever lived will be evaluated and separated with all wickedness banished to the lake of fire forever. Jesus will cleanse the earth of everything evil and polluted in preparation for God Himself “tabernacling” among us throughout the eternal state. All immoral perversion, all self-effort and sufficiency not based in the shed blood of Jesus, will face judgment.
We are not told anything about what happens to the “good” here. Only that Jesus is ridding His Kingdom of all that rebelled against Him and His Kingdom influence in this age.
This parable is meant to motivate us as believers. We do ourselves great harm if we are overly caught up in the activities of the present, losing sight of the motivating factor of the end of the age.
Jesus gave us such parables to keep us on track, not being consumed with tunnel vision. Instead, it does us good to allow our present lives to be inspired and strengthened by keeping our eyes upon the events of the end of the age.
Things will not go on as they are forever. Jesus promises a day of reckoning will come. It is the day of divine reversal, when all the world cherishes is revealed as worthless and destroyed by divine judgment. The ideals of the Kingdom, and all those who ordered their lives around them, will shine forth.
A primary reason Jesus wants us looking forward is being drawn to see Him as He really is in all His manifestations. Our hearts long to grow in understanding of the “ways of God.”
These parables reveal much about our Lord and King, motivating praise, honor and exalting Him for the glorious perfection of all His plans, purposes and ways. We see Him for who He really is and recognize the fallacy of living for this age alone.