January 30 I Sunday
“The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age.” —Matthew 13:47-49
Andrew, Peter, James and John were fishermen who dropped everything when Jesus said to them, “Come, follow Me, and I will send you out to fish for people” (Matthew 4:19). The symbolism used in the above parable would naturally be very familiar to them.
The casting of the net into the sea would seem to represent the evangelism ministry of the church. The net is the large dragnet, which is drawn along by two boats or with ropes from the shore. All kinds of fish and creatures of the sea, good and bad, are caught in the net and hauled up together. This picture may be particularly apt in forms of mass evangelism where crowds are confronted with the gospel and invited to receive Christ. It becomes easy for people to make the same outward response to this invitation, but for varying motives. Hence, the good and bad become mingled together in the one net. As true as that picture of evangelism may be, the catching of the fish is not the main point.
Jesus gave an interpretation, which focused entirely on the separation of the good and bad fish. “The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:49-50). This is similar to what Jesus said of the weeds and the wheat. “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.... Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:41-43). The final image is of the good seed stored safely in the barn where they will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. In this parable, addressed to the disciples, the final image is throwing the wicked into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
To the crowds, Jesus emphasized the prospect of heaven, but to the disciples He gave them a vision of hell. The prospect of hell is unambiguous in Jesus’s teaching and we dare not belittle the reality and seriousness of it. However, Jesus is not primarily teaching about hell, but showing that ultimately the separation of the good from the bad will take place. No matter how compromised the earthly expression of the kingdom appears, the day will come when there will be an ingathering of the true kingdom of heaven.
Prayer: Sovereign God, I am grateful, Lord, that there is no deceiving You. I plea for You to open the eyes of others, so that they may come to know You and be saved from the blazing furnace at the end of age. Thank You, Lord.