47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that people threw into the lake and gathered all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, they pulled it to the shore, where they sat down and put the good fish together into containers. But the bad fish they threw away. 49 That’s the way it will be at the end of the present age. The angels will go out and separate the evil people from the righteous people, 50 and will throw the evil ones into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.
In the Gospel of Matthew the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are often used interchangeably to refer to the body of believers. There are seven parables in chapter 13 of Matthew. Two, the parable of the weeds and today’s scripture, explain God’s final judgement. The description in both parables is that both wicked and righteous will be mixed together, with separation occurring at the end. God is the only judge in the process.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary was helpful in understanding the significance of this scripture. Henry describes sharing the gospel as casting a large net into the sea, and when it is full it is pulled to shore. While the net is in the sea, and it is impossible to distinguish the contents, those doing the fishing are careful to manage it carefully for the sake of the good fish in the net. No one knows in advance what types of fish are in the net any more than any human can know what is in another person’s heart. Consider the net while in the ocean a metaphor for the world. There is good in it, and we should do all that we can to spread the gospel until the time that God has chosen to pull in the net.
Clearly hypocrites and true Christians will be separated with the latter carefully kept. The words in Isaiah 55:6-11 seem very appropriate to the culling process. Humanity is called to seek the Lord while still available to be found. Those who are willing to abandon ungodly ways will be welcomed as the Lord is generous with forgiveness. The word of the Lord does not return empty, instead it does and accomplishes what was intended.
by Clarence Beverage
For Pondering & Prayer
How do you feel about the fact that only God judges us? Would you want it any other way?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank you for the presence of those who present your Word in our lives through speaking, writing, song, paint, and other forms of communication. We are grateful for your love and forgiveness. Touch our hearts that we might be empowered to live our lives in ways that reflect you. Amen.