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Jesus Will Separate the Wheat From the Tares at His Judgment Seat
God is never inconsistent. He always says what He means and He means what He says. But often we need to compare Scripture with Scripture, particularly when looking at Jesus’ parables, to completely understand what the Lord is telling us. We will do this as we look at Jesus’ parable of the wheat and tares.
In early biblical times, the Hebrews used wheat as a main staple in making their bread. They also roasted the grains and ate them.1 Scripture reveals more about wheat through the Lord’s words in Matthew 13:24-30:
24Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27So 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? 28He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30Let 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.
In this passage, wheat symbolizes God’s judgment,2 which every believer will face at the judgment seat of Christ (see older post on loss and rewards). In the King James version, the Greek word zizanion is translated as tares, not weeds. A tare is a darnel that looks exactly like wheat while both are growing as blades. When the fruit from an ear of wheat is ready to be harvested, the tares can finally be distinguished by their lack of fruit, and they may be separated easily.1,3 Unfortunately, much of this rich meaning is lost in more modern translations that use the word weeds.*
Later in Matthew 13, Jesus explains the meaning of His parable:
38The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41The 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; 42And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Jesus is clearly saying that the enemy who sowed the tares is Satan, that the harvest is the end of the age, and that the reapers are angels. The King James Version uses the phrase “end of the world,” but a more accurate translation is age,* which describes the end of this present dispensation. Jesus is also warning believers that there will be those among us who look, talk, and act like true followers of Christ. But they are actually tares who will go to any length to distract us from believing God’s Word about the millennial kingdom.3
Going back a little earlier to the parable of the sower, Jesus says in Matthew 13:3-4:
Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
In Matthew 13:19, Jesus explains that the fowls he speaks of are the wicked one. If we use Scripture to interpret Scripture, the meaning of the fowls in the parable of the sower must be the same in Jesus’ later parable about the mustard tree:
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. (Matthew 13:31-32)
The same Greek word, peteinon, is used in both parables for fowls and birds.
Now a mustard plant is an herb, so its growth into a tree implies abnormally large growth.3 If the birds are lodging in its branches, that means there are tares sitting right alongside true believers! I believe these tares have been seducing entire churches to move away from God’s Word and to focus more on “experiencing” Jesus in ways that contradict God’s Word. They are also high-profile pastors who are promoting man-made doctrines that have absolutely no basis in Scripture. Since Jesus tells us that these tares are children of the wicked one, it is unclear whether they were once faithful believers who Satan has successfully deceived or whether they are aligned with Satan and know exactly what they are doing.
The bride of Christ, however, remains firmly grounded in Scripture, which allows her to discern everything she hears (what Scripture refers to as “testing the spirits”) so that neither Satan nor the tares will be able to deceive her.
Beloved, are you firmly grounded in Scripture? Or are you relying on others to tell you about Scripture?
*I have become convinced that there is no “one best translation,” which is why I often compare several translations when studying Scripture. The NET bible online provides a great way to do this.
References: 1. Merril F. Unger and R.K. Harris, ed. The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago, IL: The Moody Bible Institute, 1988), 217, 1341. 2. Brand C, Draper C, England A, eds. Hoffman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003): 1670. 3. Herbert J. Matthew 13 Parables Part 4, The Parable of the Wheat and Tares.