Matthew 13:47-50 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a large net thrown into the sea. It collected every kind of fish, “and when it was full, they dragged it ashore, sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but threw out the worthless ones. “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out, separate the evil people from the righteous, “and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This parable is a popular one as it appears to explain how God will “tidy up” all of Creation at the end of all things at some point in the future. As to when this will occur depends largely on one’s view of the end-times that many say we are currently living in.
However, as mentioned previously, we have to remember that the parabolic teachings of Yeshua revolve around the nation of Israel, as they were his primary mission.
Matthew 15:22-24 Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came and kept crying out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely tormented by a demon.” Jesus did not say a word to her. His disciples approached him and urged him, “Send her away because she’s crying out after us.” He replied, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
While Yeshua ultimately did assist this woman due to her demonstration of great faith in him as the Messiah of God, this does not diminish his own admission of his primary focus: the nation of Israel.
The parable of the net has been used (and misused, with the best of intentions) in the service of missions work and growing the kingdom. The idea is that the wide net of the gospel is cast into the sea of the world, surrounding everyone, and at the end of the world (or all time, whenever that is supposed to be) God will have his angels sort everyone out depending on if they are good or bad. Good people are spared, but bad people are sent to burn in hell for all eternity.
Pulling this parable back into the context of the culture of the day and the mission of Yeshua, I think we would do better to interpret it in light of what Yeshua was attempting to teach his immediate audience.
When Yeshua called his disciples, he mentioned how their fishing ability would be adapted to fishing for people.
Matthew 4:19 “Follow me,” he told them, “and I will make you fishers of people.”
Mark 1:17 “Follow me,” Jesus told them, “and I will make you fishers of people.”
Luke 5:10 and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people.”
Charles Ellicott, on the topic of catching people in Luke 5, conveys: “thou shalt catch men, i. e. by teaching thou shalt win their souls for the kingdom of God.” This was the thrust of what Yeshua had taught his disciples when he charged them with following him. They were to spread the net of teaching the gospel of the kingdom that would affect everyone in Israel, good and bad. Some would respond, and some would not.
Now as we move to the timing of this sorting out of the good and bad, we find it takes place at the end of an age, not the end of the world, as the KJV relates. The Greek word aion means age, as in the end of a specific era of time, not the end of the world, as in the planet.
So what was the end of the age? From a host of corroborating scripture, the end of the age was to be the end of the national age of Israel at the destruction of the temple.
Matthew 24:3, 34 While he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately and said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what is the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? ” … [Yeshua said,] “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place.
Yeshua prophesied that the end of the age would take place within that generation, and his ministry was a warning to all that God was no longer going to spare the nation due to its corruption and hypocrisy. He had warned the leaders directly:
Luke 11:49-51 “Because of this, the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ “so that this generation may be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world – “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. “Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible.
All of this came to pass with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Just as the parable of Yeshua taught, the net of the good news of the kingdom was cast (by the disciples, the fishers of men) into the sea of all the people of Israel, encapsulating them all. At the end of the age (the national age of Israel), the good (i.e., the remnant who was obedient to the Messiah’s teaching) were spared, but the bad (those who rejected the teaching of Messiah and the kingdom) were destroyed, with weeping and gnashing of teeth, when Jerusalem burned in its utter destruction from the Roman armies.
This is the reality of the parable of the net. The time of the end was the time of the end of the nation of Israel. God, through Yeshua, faithfully established the eternal, spiritual kingdom prior to the destruction of the earthly, natural kingdom of Israel.
Now we can still leverage some of the imagery of fishing for people in this current age, the age of the eternal kingdom. As we teach the good news of this kingdom, some will be drawn to this message while others will not. However, we would do well to avoid misapplying the consequences of not heeding the message, for in this age, those who reject the good news of the kingdom are simply depicted as living “outside the city,” (or the kingdom).
Revelation 22:11, 14-15 “Let the filthy still be filthy; let the righteous go on in righteousness; let the holy still be holy.” … “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. “Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
The faithful and the holy will have the right to enter the New Jerusalem; those who reject the message will remain outside of its mercies and benefits. This is the way of the eternal kingdom of God for each generation.
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