The Wheat and the Tares, Part 1 (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)
The parable of the wheat and the tares, like each of the parables in Matthew 13, communicates a particular aspect of the kingdom of heaven. It tells us what the kingdom is like in its current stage, and it also tells us what the kingdom will be like in its coming stage. Regarding the current stage, it tells us three things:
1) The Kingdom of Heaven has Come and is Growing in the Hearts of Mankind
In the parable, the sower is the “Son of Man” (v. 37). This title tells us something important about the identity of Jesus: He is the promised King of Old Testament prophecy, to whom is given “dominion, glory, and a kingdom” and whose “kingdom is one which will not be destroyed” (Dan 7:13-14). In this parable we find that the promised King is already sowing the good seed of His kingdom, which are the “sons of the kingdom” (v. 38). The Bible makes clear that when the Lord saves people, He is actively transferring them out of one kingdom and into another—out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col 1:13). For Jesus to sow the sons of the kingdom means both that He secured their salvation in the work of redemption and that He is now actively transferring them into His kingdom by the work of His Spirit. In that way, the kingdom of heaven has already come, and it is growing in the hearts of mankind.
2) As the Kingdom of Heaven Grows, it Does So Among the Kingdom of Satan
We are told that the enemy in the parable is the devil (v. 39) and the tares that he sows are the sons of the evil one” (v. 38). The contrast is meant to be obvious: Christ sows the sows the sons of the kingdom while Satan sows the sons of the evil one. And in this age, these two grow side by side. Satan sowed the evil seed initially in the garden when he tempted Adam and Eve, and he continues to sow the evil seed by doing all he can to keep men and women from knowing and worshiping the living God. The world, inasmuch as it is the domain of sin and rebellion against God, is Satan’s territory, Satan’s kingdom (Jn 12:31, 2 Cor 4:4, 1 Jn 5:19).
Christ has decisively triumphed over Satan through the cross, and Satan’s kingdom is headed toward imminent doom. In fact, Christ came in order “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8). But Satan is not going to sit back and allow his kingdom be stripped from him. He continues to do everything he can to resist the advancement of Christ’s kingdom—by stealing the seed of the word (v. 19), by blinding believers to the glory of Christ (2 Cor 4:3-4), by inhibiting missions (1 Thes 2:17), etc. And, to a certain degree, Satan is granted a measure of success in this age. The sons of the evil one continue to live side by side and among the sons of the kingdom. For now, there is a continuation of the kingdom of Satan right alongside the kingdom of Christ.
3) It is Growing Until the Harvest of the Sons of the Kingdom is Ready
The owner of the field was unwilling to pull the tares up immediately because he didn’t want to lose any of the wheat. He thought it would be better to wait until the harvest was ready, and then it would be easy to separate the tares from the wheat without sacrificing any of the crop. In the same way, Christ is unwilling to bring an end to this age until the harvest of His kingdom has reached maturity. He will not return until every last person for whom He died reaches repentance. If Christ were to come prematurely in judgment, they would never reach repentance and they would be lost. But Christ said, regarding the will of His Father: “[O]f all He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). God will not allow even one of His people to be lost. For their sake He will restrain even the coming of His judgment upon the world (2 Pet 3:9).
- How should it affect your life to know that you are already a member of Christ’s kingdom in the world today? Why is it important to remember that “our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior,” and what is the danger of forgetting that we are already members of His kingdom? How should it affect your prayer life to know that the kingdom to which we belong faces continually the opposition of the enemy?
- Does your life evidence the fruit of the sons of the kingdom, or the fruit of the sons of the evil one? This parable reminds us that today is the day in which the doors of the kingdom are open for those who see their need of Christ. Soon, the doors of the kingdom will close, and there will be no further opportunity for repentance. If you are not a Christian, what is keeping you from coming to the King for salvation? “All the fitness He requires is to feel your need of Him!”