It is really hard to unpack the parables of Christ against the backdrop of a postmodern world, but think back with me. The Jews had rejected God’s King. At His first coming, Jesus Christ had given them more than enough proof that He was their Messiah. But the Jewish leaders considered all His proof and concluded that He did everything by the power of Satan. Though the King and His kingdom were rejected, His kingdom still came. But it came in a mystery form that is still going on today.

The parables spoken by Jesus Christ in Matthew and Luke are Christ’s description of this kingdom. When the disciples asked Jesus why He was speaking to them in parables, His answer was that it had been given to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but to the rest (of the Jews) it had not been given (Matt. 13:11). This mystery kingdom is here. It is often called an interregnum (a pause between two periods) or an intercalation (a space between two points). It is so called because the Old Testament prophets never saw this time in which we live. One writer said that as the prophets gazed into the future, God revealed to them two historical mountain tops – one was the sending of His Son into the world (the incarnation) and the other was the King’s return and reign on earth, the renewed earthly kingdom – a new genesis. God did not describe the long valley of time in between.

This long valley of time between Christ’s first coming and His second coming commenced with Christ’s prophecy to Peter, “upon this rock I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). Christ was speaking as the Great Prophet. Before he was martyred, Stephen quoted Moses saying, “the LORD God will raise a Prophet like me [the God/man] from your brethren.Him you shall hear” (Acts 7:37). But they did not hear Him! The church is now functioning in this mysterious intercalation time of both light and darkness. The darkness is Satan’s attempt to stop the spread of the gospel and therefore stop God’s kingdom from coming. Satan is doing this now. Recall that Noah’s flood came as a result of Satan’s invasion into the world in order to keep the woman’s Seed from coming (Gen. 6).

The light is provided by the Word of God in the form of verse-by-verse and word-by-word teaching, and the true gospel is being spread. The gospel makes the one who believes into a new creation in Christ. Jews and Gentiles become one, a new creation, “a new man” (Eph. 2:15; 3:1-6; 2 Cor. 5:17). The Old Testament prophets never heard the truth of both Jews and Gentiles being immersed into one body by the Holy Spirit. That’s why both Christ and Paul called it a mystery. I discussed this mystery at some length in my book A Glimpse of the New Genesis (pages 121-127).

Through parables, Jesus gave new truth to His disciples but hid truth from the vast majority of the Jews. Keep in mind Christ’s parable of the seed, the Sower, and the different kinds of soil. This sets in place a pattern. The seed is the Word of God, the Sower is Christ, and the soils are different minds of people into which Christ plants His word (Matt. 13:18-23). The planting time is in progress now and has been going on for over two-thousand years. Some of Christ’s word, His seed in the form of the gospel, is falling on hard ground (being deflected by Satan) and failing to germinate at all (Matt. 13:19; 2 Cor. 4:3-4). Some seed is germinated but because of various kinds of minds – some described as stony and others as thorny – the seed is seriously void of fruitfulness (Matt. 13:22). It did germinate. Life was received. And last, some seed fell into different kinds of good fertile minds, producing not only life but several different yields of spiritual fruit, some one hundred percent yield, some sixty percent yield, and some thirty percent yield (Matt. 13:4-9).  

While Men Slept

Christ’s second parable unveiled a portion of this present time that is disturbing. The seed still represents words from a Sower, but it also mentioned another kind of seed.  “Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man [Christ] who sowed good seed [the gospel] in his field [the world]. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares [weeds] among the wheat and went his way” (Matt. 13:25). At the time that Christ is sowing His gospel seed, Christ’s enemy is busy sowing his seed. This means that while the majority are not paying attention, something dastardly, something sinister is happening all around them.  An enemy is presently sowing tares among the wheat. A tare is a weed that resembles wheat but is not wheat. This is being done in the darkness. The workers realized what was happening because when the wheat appeared, so did the weeds. All became exposed. The workers asked the master if he wanted them to destroy the tares.  “But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ” (Matthew 13:29-30). 

Before Jesus explained the parable, He paused. Jesus used this pause to reveal another reason that He was using only parables. He referenced Old Testament scripture. “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 13:35, Psa. 78:2, Isa. 6:9). These are very weighty words, extremely important truth. Secrets were hinted to by the Old Testament writers but never explained. After sending a large part of His audience away, Jesus changed His location. He went into a house. Only the disciples followed Him and asked Him privately to explain the parable of the tares in the field. So Christ’s words here were for an exclusive audience – His disciples. The truth from this parable, though hard to grasp, must be understood. Remember that in the Word of God every word matters. Jesus explained the details of the parables to the disciples alone.

“He answered and said to them. ‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man [Jesus].’” This probably came as no surprise. But there had been a change. The “good seed” was producing good people – people who are saved within the age of the church and will inherit Christ’s kingdom (Matt. 25:34). Where were all of these sons of the kingdom, planted?  “The field is the world!” Simple to understand. This worldwide sowing is continuing today. But the Christ then describes a seminal moment. A moment where understanding and meditation must be used. “But the tares are the sons of the wicked one.” What a declaration this is! The truth found in this sentence is set apart by our old friend “but.”

There can be no misunderstanding if interpreted in a plain, common sense way. There are places in the Bible that I wish I could spin the text, and make it say what it does not say. I cannot! The tares planted by the enemy are the sons of the wicked one. Tares are weeds that look much like wheat, but they are not wheat. The tares no doubt represent people who claim to be Christians speaking pompous words about the kingdom of God and living lives very much like kingdom children, but they are imposters, deceivers. There are worldwide religious tares that would present themselves as God’s children, but they are not!  Many of these “tares” are following false gods, false teachers, and believing a false gospel.

Judaizers, deceivers, were confusing young Galatian believers. They were adding works to grace. They were teaching that unless you were circumcised or kept the law, you could not be saved (Gal. 5:4-7). This would make the gospel a false gospel. The product would be tares. Paul made this clear. He said, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-7). Paul gave clear motivation for giving a clear gospel. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Accursed means exactly what it says! Wow! Paul then repeated: “As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8-9). False gospels are being taught worldwide. They are wicked and perverse messages coming from wicked and perverse messengers. They are filled with Bible words mentioning Jesus, His church, His Word – all sounding so good and so biblical.

The Sower then totally strips the mask from His enemy. “The enemy who sowed the tares is the devil” (Matt. 13:39). This is an exact quote. No misunderstanding here! The devil – who many good and godly believers think is chained – is anything but chained. He is busy sowing his evil children among the children of God. This is very difficult to write, but it must be said. Jesus describes the end result through the rest of the parable. The workers asked the owner if they should pull up the tares. The owner said no, lest you uproot the wheat with them. You may not discern correctly between the wheat and the tares. It is difficult to know someone else’s heart. This failure to distinguish correctly could cause havoc and often does. For instance, new believers – babes in Christ – may not sufficiently know what God says is right and wrong. And they may be categorized with the tares. The owner wisely says, “wait till the harvest.” Then God will separate those who have genuinely placed their faith in Christ from those who have not. Christ cannot deny Himself – His own body (2 Tim. 2:13).

What do the children of God do in this age?  We are to do this! “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:11-14). They preach the clear gospel of God’s grace and teach God’s Word clearly and understandably (Rom. 1:14-17; 2 Timothy 4:2). We are to live by means of the Holy Spirit and sow the good seed.

Jesus finished the parable with these words. “The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore, as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 13:40-43).

Carefully read Paul’s words. They are detailed, disturbing, daunting, but true. “Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thess 1:6-10). God Himself will separate the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats. God’s King is coming, and He will bring in His kingdom (Rev. 19:11-20: 6). Another flood is coming.