Immediately after the Parable of the Soils (Sower), Jesus shares another parable (Matt 13:24-30) involving a sower and seeds again. The two parables may have contained similar elements but the focus and interpretation is totally different. Thankfully, when His disciples came to Him, Jesus explained the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares very plainly and clearly (Matt 13:36-43).
“He answered and said to them: ‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.'” Matthew 13:37–39
Just to ensure that no one mis-reads it, here it is in simplified form:
- Sower = Jesus
- Good Seeds = the sons of the kingdom
- Field = the world
- The sower of tares = the devil
- Tares = the sons of the wicked one
- Harvest = the end of age
- Reapers = angels
As I pondered the significance of each of these points, it challenged my every impression I had of this parable and what I had heard others say or teach about it. For example, I have often heard this parable applied to the mix of real and false believers in the church. But Jesus said that the field represented the world, not the church! At first glance, most would readily assume that the sons of the kingdom referred to the people of God (or believers) and so did I. But is that an accurate assumption? Let’s just say that I wasn’t prepared for what the Lord showed me. Please read on as we consider some key observations about this parable.
Firstly, in the same way the sower sows the good seed in the field, Jesus scatters and sends the sons of the kingdom into the world (once more, for emphasis, not into church). The implication is extremely straightforward, if you ask me: Every son and daughter of the kingdom will be sent by Jesus into the world. In the language of Archippus Awakening, every Archippus has a kingdom assignment in the Lord that he has to know and fulfil. Where? In the world.
Secondly, we are told that the grain sprouted and produced a crop (Matt 13:26). Children of the kingdom are expected to be faithful and fruitful. Wherever Jesus sends us, and whatever we are called to accomplish, we must not only be found faithful to the task but that we are also fruitful in all we do. Don’t miss the point that the counter measures of the enemy are deceptively fruitful and productive too.
Thirdly – and this is what really challenged and provoked me – the people of God are not necessarily the sons of the kingdom. Whoa!? Yes, I know; this point jolted me too. But the Spirit showed me that we can be members of the church and yet not be sons of the kingdom. In its simplest definition, the sons of the kingdom are those who hear, understand, obey, grow into and reveal the characteristics of the kingdom. For sure, every child (teknon) of God has that potential to become a son (huios) of the kingdom. But as we have already observed, not everyone has a heart for the kingdom and thus, not everyone who is numbered amongst the people of God is necessarily a son of the kingdom who would faithfully complete his kingdom assignment.
What is even more painful to realise is that some of God’s people might well be considered “sons of the wicked one”. That was what Jesus called the Jews, presumably God’s people, when He said, “You do the deeds of your father.” (John 8:41) and as such, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.” (John 8:43) Why did Jesus label them as such? Because they preferred to believe a lie more than accept the truth. And when confronted by Jesus who is Truth, their true identity was revealed. No wonder that bought Jesus a one-way ticket to the cross.
In the words of Jesus, a son will do the works of the father. “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.” (John 8:39) As the Son of God Himself, Jesus knew to be about the Father’s business. Similarly, sons of the kingdom will do the work of the kingdom. Conversely, if one does not do the work of the kingdom, can he be considered a son of the kingdom?
“So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.” Matthew 13:27–29
Fourthly, Jesus made it very clear that it will not be easy to identify the wheat from the tares. Both look similar and the difference will not be apparent until much later. Today, much of what the world does through its rights and social cause movements look pretty much like what Christians desire to do through our various church activities. At the same time, it is also easy to confuse the activities of the church for the assignments of the kingdom.
What makes it dangerous to separate is that the root systems of both wheat and tares are too closely intertwined and infused. Removing one will hurt the another. Although foundations may be built on Judeo-Christian principles, this does not mean that a nation’s or a church’s agenda is necessarily that of the kingdom. It is one thing to enjoy the blessings of kingdom principles; it is totally another to embrace the advancement of kingdom purposes. That is also what we are facing today. Is it not true that most religions appear to teach the same, good morals? Even humanists and atheists know to do good and act nice; some even surpassing Christians. We may use the same words but mean totally different things. In the end, it is still wheat and tares!
“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. Matthew 13:40–42
It will only be at the end of this age when the angels will separate the sons of the kingdom from the sons of the wicked one, broadly manifested through “all things that offend and those who practice lawlessness”. Concerning these, a more diligent study is recommended. In describing the last days, Jesus said, “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matt 24:10-13) That really describes our world today, doesn’t it? And interestingly, it is against this backdrop that “the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:14) By whom? The sons of the kingdom!
“Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matthew 13:43
Finally, there is a promise for the righteous. Let it be clearly understood that the gift of imputed righteousness is only the starting point, not the end. This position of righteousness with God in Christ brings us into kingdom alignment which in turn qualifies and enables us for kingdom assignments in the world. Keeping in context, the righteous would thus refer to the sons of the kingdom who, while faithfully carrying out their assignments, have practised righteousness in their own lives (1 John 3:7), borne the fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11) and have displayed works of righteousness that they may be so arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:8)!
It’s one thing to be righteous in church; it’s totally another to stand for righteousness in the world. Be prepared for the possibility of opposition and even persecution. Against this understanding, the words of Jesus bring great assurance and much comfort: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt 5:10-12) A promise for all Christians, you think?
I understand that if you are a typical church guy, this perspective might have shocked (and even upset) you. It’s neater to adopt a church-world, us-them, believer-nonbeliever approach. It’s easier and more palatable to simply spiritualise everything and make it fit our Christian church subculture. But dear friends, that is where the problem has been all these years. These are not parables of the church, but of the kingdom of God. And I’d rather provoke you out of your comfort zone than allow you to presume something and miss what the Lord has in store for you. You don’t have to agree with all I have shared but at least seek the Lord and ask for a fresh revelation of the kingdom. I believe it is His desire to share the mysteries of the kingdom with as many who are ready to receive. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!