Thoughts on the Similitudes of the Kingdom; Part 21

 •  20 min. read  •  grade level: 8
There is now going on through the mercy of God an inchoative fulfillment of that which will characterize the close of the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens, and which comes naturally in this parable, the last of the series. Still there is a casting of the net, though not in the same sense precisely as given in the parable. For then it was cast into the sea of Idolatry and Judaism. Now in Christendom the gospel is preached among those who already bear outwardly the name of Christ. That is, if the preaching of the gospel in Christian countries so called, be the casting of the net into the sea (in the sense of the parable), we should have a second net cast in among the fish already caught. There would be professors outside as well as mere professors inside.; but the sorting is made only from those inside the net. That is, profession would not be confined to those inside the net which was drawn ashore; but there would be others who were never drawn to shore at all. Not so. The casting the net into the sea is the first announcement of the kingdom, and the drawing of the filled net to the shore is the outward establishment of the doctrine taught, and the nominal obedience to the Lord Jesus. This is the kingdom-point of view; and here we can hardly call Christendom, where we have a nominal—Belief in the truth of Christianity, “the sea.” Neither is the net symbolical of the Church, unless the professing world—church, and then I see, in respect to the truth taught in this parable, no difference between it and the kingdom.
If the Church of God be here at all, I should look for it or for what represents it, under the figure of the good fish put into the vessels. Certainly, those who are of the Church of God are there, but they are not viewed as on church ground. Nor are they confined to the Church. Those slain for the testimony of Jesus after the Church has gone, will have their place among those in the vessels. It is the judgment that puts an end to the present condition of the kingdom, and the mysteries go on till that time, and the Lord’s appearing. Then the just are left living on the earth, and the wicked are cast into the fire. All who have died, martyred for the sake of Jesus before this, will be found among the good. The parable being a Similitude of the Kingdom in its present state, applies, until the present condition is terminated, by the appearance of the King to take His great power and glory, and to reign.
We have seen that what Christendom now presents, is the establishment of certain doctrines, and the outward bearing of the name of Christ. Also that the sorting takes place after the kingdom has been a certain time in existence. We may now ask, when that action began, which is set forth here by “putting the good into vessels.” The writer of this paper does not pretend to answer save in a general way. That there is a time when such sorting is made is clear. And the seven Epistles to the churches in the Revelation contain, if not the same thing, yet that which is analogous, and I doubt not synchronizes with the sorting of the parable. It may be that there was always a remnant morally separated from the rest of the professing body. But the separation in the parables is not merely moral, it is distinct and visible. And this clear separation of a faithful remnant is first marked in the epistle to Thyatira, (Rev. 2:2424But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. (Revelation 2:24), which read thus, “But to you I say, the rest in Thyatira,” &c.) Previous to this there had been the Ephesus, the Smyrna, and the Pergamos state. In these three the call to hear was addressed to the whole assembly. But in the fourth epistle there is a change, and the call to hear is to a plainly distinguished remnant.
The professing church was in the Thyatira phase when this separation commenced. And as the kingdom assumed a church-form, we may say that the “sorting” of the parable began at the same time; though to be more distinctly made as the end draws near. The Reformation has undoubtedly something similar to that which will be by and bye. And this great event in the history of Christendom is generally placed when Thyatira became the type of the professing church.
A more practical question is, “Where is the sorting, who are the fishermen now engaged in putting the good into vessels?” Men have invented many kind of vessels into which they put as many fish as they can get. Nor are they able, or careful to separate the good from the bad. Other motives influence them. And the vessels they have are not such as God has provided. They have National Vessels, Dissent Vessels, Protestant and Roman Vessels, beside smaller ones, such as Baptist, Independent, Methodist, and many others. Are these what the Lord provides for His saints? No. These all divide the saints from one another, and join them to the mere professor. The vessel provided by the Lord is-separation from all evil, avoiding the unequal yoke, owning no name but His, submitting to no ordinance of man in sacred things. And beside those which give character to the outward man, there is the spring and source of it all, the daily communion and intercourse with God, without which all else, however correct, is a snare, and affords room for the display of the worse and baser principles of the flesh. The Lord’s fishermen are separating His saints from the evil and bringing them around His Name, and not to human names. And this holy work is now going on. Everyone who brings souls to Christ, who endeavors to build them up in Hint and to know no center but Him around which to gather, is separating souls from the surrounding ecclesiastical evil, and in effect is putting them into vessels. This is a course so very different from all others, that those who follow it, who are really apart from the sect—making of the day need nothing else to mark them out. And this is seen in many parts of Christendom. It is not confined to one country. There is one trait peculiar to the true fisherman—his sole concern is with the good. There are many so-called fishermen who concern themselves with sorting the bad. I do not mean the carrying of the gospel to them, this is imperative ‘upon all. But it is the separating of the respectable and the reformed from the profligate by means of associations, institutions, and pledges. Such fishermen are engaged in a work, and are striving to attain an object, in which they are co-workers with the world. And the end they have in view only regards social position, the great thing which now occupies the worldly philanthropist, whose professed aim is to ameliorate the mass. The true fisherman has an eye only for the good, he takes care of that. The bad are left alone, they are no concern of his, others, not he, will deal with them.
As the end approaches no doubt the process of separating the good from the bad will become more manifest, and the separation itself more distinct and defined. How it will be finally accomplished is not for us to say. One means may be a far greater subjection of heart to the word of God. And persecution from without may be used of God to bring the faithful together; but this would only be an indirect means. It is expressly said to be the work of the fishermen to put the good into vessels, and therefore the direct and immediate means will be the energy and power of the Spirit of God in each servant, working on the saints and bringing them all together into one spiritual condition before the Lord, waiting for His coming. Still as the superstitious and infidel world are drawing closer together in their hatred or the truth, so it will press closer together those who are the Lord’s, and so far will obliterate the differences which Satan has so assiduously labored to establish among the children of God. But the distinction between them and those of the world will become more and more visible.
Then there will be seen but two great parties in the world—the Lord’s and Satan’s. The former as one compact body, known by all to be separate from all else; the latter exhibiting the greatest contrariety among themselves, but united in its antagonism to Christ. Then the present liberality (rather latitudinarianism) of the day will cease. At the present time there are so many petty and independent religious associations that anything like persecution on a large scale is simply impossible, because this demands more or less of power and authority, which no single body, whatever its influence, now possesses. Even now in these lands we see the greatest religious community in the state, and which is supported by secular authority, tottering on its base, and soon to descend to the level of its dissenting rivals.
An infidel liberality is the spirit of the age, which allows man to set aside the word of God and exalt his own notions. But a religious domination may be again felt; and when the whole world are joined under one head, whatever form it May assume, superstitious or infidel, bigot or liberal, it will not permit a small minority of real Christians to live in peace. There may not be violent persecution, a rekindling of the fires of Smithfield, but there will be increasing scorn and contempt, and the saints will realize more than ever that they are not of the world, but the objects of its intense hate.
Thus shall it be in the completion of the age, the angels shall go forth and sever the wicked from the midst of the just, &c., &c. The main idea in the parable is the separating the good from the bad under the figure of putting the good fish into vessels, the bad being simply rejected. But here we have another thing, not given under a figure but in plain language, the separating of the wicked from the just. Both events take place in this world. The latter is the wicked of the present age and ushers in the future; the former is rather during this present time. It is not the rapture of the church; which is not found in the parable. We may know where to put it, or before what events it will take place. And here we see the rapture takes place before the angels come to search out the wicked. Observe the difference; fishermen select the good, angels gather up the wicked. The Lord uses man as the instrument of blessing to man. He Wes angels as the instruments of His judgments. The point of resemblance between the action in the parable, and that of the angels is that there will be a separating process at the end as there is now. But how different the object in view, how different the means or agents employed. The angels shall come forth and having gathered out the wicked, shall cast them into the furnace of fire.
So it was in the explanation of the tares. They shall “bind them in bundles to burn them—and shall cast them into a furnace of fire.” (v. 30, 42.) They will gather out all offenses, and purge the kingdom. They will know how to find out the wicked, and will separate the one from the other even though they be fellow-laborers in the same field, or two women grinding at the same mill.
We read in Heb. 1 That the angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation, but the higher office of separating the members of His body from the evil of the world is given to the fishermen, i.e., to the Lord’s apostles and servants. Even as He told Peter that He would make him a fisher of men. The ministry of angels is rather to the individual; that of the Lord’s fishermen has special reference to the church. So when actively engaged in the apostolic work of caring for and teaching the church of Jerusalem, Peter was the object of angelic care. Twice were the prison doors opened for him by the agency of these ministering spirits.
At the time of the end the angels will not only be the executors of the wrath of the Lamb, but they will be the active agents in gathering the Jews back into their land. (ch. 24:31.) They serve God and do His bidding in respect to His providential dealings with Israel and with the world. But the Lord Himself and those who have His Spirit are the chief shepherd and shepherds of His flock.
The solemn judgment of the wicked marks the close of the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens. It is not the judgment of the great white throne. It is a judgment of the living not of the dead. It is described in chapter 25. Remark also that while we have not the final destination of the good in the vessels, nor of the just in the following verse, we have that of the wicked. Why are we told of the wicked being cast into the fire, and not of the good being taken to heaven? Because it is a Similitude of the Kingdom which has reference only to the earth, the scene of the rule of the Son of Man and when all offenses are taken away, only the just will be left and righteousness shall reign over the earth. Hence the reason why the terms “wicked” and “just” are used here. They are Old Testament terms, and the term “just” is applied to New Testament saints when there is allusion made. to Old Testament Scripture. So far as this parable shows we might conclude that the “good” in verse 48 are the same as the “just” in verse 49. From other Scriptures we learn that they are two distinct classes. The term “just” can include all believers in every age, and is so used; here it has a special application to the saints at that time, it is the contrast of the “wicked.”
According to the calling and circumstances of the saints, so the special appellation given them of God, even as God Himself is made known by different names, which His divine wisdom saw fit, to the different conditions of His people on earth. To Abraham He was El-Shaddai, (God Almighty.) To Israel, Jehovah; to the Church, Father. Now just or righteous is a name given to the saints before Christ came, and is also specially given to those whom the angels leave in their discriminating judgment in the parable. In both these times the righteous or just have an earthly calling in contradistinction to a heavenly one. But there are two other classes of God’s saints distinct from those, and from each other. They are the church, and secondly those who are martyred after the church is gone. These latter are called specially “witnesses” or martyrs, inasmuch as they are all slain by the persecutor. The church is called, or rather the saints in the church are called “saints” as a special name. Not that it is not applied to others, even to things. The utensils of the tabernacle were called holy (same word as saint), and the essential signification of this word is separation. So the vessels were set apart for the use of the sanctuary. The saints of the Old Testament times were such because they served God, and were thus distinguished from the rest. But God, through Israel, was in direct communication with the world and the saints, the holy ones, were not called to be separate from it, (from its evil of course, or they would not have been just): but to acquire riches, power, to seek and hold a place of authority, to share in the government of the world were things not incompatible with devotedness to God. All the good things of this present life were promised to them; indeed they were both the evidence and the reward of righteousness. “I have been young and now am old “said the Psalmist” yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.”
In short, the Old Testament saints were to be separate from the evil, but were not called to forego their rights and position in the world. For God was maintaining His relationships with the earth in a direct and immediate way, as being the Governor of Israel. These relationships do not now subsist, they are in abeyance; and others of a higher and very special order are established. When the church is gone God will resume the old relationship with the earth, and the new will find its place in heaven. There cannot be on earth, and at the same time, both an earthly and a heavenly position for the saints of God. And there is absolutely now no such connection between the New Testament saints and the earth, as there was in Old Testament times. Neither the place of authority, nor the striving for wealth arc lawful for us. There is no promise to us that if faithful we should never want; rather we are promised afflictions and persecutions. That is, our place is not only separate but antagonistic; and consequently we must expect to feel the world’s anger.
Hence we are “saints by calling,” (Rom. 1:77To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7), and 1 Cor. 1:22Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2), not called to be saints.) The word is applied to us, not as a mere adjective, expressing a quality or condition as it was to the believer of old time, but as a name, a substantive; the special and distinctive name given to those who are the church of God. None beside are the called saints. And so it must and ought to be. The believers in all ages were to be in communion with God; and if He was maintaining relationship with the earth, so must the saint in the same way. But man has as far as he could broken the last link that connected him with God. Is not Christ rejected? Did not the world cast Him out? They killed the Son whom they ought to have reverenced to possess His inheritance. Thus man is stamped by the Word in the treatment of the Lord Jesus as a robber and a murderer. Well, now is the judgment of this world. Where then the place of the saint? Outside all—a complete and broad separation. The called saints are separate not only from the evil, but from the world as such; because Christ is on high, and is there as the rejected One. We are privileged to share His rejection. We do not accept the world’s honors, nor are we to have any place in the world, save that of a pilgrim. We are, in regard to the position God has given to us, THE SEPARATE ONES; and no other body will ever have, or indeed would have a similar place.
So, too, the apocalyptic saints, they who are slain because of their testimony are specially the witnesses or martyrs, these are found on the earth after the church is gone, and- when there is direct interference of God in judgment. There is no calling out from the world as now. The saints then will have their special character according to the circumstances. All believers are witnesses, but none have, or will witness in such tremendous times as they, when certain and violent death awaits every confessor.
In the same way a particular class is meant by the “ just.” They may have been hardly contemporaneous with the martyrs, but not having been slain for their testimony, form no part of the class. The church, the first-born ones, are seen in heaven before these martyrs are slain, after their death the angels come forth to purge the Kingdom by taking away all things that offend. All saints previous to this judgment are found among the “good put into vessels.” The “ just” points solely to the living on the earth who are brought through the tribulation. The saved remnant which form the nucleus of the people, and the center of the nations of the millennial earth.
When this is accomplished the “mysteries” will have ceased, the Kingdom proper will commence. The purging of the Kingdom while introductory to the reign of Christ, is yet a part of the present course of this age. The eclectic separation of the good is during this age, lout more manifest as the end draws near. At the end the angels come. How they will do their work we are not told. I believe it will be a short, and perhaps a very sudden work. But we, do know that it will be thorough and complete. “All things that offend” shall be taken.
What a solemn thought for the world. No tremendous change will take place to give warning of the immediate execution of wrath. The warnings of grace are now given. Grace which while inviting lost man to Christ, declares clearly and solemnly that that day will come as a thief. But the hardened and rebellious are then dreaming of security and progress. The business, duties, amiabilities, and pleasures go on as for years before. The wheels of the vast system do not appear ready to fall off from the axle. Not a part of the great machine but seems to work smoothly, and progress and civilization seems to point to the future greatness of man, and peace is the word on their lips. Suddenly as the lightning out of the east shines even unto the west, the Son of Man will appear. And the wicked severed from among the just will be cast into the furnace of fire. This is the way in which this busy thriving world will be brought to a sudden stand. Thus will the whole social fabric be crushed to its very foundations by the stone, and as chaff be driven before the wind. In the parable it is the angels who do this. They are the executioners of the King’s wrath and judgment.
How touching the anxiety of our Lord that his disciples should understand. Before He warned them, saying, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Now He asks, “Have you understood all these things?” It is the anxiety of His love, that would bring us intelligently into the apprehension of His counsels. What a portion is ours? We shall be taken away before that time comes. Our Lord Himself will come for us. That rapture unnoticed by the world; or if our absence be marked, will occasion as much joy as wonder. They whom the world hated are gone, it knows not whither. But what marvelous grace that has so saved us, and brought us so nigh to God that He reveals His purposes of judgment to us, and what He is to do after we have left this world. What effect should such a revelation have upon us? “What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” Let Peter answer even as he put the question, “wherefore beloved seeing that we look for such things, let us be diligent that we may be found of him in peace without spot and blameless.” Amen. R. B.