Bible Study, Biblical Greek, Eternal, Everlasting, Fire, Hell fire, Holy Spirit, Indwelling Spirit, Koine Greek, Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, Parables, Parables of Jesus
Hello and welcome to another post on Renaissance Woman!
This week I am continuing my study of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares and Jesus’ explanation thereof. The Parable is found in Matthew Chapter 13 verses 24-30 and the explanation is found in verses 36-43 of the same chapter. There are two mainstream interpretations of both the parable and the explanation. Both say the wheat and the tares represent believers and unbelievers, the end of the age is whenever Jesus comes again, the angels who reap the harvest are angelic beings, the believers are gathered into the barn which represents heaven, and the unbelievers are taken away to be burned which represents the eternal torment that awaits in hell. The only respect in which these two interpretations differ is a belief as to where the wheat people and tare people are located. One group say the wheat and the tares are the people within the Church. They sit side by side with each other and it’s impossible to tell them apart until the time comes to reap the harvest. The second group says the wheat people and tare people are believers and unbelievers in the world.
There is a third interpretation which is not as widely accepted. I first came across it in an article by J. Preston Eby where he was quoting Dora Van Assen. As I went looking, I found echoes of it in a few Bible Commentaries (there’s a link to Barclay’s Study Bible below) but there are very few lending this interpretation any weight. Even so, the more I study this parable and Jesus’ explanation, it is the interpretation I believe is true. The wheat and tares are not separate groups of people but are rather thoughts planted in our minds. The good seed is sown by the Son of God and the bad seed sown by the Enemy. Both grow together and come to fruition in the same field. I have written in depth on this interpretation in previous studies so won’t repeat myself here but did want to share at least this much so you know where I’m coming from in this week’s post.
I do want to devote a post to the meaning of Jesus’ words “the field is the world” and why this statement is a major reason why I believe the seeds as thoughts rather than people interpretation is correct: I plan to do that next week. I have already written posts on why I don’t think there is any reason to insist “the end of the age” Jesus speaks of in His interpretation has to be pushed into some far-off future. I have also written on why there is also no need to think of the “angels” in this passage as heavenly beings when Jesus tells His followers many times to pray for laborers to go into the field and even calls His disciples reapers (See John 4:35-38). In this week’s post, I want to show why there is no reason to think of the tares being burned in the furnace of fire as a symbol for eternal torment in hell.
For one thing, the Greek word translated as “eternal” or “everlasting”, as in “eternal life” or “everlasting fire” or “everlasting punishment” is aionios. It is the adjective form of the word aion and doesn’t appear anywhere in this passage. Aion does and the more accurate translations have the English word “age” as the translation for it: “the harvest is the end of the age (aion)” and “so it will be at the end of this age (aion). The argument can be made that, because the terms “everlasting fire” do appear in passages like Matthew 18:8 and 25:41, it’s what Jesus meant in His explanation. I agree: the word aionios is used to describe fire in these two passages. It does not appear in the parable or the explanation of it. My argument is let us look at all of the many other passages describing “fire” before attempting to determine what Jesus meant in His explanation of the parable. There are many mentions of “fire” in the New Testament and it is obvious none of these passages mean “fire” to be in any way negative.
John the Baptizer is speaking of Jesus and describes Him as the One who will “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:1, Luke 3:16). Luke’s gospel records Jesus saying, “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49). This cannot possibly be referencing eternal torment in hell because firstly, it is a fire that burns on the earth; and secondly, it is a fire that Jesus is excited about. I cannot see the same Jesus who loved each one of us so deeply He chose the cross being thrilled with the idea of certain people burning in Hell for all eternity (see Hebrews 12:2). No, these passages have to mean something else and I am convinced they are speaking of a fire which none of us is exempt from passing through.
The 9th Chapter of Mark is fascinating as a great deal happens in it. Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James, and John, He casts out the mute spirit, makes His eye-opening statement about little children, and then speaks of the fire that will not be quenched. Verse 49 is the last verse in the chapter and it begins with Jesus saying, “For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt.”
This same concept is found later in the New Testament. Paul writes to the Corinthians that, “each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it (the foundation of Jesus Christ, see verse 11) endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (Verses 13-15). Revelation 21:8 says, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
“That’s hell” some insist but I don’t see how the lake which burns with fire and brimstone can possibly be hell because both death and hell are cast into it as related in Revelation 20:14. And, Revelation 21:8 says this lake which burns with fire and brimstone is the second death. Revelation 2:11 records Jesus saying, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” There are great promises to the overcomers in these letters to the churches but, even so, they are not spared the second death which is later revealed to be the lake which burns with fire and brimstone. Rather, they are not hurt by it.
Fire is used to describe God Himself. Hebrews 12:29 states, “Our God is a consuming fire.” Jesus’ eyes are described like a flame of fire in Revelation 1:14, 2:18, and 19:12. Revelation 19:13 says “His name is called the Word of God” and Jeremiah 23:29 records God saying, “Is not My word like fire…” Malachi 3:3 describes Jesus as the One who “is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver.” When the Holy Spirit was poured out He appeared as tongues of fire (Acts 2:3). Oftentimes, when the New Testament is speaking of fire, it is speaking of the living fire that is the presence of God in our lives now testing, purifying, and refining each one of us. His fire burns away the dross and we can say like Job that, “when He has tried me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
There will, of course, be those who remain unconvinced. That’s okay, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convince each one of us of the truth. I do hope that I have shown there are enough passages of scripture that give reason to doubt the mainstream interpretation of this parable and its explanation. Question whether the meaning you’ve been given is in fact true. Look up the scriptures that speak of fire for yourself. Dare to believe this parable is speaking of the Kingdom within us and that which burns is everything in us that is not of Him. Dare to believe that the Bible we read is telling us the truth. Believe that God made Jesus “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Let us remember that the Chapters and verses were put in by the translators and, if we just read a bit further, we find Paul writing, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2b). Let us realize that now is when “as he is so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). Let us dare to believe that we don’t have to wait for some far off future date but, even as the fire of His life burns in us now, we are the righteous who will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of our Father (Matthew 13:43).
Behold, we are the light of the world! (Matthew 5:14).
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
Matthew 13 – Barclay’s Daily Study Bible – Bible Commentaries – StudyLight.org
KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES: THE FIRSTFRUITS, THE HARVEST, AND THE VINTAGE by J. Preston Eby (godfire.net)
Strong, James, LL,D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990
You must be logged in to post a comment.