Saturday, January 20, 2018

January 20: Matthew 13:24-30, 35, 37-43; Parable of Weeds and the Rapture

             The parables of Jesus are the mysteries that have been hidden since God created the world (Matt 13:35). One of the greatest mysteries, other than those explained by Paul regarding the Church being the body of Christ made up of both Jews and Gentiles, is the one that many people argue about today. Thankfully, the Lord made the Church clear to Paul so we don’t have to argue about it. However, we still argue about the rapture.
            Some say it will occur before the great tribulation of the earth. Others say it will occur in the middle or the end. Some even say there is no such thing but a heresy made up in the last 200-300 years. Since the word rapture doesn’t even exist in the Bible, maybe we shouldn’t use it but then we would also have to stop using the word Trinity to describe God.
            Some of the parables create conjecture because they are not explained. But the parable of the weeds (Matt 13:24-30) is clearly explained by Jesus (Matt 13:27-43) so we don’t have to guess who is who or what is what. The key issues of this parable a that Jesus is the one who sows the seed and children of the kingdom of heaven are the good seed. This doesn’t take a lot of explanation. Christians, believers, disciple of Jesus, and followers of Jesus are all terms used to describe children of the kingdom.
            Likewise, those who don’t belong to the kingdom are the weeds and are children of the evil one. They have been planted by the devil. Paul makes it clear that we were all in that family before Jesus brought us out (Eph 2:1-9).
            Jesus didn’t put any time frame on when he sows or the devil sows. Thus, the sowing part of this parable represents all time. It could even include the time before Jesus appears because it is still God who gives us new hearts and the ability to have faith and Jesus is God. During this time, the Lord allows evil people to exist along with the children of the kingdom. Note that he allows this so that the wheat will not be destroyed along with the weeds (Matt 13:29).
            The harvest is the close of the age. It is the time when evil will be taken out of the world and burned like weeds. Now comes the problem with rapture theories. Jesus clearly says that the weeds will be taken out before the wheat (Matt 13:30). Just to make sure we don’t miss the order, he will tell the reapers, the angels, to gather them first. Then they will gather the wheat into the barns.             Doesn’t this stand the pretribulation rapture on its head? Evil is eliminated before the rapture. Jesus also says that immediately after the tribulation he will come and gather his elect (Matt 24:29-31).
            Revelation 14:14-20 describes two harvests of the earth. There is no mention of anything like the rapture until this point in the book. Even these two harvests are not clearly identified with Jesus coming back. The point of including these is that the first harvest appears to be taking believers out of the earth because the fate of those is not mentioned. Contrary to the first harvest, the second harvest is thrown into the winepress of God’s wrath, which is similar to the harvest of the weeds. The problem here is that the order of the harvest is reversed from the parable.
            The common explanation for those who believe in a pretribulation rapture is that the parable of the weeds, Jesus’ return in Matthew 24, and Revelation 14 are describing the separation of only those who have come to Christ after the rapture, which occurred before the tribulation. Since Paul describes what we call the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 and also in 1 Corinthians 15:50-53, we know that some people will not die but be transformed into immortality. This is only half of the story because those who are alive will be taken up only after the dead in Christ are resurrected (1 Thess 4:16).
            The biggest problem with pretribulation or even midtribulation rapture is that Revelation 20:4-5 very clearly says that those who die during the tribulation will come to life after Jesus’ return. “This is the first resurrection” (Rev 20:5). If this is the first resurrection, then what do we call the clearly described resurrection Paul mentioned? I for one, will not say it is the first and the one in Revelation is really the second resurrection. That would be changing the words of the book and that is a dangerous thing (Rev 22:18-19).
            The bottom line is that this is still a mystery because we can’t fully understand it without conjecture. We can’t let this divide us either. Rather than spending too much time on it, I simply want to be one who is ready at any time doing what the Lord wants when he comes back.

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