Jesus On Predestination and the Rapture

A couple weeks ago, we saw Jesus tell the crowds a parable in which the kingdom of Heaven was compared to wheat and tares. He did not explain his parable to the crowds, so we made a couple observations and application but did not explain the parable specifically. In today’s text, Jesus explains His parable specifically to His disciples and to us. Jesus explains the when of predestination and the the end-result of His harvest.

Matthew 13:36-43

Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

The setting (v. 36)

Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

Again, we see a transition of audience. Jesus transitions from speaking generally to the crowds to speaking specifically to His disciples. Again, we see this principle: Understanding concerning the kingdom of Heaven is for Christ’s people, not for those who have not been given ears to hear. Jesus’s disciples ask Him to explain His parable and He does.

Jesus’s explanation (v. 37-43)

And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom…”

Jesus identifies Himself as the sower. Jesus’s and Matthew’s theology is consistent throughout the Gospel account. In the first parable, the parable of the soils, it was Jesus’s word that went out and accomplished Jesus’s work. In the parable of the wheat and weeds, Jesus is the one planting His own people in the world and cultivating them into maturity according to His plan and work.

The field is the world. The world is Jesus Christ’s garden. Jesus is planting His people in His world.

The good seeds are the sons of the kingdom. The seeds are the people God is planting in His world before cultivating them. Here, we see the beautiful doctrine of election and, particularly, predestination. Christ intentionally plants His chosen people as seeds and cultivates them to maturity. According to Jesus, He has not simply chosen those who will be saved after their birth but has intentionally planted the people in the world who will serve Him. Christ has ben intentional about this work from before the foundation of the world. Those who are being saved, then, are being saved from before the foundation of the world; Their being chosen for salvation logically precedes their existence and they are being saved from the moment Christ plants them in His world. Someone’s conversion experience, as well as his or her sanctification, is only part of his or her overall salvation experience. This work is done by Christ’s word, which is made known in the preceding parable, the parable of the soils.

“…and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil…” 

If you are not supralapsarian in your thinking, this is a challenging parable. It only becomes more challenging. Those who have not been given ears to hear (Cf. v. 10-17) are not those who have been elected and planted by Christ for His own cultivation. They are sons of the evil one planted and cultivated by the devil. We believe God creates every single person. Jesus is not expounding the doctrine of creation, here, but the doctrine of salvation. Here we see Jesus describing reprobation and degeneration. From before their existence, it was determined who would be in the lineage of the devil. These seeds necessarily grow into maturity as the devil cultivates them. Salvation and damnation depend not on the fruit but on the type of seed planted and the one planting. This is the only way we can claim that salvation is 100 percent a work of God and not of people. This is why we claim that no person can contribute to his or her salvation. This is why we preach salvation by grace alone through faith alone. Many will say we are saved by grace, but assume that people must become good trees. According to Jesus’s theology, no one can be a good tree unless He planted that person as His good seed in His garden to cultivate according to His own word. Those bad seeds are tares—vessels created for dishonorable use (Cf. Romans 9:19-24).

“…and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Jesus not only gets at soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) but, also, eschatology (the doctrine of end-times). The final harvest is not yet. At the end of the age, the tares, which grew from bad seed, will be taken up and thrown into the furnace of fire—a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. You have heard about a future rapture of the saints one day in the future; I don’t see that anywhere in Scripture. Instead, we consistently see that the damned are the ones being taken up, and we don’t know the specific method. The saints, according to Jesus, stay on the earth and inherit the earth at the time of the final harvest. The damned, those planted and growing as stumbling blocks, are thrown into the furnace.

This is a simple passage of Scripture to understand, but it’s so difficult to teach because this these doctrines are the Biblical doctrines people hate. Yet, Jesus explicitly taught them. They are difficult to accept because they center salvation on Christ’s person and work rather than on us. They oppose the legalistic and prosperity teachings that people really enjoy. We cannot stray from Christ’s words concerning His own kingdom. This is one of those passages in Scripture from which we can make no proper application except to plea with those who hear to trust in the person and work of Christ alone. Seek to know Him and what He is doing. Like Jesus, we simply say, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Those who were planted and cultivated by Christ will inherit the earth and be a shining beacon to the Father’s glory, not theirs—much like we saw in the two parables last week.

Questions:

  1. At what point are Christ’s people saved? How is salvation different from conversion?
  2. What does Jesus teach about reprobation in this passage?
  3. Here, Jesus teaches exactly the opposite of any sort of dispensational rapture. What does it mean that the reprobate will be taken up and the elect will remain and inherit the earth?
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