The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The enemy that sowed them is the devil.—Here, as in the parable of the Sower, there is the most distinct recognition of a personal power of evil, the enemy of God thwarting His work. It will be noticed that our Lord, as if training His disciples gradually in the art of the interpreter, gives rather the heads of an explanation of the parable than one that enters fully into details; and it is therefore open to us, as it was to them, to pause and ask what was taught by that which seems almost the most striking and most important part of the parable. Who were the servants? What was meant by their question, and the answer of the householder? The answers under these heads supply, it will be seen, a solution of many problems in the history and policy of the Church of Christ. (1.) The enemy sowed the tares “while men slept.” The time of danger for the Church is one of apparent security. Men cease to watch. Errors grow up and develop into heresies, carelessness passes into license, and offences abound. (2.) The “servants” are obviously distinct from the “reapers.” and represent the zealous pastors of the Church. Their first impulse is to clear the kingdom from evil by extirpating the doers of the evil. But the householder in the parable is at once more patient and more discerning than they. To seek for the ideal of a perfect Church in that way may lead to worse evils than those it attempts to remedy. True wisdom is found, for the most part, in what might seem the policy of indifference, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” That is the broad, salient lesson of the parable. At first it may seem at variance with what enters into our primary conceptions, alike of ecclesiastical discipline and of the duty of civil rulers. Is it not the work of both to root out the tares, to punish evil-doers? The solution of the difficulty is found, as it were, in reading “between the lines” of the parable. Doubtless, evil is to be checked and punished alike in the Church and in civil society, but it is not the work of the rulers of either to extirpate the doers. Below the surface there lies the latent truth that, by a spiritual transmutation which was not possible in the natural framework of the parable, the tares may become the wheat. There is no absolute line of demarcation separating one from the other till the time of harvest. What the parable condemns, therefore, is the over-hasty endeavour to attain an ideal perfection, the zeal of the founders of religious orders, of Puritanism in its many forms. It would have been well if those who identify the tares with heretics had been more mindful of the lesson which that identification suggests.
The harvest is the end of the world.—Strictly speaking, the end of the age—i.e., of the period that precedes the “coming” of the Son of Man as Judge, which is to usher in the “world,” or the “age,” to come.
The reapers are the angels.—What will be the actual work of the ministry of angels in the final judgment it is not easy to define, but their presence is implied in all our Lord’s greater prophetic utterances about it (Matthew 25:31). That ministry had been brought prominently before men in the apocalyptic visions of the Book of Daniel, in which for the first time the name of the Son of Man is identified with the future Christ (Matthew 7:13), and the Messianic kingdom itself brought into new distinctness in connection with a final judgment. Our Lord’s teaching does but expand the hints of the “thousand times ten thousand” that ministered before the Ancient of Days when the books were opened (Daniel 7:9-10), and of Michael the prince as connected with the resurrection of “many that sleep in the dust of the earth” (Daniel 12:1-2).
We have no idea of more acute suffering than to be thrown into the fire, and to have our bodies made capable of bearing the burning heat, and living on m this burning heat forever and forever. It is not certain that our Saviour meant to teach here that hell is made up of "material" fire; but it is certain that he meant to teach that this would be a proper "representation" of the sufferings of the lost. We may be further assured that the Redeemer would not deceive us, or use words to torment and tantalize us. He would not talk of hell-fire which had no existence, nor would the Saviour of people hold out frightful images merely to terrify mankind. If he has spoken of hell, then there is a hell. If he meant to say that the wicked shall suffer, then they will suffer. If he did not mean to deceive mankind, then there is a hell, and then the wicked will be punished. The impenitent, therefore, should be alarmed. And the righteous, however much wickedness they may see, and however many hypocrites there may be in the church, should be cheered with the prospect that soon the just will be separated from the unjust, and that they shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
The harvest is the end of the world—the period of Christ's second coming, and of the judicial separation of the righteous and the wicked. Till then, no attempt is to be made to effect such separation. But to stretch this so far as to justify allowing openly scandalous persons to remain in the communion of the Church, is to wrest the teaching of this parable to other than its proper design, and go in the teeth of apostolic injunctions (1Co 5:1-13).
And the reapers are the angels—But whose angels are they? "The Son of man shall send forth His angels" (Mt 13:41). Compare 1Pe 3:22, "Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him."
the Son of man. By
the field he meant
the world. By
the good seed he meant
the children of the kingdom; such as had a true change wrought in their hearts, were truly regenerated and converted. By
the tares he meant the children of the wicked one, that is, of the devil; such as did the works of the devil, John 8:44. That
the enemy that sowed these tares was the devil, who by his suggestions, presenting objects, &c., makes himself the father of all wicked men. Our Saviour here saith nothing to that part of the parable, where the tares are said to be sown
while men slept; that was plain and intelligible enough. The devil hath a power to seduce, persuade, and allure, none to force. If particular persons kept their watch, as they might, the devil could not by his temptation force them. If magistrates and ministers kept their watches according to God’s prescription, there could not be so much open wickedness in the world as there is. Neither doth our Saviour give us any particular explication of that part of the parable, which is Matthew 13:28,29, where the servants say to their master,
Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up. And
he said unto them, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Our Saviour by this teacheth us, that every passage in a parable is not to be fitted by something in the explication. It was not the point that he designed in this parable to instruct them in, how far church officers might or ought to act in purging the church; but only,
1. That in the visible church they must expect it mixture, till the day of judgment.
2. That in that day he would make a perfect separation.
So as those that would from this passage in the parable conclude, that all erroneous and loose persons ought to be tolerated in the church till the day of judgment, forget the common rule in divinity, that parabolical divinity is not argumentative. We can argue from nothing in a parable but from the main scope and tendency of it. However, it is bold arguing from a passage in a parable, expounded by our Saviour himself, when he hath omitted the explication of that passage; nor can any thing be concluded, but that such must not be rooted out as have such a resemblance of wheat from the outward appearance, that they cannot be rooted out without a hazard of a mistake, and a rooting up of the wheat with them. But our Saviour reserves the point of the ministerial duty in purging the church to another more proper time; he here saith, nothing of that, but of his own design to purge it at
the harvest, which he interprets,
the end of the world, that is, the day of judgment. By
the reapers he tells us that he meaneth
and bind them in bundles to burn them: which denotes the power of angels over these persons, the certainty and inevitableness of their ruin, their association together, and their destruction in company with one another; which will be an aggravation of their misery, which is expressed by "burning" with fire; not material, but metaphorical; the wrath of God, which will be a consuming fire, and be everlasting and unquenchable,
But gather the wheat into my barn; meaning the kingdom of heaven, which is as a garner or repository, in which none but wheat is put, and where it is safe, and lies together: so none but righteous, pure, and undefiled persons, are admitted into heaven; and being there, they are safe, and out of the reach of all enemies; and what adds to their happiness is, that they are together, enjoying all satiety and fulness; and are in Christ's barn, or garner, which he has made, and prepared for their reception. The gathering of them into it designs the introduction of the saints into heaven by angels, as their souls at death, and both souls and bodies, at the last day, when their happiness will be perfect and complete.
Matthew 13:39The enemy that sowed them is the devil,.... He that is designed by the enemy, who sowed the tares in the field among the wheat, is no other than the devil; the enemy of Christ, of mankind in general, of God's elect in particular, and the accuser of the brethren; and his getting of hypocrites and heretics into churches, is no small proof of his implacable enmity to Christ and his interest; and shows what an adversary he is to the peace, comfort, and fruitfulness of the churches of Christ,
The harvest is the end of the world; that which is meant by "the harvest", until which time wheat and tares, good and bad men, under a profession of religion, are to be together, is "the end of the world"; meaning either the day of wrath and vengeance upon the Jewish nation; when those that truly believed in Christ were separated from the rest, and that hypocritical generation of men were utterly destroyed; or else the day of judgment, the great and last day, when the heavens and the earth, and all that is therein, shall be burnt up; when the righteous will enter into life, and the wicked go into everlasting punishment:
and the reapers are the angels; the persons signified by "the reapers", who shall put in the sickle, cut down the tares, bind them in bundles, and cast them into the fire, and who shall gather the wheat into the barn; that is, who shall be the executors of God's wrath, upon wicked professors of religion, and who shall be the means of introducing the saints into the heavenly kingdom, are "the angels"; the holy and elect angels, who are the ministers of Christ, and ministering servants to them, who are the heirs of salvation; and are opposite to all secret and open enemies of Christ and his people; and will be employed in the end of time, against the wicked, and for the righteous.The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 13:39. Συντέλεια τ. αἰῶνος] not found in any of the other Gospels: the close of the (current) age (Matthew 13:22), i.e. of the, pre-Messianic epoch; the great catastrophe that is to accompany the second coming, and which is to introduce the Messianic judgment, 4 Esdr. 7:43; Bertholdt, Christol. p. 39; comp. Matthew 13:40; Matthew 13:49; Matthew 24:3; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 9:26, and see note on Matthew 12:32.
The reapers are angels; see Matthew 24:31; comp. John 15:6.Matthew 13:39. συντέλεια αἰνῶνος, the end of the world; phrase peculiar to this Gospel.—θερισταὶ ἄγγελοι. Weiss thinks this borrowed from Matthew 24:31, and certainly not original. Perhaps not as a dogmatic interpretation, but quite possibly as a poetic suggestion.Matthew 13:39. Συντέλεια—ἄγγελοι, consummation—angels) They form the predicate here, the subject elsewhere.—συντέλεια in Matthew 13:49, is the meeting or combination of the ends (τῶν τελῶν); see 1 Corinthians 10:11.Verse 39. - The enemy that sowed them (ὁ σπείρας); contrast ver. 37 (ὁ σπείρων τὸ καλὸν σπέρμα). Ver. 37 states what is ever true; ver. 39 merely refers back to the enemy spoken of in the parable. Is the devil (Matthew 4:1, note). (For the thought of this and the preceding clause, see John 8:44; 1 John 3:8, 10.) The harvest is the end of the world; literally, as the margin of the Revised Version, the consummation of the age (συντέλεια αἰῶνος); when the present age shall have received its completion, and the more glorious one be ushered in (cf. Matthew 12:32, note). And the reapers are the angels; are angels (Revised Version). But it is exactly parallel to the preceding predicate, and if the insertion of our English idiomatic "the" fails to lay the stress which the Greek has on the fact that the reapers are such beings as angels (as contrasted with human workers, Matthew 9:37, 38), its omission adds a thought which the Greek was probably not intended to convey - that the reapers would be only some among the angels.
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