Lesson One – Judgment Belongs to God

Judgment Belongs to God

Lesson Aim:  To show that God has not given the church the wisdom or the responsibility to eliminate evil.

Scripture:  Matthew 13:24-30, 36-39.

Historical analysis for reading the parable.

Place:  Probably the Sea of Galilee, Matt. 13:1; Mark 4:1, 2.

Occasion:  Jesus was teaching the kingdom on a Galilean tour with His disciples. Luke 8:1-4.

Matthew recorded how Jesus taught these parables from a boat because the audience was so large.

Time:  It was after Jesus had chosen the Twelve and organized His evangelism team.  At the time He gave this parable Jesus was well known throughout Israel and large crowds were following Him.  Matt. 13:1, 2.

Audience:  The crowds consisted of the common population of Galilee and others; however, Jesus’ disciples appear to have been His audience by choice.  Matt. 13:16, 17.  Jesus gave the Twelve special tutoring for three years.

Aim:  Jesus explained to His disciples why He taught in parables.  His aim was to teach those who were true learners (disciples) the secrets of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:10).  For all others please read Matt. 13:11-17.


Jesus gave us this parable and others to help us understand our Judgment Day (Matt. 13:47-50).  Christians need a divine paradigm of this event that will happen after Jesus returns for God’s children (Heb. 9:27, 28; Rev. 19:1-22:17).  We use our paradigms to perceive, understand and explain reality.  One reason Jesus gave us a clear view of His return and Judgment Day is because the “last days” of time have already come.  Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled about the “pouring out” of the Holy Spirit in the last days (Acts 2:17-21).  The Holy Spirit did come upon Peter and others.  Later Peter referred to the event on the first Pentecost after Jesus returned to heaven as the beginning of the last days – the beginning of the end (Acts 2:1-4; 11:15).

The “end time” has already come and Christians are just waiting for Jesus’ return.  He wants us to use His eschatological paradigm to perceive, understand and explain the age in which we live and our Judgment to follow.  End, or last times, is translated from the Greek word, eschatos (I Pet. 1:20).  Eschatology is a study of the last hour (Gr. hora) and things beyond.  The “last horah” is our present divine reality.  It is a Christian’s paradigm of the calendar we have hanging on our walls (Rom. 13:11, 12).  Jesus is not coming to usher in some more days but to consummate, or make perfect, the “last days.”

Jesus’ presentation of Judgment Day is not to satisfy our curiosity but to help us live the Christian life.  Christians who do not have a divine paradigm of Judgment will have some serious faith problems.  Faith demands a focal point for each of our hopes (Heb. 11:1).  Judgment is a day of rewards for faithful Christians; therefore, our inheritance must be clearly understood for it to be a significant hope in the definition of our faith.

A clear perception of Judgment Day will also help us improve our relationships with our brethren in the church, our families and people in the world.  People in the world feel free to judge other people.  Christians are told to use our time and energy for more urgent matters (I Cor. 4:3, 4; James 4:12).  God will take care of the people who need to be “straightened out” and disciplined when the time comes (Rom. 12: 17-21).  God’s standard of righteousness is required for judging the complexities of human life (Rom. 3:4-6).  Our attempt to adopt the role as judge of others is probably a sign of our own internal problems and will cause the ones we judge to judge us.  Finally, our relationship with those we judge will be spoiled (Matt. 7:1-5).


The parable Jesus’ disciples called “the parable of the tares of the field” will be one of the easier parables to understand because Jesus explained it for us.  However, we need to take note of where Jesus stopped explaining His parable and, perhaps, made another point.  The parable of the tares is given in Matthew 13:24-30.  His explanation starts in verse 37 and ends in verse 40.  In verses 41-43 it appears Jesus used the point made in the parable to teach another lesson.  More will be said about this hypothesis.

From the parable we learn how the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the evil one both occupy the world sphere.  The situation will continue in this manner until the revealing of Jesus Christ (revelation, Greek, apokalupsis – Rev. 1:1; I Pet. 1:7; Matt. 10:26).  This will be the consummation of all things pertaining to this present cosmos – the last days (II Pet. 3:3, 10).  At this point, the forces of heaven will make a decisive separation.  The sons of the evil one will be gathered and burned.  Jesus did not elaborate in the parable about what He meant by “burn them up;” however, beginning in verse 40, He revealed God’s horrible “end program” for all children of the devil.

Note Jesus said, “just as” the sons of the evil one will be gathered in a separate place from the sons of the kingdom there will be another activity.  Two thoughts about Jesus’ usage of “just as” will be developed for our consideration.  The question is, did Jesus make an additional point in verses 41-43 or was He elaborating on the parable?  If the latter is true then we would understand Jesus’ parable and His explanation in the following manner:

All the people in the world are the field where both Jesus and the devil are “sowing seed.”  This field is Jesus’ kingdom out of which, at the last hour, He will send angels to gather all stumbling blocks and those who commit lawlessness.  These people are the weeds and they will be cast into the furnace of fire.  They will not be burned up, literally, because there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Jesus said their punishment would be eternal because their “worm” will not die and the fire will not be quenched (Mark 9:47, 48; Matt. 25:46).  After this event the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  Please see the Scripture text.

Now let us contemplate the possibility that Jesus did make an additional point in verses 41-43.  The remainder of this lesson will be developed with this hypothesis in mind.  All Bible teachers teach our hypothesis.  It is what we think the text meant to the original audience and what it means to us.  A good teacher will be willing to adjust or even, if necessary, abandon his or her hypothesis.

This approach is also the process by which students learn the word of God.  We read it and we try to understand what it meant in the original context (exegesis).  If we are able to develop a hypothesis about what the text meant we are in a position to think about and develop our hypothesis about what it means to us today (hermeneutics).  Unfortunately, many people do not consider the principles of Biblical interpretation to be important for their Bible study; therefore, they try to understand the meaning without first learning what the Scripture meant.  Worse yet in many cases they “just ask the preacher.”  This is how doctrines that were never taught in God’s word are repeated century after century.  Even then most of us would agree that a Scripture “can never mean what it never meant.”  Our hypothesis about the Day of our Judgment will be worth the time spent to apply good Biblical interpretation principles for its development.  Also, let us be proactive in our approach; that is, let us develop our own hypothesis based on our own study.  It will be our own personal Judgment Day.

At this point we may want to read the Scripture in our text again and think about what Jesus meant when He said, “Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.”  Matt. 13:40.  Assuming Jesus gave His interpretation of His parable and then used this information to teach another lesson to the disciples, the Scripture text would be understood according to the following hypothesis:

We understand from the parable that Jesus is sowing the word of God in the minds and hearts of some people in the world.  The devil is also sowing lies in the minds of all those whom Jesus does not implant the good seed.  The result of this planting will be two groups of people in the world, the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the evil one.  The foregoing may have already been understood by the disciples so relating this information was not the purpose of the parable.

The aim of the parable is that Christians do not have a commission from God to eliminate evil people.  In the parable a practical reason was given for not removing the weeds before the harvest – “you may root up the wheat with them.”  V. 29.  We have seen, and are seeing, the result when religious people decide to cleanse the world of evil.  Jesus ends the story with a fitting end.  The harvesters will burn the tares and store the wheat into the land owner’s barn.  This would be the end of Jesus’ story in the parable and His explanation.

In verse forty Jesus said “just as” the people of the world culture will be judged and cast into hell “so shall it be at the end of the age.”  In verses forty-one through forty-three He explains how a similar judgment and separation will happen at the “end of the age.”  Jesus’ kingdom is the subject of discussion; therefore, the church is being judged.  Jesus gave the following commission to the Pharisee, Saul, who became the Apostle Paul.

To open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.   Acts 26:18

The concept of the church of God in Christ can only be understood in the context of the foregoing Scripture.  Also see I Thess. 2:13-15.  We were in the world realm and we were called by the gospel.  Those who developed faith in what we heard were empowered by our faith to repent, that is accept God’s new covenant (Heb. 8:10-12).  We completed the process of our new birth by dying with Jesus in the waters of baptism and we were made alive with Jesus “in Christ.”  See Romans 6:1-11.  We are the “called out,” or church (Greek ekklesia, a combination of two words, ek – “out of” and kaleo – “to call”).  The word “church” demands the presence of two realms.  They are the dominion of Satan (darkness) and the dominion of God (light).  The purpose of the foregoing has been given to show that when Jesus spoke about the judgment of His kingdom at the end of the age, He was speaking of the church He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

The “in Christ” realm is where Jesus maintains His kingdom.  It is the sphere of His rule.  It is the great spiritual hospital for the sick church of Christ.  It is where God’s fruit from this world is being grown or developed by Christians’ spiritual growth (Rom. 8:28-30).  In our repentance we accepted the new covenant.  The forgiveness of our sins frees us so we can begin to heal.  One part of the covenant is for our forgiveness of sins (Heb. 8:12).  As long as we keep faith in the new covenant, our inheritance and the blessings in Christ, we will continue to be justified so we can have peace with God and heal (Rom. 4:25-5:4).  A Christian’s healing is synonymous with our spiritual growth from the stand point that Jesus presented children as an example of kingdom life (Matt. 18:2-4).  In some areas of our lives we may need to get back to where we were when we were children, for instance, no guile.

Peace with God is the result of the grace doctrine of justification by faith.  Neither peace nor grace is the program of God for salvation of the soul of a Christian.  The grace of our new birth and being justified were necessary to give us peace so we can “get well” spiritually.  We open our cleansed hearts and minds and let God impress His laws of life.  This is also a part of Jesus’ covenant.  James spoke of the “word implanted.”  James 1:21.  This is the way Christ is formed in us because we comprehend the law of life from His life.  See Gal. 4:19.  Spiritual growth, or sanctification, is the key to our salvation after we have peace with God because of His grace in Jesus Christ.  Albeit, we will never “get completely well” because Jesus Christ, Himself, is what “well” means in the culture of the kingdom of God.  We will keep improving and the grace of our inheritance will take care of what is lacking when Jesus comes.  See I Pet. 5:10.

At the end of time there will be a gathering out of Jesus’ kingdom “all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness.” v. 41.  This will not happen because they did not get well, it will happen because they broke the covenant they accepted in their repentance before baptism.  Of course, they broke the covenant because they lost faith in God who gave the covenant to us through Christ Jesus (I Tim. 2:5).

The Apostle Peter revealed the two groups of people Jesus spoke of in our text.  Peter said, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”  I Peter 4:17.  Just as the “sons of the evil one” will burn, Jesus will also cast some members of the church “into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  v. 42.  Peter admonished Christians to do our own personal judgment now and keep faith in the covenant in order to avoid being removed from Jesus’ kingdom when He returns.  We can have a divine paradigm of our judgment from the Word before that Day.  See Acts 17:31 and John 12:48.

      When Jesus came into the world the first time, He did not come to judge.  He came to teach and save (Luke 19:10).  Christians are in the same business and we do not need to waste our time and energy on things Jesus will do when He returns.  See II Thess. 1:6-9.  The world does not need the wrath of Christians now.  The people need our ministry of the gospel.  Even if they do deserve wrath, we are not able to execute it and grow in righteousness.

For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.   James 1:20

Now that we are convinced that we are not the world’s judge, let us consider the church.  Perhaps, we have some responsibility to judge our brothers and sisters.  Yes, there are times when the members of the Lord’s church must make some “judgmental calls.”

For what have I to do with judging outsiders?  Do you not judge those who are within the church?   I Cor. 5:12

This comes under the study of church discipline and we will not give place for it here.  Let it suffice to say that this type judgment involves situations where there are evident acts of immorality and the proclamations of false teachers.  See Rom. 16:17-19; II Thess. 3:11-15; Titus 3:9-11; II John 7-11.

The general rule is better illustrated in the parable in Matthew 13:47-50.  When we offer God’s new covenant to the world many will accept.  It will be like the dragnet in the sea where all types of fish were caught.  This is true of the kingdom just as we learned in the parable of the sower; however, Christians do not have the responsibility or wisdom to sort out who will, or will not, go to heaven.  The rule for the church is not found in the lesson on discipline, even though it may be necessary.  The general rule is:

Therefore let us not judge one another any more, but rather determine this – not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.   Rom. 14:13

After Jesus comes and removes those from His kingdom who did not keep the covenant, “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”  v. 43.  Today, Christians are the people who have been transferred to the kingdom of God.  Some religious people like to talk about “once in grace always in grace.”  Others like to think if they attend the scheduled worship services and keep asking for the forgiveness of their sins they have salvation.

The Apostle Peter presented a totally different paradigm about the salvation of our souls.  First he gave a spiritual growth exercise and then he spoke about making our “calling and election sure” in order to have our entrance into God’s eternal kingdom.  See II Pet. 1:10-12.  The Apostle Paul broadened our paradigm of the end time.  He suggested that the judged church of Christ will be the kingdom of sons Jesus will be turning back to God.  Jesus will relinquish His power and God will then be all and all (I Cor. 15:24-28).  Those of us who are found faithful will inherit the eternal kingdom (Rev. 21:7).

Questions for Discussion

  1. How will a good view of Judgment Day help Christians now?
  2. Why should the parable of the tares be easy to understand?
  3. What is the main point of the parable of the tares?
  4. How are the two main groups of people identified in Jesus’ parable?
  5. In verse 40, what did Jesus mean by “just as?”
  6. In verses 40-43, identify the people who are undergoing a separation from Jesus’ kingdom?
  7. What are some of the reasons Christians have not been given the responsibility for eliminating evil?
  8. What responsibility do Christians have toward the world?
  9. When and where must Christians be concerned about evil people?
  10. What is the main point of the parable in Matthew 13:36-39?

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