Mysteries of the Kingdom
By Arlen L. Chitwood
Parable of the Wheat, Tares
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field;
but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.
But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.
So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?”'
He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’
But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” (Matthew 13:24-30)
The parable of the wheat and tares continues with the same subject matter introduced in the previous parable, the parable of the Sower. The central focus in the parable of the Sower was fruit-bearing; and different things were presented which, on the one hand, prevented fruit-bearing (vv. 4-7, 19-22), or, on the other hand, resulted in fruit-bearing (vv. 8, 23).
And the central focus in the parable of the wheat and tares, as well, centers around fruit-bearing (v. 26). But this parable does not cover fruit-bearing from the same broad spectrum seen in the previous parable. Rather, continuing the thought from the previous parable, the parable of the wheat and tares limits itself to one realm. It limits itself to that part of the parable of the Sower that deals with the ones sown into the good ground, who brought forth fruit (cf. vv. 8, 23, 24, 26). Those failing to bring forth fruit in the first three parts of the previous parable cannot be viewed as “good seed” in this parable.
That is to say, all of the “good seed” — “wheat,” “sons of the kingdom” — in the parable of the wheat and tares are seen bringing forth fruit (cf. vv. 24, 26, 37, 38, 40-43). This is simply a continuation and elaboration of the fourth and last part of the previous parable. Then something new is introduced. The parable of the wheat and tares centers around those bearing fruit from the previous parable in order to reveal something additional, something not revealed in the parable of the Sower.
Thus, the parable of the wheat and tares moves a step beyond that which is revealed at the end of the previous parable, the parable of the Sower. This second parable continues with the same thought but then reveals a concentrated attack against those individuals bearing fruit. It reveals the exact method that Satan uses as he goes about seeking to stop that which is occurring.
Satan seeks to prevent fruit-bearing through a number of means (revealed in the first three parts of the parable of the Sower). And, throughout the dispensation he has been successful in his confrontation with the vast majority of Christians. He has succeeded in preventing most from bearing fruit.
But the preceding has not been true of all Christians. Many have been victorious over Satan’s methods and schemes. They have overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. And, as a result, they have brought forth and continue to bring forth fruit. And it is these Christians, the ones bearing fruit, that Satan is seen directing his attack against in the parable of the wheat and tares, seeking to stop that which is occurring.
The Kingdom of the Heavens Is Likened to . . . .
The parable of the wheat and tares and the subsequent five parables begin after a similar fashion: “The kingdom of the heavens is likened [or, ‘is like’] to . . . .” (cf. vv. 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47). This though is in the English translation (KJV). The Greek text, in its wording, reveals Christ sharply distinguishing between the way in which He began the parable of the wheat and tares and the way in which He began each of the remaining five parables.
1) Has Become Like, Is Like
The expression in question, in the English text, reads, “is likened” (KJV) in the second parable and “is like” in the remaining five. Thus, the English text does not show a distinction between the way in which any of the six parables are introduced.
The word translated “likened” or “like” in the Greek text is the same in each instance (homoioo [a verb] or homoios [a noun]). Introducing the parable of the wheat and tares, the verb form of this word is used (homoioo); and introducing the remaining five parables, the noun form of this word is used (homoios), with a verb following. And the structure of the noun and verb in each of these five remaining parables is identical.
Homoioo and homoios are used in the Greek New Testament to show a likeness between different things, or to compare one thing with another. For example, “This is like…” Our English word, “homo” (like), prefixed to numerous English words, comes from the Greek prefix forming these two words. Thus, the words “likened” or “like” in the English translation accurately convey the meaning of homoioo or homoios.
But, moving from the second parable to the remaining five parables, the English text does not properly convey the manner in which these five parables are introduced. The problem lies, not in the meaning of the words (homoioo or homoios), but in the translator’s failure to show the distinction that Christ made when He used these words after entirely different fashions. That is, Christ used the verb form of this word to convey one thing in the parable of the wheat and tares. But continuing with the subsequent parables he used the noun form to convey something quite different.
The verb, homoioo, is used introducing the parable of the wheat and tares after a manner that should be translated, “it has become like.” Accordingly, this parable should begin with the statement, “The kingdom of the heavens has become like . . . .”
But this same translation — “has become like” — should not be repeated in the remaining five parables. Rather, using the noun homoios, with a verb following, the translation, “the kingdom of the heavens is like . . . .” (introducing each of the remaining parables) is probably as accurate as it can be rendered.
But this translation, introducing the last five parables, must be understood in the light of the way in which the whole matter is introduced in the parable of the wheat and tares. That is, this parable opens by revealing, “The kingdom of the heavens has become like . . . .” Moving from the parable of the Sower to the parable of the wheat and tares, the kingdom of the heavens became like; then, the kingdom of the heavens continues like . . . in the remaining five parables.
Thus, in this respect, the opening statement in each of these succeeding parables — “the kingdom of the heavens is like . . . .” — must, contextually, be understood in the sense, the kingdom of the heavens continues like . . . . There is a chronological continuity of thought after this fashion as one moves through these parables, something that must be recognized if the parables are to be properly understood.
2) The Kingdom of the Heavens
“The kingdom of the heavens” is a realm. And, in relation to this earth, the expression would refer simply to “the rule of the heavens over the earth.”
Satan and his angels presently rule from a heavenly sphere over the earth. And this heavenly sphere is that realm in which Christ and His co-heirs will reside during the coming age when they rule from the heavens over the earth, following Satan and his angels being cast out (Revelation 12:4, 7-9; ref. the author’s book, The Most High Ruleth).
Thus, the kingdom of the heavens becoming as described in the parable of the wheat and tares, or continuing as described in the subsequent five parables, cannot be a reference to the realm of the kingdom per se. The realm itself doesn’t change. Only certain things about the kingdom can change (e.g., the message about the kingdom).
The complete parabolic section in Matthew chapter thirteen is introduced and concluded after a similar fashion. And seeing how this is done, the thought inherent in the use of the expression, “the kingdom of the heavens,” in the second through seventh parables can be easily ascertained.
In the parable of the Sower, setting the stage for the remaining parables, “the word of the kingdom” is in view (vv. 19-23). This is a message pertaining to Christian faithfulness during the present dispensation, with a view to occupying positions as co-heirs with Christ in the kingdom of the heavens during the coming age. That is to say, the Word of the Kingdom is a message about the realm presently occupied by Satan and his angels, which Christ and His co-heirs will one day occupy.
Then, concluding all seven parables, Christ stated relative to these parables, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like . . . ” (v. 52). Again, the Word of the Kingdom is in view. The instruction to which Christ referred is instruction in exactly the same thing seen in the introductory parable, the parable of the Sower — i.e., instruction in the Word of the Kingdom.
And exactly the same thing is in view through the use of the expression, “the kingdom of the heavens,” introducing the second through seventh parables. It’s not the realm of the kingdom of the heavens that has become like and continues like that described in these parables. Such would be impossible. Rather, it is the proclamation, offer, and reception or rejection of the kingdom of the heavens (referred to both before and after these six parables) that has become like and continues like that described in the parables.
(The same thing can be seen in the offer of the kingdom to Israel by John, Jesus, and the Twelve. The kingdom of the heavens was “at hand [‘had drawn near’]” [Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 10:7]. The realm itself hadn’t drawn near. The realm remained unchanged. But the prospect of Israel moving into and occupying that realm, based on national repentance, had drawn near [cf. Matthew 6:33; 11:12; 21:43].)
Sons of the Kingdom, Sons of the Devil
Only two types of individuals are seen in the parable of the wheat and tares. They are referred to by the expressions “wheat [or, ‘good seed’]” and “tares” (vv. 24, 25). The wheat, the good seed, are identified as “the sons of the kingdom,” and the tares are identified as “the sons of the wicked one” (v. 38).
The One sowing the good seed is identified as “the Son of Man,” a Messianic title (v. 37; cf. Psalm 8:4; Daniel 7:13, 14; Matthew 16:13-16); and the one sowing the tares is identified as “the enemy,” “the devil,” the incumbent ruler in the kingdom (v. 39).
Everything about this parable has to do with a particular work of God (relative to the kingdom) and with a particular countering work of Satan (also relative to the kingdom). God has placed individuals out in the world, with a view to their bringing forth fruit; and this fruit would, in turn, be in relation to the proffered kingdom. And Satan has placed contrary minded individuals (v. 41) in the midst of those who are bearing fruit, seeking to counter that which is occurring. It is only through this means that Satan would envision any hope at all of retaining his present ruling position.
(The word “tares” is a translation of the Greek word zizanion, which refers to a troublesome sprout appearing in grainfields, resembling wheat, though it is not wheat.)
Now, put all of this together for the complete picture of something that has been occurring throughout the dispensation, which has gone almost completely unrecognized. This parable has to do, not with how Satan seeks to prevent fruit-bearing (that was seen in the first three parts of the previous parable, the parable of the Sower), but with how Satan seeks to stop fruit-bearing — something not seen in the previous parable, or really not seen in the same fashion in any of the subsequent parables.
This parable reveals Satan’s attack against a select group of Christians. It reveals his attack against fruit-bearing Christians. And it is among these Christians that Satan goes about seeking to counter God’s plans and purposes through sowing that which resembles wheat, though it is not wheat.
Satan knows that fruit-bearing is that which God requires of those who are to ascend the throne with His Son in that coming day (cf. Matthew 21:18, 19, 43; Hebrews 6:7-9). And he will, first of all, do everything within his power to prevent Christians from bearing fruit (seen in the first three parts of the parable of the Sower). But, when Christians begin bearing fruit (seen in the fourth part of the parable of the Sower), then he will do everything within his power to stop them from bearing fruit. And it is among the latter group of Christians — those bearing fruit — that Satan is seen sowing counterfeits (in relation to fruit-bearing, individuals producing counterfeit fruit [Matthew 7:15-20]).
1) The Wheat — Sons of the Kingdom
The “good seed” sown by the Lord out in the world are specifically referred to by the expression, “the sons of the kingdom.” And, beyond that, the title used to identify the Sower is “the Son of Man,” a Messianic title.
The significance of their identification as “sons” lies in the fact that Christians are presently “sons of God” awaiting the adoption in one respect, but “children of God” with a view to sonship in another respect.
Note how Paul dealt with this matter in Romans 8:14-23:
For as many as are led [lit., ‘are being led’] by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. . . .
. . . even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (vv. 14-17, 23b)
In this chapter in Romans, as also in Galatians chapters three and four and in Hebrews chapter twelve, reference is made to Christians being “sons” in a present sense, preceding the adoption (Romans 8:14, 15; Galatians 3:26; 4:5-7; Hebrews 12:5-8, 16, 17, 23). And these instances would correspond to the way in which the matter is handled in Matthew chapter thirteen.
“Sonship” implies rulership. Only sons can rule in God’s kingdom. But, as will be shown, only firstborn sons can rule within the human realm in God’s kingdom.
All “angels” are sons of God because of their special, individual creation. And angels occupy various positions of delegated power and authority in God’s kingdom (cf. Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7).
“Adam” was a son of God because of a special creative act of God. But Adam’s descendants were not sons of God. Rather, they were sons of the one from whom they descended. They were sons of Adam (Genesis 5:3ff; Luke 3:38).
Thus, Adam, before the fall, being a son of God, was in a position to rule the earth. But the fall resulted in his disqualification. Though he was still a son of God, he, following the fall, was no longer in a position to take the scepter.
And Adam’s descendants were in no position to take the scepter, for two reasons. Not only were they fallen creatures (a position inherited from Adam), but they were not sons of God. Rather, they were sons of Adam, sons of a fallen creature.
Two thousand years later God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees for purposes that had been lost in Adam. Through Abraham’s lineage, God set about to bring forth a separate creation, one that He could adopt as His firstborn son. Redemption would then be provided, allowing a segment of mankind, for the first time since Adam’s fall, to be in a position to rule the earth.
This special creation was performed in the person of Abraham’s grandson, Jacob (Isaiah 43:1); and this special creation was of a nature that would allow it to be passed on through the genes, through Jacob’s twelve sons, resulting in a nation recognized as separate and distinct from all the other nations (thus, the distinction between Jew and Gentile [Numbers 23:8-11]).
Then, once God had a separate nation of this nature — which would be viewed as a son because of the special creation in Jacob — he adopted this nation into a firstborn status (Exodus 4:22, 23), redeemed those comprising this nation (Exodus 12:1ff), and called this nation out of Egypt under Moses to rule at the head of the nations in a land previously covenanted to their forefathers (cf. Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7-12; 15:17, 18; 19:5, 6). That is, a redeemed people, recognized as God’s firstborn son, was being called forth to rule in that part of God’s kingdom that Adam had previously been created to rule.
But coming on down into modern times, Israel is not presently ruling the earth (because of past disobedience); nor is Israel even in a position to rule today. Israel, though still retaining the nation’s position as God’s firstborn son, is presently scattered among the nations, in unbelief. Even the remnant presently in the land is there in unbelief. Thus, Israel, in this state of unbelief (whether in or out of the land), though still God’s firstborn son, is in no position to rule. The nation must first exercise belief. The nation, as seen in Exodus 12, must first be redeemed. They must first apply the blood of the Paschal Lamb (through belief) whom they slew 2,000 years ago.
Then the Church, a separate creation from either Jew or Gentile, is likewise in no position to rule. Though those comprising the Church are new creations (“in Christ” [2 Corinthians 5:17]), can be viewed as sons, and are saved (unlike those comprising the nation of Israel today), they have not been adopted (as the nation of Israel was adopted in past time).
Prior to ascending the throne with Christ, Christians must first be adopted. And this is what Romans chapter eight, Galatians chapters three and four, and Hebrews chapter twelve are about.
Christians are presently Sons, (because of their standing as new creations), awaiting the adoption (their present status); and consequently, although Christians are presently “sons,” they are in no position to rule. Only adopted sons (the Christians’ future standing) can rule. Thus, sonship, portending rulership, is seen in Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews in relation to adoption and inheritance (both future).
The matter can be illustrated quite easily from Romans. The verses leading into Romans 8:14 (the verse presenting Christians as “sons”) deal with Christians either living after the flesh or putting to death the deeds of the flesh. Then verse fourteen deals with individuals being led by the Spirit of God (contextually, individuals under the leadership of the Spirit putting to death the previously mentioned deeds of the flesh), and these individuals are said to be “the sons of God,” with adoption mentioned in connection with sonship in the next verse (v. 15; cf. v. 23). But then the following verse (v. 16) specifically states that Christians are also presently “children of God.”
However, though Christians are presently seen as both ”children” and “sons,” no Christian is presently seen as a firstborn son. That standing awaits a future time, a time following the adoption.
Contextually, Romans 8:14-16 should be understood in the light of Hebrews 12:5-8, where Christians are seen undergoing child-training as sons (seen as children of God who are being child-trained as sons of God), with a view to adoption into a firstborn status (vv. 16, 17, 23). Thus, Romans 8:14-16 would have to be understood in the sense of Christians presently being led by the Spirit of God (undergoing child-training as sons), who will be manifested as firstborn sons in that coming day following the adoption, occupying positions as joint-heirs with Christ in His kingdom (vv. 17, 19).
That is the subject of the whole passage. And exactly the same thing can be seen through the use of the expression, “sons of the kingdom,” in Matthew 13:38, for that is the subject of the whole passage there as well.
(For additional information on the preceding, refer to the author’s book, God’s Firstborn Sons, chapter 3, pp. 25-33.)
The “sons of the kingdom” in Matthew 13:38 are the good seeds, the ones bringing forth fruit. They, as the ones in Romans 8:14 (actually, the “sons” both places are the same), are the ones who will be manifested as “the sons of God,” in the kingdom, in that coming day (Romans 8:19).
Though all Christians can presently be viewed as sons because of creation, not all Christians are being referred to in Matthew 13:38 by the expression, “sons of the kingdom.” Nor are all Christians being referred to in Romans 8:14 by the expression “sons of God.” The specific reference in Matthew is to those Christians bringing forth fruit, and the specific reference in Romans is to those Christians following the leadership of the Spirit.
And, again, the two are the same. Fruit-bearing cannot be realized apart from following the leadership of the Spirit; and following the leadership of the Spirit will invariably result in fruit-bearing.
It is the Son of Man who sows Christians out in the world, with a view to fruit-bearing, which is with a view to the kingdom. Everything points ahead to the kingdom — the Son of Man (the Sower, described through the use of a Messianic title), the sons of the kingdom (those sown, described through the use of an expression portending rulership), and fruit-bearing (a bringing forth, with a view to the kingdom).
2) The Tares — Sons of the Wicked One
The “tares” though present the other side of the picture. As previously shown, the tares present Satan’s efforts to stop fruit-bearing, to put a stop to that presently occurring, in the various places where it is occurring.
And, as also previously shown, Satan is seen carrying on his activities on two fronts: (1) He is seen seeking to prevent Christians from bringing forth fruit (described in the first three parts of the parable of the Sower), and (2) he is seen seeking to stop Christians from bringing forth fruit (described in the parable of the tares, forming a commentary on the fourth part of the parable of the Sower).
If Satan can prevent Christians from bringing forth fruit, the matter will be settled at that point, and a continued work will be unnecessary. But, if he can’t prevent Christians from bringing forth fruit, then he has to stop them.
It is here that he is revealed sowing tares. He sows them right in the midst of Christians bearing fruit, and this is done with one goal in mind. It is done in an effort to stop, through any means possible, Christians who are bearing fruit from continuing to bear fruit.
a) Identity of the Tares
Exactly who are those whom Satan sows among fruit-bearing Christians in an effort to stop them from bearing fruit? The answer is easy to ascertain.
These parables were given by Christ at His first coming, at a time when the kingdom of the heavens was being offered to the nation of Israel; but these parables had to do with events beyond that time, occurring during a time when the kingdom of the heavens would be offered to a separate and distinct entity, the one new man “in Christ.” And, whether during that time when the kingdom was offered to Israel, or during that time when the kingdom would be offered to the one new man “in Christ,” any realization of the offer was contingent on one thing — fruit-bearing (Matthew 21:18, 19, 43).
Israel failed to bring forth fruit. And note who was responsible for the nation’s failure in this realm. It was the religious leaders of that day, mainly the Scribes and Pharisees, seated “in Moses’ seat,” who controlled the religious life of the nation (Matthew 23:2).
They were the ones who followed Christ about the country seeking, at every turn, to speak out against the Messenger and His message. They were the ones directly responsible for the nation’s rejection of the King and kingdom. They had “shut up the kingdom of the heavens against men [‘in the presence of men’]” (Matthew 23:13). And for this reason they experienced a rebuke and condemnation at Christ’s hands unlike that experienced by any other religious group in Israel (vv. 14ff).
Bringing this over into Christendom, whom would Satan use during the present dispensation to either prevent or stop fruit-bearing relative to the kingdom? In the light of the past offer to Israel, there is only one possible answer. It would have to be the same as that seen in Israel when the same offer was open to the nation almost 2,000 years ago.
It was Jewish religious leaders then, and the counterpart would have to be Christian religious leaders today. Those outside the nation — the unregenerate world — had nothing to do with the matter then; nor can those outside the Church — the unregenerate world — have anything to do with the matter today. It was those within that Satan used in Israel in the past, and it is those within that he uses in the Church today (cf. Matthew 15:1ff; 16:1ff; Acts 20:29, 30).
But how could Christians be identified by the expression, “sons of the wicked one” (Matthew 13:38)? Note several references in Scripture relative to Israelites acting in similar capacities and the answer will become apparent.
In John chapter eight, Jews who had believed on Christ (v. 31), who were acknowledged by Christ to be “Abraham’s seed” (v. 37), were also said, because of their works, to be of their “father the devil” (vv. 39-44).
In Matthew chapter sixteen, Peter, because he stated relative to Christ’s sufferings, death, and resurrection on the third day, “Lord; this shall not happen to You!,” was associated directly with Satan. Jesus said to Peter — not to Satan, but to Peter — “Get behind me, Satan” (vv. 21-23; cf. John 6:70).
Then in Matthew 23:15, the Scribes and Pharisees — those having “shut up the kingdom of the heavens” (v. 13) — were said to have made a proselyte “twofold more the child of hell [lit., ‘twofold more a son of Gehenna’]” than themselves. Their sonship, because of that which they had done, was associated with Gehenna (the place of refuse) rather than with the kingdom.
With all these things in mind — seeing a counterpart in Israel to that which is existing in Christendom — viewing the expression, “sons of the wicked one” in Matthew 13:38 as a reference to the saved, not the unsaved, would, contextually, be the only natural way in which the matter could be viewed. And, that this is the correct way to view this part of the parable can be shown through other means as well.
Seeing the tares, the sons of the wicked one, as those within the Church, not without, is in complete accord with all facets of the matter. It is in complete accord with the history of the offer to Israel, it is in complete accord with (and the only thing that can possibly adequately explain) that which can easily be seen occurring throughout Christendom today, and it is in complete accord with that which can be seen when one moves on into the third and fourth parables in Matthew chapter thirteen.
Then there is one other thing that will preclude viewing the matter after any other fashion. That which the text reveals about God’s future dealings with the wheat and tares should resolve all doubts that anyone might have concerning their identity.
b) Judgment of the Wheat and Tares
Both the wheat and tares are seen being judged and subsequently dealt with at the same time and place. And the Lord’s dealings with both after this fashion is with a view to entrance into or exclusion from the kingdom.
All those represented by the wheat are gathered into the barn. But the matter is quite different for those represented by the tares. They are seen being gathered and burned (vv. 30, 40-43).
But note something, and note it well. Eternal verities are not being dealt with in this parable. Rather, the subject is fruit-bearing, with a view to the kingdom.
Everything stated about the Lord’s dealings with those represented by the wheat and tares is in perfect accord with Scripture elsewhere relating to both the judgment seat of Christ and that which will emanate out of issues and determinations at this judgment (cf. Matthew 24:45-51; 25:19ff; John 15:1-6; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; Hebrews 6:7-9).
And dealings by the Lord of this nature would be completely out of line with any thought that the tares represent unregenerate individuals. Scripture never presents a judgment of the saved and unsaved at the same time and place; nor does Scripture ever present the unsaved being dealt with after the fashion seen here — relative to fruit-bearing, with a view to the kingdom.
c) Leave Them Alone
Then there is one other thing that needs to be considered about those whom Satan has sown in the midst of fruitful Christians, seeking to stop them from bearing fruit. And the importance of following Christ’s instructions in this respect cannot be overemphasized.
What is to be the fruitful Christian’s attitude toward those whom Satan has placed in their midst, to stop them from bearing fruit? What are fruitful Christians to do about antagonism toward their fruitfulness and the reason why fruit is being borne? The question is asked and answered in verses twenty-eight through thirty of the parable.
Do you want us then to go and gather them [the tares] up?
But he [Christ] said, “No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.
Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers [angels (v. 41)], ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:28-30)
Those standing in the way of one’s interest in having a part with Christ in His kingdom are to be dealt with after only one fashion.
They are to be left ALONE! “Leave them ALONE!” (Matthew 15:14). Simply IGNORE them, CONTINUE doing that which the Lord has called you to do, and let the Lord take care of the matter in His own way and time.