Lately, I’ve been involved in a study of the eschatology of Jesus’ parables, and in my most recent study I mentioned the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30), which is explained in verses 36-43. In this study I wish to continue where I left off in that one. What we have is the wheat (believers) growing alongside of the tares (unbelievers) until the harvest. At that time the tares are gathered first and burned in a fire, and Jesus says, “so will it be at the end of this age” (Matthew 13:40; emphasis mine).
In what age did Jesus live? The scriptures tell us that when the time was full (or in the fullness of time), Jesus was born of a woman and born under the Law (Galatians 4:4). That is, if we take Matthew 13:40 into consideration at this point, we could say ‘when the age was full of years, Jesus was born etc.’ So, again I ask: “in what age did Jesus live?” Well, again, taking Galatians 4:4 into consideration Jesus was born under the Old Covenant—the age of Law. Isn’t that a logical assumption taking both Matthew 13:40 and Galatians 4:4 into consideration?
Therefore, if we are going to properly interpret the Parable of the Tares, the time of the harvest would occur at the end of the Old Covenant age. This is when the tares (unbelievers) would be gathered and burned in the fire, and the wheat (believers) would be placed in the storehouse of the Lord. The problem is, futurists take this completely out of its context and say the time of the harvest is at the end of the world or the end of the Christian age. How does that fit the context of this parable, if Jesus didn’t live in the Christian age? According to Galatians 4:4, he lived in the age of the Old Covenant, and that age was filled up, ready to end (cf. Hebrews 8:13).
Moreover, Hebrews 8:13 puts forth two ages: the New Covenant age and the Old Covenant age. This scripture tells us that the Old Covenant age was about to vanish away. It says absolutely nothing of the New Covenant age ever ending. This also agrees with Daniel 2:44, which claims that in the days of the fourth kingdom (i.e. the Roman Empire) a Kingdom would be set up that would never end. What would a never-ending Kingdom look like, if that Kingdom had an end (viz. the end of the Gospel age—New Covenant age—Kingdom age)?
Consider for a moment how the ministry of John the Baptist is in perfect harmony with the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. John came preaching the Kingdom of God was at hand (Matthew 3:2), but when many of the Jewish authorities began coming to his baptism, John cried out, asking them how they were warned to flee from the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7). So, the Kingdom of God was at hand in John’s day, but so was a coming wrath. John continued, saying the axe is already laid upon the root of the tree, and the tree that doesn’t bear good fruit would be cut down and cast into the fire (Matthew 3:8). Then John mentioned the Messiah, saying his winnowing fork was at that very time in his hand (Matthew 3:12). The winnowing fork is a harvest tool. It separates the good grain from the chaff. The grain (believers) is gathered in his barn and the chaff (unbelievers) is burned in the fire! John’s language points to a harvest, just as Jesus’ does in Matthew 13 in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. Both John and Jesus mention the separation of what is good from that which is not good. What is not good is burned up, but what is good is saved. This, of course, occurs at the end of the age.
We have this same motif in Revelation 14:14-20. The Son of Man is coming on a cloud and has a sickle in his hand (Revelation 14:14). He is told the time of the harvest has come and to begin reaping (verses 15-16). An angel then comes out of the Temple in heaven and says the clusters of the vine are ripe and they must be reaped as well, but they are cast into the winepress of the wrath of God, and blood (viz. death) comes out of the winepress (verses 17-20). Thus, in this picture the elect are saved, but the Jewish nation (the vine) is destroyed.
Everything here, whether it is John the Baptist of Matthew 3, or the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares of Matthew 13, or the harvest of Revelation 14, everything points to 70 AD, when Jesus came in the clouds (viz. Matthew 26:64), as he promised to do, and judged Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple in the person of the Roman armies. The disciples were saved out of that judgment, given a place of safety in the Lord’s storehouse, but the unbelieving Jews who persecuted the elect where either killed or taken into captivity by the Romans. Thus, the Old Covenant age, the age in which Jesus lived, came to an abrupt end!