Presently, I am looking at the parables of Jesus, with a special interest to their eschatology, whenever Jesus pointed to it. Lately, I have been considering what some call the Parable of the Final Judgment (Matthew 25:31 and following). The context begins with the ‘Son of Man’ coming in his glory, together with all the angels, at which time he will sit on the throne of his glory. All nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them as a shepherd would his sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-32).
An interesting parallel could be drawn from Jesus’ Parable of the Tares in Matthew 13. There the sower went forth and planted his seed in a field, but an enemy came later and planted tares among the good seed. When the man’s servants saw the tares mixed in with the good seed, they asked their master if they should remove them. The master told them to wait until the harvest, lest they pull up the good seed along with the tares. However, when the time of the harvest arrived, they were to gather first the tares and burn them, but the wheat was to be brought into his barn (Matthew 13:24-30).
Jesus later explained the parable, saying, the sower was the Son of Man, the wheat were the children of the Kingdom, the tares were the children of the evil one, and the reapers were the angels. The time of the harvest was the end of the age, and at that time the angels would be sent out by the Son of man to gather all that offend out of his Kingdom and burn them with fire, but the righteous, by implication the good seed, would shine forth like the sun in the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 13:36-43).
It isn’t at all difficult to see the judgment motif in Jesus’ Parable of the Tares and the parallel that poses for Matthew 25:31 and following:
|Matthew 13 & Matthew 25|
|Matthew 13:36-43 Parable of the Tares||Matthew 25:31-46 – Final Judgment|
|Son of Man comes at the end of the age||Son of Man comes in glory|
|Angels are sent to gather the harvest||Angels come with the Son of Man|
|Angels separate the wicked from the righteous||The sheep are separated from the goats|
|The wicked are burned in a fire||The goats are cast into an everlasting fire|
|The righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom||The sheep inherit the Kingdom|
The point in all of this is this. Jesus told the Apostles that the ‘harvest’ in the Parable of the Tares was the end of the age. What age might that be? It was the age in which Jesus lived. He was born under the Law (Galatians 4:4). Therefore, it was the Age of Moses or the Old Covenant age, and it, according to the Parable of the Tares, was coming to an end (see also Hebrews 8:13). The Lord was bringing it to an end in order to establish the New Covenant (Hebrews 10:9). So, in bringing it to a close, settlements were made necessary, hence the judgment—separating the wheat from the tares, sheep from the goats etc., and rewarding all according to their works.
Another point that is necessary to bring out would be Jesus saying the “righteous would shine forth as the sun” (Matthew 13:43). Jesus was drawing from Daniel 12:3 where it is said that the wise “shine as the brightness of the firmament.” Daniel is told that this is also the time of trouble, like no other in Israel’s history (Daniel 12:1). It would be when their power was completely shattered (Daniel 12:7). The power of Israel has always been her covenantal relationship with God. When that was out of sync, they had trouble. Their fields were no longer blessed; they were defeated in battle; they were plagued with all kinds of troubles. Imagine what that would look like, if their covenantal relationship with God ended, if the covenant was no more (cf. Hebrews 8:13; 10:9).
That is exactly what occurred in 70 AD when Jesus came to judge Jerusalem and the Temple (Matthew 26:64) with all his angels. He sat on the throne of his glory (Matthew 25:31) judging the wicked and vindicating the righteous (Matthew 25:32-46). There was no other time like it in history. To say that all this is in the future, denies the work of Christ in bringing the Old Covenant to an end. Remember, if the Old Covenant hasn’t ended, then New Covenant hasn’t been firmly established with the Church. Does that make sense. It doesn’t to me. Therefore, I believe that Jesus has come, just as he claimed he would, namely, in judgment of that wicked generation that rejected him (Matthew 23:36; 24:34)