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Eternity 120 - The Wheat And The Tares And The Kingdom of Heaven

(Matthew 13:24-30 NKJV) Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; {25} "but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. {26} "But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. {27} "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?' {28} "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?' {29} "But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. {30} '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."'

The difference between "the kingdom of Heaven" and "Heaven" is well illustrated here. The kingdom of heaven is subject to enemies and to demonic infiltration, whereas Heaven itself would oust such intruders in a moment. The Kingdom of Heaven is meant to be occupied by true believers, all sincere and obedient followers of Jesus Christ. But the Devil is too smart to allow such a perfect community to exist. He sowed Judas among the Twelve, put lies in the heart of Annanias and Sapphira and has infiltrated the church with false apostles, false teachers, and false brethren.

When do theses tares get sown into the Kingdom? When we are at ease, and without alertness. The parable simply says the deed was done "while men slept". Churches can become sleepy and dull, unguarded and naive and their doctrines can be altered almost imperceptibly. Churches that are vigorous and biblical, that are awake to Satan's schemes and which insist on members being truly born-again are in little danger of being full of tares.

Perhaps the greatest sowing of tares happened in the centuries following 313 AD when Constantine was converted and the church was legitimized, persecution ceased and the cost of being a Christian was low indeed. Evil men paid no price for their place in the kingdom of heaven and they flocked to its status bringing many pagan practices and wrong beliefs. Satan also sows tares at critical points in church growth and history - following or in the midst of revivals and in key areas of influence on doctrine and practice. This very successful strategy has often brought great weakness to the Church - sometimes for centuries.

Why then, wondered the servants/angels, are not these impostors immediately removed by God? "The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?". Looking at the huge horror patches in Church History we can only agree with the angels! Why has God not dealt more harshly with false teachers? After all "their doom is sure" (see Jude and 2 Peter). The answer is that the process of removal is so traumatic that it will utterly destablise and uproot the faith of some saints. For a single precious, eternal saint to be lost, or destroyed in their faith, is so abhorrent to God, that He will put up with a thousand heretics.

But notice God's removal strategy "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them,". The bundling up of the tares means that the tares will clump together and associate in distinct groups prior to the day of judgment. This will give rise to the "bundles of heretics" which we call cults. It is my opinion that the current rash of cult activity may very well be partly the work of the angels, bundling together the tares as the first step to the purifying fire of the last days.

If this is so then we are close to the "time of harvest" and eventually God will gather the wheat into His barn, and form the perfect, pure and unsullied Christian community, free from false beliefs and practice. Until then we will have imperfect churches, sometimes with large numbers of tares within them. And when we do find a good church we need to keep it that way, aware that Satan is utterly opposed to a fully functioning, holy, loving, merciful and doctrinally pure Christian community. On the other hand we need to be kind and careful in our weeding out of the tares, brutal Inquisitions do more harm than good. We must just encourage the tares to leave and form their own "bundles".

Paul says such divisions are an unfortunate necessity: (1 Corinthians 11:19 NKJV) For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you." And the apostle John talks about these defections: (1 John 2:18-20 NKJV) Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. {19} They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. {20} But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.

One thing that the parable may be saying is that despite the surface similarity there is a deep genetic difference between wheat and tares. Tares simply cannot be converted into wheat. They are not changed, they do not repent, they are burned. This is especially true of the leaders - the false apostles, false prophets and false teachers. The overwhelming impression in the New Testament is that false prophets are irredeemable sons of perdition - and utterly doomed and that their followers can only be saved "as through fire". (2 Peter 2:1-3 NKJV) But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. {2} And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. {3} By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

The only cult I know that has come back on track is the World-Wide Church of God where the whole leadership realised they were wrong and changed course. Its adherence to the Scriptures gradually brought this group back on track. This intractability of the cults, and the deep and wilful perversity that runs through them makes them difficult to evangelize and there are very few conversions from cults to Christ. Also exiting a cult is traumatic, and few make it out with an intact faith. But there are some - such as Augustine, who was converted from the Manichees to Christ and later became the bishop of Hippo in North Africa. His secret? Monica, his mother was a woman of prayer and spiritual warfare.