Don't be left out of God's kingdom
Matthew 13:47-50 is the seventh of seven consecutive parables offered by the former tax collector who became a follower of Jesus Christ. Matthew loved his king and wrote this gospel to proclaim his kingdom. In the parables, the king speaks for himself and turns simple stories into profound spiritual truths.
The soils and the wheat field pose the question, "Are you in the kingdom of God?" The mustard seed and the leaven ask, "Is the kingdom of God in you?" The hidden treasure and the costly pearl point the way into the kingdom. Then finally, the parable of the dragnet and the sea shows us what happens when the door to the kingdom is finally closed.
Jesus has included in his stories farmers, homemakers, field hands and merchants. Now he uses fishermen. For the citizens of first century Galilee, that about runs the gamut of the entire population. Every human being either comes in to or will be cast out of the kingdom of God.
The sea: an open door to the invisible kingdom of God
When you look out over the sea, you know there are fish in there. You just can't see them. They are invisible to the naked eye. When you look at a picture of earth from outer space, you know there are about eight billion people on the planet. But you can't see them. They are invisible from that far away. If you were to fly over this church sanctuary in an airplane, you would see evidence of people inside, but they would not be visible. Inward realities are often invisible to the human eye.
Spiritual realities are especially invisible. We speak of having Jesus Christ in our hearts, but our savior cannot be seen with an x-ray machine. We speak of the presence of Christ in our corporate worship, but our cross is empty and the faces we see are our own. Surely the king is with us, yet we cannot see him with our human eyes.
So it is with the kingdom of God, at least while the door is still open. There is abundant evidence that the kingdom exists on earth. There are church buildings, shelters, schools and hospitals built by Christians. There are traces of the fruit of our faith and the labor of our love. There are certain people who demonstrate the blessed assurance of salvation in Christ, but only Christ can assuredly see the true members of his kingdom.
Is Billy Graham a believer? I think so. But it is remotely possible that a man like that could fake it for the sake of making money. Was Mother Theresa a Christian? I think so. But it could be possible that she was trusting in good works rather than genuine faith for her salvation. I don't mean in any way to disparage these great souls. My point is the kingdom of God is like the sea. We know there are people in there. We just cannot see exactly who they are.
The invisibility of the kingdom of God is a good thing. It means the door to the kingdom is still open, and you may still come in if you are not already. But one day soon, that door will be slammed shut.
The dragnet: a closed door on the visible kingdom of God
What happens when we take a net and drag a fish out of water? It dies, of course. In this parable, the dragnet is something no one can escape — namely, death. But death is actually an awakening. It awakens us to the presence of angels and brings us face to face with God.
The dragnet is the end of an individual human life. It reminds me of a familiar verse in the New Testament, "It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). "Appointed" means that God himself has measured a time for your death (Job 14:5). In death things that were invisible become visible. You see angels. You see the face of God. You see your own "judgment." In other words, the door to the kingdom of God slams shut. You are either in or out, for all eternity.
The dragnet is the end of the human race, as we now know it. As God has appointed a day for each of us to die, he has also appointed a time when he will send his son back to earth and time as we know it will come to a close. The door to the kingdom of God will come to a close.
Personally, I don't believe in secret raptures and second chances. My bets are on the fact that Jesus came once for salvation and will come the second time for judgment. Angels will appear, the dragnet will catch everyone still alive, and judgment will begin with the "house of the Lord" (1 Peter 4:17). If you survive until that day, and that day may come at any day, you will hear the sound of a door slamming shut, the door to the kingdom of God. You will be either in or out, for all eternity.
In next week's article, we will combine the images of the dragnet and the sea to see the invitation and warning of God.