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by Sam Frost
I am beginning a new study in the Parables of Jesus, for I believe that they most clearly offer to us the basis of preterism. This is the beginning of what will be a three part series.
First off, we must define a “parable.” Etymologically, it is made up of two Greek words, the preposition “para,” which means “alongside of,” and “ballo,” which is a verb meaning, “put, place, throw.” Thus, a parable, also called a similitude, “uses evident truth from a known field (nature or human life) to convey a new truth in an unknown (the kingdom, the nature and action of God)... [they are] more developed similes or metaphors” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, F. Hauck, V, 744-61).
This means that Jesus took ordinary things in life and used them to convey extraordinary truths which those things naturally would not mean. Filling up a car with gas (ordinary) does not naturally mean, ‘we need to be filled up with the Spirit in order to run,” but in the parable, this is the meaning.
This brings us to consider the things Jesus used. He did not use skyscrapers, cars, computers, or examples from American Presidents. He did use things around him in his own day, like “wheat,” “sowing,” “kings,” “servants,” “Samaritans,” “fishing nets,” and the like. These were things all around his setting, and those hearing Jesus in his original audience immediately knew those things, being familiar with them. Thus, the parables were clearly geared towards Jesus* audience.
Having defined the parable, we can begin with Matthew 13:24-30, and the interpretation given in verses 37-43. It is rather fortunate that we have the interpretation given by Jesus himself! This underscores the principle that Scriptures interpret the Scriptures.
This parable is known as the “Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat.” I trust that your Bibles are open to this passage, for I will not quote it at length to save space.
In verse 24, Jesus begins the usual formulation of comparison concerning the “kingdom of the heavens (plural).” Thus, we can see already Hauck*s definition at work. Jesus is taking an ordinary thing (a “field,” “wheat” and “weeds”) to convey an extraordinary truth (“the kingdom of the heavens”).
A man sows seed into his field. This is a common enough picture to this day in Israel. The ground has been tilled, the soil readied, and the seed is sown by scattering it on the ground. But, when everyone was sleeping, the enemy of the man came in and sowed weeds. Imagine this. You have taken the time to sow good seed, and here comes another fellow, your enemy, and purposely sows weeds! Anyone with a bit of a green thumb knows that pulling weeds out of the plant bed is a headache. Naturally, weeds crop up from being blown there as a seed. I can deal with this. But, if someone deliberately sowed as many seeds of weeds as I did wheat, I would be quite put out! Imagine the look of the field with all of those weeds! The work!
The wheat first sprouts, then the weeds begin to appear (verse 26). The servants come to the owner and tell him about the problem, and ask if they can separate the weeds from the wheat. The answer is “no.” Rather, “let both grow together until the harvest.” The harvesters will pull them out, tie them in bundles and burn them. The reason for this is that in pulling the weeds, they could also pull up the wheat.
Jesus, in verses 36-43 interprets this parable in a simple enough fashion. The Son of Man sowed the good seed. The good seed are sons of the kingdom. The weeds are sons of the evil one, the devil, who is the enemy. The harvest is the end of the age. At the end of the age, the sons of the devil will be separated from the sons of the kingdom, who will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
There are many considerations here, as the vocabulary, to any familiar with Matthew would note, that we must explore. We can skip analyzing the Son of Man, since it is quite evident who that is (the phrase, however, has been subjected to a great deal of theological perlustration). The devil is equally clear. The first thing, rather, we want to identify is the children of the devil. Does the Bible employ this term anywhere else?
In John 8:44, Jesus, talking directly to “the Jews who had believed him” (31), but they turned against his teaching (41), then Jesus tells them, “you belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father*s desire.” They charged Jesus with demon possession (52). Strong words.
By the same author, certain Jews were called “the synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 3:9). By association of the wheat (the children of God), these other “children” would have to be in close relationship. Some have considered the “children of the devil” to simply be any and all unbelievers, but we have in Jesus* words a clear identification of who specifically they were. It is an attested fact that both the Jews and the Christians co-existed together.
John, James, James, brother of the Lord, and Peter were all Jewish overseers in Jerusalem for decades, Why? Why did Paul continue to go to Jerusalem? Why did he take money to take back to Jerusalem from his mostly Gentile congregations? Again, in 1 Corinthians 1:10, factions between the “I am of Paul” party and “I am of Peter” party arose. Whatever the source of these two parties, it is agreed that the antagonism between them was rooted in the Jews/Gentiles arguments.
Again, in the great Jerusalem Council (Acts 15), “certain Jews of the Pharisaic party” who were also believers in Messiah, demanded that the Gentiles “be circumcised and obey the customs of Moses in order to be saved” (15:2, 5). Strong words.
Thus, what we have, then, is the children of God, Jews and Gentiles in Christ, and children of the devil, believing Jews who maintained the law over the Gentiles. We might call these the Judaizers, too. They troubled Paul*s churches all throughout the book of Acts.
Okay, Sam, you have shown that they both dwelled together, what*s the point? Well, the point is what Paul said in the context of Gentiles “boasting” over the Jews (Romans 11:18,20). To this, Paul said, “As far as the gospel is concerned they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the Patriarchs” (11:28).
The command to the church was to love their enemies, and pray for those that persecute them. The largest persecution we find in the New Testament is from those rebellious Jews, who appeared, talked, and maintained that they, too, were followers of Christ, but, in the end, preached another gospel. What was the response? Love them. “Let both grow together.”
And so, where Paul saw splits, he healed them, where he saw misperceptions on the part of the Jerusalem Jews, he obliged them (Acts 21:17-26; 1 Corinthians 9:20). Why? Why didn*t Paul say, “To heck with your laws?” Why didn*t Peter, James, and John leave Jerusalem? Why did they stay there so long, observing the law? Because Jesus told them not to separate themselves, but to let both grow together until the harvest, the end of the age.
Scholar, Joachim Jeremias, pointed out that the Greek word for “weed” is zizania, which is the “poisonous darnel.” He goes on to say that the darnel “botanically, is closely related to bearded wheat, and in the early stages of growth is hard to distinguish from it” (Parables of Jesus, 224). The roots of the darnel become intertwined with the roots of the wheat, thus, as is the case in Palestine, the darnel is allowed to grow until the harvest.
There would have been a great danger to the gospel message had the message of “righteousness in Christ by faith apart from works” been separated from “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Paul wanted to show the Gentiles the “root” of their salvation, while at the same time point out to the Jews that God was also saving the Gentiles by faith, thus, weaning them away from traditions to truth. But, this was a slow process. Had the gospel not been preached without separation, the Jews, to whom Christ came to save, would have rejected it outright. The Gentiles, having accepted it, would have rejected the “root” outright. The result would have been disastrous for all involved.
The whole plan of Paul is given in Romans 9-11. The hardness of Israel resulted in the riches of salvation to the Gentiles. Thus, Paul preaches to the Gentiles in order to arouse Israel “and save some of them.” Thus, the message of the Gospel came first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles, in order to save more Jews before the “end of the age.” So, Paul*s whole ministry was rooted in one thing, “all Israel will be saved.” Both the Jews under the law, and the Gentiles “having not the law”, must dwell together until the end.
Now, we must ask, “when is the end of the age?” It is equated with the “harvest.” Matthew recorded Jesus as saying in his day, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into the harvest field” (9:37, 38).
Then Jesus sent out the Twelve. In John 4.35-38, Jesus said, “I tell you open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life.” The eschatological harvest was already on the verge of being reaped. This is total accords with what Paul said, “These things were written for our example, upon whom the ends of the ages has come!” (1 Corinthians 10:11). This is a clear, clear statement that Paul saw himself in the generation upon which the end of the age had come.
Hebrews 9:26 is even clearer, “but now, once and for all, he has appeared at the end of the ages.* And, again, we point out the question of the disciples, “when will be the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus, then, goes on to tell them that Jerusalem will be sacked, the angels will gather together his elect, and the “end” will come. Indeed, as Peter said, “the end of all things is at hand”
Jesus envisions a time before the end that would be characterized by growth of the weeds and the good wheat. Both were to grow together until God made a clear distinction and separation between these two camps. The Book of Acts tells us that this mission was accomplished, for we find the Jerusalem Jews being given money, and ruling in affairs over the Gentile mission. Many of these Jews were law-zealous as well as believers in Messiah.
The problem that had arisen in Paul*s churches was dealt with in the same fashion. As we have commented, the parties between the Jews and the Gentiles had split up the church. They were dividing and separating before the time of the end, when God would do it. Reading Paul in this context clearly shows this to be the case.
Listen to Paul*s advice to the Corinthians: “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul?” Apollos was an Alexandrian Jew (Acts 18:24). Paul, then, says, “I laid the foundation and someone else is building on it.” Further, “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his works will be shown for what it is, for the day will bring it to light ... if what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss.” Then, “whether Paul, Apollos, or Peter ... all are yours.”
This keeps it in the context that Paul is dealing with the separations in the Corinthian church. Paul concludes this by saying, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is now hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men*s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God” (1 Corinthians 3-4:6).
We have already noted in previous studies that Jesus promised to come to “judge each man according to his works, and will reward each man” (Matthew 16:27, 28). This would be done before “some of you standing here” would die. Why is Paul saying, “don*t separate” until the “time?” The “time” and the “day,” and the “end of the age” are all the same event.
Law-zealous Jews, building on the foundation of Christ alone laid by Paul, by adding works, would be exposed when God “comes.” What greater picture than the fact that when God came in judgment upon Israel in AD 70, the question as to “who was right” was forever settled before the entire world.
I have asked this again, but want you, the reader, to take it seriously. If someone came to you today and said, “you must be circumcised and keep the customs of Moses in order to be saved,” what would your response be? Has not God forever settled that matter? Well, in Paul*s day, that statement was very alive and well among the churches. It isn*t today. In fact, after Jerusalem*s fall, it ceased being a question.
The early Apologists of the church, Tertullian, Justin, Irenaeus, all use the Temple*s demise as a proven fact against Jewish unbelief. 1 Clement, Barnabas, Eusebius, Chrysostom, and several others point to this fact. Are we still waiting, after 2,000 years for God to judge between the children of the devil and the children of light? Did not Paul say to the Philippians to “do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like the stars of the universe?” (2:14,15).
Our parable says that at the harvest (the end of the age) the righteous “will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father.” Folks, the Bible teaches that this has already happened. This is what they were all waiting for. God delivered that “chosen generation” from the abuse of the law by the children of the devil. That synagogue of Satan was allowed to dwell with them, and held the law over them to the point of forcing many to become circumcised! (Galatians).
That situation forever changed when God showed up at the end of the age, judged those tyrants, and rewarded them according to their deeds with dispersion, death, misery, and total annihilation of that once beloved, holy city of God.
Jesus said that the “weeds” would be tied in a bundle and burned. They were. Jerusalem was burned to the ground. Israel was dispersed. Those who waited on God, who did not bend to their pressure, who suffered loss as a result, who endured to the “end,” were saved. Truly, the destruction of Jerusalem was both a sad day, and a day of great worship (Revelation 18, 19).
This parable, then, laid out the events for the disciples, and gave them a moral imperative not to separate from Jerusalem until God came to judge that Harlot, called Sodom, and Egypt. The story of the Apostles in Acts confirms our findings to a tee — unless, of course, we are still waiting for God to settle the question as to whether we Gentiles should become prosyletites to Jewish customs and be circumcised!
The problem with modern, futurist error is that it never relates the eschatology of the New Testament to that time, which is a fundamental rule for interpreting the Bible. I was hammered in both my undergraduate studies and my seminary studies to ask, “What did this mean to Paul?” and “To whom was Paul writing? How would they have understood this?” Yet, when consistent preterists practice this very rule for the subject of eschatology, we are drummed out of the church!
I find it kind of amusing, actually. Jesus applied the same rule to Psalm 11O:1 when he asked, “How is it, then, that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him, “Lord?” If “the Lord said to my Lord,” then “my” must be a pronoun for the original author, David. If David said he saw the Lord speaking to his Lord, then the conclusion is in Jesus* question, “How, then, can he be called “son of David?” (Matthew 22:41-45). The result of the crowd upon hearing this was, “No one could say a word in reply.” Sheer brilliance! Jesus was logically deducing from biblical exegesis the grammar and the historical setting of David to conclude the Trinitarian position! Brilliant.
Preterists ask, “How is it possible that the Apostles, speaking by the Spirit, say, ‘the end of all things is at hand,’ mean that the end they spoke of will not come for 2,000 or more years?” The absurdity of such a position is becoming apparent to Bible believers across the world. We will continue to get the result of “and no one replied,” because this is what the Bible so plainly teaches. Many opponents of Preterism (or “transmillennialism” in some circles) will not even debate the issue unless on their own terms.
We have taken a simple parable and ran it through the test to see if our hypotheses of the “end of the age” being in AD 70 would work, and, as I have shown, it clearly does. The purpose of this newsletter is to take all relevant passages dealing with end times and run them through the test. I predict a 100% success rate.
Our interpretation takes the whole New Testament world, and the problems facing the church in that generation between the Jews and the Church made up of Jews and Gentiles, coupled with the notion that Jesus spoke these parables to his own people in his own day, for their benefit, and tied them together. The Bible truly is its best interpreter.
The Jewish proposition and the law-free Gospel to the Gentiles created the environment that Jesus prophesied. It is traditionally interpreted that this parable speaks of the entire church age, until its end; that the “admixture” between the weeds and the wheat speak of the admixture we find today in the church, between truth and error. But, that is not much of a prophecy. It is apparent that within the church not every single member claiming to be Christian are. Are we to “let both grow together?” Or do we not separate from Mormons, Universalists, Jehovah*s Witnesses, and Charles Manson Messiah groups? Of course we do.
Ask yourself this, again, did Paul separate from the Jews in Jerusalem and around the world? Or did he not, until the end of his life, “reason with them in the synagogues?” Though he formally declared that he was an apostle to the Gentiles, this was not a “break” with the Jews. It only meant that he was primarily goIng to the Gentiles, but he always had in mind that “all Israel will be saved” as a result of his move to the Gentiles.
Paul did not start a new religion. To him, Christianity was the flowering bulb of the stem of Israel*s true religion. To separate the bulb from the stem was, to Paul, dangerous and in direct rebellion to Jesus. This parable illustrates that the task of the apostolic mission was to “let both grow together” until the time God separated the “sheep from the goats.” AD 70 becomes, then, the focal point of this historical separation.
With this in mind, the principles found in the parable are applicable for us as well. Christians have an unusual talent for separating themselves from those who disagree. I urge preterists not to do this. I myself have many friends who are not preterists. I make it a point to fellowship with them. Preterists run the risk of “breaking off* with the established organizational denominations, thinking they are “more wise” than the traditionalists. Although I am entirely convinced that the Bible teaches this doctrine, beyond a shadow of a doubt, this parable tells me that “breaking away” too fast is both unwise, and unloving. Many preterists do not even attend church anymore. I find this alarming. Are we so wise that we can say, “I have no need of thee” to others we deem not so wise?
The principle between the Jews and the Gentiles applies here as well. The message of the gospel was spiritualized, based on Israel*s fleshly perception. Jerusalem “below” was now “Jerusalem above,” the “lamb of the offering,” was now, spiritually, Jesus, the “lamb of God,” the fleshly circumcision was now the “circumcision of the heart.” Israel, “according to the flesh,” was not fully prepared to hear this spiritualization of their promises. They wanted a physical Jerusalem, and physical rule and reign over the world. Paul was taking their Scriptures and teaching a “new” spin on them, “according to the Spirit.” Did he break from them? Did he not seek them out? Did he not say, “love your enemies?” Preterism is a stumbling-block for many Christians, so what should our treatment of them be?
Unless I am called a blatant heretic, then I seek fellowship. Obviously, those non-preterists that make such a charge are guilty of “separating” what God has joined together. The whole general tone of love is to “reason together and see if these things are so.” But, if non-preterists want no part, having made up their minds that their tradition is the correct tradition, then, obviously, it becomes hard to fellowship. But, I have met many, some quite learned, that seek to understand my view as they hold to theirs, and we have fellowship together without animosity, and without division. They don*t call me a “heretic,” and I don*t tell them that they make Jesus a liar, along with the apostles. Such dialogue gets one no where.
I, too, was “one of them,” being raised in a denominational church, hearing the Dispensational view. It was in Bible College that I began to see that view as fatally flawed, Did that mean that I was lost until I became a preterist? Nope. Therefore, if we are all in Christ, errors and all, then why can we not see this as God sees it?
The preterist vision is what John saw in heaven. People from all nations, languages, and tribes together wearing white. I think that is how God sees His Church, from all denominations, languages, and varying theological differences. We are all wearing white, the righteousness of Christ. Well, perhaps we should begin to see each other that way, and speak to one another over our differences, which I do not devalue in the slightest. If we have God*s perspective of those who profess Jesus as Lord, and treat them as such, without being so quick to separate, isolate, and not tolerate, then we can really begin to make headway in the 21st century.
Preterists have a massive hill to climb, and adding to the burden of being intolerable ourselves worsens the situation. Non-Preterists have the burden of explaining why so many millennial veiws are rampant today. Is it not better to suggest that the best people to explain this were the ones to whom it was originally given in the Bible? Did Paul allow for “agreeing to disagree” on his eschatological view? Or did he, rather, say, to his own congregants, “I do not want you ignorant brothers,. .and now you know?” (2 Thessalonians 2:1 ff). Why, then, does the Church accept “ignorance” and “panmillennialism” (it will all pan out in the end)? Is that Paul*s eschatology? We will continue in love to challenge our brethren.
The Millennial Post is a free newsletter to any who asks. If you want to add anyone to the list, please let us know by writing to: TMP, P.0. Box 531074, St. Petersburg, FL 33747. This is a teaching/ministry service of Samuel Frost, MA, and Christ Covenant Church. Donations are welcome, though at this time it cannot be used as a tax write-off. All material is copyrighted by Samuel M. Frost. Permission must be asked before any material is reprinted or distributed. Make all checks payable to Christ Covenant Church. Visit the Christ Covenant Church web site at http://www.christcovenantchurchfl.com.