The Parable of the Net – To the Disciples Alone
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind,
48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.
49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just,
50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Earlier in the chapter these verses give the setting and the context of Christ’s telling of this parable:
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.
Jesus then explains the parable of the tares. “…the harvest is the end of the age and the reapers are the angels…” (verse 38), “…gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age…” (verse 40), “…and will cast them into the furnace of fire…” (verse 42), “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father….” (verse 43)
Jesus then tells the parables of The Treasure Hidden in a Field and Pearl of Great Price before telling the Parable of the Net. Notice the similarity of his explanation of the Parable of the Tares to this parable in verses 49-50.
49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire…
The Greek word translated net here is: G4522 σαγήνη sagēnē from a derivative of satto (to equip) meaning furniture, especially a pack-saddle (which in the East is merely a bag of netted rope); a “seine” for fishing :- net.
The proper translation in this application is a drag-net for fishing. It is also commonly called a seine. From ancient times seine nets have been used to catch large numbers of fish. At the Sea of Galilee this type of fishing could be seen every day. The nets typically are long, rectangular in shape, with weights on the bottom edge and floats on the top. They can be used from boats or operated by large numbers of men in shallow water. Depending on the size of the small openings in the net, they drag up everything in their wake, both good and bad. When the net was brought on board the boat or brought to the shore, the desirable fish were placed in baskets for personal use or to be taken to be sold in the market. All the bad fish and other creatures were left to die on the shore. They were not considered bad because they were rotten when caught; they were bad because they were unclean. Below are the commandments of the Law of Moses regarding fish that are allowed to be eaten by the Israelites.
9 ‘These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers–that you may eat.
10 But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you.
11 They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination.
12 Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales–that shall be an abomination to you. See also Deut 14:9-10
The parable of the net is very much eschatological, i.e., it deals with the end times subject. Jesus used both the parable of the tares and the parable of the net to teach of the judgment. He explained them to his disciples alone, warning them of that coming event. He is using “typology” as an education tool to explain just or wicked, righteous or evil , saved or condemned.
There are numberless articles and commentaries that posit that the ones being caught in the net are members of the church. They then reason that the “judgment” in the parable is only the removing of the “bad” from the “church.” The problems for that interpretation are these:
- The anti-type of both the tares and the fish in the net is the destruction of the wicked by fire. Matt 3:12, Luke 3:17, 12:49, 17:29-30, John 15:6, 2Thess 1:8-10, 2Pet 3:7 (the then existing Heaven and Earth). See also 2Pet 3:12. The word elements, properly translated, should be the orderly arrangement, principles, or rudiments of the Old Covenant for the Hebrews, not the periodic table of elements. Therefore, the discussion is about the end of the theocracy of the Law of Moses, not the destruction of the planet.
G4747: στοιχεῖον stoicheion stoy-khi’-on neuter of a presumed derivative of the base of <G4748> (stoicheo); something orderly in arrangement, i.e. (by implication) a serial (basal, fundamental, initial) constituent (literal), proposition (figurative) :- element, principle, rudiment.
- There is also the connection of the angels “gathering” or “reaping” for judgment, as found in other passages. Here are some of the verses: Matt 24:31, 25:31, Mark 13:27, Luke 9:26, 2Thess 1:7, Rev 14:16
- Another problem is the misunderstanding of what “the ages” are. Much of the fault in that lies in incorrect translation of the Greek aion αἰών (G165)[verse 40] in many Bible translations. You can go to this list of the use of aion in the NT. How many times is it mistranslated as “world” in your Bible? It is very important to understand which age is being discussed in order to fully understand the parable. The New Testament writers spoke of this age as the time or generation in which they were then living. They spoke of the time beyond Christ’s return as the age to come. Actually, the Bible nowhere speaks of the world (or this planet) coming to an end or being burned up. It was the then existing Heaven and Earth or orderly arrangement of the Old Covenant (Law of Moses) that they knew was about to come to an end Heb 8:13. This old covenant was to be replaced by the New Heaven and the New Earth Rev 3:12, 21:1-2.
Read all of Matthew chapters 23 and 24 to see the target of Christ’s warning of coming judgment upon those of that day who did not accept him as the Messiah. This Parable of the Net is an excellent type of his soon coming judgment (separation), upon the land, upon the city of Jerusalem, upon the leaders and the people of his first covenant, the covenant that they broke Heb 8:8,9,10,11,12,13.
Brent E. Hughes