Wheat and Tares

After Jesus spoke His parable about the sower, undoubtedly one of His oft-repeated, He then spoke another, similar parable in that it too had agricultural connotations, i.e., that of wheat and tares. Tares, although serving a function in that they can be grown to feed livestock, are not a staple crop and resemble wheat when they are young. Because of that, they are typically allowed to grow along with the wheat and are separated at harvest by hand and by threshing, winnowing, and sifting.

So, in the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30), Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven to a farmer in this way: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. When the wheat sprouted and bore grain, the tares became evident also. The landowner chose to let the tares grow with the wheat until the time of the harvest when he will say, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Then we see this (Matthew 13:36-43): “When Jesus left the crowds, His disciples came up to Him and wanted an explanation of the parable of the wheat and tares, and He said to them, ‘The Son of Man is the one who sows the good seed, and the field is the world. The good seed are the sons of the kingdom, and the tares are the sons of the evil one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.’”

In that explanation, there are ten items worthy of discussion, seven in the first group, which define what is. Then Jesus tells us what happens and after the tenth – the crème de la crème: First, the Son of Man, Jesus Himself, is the one who sows the good seed. Second, the field is the world, κόσμος, pronounced kosmos, which is the word from which we get cosmos, which means the whole world, or the universe. It should be pointed out that at that time, the Roman Empire, which encompassed the entire perimeter of the Mediterranean Sea, was considered the known world.

Third, the sons of the kingdom are the good seed. Fourth, the tares are the sons of the enemy. Fifth, the enemy is the evil one, the devil. Sixth, the harvest is the end of the age, αἰώνος, pronounced aionos, from which we get eon, or age, which is the correct translation – not world, as the KJV translates it. The words κόσμος and αἰώνος are different and have different definitions. The KJV incorrectly translated αἰώνος as “world” in Matthew 13:39 and 40, as well as 24:3. Those errors have led many to believe that Jesus was talking about the literal end of the world.

Seventh, the reapers of the harvest are the angels. Eighth, the Son of Man (Jesus) sends forth the reapers (angels). Ninth, the reapers gather the tares, who are the stumbling blocks and those who commit lawlessness. Tenth, the reapers burn the tares in the furnace of fire at the end of the age.

It is after those things that the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. That is a nearly identical description as what we saw in Daniel 12:3, where it says, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” So we have the righteous, and those who have insight, and those who lead the many to righteousness – they all shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father; they shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and they will shine like the stars forever and ever, respectively.

That is just so beautiful and encouraging.  Whether spoken by our Lord or by Daniel the prophet 600 years prior, the message is consistent with the spirit of God, which is the overall message of salvation, redemption, and who we are in Christ. The Scriptures unwaveringly tell us that we, in Christ, have overcome the world (John 16:33; 1 John 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4-5; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7) and that we have been raised up with Him and seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-6); that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-4), and that He has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Nevertheless, we must point out that despite the promises of the Scriptures, and as majestic as the wording of the KJV is, much of that message of who we are in Christ has gotten lost on those who are faithful readers and followers of the KJV. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia, hardly an authority on things biblical, but from a “nonbelieving and allegedly objective” standpoint, it makes the point, “Noted for its majesty of style, the King James Version has been described as one of the most important books in English culture and a driving force in the shaping of the English-speaking world.”  

Now, notwithstanding the beautiful and stately prose, i.e., the ‘majesty of style,’ of that world-shaping English translation, the sheer force of that statement lends credence to the charge levied here that the KJV has done an extreme disservice to Christianity and the world because of its mishandling of those eschatological passages. As ‘one of the most important books in English culture and a driving force in the shaping of the English-speaking world,’ its mistranslation of that single word thrice has turned eschatology on its head.

One should ask if Christians see themselves as a) shining forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, b) shining brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven or c) shining like the stars forever and ever. Would Christians agree or disagree that the kingdom of their Father has come, ushered in by His Son, Jesus Christ?

Yes, the KJV has served the English-speaking world well for over 400 years now, almost exclusively for 300 of those years. Nevertheless, one can make the statement that because of the erroneous translation of αἰώνος as “world” instead of “age” in 13:39, 40, and 24:3, a reader of the KJV cannot interpret Matthew chapter 24 any other way than Jesus intending to say that all those things were about the literal end of the world. That has led people to look at current events as “signs of the end” and “the beginning of birth pangs,” and as a result, Christians have sat on their hands as much of the gains of the apostles and their disciples in the first and second-century spread of Christianity and the resultant fulfillment of the Great Commission have been nullified.

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