Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Eschatology and the Parable of the Tares

Of all the parables Jesus told, none has such direct reference to one's millennial theology than the parable of the tares. The view of the kingdom which this parable sets forth is a powerful support for amillennialism, and directly challenges the claims of both post-millennialism and dispensationalism.

The most obvious challenge confronts postmillennialism. Until the second coming the weeds, the reprobate, will remain on the earth. The parable is not concerned with relative proportions of the elect and reprobate on the earth, but that the tares remain until the harvest. One can argue, that because the proportions are not mentioned, that the number of tares was insignificant. However, the amount of tares was significant enough to concern the workers. At the very least, this parable does not allow for a Christian utopia; and does not seem consistent with an overwhelming Christian majority. While the parable of the leaven could be used to support the post-millennialist ideas, this parable holds their optimism in check.

The entire concept of the kingdom portrayed in these parables, and in the book of Matthew as a whole speak against the dispensational ideas. However artificial and forced their exegesis is on many occasions, this parable offers a direct contradiction to the system. If the kingdom is limited only to the millennium, when the devil is bound, how is he able to sow the tares? Even if these are the unregenerate entering into the millennium, how can the kingdom be the golden age anticipated with so many noxious plants? Further, can the devil be said to plant tares which entered the kingdom only by accident? The parable offers more problems to the system than solid support. Even the progressive dispensational concession that the kingdom is in some way connected with the present age does not seem supported by this parable.

In the end, amillennialism is the eschatological system most consistent with the Bible's portrayal of the kingdom, and with this parables teaching in particular.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Parable of the Tares

In studying the parable of the tares (Matthew 13:24-30) this past week, I was amazed at how often interpreters missed a major teaching of the parable. What is surprising is that this truth is so self-evidently clear from Jesus' own interpretation of the parable(36-43). The question is what is the field in the parable? The answer seems obvious from Jesus, "the field is the world" (vs. 38). However, aside from a small handful of commentators, most identified the field as the church. Even John Calvin, a thoroughly careful interpreter of Scripture identified the field thus. Ridderbos and Kistlemaker were the only major commentators who accepted Jesus' own interpretation of his parable, and identified the field with the world. Why then do so many commentators seem to miss Jesus clear statement? I can think of two possible reasons. First, the other parables in this chapter and in the rest of Matthew are directed much more clearly to the church. While the simple equation of the kingdom and the church does not seem wise, they are clearly closely connected in Scripture. (The relation of he church and the kingdom would make a good future post!) So, since this connection is apparent in other places, one would naturally see this connection in this parable. Second, theologically, this interpreting is attractive. The visible church is clearly a mixed society of regenerate and unreasonable members; if the field were not so clearly identified as the world such a reading is natural.

However, Jesus is clear, the field is not the church, it is the world. While the first point is compelling, one should never explain away a passage's distinctiveness because it does not seem to mesh completely with everything else. To do so is to flatten the rich message which Scripture communicates. The parable of the tares teaches us much about the church, especially the churches relationship to the world in which it sojourns. Second, the truth that the visible church is a mixed church this side of the Lord's second coming is abundantly clear from both experience and Scripture. One needs spend only a little time in Paul's epistles to see this. For all that can trip up students of the Bible, even the most eminent ones, it is perplexing that sometimes how the simplest details prove to be so difficult.

Friday, June 25, 2004

First One

Everyone seems to be into this whole blog thing, so I may as well put out some of my silly thoughts and reflections to be lost in the vast wasteland of the internet. Right now I have no clue how this thing works, but I guess I will only learn through experience. For the brave reader, if one should exist, my posts will in all likelihood be infrequent, and on various topics which catch my fancy. Let the reader beware.