Although my main focus here will be on this parable, I’ll also be referencing the parable of the dragnet as it’s also similar in nature to this. Some who adhere to the post-trib rapture view utilize this parable as a means of arguing for the rapture being at Christ’s second coming which is an issue I addressed in the aforementioned articles.
In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus gives a parable concerning the wheat and tares which he later expounds upon in Matthew 13:36-43. He explains that the parable of the wheat and tares concerns a “harvest” at the “end of the age” where the reapers are angels,
The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:41-42)
During this harvest that takes place at the end of the age, the “tares” (the “sons of the wicked one” or unbelievers) will first be gathered up by the angels who are the “reapers” and thrown into the “furnace of fire” or hell (Matthew 13:30, 40-42) while the “wheat” (the “sons of the kingdom or believers) will be gathered by the angels into the “barn” or the millennial kingdom (Matthew 13:30, 43).
Matthew 13:47-52 also highlights this harvest and judgment in the parable of the dragnet where Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a “dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth,” (Matthew 13:47-50).
We see that similar ideas are being conveyed to us in both of these parables which highlights the separation of unbelievers from believers that will occur at the “end of the age”.
Rapture or Judgment?
Those that hold unto the belief that the rapture is being discussed here often may tie this into Matthew 24:31 concerning Jesus gathering his “elect” at his coming. Because they believe that the rapture and second coming are the same, when they read the parable of the wheat and tares, they see it as an extension of what occurs at the rapture which – to them – also coincides with the second coming.
This is also often brought together with the view that Matthew 24:40-41 is also speaking of the rapture. What we then see with this view is that both the rapture and judgment coincide together at Christ’s return. It’s then argued that because the parable of the wheat and tares places its context at Christ’s second coming, the pre-tribulation rapture is therefore false. However, as we’ll come to see, this view is shaky at best.
In my previously mentioned article where I went over the differences between the rapture and the second coming, I first note the scriptural differences between what we’re told concerning the rapture (in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52) vs the second coming of Christ (in Matthew 24:29-31). As I’ve already gone through this in detail in the article, I’ll only summarize the key points here.
- At Christ’s second coming there will be disturbances in the heavens, with the moon and stars (Matthew 24:29).
- The sign of the Son of Man that will appear in heaven and the tribes of the earth will see him coming with the clouds and mourn (Matthew 24:30).
- Jesus will send his angels with a trumpet to gather His elect (Matthew 24:31).
- No reference to the dead in Christ being raised first and then believers who are alive being caught up after.
- No mention of believers receiving their glorified bodies at this time.
- The “elect” are gathered together by angels at Christ’s second coming (Matthew 24:31).
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 & 1 Corinthians 15:51-52
- Neither of the passages mentions celestial disturbances, the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, or that people on earth will see this event as Matthew 24:29-30 emphasizes.
- Neither of the 2 passages refers to angels as being a part of this event.
- We will be “caught up” – seized or carried by force, snatched away – to meet other believers and the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
- The one doing the “snatching” or “seizing” in this case would be the Lord himself, no other external agent (i.e. angels) interferes in this event (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
- Angels are sent out by the Lord to gather the “tares” (Matthew 13:30, 40-42)
- The tares are cast in a furnace of fire (Matthew 13:42)
- The righteous (the “wheat”) enter into the millennial kingdom (Matthew 13:43)
- There is no resurrection of the dead and believers aren’t glorified
- Believers aren’t “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air
We see the same idea elaborated to us in the parable of the dragnet. What’s missing here in the parable of the wheat and tares is an absence of the dead being raised or us receiving our glorified bodies(1 Corinthians 15:51-52) or believers being caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
There is no correlation between this parable and any type of rapture. What we instead see clearly illustrated to us is judgment that occurs to unbelievers at Christ’s return via a separation process executed by Jesus and carried out by the angels that accompany him.
“Let both grow together until the harvest”
Although we can see that there are clear differences between what’s elaborated to us concerning what Paul says about the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 versus the judgment that occurs at Christ’s second coming detailed to us in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, many mainly go to what Jesus says in Matthew 13:30 as justification that believers will indeed remain on the earth until his second coming and that the pre-trib rapture is false.
Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ (Matthew 13:30)
One reason I believe this argument is lacking is due to the previous distinctions made between the rapture and this parable which highlights judgment at Christ’s second coming. We know this is the case because Jesus says it’s a “harvest” at the “end of the age”, meaning after the tribulation. Because no correlation exists between the two, but instead we see that they are distinct and separate events (the rapture and the second coming), then there is no context from which to argue for a rapture, to begin with.
The argument – to me – that this is a rapture is built on a false premise that either disregards what scripture says concerning the differences between the two events or lacks information on these distinctions. Another reason I believe this argument is not a strong one is because the point Jesus was making in this parable is to describe what was to occur during his absence until his return which he expounds upon in the various parables in Matthew 13.
This parable focuses on the fact that throughout this period of time until his return, good and evil people will co-exist in the world with Satan also actively working to thwart God’s work on the earth through the use of his own agents. It speaks nothing of the rapture but instead describes the condition of the world up till Christ’s return when judgment will be executed.
In his work, Matthew Thy Kingdom Come, Dr. John F. Walvoord also touches on the parable of the wheat and tares and makes his case that the parable is not about the rapture by stating, “Posttribulationists have made much of the order of the judgment described in 13:30, that is, that the tares are gathered first and that later the wheat is gathered into the barn. This is used as an argument for posttribulationism, or the teaching that the rapture occurs in connection with the establishment of the kingdom. This argument, however, is invalid”.
As I noted earlier in this article, the parable of the dragnet is also similar in meaning. Of this parable, Walvoord relates it to the parable of the wheat and tares and adds, “The fulfillment of the prophetic truth in this parable will occur at the second coming of Jesus Christ, when the world is judged and the kingdom instituted…as in preceding parables, it describes the dual line of good and evil, continuing until the time of the end when both the good and evil are judged according to their true character,” (Matthew Thy Kingdom Come, Chapter 13 The Mysteries of the Kingdom).
From everything I went over, we can surmise that this parable doesn’t relate to any type of rapture but is instead a description of the earth until the second coming and beginning of the millennial kingdom. And even more specifically, the focus towards the end of the parable (as well as that of the parable of the dragnet) focuses on the separation process of believers and unbelievers as an act of judgment.
We can only come to this understanding when we first correctly understand that this has no relation to the rapture. If we approach this incorrectly believing it’s talking about a rapture, whatever arguments made from that incorrect presumption will likewise be incorrect.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Himitsu | End Times Study