The "Everlasting Gospel"

Parable of the Net Cast into the Sea
In the last chapter of this final three, we find, as I believe, not another aspect of the divine dealings with the mingled crop in the field of Christendom, but a new acting, whether in grace or judgment, after the merchant man has possessed himself of his pearl, or in other words, after the saints of the past and present time are caught up to Christ. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, and cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world (or age): the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just; and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (vs. 47-51).

The parable closes thus (in so far, just as the parable of the tares of the field,) with the judgment executed at the appearing of the Lord. The common application of it is to the going forth of the gospel during the present time, and the final separation of bad and good when the lord comes. That is, the meaning is considered to be almost identical with the tare parable. I believe there are some plain reasons against such an interpretation. For, in the first place, the parallelism of the two parables in that case is certainly against it. There would be little in the picture of the net cast into the sea that was not simply repetition of what had already been given. And this, at first sight, would not seem natural or likely.

But beside this, it is to be considered that Scripture plainly gives us another going forth of the gospel of the kingdom, and as the result of it a discriminative judgment when the Son of Man comes, apart altogether from the present going forth of the gospel, and the judgment of the tares of Christendom. The company of sheep and goats in Matt. 25 is an instance of this. For there will be no such separation as is there depicted between these sheep and goats, of the true and false among Christian professors, "when the Son of Man shall" have "come in His glory." The true among Christian professors, on the contrary, will come with Him to judgment on that day, as we have seen both Col. 3:4 and Jude bear witness. The judgment of Christendom will not then be discriminative at all: the wheat having been already removed from the field, tares alone will remain in it. Thus in Matt. 25, neither tares nor wheat can be at all in question.

But after the saints of the present time have been caught up to the Lord, and Christendom has become a tare field simply, a new work of the Lord will begin in Israel and among the surrounding nations, to gather out a people for earthly blessing. It is when God's judgments are upon the earth the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness. And this will be a time of "great tribulation," such as for Israel Matt. 24 depicts. Antichrist is there, and the "abomination of desolation" stands in the holy place; yet amid all the evil and sorrow of the time, the "everlasting gospel" goes forth (Rev. 14:6, 7) with its call, so opposite to the proclamation of this day of grace now being made. "Fear God, and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come."

Plainly, one could not say that yet. We say it is "the accepted time, the day of salvation," not of judgment. Only after the present day is closed could the everlasting gospel be preached after that fashion,- the old "gospel of the kingdom" indeed, but with the new addition to it of the hour of God's judgment being come.

It is this proclamation of the everlasting gospel that is the key to that company of sheep and goats standing before the throne of the Son of Man when He is come.

Everlasting Gospelf Going out to the Gentiles
Now, if we look a little closely, it is just such a state of things as that amid which the everlasting gospel goes forth, that this parable brings before us. A "net cast into the sea" is the picture of the gospel going forth in the midst of unquiet and commotion, the lawless will of man at work every where, the wicked "like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt" (Isa. 57:20).

Moreover, if we turn to the very earliest of Scripture types - to Genesis 1 - we shall find confirmation of this view, which is exceedingly striking. In those creative days we find, day by day, the successive steps by which God brought out of ruin the beauty of a scene where at length He could rest, because all was "very good." There need be little wonder to find this but the picture and type of how He, step by step, after the misery and ruin of Adam's fall, is proceeding toward the final production of a scene in which once again, and never more to be disturbed, because of its goodness He can rest. These days in their respective meaning it is not the place here to point out. The third day, however, speaks of the separation of Israel from among the Gentiles. The waters of the salt and barren sea are the representative of man left to the lusts and passions of his own heart (according to the figure in Isaiah just referred to), or in other words, the Gentiles. Israel is the "earth," taken up and cultivated of God, to get, if it might be, fruit. The third day speaks of this separation of Israel from the Gentiles, as the first parable of the three we are now looking at speaks of her as God's earthly treasure.

This is a scene all on earth. The next creative day gives us however, the furnishing of the heavens, as we have already seen the second parable of the "pearl" does. And if the sun be a type of Christ (as it surely is), that which brings in and rules the day,- the moon is no less a type of the Church, the reflection, however feeble and unstable, of Christ to the world in the night of His absence. The present time, then, is here figured, - the time of the revelation, in testimony, both of Christ and of the Church. And now, if we pass on to the sixth day, we have as plainly in figure the kingdom of Christ come. The rule of the man and woman over the earth,- not rule over the clay or night, not the light of testimony, but rule over the earth itself,- is a picture of what we call millennial blessing.

Finally in this series comes the Sabbath, God's own rest: He sanctifies the whole day, and blesses it; no other day succeeds.

Now between the fourth and the sixth days, the Church and the millennial dispensations, what intervenes? A period, short indeed in duration, but important enough to occupy thirteen out of the twenty-two chapters of the book of Revelation: the very time to which, as I believe, the parable of the net refers. And then, what is its type, if the fifth day represents it? Once again, the "sea," but the waters now supernaturally productive, teeming with life through the fiat of the Almighty. And so it will be in the day of Rev. 7 as the hundred and forty-four thousand of the tribes of Israel, and the innumerable multitude of Gentiles who have come out of "the great tribulation," bear abundant witness. These are the gathering out of the people for earthly blessing, as the fruit of the everlasting gospel.

These passages, then, mutually confirm each other as applying to a time characterized by Gentile lawlessness, Israel fully partaking of this character, and not yet owned of God, though He be working in her midst. Into this "sea" the net is cast, and, gathering of every kind, when it is full, is drawn to shore.

It is not till AFTER this that the sorting begins: "which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, and cast the bad away." This shows us that the sorting cannot apply to any thing which goes on during the time of the preaching of the gospel at all events, for the net is no longer in the waters when it takes place. And it is thus the same thing evidently as that which the interpretation speaks of: "So shall it be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth and sever the wicked from the just." This is the clearance of the earth for millennial blessing. When the saints are removed, at the coming of the Lord for His own which 1 Thess. 4 sets before us, the wicked will not be severed from the just, but the just from the wicked. The righteous will be taken, and the wicked left. Here it is the reverse of this - the wicked taken and the righteous left. Thus, with the divine accuracy of the inspired Word, which invites scrutiny and rewards attention to its minutest details, it is said in the judgment of the tare-field of Christendom, "They shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity," but not, "they shall sever the wicked from among the just," for the just have been before removed. Here, on the contrary, the righteous are those not taken away to inherit heavenly blessing, but left behind to inherit earthly.

With this glance at things which belong to that short but most momentous season - the season of the earth's travail before her final great deliverance, the sevenfold sketch of the kingdom of the absent King necessarily ends. The blessing of earth, as of Israel, necessitates His presence, and with that the close of the "kingdom and patience," the beginning of that "kingdom and glory" which will never end. Well will it be for us if we keep in mind the sure connection between the "patience" and the "glory."

* Parallel passages will be found in Matt. 24:37-42 and Luke 17:24,37. In the Old Testament, the Psalms especially are full of this severing of the wicked from among the just: e.g., Psalms 1:4,5; 37:9-11. See also Malachi 4:1-3.