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Golden Text:"The words that I speak unto you,
they are spirit, and they are life."John 6:63 .
"WITHOUT a parable spake he not unto the people." What the prophet had declared of him was true, "He shall open his mouth in parables and dark sayings." It is important that we remember this. Many noble Christian people have inferred that our Lord's words were all simple, and that they presented the truth in a manner easily understood by everybody. Nothing is further from the truth. If our Lord's parables and dark sayings be taken as plain, literal statements of truth, they will lead to all kinds of errors and misapprehensions. Let us remember, therefore, the Apostle's declaration, "Without a parable spake he not unto the people."
There is absolutely nothing in the words of Jesus without a deep significance. How many have stumbled over our Lord's parables by taking them to be literal statements of facts! How absurd the conclusion drawn from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, for instance! How absurd to conclude that simply because a man was rich, fared sumptuously every day, and was garbed in fine linen, that he must suffer through all eternity! How equally absurd to interpret the poor man Lazarus, who lay at the rich man's gate, as representing, literally, poor and diseased beggars! How unreasonable to think that only such as have had an experience of this kind, with dogs to lick their sores, and hungering for the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table, would experience the joys of heaven, according to the Divine program! How foolish to think of Abraham's bosom, which could hold only two or three, as being the portion of blessing for only a handful of beggars!
Note afresh the parable of the wheat and the tares, the gathering of the former into the garner and the burning of the latter. Neither represents literal experiences. In the parable the wheat is not literal wheat, the tares are not tares. The wheat symbolizes the inheritors of the Kingdom; the tares symbolize the offspring of errorchildren of the wicked one. The gathering into the barn of safety symbolizes the glorification of the Church on the spirit plane, and precedes the shining forth of the sons of God in the glory of the Millennial Kingdom, for the blessing of the groaning creation; as the Apostle declares, "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God." The whole creation is waiting for the shining forth of the sons of God in the Kingdom, and their shining forth in truth and righteousness will scatter [R4644 : page 219] all the darkness of sin and error and awaken and revivify the world of mankind.
Eventually all the willingly obedient may enjoy the blessings of eternal life. On the other hand, the description of the burning of the tares, instead of referring to a literal burning, has, evidently, a symbolic significance; it means the destruction of the tare classnot their destruction as individuals, but as "tares," as imitations of the "wheat" class.
How glad we are to find the key to these symbolic statementsthese parables! How glad we are that by the use of this key the parabolic figures become reasonable and beautiful! What a silver lining there is to the dark cloud of trouble which is now looming up before the world! How glad God's people must be to learn that just beyond the clouds and shadows comes the glorious Millennial day!
The parable of "the sheep and the goats," taken literally, has caused confusion to many. They think of the separation of the sheep and the goats as now in progress, failing to notice the Scriptural declaration that the parable shall find its application "when the Son of man shall come in his glory and all his holy angels (messengers) with him. Then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory and before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one from another as the shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." We thus see that the application of the parable belongs to the Millennial Age. All through that age the work of Christ and the Church, his Bride, seated with him upon his throne, will be a work of blessing to the world of mankind. And the manner in which those blessings will be received, will demonstrate the sheep-like or goat-like character of every individual of the human family. The sheep-like will come to the right hand position of favor, the goat-like, to the left hand position of disfavor. The conclusion of the thousand-year Judgment day will bring the expression of the Lord's favor towards the sheep-like, rewarding them with eternal life, and the expression of his disfavor towards the goat-like, destroying them in the "second death." This is symbolically represented by the statement, "Depart ye cursed into the lasting fire (a figure of destruction) prepared for Satan and his messengers (followers)." The reward of the righteous will thus be everlasting life. The "everlasting punishment" of the unrighteous will be everlasting death, for the "wages of sin is death and the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."Rom. 6:23.
Evidently some wise and gracious purpose stands connected with the hiding or secreting at present of the Divine purpose from mankind in general. While the Scriptures declare it is a mark of special favor to the Lord's people that they are made acquainted with the Divine Purposes, yet nowhere do they declare that all those from whom God's plans are secreted are doomed to eternal torture, or to everlasting destruction. Thus our Lord Jesus prayed: "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight."
Had the hiding of the Divine counsel from mankind signified eternal torture for those from whom it was hidden, there surely would have been no ground for thanking the heavenly Father for this act. We can thank him, however, that although many of the worldly wise are not privileged to know of his glorious plans, nevertheless those plans are sure. For the world to have known of the Divine purposes in advance would doubtless have been injurious, because in their blindness they would have attempted to thwart these purposes and therefore would have gotten themselves into a worse condition of condemnation.
Our text shows that however dark and parabolic were our Lord's teachings, nevertheless, rightly understood, his message is one that is spiritually helpful and life-giving to those who can and do understand it. It is this quality of our Lord's message which makes the religion of the Bible different from that of all the heathen. It is a message of life as well as a message of holiness. It is a message of forgiveness as well as a message of condemnation. It is a message of love as well as a message of justice. His wonderful words of lifethey are charming, beautiful, forceful! We may read them over year after year and we see still more beauty in them, still deeper significance, and that in proportion to our own growth in grace, our growth in knowledge, and in the spirit of our Master.