47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a large net thrown into the sea. It collected every kind of fish, 48 and when it was full, they dragged it ashore, sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but threw out the worthless ones. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out, separate the evil people from the righteous, 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Matthew 13:47-50, (context, vv. 47-52)
There will be a separation, the scripture is painfully clear. This division can also be seen in the Parable of the Wheat and Tares. In both stories, we see this splitting-up of the authentic and the false. The saved and unsaved. They’ll never be mixed, they’re like oil and water.
In this parable, a dragnet (a net that scrapes the bottom) collects all the fish. Apparently none escape. The net is finally dragged up on the beach, and people begin the sorting process. This really has to be done.
Jesus has captured us.
Here in Alaska, I had the wonderful chance to work in a cannery. There was an automated line where a bunch of us stood. (Believe me when I tell you it was hard and mindless work.) We picked out the fish that didn’t belong, and only the good were crated up. These were flash-frozen for their trip to Japan. The bad fish were ground up (if I remember correctly) and dumped. The seagulls loved it.
In this parable, we see precisely the same kind of separation.
There was no wholesale acceptance of every fish. The “quality control” guys looked over the sorter’s work, they made sure that every fish ended up where it was supposed to go. There couldn’t be any mistakes. I suppose if anything, the whole process might be called “discernment.” Distinctions were made by the type (or nature) of every fish that came on the line.
There can be no mixture in the Kingdom of God.
Oil and water, even if you shake it–really, really hard, you still can’t get them to blend. Apparently, they’re of different densities (I assume anyway) and they won’t merge or mingle. That’s a fact.
There’s coming a time, Jesus said, that there will be a reckoning, a summation. The Kingdom of God won’t come as a party for everyone. We’re pretty much warned of that ahead of time. This is going to happen, you can mark it on your calendar. Jesus shared this story, and it doesn’t entertain us like some of the other parables he shared. It’s meant to sober us up, and it’s given to help us choose, and prepare.
We have been warned.