Jesus tells various parables in which he foresees the Church growing but becoming corrupt, full of both the righteous and the wicked. He prophesies how God will separate the good from the bad at the end of the age.
In this chapter, Jesus tells various parables to describe what the kingdom of heaven is like and who will enter it as it transitions through the day of judgment and into the age to come. The kingdom is seen both as a present reality and as a future reality. In its present state we may enter it now, but it is an imperfect mixture of those who truly belong and those who do not. As such, it is reasonable to associate the kingdom with the Church. The day of judgment will sort out this 'mess', so that only those who are truly righteous will enter into its future state in the age to come.

The Parable of the Sower (v1-23)
This parable describes four types of response to the Gospel:

The first type of response (v4, 19) is to reject the Gospel because Satan snatches away the seed that is sown in the person's heart, like birds snatching the seed from the path. These people are never seen to enter the kingdom in the first place.

The second response (v5-6, 20) is to believe with joy, but to quickly fall away when trouble or persecution comes, like a seed sown on rocky soil. This person appears to be part of the Church and shows signs of being a believer, but there is no real root to his faith and he is not truly saved.

The third response (v7, 22) is to believe, but to fall away on account of worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth, like a seed sown among thorns. This person shows early signs of growth and appears to be part of the Church, but their worldly commitments choke their commitment to Christ.

The fourth response (v8, 23) is to believe with true understanding. This person grows and produces fruit that multiplies what was sown, like a seed sown on good soil. Not only is their life transformed, but their transformation has a tendency to transform the lives of those around them. In Luke's account of this parable, Jesus says, "But as for the seed that landed on good soil, these are the ones who, after hearing the word, cling to it with an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with steadfast endurance" (Luke 8:15)

The Church contains a mixture of types 2, 3 and 4, but only type 4 are truly saved. In a time or place where there is little or no persecution, it is reasonable to infer that the Church will contain many like the rocky soil. Persecution tests and refines the Church so that only the those like the good soil remain. In the end times, intense persecution will purify the Church, preparing it for Jesus' coming. In Revelation 6:9-11 and 7:9-10, John sees a vision of martyred Christians from every nation, tribe, people and language.

The Parable of the Weeds (v24-30 and 36-40)
The mixed and imperfect nature of the Church in the present age is further illustrated by the parable of the weeds. The Church is portrayed as a field of wheat into which an enemy has sown weeds. This enemy is Satan, who does all he can to corrupt the Church. The wheat represents the 'sons of the kingdom' and the weeds represent the 'sons of the evil one'. As we look at the Church in the present age, it is not always obvious who are truly believers and who are not. Neither is it our job to judge. At the end of the age, Jesus will send his angels to first gather up the weeds and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (v42). Then the righteous (the wheat) will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father (v43).

The order of judgment is significant here. The weeds are removed first before the wheat. People who teach that there will be a Pre-Tribulational rapture contradict this.

Jesus' description of non-believers as the 'sons of the evil one' alludes to the prophecy of Genesis 3:15, "And I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; her offspring will attack your head, and you will attack her offspring’s heel". The day of judgment is seen as the great day when God divides Satan's offspring from Eve's offspring. The word for offspring in Genesis literally means 'seed', and it is no coincidence that Jesus portrays the wicked as weeds produced by Satan's seed.

Parable of the Mustard Seed (v31-32)
In this parable, the kingdom of heaven in this present age (i.e. the Church) is likened to a mustard seed that a man (i.e. Jesus) sowed in a field. Though the seed is one of the smallest, it grows into a large tree, just as the Church would grow over the centuries, and today about 2 billion people identify themselves as Christian. But Jesus envisions that as it grows, the wild birds come and nest in its branches.

Most Christians interpret the birds in a positive light, picturing small cute garden birds like sparrows, blue-tits or robins. They see this parable as a picture of the Church being a welcoming home to people. However, the Greek word used here for birds is 'peteinon', meaning large wild birds like crows. It is the same word used in the parable of the sower for the birds that snatch the seed from the path (v4). Jesus said these birds represent the evil one who snatches what was sown in a person's heart (v19). If Jesus had been talking about cute little garden birds making their nests in the tree, Matthew would have used the Greek word 'strouthion', which he uses in Matthew 10:29, "Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will". The parable of the mustard seed is another picture of the church as a mixed bag, with Satan's people making a home for themselves in the church. As a result, the church appears to grow, but its Gospel message becomes confused and corrupted. The New Testament has much to say about the power of the Gospel to transform lives. But in 2 Timothy 3:5, prophesying about the life of the Church in the last days, Paul speaks of those "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away" (KJV).

Parable of the Yeast (v33)
In this parable, the kingdom of heaven is like yeast which is mixed into a large measure of flour until all the dough has risen. The amount of flour is literally 'three satons', equivalent to about 21 kilograms of flour. This would make enough bread to feed a large number of people, and yet the yeast mixes all the way through, making the whole dough rise.

In the west, we rarely eat bread made without yeast, and as Gentiles we tend to miss the symbolic associations with yeast in the Old Testament. When the Israelites were driven out of Egypt, they took unleavened dough with them because they didn't have time to leaven it (Exodus 12:39). To commemorate their deliverance, Moses taught them to celebrate the Passover for seven days every year, eating bread made without yeast. During that time, they were not allowed to have any yeast within their borders (Exodus 13:3-7). When the Jews offered a blood sacrifice, they were not allowed to offer it together with anything containing yeast (Exodus 34:25). Yeast was not allowed in any burnt offering (Leviticus 2:11). Yeast in an offering would have made it unholy (Leviticus 6:17). Consequently, yeast had a symbolic association with sin and unholiness. Jesus warned his disciples to "beware of the yeast of the Pharisees", by which he meant their teaching (Matthew 16:6-12). In the parable of the yeast, Jesus foresees the church being corrupted through and through by sin and negative influences. Paul quotes the parable in 1 Corinthians 5:6, "Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough?" He sees boasting as an example of what Jesus meant by the yeast.

The Fiery Furnace (v42)
The problem with interpreting these parables as visions of a corrupt Church is that they seem at odds with the portrayal of the Church as a beautiful bride who has made herself ready in Revelation 19:7 and 21:2. However, these verses in Revelation portray the condition of the Church at the end of the Great Tribulation, after she has been through the refining fire. Speaking about the Jews who survive the Great Tribulation, Zechariah 13:9 says they must be refined like silver and tested like gold. At that point in time, the Jews will be as much a part of the bride as will the Church. And the Church must pass through the refiner's fire as much as the Jews. Consequently, in his explanation of the Parable of the Weeds, Jesus says that everything that causes sin (like the yeast) and all lawbreakers (sinners) will be thrown in to the fiery furnace. This is the refiner's fire, not the lake of fire! If those in the Church represented by the weeds are thrown in, they will weep and gnash their teeth. But those represented by the wheat will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. If any of them were thrown in, the fiery furnace would not burn them up, any more than it burnt up Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego (Daniel 3:27).

Parable of Treasure in a Field (v44) and a Pearl of Great Value (v45)
In the first parable, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure that a man finds hidden in a field. Because of joy, he goes and sells everything he has to buy the field. In other words, if you hear and come to appreciate the truth of the Gospel, it is worth following, even if it costs you everything. In the end times, following Jesus may cost you everything, even your life, but he is still worth following! To reinforce his point, Jesus tells the parable of the pearl of great value, which has exactly the same meaning.

Parable of the Net (v47-50)
In this parable, the net is full of good fish and bad fish, and represents the Church. At the end of the age, angels separate the good from the bad, just as the fishermen separate the fish. The bad are thrown into the fiery furnace. This has exactly the same meaning as the parable of the weeds. However, it raises an important question about the rapture. The net is surely a portrayal of the rapture (Matthew 24:31, 1 Thessalonians 4:17). At the last trumpet, are all Christians raptured, including both true and false? It is commonly assumed that only true believers are raptured and that false Christians are left behind. But if the rapture separates the true from the false, then there is no need of the judgment described in Matthew 25:31-46 when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats. Both the Parable of the Weeds and the Parable of the Net seem to imply an inclusive rapture of all Christians, both true and false.

The Old and New
In verses 51 to 52, Jesus asks his disciples if they have understood these parables, and they reply, "Yes" Jesus then says, "Therefore every expert in the law who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and old". Jesus was teaching them lots of new ideas, but they were all based on Old Testament principles and prophecies. Today, if we want to understand end times and the Book of Revelation, we have to understand Old Testament prophecies as much as those in the New Testament.
Symbols: Sower, Weeds, Mustard seed, Yeast, Treasure, Pearl, Net, Fiery furnace, Bride
Tags: End-time Church, End-time bride, Corrupt church, Rapture, Day of Judgment, Refining fire, Church refined and purified, The Gospel, Parables, Angels at the second coming
The Parable of the Sower
13 On that day after Jesus went out of the house, he sat by the lake.
2 And such a large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat to sit while the whole crowd stood on the shore.
3 He told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow.
4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.
5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground where they did not have much soil. They sprang up quickly because the soil was not deep.
6 But when the sun came up, they were scorched, and because they did not have sufficient root, they withered.
7 Other seeds fell among the thorns, and they grew up and choked them.
8 But other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundred times as much, some sixty, and some thirty.
9 The one who has ears had better listen!”
10 Then the disciples came to him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
11 He replied, “You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but they have not.
12 For whoever has will be given more, and will have an abundance. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.
13 For this reason I speak to them in parables: Although they see they do not see, and although they hear they do not hear nor do they understand.
14 And concerning them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:
You will listen carefully yet will never understand, you will look closely yet will never comprehend.
15 For the heart of this people has become dull; they are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes, so that they would not see with their eyes
and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 “But your eyes are blessed because they see, and your ears because they hear.
17 For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
18 “So listen to the parable of the sower:
19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches what was sown in his heart; this is the seed sown along the path.
20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy.
21 But he has no root in himself and does not endure; when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away.
22 The seed sown among thorns is the person who hears the word, but worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth choke the word, so it produces nothing.
23 But as for the seed sown on good soil, this is the person who hears the word and understands. He bears fruit, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”

The Parable of the Weeds
24 He presented them with another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a person who sowed good seed in his field.
25 But while everyone was sleeping, an enemy came and sowed darnel among the wheat and went away.
26 When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the darnel also appeared.
27 So the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the darnel come from?’
28 He said, ‘An enemy has done this!’ So the slaves replied, ‘Do you want us to go and gather it?’
29 But he said, ‘No, since in gathering the darnel you may uproot the wheat along with it.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I will tell the reapers, “First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burned, but then gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed
31 He gave them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.
32 It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest garden plant and becomes a tree, so that the wild birds come and nest in its branches.”

The Parable of the Yeast
33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until all the dough had risen.”

The Purpose of Parables
34 Jesus spoke all these things in parables to the crowds; he did not speak to them without a parable. 35 This fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”

Explanation for the Disciples
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him saying, “Explain to us the parable of the darnel in the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.
38 The field is the world and the good seed are the people of the kingdom. The poisonous weeds are the people of the evil one,
39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.
40 As the poisonous weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be at the end of the age.
41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everything that causes sin as well as all lawbreakers.
42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one who has ears had better listen!

Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field, that a person found and hid. Then because of joy he went and sold all that he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.
46 When he found a pearl of great value, he went out and sold everything he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea that caught all kinds of fish.
48 When it was full, they pulled it ashore, sat down, and put the good fish into containers and threw the bad away.
49 It will be this way at the end of the age. Angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous
50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 “Have you understood all these things?” They replied, “Yes.”
52 Then he said to them, “Therefore every expert in the law who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and old.”

Rejection at Nazareth
53 Now when Jesus finished these parables, he moved on from there.
54 Then he came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and miraculous powers?
55 Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother named Mary? And aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
56 And aren’t all his sisters here with us? So where did he get all this?”
57 And so they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own house.”
58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.