Apologetics to the Glory of God

You Don’t Want to be a Fish?

50:46 Joey: You know, parables! As I bring up here. Some of the parables have almost nothing in them that actually transfers over. I bring up the parable of the fish, in Matthew 13:47-50. In that parable, it’s very brief, it speaks of a fisherman, he catches fish, the bad fish he throws away, the good fish he keeps. Now, the good fish represent the saved, but you do not want to be a fish! (Laughs) Just think about it, either way you get killed. And in fact, though I don’t know what fishing culture was like back in the day, for all I know, they might even throw the bad fish back in the water, I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but in that case you’d be better off being the bad fish. But Jesus’ sole point is that the good are kept and the bad are thrown away; nothing else in that entire parable applies to the saved, because we don’t wanna be fish! Who are killed, and eaten! (Chris: Right.)[1]

Which when, it was full
As the Gospel, and the Gospel church state may be said to be, when all the ends of the preaching of the word are answered; when all are called by the one, and into the other, that were designed to be called; when the fulness of the Gentiles shall be brought in, and all Israel shall be saved.

They drew to the shore;
which will be done, when the end of the world comes; then will an end be put to the Gospel ministry, the net will be drawn to shore; the preaching of the Gospel will cease, and no more use be made of it:

and sat down;
the ministers of the word having done their work, enter into the joy of their Lord, and rest from their labours:

and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away;
as fishermen used to do; though this last office seems, by the application of the parable, to be what will be performed by angels; who, as many as they find to have a good work of grace wrought and finished in their souls, they will gather into Christ’s barn, into the everlasting habitations, the mansions in Christ’s Father’s house, he is gone to prepare: but as for the bad, who shall appear to be destitute of the grace of God, and righteousness of Christ, notwithstanding their profession of religion, they shall be rejected, as good for nothing, and shall be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.

So shall it be at the end of the world
As the fisherman, when he has drawn his net to shore, picks out the good fish, and puts them into proper vessels, and casts the dead, putrid, and useless fish away; so, at the close of time, in the last day,

the angels shall come forth
out of heaven, from the presence of God and Christ, and by his orders, as the judge of all the earth,

and sever the wicked from the just;
with whom they have had not only civil conversation, but have been joined in a Gospel church state; but now these ungodly shall not stand in judgment with them; nor these sinners, these hypocrites, in the congregation of the righteous: the one will be set at Christ’s right hand, the other at his left; the one will go into life eternal, and the other into everlasting punishment; and their separation from one another will be for ever.

And shall cast them into a furnace of fire
Not a material, but a metaphorical one; denoting the wrath of God, which shall fall upon wicked men, and abide upon them to all eternity: which is sometimes called hell fire, sometimes a lake which burns with fire and brimstone; and here a furnace of fire, expressing the vehemency and intenseness of divine wrath, which will be intolerable; in allusion either to Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, or as some think, to the custom of burning persons alive in some countries; or rather, to the burning of chaff and stubble, and the stalks of any unprofitable things that grew in the field[2], for the heating of furnaces, and is the very language of the Jews, who used to compare hell to a furnace; so ( Genesis 15:17 ) is paraphrased by them[3].

“And behold the sun set, and there was darkness; and lo! Abraham saw until the seats were set, and the thrones cast down; and lo! “hell”, which is prepared for the wicked in the world to come, “as a furnace”, which sparks and flames of fire surrounded; “in the midst of which”, the wicked fell, because they rebelled against the law, in their lifetime.”

Which is expressed in much the same language, and conveys the same ideas as here; and no wonder is it that it follows,

there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth;
declaring the remorse of conscience, the tortures of mind, the sense of inexpressible pain, and punishment, the wicked shall feel; also their furious rage and black despair.[4]

Interesting comparison, isn’t it? One is superficial, doesn’t address the myriad aspects of the parable’s content, and focuses on a single subject to the seeming exclusion of all else. The proverbial one-string fiddle. The other unpacks the entirety of the text in question as an exegete should, and lays it out for examination and our edification. This should be instructive to us.

  1. [1]Episode 73: Theopologetics
  2. [2]Gill’s footnote: Misn. Sabbat. c. 3. sect. 1. & Maimon, & Bartenora in ib.
  3. [3]Gill’s footnote: Hieros. Targum in Gen. xv. 17.
  4. [4]John Gill, Commentary Matthew 13:47-50