February 13, 2022 The Parable of the Net

The Parable of the Net

February 13, 2022




Scripture: Matthew 13:47-50.


Matthew chapter 13 is full of parables about the mystery of the kingdom. Jesus tells stories that illustrate what the kingdom looks like in the present age. When Jesus returns to the earth, he will set up his kingdom in its fullness. Presently, the kingdom is here, but it is hidden.


We have already considered all the parables in this chapter except the last one, The Parable of the Net.


All the parables in this chapter have a similar theme, that of describing the presence of evil things and evil persons in the kingdom now, but they also have minor differences. The Parable of the Net is the same in this respect.


As we have observed, in the gospel of Matthew, the Lord talks about the Judgment Day a great deal – moreso than the other gospels. Whatever our Lord speaks is important. Yet, if he teaches on certain topics more often than others, then we ought to pay particular attention to those teachings. He does not repeat Himself without reason.

The Parable of the Net again emphasizes the Judgment that is coming.


“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind.[1]


In Scripture, the “sea” represents the Gentile nations:


Then you shall see and be radiant;

your heart shall thrill and exult,

       because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,

the wealth of the nations shall come to you. [2]


Chapter 60 of Isaiah is about Israel, particularly when she is restored in glory during the Millennium. Note in verse 5 that there is parallelism present. That is, two phrases next to one another are saying the same thing only using different words. “The abundance of the sea” is parallel to the “wealth of the nations.” You can see that “the sea” and “the nations” are equivalent here. Elsewhere, the sea is similarly used to designate the Gentile nations (e.g., Rev. 13:1).


The net represents what compares to the seed in the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Tares, that is, the word of God – the gospel.


The “fish of every kind” are all the different kinds of people that are gathered in the net. People from every tribe, tongue, and nation respond to the gospel positively. This is said about the Lord Jesus in Revelation:


And they sang a new song, saying,

       “Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

       for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

10    and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.” [3]


This passage in Revelation goes beyond what is in our parable for it tells us that those who are truly ransomed will reign on earth one day. However, you must remember the theme of all the parables in this chapter: not all who respond to the gospel are actually ransomed. There are many who respond to the gospel that do so outwardly and there is no change of their heart. Thus, they are still evil.


When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. [4]


“When it was full” refers to the end of the age when all those who will ever respond to the gospel have done so:


Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.[5]


The good fish are sorted. So says our Lord. There will be degrees of glory and degrees of reward for those who have been ransomed, the good fish. This is a theme that appears frequently in the parables that both Matthew and Luke record.


 “Drawing the net ashore” refers to the Judgment Day. While the good fish will be sorted, the bad fish will be “thrown away.” Jesus explains what this means:


So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.[6]


Those who remain in their sin, the bad fish, will be thrown into the fiery furnace. This is Gehenna, what most people refer to as “hell.”


Gehenna appears to be temporary in the NT. However, the lost who enter there, according to Revelation chapter 20, will then be thrown into the lake of fire which is eternal. Therefore, for the lost, hell is eternal.


   Hell has fallen on hard times. I don’t mean hell itself. The idea of hell, belief in the reality of hell, has waned considerably over the last one hundred fifty years.

   Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland and an Anglican clergyman, believed in and taught the Bible, but not in hell. He even said that if he thought the Bible really taught everlasting punishment he would give up the Bible altogether. His reasoning was that the goodness of God is so preeminent in the Bible that hell does not fit with the character of God.

   Henry Ward Beecher, a well known preacher and abolitionsit in NYC in the 1800’s called the doctrine of hell a “hideous doctrine.”

   Although the rejection of the doctrine of hell began in the 1800’s, men like Carroll and Beecher were rare exceptions. By and large, if you were a Christian you believed in hell and even if you weren’t you accepted the idea of two places after death one of which was a very bad place to go.

   It wasn’t until the 20th century that rejection of hell took on steam. Prominent theologians like Bultmann, Niebuhr, and Barth all ejected hell out of their belief systems. As is so often the case, what starts in academia filters down to leaders and then to the general populace.  With respect to the belief in hell, at least as it has been presented by the church for the past 2,000 years, the 80’s and 90’s saw a pronounced rise in disbelief.


   What is the reason for this disbelief, other than the influence of some old German theologians? Some cultural trends can be identified that could lead one to question the reality of hell.


  1. A changed view of God. The biblical vision of God has been largely rejected by our culture as offensive and restrictive to human freedom. They view God as solely love, never coercive, never sentencing anyone to eternal torment and anguish. The average man or woman views God in accordance with contemporary standards of righteousness and love. Instead of testing societal standards with revelation the average person invents a god that matches their own notions of right and wrong.


  1. A changed view of justice. Retributive justice, meaning the punishment of wrongdoing, has been the hallmark of human law throughout all of history. It assumes that punishment is deserved, natural, and a necessary consequence for crime. A more modern notion of justice is that it should be restorative rather than retributive. That is to say, criminals don’t deserve punishment but they need correction. The goal was rehabilitation. C.S. Lewis said that if we follow that course then we have left the sphere of justice altogether and the criminal becomes a patient.  This view of so-called justice has influenced our view of God’s justice.


  1. A changed view of man. Man has always been viewed as responsible for his choices. But modern theories of psychology and sociology have taught that man is just a product of his environment or his genes. Therefore, he should not be held responsible for his choices. If this is held to be true in the everyday world how much more when speaking of eternity? Therefore, it would be unfair of God to hold people eternally accountable for what was beyond their control.


The temptation exists, even for evangelical Christians, to ignore hell knowing that it is offensive to many people in our culture. However, to be a faithful follower of Christ means that we must know what hell is like and we must be willing and able to communicate that to our family, friends, and neighbors.


I. We must know what hell is like.


  1. We must know what hell is like because Jesus taught what it was like. Jesus spoke about hell at least eight separate times. Jesus must have thought it was important. If he did so must we.
  2. We must know the reality of hell because the apostle Paul did and he had the “mind of Christ.” (I Cor 2:16)  Turn with me to II Thes. 1:5-10. READ.
  3. We must know the reality of hell because every single NT author addresses it! That cannot be said about most subjects, even important ones.
  4. We must know what hell is like because it will induce the fear of God in us and the fear of God is a good thing. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10). The fear of the Lord is an internal guide for the way we act and think in this life. In other words, we must know what hell is like so we don’t awaken in the next life and find ourselves there!
  5. We must know what hell is like because it may induce the fear of God in those to whom we speak and the fear of God is a motivator for a person to seriously consider their ways and their need of a Savior.


II. What is hell like? By way of answering this question I submit to you that:


  1. Hell is eternal. Matthew 25:31-46. [READ] In Romans 16:26 Paul describes God as the “eternal God.” In Hebrews 9:14 we read of the “eternal Spirit.” So we have four expressions: “eternal punishment,” “eternal life,” “eternal God,” and “eternal Spirit.” They are the same word in English and they are also the same word in Greek from which the NT was translated.


There is not a single argument a person can make against the duration of hell which cannot be applied with equal force against the duration of heaven. If someone says that hell will only last 1000 years then heaven will only last 1000 years. Why? Because the same word is used! If the wicked will cease to be punished after a certain length of time then the righteous will cease to be blessed after a certain length of time. If the rebellious will cease to be punished in hell after a certain length of time then God will cease to exist after a certain length of time. Why? Because the same word is used to describe the duration of both. How long will the punishment last? As long as there is a Holy Spirit. Why? Because the same word is used.


Some people object to Hell being eternal because they say that it isn’t right to take a man who lived five years in disobedience and punish him forever. This thinking confuses two things: the time it takes to commit a crime and the degree or enormity of a crime. And make no mistake about it, sin is a crime against a perfect and holy God. God forbid, but if someone murdered your son or daughter and it only took them five seconds, how long should they be punished? Five seconds? Five hours? Five days? Five months? Assuming the murderer would not get the death penalty, which is a good assumption in our age, if they received anything less than a lifetime of incarceration, I think most of us would say that there was not justice. A lifetime for a five second crime. The length of a sentence is related to the degree of the crime not the time it takes to commit it. Murder of a human being without considering God is an infinitely lesser crime than sinning against your holy Creator.


  1. Hell is a place of darkness. II Peter 2:4.

Jude 13: “To whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” (KJV)  “For whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” (NAS)

Matthew 25:30: “He is to be cast into outer darkness.”

Do you see how the figure intensifies itself: darkness, not just darkness, but the blackness of darkness, not just blackness but outer darkness – a place far removed from light.

There is no light in hell. No movies to watch. No flowers to appreciate. No sunrise to be enthralled by. No face of the one you love to look upon. No beauty of any kind to behold. Nothing but darkness for all of eternity.


  1. Hell is a place of fire. Mat. 25:41; Mark 9:42-48 [READ if time], Rev 20:15 “lake of fire.” Fire here is probably a metaphor, something that shows a similarity to the reality. Ex: “I am the vine.” Jesus is like a vine. “I am the door.” Not a literal door. Herod is a fox. Like a fox. Christ is saying that the pain in hell is like the pain of burning fire. That is why there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Hell is a place of great and unimaginable pain.
  2. No rest in hell. Rev. 14:11. “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest day or night…”
  3. Hell is a place of Banishment.  Mat 7:23; 25:41 There won’t be any God to listen to your prayers in torment. There won’t be any God to hear you scream and beg for mercy. None will be granted because God is not there.
  4. Hell is a place of destruction. John 3:1 II Thes 1:9. Does not mean annihilation. See Mark 14:4 ointment poured out.


This word for destruction means  “loss of designed function with very negative consequences.” Why couldn’t God annihilate the rebellious? Because He is a God of justice. God must punish sin. If we do not have Someone to take our punishment for us then we must be punished. When we die who we are does not change. If we were a liar in life we are still a liar in death. If you were an adulterer in life then you are an adulterer in death. We go into eternity with the character we have now. That is why it is imperative, brothers and sisters, for you to be transformed because WITHOUT HOLINESS NO MAN WILL SEE GOD. The Christian life is not just saying a prayer and coming to church. It is living. The Christian life is living. Living out the life of Christ.


When the rebellious die they are still rebels. When you punish a rebel what does he do? Does he say, “Yes, I’m getting what I deserve. Punish me more.” No! He says, “you don’t have the right to punish me!” “You have no authority over me.” It is the same way with the rebel who dies and goes to hell. When he begins to be tormented he hates it and he hates God for devising it. Well, that is a sin and that sin must be punished. When that sin gets around to being punished he hates that too. That is a sin and it must be punished. Because the sinners sins are never ending the punishment for those sins must be never ending.


  1. Hell is a place of no hope. How long is eternity? If  I was sentenced to hell for a hundred years, after one year I would think to myself, “I only have 99 years to geo and then I could get out of this awful place. If I was sentenced to hell for a 1000 years… If I was sentenced to hell for a 100,000 years…Even if I were sentenced to hell for a million years…This is the most horrible thing about hell. This is what makes it like no other place: there is no hope of any kind.


Hell is:


  • Eternal
  • Place of darkness
  • Place of pain
  • Place of no rest
  • Place of banishment
  • Place of destruction
  • Place of no hope.



Now is the time to ensure that you will not end up there. Now is the time to place your trust in Christ and repent of your sins,


Once you place your trust in Christ, you never need fear the eternality of hell. Yet, even for the follower of Christ, there will be a judgment. The fish will be sorted. I don’t want to be in the last bin when I am sorted. I don’t expect to be in the best bin, but I don’t want to be in the last bin. How about you?





[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 13:47). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 60:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 5:9–10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 13:48). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 11:25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 13:49–50). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.