Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Some fishermen throw their net out in the lake and catch all kinds of fish. When the net is full, they pull it to shore and sit down to divide the fish: the good ones go into the buckets, the worthless ones are thrown away.
It will be like this at the end of the age: the angels will go out and gather up the evil people from among the good and will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and gnash their teeth.
Do you understand these things? This means, then, that every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of heaven is like a homeowner who takes new and old things out of his storage room.
This parable is almost exactly like the one with the wheat and weeds parable on Day 128. The fish are the same as the plants in the other parable – at the end of the age (which is not the same as the end of the world) the good ones are received into the Kingdom of Heaven and the bad ones are thrown away. The meaning is exactly the same – the bad ones end up in the furnace, which I already explored in the other parable. I believe that the furnace is the place of self-imposed suffering that results when we ignore God’s will. It is in the furnace that we are refined so that we are able to join the others in the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. If you want to see how I came to this conclusion you have to go back to Day 128.
However, this parable has an additional twist at the end that supports my theory about the meaning of the “furnace”. He says that the parable also means that when a teacher of the Law (all of whom he collectively calls evil on several occasions) begins to seek the truth about the Kingdom of Heaven he has an advantage because he understands both the traditional interpretations as well as the new ones that are being revealed. In other words, there is a provision here for redemption if there is repentance. The other parable didn’t have any provision for redemption – just good and bad people, no converts. So this is comforting, and does support that the furnace is a place where teachers of the Law can get refined and redeemed.
Having addressed the substance of the parable, another commonality between the two parables is the presence of angels. In both parables the angels are the ones who swoop down and select people to throw in the fiery furnace. Before I started doing this blog, I never noticed this. I have never really thought about angels throwing people into a place of suffering. I thought about them delivering messages from God. I thought about them guiding and rescuing people. I thought about the weird winged creatures flying around in the prophesies of Ezekiel. But I never thought about them tossing people into a furnace. Yet, the Bible gives us several instances where angels are not so nice. It seems kind of jarring, like that program “Amish Mafia”. It doesn’t seem right, but there it is:
When the LORD goes through Egypt to kill the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the beams and the doorposts and will not let the Angel of Death enter your houses and kill you. (Exodus 12:23)
When the LORD’s angel was about to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD changed his mind about punishing the people and said to the angel who was killing them, “Stop! That’s enough!” The angel was by the threshing place of Araunah, a Jebusite. (2 Samuel 24:16)
We must not complain, as some of them did—and they were destroyed by the Angel of Death. (1 Corinthians 10:10)
That night an angel of the LORD went to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000 soldiers. At dawn the next day there they lay, all dead! (2 Kings 19:35)
When it comes to to angels people seem to have a lot of definitive answers about what they are and aren’t. Here are some of the things people believe:
- Angels are unique creatures that look exactly like humans.
- Angels look like humans except that they have wings and can fly.
- When people die and go to heaven they become angels.
- Angels are not dead people.
- Each of us has a personal guardian angel.
- Angels are predominately female, except for Michael and Gabriel.
- There are ten orders of angels.
- Angels are sweet and loving.
- Angels are scary and menacing.
- Angels are really alien beings from other planets.
- A lot of angels don’t look anything like humans. They have the heads of animals and the like.
- Some people don’t think angels are supernatural beings. They think the only angels are human beings who do kind deeds for other people.
- The devil is a fallen angel. So are demons.
- Angels like to sing and make music.
- Angels have bodies.
- Angels are spirits.
- People think angels can be selectively visible and invisible.
These are just a few of the many passionate beliefs various people have about angels. Be assured that the Bible has many different kinds of angels. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking they have all the answers when it comes to things like angels. For all we know all of these things are simultaneously true. Even if you have had an encounter with one kind of angel, there still might be other types. Anything is possible; angels are a mystery!
And that’s an important thing about the spiritual life. We want to have all the answers, but we never will. There are things that only God knows. If we trust God was should be cool with that and let it go. Yes, we just need to let these kinds of things go, and embrace the wonder of the many possibilities and our own experiences.
What does this scripture say to you?
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