This is the last of the kingdom parables in Matthew 13. Again, the Lord employed an image that would have been familiar to those who heard Him. He said:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to share; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:47-50)
I am the furthest thing from an expert fisherman, but I understand that a fisherman will use a particular type of bate to attract specific kinds of fish. However, if one just uses a dragnet, there is no guarantee about what it is going to pick up. You will occasionally hear stories of a fisherman who caught a boot or some other object. It seems that a dragnet will lend itself to that sort of catch.
Why then is the kingdom likened to a dragnet rather thahn a precise bait that will catch only a certain type of people—those who are fit for the kingdom? In the parable of the sower, the seed fell upon each type of soil. It is not the sower’s duty to determine how a man will respond to the gospel, but rather it is our duty to sow the seed to all.
Just as the real-life dragnet will gather up all kinds of things from the water, the gospel will gather all kinds into the kingdom. The net will have some things we’ll want to keep, and some other things that are best thrown back. Jesus says it is the same with the Lord’s kingdom. Of course, the Lord desires that all be saved (2 Peter 3:9), and the gospel is given so that all might be saved (John 3:16), but not all will be saved—not even all who have heard and obeyed the truth.
At a later date, we will look at the parable of the ten virgins in detail. In it, Jesus represents the kingdom of heaven with ten virgins—five wise and five foolish. All ten were saints, but not all ten had the hope of heaven. This is also the case in the parable of the dragnet. In the gospel net, all kinds of people will be gathered together. Not all of them will be fit for the kingdom. In the sower parable, we noted that the seed was spread without partiality. Some did not receive it at all, others received it for a time, but afterward turned away. Such people make themselves unfit for the kingdom. What makes this exceptionally sad is that it is in our control how we respond to the gospel and how we live after having been exposed to it. Thus, if we are the proverbial nasty old boot caught in the net, it is because we have chosen to be that.
When the judgment comes, all will be separated as either good or bad. Time and again, the Bible reveals how the distinction will be made—it is according to our works (Psalm 62:12; Jeremiah 17:10; Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6-8; 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; etc.). If we want the hope of heaven, we must heed the word of God and put it into practice in our lives. We will be judged by the word (John 12:47-48). Too many have the idea that they can receive Jesus and ignore what His word says. Such a thought is nothing but a deception of the devil. If we try to receive Jesus but do not believe and obey His word (all the New Testament, not just the red words in the gospels), then we will find ourselves among those who are gathered up and cast into a furnace of fire.
The dragnet of the gospel catches all kings—let us be the good things, ready to be gathered into the eternal kingdom of God.