Matthew Roark
July 14, 2020
Question #
10

The Parable of the Net and Revelation 22:11

Question:

Hi There, I have just found your website, I do see some scriptures apply that God may restore all things. However there are some scriptures I struggle with, which I would love you to share you thoughts on. With thanks. Scripture 1) Matthew 13 verses 49 and 50. It seems that the wicked will be done away with? (Not that I do not desire all men be saved or become holy, this verse I feel speaks to me as there has been wickedness in my heart) Scripture 2) There is a verse in Revelation where it talk about whoever is filthy let him be filthy still and whoever is righteous let him be righteous still. I appreciate your time.

Answer:

I understand your concern. Matthew 13:49-50 are terrifying verses. But despite the unsettling image of Angels throwing the wicked into fire and the subsequent 'weeping and gnashing of teeth', I think these verses can be read in harmony with passages that speak of universal reconciliation.

To begin, I want you to remember that God is goodness itself. (Mark 10:18) As a result, everything He creates, everything He does, all of His thoughts, intentions, and desires are good. He simply cannot stop being good and doing good.

With that in mind, we must now ask the question: "How is it good for the wicked to be thrown into the fire?"

It certainly can't be good if those people burn and suffer in unending torment. In that scenario, they would never be restored, they would never enter into a wholesome and loving relationship with their Creator. And God's image, present in each one of them, would forever be scarred and broken. Neither can it be good if the wicked are simply annihilated and cease to exist, reduced to ashes and nothingness. Because if that were the case, then those people would likewise never be restored. God's image in them would be utterly destroyed.

There is only one remaining option: the fire purifies them.

If you look back through your Bible, you will notice that fire is associated with purity or a purifying process. God is described as a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:29, Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3) Yet, God's fire does not consume what is pure and holy. (Exodus 3:2&5). The fire itself purifies (Numbers 31:23, Isaiah 48:10, 1 Peter 1:7). Paul tells us that everyone will pass through the fire and that some will be saved because of the fire. (1 Corinthians 3:15) Even within the Gospel of Matthew (3:7-12), John the Baptist tells the Pharisees and Sadducees that they will be baptized with fire. And what does baptism signify? Cleansing, a washing away of sin, holiness, purity, regeneration, the beginning of a new life in Christ.

This, I think, is the proper way to understand the wicked being thrown into the fire of Matthew 13:49-50 — not as eternal torment or annihilation, but as a process which restores them to purity. The parable is speaking about those who refuse God and hold onto their sinful ways. They will be purified at the end of the Age. Not forcibly as some people imagine — Love does not insist on its own way. (1 Corinthians 13:5) — but through the realization of all the pain their sin has caused. That is what I think will cause the weeping and gnashing of teeth — regret. And that regret leads to repentance, which is the first step in restoration. This is how God can restore all things even though some will suffer in the fire.

Concerning the Revelation verse, I believe you're thinking of Revelation 22:11 "Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy."

This verse comes in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, which is fitting because I believe it brings us full circle to the first book of the Bible and the Garden of Eden.

As I said above, God is not in the business of forcing people to follow Him. We are free to sin. Each person must make their own choice to follow God or not. God warned Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. They disobeyed and ate. And here, thousands of years later, in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, we are given the same message: you can choose good or evil; it's up to you. But those who continue in evil will be purified by fire.

Matthew Coleman

Matthew Roark is co-founder and editor of Mercy On All. He lives in Kentucky with his abundantly beautiful wife and two children. He is an avid reader and enjoys all things J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and George MacDonald.