Sermon: The Kingdom of God is Like a Dragnet Matthew 13:47–50

Truth Taught-  Jesus warns us of the day of judgment when our eternal destiny will be forever fixed either in Heaven or Hell.


We have before us today another of Jesus’ masterpieces.  He was the master storyteller and this Parable is a classic.  It is very similar to the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares that we addressed a few weeks ago.

Here are some points of similarity:  We are going to read about fish caught in a net and like the wheat and tares, they are together, side by side, in the net as the wheat and tares are side by side growing in the field.  There are two groups or classes.  There are the usable fish and then the ones that are worthless like the wheat gathered into the barn and the weeds bundled up and thrown into the everlasting fire of judgment.  In both stories the angels are the reapers.  There may be other similarities but you get the point.  We should ask the question why does Jesus tell two parables that are so similar in their teaching?  In the same vein, we may ask why did the Holy Spirit have Matthew record these parables that are so similar?  Why this repetition?  The repetition shows us the heart of Jesus our Savior.  He came to save and so He will repeat the fact that for those who do not believe the Gospel judgment waits, for those who do believe glory awaits.


This parable is similar, as we’ve already said, to the parable of the tares among the wheat, and it reminds us of the mixed character of the kingdom.  The disciples were expecting a pure kingdom with the righteous on the inside and the unrighteous on the outside.  And Jesus said, “Well, let Me give you some news.  The kingdom is going to be mixed.  There will be many who have no faith whatsoever then there will be those who profess faith who do not actually embrace Me, and yet they are a part of the outward kingdom then there are those who belong to Me, who have true saving faith”  So Jesus is warning against this, as He repeats His warning with regard to the final judgment.  He stresses the certainty of the current intermingling of the lost and saved together until the separation and final judgment.

So, we could water this down or focus on something not directly related to this parable, however, at the end of the day, the main teaching of this parable is eternal judgment, hell, and the Lake of Fire.

Last time we looked at the infinite value of salvation and God’s Kingdom.  We learned that it is worth more than everything we own.  It is where Jesus reigns supreme as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Now we see another reason salvation and God’s Kingdom are so valuable to us.  When we consider eternal punishment for those outside of salvation and the Kingdom we see another dimension to salvation’s value.  When we view it up against the backdrop of Hell and eternal torment God’s Kingdom becomes, if it’s even possible, more valuable and precious.

Matthew 13:47–50 (ESV) 

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 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. 

1.  At the Proper Time the Net Will Be Cast

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

Good fishermen around the Sea of Galilee knew that there was the proper time to cast their nets.  The Galilean fishermen are opportunists.  During certain times they know the fish will be in shallow water chasing minnows or the other times of the season heading for deeper waters and they strategically cast their nets at the right  time.  When the school of fish can be seen they throw out their nets over top of them.  Often it’s not hard to see the school of fish as hundreds come to the surface and their fins are out of the water. There is a certain time the nets are cast depending on the season or the temperature. 

Jesus is using this fishing imagery to show us how it will be at the last day when God tells His angels to go and cast their nets.

When the net is cast there is no discrimination as far as what the net catches… gathered fish of every kind.  

There was also another method used this was with a much larger net.  It seems like, this is what Jesus is referring to.  This is a completely different Greek term.  This term is a unique term.  It is the term sagn, and it has to do with what we’ll call a seine net, or a trolling net.  It’s a very distinct term.  It speaks of a very, very large net. 

Lenski, the commentator, says that some of these nets covered one-half mile of area, very large nets.  How it was used is very simple to understand.  One end of this large net was attached to the shoreline.  The other end was attached to a boat. 

As the boat left the shore, it pulled the net into a form where the net was stretched between the boat out in the lake and the net hooked to the shore.  Then the boat would begin to move in a circle.  And as it moved in a circle, it would sweep into this massive net, all the life in front of the net. 

It would complete an entire circle, come all the way back to where it was attached, and would have gathered into that entire net all the life that was in the sea covered by that net.  Because the top of the net had floats, it floated on the surface of the water.  The bottom of the net had weights, it sunk to the bottom so that the net moved through the sea like a vertical wall capturing everything. 

Jesus tells us that this net would catch fish of all different kinds.  At the proper time the net was cast.

2.  At the Proper Time the Net Will Be Drawn Shut

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

Once the sweep was made then the men would jump out of the boat and pull the net through the water up onto the beach.  Once on land the net was opened and the fish sorted.

Casting or laying out the net was step one.  Again this was done at a certain time.  The fishermen began the very careful sorting process.  Here the good fish, the fish that had value were put into containers/barrels with water to keep them alive as long as possible and taken to the marketplace by the means of carts and donkeys.  The worthless fish such as carp, catfish, and others were thrown away.  They often did not throw them back into the sea but burned them in the fire to be rid of them.  If you simply always caught and kept certain fish and threw the rest back the Sea of Galilee would become over run with trash fish.  

At the proper time the net is drawn shut and the fish are captured, sorted and placed in their proper category.

3.  At the Proper Time the Angels Will Separate the Evil From the Righteous

49 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. 

Here, again Jesus tells us the angels are the ones who will be the reapers and here the fishermen who separate the fish into two categories.  The angels know the difference.  The angels know who belongs to God and who belongs to Satan.

The angels have been drawing their nets through the ages of history.  When at death all people will be, sorted.  The good people, God in heaven keeps those saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus until the final judgment.  The bad or those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are thrown into the fiery furnace.  So, we may say that death is a net that sweeps across this world every day.

This net catches a little over 150,000 people every day.  

This sorting has been going on since the beginning and it will continue.  

49 So it will be at the end of the age.

There will come a day, at the proper time, when the large net sweeps across this world and all people are caught and sorted and their eternal destiny permanently assigned.  Jesus tells us this will happen at the end of the age.  

When will the End of the Age take place?  

When will Jesus return?  People have tried to predict this event.  So far, they have all been wrong because their predictions and dates have come and gone.  We are to watch and be ready. 

Matthew 24:36–44 (ESV) 

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 

Are you ready for the return of Christ?  Have you believed and are you believing the Gospel?  Are you bought with the blood of Christ?  This is how we are made ready for the end of the age.  One day the net is cast, drawn shut and your eternal destiny sealed forever.  

Jesus told another Parable about watching and being ready…

Matthew 25:1–13 (ESV) 

25 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. 

Here, again we see two types of people, those ready and those who are not ready.  The Bridegroom is coming are you ready to meet Him when He does return?

This Parable is a picture of judgment those who belong to the Lord will be saved to enjoy eternal pleasures in the presence of Christ.  Those who are not His will experience eternal torment in Hell and then in the Lake of Fire…

Hell is a place of constant torment. In Mt.22:13, Jesus described it as “outer darkness.” This refers to absolute chaos, confusion, hopelessness, and futility. The morning never comes. Light never shines because people have been separated from God. There is never any light there, only eternal blindness. In hell, there is no music, no comforting sound but only “wailing and gnashing of teeth.” There the fire will never be extinguished and the damned will never find relief. 2. Hell will torment both body and soul. a. When a lost person dies, his body is buried or burned, but his soul goes on to be tormented in hell. But that is not the end. The Bible speaks of the resurrection of both the saved and the lost. b. Believers will be fitted with bodies that enable them to enjoy the glories of heaven forever. Unbelievers will be fitted with bodies that enable them to endure the horrors of hell. Jesus gives a picture of that physical torment in Luke 16. What kind of physical anguish? Luke 16 tells us about fire, flames, and torment. It is so bad that the rich man begs Lazarus for just a single drop of water to cool his tongue. The rich man doesn’t ask for a barrel of water or a jar or a thermos or a cup or a gulp. He just says a drop or two would be precious beyond description. The Bible says that that type of unrelieved physical pain will go on day and night forever. c. Listen to what Jesus said in John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” d. In Mark 9:44 Jesus describes hell as a place “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” If a body is buried in an unsealed casket, worms will destroy it. However in the resurrected bodies of the damned the worms of hell will never stop eating. The misery of the fire will never stop burning.

Hell will never end. By far the worst torment of hell is its endlessness. Jesus said in Mat.25:46 that some “will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” 

If you’re here today perhaps God is calling you to escape the torments of Hell by turning to Him in faith and repentance?  Are you a sinner who needs God’s forgiveness?  Will you trust Christ today?  Come to Jesus and be saved!!

*Resources Used:

Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary

A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles

A Gospel of Matthew by France

Matthew by Craig Bloomberg

Matthew by Doriani

Matthew by Charles Price

Matthew by Leon Morris

Blue Letter Bible

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