“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ‘Have you understood all these things?’ Jesus asked. ‘Yes,’ they replied.” — Matthew 13:47–51 (NIV84)
This is the last of the “kingdom of heaven” parables in the 13th chapter of Matthew. At the end of time (this worldly kingdom is coming to an end) the Lord will drop a net down into the kingdom of this world. He will collect all humanity and separate them from one another like a fisherman separates good fish from bad. The Lord will separate the righteous (those whose true residence is in the kingdom of heaven) and the wicked (whose true residence is in the kingdom of this world). Once again, the point is made that the two kingdoms are not equals. The heavenly kingdom is the only legitimate kingdom. The kingdom of the world (Satan’s kingdom) is powerless to the workings of God’s kingdom. God will once and for all enter into this world’s kingdom to bring home His own and establish His kingdom forever. The wicked and their kingdom are going to be cast out and thrown away. They will be thrown into the “fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
This short parable is a picture of judgment day. These two kingdoms will not contend with each other forever. God is working the will of His kingdom in and through the kingdom of this world. When He is done working, He will forever change the landscape by eliminating the worldly kingdom and establishing His heavenly kingdom forever. What does this mean to you and me? Well, first it means that although life on this earth can be a real struggle sometimes, we can find peace in the fact that the struggle will not last forever. God is bringing into a reality His kingdom in which there is no pain, or suffering, or shedding of tears. Second, we need to get busy spreading the good news about the kingdom that is at hand. We need to reach as many as we can with the Gospel message. We need to be busy making bad fish (the wicked) into good fish (the righteous) before the heavenly net is dropped.