Who are the Wheat and Who are the Tares?

by Mike Ratliff

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel .” (Genesis 3:9-15 ESV)

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds? ’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this. ’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them? ’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30 ESV)

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law- breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:36-43 ESV)

Several years ago a preacher ask me what a tare was. He knew that I was from Oklahoma and he thought I would know. I am no country boy, but when I was a young man, I worked in a grain elevator. Actually, most wheat farmers I knew complained about a weed, which grew in their fields, they called “Cheat.” I may not be spelling it correctly. I have seen the weed though. Wheat looks like a thick-bladed grass when it is young and green. “Cheat” is a native rye grass whose species name is Lolium Temulentum. When it is young, it looks just like the Wheat. However, when it matures, it has a head on it as does Wheat, but you can tell them apart. Wheat has value, but “Cheat” is a nuisance. We offered a Wheat cleaning service to farmers just prior to planting. To clean Wheat seed we ran it through a screening process to remove any other seeds that were not Wheat. We would drop the grain down a chute into a cleaning machine that had several well-placed screens that allowed only the Wheat grains to make it through the process. The rest of the chaff and weed seeds were waste, which we bagged. Some of the farmers took that waste and fed it to their chickens.

I placed three scripture passages at the beginning of this chapter. The first one explains the events immediately after Adam’s sin that we call the original sin. God questions Adam who blames Eve. God questions Eve who blames the serpent. God then addresses the serpent who we know is Satan. Let us look at that part of the passage again.

14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15 ESV)

This passage is symbolic. The serpent is Satan. The woman represents the Church, which is the elect. The seed of Satan are all reprobate people who are not part of the elect. God proclaims to Satan that He will put enmity between him and the elect. That is no surprise. He also tells him there will be enmity between his seed and the Woman’s seed. Women do not have seed, men do. Women have ovaries and eggs not seed. The Woman’s seed symbolizes those who are not born of Man. This statement symbolizes the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Is there enmity between Satan and our Lord Jesus Christ? Satan bruised Jesus’ heel at the cross, a non-fatal blow. However, Jesus bruised or crushed Satan’s head, a fatal blow, in His victory over sin at the cross. The seed of the Woman also includes the elect who are regenerated, reborn, through saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This regeneration is followed quickly by justification by God declaring these Born Again believers righteous. This is possible because of the act of Atonement for the elect’s sin. (Romans 5:11) Jesus paid the price for the elect’s sin by becoming sin on the cross. This satisfied the justice of God against that sin. As regeneration becomes fact, because of the Atoning work done by the Lord, God the Father adopts all new believers into the family of God. This is why the Woman’s seed includes Jesus Christ and all believers because God the Father considers all in Christ as Jesus’ brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:14-18)

As we have seen, there is enmity between Satan’s seed and the Woman’s seed. Since the Woman’s seed is Jesus Christ and all of His brothers and sisters, we must conclude Satan and his seed really hate the true Church as much as they hate Him. Satan’s seed are the reprobate non-elect in this world who will never believe. Unlike the unregenerate elect, these unregenerate will always hate God, the gospel, and the true Church.

The next two passages I placed at the beginning of this chapter are a parable Jesus told followed by His interpretation. I have heard many sermons and teachings on the “Wheat and the Tares” parable. After I studied this for myself, I have found that most of those sermons were dead wrong.

Many years ago a very famous evangelist came to our Church in Yukon, Oklahoma when I was a deacon there. He preached a sermon titled, “The Wheat and the Tares.” His sermon had Jesus give this parable to us as a warning that the Church contained true believers (the Wheat) alongside phony believers (the tares). He has boasted that this sermon usually results in most of the deacons at whatever church he preaches it in “getting saved.” I remember like it was just the other day when he preached it in our church. I knew I was a believer and his sermon did not cause me to doubt. When he gave his invitation at the end, he seemed very disappointed when none of our deacons “got resaved.” His approach was Arminian to the core. He also misinterpreted Jesus parable of the Wheat and the Tares. Let’s look at Jesus own interpretation of this parable.

36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. (Matthew 13:36-37 ESV)

Who sows the good seed? Jesus told us that He does that. This is talking about salvation. This is describing the regenerate, the chosen of God, as seed the Lord sows. The seed do not choose this. The sower sows them. The Lord saves those who are His. There is no human choice involved here at all. Where does Jesus sow His good seeds?

38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, Matthew 13:38 ESV)

This verse shows us that Jesus sows His good seed in the world and those seed are the children of the kingdom. The chosen of God are Jesus siblings by adoption. They are God’s children. Since they are in the world this is referring to living believers. This is not a picture of the Church as a whole, but is a picture of believers living in the world. What about the tares, who are they?

38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. (Matthew 13:38-39 ESV)

This is very clear. The tares are Satan’s seed that he planted in the world. Notice very carefully, the Wheat does not become tares and the tares do not become Wheat. This is a very straightforward teaching on election and perseverance of the Saints. God knows those who are His. He also knows who the tares are. Could it be possible for tares to be part of the Church? There most definitely are tares in the visible or physical Church. If there are tares who are professing believers then they are part of what some of us call the “Counterfeit Church”, spiritually. A local church body may very well contain members of both the Counterfeit Church and the true Church, side-by-side. All genuine believers, the chosen, are part of the true Church, spiritually. However, physically they may be part of the Counterfeit Church if they are mired in false doctrine. The physical churches contain believers and non-believers. However, the spiritual true Church is 100% chosen of God. The following diagram may help.

  • The Spiritual True Church contains all of the chosen no matter if they are in physical churches that are Counterfeit doctrinally.
  • The Spiritual Counterfeit Church contains all false professors.
  • The Physical (Visible) True Church contains the chosen that are part of doctrinally pure churches and some false professors.
  • The Physical (Visible) Counterfeit Church contains some deceived chosen and many false professors.
  • There are millions of tares that are pagans or atheists so are not part of any “church.”

All non-professing reprobate people are Satan’s seed and are not part of any church but are tares in the world. The false professors are those who claim to be Christian but are not so they are Satan’s seed as well. These would be tares in the physical church. The Spiritual true Church contains no tares. The false professors are not the chosen of God. They are tares. What happens to the tares at the end of the age?

39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law- breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:39-42 ESV)

There is nothing funny about that message. The chosen of God will avoid the furnace of fire. However, the tares will not. It is at this point the Pelagian, Semi-Pelagian, and Arminian would step up and say something like, “There must be something we can do to get these poor people to decide for Christ in light of their future!” This is not a message of evangelism. This is a message by our Lord about the future of those who are not the chosen of God. However, we must get the gospel to all people because there are many elect who have not yet believed. The gospel must be freely given to all people so the elect will come to faith, but only the chosen of God will believe because they are the only ones given God’s effectual call by His grace.

Soli Deo Gloria!

6 thoughts on “Who are the Wheat and Who are the Tares?

  1. After working a wheat harvesting crew one summer as a kid in Kansas, I saw a fair amount of ‘tares’. You can’t do anything about them until harvest since you would lose 10 or more weat plants for every tare you pulled up. Only way to clean them out is to harvest and then get the elevator guys sift them out. Once you harvest, that’s it. Usually no tares come up the next year. Useless stuff!

    So to are so-called Christians that show no Fruit. Only difference is they get sifted out at the Throne of Grace when the Book of Life is opened. Not a situation I want a part of, I can tell you!

  2. My heart goes out to those whom God has passed over for perdition especially within immediate family. God be praised he saved a wretch like me through his reconciliation. Great post !

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