The Wolf & The Tares
Recently I have been giving a lot of thought to two ideas. The first is what constitutes a wolf? The second is what is a tare?
The principle reason for this meditation has been because I have read a number of articles produced by brethren addressing the subjects mentioned as well as in some instances proposing not only an understanding of the questions, but a remedy as well. What follows are my own thoughts about these difficult issues.
The parable of the tares can be found in Mathew 13:24-30.
The explanation to this parable can be found in (Mathew 13:37-43).
The very first thing which we need to understand is how it became possible for wheat and tares to be side by side drawing on the same nutrient. One foundational reality in all of this must be to realise that the kingdom of heaven itself has been in sight since the foundation of the world. Yet it was kept hidden (Matthew 13:35). It cannot be an exaggeration therefore to say that Mathew chapter thirteen contains an understanding which is of the greatest importance to all men.
As was shared in the article, Talents & Tares, we know of the moment when the Pharisees blasphemed the Holy Spirit, saying He hath Beelzebub, and, By the prince of the demons casteth he out the demons (Mark 3:22). It is directly after this blasphemy that Jesus stopped speaking plainly and began to speak in parables. The first of which parables was the parable of the sower in Mark 4:3-8.
And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near (Ephesians 2:17).
The Lord by way of explaining the meaning of the parable of the sower, begins by telling the disciples that the mystery of the kingdom of heaven had been granted to the disciples. We also read the words but those who are outside get everything in parables (v11). It is very clear from these words that Jesus regarded the disciples to be part of the kingdom of heaven at the time the words were spoken. In what sense could the disciples have been regarded as being part of the kingdom of heaven? An insight lies in the passage which explains a time when the disciples were sent out in twos with the words Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, The kingdom of God has come near to you (Luke 10:8-9). Clearly the disciples were taught that those who rejected them, were in effect rejecting the kingdom of heaven. The coming near was literally the disciples themselves desiring to enter into other mens houses (Luke 10:5).
How much more true that in receiving Christ Himself, the disciples had received the kingdom. Where the King is, there is the kingdom is simply a matter of common sense (Matthew 12:28).
That Jesus had the power of the kingdom is hardly contestable. The disciples similarly came back from their own labours excited, precisely because of this power of the kingdom, being invested in Christ name, in that they were even able to cast out demons (Luke 10:17). Jesus said at that time nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven (Luke 10:20). It is also clear that despite all of the things which the disciples understood concerning the kingdom of heaven (Mathew 13:51) they were nevertheless still expecting Jesus to establish the kingdom of God in visibility of all men (Luke 19:11). Even after the resurrection of the Lord from the dead the disciples were expecting the Lord to restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). Yet the disciples must also have remembered every word of explanation which Jesus gave them concerning the parables and their meaning. In their thinking there could have been no contradiction in understanding the explanations of the Lord, and at the same time believing that at any moment Jesus would establish the kingdom on the earth, beginning in Israel.
In thinking about the disciples at this time I am struck by the position they found themselves in and how similar a position we are in today. There are of course profound differences. The greatest of which is where Christ Himself can be found. Today Christ is in heaven seated at the right hand of the Father, whereas at the time of the disciples, Christ was physically with them in Jerusalem. Today Christ is also in us by the Holy Spirit, whereas Christ was not in the disciples, but spoke to them face to face. The point of singularity however is an expectation that Christ would establish His kingdom on the earth at any moment (Luke 19:11). For us today this means the Lord return, for the disciples at that time it meant going up to Jerusalem where the Lord sent several disciples to prepare a way for Him. In the end it meant waiting in Jerusalem after Christ had ascended into heaven.
Another difference between the disciples and ourselves is that whilst they were directly taught of Christ Himself concerning the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, we have been taught those things which have come down to us over nearly two thousand years. In this great length of time, the subject of the meaning and mystery of the kingdom of heaven has been a substantial theme.This has been especially true over the past few hundred years or so. Moreover it has been a singular theme over the past seventy years or so. Regardless of what we have been taught, or by whom, we have the scriptures and the Holy Spirit to teach us what the meaning of the kingdom of heaven is; even all of its mysteries.
Clearly nothing can be of more importance than the Lord return, at which time the world itself will become the kingdom of heaven (Revelation 11:15). The question which I ask myself therefore when reading the parables of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew chapter thirteen, is what is the context of their meaning? By this I do not simply mean what is the context of their delivery by the Lord to Israel, and subsequent explanation to the disciples? We know the context and we have the explanations. What we need to have is their context with regards to the meaning of the kingdom itself when it comes. In short the parables only have meaning in relation to the kingdom itself and not many other things.
One way of answering this question seems to be in understanding that the kingdom of heaven is the same in meaning as the King. Christ Jesus is coming again in the Glory of the Father, as King of kings to establish His kingdom on the earth. At this time the world itself becomes the kingdom of heaven, because the King of heaven once again enters into a physical relationship with the kingdom of the earth (Revelation 11:15-18). Presently the world is under the power of the evil one until he is cast down from heaven (Revelation 12:9-11). In like manner when the millennial kingdom is concluded, the evil one will again be permitted to exert his poisonous influence in the latter days of the kingdom itself, on earth (Revelation 20:7-10). It must be clear therefore that when we speak of the kingdom of heaven we are talking about that place where Christ the King, exerts His influence and has dominion by His presence, both in what He permits and what He does not permit. If we can accept this simple premise then it may be possible to make more sense of the parable of the tares.
The Kingdom of Heaven & The Church
Before we press on any further therefore we have to ask ourselves a question. Is the church of the world? Or is it in the world? Or we could ask this same question another way. Is the body of Christ of the world? Or is the body of Christ of the kingdom? We know that there was one moment in time when Jesus returned to heaven. The King who rode into Jerusalem was crucified, and after He was raised from the dead, He ascended back into heaven. On the other hand the disciples were sent into the world as sheep amongst wolves. If the kingdom of heaven is likened to a field, and the field speaks of the world, where does the King of heaven and the power of the kingdom reside after His ascension back into heaven?
The disciples remained in Jerusalem. They were commanded to wait in Jerusalem, and so they waited in obedience of the King. What did they wait for? They were told to wait for power from on high (Luke 24:49). Once this power from on high was given, even the sending of the Holy Spirit, what was the first consequence? Three thousand were saved (Acts 2:41). What were the three thousand saved from? They were saved from the sin of unbelief in having rejected Christ (Acts 2:23). At the instant these three thousand souls believed, they became citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Yet physically they remained in the world.
We know the boundary of the kingdom of heaven, and we know the limit is from the time of Christ right up until the kingdom come. Its boundary or dominion is the whole of the earth as well as heaven itself. We also know that all things are made subject to Christ (Hebrews 2:1-8). When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). The fulness of the kingdom of heaven is from Christ ministry on earth in the first presentation of the kingdom of heaven in power on earth, to the removal of stumbling blocks and those who commit lawlessness from the millennial kingdom, where the righteous will shine forth as the sun. This is the present measure which is set before us. This is the measure we are concerned with.
The most singular reality which came into view from the day of pentecost was the visible beginnings of the church on earth. First in Jerusalem and then unto the ends of the earth. When we speak of the kingdom of heaven we have to first comprehend that it has not yet appeared in outward visibility, save for the demonstration of its power. Today, even as in the day of Christ, the kingdom is the dominion and the presence of the King. This is because the only one who has true power and authority is the King. All others who become sons of the kingdom posses only one reality. This reality is Christ Himself, in us, both to will and to work according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
Though we have the keys of the kingdom with power, to preach Christ and to make disciples of all men, we do not yet comprehend the kingdom because we do not yet fully comprehend the King. When the King is revealed by His appearing then we will know Him and then we shall be fully as He is because we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).
The Parable of the Good Seed
Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares? And he said to them, An enemy has done this! The slaves said to him, Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up? But he said, No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I
will say to the reapers First gather up the tares
and bind them in bundles to burn them up;
but gather the wheat into my barn. Mathew 13:24-30.
The Explanation of the Parable of the Good Seed
And He said, The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Mathew 13:37-43.
The parable of the good seed, which is called by the disciples, the parable of the tares (v37), contains various parts, and corresponding to these parts are various meanings. We dont have to speculate to understand this fact we simply need to read the parable as well as its explanation. If we resist giving the parable a meaning of our own in the first instance and accept that this is the only occasion in the scriptures where the term tares appears, we cannot help but realise that the context of its meaning cannot be other than the kingdom of heaven because this is what is stated plainly. If we do not firstly establish the ground upon which the parable is set, it will not be possible to make reasonable and enlightened distinctions later on. In this endeavour the first thing we read in this parable is that the kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. It is also by reason of the activity of the devil, the same kingdom in which are sown the tares.The chief characteristic of the kingdom of heaven it that it is like unto a field. We know from the explanation which the Lord subsequently gave to the disciples, that the field is in fact the world.
The wonderful thing about the Lord explanation of this parable is the absolute clarity of it, yet its full meaning is still not possible unless it is given. Every word is stated plainly and with precise meaning yet it cannot be comprehended unless the one who hears it has his mind set on the kingdom itself.
The sower of the good seed is Jesus Himself (the Son of Man (v37)). The field is the world (v38) and the good seed are sons of the kingdom (v38) The tares are sons of the evil one (v38), and the enemy of the Son of Man is the devil (v39). The harvest referred to is at the end of the age (v40). The place where this harvest takes place is the kingdom on earth (v41), where the righteous will shine forth as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father (v43). Only then do we read He who has ears, let him hear. In short the only possibility of understanding even this explanation, is if you are yourself a son of the kingdom and therefore have ears to hear. No amount of explanation rationally will make its meaning apprehensible.
To see beyond this explanation of the Lord Jesus requires the reader to comprehend the limit or boundary which is set by it. If we call that which is the church, the kingdom, we would have changed the meaning of the church. Likewise if we call the kingdom, the church, we would have neglected that the parable teaches that the kingdom is likened unto a field, and that the field is the world. If this seems difficult to understand then it may be because we have not comprehended the limitation of the church in this day, or the extent and influence of the kingdom. The church is not yet revealed. Christ is still building it by His own power working through the members of His body. And it is only when two or three members of His body assemble together that Christ is there in the midst. This is the true church and this presentation of the members of His body becomes the only visible evidence of the kingdom of heaven on earth. Yet the sphere and scope of the kingdom is the whole world. One day the world itself will become the kingdom of heaven.
In speaking therefore of wheat and tares we may need to adjust our understanding to accept the reality that whilst the good seed represent sons of the kingdom in the church which is in the world, so the tares, being sons of the evil one, speaks of the world which is also included in the dominion and influence of the kingdom. As was previously pointed out, it is only when the wheat (sons of the kingdom) bear fruit, that a distinction can be made between the wheat and the tares. In all other respects the wheat and the tares appear the same.
In reading the parables as presented by the Lord is Mathew chapter thirteen, beginning with the parable of the sower through to the parable of the net (13:1-52), we see that just prior to this passage, Jesus makes a public separation even with regard to His own mother, brothers and sisters. The fullness of this separation is according to the prophecy of Isaiah 10:9-12. The means by which this separation is achieved is by speaking parables (Matthew 13:13 & 13:35).
The Lord made a distinction between Himself and His own family to demonstrate the meaning of the kingdom of heaven and to show that though its dominion had not changed, those who would be considered sons of the kingdom would be those who believe in Christ Himself (Matthew 12:46-50). From this moment the nearness and dominion of the kingdom are hidden, except to the disciples. All of the parables therefore which are included from the parable of the sower to the parable of the net speak about this separation, its consequences and its meaning.
This hiding of the kingdom has a consequence not only for Israel but it has a consequence for the kingdom itself. This points to the very meaning of the parables themselves, which in reality explain this effect as well as its consequence in the future. What is this effect? It is the immediate understanding of the broader dominion of the kingdom of heaven, peace to [those] who were far away, and peace to those who were near (Ephesians 2:17).
The consequence is the very meaning of the parable of the tares.
The kingdom has not only been presented to Israel, by John the baptist, Christ, and the disciples, but it will in the end be presented to the whole world. It is not difficult to see therefore that the dominion of the kingdom is greater than Israel and the Church, it encompasses the whole world. In such a circumstance it is not difficult to comprehend how it is that Satan as the ruler of this world is able to raise up false converts and those who simply wish to be religious and press them into a growth which is not of the Lord, and therefore cannot produce a harvest. Yet if from this we conclude that this is the explanation as to why so many who take the name of Christ do not appear to have the ability to walk faithfully, this would be a singular mistake, in my understanding. Not only this, but it would be an equal mistake to believe that the tares in any given day cannot themselves come into a knowledge of the truth and so become true sons of the kingdom of heaven.
In recognising that there are unbelievers within the dominion and influence of the kingdom of heaven, ought not to amount to a claim that there are unbelievers in the church. To realise that this must be true it is only necessary to understand that the church is not a denomination or a particular tradition, but can only be those who have the life of Christ in them. On the other hand the physical kosmos of the world is included in the boundary of the kingdom of heaven. The very word kingdom in the scriptures is the greek word for kosmos. It is profoundly wrong to claim that there are tares in amongst the wheat and to intend that this be understood as meaning unbelievers in the church. True believers cannot mix with unbelievers, only unbelievers can mix with believers. Yet this mixing is not in the church, it is in the world which itself is in the dominion of the kingdom of heaven.
We Called & They Came
One of the most pernicious undertakings which we have witnessed over the past thirty years or so has been an increasing presentation of Christ to the unsaved in terms which amount to a false gospel. This gospel focuses on an individuals sufferings in life and presents Christ as a remedy for the pain this suffering has caused. The true Gospel however focuses on the sufferings of Christ to redeem wicked and sinful men and women. It is no wonder that in casting such a net of influence countless men and women have embraced the name of Jesus, and yet do not produce any true fruit of repentance. Nor is there any evidence that the meaning, power and consequence of sin is comprehended by these same men and women.
The fact that they come into the buildings which bear the name church does not in anyway mean that they have come into the true church. The meaning of the true church is predicated on a life relationship with Christ, not whether you go to church or desire to be seen and understood as a christian.
An Egyptian can be in Goshen, but an Egyptian cannot become a Jew simply by living in Goshen. Yet clearly living in Goshen in the end proved to be a singular advantage to those Egyptians who chose to live amongst the Jews and put their trust in God as well on the night of the passover. If there is any hope at all in this day, then it is in this possibility; that those who are not born again yet who dwell in the dominion of the kingdom of heaven, will put their trust in Christ to a true effect of being born again.
It may well be impossible to know who is saved and who is not saved today in many places. There will be some who have received a promise of being saved, who were in fact saved, and there will be many who have not truly believed at all. The consequence of all of this is truly terrible. It means that whilst there are tares living amongst the wheat, there are also those who are truly wheat, yet in the end will bear no fruit. To the natural mind this creates an indistinguishable harvest. In the end the harvest can only be brought into the store house of the Lord by angels and not men at all. The collective effect of this is apostasy in our day.
Apostasy does not mean unbelievers claiming to be believers. Apostasy means believers themselves falling away from the apostles teachings. If just one believer falls away from the apostles teachings himself, and yet preaches a sufficiency of Christ crucified to make it possible for the hearer to believe and be born again, then after a season there will be many men and women who are barely saved, out from which arise other apostate preachers and there unto ever greater apostasy. Being barely saved in this sense means having eternal life, yet walking always in the natural mind and thereby neglecting the kingdom of heaven.
In such ground it is only a matter of time when it is impossible to distinguish between the tares and the apostate believer. In the end those who are walking in the light according to the apostles teachings will become the least of the brethren and all others will be over them. Such a day will herald the man of sin. Such a day is a day of the false prophet, and such a day is nearly upon us (Romans 13:12).
The Carnal Believer, The Grievous Wolf & The Ravenous Wolf
In the New Testament there are a number of references to wolves amongst these are Matthew 7:16, 10:16, Luke 10:3, Acts 20:29 & John 10:12-13. Of these Matthew 7:15 has to do with false prophets and teachers who come in sheep clothing, but are inwardly ravenous wolves, and Acts 20:29 expressly speaks about grievous wolves [entering] in among [the church], not sparing the flock.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. Matthew 7:15.
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Acts 20:29-30.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 2 Peter 2:1-3.
These three passage show two threads of understanding. One concerning false teachers and false prophets arising from within the kingdom; the other that of wolves coming from outside of the kingdom but finding an entry into the flock. This distinction also helps to make sense of the false prophet, the false teacher and the grievous wolf. Peter identifies two areas of influence, they are among the people and among you. The people are Israel (though today the people could be all people), and the second group is obviously believers in the Lord Jesus. The writer of Acts identifies grievous wolves entering in among you as well as those of your own selves. The Lord Jesus speaks of false prophets, who come to you. Remembering that tares cannot be said to be the true church, though they dwell in the same ground as the true church, so we must now apply this same understanding again to comprehend what the scriptures teach about this difficult issue. In this instance it is several distinctions which need to be made.
As far as the ground on which the church stands there are wheat and tares. The tare is always false, but the wheat may also become false as well. This is because when the wheat does not bear fruit it is shown to be carnal, and fit for destruction, even though the wheat speaks of true believers. Wheat and tares are included in the dominion of the kingdom of heaven. It is also possible that those true believers who are carnal; having a testimony of Christ, have the potential to lead astray true believers. In such a circumstance the one who is yet carnal and a teacher, is by very nature false because being carnal they speak and teach out of their flesh and not the Spirit. I believe that a distinction needs to be made very clearly in all of this. The one who is truly born again, yet because of besetting sin, pride and general fleshiness, and who begins to teach despite all of these things, is not a ravenous wolf. They may well be like a wolf, even as the tare is like a believer, yet they cannot be a ravenous wolf according to Matthew 7:15. See the article Call not thy Brother a Wolf for further explanation of this.
On the other hand as the tares also abide in the same ground as the wheat, it is possible to comprehend that a false convert in the midst can become a ravenous wolf and thence go about from flock to flock. The central characteristic of the false prophet or teacher is precisely that they teach false doctrines the outworking of these false doctrines has the effect of ravaging the flock. Ravenous therefore means a mind to destroy. It speaks of becoming like a demon, or having a demonic mind. It speaks of being earthbound, natural and demonic (James 3:13-18).
The ravenous wolf in Matthew 7:15 is first a false prophet and therefore this is the principle identifying characteristic of such a person, it denotes false teaching arising from not being a true prophet altogether. It is essential to get a true meaning as to what this means. The greek word is pseudoprophetes (ψευδοπροφήτης). In short a fake prophet (You Seek for Prophets). The second characteristic is that of being ravenous. This word ravenous in the greek is ἁρπαγή (harpage) which means to destroy, rob and steal. It is characteristic of a lack of self control inwardly, though outwardly due to an intentional deception, it is a presentation of righteousness.
The term wolf in Matthew is the greek word lukos (λύκος) and it occurs in Matthew. 10:16; Luke 10:3; John 10:12 as well as Matthew. 7:15. It always denotes a person or persons whose character and conduct is as a believer, yet whose fruit (Speech & Teachings) is an an unbeliever. The qualifying meaning is derived from the adjective, ravenous or grievous, whereas the noun, wolf is figurative of a persons conduct who has no moral self control. This could be sexual lust, monetary greed or many other lusts of the flesh. Taken together ravenous wolf means a person without self control in the hidden recesses of their hearts, being greedy, lustful and covetous, given to jealousy, rage anger, malice, accusation, as well as a demonic inclination to control others. In the Hebrew the same word wolf also carries the meaning to be like a brother as well as to be like a sorcerer and to always seek agreement of others in order to control them. The chief characteristic of this need to control others would be expressed through false teaching or false prophecy.
This is very different from the wolf which Paul speaks of in Acts 20:29 where the wolf is called a grievous wolf. This word grievous is the greek word βαρύς (barus) which means to press a severe burden on a person. It is reflective of someone finding an entry into the fellowship of believers with the intention of pressing the flock to once again keep the Law of Moses, as a means of attaining to eternal life. It is to be of the same mind as the Pharisees in the Lord day, whom Jesus rebuked because they burdened the people of Israel with every jot and tittle of the Law, but did nothing to help carry the burden. In the true church this would amount to the same in meaning as those referred to in Galatians 6:13. The term grievous wolf carries many of the same implications as far as the noun wolf is concerned, but the adjective, grievousreally alludes to an attitude of religious deception expressed legalistically, and pressed onto others thereby making their lives a burden and a misery. The wolf like characteristics are the same, and so the grievous wolf is driven by an inward knowledge of being an hypocrite and therefore false (1 Timothy 4:2), in the same way as the ravenous wolf is driven by a knowledge of being false.
The singular difference between these two types of wolf becomes evident when the ravenous wolf will flatter and refuse to condemn sin, whereas the grievous wolf focuses on nothing but sin, in light of the Law, and will only praise the truly self righteous. Clearly the common title of wolf is used in both of these two instances, yet the character and therefore the spirit and motive of these two kinds of wolf are very different. One could say however that these two kinds of wolf at work in the church produces a common outcome. This outcome is on the one hand a bringing the gospel of grace into disrepute, and on the other hand this makes for eventual apostasy. The ravenous wolf corresponds to the ones the Lord Jesus spoke about to the disciples Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:16). Whereas the grievous wolf corresponds to those of whom Paul warns will come into the church after he has departed (Acts 20:29-30).
To restate then, I would say there is a distinction to be made before we even look at the meaning of what a wolf is, and concerns carnal believers on the one hand and tares on the other. Who respectively, being either fleshy or else deceived altogether, (yet both believing they are truly following Christ), may also desire to teach. Such as these openly depart from the truth, being led on by fleshy impulses or because the truth is not in them. Though they know the doctrines of God, they do not walk in the spirit, or else they do not have life and therefore they are inclined to both believe, and in some instances, to teach false doctrines. They may in fact draw away to themselves other carnal believers as well as tares, both being like minded and incapable of discerning the truth.
The carnal believer who becomes a teacher, may well be wolf like in their carousing attitudes, and may influence true believers with their false teachings. Yet they are much more likely to draw tares along with them and so together these tares may form a distinct group in as much as they are unbelievers led on by a carnal believer. Regardless as to what they erroneously believe or teach, they are in any event going to come under judgement. Yet the tares, without true hope (if they remain tares) may one day perish. If one of these tares were to become dominant, and exhibit counterfeit manifestations of the Holy Spirit, to that extent they may actively lead even the true sheep astray. In this instance they are more fully ravenous wolves. This is because a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, being ordinarily the very evidence of the kingdom of heaven, will be believed by many of the true sheep and result in many problems. The least of these problems will be believing a lying sign or wonder, it will be believing the false teachings which are presented by that means. Apart from any personal cost, the significant consequences are increased numbers of false conversions, and where there are true conversions, greater numbers of fleshy believers. Taken together the effect is increasing apostasy of the true church.
The most fearful deceiver is always perceived to be the one who is of ones own house. This is because the believer is much more vulnerable to one known to be a true brother, than one of whom there are doubts. You may recognise a deluded tare simply because of what he himself believes as touching upon issues of life. Your true brother however when he rises up and begins to teach falsely is much more difficult to reject, unless like the tare he teaches against the centrality of Christ as touching on an issue of eternal life. The one who is your true brother in Christ by reason of possessing the same life of Christ, is much easier to deal with however. This is because he can be handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Even if he is judged unto death, he belongs to God and Christ. His death will be to his advantage in the end.
The tare on the other hand cannot be handed over to the destruction of the flesh because if he dies he will perish. The Lord is ever long-suffering, so in dealing with the ravenous wolf it is necessary to contend for sound doctrine and expose him for what he is, according to the truth and not by a judgement which separates unto death. The grievous wolf on the other hand may also come from the tares as well as true believers, unlike the ravenous wolf who cannot be a true believer.
A true believer may be like a grievous wolf in his inclination to teach both wheat and tares to live according to the Law, and whilst this has definite consequences for true believers it does not amount to being ravenous and destructive. There is a case to say that there are also grievous wolves who are not truly born again. In such a circumstance it is likely that such as these will be cult leaders and have little to do with the true church at all. Yet in a time of growing apostasy even such as these are finding not only an entrance into the flocks but a place to dwell also. Perhaps by the end of this age the distinction will be impossible to express clearly, either in their personal conduct or visible fruit.
In Conclusion & Hope
I notice that Paul in around 63 AD urged Timothy to remain in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3), this is at least five years after Paul warned the Ephesians saying after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30). This warning was in 57AD. I also see that in 1 Timothy chapter four Paul also tells Timothy that the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron
..In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following (1 Tim 4:1-6). We can see that all of these warnings and instructions to Timothy, including 1 Timothy 3:1-13 (qualification of Elders), 1 Timothy 1:19; Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 5:17-21 (Purpose of Elders) and 1 Timothy 4:13, 14 (The need for Accuracy) all paid off for the church at Ephesus, because in Revelation we read that the church at Ephesus in 96AD was still managing to specifically resist false prophets and false teachers (Revelation 2:1-7).
What this tells me is that although Paul committed the Ephesian Elders to God and to the word of His grace it was the word of His grace being taught and preached through Timothy. In fact when we read in Paul letter to Timothy in 63AD what the substance of his warnings to the Ephesian Elders in 57AD was and being; As I exhorted thee to tarry at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings, rather than a dispensation of God which is in faith; so do I now. But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned: from which things some having swerved have turned aside unto vain talking (1 Tim 1:3-6)
we see what kind of men would arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. The wolves on the other hand were from outside the flock and may be the false apostles spoken of in Revelations, which the Ephesians were commended for having resisted, by the Lord Jesus Himself.
In finality, in speaking about the wolf and the tares we are in all speaking about men. In speaking about the ravenous wolve we are speaking about unbelievers finding an entrance into the flock, appearing as though they are themselves true believers, yet are not. If such as these remained silent they would be no more than mere tares. Yet their coming is with determination to profit from the people of God. Having been received by others or else having been rejected by others they go about with a mind to devour. If they are led on by whatever means and are permitted to teach, which is their ambition, they become false prophets and teachers and may do considerable harm to the flock by that means also. In speaking about grievous wolves we are speaking principally about believers who are lording it over the flock with burdens amounting to a keeping of the Law of Moses in order to gain eternal life. Whereas eternal life is in the first instance the free gift of God and cannot me merited.
In speaking about the Kingdom of Heaven we are speaking about the dominion and influence of Christ both in heaven and especially on the earth, to save men, wheresoever they may be found.
Lastly in speaking about how God Himself deals with these problems we find that it is by grace. It is the grace of God given in Christ Jesus which makes possible a sound and therefore profitable walk by faith. The especial gift of God to remedy all of these problems is invested in the ministry of the Word
apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors & teachers. Hence let every man know the calling of God and Christ in his own life and labour according to that calling to the benefit of all and not for personal gain and profit.