As we pointed out yesterday, there are three important facts about Jesus’ picture of the final judgement: First, it is absolute. The second point of Jesus’ parable is the terrible fate of the unrighteous. I am glad Jesus taught that, and that it is not left for his ministers to imagine what the unbelievers’ fate might be. How could we say that their end will be so bad that it can only be adequately compared to an eternal burning? How could we say that it will produce an eternal “weeping and gnashing of teeth”? No mere human being would dare predict that fate for another human being. Yet that is what Jesus does. He has more to say about hell than does any other person in the Bible.

There are three important facts about Jesus’ picture of the final judgment as a separation of good from bad fish. First, it is absolute. That is, in the day of God’s judgment the time for mixture in any form will be over. Now we have mixture all the time. We do some good things, but our good is always mixed with evil. We have the redeemed people in the church, but we also have those who are the devil’s children. However, when the Lord sends his angels to execute judgment those days will be over, and human beings will find themselves in one camp or the other. Either they will be with the blessed in heaven, having been cleansed from all sin by the redeeming work of Christ, or they will be in hell without Christ and without hope. No one will be partially in one camp and partially in the other.

Having yesterday looked at the repetition of this parable with several earlier ones, we now have a problem. What does the seventh parable teach that has not already been taught by the second? That is, why (in view of the earlier parable) is this one included? It is true, as we have indicated, that the others also involve repetition. But each, nevertheless, adds something new. The first two speak of sowing, but the first focuses on the kind of soil into which the seed falls, whereas the second focuses on the devil’s work in sowing harmful seed. Similarly, the devil is described as active in parables two, three, and four, but in each case he is doing something different. Is there anything new in this last parable? Is there anything we would lose if it were not included?

In the second century before Christ, the great rival to Roman power in the Mediterranean world was Carthage, the Phoenician city-state located on the north African coast. It had been founded in 822 B.C. and had become so powerful that for years it threatened the supremacy of Rome. What was to be done about Carthage? One Roman senator, Marcus Porcius Cato the elder, thought he knew—Carthage should be overthrown. From the time he arrived at that conclusion, it is said he never made a speech before the Roman Senate on any topic that did not end with the warning: Carthago delenda est (“Carthage must be destroyed”). At last the warnings got through, and as the outcome of the third Punic War, Carthage was annihilated.
Cato’s technique in dealing with the threat of Carthage is not the only time in history a point has been won by repetition. We think of Hitler repeating his lies against the Jews until seemingly the whole of Germany believed them; or in quite a different way, of Winston Churchill telling the boys at the public school where he had been educated, “Never give up! Never, never, never give up!”

Having recognized the value of their discovery and having sold everything in their desire to have it, the man who discovered the treasure and the merchant who discovered the pearl then made their purchase. They acquired that on which their desires had been set.