The Wheat and the Tares Study No. 149

Henry Ward Beecher said, "Whatever is only almost true is quite false, and among the most dangerous of errors." I have been deeply sorrowed to observe brethren, and even ministers whom I greatly respect and admire, go off the deep end on some important doctrine. Most of the time they are right on the line, but suddenly they careen into the ditch. What causes these aberrations? Why do some believers, who seem to have so much going for themselves spiritually, take a left turn on some vitally important issue?

The Messiah gave a parable that helps me comprehend this unbelievable phenomenon. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, found in Matthew 13:24-30, explains why so many of God’s people follow fruitless ideas. To understand this parable, you must know the spiritual meaning of the harvest.

In bringing many sons into glory, the Eternal has a master plan of salvation. He is calling a few, the firstfruits, to be in the first resurrection at the Savior’s return. He will later call the many in the Millennium and Great White Throne Judgment period, to be the much larger general harvest. God’s spiritual harvest begins in the spring, with the Passover sacrifice and the wavesheaf. It concludes in the fall with the Last Great Day.

Meaning of the Harvest

Some believe that the harvest is a type of a resurrection to eternal life, and birth into the Kingdom of God. While the resurrection is the end result of the Almighty’s spiritual harvest, it is not correct to say that the harvest, of itself, is a type of the resurrection. Let’s look at the scriptures.

In John 4:35-36, Jesus said, "Say not ye, There are yet four months [four months from Pentecost is the Feast of Tabernacles], and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together." Jesus went on to say that He was sending His disciples to reap the results of other men sowing the truth [such as John the Baptist]. Here, the harvest clearly signifies the baptism and conversion of many of God’s people at that time. They were not resurrected to eternal life at that time; yet they were "reaped" for God.

In Matthew 9:37-38, Jesus demonstrated His compassion for the shepherdless, scattered Israelites by telling His disciples, " . . . The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest." This harvest of souls was going on then, in the First Century A.D. God’s harvest continues to our time. It includes much more than the final resurrection, and concentrates on the removal of chaff from the minds and hearts of mankind, and the building of righteous character. That is why scriptures concerning the spiritual meaning of the harvest emphasize the judgment Christ administers in separating the wheat and the tares.

The judgment aspect of the harvest is shown in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, found in Matthew 13:24-30, " . . . The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat . . . . Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn." The disciples were curious as to the meaning of this important parable. So Jesus explained the meaning in verses 36-43, " . . . He that sowed the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels."

In John 8:33-44, Jesus further defines "the children of the wicked one." Christ distinguishes between the children of Abraham [i.e., children of God] and the children of the Devil. In verse 44, He states, " . . . he [the devil] is a liar, and the father of it." So Satan is the father of lies, and those who follow his lies are children of the wicked one. At the end of the world, the lies of Satan, and those who persist in believing his lies, will all be destroyed by fire.

What actually goes on at this harvest at the end of the world? There are two "reapings" of this harvest, one of wicked and the other of the just. First, the tares, children of Satan, are bound up to be burned. Then, the children of the kingdom are reaped and safely deposited in the protection of God’s barn. Jesus did not define what the barn represents. Perhaps it is the place of safety. The righteous do not shine forth as the sun until the establishment of God’s kingdom. In speaking of the baptism of fire, John the Baptist said that the Messiah will thoroughly purge his threshing floor. The wheat will be gathered into the garner, but the chaff will be burned up, Matthew 3:11-12. Thus the important Parable of the Wheat and Tares concerns the sifting out judgment of the Messiah. Every field today has "tares" and "chaff." Nothing but the wheat shall remain at end of the harvest.

Revelation 14:12-20 gives us more information on the end time harvest. Here, the order is reversed from Matthew 13. The first reaping is of the righteous, those who will die in the Lord during the end time, Revelation 14:12-16. These faithful martyrs will be gathered into God’s barn. Then, verses 17-20 describe another reaping with another sickle. The wicked rebellious people who have the mark of the beast are likened to grapes ripe for the harvest of God’s wrath. They are put to death in a bloodbath. Far from representing a resurrection, the Parable of the Wheat and Tares and the end time harvest prophecy of Revelation represent the judgment of God. May we all get the tares and chaff out of our lives!

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares explains why God-fearing, Bible-believing people sometimes come up with the most incredible, off-the-wall doctrines. Satan sows "tares," he infects people with wrong ideas and they become spiritual tares. Although with God’s help, we can root out many of these tares now, it will not be until the judgment when all tares are destroyed. It is very likely that every one of us has some spiritual tares, or chaff, that will have to be purged out and burned at the return of the Messiah.

Sunday Resurrection and Sunday Pentecost

To illustrate the bizarre nature of the effect of tares in the Church of God, I relate the history of a doctrinal perversion that few know about. If I did not have the facts, I would not believe this had occurred.

Some would have us believe that the cutting of the wavesheaf represents the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is a forced interpretation not supported by scriptural evidence. If you cut a sheaf of grain, what happens? Cut off from its roots to the earth, the barley plant dies. Cutting the wavesheaf signifies the death of the Messiah for our sins. He was slain from the foundation of the world. When the individual cut the wavesheaf, he signified his acceptance of the sacrifice of the Messiah for his sins. It was a personal matter between the individual and his Heavenly Father. No one else can figuratively cut your wavesheaf for you. That is why the scriptures are clear that the individual was to bring the first of the firstfruits, the wavesheaf, to the house of the Eternal, Exodus 23:19, 34:26; Nehemiah 10:35; Ezekiel 44:30.

Prior to the 1970’s doctrinal changes, the Worldwide Church of God taught that the wavesheaf represented the resurrected Christ being accepted by His Father in Heaven. Then the teaching was changed. From 1974, it was taught that the wavesheaf represented the resurrection of the Savior. This doctrinal change opens the door for a total repudiation of the Sabbath. Sunday-keeping entered the Christian Church because of the false teachings that: (1) the Messiah was resurrected on the first day of the week, and (2) that Pentecost was on Sunday.

In 1974, when the Worldwide Church of God changed Pentecost from Monday to Sunday, they published a paper called Pentecost Study Material. Although I did not "catch it" at the time, the paper stated that the Church now believed that the resurrection was on Sunday. In fact, a Sunday resurrection was used as a major proof that Pentecost was on Sunday. Pages 42-43 of Pentecost Study Material state:

If He [Christ] was ‘seen of them 40 days’ and if He was seen of them on SUNDAY, first (day) of the week, then Luke’s ‘50th day’ (Greek Pentecostes) seems to mean 50 days after His resurrection, or 50 days after His first ascension to be accepted of the Father. Then that 50th day has to be SUNDAY! . . . Luke’s Pentecost was literally the fiftieth day since Christ’s resurrection!

Did you see it? The resurrection of Christ and his ascension to Heaven are held to be on the same day of the week, Sunday! On page 75, the paper cites a number of religious encyclopedias to demonstrate a Sunday Pentecost tradition:

Whitsunday, OR PENTECOST, a feast of the universal Church which commemorates the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ, on the ancient Jewish festival called the ‘feast of weeks’ or Pentecost . . . . Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 ed., Vol. XV, ‘Whitsunday.’

Most people in the Worldwide Church of God, like myself, did not see in 1974 that the Church had changed its teaching relative to the day of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet in 1974, the Church had changed its teaching from a Sabbath resurrection to a Sunday resurrection.

Dr. Herman L. Hoeh, the Church’s renowned scholar, in a June 9, 1978, Bible Study in Pasadena, clearly said, "We might as well face it, — that the resurrection occurred minutes following the close of the Sabbath — Saturday night, when the wavesheaf was [supposedly] cut." Richard Ames, on the World Tomorrow television program of April 15, 1990, said, "That Saturday evening, just after sunset, then, Jesus rose from the tomb . . . ." The program has been broadcast more than once.

Most members of the Worldwide Church of God do not know that their Church teaches that Jesus rose on the first day of the week!

Not one of the several catalogs of the many doctrinal changes of the Worldwide Church of God shows that the WWC, since 1974, has taught that the resurrection of Christ was on the first day of the week.

Of course, the WWC thinks they have an out. They have reinterpreted the beginning of a day from the Biblical sunset to dark. In other words the Worldwide Church of God believes that the Sabbath begins and ends at dark, not sunset. (See our article in Biblical Holy Days, "When Does Your Sabbath Begin?" which refutes this error.)

Now, why did the Church conclude that the resurrection of our Savior was actually after sunset of Saturday evening? Because they believe, contrary to Scripture, that the Sadducees were correct in cutting one wavesheaf for all Israel at the end of the Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And, to support their Sunday Pentecost belief, they assert that the cutting of the wavesheaf represents the resurrection of our Savior. Scripture actually indicates that the individual Israelite was to cut his own wavesheaf to bring to the priest, Leviticus 23:10-11. However, Herman Hoeh reported in 1978:

What we have is not the old saying that I used to have to use, that the wave sheaf represents the resurrected Christ, but it represents the resurrection! This is the prophesied resurrection that we have never seen in the ceremonies of the law. And was properly done in Jewish tradition (pages 506-7 of the Mishnah) — it was a rule that it should be reaped by night, at the very beginning minutes [of Sunday], so there would be no delay in preparing it, and then the next morning, it was waved . . . . The resurrection occurred when that wave sheaf was cut, ascension occurred when it was waved before the alter — and the Holy Spirit came on the same day of the year — Pentecost — that the law of God was first given to define what human character, in this broad expanse should be (June 9, 1978, sermon in Pasadena, California).

What is wrong with this picture? Jesus Christ was exactly three days and three nights in the grave, Matthew 12:40. Seventy-two hours from late Wednesday when Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemas put Him in the tomb, brings us to late Sabbath. Jesus was resurrected late on the Sabbath, not after sundown on the beginning of the first day of the week.

Now before 1974, why did Herman Hoeh "have to use" the "old saying" that the wavesheaf represents the resurrected Christ? Because Herbert Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, taught this. By 1978, when Armstrong was old, Hoeh could then proclaim his own deviant beliefs. In the summer of 1927, shortly after his baptism, Herbert Armstrong learned the "shocking truth" that the resurrection of Christ did not occur on Sunday. Instead, he discovered from the Bible that "The resurrection was late Sabbath afternoon, just prior to sunset" (Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, page 326, 1967 edition). His early article, "Does Easter Really Commemorate the Resurrection?" shows that the foundation for Sunday sacredness crumbles. But Armstrong’s teachings have now been turned upside down.

The 1974 heresy of a first day resurrection is being reiterated today, but almost no one realizes it. The February, 1993, Plain Truth magazine, page 23, says, "Applied to Jesus, the sign of Jonah was the resurrection, proof that Jesus was the Christ." Not the time period involved, but the resurrection itself! The May/June 1993, issue says,

Traditionally, . . . Christians throughout the world celebrate Easter in remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection. The Christian Easter season continues to Pentecost, which commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and Jesus’ other followers. . . . [Christ’s resurrection was] about three days after Jesus’ burial . . . (pages 7-8).

It was only one left turn, and see the results. Satan came and sowed his tares, and they are growing along side God’s people. The most shocking part of the whole episode is that so few in the Church noticed. One of our correspondents in Ohio, however, did notice. And, in 1983, when she quoted Dr. Hoeh’s 1978 sermon to her local Worldwide Church minister in Cincinnati, he flew into a rage and said Dr. Hoeh never said such a thing, and disfellowshipped her on the spot. Denial will never cover up heresy (tares).

And so, tares continue to grow among the Church of God, until the judgment at the return of Christ, when they will be burned. I Corinthians 3:11-15 shows that false works will be "revealed by fire," destroyed in the Day of Judgment.

One minister, in referring to the wavesheaf offering, said (without any scripture proof) that the day the wavesheaf is to be cut (as opposed to offered) is specified in scripture, i.e., Wavesheaf Sunday, and that the cutting of the wavesheaf represents the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, he implied that the resurrection of Christ was on Sunday. He claimed: "the resurrection and the acceptance of Christ, which occurred after the weekly Sabbath that fell between the Days of Unleavened Bread . . . ." If I took a poll of this minister’s congregation, I would dare say that few caught his point that the resurrection was on Sunday. Later, in contradiction to his other statements, he said that the resurrection was late on the Sabbath. Tares are certainly inconsistent.

Remember what Jesus said in the Parable of the Tares? "But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared tares also." Today, we call tares "cheat grass," or "wild oats." Tares do not produce fruit. At the time of the Messiah’s return, all tares will be burned.

Although Satan sows tares, those who let tares grow on their fertile soil are largely sincere. They are just asleep and do not know any better. Only the Eternal can open our minds. It is only through the mercy of our Heavenly Father that we can, through His Spirit, recognize tares growing next to us. Let us wake up, and bring forth wheat.

— written by Richard C. Nickels W