Matthew 13:47-50 “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.”
The Church’s nets drag in all kinds of people. Not all of them are “keepers.” Not all of them become true believers in Jesus as their Savior.
When you go fishing with your pole, you can sort out the “keepers” as you catch them. With a net, the sorting process has to wait until the end, and it can only be done by qualified personnel.
For the most part, you and I are not qualified personnel. Because the gospel is intended for sinners, people broken and wounded and full of faults and failures, it can be difficult to distinguish the believers from the pretenders. You and I have had our moments when we didn’t talk or act so Christian.
So God leaves the sorting to the angels on the last day. Until then, don’t be surprised or offended when people who say they believe in Jesus don’t always act like it.
When the last day comes, it will become clear just how good and gracious God has been to us. On the one hand, there is the fate from which he has rescued us. Sometimes people think that hell was some Old Testament teaching, while Jesus came to talk about love. But do you know that hell is actually mentioned very little in the Old Testament? No one in the Bible talks about it more than Jesus. Almost everything we know about the place comes from his lips. In his grace God has spared us from “the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
An even dearer example of God’s grace is that the “good fish,” those fully cleansed of sin through faith, are collected in baskets. In other words, God intends to keep us for himself. Already now we belong to him. But in the end he gathers us and takes us home.
There are many things you can say about the joys of heaven. None of them is greater than getting to spend forever in the visible presence of God, claimed and loved by him forever and ever. That wasn’t always the eternity we should have expected. But by bringing us into God’s Kingdom, Jesus has changed our eternity for the good. We can be grateful to be regarded as keepers.