“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 13:47-50)
Manual labor was how most people survived in Bible days. Fisherman, farmers, shepherds, potters and carpenters are all used as illustrations of God’s Kingdom and how he worked in human lives. Farmers grew things, shepherds guarded things, potters made things and carpenters built things. The analogy Christ gave to his first followers in this parable included nets, fish and fisherman. His very first followers were fisherman and they were in the business of catching things.
We see that fisherman used a large net with weights on it or a dragnet to catch fish. Jesus teaches that the kingdom of heaven, the Sovereignty of God, his rule and reign over the earth and the hearts of men is like a dragnet. It is the preaching of the biblical gospel that catches people, like fisherman use a dragnet to catch fish (Luke 5:10).
The dragnet draws them in from the sea. The sea is symbolic of the world and its people, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” (Isa. 57:20). Like the world it is restless and unstable but God Almighty is an excellent fisherman (Ezek. 32:2-3). Christ is the Creator of life in the seas, oceans, lakes and rivers. He was the one who at Creation, said, “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life.” (Gen. 1:20). So he who made the fish knows where they hide.
They collect every kind of fish: there all kinds of people the gospel dragnet catches. The Bible says God makes, “men as the fish of the sea…” (Hab. 1:14NIV). They come from every ethnic group, nation and tongue. Some are famous people, others unknown people, some rich, some poor. Christ catches all kinds of people.
Once the dragnet is full they bring it to shore and sit down. One day fishing will be over. There will be no more need for gospel preaching, “And then shall the end come.” (Mt 24:14). The end of this “present evil age” (Gal. 1:4) will come and give way to the fullness of the kingdom age (Rev. 21: 4). For now the kingdom of God has come in this age but not in fullness (Heb 6:5). The kingdom of God has invaded and defeated the kingdom of Satan (Mt. 12:28) but Satan and death the last enemy are still around doing their dirty work. So for now we have the righteous and the wicked side by side.
Then the fisherman shall sit down and separate the good fish from the bad. This involves the ministry of the holy angels who are appointed the task of separating the good fish from the bad or the righteous from the wicked, “and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.” (Mk. 13:27).
When the kingdom of God arrives, the wicked and the righteous will be separated like weeds and wheat, sheep and goats and good and bad fish. Those who are disobedient to the gospel call and refuse to turn from their sin will be sent to hell and those whom he saves will be allowed access into heaven. We need to be careful to mention all have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and we all are pretty bad fish. The “good fish” Christ catches for salvation in his mercy and grace but they are not good in themselves. But not everyone will be saved. He keeps the living “fish” (those who have been born again) and the dead fish (those who are not born again) are thrown away in condemnation.
This message of the dragnet of the gospel has bad news and good news. We can see in this great dragnet of God’s kingdom His, “goodness and severity.” (Rom. 11:22). One day everyone will be caught and there is no where you can run from God. The Bible asks, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation.” (Heb. 2:3). Those who are saved are drawn out from the drowning waters of God’s judgment (Ps. 18:16). But the wicked will be burned in a furnace of fire (Mt. 13:42, 50). This is a constant theme in scripture where God differentiates between those who serve God and those who do not (Mt. 13:30, 41-42).
You see Jesus was not our idea of a Savior and as sinners we have a twisted way of thinking completely remote from God ways and thoughts. In building God’s kingdom, God the Father determined that Jesus was be the cornerstone and foundation of the church. The religious people were clueless. So Christ said to them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.’ He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Mt 21:42-24NLT). The cornerstone is a stumbling stone for many people, but the idea of Jesus Christ being a savior scandalizes and outrages people. But Christ will catch you. He will catch you as a Savior or he will catch you as your Judge.
I find it interesting that fisherman back then used a dragnet. According to the dictionary a dragnet is also, “a systematic and coordinated search for a wanted person made by police.” (Encarta). God is on a manhunt or soul hunt for those who have broken his law! This is a warning to those who think they can wait around and follow Christ whenever they want or whenever they are ready. It does not work that way (Isa. 55:1,-3, 6-7). Augustine said, “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance but not time to your procrastination. All will be caught in an inescapable net one day. You will be entangled in this net, if you are not already. God will act in his justice and he will catch up with those running from it, “Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” (Eccl. 9:12).
The bad news first: Judas was caught in the dragnet of Christ, but for condemnation. It is so very sad. What a trophy Satan has on hell’s wall in capturing Judas. Here Judas was a disciple he performed miracles and preached the gospel. “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” (Mt 10:1NIV) and yet he would be the one who would betray Christ (Mt. 10:4).
That is why Jesus said don’t rejoice in performing miracles but rejoice that “your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20). The Bible says that the devil put that idea of betraying Christ in his heart (John 13: 2) and entered into him (Luke 22:3) and Christ called him a devil (John 6:70) despite the fact he chose him for service. All Judas thought about was a convenient (Mk 14:11) opportunity (Mt. 26:16) to betray Christ to those who would eventually crucify him. Jesus treated Judas as the guest of honor at the last supper and washed his feet knowing what he was going to do. But Judas eventually committed suicide and after his neck broke, his body fell and cracked open and his intestines gushed out (Acts 1:18). How did such a sad fish get in the net?
You see, in the dragnet of the Kingdom of God there are good and bad fish. In theology, we call it the visible and invisible church. Simply put, the visible church has saved and unsaved people. It has real believers and hypocrites. There is the church we see and people who seem to be Christians and there is the church God sees and those he knows belong to him. They all coexist for a time and then God sifts them. A heart unchanged by the Spirit of God will not choose to serve God. Sin rules their heart. They can mask their true condition by religiosity, morality, generosity, and civility but they are still sinners.
They are slaves to sin and in their hearts they have a hatred for God and all his laws (Rom 8:7). But it is not so obvious. Yes, they can imitate things, they can play the role of religion but one day they will be exposed as frauds. “Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later.” (1 Tim. 5:24NLT). The more they are around miracles, even solid preaching of the word of God instead of becoming softer they become harder. The Bible says, “When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.” (Heb. 6:7-8NLT). The Spirit of God asks, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Rom. 2:4-5).
Peter was caught in the net of Christ for salvation. When the disciples went fishing at the Word of Christ, their nets broke under the weight of the miraculous catch and the boats began to sink (Luke 5:2, 7). Peter was terrified. He said, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man oh Lord!” (Luke 5:8). But Peter was hooked he could not shake the dragnet of grace that now rest upon him. Seeing the sin in his life he knew he needed to change his ways as the very presence of Christ came as light that illuminated the darkest parts of his soul in one moment. He was afraid, because he was exposed, for he was tangled in the nets of Christ and was at his mercy.
There was a terrible storm one time and Christ came walking on the water, Peter stepped out of the boat to walk on the water with Christ, but he could not for long stay in that position. As he began to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Mt. 14:30). I know Peter walked on the water for a time, I have heard this passage preached on, some good ones and others mangled out of context. But here is the actual point: Christ is Peter’s only hope and Savior. We too must see the boisterous winds and powerful surging waves of Divine justice! We must see our souls sinking down and look to Christ’s sinewy arm to reach in the waters and rescue us from drowning. His work, his will, his human powers of soul and spirit could not save him! He needed to be saved from and outside source and only Christ would and could save him! What a difference when he first met Heaven’s Fisherman and said, “Lord, leave me! Now he says, “Lord save me!”
Before the crucifixion there were three main targets that Satan was after, Christ, Judas and Peter. He had a foothold situation in Judas. He was done. Satan had literally requested to sift Peter. Peter was in the dragnet, but was he to be a good fish? He was going to deny the Lord which is almost just as bad as or worse than betraying Christ. But Jesus told him, “But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32NLT). Peter belonged to Christ by grace and despite all his failings; Christ assured him that he would be converted and able to strengthen his brothers. That day came and Peter’s greatest catch was on the Day of Pentecost when three thousand souls were added by grace to the church (Acts 2:42). Once caught by Christ he taught them that they too would be those would cast their nets for souls. Christ made it clear: they would catch men (Luke 5:10), therefore, the nets of their testimony must rest in his strength. For the spirit of prophecy and all preaching must be and can only be the testimony of Jesus or it is not biblical and God honoring (Rev 19:10). He that wins souls is wise (Prov. 11:30) but only Christ is powerful to save (Acts 4:12)! To fish for them is to simply cast the net of God’s Word and let the Spirit of God do the work in the ocean of the world.
Oh this dragnet can also be salvation to those people who God is calling in his grace. Christ is the Ultimate Fisherman who catches the drowning souls of men. Each and every day God is drawing those whom he has loved before the foundations of the earth were made “a people yet born, the people which shall be created shall praise the LORD! (Ps 102:18). The Bible teaches that the Father never fails to bring people to Christ who he is drawing. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me…No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…” (John 6:37, 44). He is saying now, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jer. 31:3). Your salvation cannot rest on anything but Christ alone and his power to save! This awesome Fisherman of Heaven has set out to catch you. In fact, you are as good as caught right now. Christ came and called men to follow him (Mt. 4:19) and they were caught in his dragnet of grace. You can struggle Mr. and Ms. Fish but once the dragnet is over you, you are at subject to the discrimination of the Master. Don’t be caught dead without Jesus. Because one day Christ will catch you!