In some secular fiction, one might come across a Grim Reaper character, which was death personified, usually depicted as black-robed skeleton wielding a sickle. He’s holding a sickle because a reaper is a harvester. He’s come to bring about the victim’s death and harvest that person’s soul, which plays into people’s fear of death. As the joke goes, people are dying to meet him. He doesn’t death-scriminate. He sometimes saves souls – in his pockets. Of course, Grim Reapers don’t exist in the Bible, but there are Reapers. The Lord Jesus Christ spoke of Reapers here in Matt. 13, and all the unbelievers of the world should absolutely Fear the Reapers.
Mat 13:24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: Mat 13:25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. Mat 13:26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. Mat 13:27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? Mat 13:28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? Mat 13:29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Mat 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of 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.
This parable was given during the Lord’s Middle Galilean Period. After the Lord spoke to Nicodemus, He began His Early Galilean Period. He was rejected in His hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30). He moved to Capernaum (Matt. 4:13-16; Luke 4:31). He called Simon, Andrew, James, and John. He did many, many miracles. Then began His Middle Galilean Period when the Lord withdrew to the Sea of Galilea (Matt. 12:15-21; Mark 3:7-12; Luke 6:17-19). He chose the rest of His twelve disciples. Then we get the Sermon on the Mount. John the Baptist is thrown into prison and dies. We’re given the discussion about the Unpardonable Sin in Matt. 12:22-45.
Then we arrive here in Matt. 13, in which the Lord gives seven parables about the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God. And this parable we just read is commonly called the Parable of the Tares, which I love. This is a wonderful big picture overview of the Tribulation, Daniel’s 70th Week, Israel’s baptism of fire. This time is also game on between the Lord and Satan, the countdown to the showdown of Armageddon and then we’ll party like it’s Rev. 19:9.
Of course, those seven years of Tribulation will be a testing for the people of Israel, in which they’ll have to contend for the faith once delivered unto them, as Jude wrote, and over the course of the Tribulation until the Lord returns for good, He will separate the wheat from the tares, the believers from the unbelievers.
The Lord will summon His Reapers. They’ll gather the faithful remnant from all around the globe to reward them and bring them into His kingdom on Earth. Then the Reapers will gather the unbelievers and cast them into the place of torment in Hell.
A reaper is a harvester. Webster: RE’APER, “One that cuts grain with a sickle.” Reapers were a few times mentioned in the book of Ruth, those who were harvesting wheat and barley. But upon the Lord’s Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation, He will employ His heavenly Harvesters, who will harvest all the believers to bring them into His kingdom, and they’ll also harvest all the unbelievers to cast them into eternal torment. Unbelievers the world over should fear Christ as well as His Reapers who will cast them all into eternal fiery anguish for their unbelief.
Thankfully, the Lord gives us exegesis on His own parable, which is all pretty straightforward.
Mat 13:36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. Mat 13:37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; Mat 13:38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; Mat 13:39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. Mat 13:40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. Mat 13:41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; Mat 13:42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Mat 13:43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
The Lord explains His own parable so beautifully, not much additional even needs to be said. We learned that the field is the world. We learned that the good seed are the children of the kingdom, the believing remnant, and we learned that the tares are the children of the wicked one, the unbelieving enemy, and the one who sowed the seeds of the tares is the devil himself. The harvest is the judgment of the Lord that will take place at His Second Coming, in which the believing remnant will be gathered and brought into His kingdom, and the unbelieving will suffer eternal torment.
I suspect that the furnace of fire that the Lord spoke of is what He also called the place of torment in Sheol when He gave the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. And it’s in that the place of torment in Sheol where all the unbelievers will await final judgment and being ultimately cast into the Lake of Fire.
And, of course, the Lord tells us the reapers are angels. I don’t think a reaper is a class of angels, but that reapers (or harvesters) was merely the term used to represent angels in a parable to identify their function.
The Lord said something interesting in vs. 40 when He said, “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.” That statement, to me, seems to indicate that what has always taken place will also take place at the Second Coming. Just as the angels have always cast the unbelievers into the place of torment since the creation of the world, so shall it be in the end of this world. At the end of this world, at the Second Coming of Christ, the reapers will be doing this same function again. They’ll be casting all the souls of unbelievers into the place of torment in Hell.
I suspect this may also mean that in Rev. 20:14, when John writes, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire”, it’s the angels who will do the heavy lifting because they are the one who have always been transporting souls to their place of torment OR to paradise.
In the Rich Man and Lazarus story, the Lord said, Luk 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom… So when the beggar died, he wasn’t carried to Abraham’s Bosom by one angel but angels, plural. I can’t help but ask the question: “If the angels transport the souls of OT saints into Abraham’s bosom, does this mean that when we die, angels will transport our souls into Heaven?” Paul doesn’t tell us. But I suspect the answer would be “most likely.” We have often found similar principles in the two different programs of kingdom and grace.
So I suspect that if you were to die right now, your first sight will be the angels who will transport you to Heaven. In the spiritual realm, we’d need a powerful escort to take us through enemy territory off this planet to Heaven. Just imagine! If you die, the first thing you might see are angels. You’re taken off planet Earth like a rocket. You might see the demonic realm as you ascend into the universe. You fly at lightning speed through outer space to Heaven itself.
I also wonder if the angels would drop you off at the ground floor of Heaven or, once you reach Heaven, you keep going. You’re taken to the heights of Heaven itself. Because Christ isn’t walking around on the ground floor of Heaven. He is seated in the heights of Heaven, probably atop the highest of mountains in heaven, like the Mount of the Congregation, far above all the heavenly realms in heaven, far above all principality and power and dominion.
And there, you finally meet Christ. I admit, all of this is just speculation, a bit of Joel-ology, but come on, that would be totally EPIC.