What does Matthew 13:50 mean?
ESV: and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
NIV: and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
NASB: and they will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
CSB: and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
NLT: throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
KJV: And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Those found to be evil on the day of judgment—anyone not saved through faith in Christ (John 3:16–18)—are consistently said by the New Testament to be cast into a place of terrible distress. This is often referred to as a fiery furnace, as in this verse. This place is often described as one of crying and teeth gnashing, traditional expressions of great misery. This is Jesus' usual picture of what we commonly call hell (Matthew 13:42; 18:8; Mark 9:48; Luke 3:17; John 15:6).
In these parables, Christ does not provide details on what causes a person to be sorted either into the kingdom of heaven or into hell. The point of the parables is simply that a separation will occur—that God is going to classify people into one of only two categories. However, the Gospels and the remaining New Testament explain the criteria clearly. The righteous do not become so on their own by their good choices (Romans 3:10). Instead, they are the ones who receive "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe" (Romans 3:22; Titus 3:5; John 3:16–18).
Those who reject this path to righteousness through faith in Jesus are identified by the sorting angels as evil, children of the Devil (Matthew 13:38; John 8:43–47), and are thrown into the furnace (John 3:36).
Matthew 13:47–50 contains a parable about fisherman. This is closely related to the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13:24–30). Fishermen use a dragnet to bring up a large catch, which includes many kinds of fish, good and bad. The workers sort the fish, discarding those which are "bad." Jesus immediately explains that this is like the angels who will come and separate the evil from the righteous at the end of the age. They will throw those who reject faith in Christ into the fiery furnace where there is anguish and misery.
Matthew 13 focuses mainly on a series of parables. Jesus first describes these to a large crowd along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Later, in a house, He explains to the disciples the meanings of the parables of the sower, the weeds, and the fish caught in the net. Jesus then travels to Nazareth, teaches in the synagogue, and is rejected by the people of His original hometown.
Matthew 13 follows Jesus from the overcrowded house at the end of the previous chapter to a crowded beach on the Sea of Galilee. He teaches a large crowd in a series of parables, which He doesn't fully explain. However, He reveals their meaning to His disciples inside a nearby house. Jesus pictures the kingdom of heaven as a sower, a sabotaged field of wheat, a mustard seed, and a pearl dealer, among other things. He then travels to His original hometown of Nazareth where He is rejected by the people He grew up with. This leads Matthew back to depictions of Jesus' miracles, after sadly recording John the Baptist's death.
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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