Below is a portion of J. Preston Eby's series, "From the Candlestick to the Throne, Part 173, The Firstfruits, the Harvest, and the Vintage." Regarding the Parable of the Wheat and Tares and the separation of the chaff from the wheat, I found this article to be very enlightening!
“And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped” (Rev. 14:15-16).
The fall of the year is harvest time, when the fruits of the summer’s labors are reaped, and the husbandman enjoys the fruits of his labors. The harvest time of this present age, the church age, is upon us, and the harvest of the earth is moving speedily toward ripeness, and the time of reaping. The harvest time is the time of ingathering of the precious fruit of the earth. “Ingathering” does not speak of a rapture of the elect away to some far-off heaven somewhere; rather it signifies the gathering of the grain (the Lord’s people) into the great Husbandman’s garner — the kingdom of God. God’s people have been long growing in the “field” of the church-world, but they have not yet been matured, reaped, and gathered into the kingdom!
Harvest is also a time of discarding that which has fulfilled its purpose. In our Lord’s wonderful parable of the wheat and the tares, both the wheat and the tares were to grow together in the same field, but at the time of maturity the tares would be separated from the wheat and burned, and the wheat gathered into the garner. There are also two other items, which actually belong to the wheat plant, that are discarded at this time, and these are the straw and the chaff. Only the fruit of the plant is what the husbandman keeps and gathers into his garner. The straw and the chaff were necessary in order to bring the wheat to its fullness, but when the fruit is fully matured the life settles in the fruit or kernels, and the straw and the chaff having fulfilled their purpose, are separated and discarded.
Before the wheat can be garnered there has to be a threshing time by which the kernels of wheat are separated from the straw of the plant. First the wheat was cut, or reaped, and tied into bundles or sheaves, but that was not the end of the harvest; it was, in fact, only the beginning! The wheat is cut off from its roots which are buried in the earth, and then the wheat is beaten out of the straw, and this is the real rough part, but it is all necessary for the husbandman to get the fruits of his year’s labor. The work of harvest was not completed until the threshing was done, the wheat separated from the straw, and brought into the storehouse. There was a jointed stick wherewith the wheat was beaten until the kernels were separated from the straw. Sometimes they spread the wheat on the ground in the area called the threshing floor, and caused the oxen to walk over it until the same results were achieved. Isaiah spoke of this saying, “O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you” (Isa. 21:10). There is always something good to be gleaned from the threshings of the Lord! It results in “the corn of my floor,” and when the Lord “threshes” us, as every son of God is experiencing, the husk or the outer shell of our earth-man is removed, leaving the pure “grain” of our redeemed spirit, which is to be clothed upon with our new heavenly body that is like unto His glorious body of Life and Immortality! So, I pray, “Lord, continue to thresh us until there is nothing left of us but the pure ‘grain’ of Thy divine life, from which a pure son of God in your glorious image and likeness shall shine forth!”
John the Baptist, speaking of Jesus, said this: “Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into His garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Mat. 3:12). This is a spiritual work which the Lord Jesus carries forth in and upon His people in the time of harvest. In some measure the firstfruits of the harvest have already begun to experience the process. This is the harvest of the “earth,” and though the wheat is the Lord’s and is the growth and development of His very own life, for He is Himself the seed that has been planted, yet who can deny that as the Lord’s people we all had our roots sunk deep in the earth, in earthly things; in worldly methods and means; in the ways and systems of men. We were well rooted deeply in denominationalism, in the programs and promotions of carnally minded men, and then the Lord of the harvest began to cut us off from our earthly roots. Of these firstfruits John bears witness: “These were redeemed from among men” (Rev. 14:4). The sickle is being used and the reaping has begun! It is sometimes hard, and many have had a real struggle in leaving their old friends, and the comfort and security of the system they have so long depended upon; but the Lord is seeing to it that all of His firstfruits are reaped, and if any cannot make up their minds to leave the old earthly field and follow the Lamb to mount Zion, He sees to it that they are thrown out by the lords of the old systems, and there is no way to return! Then the hand of the Lord is laid heavily upon them and they are conscripted by the power of the Holy Spirit for the army of God, and truly “resistance is futile!”
No one has commented with deeper spiritual insight on this subject than dear sister Dora Van Assen. Many years ago she wrote, “What is the chaff to the wheat? ‘Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire’ (Mat. 3:12). ‘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’ (Mat. 13:30).
“For years I read eternal torment into the foregoing scriptures. I had the wheat as all the saved people taken to heaven, the chaff and tares as all the unsaved people put in hell to be burned with a literal unquenchable fire; until God spoke to my heart saying: ‘You cannot have wheat without chaff, for it takes the chaff to hold the wheat until it is fully matured, and only then can it be threshed, removing the chaff without damaging the seed of life. So this is done at the end of the harvest when the seed is fully grown.’ Thus God gradually began to open my eyes to see that the chaff and the wheat were both in my own self; that my natural Adam nature or human identity was the chaff encasing the wheat, the very life-seed of Christ; that I was being born of an incorruptible seed, and that seed is Christ in me, the hope of glory. These scriptural concepts began to take on new meaning in a most wonderful way!
“I then began to see that it is first the natural and then the spiritual (I Cor. 15:44-46); that without the natural we could not contain the spiritual. We are an earthen vessel holding a ‘treasure’ which is the very excellency of God (II Cor. 4:7). Be glad, therefore, for this natural creation because out of it God brings forth a NEW CREATION! If the chaff is removed before the wheat is mature, it will do damage to the wheat. It is needed to hold the wheat as it passes from the milk stage into the fully hardened and mature stage, where it can be removed from the chaff without harming the wheat in any way. Then the wheat is placed in the barn and the chaff is burned. Today in this enlightened age, even the chaff has many useful purposes, but in ancient times it was simply disposed of by fire. There is absolutely no waste in the economy of God! The prophet inquired, ‘What is the chaff to the wheat?’ (Jer. 23:28). Praise God, it is the super-structure, scaffolding, or encasement which covers and holds the wheat intact as it grows into the very likeness of the One who planted it within. All seed brings forth after its own kind. So, Christ shall see His seed and be satisfied when it comes into His own image and likeness!
“Looking again at Matthew 3:11-12. ‘He that cometh after me is mightier than I…He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ We find that this baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire is accomplished AT THE END OF THE HARVEST. The phrase, ‘and He will thoroughly purge His floor,’ speaks of the threshing floor where the chaff is removed from the wheat. Furthermore, it should be clear to all that the ‘unquenchable fire’ is not the fire of hell, for nothing is said here about hell, but it is the baptism of fire which attends the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The fire is the Holy Ghost fire! This represents the fullness of the Spirit for which Paul prayed (Eph. 3:19), not just the firstfruits of the Spirit, at our initial filling with the Spirit, spoken of as Pentecostal, but the full measure of the Spirit which brings the full redemption of our spirit, soul, and body (Rom. 8:23) into the sonship dimension of full responsibility. This is the redemption for which all creation is groaning, called by Paul ‘the manifestation of the sons of God.’
“The Holy Spirit baptism of fire is burning away all our natural Adamic nature. Our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29), consuming the sin but not the sinner; cleansing and purging away the tin and the dross (Isa. 1:25). Thank God! This fiery cleansing will not be quenched until all our carnality is completely removed. The Father will not spare the scourging of any son whom He receiveth until they also be partakers of His divine nature and holiness (Heb. 12). Jesus came to purify a peculiar people unto Himself (Tit. 2:14). So we hear Him saying, ‘I am come to send fire in the earth (not in hell!); and how I wish it were already kindled’ (Lk. 12:49). He was looking forward to the time when He would return in the form of the Spirit to do a great purifying work within His own sons and within His people, transforming them into His own image. ‘Everyone shall be salted with fire’ (Mk. 9:49). Salt has a preservative and purifying quality, while fire purifies and transforms into other elements and gases. So we see every living sacrifice presented to Him being purified and changed into a ‘sweet smelling savor unto God.’ So we hear Jeremiah say concerning the chaff and the wheat, ‘He that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. Is not my word like a fire? saith the Lord, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces.’ Much of our dreams and visions are a mixture of ourselves, as they pass through our own mind and personality. But His word is as a fire burning the chaff in the right measure and time, exposing the pure wheat of the word!
“Let us also consider the wheat and the tares. Their true meaning is found in the parable Jesus recorded in Matthew 13:24-30. Because the chaff had taken on such a totally different meaning as I was taught by the Holy Spirit, I was sure my first understanding of the tares could be wrong also. And as I was thinking on these things, suddenly it stood out so plainly: THE WHEAT AND THE TARES DID NOT CONVERT ONE ANOTHER! Wheat was wheat, the tares were tares, both growing up together just like the wheat and the chaff, until the time of harvest.
“In that moment I saw that this was not a parable on soul-saving, nor was it an exhortation to scare the heathen or sinning Christians in the church into a conversion, but it was a parable dealing with the inner thought life of the believer himself. In the context around this parable we find that Jesus was uttering ‘things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world’ (Mat. 13:35). In other words, by this parable, He was explaining in parabolic form something which had taken place from the beginning! I believe He was referring to what had happened in the garden of Eden when sin entered into the plan of God. There we find God fellowshipping with Adam in the cool of the day. Certainly God was not standing there in bodily form any more than He comes in bodily form when we commune with Him and hear His voice. By the Spirit God was planting His good thoughts and spiritual understanding in the mind of Adam. But while Adam was not aware of it, the adversary also came into the garden and whispered and planted evil thoughts and carnal understanding, causing a duality within, which led him to fall into a carnal mind. This dual mind of both good and evil was as a split personality within man, each capable of bringing forth a harvest of a certain kind of man (Rom,. 8:6). The battlefield is in the mind!
“Some may object to this interpretation of the tares, because Jesus in His explanation of the parable used the words, ‘the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one’ (Mat. 13:38). That does sound as if they are two different kinds of people. And indeed they are! If we will just stop for a moment and think this through, we must admit that God is an invisible spirit, and Satan is likewise invisible spirit. Neither of these produce flesh and blood children of their own! The new creation is formed in a people who are ‘renewed in the spirit of their mind.’ So the term ‘children’ must be taken as a metaphor. The Holy Spirit deals with men in their minds and thoughts, and Satan can only attack man in his mind, giving false ideas and imaginations. These thought-pictures are often called ‘brain children.’ And these determine what manner of man a man is!
“These thought-pictures can be either good or bad, spiritual or carnal. Paul exhorts us to ‘cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ’ (II Cor. 10:5). Bringing this parable down to us personally, we find that our own mind is the field in which are planted both good and evil. The children or offspring of the kingdom, and the children or offspring of the wicked one, are a mixture of both good and evil, flesh and spirit, growing up together within us until the harvest, which is the time of separation. The tares are somewhat different from the chaff in that the chaff is part of the wheat; however the tares are not part of the wheat, but a foreign implantation made to appear as wheat. The harvest reveals what sort of seed was planted in our earth, and how they have matured in areas of our lives. Only the mature know the difference! And only by harvest conditions can the Lord bring the separation!” — end quote.
When the Son of man as the crowned Reaper sends His sickle into the earth, all things will have come to full maturity. The age has witnessed the sowing and growth and development of the Son of man, and also the sowing of the adversary, and there has been no conclusive divine dealing on earth to make manifest the judgment of God as to what has resulted. But the harvest is the end of the age! It does not take place individually or collectively until all things have fully developed and ripened even to the point of being “dried.” Then the age closes by the gathering out of the kingdom of the Son of man “all offences and those that practice lawlessness,” while the wheat will be brought together into the granary of His kingdom. Everything that is worthless to God will be baptized in His all-consuming fire, whereas all that is of value to Him will be anointed with the seven-fold intensified Spirit of the Lord to bring blessing to creation in the age and the ages to come! “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire!” The harvest is the time when everything will be perfectly discriminated, and dealt with according to its true character. The harvest will finally close the present order of things. All the religiousness of man will go up in smoke and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day!
The “binding into bundles” seems to speak of companies and combinations. It is not a literal binding as grain is bound, but like water finding its own level. Truly the Lord is bringing separation after separation in our lives, within and without. How careful we should be not to be tied up in any bundle that is going to be burned! It does not appear to me strange to suppose that the work of the harvest is an unseen work at times, and those conscious of its working become so by the dealing and revelation of the Lord.