Summary: We have previously pointed out that it is important to carefully note the manner and method in which these seven parables are arranged, for their order provides key to their interpretation.
We have previously pointed out that it is important to carefully note the manner and method in which these seven parables are arranged, for their order provides key to their interpretation. The first parable is different than the other six. The phrase “the kingdom of heaven” is missing from the first parable. The first parable is not an analogy of the kingdom of heaven; the last six are. The first parable deals with a preparatory work done prior to the introduction of the kingdom of heaven in its present form; that introductory work is the broadcast sowing of the seed, first by the Lord Himself, afterwards by the apostles.
The six parables which follow are divided into two threes. The first three were spoken by the Lord from the boat in the hearing of the multitude by the seaside. They give us an external view of the kingdom. The last three parables were not spoken by the Lord to the disciples only, and inside the house. The last three parables give us the internal and hidden aspects of the kingdom of heaven that is not manifested before men in this world.
The first of the last three is the parable of the treasure hidden in the field, the second the parable of the pearl. These two parables imply there are two groups of people who find favor in God’s eyes and precious to His Son. The treasure represents Israel, the pearl the Church. The order of these two parables is, "to the Jew first and also to the Greek," the treasure coming before the pearl.
If these seven parables give us a prophetical outline of the course of Christianity one more parable is needed to complete the picture. The last parable is in one sense an amplification of the fifth and sixth. In the fifth and sixth parables there is only one man at work. The man, who finds the field, buys it and then hides it in the field. The merchant seeking fine pearls and finds one of great value and sells all He has and buys the pearl. When we come to this seventh parable, for the first time, the number of the pronoun is changed. In verse 47 we are told a net is cast into the sea, and “gathered fish of every kind and when it was full, they drew it up on the beach,” not "he" but "they." This is the first time we have "they" in the parables.
In this parable the net represents the Gospel and the fishermen casting the net into the sea represents the preaching of the Gospel. The sea represents the world. The fishermen represent those who preach and teach the Gospel. The emphasis in this parable is the fish and not the fishermen. In the 47th verse they are not even mentioned. In verse 48 Jesus refers to the fisherman as “they.” Those who have been highly honored by God, and have a part in the casting of this net into the sea, are hidden from view, nothing is said about them, except they drew the net up on the beach. In 1st Corinthians 3: beginning at verse 4 it is written by the apostle Paul, "For while one says, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos, are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered; but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”