“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:47–50, NASB95)
A number of years ago one of our sons was given the opportunity to spend his summer before his senior year of high school in Alaska fishing with a close friend and his family. They had a commercial salmon fishing permit, and they would go every year there to fish with nets. And as they pulled in the nets they had to sort through and separate the flounder and others from the salmon. One they kept and all of the others went right back into the water. According to this parable the kingdom of God is like a dragnet cast into the sea which would be used to gather in all of the fish, without any escaping. Once the fish are brought in they likewise will be separated with the good fish (salmon in the case of our story) being kept and the bad (everything else) not being thrown back to continuing swimming, but thrown away—cast into the furnace of fire.
This is ultimately a picture of two kinds of fish and two destinations. There are no other options. Scripture tells us that one day we will all appear before God some to inherit life and some cast away into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.” (Revelation 19:20, NASB95) … “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10, NASB95) … “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14–15, NASB95)
Clearly we can see from these verses that God is not playing games with eternity. What happens when the net is pulled in has eternal consequences. The good fish, who Jesus named as the righteous, will receive eternal life and the bad fish, who Jesus named as the wicked, will be thrown into a lake which in this case is the lake of eternal fire and is known as the second death. For them it is the second death because physically we all die unless we are taken when the Lord comes or are separated at the end of the Great Tribulation (Matthew 25). But for those who are declared righteous, they will only experience death once as they are the recipients of eternal life.
“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” (Hebrews 9:27–28, NASB95) Throughout time there have been those preachers known as fire and brimstone preachers. These are the ones that drive home the destiny that awaits those who reject salvation in Jesus Christ. They speak of an eternal future that is certain in its torment and wailing. They plead with people to “turn lest they burn.” For those who reject God their future will be one of total separation from Him, with no change of course at any time. It will be a permanent judgment, and the only way to avoid this is to accept God’s gift of salvation in His Son—to believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4, NASB95) … “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–26, NASB95)
For those of us who have trusted Christ and who have the assurance of salvation and eternal life, we have been entrusted with the greatest message man can ever know. We have been called by God to be His ambassadors to the fish who are dying. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:17–21, NASB95)
As Jesus called His disciples, so do we also have the opportunity to be a part of the greatest catch ever made. Consider the words of Jesus and the response of Peter and his brother, Andrew, “Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.” (Matthew 4:18–20, NASB95)