This article has been expanded for a talk given on October 30th, 2016, by William Finck which is available here: Fellowship of God's Covenant People - Scatterers and Gatherers
Yahshua Christ links three concepts in Matthew chapter 12, which are scattering and gathering, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and good and bad trees. From the King James Version: “30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. 31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. 33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.”
In another place Yahshua again mentions gathering along with good and corrupt trees, where He links these with two other concepts, which are the strait gate and the false prophets who are not truly sheep but are really wolves. From Matthew 7: “13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”
Because Christ Himself has linked these things together for us, it is not improper for us to list and evaluate all of these basic concepts in order to determine just what these symbols which He uses represent. First we shall list the concepts once more, but all together this time: 1) scattering and gathering; 2) blasphemy of the Holy Spirit; 3) the strait gate; 4) false prophets; 5) good and corrupt trees. While many men have attempted to understand these things by themselves, they can only truly be understood in relation to one another, because Yahshua Christ related these things to one another.
1) Scattering and gathering.
The same Yahshua Christ who said in John chapter 10 “7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.... 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” also said in Matthew chapter 15 “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The same Yahshua Christ who said in John chapter 10 “ 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” is that God Incarnate who said to the children of Israel in Amos 3:2: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
The children of Israel were punished in the destruction of their ancient kingdom, being cast out from the sight of Yahweh their God and taken into captivity by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Yet Israel, the children of Israel, the seed of Israel, are promised a later regathering and a return to Yahweh their God in Christ. All of the promises of this later gathering of Israel are exclusive to Israel. For that reason the apostle Paul later writes in Romans chapter 8: “ 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” These can only be those same people of Amos 3:2, which Paul's epistles demonstrate in many other places.
Psalm 106: “47 Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise. 48 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.”
Psalm 107: “1 O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; 3 And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.”
Isaiah 11: “12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”
Isaiah 43: “5 Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west.”
Jeremiah 29: “14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.”
Jeremiah 31: “10 Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.”
Jeremiah 32: “37 Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely.”
Ezekiel 20: “34 And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.”
Luke 13: “27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.”
Yahweh is “... GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel ...” and there are no promises to gather anyone but Israel to the end-of-days gathering of Israel. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Of course they do not. Therefore since all of the promises of His regathering are exclusive to the children of Israel, it is only Israel whom the presumed gatherers are obliged to seek out. Attempting to gather anything but sheep to the sheepfold, one is not gathering with Christ, and one makes himself a scatterer rather than a gatherer. By attempting to add wolves, swine or dogs to the sheepfold, one surely causes the sheep to scatter!
Jeremiah 23: “1 Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. 2 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. 3 And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4 And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD. 5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
2) Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is a facet of the being of Yahweh, who demands of the children of Israel in Leviticus chapter 19 to be holy as He also is: “1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.” The Hebrew word for holy, which is qadosh (Strong's Hebrew # 6918), means sacred, set apart. It's Greek equivalent is hagios, which more fully means set apart for the purposes of a god (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, Strong's Greek # 40) or devoted to a god (Liddell & Scott). The only people in all history who were dedicated to the purposes of Yahweh at His command were those in the loins of Isaac, and in that is the promise to Abraham, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Genesis 21:12). Of these were the children of Jacob to whom the promises fell, the “vessels of mercy” of Romans chapter 9, and the children of Esau, the “vessels of destruction” of Paul's analogy which is found in that chapter. That Esau forfeited his birthright because he was a race-mixer and took wives of the daughters of Canaan is evident in the opening verses of Genesis chapter 27 (see also Hebrews 12:16), where Jacob is told that if he took a wife from the women of his own kinfolk that the promises to Abraham would fall upon him, and so he did.
For the children of Israel, this holiness which they obtained through Isaac is reinforced in Exodus chapter 19, where it is a part of the terms of the Old Covenant: “5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.”
A holy nation in Biblical terms means a nation set apart for the purposes of Yahweh God, separated from all other nations. Therefore Peter, knowing that his intended audience was the children of those same Israelites dispersed in antiquity, and knowing that this plan of God's for the children of Israel had not changed with the New Covenant (i.e. Jeremiah 31:31-37, Matthew 15:24), makes a direct appeal to the words of God at both Exodus 19:5-6 and Hosea 1:10, a prophecy which also concerns the children of Israel exclusively. This is found in his first epistle, in 1 Peter chapter 2: “9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”
Therefore blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which in Matthew chapter 12 Yahshua Christ connects to both scattering and gathering and the making of a tree good or corrupt, must mean speaking against the command that Israel be a holy and separate people.
3) The strait gate.
Yahshua Christ is the door of the sheep. He only came for the sheep. No one gets to the Father except through Him. Of course, He was not talking to anyone but Israel when He spoke this parable, so no one else was ever a candidate: for Israel alone has the promises of redemption and salvation mentioned throughout the Bible. The City of God described in the Revelation has on its gates the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. The gate is strait indeed.
4) False prophets.
There are two different types of false prophets described by Paul: wolves among the sheep seeking to devour the flock, and sheep seeking to make their own way. This is found in Acts chapter 20: “28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Here Christ warns about wolves in sheep's clothing, seeking to devour the sheep. It is the averred purpose of Yahshua Christ to gather Israel. Wolves seek to enter the sheepfold in order to rob the sheep.
Yahshua Christ linked the false prophets who are inwardly ravening wolves to those who would gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles, in Matthew chapter 7. Therefore the false prophets would be those universalists who would insist upon gathering something other than sheep to the sheepfold. These are those who would cause the scattering and destruction of the sheep. Christ never told His followers to feed anything but sheep. They are not wolves, dogs, goats, pigs or swine who are fed and then somehow become sheep. That concept is found nowhere in Scripture! Rather, they must be sheep in the first place, and then they may be fed.
Following His resurrection, Yahshua told Peter three times that if he loved Him, he must feed His sheep, as it is recorded in John 21:15, 16 and 17. The story of the Israelites as the sheep of Yahweh God goes back into the Old Testament, and therefore no one else but Israel could be His sheep.
Psalm 74: “1 (A Maschil of Asaph) O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture? 2 Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt. 3 Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary. 4 Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.”
Jeremiah 50: “17 Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones. 18 Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyria. 19 And I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and Gilead.”
Ezekiel 34: “1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5 And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.”
In many other passages of both the Psalms and the prophets, the children of Israel are identified as the sheep, the lost sheep, the scattered sheep, the flock of Yahweh. Thus they also are in the New Testament, for Yahshua Christ identified them in that very manner.
Psalm 80: 1 (To the chief Musician ... A Psalm of Asaph.) Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. 2 Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us. 3 Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. 4 O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? 5 Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure. 6 Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves. 7 Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. 8 Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. 9 Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. 10 The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. 11 She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. 12 Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? 13 The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. 14 Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; 15 And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself. 16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance. 17 Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself. 18 So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name. 19 Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.
5) Good and corrupt trees.
Psalm 80 tells us that Israel is a vine planted by Yahweh. It links the sheep of Yahweh's pasture with the branches of the vine, which leads us to the last item on our list of related concepts. As the Psalm tells us, the vine is the race of people that Yahweh brought out of Egypt. Christ later said to His apostles in John 15: “5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” The Adamic race is nothing without their God, and without keeping His commandments. And the words of Christ here are very much like that first promise of salvation to the Adamic race. It is found in Genesis chapter 3: “22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”
In the Garden of Eden there were two trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first tree is the tree planted by Yahweh, represented by the wheat of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, where the second tree is represented by the tares who were sown by the devil. Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden for their sinful interaction with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represented by the serpent, which Revelation chapter 12 connects to the the devil and the fallen angels. The man, collectively, would be saved by grasping onto his own race, the Tree of Life, which has God as its Originator: for Adam was the son of God (Luke 3:38).
When the children of Israel were found mingling with the Canaanite races and adopting their idolatrous practices, Yahweh exclaimed in Isaiah chapter 17: “10 Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips:” Likewise He exclaimed in Jeremiah chapter 2: “21 Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?” Israel taken into captivity is portrayed as a ruined vine, and also as a ruined fig tree, in several places in Ezekiel, in Joel and in Nahum.
In Matthew chapter 12, immediately after explaining that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven, Yahshua Christ said “33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.” Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is speaking against Yahweh's command of separation for the children of Israel. Yahshua related that to the making of the tree either good or corrupt. The only way that man can make the tree, the vine of Israel, anything is to breed and multiply. Therefore when the ancient Israelites engaged in idolatry they began race-mixing, and they set Yahweh's vine with “strange slips”, or turned it into the “degenerate plant of a strange vine”. From Hosea chapter 5: “7 They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children”.
These “strange slips” and the leaves of this “degenerate plant of a strange vine” are bastards. Yahweh pronounces in the Scripture at Deuteronomy chapter 23 that “2 A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.” The phrase “tenth generation” is an allegory which means forever, since after ten generations a bastard is still a bastard, for there is no correcting such hybridization. Paul speaks of the chastisement of the children of Israel in Hebrews chapter 12, and he says “8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” Salvation is destined for sons, and not for bastards, as Paul had explained in chapter 2 of that same epistle, “ 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren”. A bastard is not “of one”, or it would not be a bastard. Therefore Yahshua Christ said in Matthew chapter 15, “13 ... Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.”
In the end, there is only one tree in the Garden of God, and its twelve fruits represent the twelve tribes of Israel. From Revelation chapter 22: “1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: 4 And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. 5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.”
Therefore, those who are truly gatherers are gathering with Christ, and they are gathering sheep. Those who do not gather with Him are scatterers, because they attempt to gather into the sheepfold something other than sheep. A scatterer is, in essence, a blasphemer of the Holy Spirit, a man attempting to gather grapes from thorns, being on the wide path to destruction by bringing wolves in among the sheep which results in the making of corrupt trees, and setting the Garden of God with strange slips.
Gatherers must not keep company with scatterers. For evil communications corrupt good manners.