In the fourth pair of the parables of Matthew 13, Jesus continues to instruct His disciples apart from the general multitude to which He had spoken earlier. The seventh parable in the chapter, the Parable of the Dragnet (verse 47) teaches that in the professing church, the good and evil who intermingle on earth will be completely separated "at the end of the age." This set time of separation will be, for the good, a time of rejoicing in a bright, eternal future, but for the evil, it will be a time of mourning before eternal oblivion.
In Matthew 4:18-20, Jesus says to Peter and Andrew, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men," providing a partial interpretation of this parable. When Jesus Christ later made the twelve disciples fishers of men, they went out and brought in "catches" of converts. Thus, the church, composed of the "called," are caught in God's net, which His servants draw in.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John had been fishermen prior to their calling, so to them, the idea of the dragnet was a familiar and vivid picture. Their work entailed using a net - a dragnet - of great length, weighted by lead and designed to sweep the bottom of the sea, gathering fish in masses. Two boats would drag this net between them, sweeping a section of the Sea of Galilee, after which the sailors would haul the net to shore. There, the fishermen would go through the entire net, keeping the good fish but burning the substandard ones to avoid catching them again later.
The symbol of "the sea" is similar to that seen in the beasts rising out of the sea and out of the earth (Revelation 13:1, 11). It designates origination, representing the realm of the earth. Christ's origin is the realm of heaven, but the beasts, part of a corrupt system, come from the sea and the earth. The sea, a body of water, symbolizes "peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues" (Revelation 17:15).
In the parable, when the fish are caught in a net thrown in the sea, Jesus signifies that members of His church are "the called" out of the world (Romans 1:5-6; 8:28). The dragnet gathers some of every kind; God's net catches fish without partiality to age, sex, race, ethnicity, class, wealth, intelligence, language, beauty, and so forth. His interest is in developing our character and whether He can work with us (Romans 2:11; 5:8; 9:18, 21).