The parable of the tares has nothing to do with the rapture, or the second coming for that matter. It is told by Jesus in Matthew 13:24-30, in the midst of a bunch of other parables that all illustrate what the kingdom of heaven is like. These parables in Matthew 13 are told from different perspectives, with emphasis on those finding the kingdom of heaven recognizing that they have found something of great value, and comparing the people who do find it as a crop being grown by God that will one day be harvested.
The parable of the tares is sometimes erroneously used by those who insist on a post-tribulation rapture viewpoint as supporting scripture for that doctrine. They get this from the explanation of the parable that Jesus gives in Matthew 13:36-43. Because the angels first gather the bad people (that is, the weeds) to throw them in the fire, they point to that as an illustration that the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine must be incorrect as God’s people would be gathered first in that case. But they are confused because they have not studied the Bible enough. The only way you could associate this parable with the second coming of Christ is if you had very little understanding of biblical end-time events and the timeline associated with them.
The second coming of Christ is 1,000 years before the final judgment. As Jesus explains the parable, he states that the harvest is the end of the age. This is where the post-tribulation rapture folks usually have things mixed up. They tend to associate the second coming of Christ as the end of the age and happening at the time of the final judgment. As if Christ returns and then all the Christians go to heaven and everybody else goes to hell and that’s the end (like in that really bad 1991 movie The Rapture).
That ain’t the way it goes, folks. Not according to the Bible anyway. The second coming of Christ is not the end of mortal humans living on this earth. It is also not the end of the tares among the wheat – that is to say, bad people being mixed in with God’s people before the harvest. It is not the end of Satan’s evil influence on earth either. That all happens a thousand years later. Regarding the explanation that Jesus gave about the wicked first being removed and cast into the fire at the end of the age, that is indeed confirmed in Revelation 20. But the end of the age is when the final judgment comes (or more accurately, the White Throne Judgment) and it happens ten centuries after the second coming.
The Millennial Reign of Christ
Revelation 20:1-15 tells us what will happen after the return of Christ to this earth. Having slain the nations at his return, having put an end to the war that culminated at the battle of Armageddon, he then establishes his perfect kingdom upon the earth. Most of the people living on the earth will have died during the tribulation period, but there will be some survivors. Perhaps as many as 1/3 of the world’s pre-tribulation population will survive to Christ’s return. These will be the subjects of his kingdom. The many saints who returned with Jesus will apparently be governors assigned to geographical regions as he rules with a rod of iron (according to Revelation 19:15 and Psalm 2:9).
The anti-Christ and the false prophet will be cast into the eternal lake of fire at the second coming of Jesus (and are its first occupants), but Satan will be chained in a bottomless pit during the millennial kingdom. Disease will be ended and people will live long healthy lives again, like the first generation of man did, perhaps living 1,000 years or longer. Man’s futile attempt to govern himself will be over as King Jesus rules with absolute perfection. With death and sickness conquered, the mortal population of the earth will quickly repopulate during this period. (The returned saints will of course already have been given their immortal, incorruptible, glorified new bodies as Christ has. So the earth will have both mortals and immortals living on it during the millennium.)
Towards the end of the millennial kingdom, Satan will be unchained and let loose on the earth again. Why? Well, nobody will have had a chance to make a real decision for God during the millennium, being as Christ ruled with a rod of iron. Obedience will have been forced and rebellion will not have been an option. God always gives man the ultimate choice to love him or reject him. So Satan will be unleashed to tempt man again and sure enough, a bunch of rebels will join him as he leads one final army against Jesus. That will quickly be put down. And that will be the end of the millennial kingdom period, and pretty much the end of this earth as well.
Then comes the final judgment. Satan is then cast into the lake of fire as its third occupant. The books are opened and everybody who ever lived gets their day in court before God. Not pre-millennial Christians of course, for us it is simply case dismissed. This event is the great white throne judgment, and is the actual gathering of the tares spoken of in the parable. It is described in Revelation 20:11-15.
If your name isn’t found in the lamb’s book of life, you join the devil and his demons in the eternal lake of fire at this event. The main question you need to be concerned with is: How do you get your name written in that darn book? Fortunately that is easy. Say this quick five word prayer right now, and mean it from your heart: Jesus forgive me, a sinner. Seems kind of foolish not to take a few seconds out of your life to do that, considering what is at stake, doesn’t it?
The two hells. This brings up an interesting point, that there are two different hells mentioned in the Bible. The hell that people are in right now is just a holding cell while they await their day in court. The eternal lake of fire is the final hell, the prison that people are sentenced to at the great white throne judgment. If you have Jesus as your defense attorney you don’t have to worry about either place (and anybody can, being as he is the free public defender, all you have to do is accept him).