The Heaven Parables
The Synoptics provide
us with a number of parables concerning Heaven understood as
the Kingdom of God. They tell us what it is and what to do to
be part of it.
Jesus often talks of rewards and
punishments in the afterlife after some form of «judgement»
as He uses familiar analogies to describe things in ways people
I believe that the Kingdom is
where people are following God's Ways, acting as God acts.
God is the One Who loves completely and equally everyone of
His creatures, Who rejoices and hurts with each, the One Who,
because He is Love, makes clear for all to see everyone's deeds
Death brings us into His Presence. His
Presence is a Loving Presence where all are equal whatever their
lives have been. His Presence brings joy to those who love others
and find happiness at being loved despite their failures and
torment to those who cannot accept to be shown for what they
are nor accept the faults and failures of others any more than
God's love for the people they hate or despise.
analyse the parables about the Kingdom, examine every point Jesus
is making in each one, and check to see if they are consistent with my
interpretation of what comes after death. It only takes one
inconsistency to force a rethinking of my interpretation as
Jesus' sayings are the criteria by which all stands or falls.
1. The Parables about Judgment
The main parable on the criteria of entry in
«life eternal» rather than «everlasting fire» is the parable
of the Last Judgement, found only in Matthew's Gospel.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory,
and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon
the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered
all nations: and he shall separate them one from another,
as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he
shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the
left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand,
Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared
for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an
hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave
me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and
ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison,
and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him,
saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or
thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger,
and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we
thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King
shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you,
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these
my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also
unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into
everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For
I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and
ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in:
naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye
visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord,
when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or
naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you,
Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did
it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting
punishment: but the righteous into life
This parable's points are:
the «Son of Man» comes «in glory» and sits «upon the throne
of his glory» with a large retinue of angels
is a separation of people according to the following criteria:
if they have - or not - ministered to the hungry, the thirsty,
the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner
and those who did, the «righteous», inherit the Kingdom while
those who did not, the «cursed», are sent in the «everlasting
4) because the One who separates (the «Son of Man»,
the «King») associates Himself totally with the needy
makes deeds and omissions known to all («public judgement»).
The Greek word for «glory» is «doksa»
(δοξα); its first meaning
is «opinion», «what one expects», «what one thinks possible»,
«belief» and so «good or bad opinion », «reputation». It is
easy to see how one goes from the meaning «reputation» to
«glory» when applied to God. But here this term is not applied
to God but to the «Son of Man». Could His reputation vary
according to the people standing about His throne? Could He
be Love for some and Implacable Vengeance for others?
In verse 40, it says: «as long as you did it to one of the
least... you did it to me» while in verse 45 it says:
«as long as you did not do it to one of the least... you
did not do it to me». The King considers every act of
kindness done to those in need as done to Him and every
omission of kindness to those in need as an omission of
kindness to Him.
While I have at times looked after
people in need, I have avoided doing so at many others. I
fit in the first category because I did acts of kindness at
least once and in the second because I avoided doing acts of
kindness at least once! I think it would be fair to say that
this is so for everyone. Hence all fit in one and the other
category; and nowhere in this parable is there question of
scales to weight the acts versus the omissions. I have to
conclude that everyone is at the same time blessed and cursed!
What comes of this dilemna within the scheme of my
interpretation of Heaven and Hell? God loves each and
every one of His creatures and so, each and every one of
His humans. Because of His great love, He associates Himself
completely with His creatures' sufferings: they are His.
So each time we minister unto others, thus alleviating
someone's sufferings, we alleviate God's; each time we do
not alleviate a fellow human's, we do not alleviate God's.
After our death, all is revealed: the times we helped
and the times we did not, the hurt we relieved and the hurt
we ignored. We will be shown for what we are and did as well
as did not become and did not do. God's love for all will make
all known to all. What we did for others will make us feel
joy as we will see its results in other's lives; what we did
not do to help others will make us feel terrible as we will
see the results of our inaction in other's lives. All that
compounded by God's complete love and identification for all
those we did and did not help.
Seeing that God
identifies completely with our enemies will make us seethe
with rage, burn with everlasting resentment and fury. He
is not for us: He is against us as He identifies with them.
How can He?
This, one could argue, holds only with
the assumption that one cares about others. As the selfish
do not, having not helped others will not make them feel bad.
The selfish get angry when others cause them pain.
They want revenge and do so at the first opportunity. They
also reason that those who could would act towards them as
they do. God is the strongest, He is «the Almighty». Once the
selfish find that their actions and omissions have hurt God,
they will fear His revenge and any act of love from Him towards
them will be construed by them as part of His torture for them.
They will constantly expect that this «love» will savage them
and that He will make them pay for eternity. He has to as He
is like them: this is His reputation with them.
seems to fit the parable rather well. All the important
ingredients are there: the happiness for the service of those
in need, the burning feeling for the lack of service to those
in need; all that because God makes everything known,
including His love for all.
The parable of the Wheat and the Tares, for which
we have Jesus' interpretation, is also about judgment. It is
found only in Matthew (Jesus' interpretation follows the parable):
The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed
good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came
and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when
the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then
appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder
came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed
in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto
them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him,
Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said,
Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the
wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest:
and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather
ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn
them: but gather the wheat into my
Then Jesus sent the
multitude away, and went into
the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare
unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered
and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son
of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children
of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked
one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is
the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As
therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire;
so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall
send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom
all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall
cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and
gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the
sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear,
let him hear.3
The following points make this interpreted
1) Originally only the «children of the Kingdom»
are «planted» in the «world» to grow and «shine forth in the
Kingdom of their Father»: this is God's plan.
2) But the
«world» does not contain only the «children of the Kingdom» but
also those of the «evil one». Those are there because of
the Devil, God's enemy.
3) It is impossible to root out
the children of the evil one from the world without rooting
out those of the Kingdom: both are to grow up together, in
close contact in the same physical and social world.
At the «end of the world»,
«they shall gather out of his
kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be
wailing and gnashing of teeth» while
«shall the righteous
shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father».
Again we see separation of those who lived in the world
into two groups: those who are children of the Kingdom and
those who «offend» and «do iniquity». The Greek word
translated as «all things that offend» means
«trap», «pit placed on the way», «obstacle meant to trip
someone». The Greek word «anomian»
translated as «iniquity»
means «violation of the law», «illegal» and the Greek word
translated as «righteous» means «who follows
his duties to gods and humans», «honest», «just».
But what about this «gnashing of teeth»? What does
this refer to? This expression is found three times in the
Book of Psalms:
But in mine adversity they rejoiced,
and gathered themselves together: yea, the abjects gathered
themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did
tear me, and ceased not: With hypocritical mockers in feasts,
they gnashed upon me with their teeth. Lord, how long wilt
thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my
darling from the lions.4
The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon
him with his teeth.5
The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash
with his teeth, and melt away: the desire of the wicked shall
In every case, someone is trying to crush another
with his teeth like a lion would do. «Gnashing of teeth»
shows anger, murderous intent and confrontation. The people
in the furnace of fire are not only in pain and thus wailing,
they are angry and want revenge.
This again seems to
fit rather well in my scheme: the division of the people in
two groups is such that those who hate are on one side and
those who share the values of the Kingdom are on the other.
The first group does not produce any fruit of value; only
the second can bring something to the Kingdom: their grain.
They have something to give in the Kingdom of God's love
while the others only tried to stifle the wheat.
What happens at the end of this life is a division between
people. The tares are not be able to continue suffocating
the wheat. They are not able to trip the «just», the ones
who follow God's ways of love and service, the ones who
feed others with the grain they have grown. The just do
not have to suffer anymore from the injustice visited
upon them by the life haters, those who use others as if
they were their things.
The same idea is found in the Parable of the
net found in Matthew:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is
like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered
of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore,
and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast
the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the
angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among
the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire:
there shall be wailing and gnashing
Again, we find the division at the end of this
life of the good fish and the bad; the good are kept together
while the bad are thrown away, where there will «be wailing
and gnashing of teeth», as was said in the previous Parable.
The haters, the ones who want to use, hurt others, have
revenge on them, the ones who do not belong to the ways of
love, are discarded by the angels, God's messengers, the ones
who tell it as it is, show God's love and the ways of the
Kingdom, ways that are intolerable to those who hate.
2. The Parables of the Sower
The parable of the Sower whose seed falls in
different grounds to different results does not seem to be
so much related to the last judgment as to how people react
to Jesus' words according to their «situation» in this life.
It is found in the gospels of Matthew8
as well as Mark's,10
where it is in three sections. The first section is the
parable proper; the second is why Jesus talks in parables
and the third, His interpretation. The middle section is
not relevant here.11
The first and third sections are:
Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came
to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the
fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell
on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately
it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the
sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it
withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns
grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other
fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and
increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty,
and some an hundred.12
The sower soweth the word.
And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown;
but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh
away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they
likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have
heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have
no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward,
when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake,
immediately they are offended. And these are they which are
sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this
world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other
things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear
the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold,
some sixty, and some an hundred.13
We have the following points in Jesus' interpretation:
1) The word of God is spoken and so is sown in everyone's
heart. All who are mentioned after are aware of the same message.
2) The first group is composed of people who are just
outside the field itself. They basically do not have any earth
where the word can grow; they are a stony ground, a place where
growth is impossible. They thus loose the word immediately:
Satan, the Prince of this World's order, removes it from their
mind. These are the people who live purely and simply according
to the rules of this world's order, a hard world where
«man eats man». They cannot even give the message a second
thought as it is so opposed to all their beliefs and
3) The second group shows interest in God's
word: it is composed of people who have some earth but only
very little. They receive the message as it sounds right to
them. On the other hand, they are not ready to sacrifice
anything much for it. They lack «staying power»: as soon as
troubles turn up, they are discouraged and give up. To
love one's neighbour is easy when she is nice but intolerable
as soon as problems arise.
4) The third group has some
depth. The message takes root and starts to grow but thorns
share the ground with the good wheat. God's message is not
the only one growing in their hearts: the world's messages
(in the form of commercials?) are also growing and finally
choke God's. These messages are «the cares of this world,
and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things».
For God's message to thrive, it must be in first place. She
does not have much time for God's message if worried about
food, clothing, lodging, the price of things, war and peace,
the environment. She does not have much time for God's
message when checking for good retirement funds, studying
the stock market, looking for a bigger house, a better car,
remodeling the lounge, renovating the kitchen. If she wants
smart clothes, beautiful friends, a well decorated house,
some wonderful vacations, great sex, good boose and lots
of parties, she does not have much time left for God's
message. Indeed, she should have forgotten it!
there is the last group: the group of people where the earth
is deep and where the wheat grows alone. These are committed
to God's word, are ready to sacrifice everything for it.
These are the one's in which this message grows to fruition
because it is not at the mercy of the world. This ground
refuses this world's «commercials». The way Jesus puts it in
Luke is worth quoting: «But that
on the good ground are they,
which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word,
keep it, and bring forth fruit
Patience is needed as this growth is slow.
be quite obvious that only the last group has put into
practice God's ways. So if it is essential to have lived
this message to join the Kingdom, only they will be able
to face God in a way that will permit them to find the
experience a joyful rather than a terrible one. This
being said, this conclusion does not come out of the
above parable per se.
The idea of the seed planted
in the good earth growing to fruition is taken in another
parable about sowing:
And he said, So is the kingdom of
God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should
sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and
grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit
of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full
corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth,
immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest
To harvest a plant, a human does not have to
know how the seed germinates and grows. It happens as long
as she does not interfere with the process. It is the same
with us: if we let God do His job, we grow to be what He
means us to be. Trusting in God's work and not interfering
with it are paramount.
What we are meant to be is
not necessarily small. We might grow into something quite
And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom
of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is
like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the
earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But
when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than
all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the
fowls of the air may lodge under the
shadow of it.16
God 's work in us can produce something quite
stupendous out of very small beginnings. Mother Theresa of
Calcutta is an example of a small seed (her own calling in
Albania) turning into a big tree (the development of an
institute present on all the continents and composed of
thousands of nuns doing the work she started).
This idea of growth, this time from an
apparently hidden source, is found in the parable of
the leaven: «Another parable spake he unto them; The
kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman
took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole
We find that accepting God's work in us acts
in our lives like leaven on the meal: the leaven is
invisible, well hidden in the meal. But it will make
it rise, grow into something bigger. Though «invisible»,
God's work is real and effective.
We noticed in
the first Parable of the Sower that the only soil which
permitted proper growth was the one where no weed was
present to stifle it. Nothing else must be in its way.
Jesus compares the Kingdom to a buried treasure found in
a field that is so valuable that she is ready to give up
everything for it: «
Again, the kingdom of heaven is
like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man
hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and
selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that
The Kingdom of God is so precious that she
is joyfully ready to give up everything to get possession
of it. God's ways are her delight. Jesus also compares the
Kingdom to a precious pearl that a merchant bought after
selling all he had.19
3. The «Be Prepared» Parables
The Kingdom is God's way of life. At the hour of our death,
we go from this life to the next, a life where God is no
more hidden, a life where God's ways are the only ones
that bring joy. What is in accordance with this world order
will then bring grief as it is opposed to God's ways. It is
thus paramount to be prepared for this new state of affairs.
There are a few parables about being ready.
One is about virgins waiting in the night for their
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened
unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to
meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five
were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and
took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their
vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried,
they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a
cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet
him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for
our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not
so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather
to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they
went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready
went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord,
open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you,
I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day
nor the hour wherein the Son of man
following points can be found in this parable:
1) Ten virgins with lamps are ready to meet their bridegroom.
Ten virgins for one bridegroom! That is an awful lot of
virgins for just one man, isn't it? This is how the Kingdom
of Heaven is!
2) Five are well prepared as they carry
spare oil with their lamp while the others are ill prepared
as they are without spare oil. Only some are ready for the
3) Their bridegroom is very late (obviously
Jesus does not believe in the stereotype about women being
late!) and so the girls all fall asleep. As time goes by,
the oil of their lamps runs dry and the lamps go off.
At midnight the girls are told to go and meet their
bridegroom who is finally arriving. Only the wise ones
are able to light their lamps after filling them with oil;
the others have to go away and buy some.
5) The wise
ones meet their bridegroom and are taken by him to their
marriage feast and the door is shut.
6) The others find
their way after filling their lamps with oil but are refused
entry at the hall as they were not ready when their
7) The conclusion is to watch for the
time when the Son of Man comes.
This parable states
that we have only one chance at getting married to our
bridegroom. The marriage is off if we are not ready then.
The only event in our lives that happens only once is our
death. So the moral of the tale is that we have to be ready
for it. We do not know when it will come but must be ready.
We need enough oil for the journey. We absolutely need our
own oil for our lamp as we all do this «journey», this dying,
Some are eager for this mariage at some
point in their lives and are then well prepared. But for
all kind of reasons, they do not stay ready. They end up
unready when death comes and so are left out. Jesus comes
to find that they are unable to join Him, to become one with
Him, to be filled by Him; so they are left out in the dark
as their mindset is incompatible with God's Kingdom.
The parable of the ten virgins is not the only one on the
necessity to be ready. In the following back-to-back parables
followed by a punch line, Jesus compares every human life to
that of servants who wait for the coming of their lord and to
a owner protecting his property against a thief:
loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves
like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return
from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may
open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom
the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say
unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit
down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if
he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch,
and find them so, blessed are those
And this know, that if the goodman of the house had
known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched,
and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye
therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour
when ye think not.22
The punch line is «Be ye
therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour
when ye think not.» We have the same message as in the
previous parable: the need to be ready at all times as we
do not know the hour of our death, this time when «the Son
of Man» comes to us.
In the second parable of the
set, Jesus says that if a houseowner knew when the burglar
would come, he would be there ready to stop him. As the
former does not know when the later comes, the only way
not to be robbed is to be constantly on guard.
The first parable is richer. Some servants,
dressed and awake, are ready to spring into action as soon
as their master returns, ready to open the door to him and
do their job. They are eager to welcome him back and be of
service to him and they sacrifice their sleep to be promptly
there for him.
So far this parable is similar to
the other one. But Jesus adds that their lord is so pleased
with them that he is the one who starts serving them! Put
in different terms, their lord is just as eager to serve
them as they are to serve him. In the afterlife, says Jesus,
He, the Son of Man, serves gladly those who are waiting to
serve Him. What they are ready to give to Him, He gives to
them. Again we have this reciprocity between God and His
humans as He seems to react as they act.
4. The Parable
of the King's son wedding: our reaction to our calling
We have so far examined parables on the selection
process that takes place after death. Let us now look at
some reactions to the invitation, the parable of the King's
son Wedding, which I have cut in two parts :
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king,
which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his
servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding:
and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other
servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold,
I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are
killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to
his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took
his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he
sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and
burned up their city.23
Then saith he to his
servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden
were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and
as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those
servants went out into the highways, and gathered together
all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the
wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came
in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not
on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how
camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he
was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind
him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer
darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
For many are called, but few are
This rich parable has a great many points.
1) The original guests all declined twice;
gave business as their excuse and let the servants go back
3) some had the servants mistreated and killed.
The murderers were destroyed as their city.
5) As the
original guests are now deemed unworthy, all are invited,
«both bad and good».
6) The King finds a guest without
«a wedding garment» who cannot explain how he got in
7) that man is cast «into outer darkness» where
«there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.»
The moral of the story is: «For many are called, but few
The first part of this parable is a
retelling of the history of the Jewish people as found in
the Septuagint. The Jews are the original people invited.
The invitation is first to them alone. The servants are
the prophets. History tells that some were mistreated and
others, murdered, that Jerusalem and other Jewish cities
were destroyed. Some of the prophets were ignored as the
people had more pressing business, like looking after their
material needs. So the King decides to invite others; more
precisely, all and sundry, all that can be found anywhere,
whatever their lineage or morals depending on how one reads
the descriptors of these people. This story is standard
Septuagint fare. The ideas that the Jewish people is deemed
unworthy and that God turns to the goyim are found in the
This interpretation has the following
advantage: this is not a threat by Jesus. The first part
of the text applies to the past and to the way the Jewish
leaders rebelled against the sound advice given by God
through His prophets. In the Septuagint, it is not always
God who is seen as having the people killed for killing
the prophets: often the disasters that befall the Jewish
people are seen for what they really are: the results of
their refusal to heed the ways of God. Put differently,
they insist on backing the wrong horse in global politics,
fighting among themselves instead of being of service one
to the other. They want to be important players in global
politics without the army to back such a claim, or again they seek the
help of a country too weak to help them, and the list goes on and on.
Of course, the text per se suggests that God is
vengeful. But this text cannot be read coherently that
way: after all, it does state that God again and again
invites His people to His feast. He wants them to join
Him so much that He is very insistent. It is just that
they are either too busy or feel threatened by His
invitation. After all, you do not kill a messenger
without good reason! And this reason is that God's
invitation does violence to this world order. Jesus
does not really believe that God His Father is vengeful,
even if this text seems to imply it. He is retelling
the people a tale they have already heard many times.
The second part of the parable is new. All are
invited to the Kingdom (the wedding feast). One of the
guests there does not wear the wedding garment. He is
questioned and remains speechless and so is thrown out
in the dark, outside. This is followed by the famous:
the many are invited; the few are chosen, and so become
guests to the wedding feast, take part in the celebrations,
the dance, the food, the merriment.
The others are all outside, in the dark, where there is
weeping and gnashing of teeth. Weeping is the expression
of sadness and distress due to a loss now understood, rage
for having missed something precious, for seeing one's enemies
success, for jealousy, for perceived injustice, etc. The
gnashing of teeth refers to people trying to crush another
with their teeth like a lion would do. It shows anger,
murderous intent and confrontation. The people in the
darkness are not only in pain and thus weeping, they are
angry and want revenge. They do not belong to the feast
because they are murderers.
To belong to the feast, you have to «fit in»,
be in the right disposition, be ready to rejoice with the
bride and groom, be happy for others and with others, to wish
them well. In a word, you have to love them. Wearing a
wedding garment signals that you are sharing in this happy
occasion in the lives of others. This you cannot do if you
think only about yourself or hate these people. That throws
you out in darkness, where you scream blue murder and weep
from rage. The simple fact of seeing the King expressing
His love for the happy couple makes you mad with envy and
throws you out in the darkness. This parable's interpretation
is consistent with my scheme.
5. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man
The parable of Lazarus, found only in Luke, has a
rather interesting «view» of the afterlife. It is in three
sections. The first is about the life of two men before their
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed
in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid
at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the
crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the
dogs came and licked his sores.25
1) a rich man well dressed whose
belly is full every day
2) while there is a beggar at
his door whom he totally ignores.
There is in this
life a total separation between the rich man and the poor.
The rich does not even see the beggar at his door: he is not
part of his world of beautiful clothes and good food.
In the second section, each situation changes completely
with death as the rôles are reversed:
And it came to pass,
that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into
Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and
seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he
cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send
Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water,
and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But
Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime
receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil
things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great
gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to
you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come
We can note that:
1) The beggar is carried
by angels to the bosom of Abraham
2) while the rich man
is in torments.
3) The rich man pleads with Abraham to
let the beggar relieve him in his torments.
answers him that the roles are now reversed.
people in Hell can see the people in Heaven and vice versa,
the people in Hell cannot cross to Heaven and vice versa.
The Greek word «chasma»
translated by «great gulf»
is «an obstacle that cannot be crossed», a «chasm». The
«geographic» locations of Heaven and Hell found here are
very different from the traditional ones illustrated by Dante.
Here, Heaven and Hell are on the save level and close by.
All that separates them is this canyon wide enough to prevent
going from one «location» to the other and narrow enough
to exchange words from one location to the other. Those in
Heaven see and hear those in Hell and vice-versa but they
It is not the King or the Son of Man who
talks to the rich man in this Parable but Abraham. Abraham
is not the representative of Jesus' God but of the God of
Justice, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In this parable, the rich man who did not take care
of the poor goes to Hell while the poor goes to Heaven
(Abraham's bosom). Why does the rich man go to Hell? Or,
put differently, what is the rich man's Hell? He sees the
poor man he did nothing for in the bosom of Abraham. He sees
clearly that God is on the side of this poor man. He knows
he did not lift a little finger to help him. If God loves this
poor so much, can He be anything but exceedingly angry with
him? How can God love him as well, he who did nothing for
the poor? How can he be anything but terrorised by what God
in His Justice will do to him?
He pleads to Abraham
to no avail. Abraham's God said «Eye for eye, tooth
This God cannot forgive him. As he did nothing for the poor
man while he could, this poor man can do nothing for him.
He is paying the price of not following Moses' Law about
looking after the poor. He is facing the Just God he knows,
not the God of Love Lazarus knows. He can see God's love
in action but cannot comprehend that God loves him as much
as He loves Lazarus: this, for him, is impossible. He does
not know the real God, and so, languishes in torments,
excluding himself from God's love.
1 Matthew 25:31-46
2 Matthew 13:24-30
3 Matthew 13:36-43
4 Psalm 35:15-7
5 Psalm 37:12
6 Psalm 112:10
7 Matthew 13:47-50
8 Matthew 13:14-23
9 Luke 8:5-15
10 Mark 4:3-20
11 It will be analyzed later.
12 Mark 4:3-8
13 Mark 4:14-20
14 Luke 8:15
15 Mark 4:26-29
16 Mark 4:30-32 (also Matthew 13:31-32)
17 Matthew 13:33
18 Matthew 13:44
19 «Again, the
kingdom of heaven is like unto
a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had
found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had,
and bought it.» (Matthew 13:45-46)
20 Matthew 25:1-13
21 Luke 12:35-38
22 Luke 12:39-40
23 Matthew 22:2-7
24 Matthew 22:8-14
25 Luke 16:19-21
26 Luke 16:22-26
27 Exodus 21:24
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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 6th, 2004
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