Jesus continued his conversation with the Pharisees, “Listen to another parable..”, he replied.
Jesus had just finished telling the Pharisees the parable of the two sons, and how the tax collectors and prostitutes would enter the kingdom of heaven before them because they had believed and repented. Jesus kept trying to get the Pharisees to understand. Pleading with them. Jesus did not want to see His chosen people miss the point and miss heaven, just because they were trying to hold on to a very short timeline of earthly power.
Jesus tells the parable of a vineyard owner and the tenant farmers who take care of the vineyard (an image that would have been relevant to the Jews of that time). When the owner sends his slaves (representing Old Testament prophets) to gather the harvest, the farmers beat them and kill them. Finally the owner sends his son (Messiah) and they reject him and kill him also. Jesus ends the parable by saying, “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit.”
Still, the Pharisees must have stood there with blank looks on their faces because the next verse says, “Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables..” Or in other words, “Ok, I’m going to try this one more time…” The next parable Jesus tells is about the wedding banquet. The invited guests (chosen people) paid no attention to the invite and went about their own business. So the king went out into the streets and invited others – both good and evil – to come in, and they accepted the invite. Jesus tells us that those who did not originally accept “will be thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The two truths we can know from these parables taught by Jesus are:
1. The kingdom of heaven is not determined by how good or evil you are.
It is by accepting God’s invitation to believe and repent. Our righteousness for heaven is granted to us through Jesus Christ, the prophesied Messiah. There is no way any of us could ever tally up a system (or religion) to count our rights or wrongs and make a case for heaven based solely on that. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone – to the person who has tried all their life to be good, or the person who was dealt a bad lot in life and didn’t have a fair chance, or even the person who was not fairly informed. It can only be by grace through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us.
2. Jesus tells us there is a hell and those who do not believe and repent will be sent there. (thrown into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth). It is not a comfy subject to talk about and many people try to water it down in today’s Christianity. But Jesus spoke about it often, and the truth does not change based on how we feel. Each of us will meet God someday, and the only thing that will matter at that time is God’s truth.
Today as Christians we get caught up in so many other obstacles, whether it is gay marriage, abortion rights, or a certain political party. But what really matters in the end are the two truths mentioned above. Everything else is secondary.
~ Matthew 21:33-22:14 Jesus’ two parables about heaven and hell ~