Jesus Teaching in Parables: Heaven is For Real AND Hell is For Real4

Jesus Teaching in Parables: Heaven is For Real AND Hell is For Real4

Heaven AND Hell for Real  (click to read pdf bulletin version)


The church readings over the last month have covered the parables of

Jesus in Matthew 13. We heard about the Soils and the Sower with Jesus

explaining to the disciples what each soil meant in relation to hearing the

Word. We heard very short parables like that of the mustard seed and

the pearl of great price. There is also the Parable of the Weeds (13:24-

30) which Jesus likewise explained as requested by the disciples (13:36-

43). Jesus’ story is again about sowing seed and compares the kingdom

to one who plants good seed in his field. As the wheat starts to grow,

the servants notice that weeds are also growing among the crop. The

master of the house tells them that an enemy has done this, yet they are

to let the weeds and wheat grow together until harvest. At that time the

master will tell the reapers to gather the weeds first and bind them into

bundles to be burned, then gather the wheat into his barn.


Jesus interprets his parable as follows:

The Sower (Jesus—the Son of Man)

Good Seed (children of the kingdom: the righteous 13:43)

the Field (the world—not simply the church)

an enemy (the devil—the evil one) who sows

weeds (children of the evil one: causes of sin who practice lawlessness 13:42)

Harvest (end of the age)

Reapers (the angels)


Gathering: reapers gather out weeds into fiery furnace—weeping, gnashing teeth

Shining: the righteous are left to shine like the sun in the Father’s kingdom

When exploring the parables, we noticed how comforting they are to the

disciples. Although the kingdom may start small, it will grow and become a great

plant, producing profound fruit. There will be opposition, but God’s judgment

means the redemption and vindication of his children. Jesus teaches heaven is

for real (which in the parable is pictured as the new earth purged free of evil).

This is great comfort. Jesus’ teaching is also accompanied by great warning.

Jesus mentions (many times) how hell is for real. This is what many today

overlook in the bright but also burning “red letters” of Jesus. Jesus portrays

different destinies at the time of harvest, the shining glory of the children of the

Father in contrast with the fiery destruction where there is weeping and gnashing

of teeth (13:42).

    What do we do with the hellfire teaching from the lips of Jesus? To be sure, we are all tempted to make Jesus in our

own image by reinterpreting, or just plain “passing over” what Jesus says. But Jesus’ teaching on judgment was

constant, consistent and emphatic. At this point, I want to quote for you comments on the parable by one of our favorite

Scripture exegetes, N.T. Wright. Instead of me saying the same thing, I want you to hear it from someone like Wright,

who is likewise committed to hear all that Jesus teaches. Jesus did say at the very end of interpreting this parable: “He

who has ears, let him hear” (13:43).

     “When we read the awesome judgment scenes in the Bible, it is that combination of attributes we must learn to

see; and this interpretation of the parable is one of those scenes. It’s all too easy to read about evildoers being thrown

into a burning fiery furnace and to conjuer up medieval images of hellfire and damnation. It’s then all to easy to react

against the excesses of some earlier Christian preaching, which tried to frighten people into believing by telling them

they’d fry in hell if they didn’t. {Note from LH: Jesus did, however, indeed use fear as a motivation when He said in Luke

12:4-5: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.

But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear

Him!” It was just that fear was neither Jesus’ only nor primary motivational call.} We might then deny any doctrine of

future judgment at all. Many who have taken this route want to say either that God would never judge or condemn

anyone or that he will postpone the harvest until every single weed has been turned into wheat.

    There certainly are caricatures of God and his judgment which we should avoid like the plague. God is not a sadistic

monster who would happily consign most of his beloved, image-bearing creatures to eternal fire. But there are equal and

opposite caricatures we should also be aware of. God is not an indulgent grandparent determined to spoil the youngsters

rotten by letting them do whatever they like and still giving them sweets at the end of the day. We must refuse the

second just as firmly as the first.

     Anyone who can’t see that there is such a thing as serious and vicious evil in the world, after all that’s happened in the

twentieth century, and is still happening now in the twenty-first, is simply wearing the wrong spectacles. Anyone who

doesn’t hope and pray that the God who made the world will one day put it to rights is condemning themselves to

regarding the world as, at best, a sick joke. But anyone who supposes that the true and living God, the world’s creator,

can put it to rights without confronting, and defeating, not only ‘evil’ in the abstract but those who have given their lives

and energies to inventing and developing wickedness, profiting from it, luring others into it, and wreaking large-scale

human devastation as a result, is asking for the moon.

     This is not to say that only large-scale and obvious wickedness will face God’s judgment. There are, as we have seen,

stern words in the gospels about all of us being judged on every idle word we utter. . . . But … the parable challenged

them to the core, and it should do the same to us.” (Matthew For Everyone Part One, 2004).


Jesus indeed taught that heaven is for real, and often right alongside taught without hesitation or muffling that hell is

for real.   Those who have ears, as Jesus says, let them hear. LH


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