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TALK ON THE PARABLES

PARABLES OF THE TEN VIRGINS
AND THE LAST JUDGEMENT

1st December 2011

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If we look at the chronological order of the Parables we will notice that firstly they are in groups and secondly that there is a teaching pattern beginning with the first group of simple lessons which set the foundation for the next set of lessons with each step being more spiritually demanding than the previous. The First group of Parables deal with a new teaching as in the Parables of the Lamp Under a Basket, the New Cloth on an Old Garment and the New Wine in Old Wineskins. Then follow the Parables of the Sower, the Tares and the Mustard seed which we saw four weeks ago. After these there is a group of short parables dealing with the Kingdom of Heaven followed by what might be termed as behaviour parables teaching us how a Christian must show love towards his fellow man as in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The Parables of the Wicked Tenants, The Talents and the Wedding feast which we heard during the past two weeks and Today's parable of the Ten Virgins belong to the last group of Parables which the Lord spoke after his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and before his Passion and death on the Cross. All four Parables in this last group deal with our preparation for the Second Coming of Christ and the dreadful judgment that awaits us if we fail to live our lives according to the teachings of the Gospel. The Parables come to an end with the Parable of the Last Judgement, which many do not list as a parable because it is not a parable in the same sense as other parables that tell a story with a deeper spiritual significance, but it is a straightforward image of the future judgement that awaits all mankind, told in a language that needs no interpretation.
The Church reads the Parable of the Ten Virgins together with the Parable of the Talents on Holy and Great Tuesday before the Lord's Passion and in expectation of the Resurrection which is symbolically also the Second Coming. The Bridegroom of the Parable is central to the first three days of Holy Week with the hymns giving us an image of the Church preparing to meet the Bridegroom, which is very appropriate for the days before the Lord begins his passion. We see in the readings and hymns a clear message that the Lord is coming and we must at all times be vigilantly watching for the moment so that we do not find ourselves locked out of the bridal chamber. The main hymn for the first three days of Holy Week is based on the Parable of the Ten Virgins:
"Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom he shall find watching, unworthy however, is he whom he shall find slothful. Thus beware, O my soul, be not overcome by sleep, lest thou be given over to death and find the door of the Kingdom shut against thee. But arouse thyself and cry aloud: Holy, holy, holy art thou, O God, through the Mother of God, have mercy upon us."
Ideally then we should look at this Parable during Holy Week, but as we always stop the talks for Great Lent we would never get a chance to analyze it.
Let's then hear the Parable:
"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 cometh." (St Matthew 25:1-13)
For the parable, Christ uses an imagery of the traditional ancient Jewish wedding ritual. After the betrothal of the couple arranged by the girl's father without the betrothed actually seeing each other, the groom went his way to build the family home which could take up to two years or more. When the home was ready the wedding could take place. The bridegroom with his family and friends would go to the bride's home who would be waiting for him to arrive in her wedding attire surrounded with her family and friends. The wedding ceremony usually took place at night, so the friends of the bride would meet the bridegroom with lamps burning. But because of the uncertain time of the bridegroom's arrival, those waiting would store extra oil in case the lamps should burn out. The bridegroom would meet with the bride whose face was still covered by a thick veil, and together with all the participants they would proceed to the bridegroom's home with singing and music. The doors would then be shut and the marriage contract would be signed. Then, after the blessings, the bride would uncover her face and the marriage feast would begin, seven days for a maiden or three days for a widow remarrying.
The Bridegroom of the parable of course refers to Christ who promised that after his ascension he would come again in glory at the end of time. The virgins represent the members of the Church, but not all and everyone. Those Christians who are only Christians by name and those who were too lazy to work for their salvation were sifted out in the preceding parables of the Talents and the Wedding Feast. This Parable deals with the more dedicated Christians who live a more dedicated life in Christ in expectation of the Second Coming. This is derived from the fact that they are virgins and that they are carrying lamps meaning that they seek Christ through the way of life they follow.
The state of virginity is highly esteemed in scripture and we can speak of it literally, symbolically or allegorically. In the literal sense a connection is made between virginity and purity, and a connection is made between virginity and watchfulness, a state of preparation. St. Paul says that virginity is a condition that helps us to spiritual seek the Lord: "He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband." (1 Cor. 32-34)
In spiritual terms virginity does not refer to the virginity of the body, but to spiritual purity. The Lord himself spoke very highly of this kind of virginity: "For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." (Matth. 19:12)
The Ten Virgins of the Parable are therefore people who have dedicated their lives to Christ and made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. Such people we could understand as monks and nuns who practice the virtue of virginity, but also all Christians who live the sacramental life, who work for their salvation and stand out from the average Christian by observing a life of abstinence. But more than this, they live in expectation and hope of the Second Coming of Christ. Outwardly all ten virgins are exemplary examples of what a Christian should be, but Christ separates them into five wise virgins and five foolish virgins. The reason for their foolishness is that they didn't bring any extra oil for their lamps so for us to understand the parable we need to understand what the lamps and the oil symbolize.
The lamps are probably the small clay lamps used during those times which didn't hold a lot of oil. It was usual therefore to have another vessel filled with oil to top up the lamps when the oil was almost burnt up.
St. John Chrysostom says that the lamps signify the gift of virginity, the purity of holiness; and the oil signifies human love, almsgiving, good works and help to those in need. For St. Gregory the Dialogist the lamps are good works and quotes the Lord's saying: "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) In this respect the lighted lamps represent the inner spiritual strength which gives light to the outward forms of religion such as public worship and fasting and other external works which can be seen by others. Such qualities were possessed by all ten virgins; all ten had lighted lamps and went forth to meet the Bridegroom. Their difference lies in the extra vessel of oil.
In Greek the word for oil is elaio and the word for mercy is eleos spelt slightly differently but sounding almost the same. In the Church's hymnology there is a play on these two words with the word for oil spiritually representing mercy. The vessel for the oil can only be the depths of the heart and the oil which the wise virgins possess but the foolish didn't is compassion, mercy and love. Outwardly the foolish virgins possessed much; they had virginity and a desire to be with the Bridegroom and for their lamps to originally have oil means that they also had good works to their name, but these were not in abundance and they were works done just for the sake of doing good works. They didn't do them with compassion, mercy and love in their hearts towards those that needed their help. They did certain good works, but these works were not done for the love of God, but to be seen and praised by their neighbours and for the self praise and glory they wallowed in. Christ calls them foolish because they lived dedicated lives and achieved great virtues like virginity, but they neglected and lacked the corresponding virtue of love and compassion for one's neighbour and almsgiving to the poor. St. John Chrysostom says they were foolish because they had undergone the greater labour, and they betrayed all their struggles and good efforts because they lacked a lesser virtue.
Some would say that this interpretation is not quite correct because why should they be lacking in good deeds if they are called virgins, even though foolish ones? Virginity is the supreme virtue, an angelic state, and it could take the place of all other good works. They therefore say that the oil represents the acquisition of the grace of the All-Holy Spirit. Personally I see no difference in these two interpretations. If one has Christian love, mercy and compassion for others then one has acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit and if one lacks these qualities then one hasn't acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Having then told us of the spiritual condition of the ten virgins Christ then tells us that: "While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept."
While the bridegroom tarried shows that the time intervening between his going away and his Second Coming will not be short, leading His disciples away from the expectation that His kingdom was to appear almost immediately. During this long period of waiting all the virgins slumbered and slept. Many understand this as spiritual weariness, a period we all go through at some stage, but here Christ is not referring to spiritual laziness or despondency, but to the death of the body, just as he had said that Lazarus sleepeth but was referring to the fact that Lazarus had died. St. Paul also says: "Brethren, I would not have you to be ignorant, concerning them which are asleep" (1 Thessalonians 4:13) meaning those that have died and passed over to the other life.
Then "at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him." Midnight signifies a time unexpected, a time when people are fast asleep. Christ will come suddenly without any warning other than the warning he gave us that we should prepare and be ready for his Second Coming. The cry made refers to how he will come. St. Paul says: "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God." (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Jewish tradition held that the Messiah would come at midnight as the angel of destruction came upon the Egyptians during the first Passover. This tradition continued with the Apostles until our present day. Although we don’t know the year, Apostolic tradition says that the Second coming of Christ will be one year on the night of the Resurrection during the midnight vigil.
The cry announces the arrival of the Bridegroom and all the virgins whether wise or foolish are summoned to go out and meet him. This suggests that they were not sleeping somewhere in open space, but in a confined place like a house.
"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."

The virgins arose refers to the general resurrection from the dead. After the long wait the lamps were going out and needed to be trimmed. If you keep a vigil light at home we will notice that as the oil burns the wick collects the residue and blackens. When adding more oil the wick has to be trimmed down or changed to allow the light to burn properly. Why did the lamps of the foolish virgins go out? While still in this life their lamps shone as brightly as the lamps of the wise virgins. Externally they were just as good Christians as them with many virtues and people could see their good works. What people couldn't see and discern was their hearts for only God knows the hearts of men (Acts 15:8) but in the other life and especially at the day of judgement everything we have done will be made manifest for everyone to see, for as Christ said: "nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad." (St Luke 8: 17) Their lamps went out because in the after life their good works didn't shine in God's presence; they were not really good works because they were not done with love and compassion and the vessel of their heart was empty of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul says: "though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing" (I Corinthians 13:3). Similarly the works of the foolish virgins were not done with love and they profited them nothing.
Realizing they had no oil they asked the wise virgins to give them of their oil: "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."
This part of the parable is rather puzzling and almost sounds as if the wise virgins are unmerciful and uncaring of what happens to the foolish virgins. It almost sounds like they are saying: that's your problem leave us alone and get lost. If they represent everything that is virtuous and pleasing to God how could they behave so unmerciful when Christ commands us to be merciful to everyone? Isn't this a contradiction of Christ's teaching on love? It would indeed be a contraction if we interpreted this passage in this way, but what the wise virgins are saying is that they do not have the power to give them of their oil.
The oil is the Holy Spirit which we can only obtain through Christ. It is not a commodity that can be passed around from one person to the next. It's impossible to pass on the spiritual strength and grace of the Holy Spirit received through a personal relationship with God. The wise virgins couldn't give it to them even if they wanted to. Christ is telling us that in the after life no one can help us. It reminds of the story of the Rich man and the beggar man Lazarus with Abraham telling the rich man “Between us and you there is a great gulf, so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.” (Luke 16:26)
Being powerless to help them the wise virgins tell them to go to them that sell and buy for themselves. Those who sell are the poor in this life. They should have sought them and helped them with compassion while they were alive and not at this time when it was too late. St. John Chrysostom says: "See what great profit is given us from the poor, if we were to take them away we would take away the great hope of our salvation. Therefore here in this life we must get together the oil, that it may be useful to us there, when the time calls us. For that is not the time of collecting it, but this. Spend not then your goods for nought in luxury and vainglory. For thou will have need of much oil there."
"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."
Having heard these things, the foolish virgins went their way; but they profited nothing because even if they achieved the impossible by coming back to this life they were too late. As they went their way the Bridegroom came and the wise virgins who were ready and waiting went with him to the marriage and the doors were 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."
The foolish virgins had dedicated their lives to God, yet even after their many labours and spiritual endeavours the doors of the kingdom were shut and with their lamps gone out they were left in outer darkness. They called on the Lord to let them in, but he answered them saying "I know you not." They had faith and they had good works, but these were not enough to guarantee them a place in God's kingdom, because they lack the one true virtue of love and compassion which is above all other virtues. How then do we compare with the ten virgins? Are we wise or do we risk hearing those dreadful words: “I do not know you." Do we do good works out of genuine love for our fellow men or are we seeking through good works to satisfy a desire for self praise, self glory and human recognition?
Christ finishes the parable with a warning: "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."
Christ is telling us how ignorant we are concerning our departure from this life. His Second Coming could be today, it could be in a hundred years or many more thousands from now, but for each of us the time of our death could happen at any moment so be must be prepared with spiritual provisions now and not leave things until tomorrow. By spiritual provisions I do not mean church attendances, prayer, fasting and other means we use to help us grow spiritually, because as the parable clearly tells us the foolish virgins had all these things, but they were accounted to them as nothing because they lacked the one vital ingredient of love. Love is the only thing that draws us to Christ because Christ himself is love and we cannot be with him unless we also became the same love. This is made clearer in the next Parable of the Last Judgement which as I said in the beginning is not really a parable like all the others because Christ does not use a image for comparison but speaks clearly in a language everyone can understand.
Let's hear the Parable
"The Lord said: When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he shall 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 divides 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, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when did we see 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 you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungry, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, 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 you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." (Matthew 25:31-46)
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he shall sit upon the throne of his glory.”
The first time Christ came into the world was as a very humble infant in the stable of Bethlehem. The second time He will come in His glory and in His dignity. The first time he came, not many people noticed his arrival and instead of a royal throne, the people put their king and God on the Cross. But with his second coming he shall come sitting on the throne of glory. But he does not say that the Son of God shall come, but the Son of man. Many people, especially from the west confuse this as meaning that he has only a human nature, but as we have seen in other talks, Christ had two natures, the divine and human and sometimes he speaks and acts as God and at other times as a human being. When Christ calls himself the Son of man he is saying that he represents all of humanity. He sees himself in a unique way as the leader of the human race because every thing he did and everything he suffered was so that humanity might be saved. The first time Christ came his entrance was escorted by angels, again this next time he will be escorted by all the heavenly powers. St. Paul gives us a more vivid picture of his second coming “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God.” (I Thessalonians 4:16) The reason that all the angels will be present is simple: they are witnesses of everything that has happened on earth. They were continually sent by God on missions to men with messages and commandments concerning mans salvation. But also each and everyone of us has a guardian angel who has been with us from the time we were born. They are therefore witnesses of how we have lived our lives and will bear record of that at the Great court of the Last Judgement.
“And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.”
The whole world will be gathered before Christ. In others words there will also be a resurrection of the dead. All those millions and millions of people who have long been dead in the graves, from Adam to the time of the second coming will now stand before the throne of his glory awaiting judgement. But they will all be mixed up and will need to be separated into two groups: of those who are righteous and those who are unrighteous. This will be done with such accuracy and ease because Christ will separate them as a Shepherd separates the sheep from the goats and he will place the sheep to his right and the goats to his left. There is no way Christ can make a mistake. In Palestine the sheep are usually white whilst the goats are black. It would be easy to spot a black goat among the white sheep or a white sheep among the black goats. In spiritual terms, the righteous will glow with the divine light while the unrighteous will remain in darkness. But it is not only the colour of the two animals that separates them, but also their characters. The sheep have a good, gentle and meek disposition, they give up their milk and wool willingly without protest. The goats on the other hand have none of the gentleness of the lamb; they are undomesticated, wild in character, inclined to walking along the edges of dangerous steep precipices.
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
We should not be surprised that now instead of calling himself the Son of man, he calls himself the King. If the Son of man comes sitting on the throne of glory then indeed he is a King and his subjects are all the nations that have gathered at his feet. And now he begins his judgement on those he has placed to his right. Come you blessed of my Father. He praises the righteous by showing them from how high up comes their reward. How worthy to be called not only blessed, but blessed of my Father. They were chosen by Christ and they were given to Christ by the Father. “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” He does not say receive the kingdom, but inherit as though it is their ancestral home, a familiar place legally belonging to them. And it is their ancestral home, their fatherland, which was prepared for them from the very beginning when the world was created. Before we were all born God had prepared for this day. He knew man would fall and he knew that man would also be saved and come into his rightful inheritance.
“For I was hungry, and you gave me meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me drink: I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you clothed me: I was sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came unto me.”
He then tells them why they have been found worthy of such an inheritance: because they lived a noble and Christian life caring for the sick and needy without prejudices even to the extent of visiting criminals in prison. To give someone a glass of water today is no great feat, we just turn on the tap and there we have running drinking water, but in those days people had to draw the water from a well or spring and carry it home in earthen pots. Giving a traveller who was passing by a glass of water was an act of kindness and love. I was a stranger and you took me in. Hospitality is indeed a Christian virtue which we rarely see nowadays. How many people are willing to let a complete stranger sleep overnight in their home? The first thing that would pass through our minds is “what if they come into our bedroom and knife us while we are asleep.” How many of us visit the sick? Are we not more worried that we might catch something from them? As for those in prison, they deserve to be locked away from us law abiding citizens. They are murderers and villains, why should we keep company with such lowly scum? Yet, these are the qualities that every Christian should have. Christ doesn’t mention anything about the other Christian virtues, he doesn’t mention how they lived uprightly with prayer and fasting. The only criterion that Christians will be judged with is whether they showed love to their fellow men. This is all that he demands of us Christians. Did he not say elsewhere: “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” (John 13. 34-35)
Love then is the law and the criterion on which the separation will be based on. So how did the righteous respond to such praises from the Lord. They were amazed and puzzled at the divine valuation of their actions which is very different from their own estimation of how they lived. Thus in humility they answered: “Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when did we see thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?” They never once thought that their good acts of love were directed to brothers of the Lord let alone to his very person. They had no idea that they had offered help at any time to the Saviour: they just did what was in their nature to do – to offer a little help and love to their fellow men who were in need. But the King answers their puzzlement: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” That Christ sees the poor and suffering as his brethren is in complete agreement with his character as the Son of Man and the Son of God. God is his Father and the Father of all people.
In that Great court of the last judgement, Christ justifies why he has placed the righteous to his right and why they are worthy to inherit the Kingdom of God. But now he turns to those on his left and say: “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” In this sentence we should take note of two important differences with what he said to the righteous. Firstly we should notice that with the righteous he said “blessed of my father,” now with the unrighteous he doesn’t say cursed of my father, but only cursed. God doesn’t curse anyone: they are cursed by their own works. The condemnation and curse of the sinner is a result of his bad actions, but the salvation of the righteous is an act of grace and therefore the word blessed is followed with “of my Father.” Secondly, that the everlasting fire is not for us, but for the devil and his angels. To the blessed he said “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” but he doesn’t say this of the everlasting fire, but only that it has been prepared for the devil. He is thus saying: “For man I have prepared the Kingdom, the fire is not meant for man, but only for the devil and his angels: But you have taken on the likeness of his angels, you no longer resemble the man I created in my image and of your own free will you have put on the image of demons. Therefore you will share the same reward as the demons you resemble.”
And they are worthy of such condemnation because they had no love for their fellow men. “For I was hungry, and you gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and you visited me not.” They are guilty because they didn’t do any good works and are condemned because they were unsociable. They are not accused because they committed murders, or fornicated, or lied, or stole or broke any of the other Old Testament Commandments, but because they neglected to do a few good works. Christ does not expect us to spend our lives going around looking for ways to be a Good Samaritan, but to offer that most needed help when it passes our way.
To these accusations the unrighteous respond in a similar way as did the righteous, but whereas the righteous answered with humility, here they try to justify themselves by saying: “Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?” If we saw you at any time suffer those things you now accuse us of, we would surely have offered you help, but we are innocent of all these things because you never once came to us for help. And the Lord answered them saying: “Inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” Notice that he does not say “to one of the least of these my brethren” as he said to the righteous, but only “to one of the least of these” The unrighteous are ignorant of the brotherly relationship between the righteous and Christ and will continue to be ignorant. Having then heard the reason for their condemnation they cannot respond with an answer. Every mouth is sealed and the righteousness of the decision is recognized by all.
With the great court come to an end, it remains for each group to receive the sentence. “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Eternal means eternal and everlasting without change or end. If hell has an end then so does life, but as we do not deny that the life of the righteous in heaven is forever more, thus we do not deny that punishment in hell will be forever more. At the Last Judgment we saw that Christ directed his judgement first on the righteous so that the unrighteous could hear, but with the carrying out of the sentence it will be reversed. The unrighteous shall depart first so that the righteous can see God’s justice on the unjust, but the unrighteous will not be able to see anything of eternal life.
Keep in mind then that whatever help we offer even to the lowest man it is as though we offered that help to Christ, and whatever help we didn’t offer to someone who was in need it is as though we didn’t help Christ. Love is the criterion by which we shall be judged. If we cannot love our fellow men then in truth we don’t love Christ, because he has created each man in his own image and likeness. Christian love transcends above someone’s physical appearance, social standing, ethnic origin, intellectual capacity and reaches the soul, the unique personal root of a human being where the image of God is.
Thus the first message of the Parable is love. Blessed are they who are full of love, and cursed are they who did not have any trace of love, but lived only for themselves. Whatever we sow that is what we shall reap.
In the majority of the parables we have heard over the past few weeks, Christ is telling us about the Great Judgement and how life will be thereafter. All of these parables give us a warning of the Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgement. They are all telling us how to live so that we don’t end up, by our own actions in a place distant from eternal life with God.