Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a big fishing net, let down into the sea, in which every kind of fish has been caught. When the net is full, it is dragged ashore. Then they sit down and gather the good fish into buckets, but throw the bad away. That is how it will be at the end of time; the angels will go out to separate the wicked from he just, and to throw the wicked into the blazing furnace, where they will weep and gnash their teeth.”
Jesus asked, “Have you understood all these things?” “Yes,” they answered. So he said to them, “Therefore, every teacher of the law, who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven, is like a householder, who can produce from his store things both new and old.”
When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.
A lot of Christians, when they hear a parable like the one we have in today’s gospel reading, figure that, on Jesus’ own reckoning, a certain number of people will end up in Hell at the end of time. But this conclusion does not necessarily follow, because it is based on a wrong interpretation of Jesus’ words, a wrong understanding of the particular literary genre or type of discourse that Jesus is using here.
For here, in the opinion of many theologians and exegetes, we are not dealing with a prophecy, a sort of anticipated scenario of what will happen one day. We are dealing with what is technically called a threat discourse. This is a type of conditional prediction, nothing more. It consists in saying something like this: if a person persists on the path of evil without ever reversing his or her decision, then that person will have chosen damnation. Has this ever happened? Nowhere does the Bible declare that X or Y is in Hell. Never has the Church (who canonizes people and therefore declares them to be presently in Heaven) ever declared that some persons are presently in Hell—not Judas! Consequently, we may still reasonably hope that all humans will be saved.
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