By comparing the “severity” references with the “repentance” references, one has to conclude that parables to not define judgment as being “set in concrete”, but are divine incentives for sinners to repent. This falls in line admirably with what Kenneth Bailey tells us about Middle Eastern culture. This is what he has to say concerning the five foolish virgins.
“As is often the case, the reader of the parable is left hanging. Does the Bridegroom relent and let them in or not? The listener/reader is not told. The locked door is what they deserve. We do not know what they receive when the conversation is over. In the Middle East the word ‘no’ is never an answer, rather it is a pause in the negotiations.” (Page 273)
The Old Testament gives us an adequate example of how the principle has worked in the past, and how it must work at all times. It comes from the Book of Jonah. “Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.'”
Jonah was at first disobedient, but eventually reached Nineveh, “and he cried, and said, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.'” This pronounced judgment was of the utmost severity. But Nineveh repented, from the King down to the lowest slave, and judgment was averted. The Lord explained this principle very clearly to Jeremiah, which we quoted last time. “If that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.” Jer.18:8.
Our Lord is not the Author of destruction. “Behold, all souls are Mine.” Ezek.18:4. “‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.'” Ezek.33:11.
Therefore, whether it be repentance during earthly life, or repentance at some later time, the Lord’s compassionate heart will not let up until He sees full repentance, then “He shall see the travail of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.” Isa.53:11. “Love without end” could be one of God’s names.
Next time will be the final one in this series.