Does the Parable of the Vineyard Workers (in Matthew 20) mean that those who die exactly on judgement day will be the first to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

Does this mean that when people die they effectively sleep unconsciously until day of judgement? So that the order will be those who die on Judgement day first, followed in order backwards to the beginning of creation?


5 Answers 5


I love this parable. The labourers symbolize humans, so you and me and everyone else. The householder is God. Working in the vineyard represents being faithful to God in your lifetime. And the money symbolizes Heaven/God's Glory.

The first group of people work for the whole day. So this means that the first group are faithful and obedient to god for their whole life. The second group works three hours less than the first. This means that this group of people were unfaithful to God their first part of their life but were converted and were faithful for most of their life... And the last group hardly worked at all in comparison with all the other groups. So this means that this group of people were unfaithful their whole life, except were converted for the very last part of their life.

At the end of the day, everyone receives the same pay no matter how long they worked. What this means is that all people who are faithful to God will make it to heaven and receive the same reward from god, regardless of how long they have been faithful in their lifetime.

Keep in mind that being faithful and your reward from God can vary depending on your specific denomination.

(In my personal understanding, I don't think Jesus was trying to give the message of "Party your whole life and become faithful your later years" as some might take it. I think he was more trying to get the point across that if you have been faithful your whole life, don't be proud and think that you are better than those who become faithful later in their life. Also I think he is trying to say that no matter who you are or at what point in life you are, Jesus will accept you with open arms and not discriminate against you. Also in my personal experience, I am a happier person when I follow gods commandments so I believe those who entered in the vineyard in the morning actually had it the best because their whole life they were able to enjoy the happiness of being Faithful.)

  • "Keep in mind that being faithful and your reward from God can vary depending on your specific religion." Trying to sneak in some pluralism there? Most Christians believe that non-Christians won't be rewarded by God at all!
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 28, 2014 at 12:14
  • I meant within Christianity. For example, some Christian faiths believe that all you have to do is accept Jesus as your Savior, while others require strict obedience to God's Laws. I'm trying to stay away from the "Saved by grave or Saved from works" discussion. And the same with your reward, different Christian faiths have different concepts of Gods reward to you.
    – user14141
    Jul 29, 2014 at 2:12
  • Oh, okay. I'd recommend changing it to denomination because when people see "religion" they're going to think of Islam and Buddhism etc.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 29, 2014 at 2:23
  • "What this means is that all people who are faithful to God will make it to heaven and receive the same reward from God, regardless of how long they have been faithful in their lifetime." this is the simple and straight-forward interpretation and the lesson Jesus was trying to teach regarding those who were expecting that, by their "works", they were getting a preferred position in the Kingdom. Jul 29, 2014 at 16:22
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    No references or links? What is the basis and support for this interpretation?
    – user13992
    Aug 4, 2014 at 8:22

I guess I take a slightly different view. To me, the parable of the workers in the vinyard in Matthew 21:1 ff. is about human attitudes about entitlement, than anything else. At the end of the day, settlement was made first with those who went out at the eleventh hour, and last with those who went out the first hour. When those who were engaged the 11th hour were paid what was promised to those who went the first hour, and then those who went the first hour were paid the same amount, they were aggrieved, and the took issue with the householder, because they believed they were entitled to more. Jesus point in the parable was an echo of what God told Samuel, when he was sent to anoint a successor to Saul from the House of Jesse: "God does not see as man sees"

If those who committed the most egregious and horrific sins against God and Man that we can imagine truly repented on their deathbed, and wind up in heaven, despite the apparent magnitude of their sins, because they sincerely repented and were faithful in the last few seconds of their life, they will be in heaven, a fact that we, who have been faithful from early in our lives, might find similarly aggrieving, as those who worked in the vinyard from the first hour. But God's Grace is promised to all who repent, and that might be a bit of a challenge for some of us to bear, rather like Jonah outside of Ninevah.


A possible answer to this parable can be found by looking at two passages.

Matthew 19:27-30: "Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." (NIV)

One thing to note is that it says "many" and not "all".

Revelation 20:4-6: "I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years." (NIV)

I don't proclaim to understand completely the idea of a first and second resurrection. But this suggests at the idea of those who, especially in the end times, endured the torment and death for their faith, such as from not succumbing to the mark of the beast, being in the first resurrection. The rest that died by other means, mostly before the time of the beast, are of the second ressurection.

We all gain the gift of eternal life (the denarius). Those that waited all day to be hired, they hadn't given up and just gone home, still get the denarius and get paid first. They endured standing around for hours waiting to be hired knowing that normally by having to wait they'd be paid less if they got hired at all. Hardly a simple and easy thing to do. In the same way, those that endure torture and death because of the strength of their faith and testimony, notably in the end times, are part of the first resurrection. Same pay, just different times.


God always and continually calls people, some very early on in their lives (e.g. Samuel), through to some in the twilight of their lives, even on their death beds (e.g. the good thief).

The reward is the same though there is a variation in degrees [of glory]. Just as the denarius is stamped with an image, the reward of the elect who have worked in the vineyard of the LORD (building his Kingdom), is the beatific vision, seeing God face to face. Each glass is full but some glasses are bigger than others.

God plays a part in the life of every person, and does so in a concrete way, at a certain age, in a special situation ... He challenges us according to the nature of these circumstances, foreseen by him from all eternity. Jesus passes by and beckons. To some, he calls at the first hour [cf. Mt 20:1 ss], when they are young. He asks them for their ambitions, their hopes and dreams, all of which seem so full of promise. Others are called when they have reached an age maturity. Still others are called in their final years. The LORD finds the majority of these men and women immersed in the middle of the world. He prefers them to remain in the world, that they may sanctify the world through the exercise of their professional work. The LORD finds others who are married. He asks them to sanctify the family, with all its joys and sorrows.

Regardless of what our age happens to be when we receive our vocation, we will find that the LORD will give it to us along with a wonderful interior youthfulness. Ecce nova facio omnia [cf. Rv 2:2-6], says the LORD. I can renew all things. I can teach you to throw off routine in your life, to raise your vision to a higher plane. What, then is the best age at which to give oneself to the LORD? The age when God calls. The most important thing is to be generous with him, without questioning God's timetable. It is never too late to follow him. And it is never too soon. - In Conversation with God, 4/42.2 | Francis Fernandez


I think Jesus answers this question in the parable of the 2nd prodigal son. Where the son who stayed at home states "Look! all these years I have been slaving for you....." but his father answers, "Everything I have, was yours"! Luke 15

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