To understand some of Jesus' Parables we must consider Jewish expectations of the afterlife and of the Last Days. They conceived of blessedness in the afterlife as being in Abraham's Bosom. This was connected with an idea of being seated around a table feasting with the Patriarchs and the Messiah when the Kingdom of God finally came.

The Bosom of Abraham

In Jesus' Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lesson 4.1), Jesus tells of Lazarus's place of bliss in the afterlife.

"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side." (Luke 16:22a)

"Side" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "bosom" (KJV) is kolpos, "bosom, breast, chest."1 When people would recline around a table, they would rest on their left elbows and eat with their right hands. Thus, you would lean close to the chest of the person to your left. You would be on their right side, considered the place of honor. So, in Jesus' parable, Lazarus is seated at table to the right hand of Abraham (cf. John 13:23; 21:20).2 The image of the Bosom of Abraham was parallel to and coexisted with the image of the great Messianic Feast in the Kingdom of God.

The Feast in the Kingdom of God

In the Historical Books you sometimes see references to having a place at the king's table, in other words, being fed at the expense of the king as part of his royal court.3 In Isaiah we see this celebration of a meal at Yahweh's table, where Isaiah looks beyond the embarrassment of the Exile.

"On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine --
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will ... swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth." (Isaiah 25:6-8a)

It will be a time when God will "remove the disgrace of his people," interpreted by the Jews as God sending his Messiah at the End of the Age.4

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls from the Qumran community is a document known as the "Rule of the Congregation" (1QSa) dating from about 100 BC. It pictures a feast at a common table.

"The Messiah of Israel shall extend his hand over the bread, [and] all the congregation of the Community [shall utter a] blessing, [each man in the order] of his dignity" (1QSa 2).

It is this End Time Messianic Banquet that a guest speaks about in Luke's account of a feast at the home of a prominent Pharisee.

"Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God." (Luke 14:15)

The Last Supper

We see this feast referred to at the Lord's Supper. In celebrating Passover in Jesus' time, the Jews set aside a cup for the Messiah in case he were to come that very night to deliver them and fulfill the promise of the Messianic Banquet.5 At Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples, he refers to this banquet:

"16 For I tell you, I will not eat [this Passover] again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God. 17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, 'Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.'" (Luke 22:16-18)

Other References to the Messianic Banquet

Jesus refers to this Messianic Banquet a number of times:

To his disciples at the Last Supper:

"29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Luke 22:29-30)

In the Parable of the Narrow Door (Lesson 8.2):

"People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God." (Luke 13:29)

About the centurion who believed that Jesus could heal his servant:

"10 I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:10-12)

At a banquet to which Jesus was invited, he offered this advice:

"13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." (Luke 14:13-14)

In other words, they will be repaid at the great Messianic Banquet to which God will invite you at the End Time. This may be the idea of one of the Beatitudes in Luke, where the poor will enjoy sumptuous food in the Kingdom.

"Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.' (Luke 6:21)

We see hints of the Messianic Banquet in Jesus' Parable of the Wedding Banquet and the Parable of the Great Banquet (Lesson 2.2).

"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son." (Matthew 22:2)

In Luke's version of the Parable of the Watching Servants (Lesson 5.2), we see a hint of this when the faithful servants are surprised to be served by their master when he returns from being away:

"It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them." (Luke 12:37)

Jesus' Parables for Disciples, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Available in paperback, PDF, and Kindle formats

Finally, in the Book of Revelation we see this great Messianic Banquet at the End of the Age described in terms of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

"7 'Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.'

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, 'Write: "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!"'" (Revelation 19:7-9)

Perhaps there is also a hint of this marriage supper when Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom in the Parable of the Bridegroom's Guests (Lesson 7.2).


References and Abbreviations

[1] Kolpos, BDAG 556, 1.

[2] James Orr, "Abraham's Bosom," ISBE 1:18.

[3] 2 Samuel 9:7, 10, 13; 19:28, 33; 1 Kings 2:7.

[4] R.K. Harrison, "Meals," ISBE 3:292.

[5] R. S. Wallace, "Lord's Supper (Eucharist)," ISBE 3:165. B.L. Bandstra, "Wine," ISBE 4:1071; M.R. Wilson, "Passover," ISBE 3:678.

Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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