In Matthew 21:28-32, Jesus tells a parable to the priests and elders of the temple, and these very people were the ones who made fun of and belittled Jesus. These were the individuals who were constantly trying to catch Jesus saying something contrary to His Word, but He never did. In this passage, Jesus compares these individuals to a pretty undesirable character, so what can we learn from Jesus's Parable of the Two Sons?
"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.'
"'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
"Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go."Which of the two did what his father wanted?"
"The first," they answered.
Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
There are three people discussed in this passage and each is symbolic. The father in this parable represents God, and just as God does, the father in the story sends out his sons to do work for him. God asks us all to further His kingdom and it is up to us as to whether we accept His call. The two sons, however, represent two groups of people.
Those who have been reconciled to Christ are represented by the first son. Despite his past and what he said before, the first son realized the error of his ways and repented and turned his life wholeheartedly towards Jesus. Just as the priests answered Jesus, the first son is the one whom God desires. God wants all of us to turn from our past, no matter how wicked it may be so that we can further His kingdom. This is why God references the tax collectors and prostitutes as those who the first son is like. Once we are saved, the past does not matter, it matters only that we are striving to get closer to Jesus daily. Every day we must choose to equip ourselves with Christ.
The second son represents the unsaved, specifically the ones who claim to know Jesus but do not live out their faith or purpose in Christ Jesus. The people in this passage knew who Jesus was, and they knew that He was the Savior of the world, but they did not believe it. These are the people who attempt to prove their knowledge instead of their need for a savior. Knowledge is not the way to salvation, and those who attempt to reach heaven through only head knowledge are not saved because they lack a relationship with a creator.
Knowledge of Christ is important, but only when paired with a relationship with Christ based on repentance and total faith in Jesus. Salvation is the single most important decision that any of us can make. So, are you basing your salvation on admission, belief, and confession, or are you counting on pure knowledge and works to get into heaven?