The other day I was reading an article entitled, "And Finally… The Kingdom of God is like this…" The author, a minister, said that she did an experiment with her congregation, and had them use modern-day analogies to describe the kingdom of heaven. She said, "These might include an island, a house, a piece of furniture, something electrical, or something from your line of work."
Since I work at a university, I decided to write a modern parable: the Kingdom of God is like a university commencement:
The Kingdom of God is like a university commencement to which souls go to after they have completed their studies in the College of Earth and passed their tests. When they enter the pearly white gates, they are greeted by concierge angels and directed to regalia angels who help them get dressed in their white caps and gowns.
When they sit down and wait for judgment day, they listen to music and view a video of key moments from their college career. Then the recording angel reads their names from the book of life and they go up and receive their scroll. After all the names have been read, they march out into the universe to do God's work as souls of light.
Meanwhile, those who didn't pass their tests, those who spent their time partying instead of studying, will be found outside the Kingdom of Heaven, weeping and gnashing their teeth.
This is a short parable like most parables about the Kingdom of Heaven, and like them, it's meaning is long.
When you think about it, Earth is like a college in the University of the Universe. We are not only faced with literal tests in our education, but we are faced with unwritten tests in our health, job, relationships, and so on. We may be tempted to cheat or party, but if we do, we will fail our tests and not graduate.
I don't know if there's a concierge angel who greets souls at the pearly gates, but if you read the accounts of people who have had near death experiences, that seems to be the case. They're always greeted by what they describe as "a being of light," or a being dressed in white, presumably an angel.
The white gowns and caps represent the aura and halo of purity that's around those who have suffered the tribulation. I am using tribulation in the general sense, not the sense of the suffering of the end times. I think anyone who can get through the hardships and temptations of life and still remain faithful and true to God, gets to be a saint clothed in white. Paul said in Acts 14:22, "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." In Matthew 7:21 Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Close to 50% of people who have had near death experiences remember hearing music. One of them, Steve Roach, of Tucson, devoted his life to recreating the music he heard. The result was a recording called Structures from Silence. Listen and watch a video of it being performed at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
The Year End Review video showing scenes from the students' past year is like the past life review that people with near death experiences see flashing before their eyes. They rapidly see much of their life history in chronological sequence and in extreme detail. It includes not just the positive events but the negative ones as well, and they report that they see and feel those events from the perspective of the other people they interacted with.
Finally, it's important to remember that we can't depend on our good works alone to get into heaven. We need God's grace and we need to be humbly grateful to God for helping us.