5. At the time of Christ’s appearance, it was impossible for him to reveal to humanity all the truth in regard to their future. He says, expressly, “I have many things to tell you, but you could not understand them; and I am therefore compelled to speak to you in parables.” In regard to all points of morality, that is to say, all the duties of all human beings to their fellows, his teaching was explicit, because, as those duties refer to the relations of daily life, he knew that men and women would be able to understand him; in regard to all other matters, he confined himself to sowing, under the form of allegory, the germs of the truths that were destined to be developed at a later period.
The nature of future rewards and punishments was one of those points which were thus left by him in abeyance. He could not inculcate, especially in regard to future punishment, ideas so diametrically opposed to those held by men and women of his time. He came to trace out new duties for the human race, to inculcate charity and the love of one’s neighbor in place of the spirit of hatred and of vengeance, to substitute abnegation for selfishness, and such a change was, in itself, immense; he could not have gone farther without weakening the dread of the punishment in store for wrongdoing, because it would have weakened the sanction of duty in the minds of his hearers. He promised the Kingdom of Heaven to the righteous; that kingdom was, consequently, closed to the wicked. Whither, then, did the wicked go? It was necessary to suggest an antithesis to the idea of “Heaven” of a nature capable of impressing a salutary terror on minds still too much under the influence of materiality to be able to assimilate the idea of spirit-life; for it should not be forgotten that Jesus addressed his teachings to the multitude, to the least enlightened portion of the society of his day, and that, in order to act upon the minds of those around him, it was necessary to present to them images that should be palpable and not subtle. He therefore abstained from going into details that could not have been appreciated in his day; he contented himself with holding up the opposite prospects of reward and of punishment; and this was all that he could usefully do at that period.