The Letter to the Hebrews

Bosch’s painting, “The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things” summarizes the message of the Letter to the Hebrews. In the previous essay, I noted the main parts of the painting. In this, I wish to focus on two of the Four Last Things depicted in the top corners of the tabletop.

The top two circles represent Death and Judgment and are connected by a scroll. Printed on the scroll is a quotation from Deut. 32, “For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end.” Bosch applies this quotation to the Christians of his day.

In the picture of Death, Bosch portrays a man on his death bed. On his headboard are a demon and an angel, while Death himself is approaching from behind the bed in the form of a skeleton. The priests are giving the last rites to the departing, and the women in the other room are praying for him. In spite of all these who surround the dying man, no one can prevent Death from taking him.

The picture of judgment is sometimes called the Last Judgment or Resurrection. The jury appears to be saints or the witness of the faithful. Jesus is judging by the sword, which is his word. Because of the association with the seven deadly sins it seems clear that the judgment pertains to the kind of lives these people lead.

I have not yet made application of the painting to Hebrews. At this point, I want to make clear what Bosch is saying. Then I will apply it to believers today. Nonetheless, the author of Hebrews, while arguing for the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, reminds us that “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (9:27).