"Your Brother Was Dead, And Is Alive"
Jesus' parable of the lost son, also known as the prodigal son (prodigal means recklessly wasteful), is one of His most well-known, and sometimes most resented teachings. It seems, to some people, to be "unfair" to the always-righteous firstborn son who stayed at home and was steadfastly faithful and obedient to his father, while the younger son who ran off and squandered everything received a "second chance" and obtained his father's blessings, just like the firstborn son who never faltered (firstborn is an important factor in both the parable, and the salvation of humanity, see Pentecost).
The resentment in the minds of many seems to be that the father gave a sinner a "second chance," but what he really did was to forgive a sinner who truly repented after he learned his lessons the hard way. Damnation is reserved for the incorrigible sinners who absolutely refuse to repent after correction, not for those in whom hope is yet alive, even though they are presently dead. As we shall see, the parable of the lost son has a far greater meaning to a great many people.
"Your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found"
First, the parable of the lost son:
"And He said, "There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them."
"Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything."
"But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father."
"But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry."
"Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.'"
"But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, 'Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!'"
"And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'" (Luke 15:11-32 RSV)
The is no doubt what so ever that everyone will be Judged by God, some sooner, some later (see When Will You Be Judged?), but there are many who believe that all of the dead will face Judgment immediately upon their death or resurrection (see What Happens When You Die? and Resurrections). While it can appear that way if one selectively chooses only some verses that isolate that event, if one takes all of the relevant Scriptures and carefully considers them as a whole, in the light of each other (and with no need for "interpretation"), one can plainly read that along with those who will be resurrected in another time and another way (again, see When Will You Be Judged? in the link above) there are going to be a vast number of people who will be resurrected to physical life, followed by a time of learning the Truth (i.e. "you shall know that I am The Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves" described below). Thereafter they will be Judged, based on what they did in the time after their resurrection. Those who deny that are denying The Word of God.
Like the lost son, many more prodigal sons, and daughters, are going to "return home," not as a second chance, but as an opportunity, if they repent, based on the Truth that they will only then for the first time be fully aware of and fully understand, to be forgiven of their sins by a loving and righteous Father, which is what Jesus Christ paid the penalty for by His Sacrifice.
An example, using some people of physical Israel, now dead, who will be resurrected to physical life on this earth, not to immediate Judgment, but to some time of learning the Truth and having a chance to make it then, even though "their hope was gone and they were cut off":
"The hand of The Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of The Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; it was full of bones. And He led me round among them; and behold, there were very many upon the valley; and lo, they were very dry. And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"
"And I answered, "O Lord God, Thou knowest."
"Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of The Lord. Thus says The Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am The Lord."
"So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And as I looked, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them."
"Then He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says The Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great host."
"Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel [see Physical and Spiritual Israel]. Behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.' Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says The Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O My people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am The Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put My Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, The Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says The Lord." (Ezekiel 37:1-14 RSV)
Fact Finder: Did Jesus Christ say that there will be "more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (RSV)?