Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Mat 22:1-14)

1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: [This is a parable and therefore requires to be interpreted as such.]

2"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. [First object of parable: Kingdom of Heaven – this is the one that we want to know more about what it is like.  Second object, the metaphor: a wedding banquet.  The Kingdom of Heaven is likened to a wedding banquet.  A king is preparing a wedding banquet for his son.

For this particular wedding banquet, the king sent out his servants to those who had been invited to come, but the invited ones refused to come.

From the text, we note that the king had already, before the sending out the servants, already invited those he wanted, to come to the banquet.  In the Kingdom of Heaven, these people can be interpreted as the Jews/Israelites – the original chosen people of God.  Just like the invitees who did not want to come to the banquet (after which the bridegroom and bride enter into their blissful enjoined lives {that is what it is supposed to, anyway}), some of the Jews did not want to come to Jesus; (through Him, and only through Him, could they enter into Heaven, for blissful living).]

 4"Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.'

 5"But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. [The king sent out some more servants to tell the invitees to come, saying that everything was ready.  Still the invitees paid no attention to the king’s call; they just went about, each, to his own business. Some even seized the servants, mistreated them and killed them.

In times gone by, not only did some of the Jews not heed God’s calling of them to come back to Him, they had seized the prophets and other servants of God, mistreated them and even killed them.  These Jews just went about, each, his own business, including turning to other gods, and engaged in practices not prescribed by the Lord.  Many, at most, saw Jesus as a prophet; and even Jesus, they mistreated and killed (crucified).  God could be seen enraged in the past, in OT time.  God allowed Israel and Judah to be run over by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, respectively, for example.  After Jesus, around AD 70, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of God were even allowed to be destroyed.]

8"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. [The king said that the dinner was prepared, all was ready (v4, v8); the equivalent in the Kingdom of Heaven scenario can be taken as Jesus’ 1st coming.  The coming of Jesus, his death and resurrection, has made everything ready; ready for our salvation journey to Heaven.

The wedding banquet was ready, again the king sent his servants out, this time saying to them to call to anyone they can find (from the streets/street corners), since the (previous) invitees did not want to come; to the king those who turned him down had become undeserving to come.

The “wedding banquet is ready” is pointing to Jesus completed His work on earth, died and resurrected back to Heaven.  We read from Scripture that, post-Jesus’ resurrection, the Apostle Peter was given the vision of God would be gathering in, of the Gentiles, for many Jews/Israelites rejected coming (into salvation through Jesus our Lord and Saviour).

All the preparation was for a big gathering but since there were those previously invited and yet not only did not want to come but even mistreated and killed God’s servants (including the Lord Himself), God now has opened up the Kingdom of Heaven (or Heaven) to non-Jews, collectively called Gentiles.  With this, all peoples could be ushered in (into the banquet/into the church).]

11"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless. 13"Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' [When the king came to see, he saw some people were not properly attired; he told his attendants to throw them out.

A time will come when God will come to the saints {in my view, NOT just any persons/peoples} who want to go into Heaven.  Only persons properly clothed will be admitted into Heaven; those not so, would be thrown out, into Hell where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth – Hell is a terrible place of constant suffering.

Much of the variations in the interpretation of this parable lie with the interpretation of what is “properly clothed”. 

One interpretation puts it as the robe of righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross and shed His blood for us, to cleanse us and justify us before God – we who are saved are clothed with the righteous blood of Jesus – robe of imputed righteousness of Christ. 

Another interpretation takes in, a more comprehensive inclination, which I share since I believe, unless the situation is extenuating (like we die immediate, upon entry into salvation), we need more than just a sinner’s prayer and the imputed righteousness of Christ, to get us into Heaven (or Kingdom of Heaven). 

So, accordingly, the proper clothing here comprises the righteousness from justification (a must, a sonship), and the righteousness from the sanctification (a sanctified heart) coming from practicing of righteousness which includes righteous acts/deeds of the saints.

We first of all, need to be born again, at which time, we are forgiven of all our sins, become justified and become a son of God.  If we die immediately after born again, I believe we have the proper clothing (God is fair; since you die immediate; you have no time to practice righteousness). 

Ambiguity comes in when we continue to live on, in this fallen world.  Broadly speaking, we need to do 2 things.  Firstly, when we sin, we need to repent and ask for forgiveness, and be cleansed again (i.e. be cleansed again whenever we sinned).  This would be a repeated affair for us all.

Sorry, I believe the cleansing by Jesus is NOT like the anti-virus software we are familiar with; there is auto-detection, but NO auto-clean. If it does, Jesus would not have taught us to pray for God’s forgiveness for our sins. Do you want to count on a stained garment to get you in? In Revelation, in the message to the 7 churches, in particular to the church in Sardis, we read this:

4Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. (Rev 3:4-5)

I will ask Jesus to wash it clean every time it is stained.

Secondly, unless we die immediately upon born again, we have a chance to bear fruits or do righteous acts.  This we have to do; it is part of the adorning of the garment.  In Revelation 19:7-9, there is an account of the wedding of the Lamb by the Apostle John.  In v8 (KJV), this is what we read - And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

It said there, the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.  Yet what is the righteousness of saints?  If you look up the standard Bible Commentaries, you will find some said, it is the imputed righteousness of Christ Jesus.

Some others said it is the righteous acts of the saints.  Some understand the righteousness there, was in the plural in the original text; which can explain the righteous acts interpretation, or it could also support another interpretation, that it is both, righteousness from entry into salvation (justification), and righteousness from sanctification.  The last bit (the both) is the same, actually, with the interpretation of the fine linen as the righteous acts of the saints, for no acts can be counted righteous for NT persons, unless he first, has been justified.  In terms of our part to play, my view is that the fine linen is referring to the righteous living and acts of the saint (saint, by definition has the imputed righteousness of Christ). 

Note that various translations, including NIV, has the fine linen is the righteous acts of saints.

These 2 verses help to support the understanding that righteous acts were referred to:

Rev 14:13 - And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

1 Tim 5:25 - In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.

I deduce the good works or righteous acts surfaced ultimately as part of the fine linen (the adorning and “glow”, perhaps).  Also, if you read the messages to the 7 churches in first section of the Book of Revelation, you see this, for 5 out of the 7 churches, said of, by the Lord: “I know thy works”.

The Word, in Matt 7:19, says every tree not bearing good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire; and in Matt 7:21, only those who do the will of the Father will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

The meaning of this Parable of the Wedding Banquet is also very close to that of the Parable of the Net (Matt 13:47-52), whereby good fish (righteous men) will be kept (of men, enter Heaven) and bad fish (wicked men) will be thrown away (of men, into the fiery furnace, of Hell).  Depending on how one interprets righteous man, you will again have the similar first (imputed righteousness only is required) and second (practice of righteousness, which includes righteous acts/deeds/works, needed, on top of imputed righteousness) interpretations.

We should NOT forget that there is also the Parable of “Who are the sheep, and who are the goats” which is telling us that good works (which are righteous acts) is required, although how much is sufficient, is NOT apparent.]

14"For many are invited {called - KJV}, but few are chosen." [The invitation to Heaven was originally an exclusive invitation (NOT all are invited; only the Israelites were invited); subsequently, the invitation was turned into an open invitation (now all can avail themselves to the invitation, or in other words, it no longer serves its purpose; now all can come when he/she responds affirmatively to God’s call.  We no longer need the invitation that was extended, in the first place, to the Israelites/Jews.

As far as I am concerned, the KJ version is having the correct translation of v14, i.e. “For many are called, but few are chosen. Calling is of specific meaning – God calls, and one who responds affirmatively, becomes a called.  In other words, v14 could also be read as: “For many are the called, but few are the chosen”.  Invitation was used on the Jews/Israelites, and when it was “done away with” or “thrown open”, calling is what took over.

The call of God can go out universally; now to all, Jews and Gentiles.  One becomes a called one, NOT by virtue of him having heard the call, but he responded affirmatively to the call.  Ones that come into the church, and be part of the gathering or the Bride, they are all called, meaning they have had responded affirmatively to the call.  Those who have NOT responded affirmatively, may be in the church physically, but they are NOT part of the church or the Bride. Using the metaphor of the Banquet, the latter (those who had NOT responded affirmatively) are NOT in the Banquet at all; those who are in the Banquet are those who had responded (affirmatively) to the servant beckoning them to come. It is common sense that if the Jews/Israelites could, for example say, “I am NOT coming”, and the servants would NOT drag them to the Banquet, likewise, those in the streets (Gentiles) were NOT dragged in, but had, for example, said, “I will go with you”. 

In the spiritual sense, only the called (defined as ones who have responded to the call, affirmatively), are gathered together, through the spiritual eyes of God.  You may be in your home in US, and I, in mine in Singapore, but we are both seen by God as “gathered together” or one, the Church (together with other believers).  If your younger brother was NOT a believer but physically with you, God sees you and me, but NOT him, as the church, despite he was there with you, physically!  In other words, the person without the wedding garment in the parable is a called one, but without righteousness of saint, which is the righteous acts of saint, and NOT the imputed righteousness of Christ ALONE.  Without the imputed righteousness from being a called one, he cannot even be at the Banquet.

Now if you take my view, it is therefore, many are the called, i.e. many did enter into salvation, but few would eventually be chosen, for reason that they are going to be found to be short of righteous deeds - lack of righteous deeds in keeping with their righteousness, imputed from Christ Jesus or from justification. 

Many failed to see that we are to model after Jesus; that the Father expected it, of Jesus when He walked the earth, i.e. being righteous, yet had to live and act righteous; we are to be righteous just as He is righteous, said 1 John 3:7.  In fact, the verse reads: “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness {practises righteousness} is righteous, even as he {Jesus} is righteous.” (be righteous in the same manner that Jesus was righteous, which was that He still needed to be practising righteousness).

We have to choose to practise righteousness, and that of course, included doing righteous acts or deeds, so that we have the fine linen to adorn ourselves with, when we are in the Banquet, and be chosen (that is our hope) of the Lord (reasonable to assume if you get to stay in the Banquet, after the celebration, you are chosen of God, into Heaven)

This parable, I believe, points to, God already opened up his invitation (invitation was originally reserved for the Jews/Israelites), to come into His Kingdom of Heaven (or Heaven), to all people, i.e. we are in the “call dispensation”; there is no general individual predestination for salvation. There was and still is corporate pre-destination for the nation of Israel to be entering the Kingdom of Heaven, but there is no general individual predestination for salvation.

Just to repeat, there are variations in interpretation of what the wedding garment is or what fine linen is.  My view is that it is more than just the imputed righteousness of Christ; Imputed righteousness is given, you have to have it (from justification), and then you have to be having righteousness from sanctification, from practicing righteousness, doing the will of God (including righteous acts and deeds), as like Jesus did, even when he was righteous; He had to live righteous, on earth (1 John 3:7).]

Anthony Chia, high.expresssions
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