Earlier articles in this series have demonstrated that the kingdom of heaven is the same as the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the coming world-ruling government of God that will be set up when Christ returns.
In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus gave another parable regarding the Kingdom of God. It depicts a marriage celebration. It is often referred to as “the parable of the wedding feast.” Guests were required to be dressed in proper wedding garments in order to attend this celebration. The parable depicts the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9). Those who participate in this event are the heirs of salvation. They will be in the Kingdom of God. The parable begins in verse two of Matthew 22: “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son.” The parable begins by telling us that the Kingdom of God is likened to a certain king who had arranged a marriage for his son. Bible students are aware that in Old Testament times a marriage agreement existed between God and the nation of Israel. The nation of Israel-the Old Testament Church-had entered into a covenant with God. This marriage agreement is described in Ezekiel 16:8: “Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.” This marriage agreement was called the Old Covenant. The parable in Matthew, chapter 22, however, speaks of another marriage covenant-a future one which is yet to be completed. This is the New Covenant. Foretold in many places in the Old Testament. The prophet Hosea wrote: “And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD” (Hos. 2:19-20).
In this New Covenant relationship, the Church is the bride of Christ. Notice what the Apostle John tells us: “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). The New Covenant is a bride/groom relationship. Paul illustrates this relationship:
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:22-27).
The marriage relationship that should exist between a man and his wife is the relationship that exists between the Church and Christ. The king in Matthew 22:2 is God the Father preparing the marriage for His Son-Jesus Christ.
The parable in Matthew 22 continues. Then the king “. . . sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come” (Matt. 22:3). Here the parable illustrates that many human beings do not naturally love God or His Way. Men, as a whole, are not inclined to respond to God’s invitation. Many prefer the various religions of the world. This is why we have so many false religions today. The fact is: One must first accept God’s call in order to understand the importance of responding to and accepting what He has to offer. Jesus said: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44). “. . . Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:65). The parable of Matthew 22 illustrates that God had called these guests, but they refused to come. They were given the opportunity to participate in the marriage feast, but spurned it. To them, the things of the world were more important. “Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise” (Matt. 22:4-5). Like many people today, those invited had interests and opinions which were more important to them than God.
This response is not new. It goes back almost to the beginning. The Apostle Paul was even rejected by many in his day. We read one example of this in Acts 13. “And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (Acts 13:44-45). In the parable of the marriage feast, those invited acted even worse. “And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them” (Matt. 22:6). This is the historical record almost from the beginning. Jesus told the Pharisees: “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (Matt. 23:35). The Pharisees had said, “. . . If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets” (v. 30). Jesus disagreed. He told them, “Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets” (Matt. 23:30-31). “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city” (Matt. 23:34). The attitude displayed toward these servants of God reflects the attitude men have had for many generations toward God’s Way of life. Many have ignored or repudiated the opportunity to come to the knowledge of the Truth. They do not know what is in store for them. Most are completely unaware there is a day of retribution coming. In the parable this is shown by the king’s response. “But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (Matt. 22:7).
The Bible foretells the day of God’s wrath. “For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many” (Isa. 66:15-16). Notice Zephaniah, chapter one:
I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD. I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumblingblocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD. . . . And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham; And them that are turned back from the LORD; and those that have not sought the LORD, nor enquired for him (Zeph. 1: 2-3, 5-6).
These people, too involved with their own forms of worship and doing their own thing, are destined to incur God’s wrath. Some of these once knew God but have chosen to turn their backs on Him. Others were too busy with their daily concerns to show any real interest in God. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:6-8). Verse seven certainly appears to refer to the destruction of the Jewish nation that occurred in AD 70.
Then what did the king do? The parable skips ahead to a time period near the final judgment. “Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests” (Matt. 22:8-10). Many who had been invited refused to come. The king in the parable now requested that the invitation be cast about broadly, and both good and bad responded. Responding is one thing, but being properly attired for such an occasion is another matter. To participate in the marriage feast of the Lamb, one must have on a robe of righteousness. The Apostle John tells us: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (Rev. 7:9). “And to her [the bride] was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Rev. 19:8).
In the parable the king now examined the guests, and what did he see? “And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless” (Matt. 22:11-12). Not to dress properly is an act of contempt-an act of disrespect. Those who participate in the marriage feast of the Lamb are the heirs of salvation. But they must first have on a robe of righteousness. Righteousness is defined in the Bible as obedience to the commandments of God. “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness” (Ps. 119:172). In the parable the king confronted a guest who had not prepared himself. He was not a righteous man. He could not be allowed to participate in the marriage feast.
The marriage feast depicts those who are allowed in God’s presence after the final judgment. In the Kingdom of God only the righteous will be allowed into God’s presence. The Apostle John tells us: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Rev. 22:14). The Apostle Paul admonishes: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).
Who, then, will not be in God’s Kingdom? Here is the answer: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).
The king in the parable represents God-the judge of the whole earth (1 Sam. 2:10, 1 Chron. 16:33, Rom. 2:16). Paul wrote that God would be the One to judge him. “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8). God alone will determine who will be in His Kingdom. In the parable, the guest without the proper dress was excluded. His failure to prepare himself showed contempt for the king. He did not belong there. The parable tells us the man was speechless (Matt.22:12). He had no excuse. He knew better, but thought he could get away with it. This was in spite of the fact that the other guests were dressed appropriately. He knew he was out of place. He knew he had not done what the king expected. In the parable the king judged him accordingly. “Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:13). The parable illustrates the guest’s disrespectful attitude toward God. He refused to dress appropriately, which was the requirement necessary in order to participate in the marriage supper of the Lamb. The parable illustrates that he did not have on a robe of righteousness.
Then Jesus said: “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). Here is the summary for the entire parable. Of the many who had been invited, only a limited number responded. The majority had refused to attend. Because of their actions they could not be chosen. Of those who had responded and did attend the marriage supper, some were not appropriately dressed. They did not have on a robe of righteousness. The parable illustrates two essential things. To be chosen one must: (1) respond to God’s call when it is given, and (2) one must put on a robe of righteousness by keeping God’s Law.