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THE GREAT BANQUET AND BEYOND

Rich Kelsey

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The Greek word for "church" in the New Testament is ekklesia, which is derived from kaleo and means "to call." Kaleo can be understood as used in a classroom, when the teacher calls a student to the front of the class. The expression church has much the same meaning: its focus is also on people being called out, especially from among the non-believing. All who make up the church have been called.

Everyone is invited, but not everyone answers Christ’s call. For some, the voice of the Shepherd is drowned out by the cares of this life. They simply avoid the challenge of resisting sin and exercising faith with all the other things Christians do that seem so laborious to them. Others fail to find fellowship with Jesus because they have fallen into the deception of false teaching.

Religious Groups of Christ’s Time

One looking into the history of religious sects at and around the time of Christ can draw parallels to the mindset of many Christians today. Two thousand years ago, there were several devout groups in Israel. The Pharisees and Sadducees were the largest denominations, and they were mentioned in the New Testament on several occasions. In the days Jesus walked the earth, most of Israel was keeping the Old Testament covenants. They observed the Sabbaths. They kept the feast days. The nation of Israel was looking for the Messiah as promised in the Scriptures. Four hundred years had passed since Israel had seen a prophet. Then the day came when John the Baptist began baptizing in the Jordan River. John had no phylacteries upon his forehead nor did he look as spotless as the lawyers and scribes who came to see him. John’s elegance was from within.

Israel’s visible church had all the outward splendor of a sanctified group; many were well dressed and freshly bathed, but some of the most distinguished ones were lacking what really counted—qualities like "justice, mercy, and faithfulness."

When John saw

"many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers’" (Matt. 3:7).


These men were the highest-ranking leaders in Israel, but John weighed them on a scale of truth and found them lacking. The Pharisees and Sadducees attended the synagogue weekly and kept all of the required ordinances, and they were the most prominent of Israel’s upper class. Yet John told them to repent of their wrongdoing and then be baptized; they refused. Instead of taking John’s advice, they publicly discredited him.

When Jesus spoke to them, he said,

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are" (Matt. 23:15).

Christ claimed these teachers of the law and Pharisees were ungodly men. He went on to say,

"On the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness" (Matt. 23:28).

If the scribes and Pharisees had been humble, God-seeking men, they might have repented and found righteousness. The irony is, those men were so devout in their outward practices, they mistakenly thought they were sanctified. They were missing the meaning of the Old Covenant laws; these teachers of Israel needed to do some learning themselves. All of their observances were pointing to Christ, yet when they looked him in the face, they failed to recognize him. The scribes and Pharisees were members in Israel’s visible church, but many weren’t really a part of the true congregation. When Christ reproved them, explaining that genuine righteousness is from within, they quickly dismissed his words.

How many men and women today who are active in religion wouldn’t recognize Jesus if he showed up at their doors? How many people today would also quickly dismiss his words, trusting beyond hope that mere ritual would save their souls? Among the visible church there are those who have "missed the grace of God." Instead of growing to maturity, they remain bound in religious ceremony.

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

On several occasions Jesus spoke of a heavenly marriage feast. He said,

"Many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 8:11).

Jesus alluded to this feast in parable after parable. He painted pictures of this event from many different perspectives. One man, after hearing of the marriage feast, said to Jesus,

"Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God." (Luke 14:15)

Jesus replied, saying:

"A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests . . ." (Luke 14:16)

Christ went on to explain how the guests whom this man originally invited made excuses as to why they couldn’t attend. So he had his servants go out in the streets and fill his house with anyone who would heed the call, including the poor, the crippled, and the blind. The lower-class people of the city gladly accepted the invitation, and ultimately the house was filled.


Finally the man cried out,

"Not one of those men who were [originally] invited will get a taste of my banquet." (Luke 14:24)

This great feast is symbolic of an event that is on the horizon. The servants are gathering guests at this very hour. The Master’s house will be filled.

Outward Appearances

In this world by all outward appearances, many of us look unworthy to be invited to the Master’s house; in the eyes of many religionists, we’re the ones who are poor, crippled, and blind. Yet we are the ones who obey the Master’s call. We are the ones who forsake the cares of this world and set out on a journey to spiritual perfection. Therefore the Master of the house (Jesus Christ) will reward us.

In another rendition of the great marriage feast, Christ adds more details:

"Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So 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. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend," he asked, "how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. 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.’ For many are invited, but few are chosen." (Matt. 22:8–14)

Through the illustrations of a natural wedding banquet, Jesus is teaching us spiritual principles: The most obvious point Jesus expressed in his parables was that the cares of this life sidetracked many of the invited guests. This theme is presented many times. It’s a stinging admonition and call to repentance for every man, woman, and child who unwittingly avoids God’s invitation. The nation of Israel was implicated as the original invited guests; how¬ever, the sayings of Jesus are still relevant today. Now anyone with a callous heart who ignores the call of God may find himself or herself outside of Christ’s fellowship.

"Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son’" (Matt. 22:1–2).

Surely the king in this parable represents God; the king’s son represents Jesus Christ. Jesus also said:

"When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:8–11).

Principles are being taught here. Christ wasn’t all that worried about our precise etiquette during a wedding feast on earth. The guests’ seating arrangement at the feast in his parable is an example of the coming kingdom. Jesus is teaching us eternal values, exhorting us to achieve our best standing in both this life and the life to come by humbling ourselves and becoming subservient to our peers.

The Wedding Parable Is a Model

Envision a bride-to-be having a dream about her wedding day, yearning to be swept away from her ho-hum existence; suddenly a shining prince on a white horse sweeps her into his arms and takes her into a paradise land with crystal-clear waters and wondrous surroundings. She dreams on. In this wonderland they will live forever young with a depth of love that has no bounds. This bride’s dream shadows the actual paradise waiting on the horizon for the ones Christ loves. A man and woman in wedded bliss is a natural model that has a supernatural counterpart.

From the very beginning, God’s plan was to live in and dwell with his human children. God has longed to cherish his children. Through Christ, God will fulfill His plan. Jesus will ride up on a white horse as a shining prince and receive his bride unto himself:

"Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" (Rev. 19:9)

The Letter to the Laodiceans

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:15–16).

What might this saying of Jesus symbolize? Quite frankly, the words

"I am about to spit you out of my mouth"

is an admonishment to all those who have a shallow commitment to Christ to enter into a deeper relationship with him. There is no question Jesus was addressing a church in this rebuke, for this Scripture is taken from a letter addressed to a church. Earlier in Revelation Jesus was seen standing among them symbolically speaking. The problem with this church is that these people are sure they are in need of nothing, yet they lack intimacy with Jesus.

The Great White Throne Judgment

The Great White Throne Judgment will be the sum culmination and recompense of man’s deeds. This will be a day when God is vindicated. No one will be able to accuse God of any wrongdoing. For the Christian, this will be a day of reward. God has not espoused us to Himself just to turn around and parade our faults before the entire human race. Like dross that is burned away in the fire, our sins are gone. Only the gold will shine through for the Christian.

The unbelieving will finally believe! On this day, many fearful individuals will have serious misgivings about attitudes they’ve held their entire life—attitudes that have kept their hearts from seeking God, decisions they have made that have put salvation aside so they could pursue other avenues. Many religious men and women will be amazed. They will be perplexed that the religion they have followed from their youth was not able to save their souls. Yet these same religionists will understand on this day that they lacked a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

A Thousand Points of Darkness:

It is Satan who deceives the nations. The devil has had thousands of years to refine his approach to man. He has seen what methods have brought results and he has witnessed what tactics have failed. From the very beginning Satan understood that he needed to keep the light of truth from shining on his prey. Because, if people could see that it was really him who was goading them to take certain pathways in life, they would never walk down those paths.

The devil endeavors to bring the whole world into rebellion against God. In a vain attempt to forgo the inevitable Satan and his demon host are fighting down to the last hour. As the final curtain of human history is drawing to a close, will the devil look across the vast sea of humanity that he had duped into following him? If so, what will he see in their faces?

Will he see men and women who were proud that they gave their eternal lives to bolster his image? Or will his followers mock him in derision when they finally see things clearly? The Bible paints a picture of the devil as he awaits his judgment, it portrays his followers marveling over him saying,

“Is this the one who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, the one who made the world a desolate place, who overthrew its cities…?” (Isa. 14:16-17, author paraphrase)

Satan will go down in history as having conceived and carried out the worst plan ever! Instead of staying within the Creator’s good graces and enjoying an eternal paradise in God’s presence, Satan along with all of his followers will have hell to pay. The words to the song,

“I did it my way”

will have no redeeming value on Judgment Day. On that day many tormented souls will be lamenting over their rebellious attitudes. Undoubtedly throngs of human souls standing before the Judgment Seat will be thinking about the decisions they made that put them at odds with God, wishing beyond hope that they had yielded to the truth of the gospel that could have saved them.

Their Worm Will Not Die

"From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,' says the LORD. 'And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind" (Isa. 66:22–24)

The Lord is speaking after the manner of men, for we people not have bodies of flesh in the afterlife. Let’s examine the phrase "Their worm shall not die." A literal worm eating a carcass would eventually run out of food and die. This is a figurative statement depicting the loathsome condition of the ungodly. A worm never dying is an illustration depicting time. In the book of Daniel, it reads,

"Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan. 12:2).

The good news is that those who have found salvation will awake to everlasting life.

The Destruction of This Creation

"The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat." (2 Peter 3:10, 12)

This whole universe was created for man. Why would God create such a vast system of stars and space just to fold it up and start over when man’s time on this earth is over? Because he could; that’s how vast our Creator is. The Father wanted to show us His glory in this creation. God is not limited in His power. As Christians we should see the implication of this design. Since God created such an awesome temporary realm for man in this life, we can be sure that the permanent spiritual realm He has for us will far surpass our wildest dreams.

A New Heaven and a New Earth

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea." (Rev. 21:1)

"'As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,' declares the LORD, ‘so will your name and descendants endure’" (Isa. 66:22).

God is assuring us that He will never destroy the new heavens and the new earth. We will feel more at home in the New Earth than we do right now.

Every wonderful illustration depicting paradise and the love that we share with one another on Earth is an illustration of the divine Paradise and love that God will one day share with us in glory. Yet, all of our former earthly experiences will pale in comparison to what joy we will find in the next life. We shall be delivered from the corruption of death; we shall be free from the bondage of sin.

And,

"just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven" (1 Cor. 15:49).

 

For more information on this subject:

Christian Works by Rich Kelsey