"How Does It All End?"
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, December 31, 1995
Copyright © 1995, P. G. Mathew
How does it all end? That is what we want to consider as we study this parable of the king's feast. In Ecclesiastes 7:8 we read, "The end of a matter is better than its beginning." King Saul began all right, but his end was disastrous. Judas began well, but his end was hopeless. Demas began as a minister of the gospel, but he ended loving this present world, not the kingdom of God. There will be an end to our own lives. How will we end? Will the King of kings say concerning us: "Good and faithful servant, enter into the kingdom of God prepared for you, and enjoy my eternal blessings"? Or will he say, "Depart from me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you"? This parable of the king's banquet speaks of the judgment that awaits all of us at the end.
The King's Invitation
Jesus told two parables about wedding feasts, this one in Matthew 22, and one in Luke 14:15-24. Both teach essentially the same truth. In these parables Jesus makes reference to the ultimate judgment of those who rejected the gospel invitation, the invitation to a great banquet, which symbolizes the eternal happiness of the salvation Christ gives his people.
We read that a king prepared a wedding banquet for his son. Let us look at the gracious invitation of this king. The invitation to this banquet was sent out to the people of Israel from the beginning of their history. One after another prophets were sent at different times to announce the way of salvation through the Messiah, as we read in Hebrews 1:1: "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and at various ways." The entire sacrificial system spoke about this great banquet, this salvation, as did the system of the priesthood. The whole institution of prophets also spoke about this great, eschatological banquet. Israel accepted this invitation and agreed to come to the wedding feast of the king's son.
According to custom, when the feast was ready, the king sent his servants to re-invite those who had already accepted. This time, however, the guests refused to come. In rebellion they treated this king and his son with contempt, refusing to honor them. In great grace the king sent other servants a third time with this encouraging word: "Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fatted cattle have been butchered and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet!" (Matt. 22:4).
This gracious invitation is the gospel. Through different servants at various times God has invited us also. John the Baptist, the apostles, the seventy, Jesus himself, and all the preachers of the gospel through the centuries have preached this same truth, that there is a banquet that is ready. According to the Father's eternal purpose, his Son was to grant eternal life to all those whom the Father granted him by his substitutionary death on the cross. This salvation was planned from all eternity by God the Father. In 2 Timothy 1:9-10 Paul says, "[God], who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to life through the gospel." In Romans 8:28 we read, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
God the Father planned this banquet, this redemption, and God the Son executed it. From the cross he cried out, "It is finished," meaning the banquet is ready. Christ died for our sins, and he himself interpreted his own death and resurrection in this manner when he said, "The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:46-47). The gospel is the general call for all people. Christ is saying, Come! Salvation is ready, redemption is ready, the banquet is ready. Come, one and all! And not only that, the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, applies this salvation to everyone who comes. In 1 Corinthians 5:7,8 Paul said, "For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us keep the Festival," meaning, let us celebrate! Christ is the manna from heaven, the living bread.
This is a great banquet. This feast was announced by Isaiah long ago in wondrous terms. In Isaiah 25:6 we read "On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all people, a banquet of aged wine--the best meats and the finest of wines." That is speaking about a sumptuous salvation.
How was this banquet was prepared? The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah describes the fact that this eternal Son, Jesus Christ, the suffering servant, died in our place, and now justifies many by his righteousness. In Isaiah 54 and 55, the great invitation is given for Jews and Gentiles alike to experience this richest of fare:
"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David." (Isaiah 55:1-3)
God wants us to listen to this gracious invitation. Do you say you have no money? Don't worry. This is extremely costly, and no one can pay money for it. This invitation is freely given to all who are needy, to all who hunger and to all who thirst. You are invited to come to this banquet which will meet your every spiritual need. This banquet alone will give you peace with God, free pardon of all your sins, great joy and eternal life. This banquet alone clothes you with the irreproachable and perfect righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.
The King's Invitation Rejected
So the king issued three invitations, but in Matthew 22:5 we are told, "they paid no attention." Those who had been invited gave no consideration, no thought, to this king and his son, who is Jesus Christ. God created man with a mind to think, first of all, of God, but man refuses to think of his Maker. Most men are practicing atheists, as we read in Psalm 10, living as though there is no God. Such men do not believe God will call them to account. Rather, they think God has forgotten his creation.
These men's minds were engaged in other priorities. They did not believe in the kingdom of God or eternal judgment. They did not believe in sin, guilt, judgment or hell. They had no time to consider these matters. Like many people today, they probably felt they should work harder and make more money, rather than go to the banquet. They felt they must make their wives happy and take care of their children. They needed to travel, to entertain themselves and to be active politically. They needed to prepare for retirement. They were busy! They had no time to think about God the King, his Son, and eternal life. They were working hard to gain the whole world, if that were possible.
Such men would not listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 16:26: "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" No, to these men, what mattered was life in this world. Luke 17:26-28 tells us about people who are busy buying and selling, planting and building, marrying and giving in marriage, eating and drinking--fully engrossed in this world and not at all concerned about the world to come. These men were like that--sensual, walking by sight, living to satisfy their lusts, with no time for spiritual things. Such people are worldly, like the third soil in the parable of the soils. The deceitfulness of riches, pleasures of life, and worries and desires for many things crowd their minds and choke any spiritual interests and concern for the world to come.
Others were openly hostile to the invitation of the king. They mocked his messengers--the preachers, the prophets and Jesus himself. They mocked the message--that Christ died for us on the cross. They hated the idea that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all our sins. It sounded too simple to them, so they mocked it. They also mocked the King--the eternal, infinite, personal, almighty God--and his own only begotten Son. They believed in the ultimacy of matter, and said that God and his Son were only creations of human imagination.
Not only did some mock, but some killed the king's servants, demonstrating their hatred of him. They had no fear of the king, thinking he was very weak, and would never deal with them. This is not a new idea. Noah warned of God's judgment on man's violent and lawless behavior. The people who heard him laughed at the idea of a flood, but in God's time there was a flood. Lot spoke against what he saw in Sodom and Gomorrah, and warned of God's judgment. The people in those cities did not believe him, but God's word came true. So also we see these people mocking God and his invitation, and killing his messengers.
Others heard the invitation and, being decent people, devised courteous excuses. They were diplomatic in their rejection of the gospel. You read these excuses in Luke 14. One said, "I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it." (v. 18) What contempt he showed for this eternal King and his invitation! His reply revealed the worldliness of this man. He did not have to go to his field then. He already owned it, and could have gone any time. Another said, "I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out," (v. 19) to see whether they were worth the investment. But like the first man, why did he have to go then? He owned the oxen. They would have waited. Still another said, "I just got married, so I can't come." (v. 20) But nowhere in the Bible does it say that one should not go to a banquet after marriage. In fact, it would have been good of this man to have taken his wife, so that she could enjoy the banquet with him! These were all flimsy, superficial excuses devised by the minds of unbelievers
What was the real story? This banquet was at the bottom of their priority list. Let me ask you: have you seen people respond this way? They listen eagerly as you speak about the things of the world, but are bored and unhappy when you speak about the things of God. They do not think that they could die at any time. They do not consider their eternal state. They assign the lowest priority to their souls and their salvation. They detest this king, his son, and his feast. They think they have no spiritual need. They are not hungry, thirsty, lost or sick. They think they are not guilty sinners. They are rich, self-righteous, and secure. These people think they have need of nothing, and therefore do not come to the banquet.
The King's Strategy
What did the king do? Those invited had declined his invitation, but this king had an alternative strategy. He planned a banquet for his son's wedding, and it would be attended by people who would honor him and his son. How did he accomplish this?
The thirteenth chapter of Acts is a commentary on this parable. Here we see St. Paul speaking to the Jewish people of Psidian Antioch. They did not want to listen, so Paul and Barnabas said, "'We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this what the Lord has commanded us: "I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth."' When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed." (vv. 46-48)
God has a plan to fill his house! Many are invited but few are chosen. The chosen from all eternity will eagerly listen to the gospel invitation. They have their priorities straight. They will welcome the message into their hearts, because the Lord opens their hearts. So the king told his servants to go to the street corners of the city, where they would find other people, "both good and bad," (Matt. 22:10) to come to his banquet.
Who were these others? Some were those that the Pharisees and Sadducees treated with contempt. They categorized them as publicans and sinners, people of the earth, and thereby unfit to enter into the kingdom of God. The Pharisees and Sadducees boldly thought that they alone would eat with God in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, because they were Abraham's descendants. This is like today's children of Christian parents who think that they will go to heaven because they have grown up in a church. But no one will be at God's banquet unless he or she welcomes the message and puts his or her faith in Jesus Christ. God has other people--publicans and sinners--and he told the servant to bring them in.
This gospel goes out to people who do not deserve or expect salvation. A person may say, "Oh, I am just a wicked sinner. Nobody cares for me," but God cares for that person. This king instructed, "Invite to the banquet anyone you find" (Matt. 22:9). In Luke 14 the servants were told to go beyond the city, meaning the invitation also went to the Gentiles.
The gospel goes out to the needy. In Luke 14 we read that they found people who were poor, crippled, blind and lame. This demonstrates the doctrine of total depravity. These represent people who will say, "I am a sinner." By the Holy Spirit they have been made conscious of their blindness, their crippled nature, their lameness and their spiritual poverty. They understand they are lost, wretched sinners, and they grasp the king's offer with all earnestness. They ask, "Do you really believe that God loves me? I am just a nobody, a lost wicked person. Are you telling me that this eternal God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, invites me for the wedding of his Son--that he would give me such honor and dignity?" "Yes," God's messengers said. "All that is true." They compelled them to come in. Why? God loved them from all eternity. From before the creation of the world, God loved these with his special love. They were not only invited, but chosen.
These welcomed the invitation and they came. They didn't need three invitations. So many came that they filled the banqueting hall. Yes, they were poor and needy, but this banquet of salvation will only be enjoyed by the poor. Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven . . . Blessed are those who mourn. . . Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness." (Matt. 5) God sends the rich, the sophisticated, the powerful away empty, but he loves sinners.
In John 6:37 Jesus said, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away," meaning they will come in and taste this feast of great salvation, to their souls' great satisfaction. So those who were poor, blind, crippled, lame, hungry, thirsty, sick, sinful all came. They are still coming, every day, from all over the world. If God has chosen you in Christ before the creation of the world, you will also come, with great delight, great passion, great thankfulness and great joy.
The King's Wrath
What about those who rejected the king's invitation? "The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city." (Matt. 22:7) We think of Jesus as kind and loving, but Jesus is also the Judge. God the Father is love, but he is also holy and righteous. This king was not just love and mercy. PGM As king, he meted out judgment to those who opposed him and treated him and his son with contempt. These verses speak a bout God's rejection of natural Israel, who rejected Jesus Christ and his gospel. They speak about the rejection of those who consider themselves to be privileged, yet refuse to embrace the gospel. They may also point to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in A.D. 70, which was prophesied by Jesus Christ in Luke 19:44, "They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."
And not only did the king display his wrath against those who rejected the invitation, but he also showed it against those who came to the banquet in their own way, without the proper wedding garments. "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?'" (Matt. 22:11,12)
The king came to see his guests. His eyes are like flaming fire (Rev. 1:14, 19:12), and he immediately noticed the one without the wedding garment. Now, the blind, the poor, the crippled, the lame, the publicans and the sinners were incapable of attiring themselves appropriately for this dignified occasion, so we must assume that this great king made provision for them to be clean and fitted with proper garments. Some preparation was necessary. Matthew 5:8 says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." Hebrews 12:14 tells us "Without holiness no one will see the Lord." The king had provided for his guests to enter his presence, but this man just came in his own way, not the prescribed way.
This man presumed he could come to God in his independence, autonomy and self-righteousness. God does not want us to come like that. God chose the foolish, weak, lowly, and despised things of the world to shame the wise and mighty. Those who know they are nothing will come God's way, in humility. First Corinthians 6:9-11 Paul describes the sinful lifestyles of some of the Corinthian Christians, and then he says, "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." If you are truly the elect of God, the Holy Spirit will apply Christ's redemption and make you holy and blameless in Jesus Christ. With great thanksgiving you will receive the garment of holiness with which you can see God and live. Those who knew they were nothing came, were washed, and put on their brand new garments with thanksgiving.
But this man was not so washed and dressed. Who was he? He represents those who profess religion without living the reality of it. He represents many people who crowd into church without understanding the true gospel, who have no true repentance, faith, regeneration or conversion. They have no understanding the lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives. These people are independent, self-willed, and dependent on their own righteousness. They do not consider themselves to be sinners in need of the gospel of Christ. They despise the cross and think they will be accepted on the basis of their own good works. They believe that there are other ways to come to God, such as philosophy or culture. They are very educated and politically savvy. They are hoping that God will not notice their lack of a wedding garment. They are like Cain, who was instructed in the proper way to come to God, but refused to do so. He came in his own way and failed to receive God's approval.
If we come in our own way, the omniscient God will surely notice. The king asked this man what he was doing there, but "the man was speechless." Are we like this man? Do we think that when we get into the presence of God we can present our arguments to convince God to accept us in our own way? We know that salvation is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in his blood shed on behalf of sinners, but perhaps we think that there are also other ways to come to God. Perhaps we are hoping that on the last day we will be able to explain to God what our way is, and God will be impressed with our arguments and accept us.
No! Even if we think that way now, when we stand before God, we will be speechless like this man. Our tongues will stick to the roofs of our mouths because we will be so convicted of our wickedness. All our arguments will evaporate, and we will be bound, like this man. "Tie him, hand and foot!" the king commanded. If we live our lives without paying attention to the law of God, we will then feel the law of God in all its power.
Then the king said, "Throw him outside!" In three places, Matthew 8:12; 22:13; and 25:30, Jesus Christ himself said such people will be thrown out. But this is tragic. This man was a professing, religious person who hoped to get into heaven all his life. How anticlimactic, to live in that expectation only to hear, "Tie him, hand and foot, and throw him outside!" He was thrown away from the light of God, away from the banquet, away from fellowship with God, away from joy, away from celebration, away from life eternal. He was thrown into the darkness, "where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." This is the hell that awaits all who reject the gospel of God, and for all those who go to church, but never submit themselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
What is this hell like? First, people will be conscious there. They will be able to remember, even while they are in torment and agony. Secondly, this hell will be without end. It is eternal. And thirdly, every person in hell will be given an understanding of the great banquet going on in heaven, and will understand what might have been. In Luke 13:28-30, Jesus Christ had a warning for those who would not believe: "There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from the east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed, there are those who are last who will be first, and the first will be last." Those who were religious without reality, those who were openly hostile to the gospel, and those who were worldly and did not have time to consider the state of their souls will be there. They will see and remember, but they will be in the outer darkness, away from light, away from joy, away from peace, away from eternal life, and above all, away from the magnificent presence of God. They will understand all of this, and what will this understanding do? It will cause them to wail and gnash their teeth.
We need to know that a time will come when repentance is no longer possible. We are not told that the king asked this man to repent. His time was over. He would see the feast, but he would not taste it, and his end was disastrous. Revelation 20:15 says, "If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
The King's Grace
God showed grace to the blind, the poor, the crippled, the lame, the publicans and the sinners--the elect of God. They came in true repentance and faith to Jesus Christ, and were clothed in the robes of his perfect righteousness. God enabled these who were nothing in the eyes of the world to make themselves ready for his wedding banquet, and this gift of a robe was given to them. The garment that God requires consists of justification and sanctification--the imputed and the imparted righteousness of God. Look at Revelation 19:6-9:
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns! Let us rejoice and be glad, and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given to her." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'"
These are the faithful servants. They are blessed! They will enter into the joy of the Lord, as the bride of the Son of this King. What blessings await us who trust in Christ! What a blessed end!
Even now by faith, if we are true Christians, we are tasting this feast. Why? Christ tasted the death that was ours on the cross, that we may taste, not death, but this rich banquet of his eternal salvation. As the gospel was preached, we came, drawn by the Father, drawn by the Spirit. Our sins were forgiven and we were justified. We put our trust in Jesus Christ by the faith he granted us.
Some of us were like Naaman who almost lost out. The gospel was preached to him. What was he told? Go to the muddy Jordan River and dip yourself seven times, and you will be saved. But Naaman was arrogant. He became angry and almost went to hell. But he was an elect of God, and so, after listening to sound counsel, he dipped himself seven times, and came up--saved! He was not like Lot's wife, who had everything, but missed salvation. The angel came and preached the gospel, that destruction was coming and it was time to leave. She did not want to go, and became a pillar of salt.
What is this gracious invitation? Repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Then you will taste this banquet, not only then, but now. You will experience the joy of the forgiveness of all your sins, the joy of eternal salvation, the joy of being accepted and embraced by the Father and hearing from his lips, "Come, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
Do you still make excuses? C. H. Spurgeon spoke about these excuses: Some say, "I am too busy for God. I am really too busy." Others say, "I am too good. I don't really need this type of salvation. It is for outright sinners." Still others say, "I am too bad. I don't think God will save me." Others say, "It's too soon. I have to live a little more. There is a wonderful world out there, and I need to experience it first." Others might say, "I just don't think I am elect of God." And others say, "You know, I just cannot trust in Christ." Oh, no. The answer is, you will not trust in Jesus Christ. You must come. Christ will never drive away anyone who comes to him.
Let us accept the gracious invitation of this King! Let us be washed, cleansed and sanctified, and receive the robe of the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, that we may feast in his kingdom now and forever. Amen.
Thank you for reading. If you found this content useful or encouraging, let us know by sending an email to email@example.com.
Copyright © 1995, P. G. Mathew
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™