12 April 2020
Eld Goh Kee Tai
In His earthly ministry, the Lord was repudiated and rejected by His own people who were misled by the Pharisees, scribes and chief priests. These leaders were characterised by hypocrisy, self-righteousness, fierce hatred, stiff-necked obstinacy, prejudice, and contempt of the gospel of salvation in Christ Jesus. They did not practise what they preached and openly opposed the truth proclaimed. They refused to accept Jesus of Nazareth as God incarnate, the Messiah, and that the One who walked in their midst was indeed the promised Seed of the woman (Gen 3:15), and the 'Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world' (Jn 1:29).
Jesus had been warning the Jews the consequence for their disobedience and impenitence. Their peculiar privilege and relation with God, as His holy witness, would be reversed if they continued to ignore the season of grace and salvation. Such blessings would be given to the Gentiles unless they took heed and delayed no longer (Mt 8:11,12).
The parable of the marriage-feast of a king's son was taught by the Lord in the Temple at Jerusalem in the last week of His earthly ministry. It followed two other kingdom parables to rebuke the religious leaders for their sin of unbelief and rebellion in persecuting and murdering the prophets of old (Mt 21: 28-41).
At the end of these parables, Jesus again warned His people the consequence of rejecting the gospel of salvation, and foretold the momentous change in the salvation of the Jews and of the Gentiles: 'The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof' (Mt 21:43). However, the rebellious Jewish religious leaders became even more determined to seize the Lord by violent means, but they were afraid of His large number of followers (Mt 21:46).
The parable of the marriage-feast
In the wedding feast, invitations were sent out by the king to his citizens. He sent his servants to remind all invited to attend. When dinner was ready, the king observed that the guests had still not arrived. He sent other servants to personally invite them again. But they treated the royal invitation with contempt and rejected it. They were too preoccupied with the affairs of the world. Some even treated the servants spitefully and murdered them. When the king came to know about this, he was wroth and sent his armies to destroy these murderers and their city. These guests who were first invited were pronounced to be unworthy of everlasting life, and forfeited all the privileges of the feast.
The king then sent his servants to invite others out of the highways, both good and bad. When the banquet hall was finally filled, the king came to welcome all that were gathered, and found one who came unprepared for the feast without putting on the wedding garment which was offered to him at the door. He commanded his servants to bind and sent him out to be punished in great sorrow and anguish.
The invitation to the feast is the offer of salvation in Christ Jesus. It may be accepted or rejected. Those who accepted the Lord by grace through faith are admitted to the kingdom of God. The joyous feast with plentiful food symbolises the blessings of the new covenant for sinners who have been reconciled to God by repenting their sins, and confessing Jesus as the Lord and Saviour. The marriage covenant is the gospel covenant of grace between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His bride, the church (Eph 5:31,32).
This first list of guests in the city to be invited to the feast in the kingdom of God were the Jews, 'the lost sheep of the house of Israel' (Mt 10:6). Their deliberate rejection of the invitation reflected the attitude of the religious leaders. Those from the highways last invited represented the Gentiles who were once aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenant of promise, without hope and without God (Eph 2:12). The one without the wedding garment and cast into hell, represents the hypocrites and self-righteous professing believers.
The Jews were God's peculiar people by virtue of His covenantal relationship with their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were the first to be called or summoned by God to salvation, from the time of Abraham and Moses to the first coming of Jesus Christ. But they rejected, persecuted and killed the prophets of old, and finally the Son of God ( Mt 21:33-41).
Unlike the publicans and harlots who, having heard the preaching by John the Baptist, repented and believed in the way of righteousness, the chief priests and elders rejected it and remained impenitent, and lost their citizenship in the kingdom of God. (Mt 21:32).
The Lord was merciful and longsuffering, and had no pleasure that the 'house of Israel' should perish in eternal condemnation (Eze 33:11), but that they should come to repentance (Rom 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9). The door of mercy and grace had always been open to them, but they tried to enter heaven by good works albeit the good works were based upon the law of Moses. They continued to pursue a life which was utterly at variance with that of the kingdom of God. They must repent of their sin and come to the Lord with a true heart, in full assurance of faith in Him. Only by grace through faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law, could they have eternal life in heaven (Eph 2:8,9).
God did not cast out the nation and people of Israel until their iniquity was full. By rejecting and crucifying the Son of God, the Lord also rejected them. Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Romans in AD 70 and the Jews dispersed all over the world (Mt 24:2). They forfeited all their spiritual privileges as they were unworthy of everlasting life.
The gospel was always preached to the Jews first, but following their rejection of the offer of salvation, it was offered to the Gentiles (Rom 1:16; Act 13:46).
The Gentiles, whom the Jews despised (Act 22:21,22), had no knowledge of the true God, and were farthest from the kingdom of God. The offer of salvation to these 'other sheep not of this fold' (Jn 10:16) 'scattered abroad' (Jn 11:52), was something the Gentiles had never heard of before (Act 17:19,20). Through the preaching of the kingdom of God, many of them keenly embraced the gospel, and were brought to the knowledge of the truth (1 Th 2:13). They now enjoy equal privileges and advantages as the believing Jews as sons of the living God under the new covenant in Christ.
The unbelieving Jews had never expected the Gentiles to ever share the everlasting blessings with the patriarchs and the prophets of old, while they themselves were shut out and cast into hell: 'And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth' (Mt 8:11,12).
They were envious and bitter that multitudes of the Gentiles 'should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel' (Eph 3:6). Salvation is through repentance towards God, faith in Jesus Christ and circumcision of the heart, rather than observance of Jewish rites and ceremonies (Act 15:24).
The guest without the wedding garment represents the hypocrisy of professing self-righteous believers who fail to acknowledge their wretchedness and depravity in deep humility and contrition of heart. They do not truly repent and refuse to have the righteousness of Christ imputed on them through His sacrificial death and atoning blood. They do not 'put on Christ' (Gal 3:27), the 'garment of salvation' (Isa 61:10) of the new spiritual man, but continue to fulfil the lusts of the flesh (Rm 13:14). They would be eternally condemned in the day of judgment (Mt 13:41,42).
The Lord concluded the parable: 'For many are called, but few are chosen' (Mt 22:14).
While many in the world, both Jews and Gentiles, are called and invited by the gospel to enter into the kingdom of heaven, but few hear and take heed and accept it in faith and repentance. They lose their reward and appointment to eternal life, because of indifference and self-righteousness, being blinded by the god of the world (2 Cor 4:4). Salvation is the gift of God's sovereign grace (Eph 1:4). It is God who calls us according to His own purpose and grace and salvation cannot be accomplished by our own will, merit or works (2 Tim 1:9; Eph 2:8).
Even among those who accept the invitation to salvation, few are inwardly and effectually called out of darkness into marvellous light and chosen in Christ by the free and unchangeable decree of God from all eternity, to enjoy its highest gracious and glorious benefits. These are merely self-righteous professing believers and hypocrites, who do not live a life of obedience to God. Few are 'chosen ...to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth' (2 Th 2:13). But all that are chosen from eternity before the foundation of the world, are effectually called in the fullness of time: 'whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified' (Rm 8:30).
Today, only the minority of the Jews are saved (Rom 9:27). It was God's sentence of judicial blindness of Israel (Isa 6:9,10; Act 28:26,27). However, when the full number of the Gentiles have been converted, at the second coming of Christ to establish His millennial kingdom on earth, all Israel shall be saved (Rom 11:25,26). She will then recognise and welcome her Messiah, acknowledging that He was the One whom their forefathers had crucified (Zech 12:10).
The Lord condemned the hypocrisy of carnal, worldly professing believers who may be serving Him all the days of their life, yet on the day of reckoning, they shall find that they come short and out of reach of heaven (Heb 4:1). They must diligently and faithfully be transformed by the renewal of mind and undergo a change in the moral character as clear evidence that they are born again. Born again believers submit themselves to strict self-discipline, strive with God in prayers, and wrestle against sin and Satan. They passionately desire to walk worthily, put on Christ, who is their all in all, and to 'strive to enter in at the strait gate' (Lk 13: 24) by diligently seeking, and submitting themselves to strict discipline and endeavour. They must give due diligence to make their effectual calling and election sure (2 Pet 1:10,11), by self-denial and godly living.
May we constantly examine ourselves and work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), otherwise in that day of reckoning, we may be found to be hypocrites and be cast into hell. Amen.