The Parable Of The Wedding Banquet

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

“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.’

“But they paid no attention and went off–one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“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 22:1-14)

Why All The Parables?

The Greek word for parable literally means to set alongside.  A fictional earthly story is set alongside a heavenly truth to help convey its meaning.  When the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke to the people in parables He said,

“The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” (Matt. 13:11-12)

In effect this means a parable was meant to accomplish two things: 1) to instruct His followers, and 2) to confuse everyone else. These seemingly conflicting objectives can both be accomplished because it’s the Holy Spirit who gives us the understanding we need.  Without the Holy Spirit no one can comprehend the things of God.  Paul put it this way;

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14)

The parable of the wedding banquet is a good example. It’s either very instructive or very confusing depending on your understanding of the Bible. (A working knowledge of Jewish wedding customs during Biblical times can also be helpful but is not essential.)

The Wedding Planner

First century Jewish wedding customs held that the father of the groom was in charge of the event and bore all the expense associated with the wedding and the banquet that followed.  I’ve been told that in case of royalty or the very wealthy this often included providing a specially made garment to be worn over a guest’s regular clothing. This wedding garment was presented to the guest upon arrival and donned immediately. Refusal to wear it was an insult to the Father of the groom and could get a guest ejected from the festivities. In case of large gatherings it also served as identification to discourage uninvited guests from crashing the party.

As I said, the Parables of our Lord Jesus are earthly stories meant to explain heavenly truths. Each person or object is symbolic of someone or something else. Understanding the symbolism is crucial to discovering the lesson of the Parable.  In fact receiving the full theological impact of a parable requires such an understanding.

The King represents God the Father, His Son our Lord Jesus.  Invited guests who declined His invitation symbolize Israel’s rejection of the Messiah and the servants He sent to invite them are the prophets. The city He destroyed is Jerusalem, and the wedding banquet is the Kingdom of Heaven.  This puts the timing of the parable at the Second Coming.

Do You Know The Bride?

Some say the last group He sent His servants out to invite represents the Church, but the symbolism and timing are wrong. The Church is the Bride of Christ (Ephes. 5:25-27), not a group of last minute substitute guests.  Since Israel had already declined His invitation, and the Church (being the bride) would not need an invitation, who could these guests be?

They have to come from a time after the Bride is chosen and prepared, because the wedding banquet is ready and only the guests are lacking for the festivities to begin. They’re from a group we call Tribulation believers, those who come to faith after the Rapture of the Church in Revelation 4 but before the Wedding Banquet of Revelation 19.

Here’s The Real Lesson Of The Parable

The wedding garment represents God’s righteousness. This is a concept explained on several occasions in both the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah described our righteousness as filthy rags (Isa 64:6) and God’s righteousness as “garments of salvation” and “robes of righteousness” (Isa 61:10) where the acquisition of these qualities is likened to clothing given us at a wedding.

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels (Isa 61:10).

In Revelation 19 the church has been prepared as a bride having been clothed in white linen, representing our righteousness.  But as in Isaiah 61:10, the righteousness symbolized by the clothing is given to the bride, not purchased or earned.  Paul said that ours is a righteousness that comes to us through faith (Romans 3:21-22).

The fact that a guest is thrown out into the darkness for not wearing wedding clothes indicates these last minute guests are required to be clothed in “garments of salvation” as well.   Rev. 16:15 tells us Tribulation believers will have to “keep their clothes with them.” In other words they’ll be responsible for maintaining the righteousness they will have been given by obeying God’s commandments and remaining faithful to Jesus (Rev. 14:12).  Only the Church has been promised the gift of eternal security.

Therefore the guest who was escorted out had been a Tribulation believer who was now trying to gain entrance to the banquet in his own clothing, having lost or discarded the “garment of salvation” he’d been given.  He was hoping to gain entrance to the kingdom in his own righteousness, which as Isaiah said, is like filthy rags in God’s sight.

This is another slant on the parable of the 10 bridesmaids (Matt. 25:1-13). The setting there is also the time of the 2nd Coming.  And again, the Church is not a bridesmaid.   The Church is the bride and could not be refused admittance to her own wedding banquet.   The five who were excluded were tribulation believers who had lost their salvation either by not obeying God’s commandments or by not remaining faithful to Jesus or both.  This is indicated by their lack of sufficient oil, which is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.   Since the Holy Spirit is sealed within the Church as a deposit guaranteeing our salvation (Ephes 1:13-14), the bridesmaids who were excluded from the banquet have to represent a post rapture group from whom the Holy Spirit had departed for lack of faith.

Many are invited, but few are chosen (Matt 22:1-14).  God doesn’t desire that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). But whether it’s the Bride or the wedding guests, the only righteousness that gains us admission into His presence is that which is given us as a gift and accepted in faith (Rom 3:21-22). All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Gal 3:27). For God made Him Who had no sin to become sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). Selah.

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