We now briefly look at the Parable of the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22. We are again told by our Lord that this parable concerns “The kingdom of heaven” as we saw in the kingdom parables of Matthew 13.
The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding…-Matthew 22:2-3a
As we had in The Parable of the Sower, we see here an invitation going out to different groups and we see rejection (“and they were not willing to come”). The sacrifice had been made and the wedding supper was ready (“See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding”).
We have referenced this wedding supper in other studies. In this short note, we want to concentrate on the final group who accept the invitation. As we’ve seen previously, the Lord prophesizes Israel’s rejection (calling them “murderers”) and the destruction of her city (Jerusalem, v.7). We’ve seen this in the previous parables, but now we are dealing with those outside those initially invited.
This call then goes out to a new group (“those who were invited were not worthy”). Who are these who were “not worthy?” These are the gentile “dogs” (Matt 15) who were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12).
The Lord tells us, “the wedding hall was filled with guests.” So, these are not “sons” (heirs), they are not “the bridegroom” and they are not “the bride.” This group is made up of GUESTS in the kingdom and guests at the wedding feast in the coming New Jerusalem (Rev 21).
The Lord of the Feast (the King) comes among the guests and finds one without a wedding garment, and has him sent out (Mt 22:11-15). He is cast out “into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” We have seen this place before and we shall see it in the parables of Matthew 24 and 25. This is not tradition’s “fiery torment,” this is a place outside the New Jerusalem, out among the nations in the age to come (see previous studies on The Parables of the Kingdom).
But what of the “garment”? In the Lord’s letters to the Jewish churches in the Revelation, he three times references white or undefiled garments. We are not speaking of the free gift of resurrection life, we are speaking of reward.
In Rev 16, in speaking of His return (the “Parousia”), the Lord says, ““Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” When we get to the marriage supper in Rev 19, we get the specific description of the makeup of the linen worn by the “wife,” “for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
We again have works coming in. The GIFT of God is eternal life through Christ, but every group, in every family of God, though the foundation laid is secure and eternal (Christ himself), there is a judgment of works. In the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, we see the picture of something pure (the pearl is used in scripture of that which is holy) being born out of suffering, and rescued out of the teeming sea (gentiles; in the Parable of the Treasure, we see the remnant of believing Israel taken from the land). These are clothed in righteous works which distinguishes them.
In Revelation 21 we see the Bride of the Lamb, the New Jerusalem, the city with the names of the Apostles to the Jew (the names of those who will “sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel” in the Kingdom, on earth). This is the reward. This is the “city whose builder and maker is God” that Abraham sought (Heb 11:10). The Lord is the “Bridegroom.” The called-out church of this age is His “Body” (Ephesians) whose blessing are not in the earth, but “in heavenly places.”
So who are these “guests?”
The guests are believers among the Gentiles to whom the gospel of John 3:16 (etc.) has been sent (to “the world”). Some of these will be at the marriage feast in the Kingdom (Matthew 8) and some will miss out. Those who do not have a righteous walk, just like the Jews who do not, will be cast into the outer darkness (outside the New Jerusalem, outside the kingdom).
The implication is that the guests go through the Great Tribulation as well, but I do not want to be dogmatic about that. However, they arrive at the feast, they are guests and they must be clothed in the right garment (“righteous acts”). Again, another study for another day.
Matthew 22 continues to point us to a future kingdom, a future judgment, a future reward, and a future disappointment. In context of the whole book and the parables within, we are looking at all things, including these guests, in that light. Israel is front and center. In our day, however, Israel is still set aside. We await the day she turns back to her Savior, repents, and the times of refreshing can come in (Acts 3).