The Heavenly Marriage Feast — Rich Kelsey

On several occasions Jesus Christ spoke of a heavenly marriage feast:

“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.” (Matthew 8:11)

Christ alluded to this feast in parable after parable, from many perspectives. One man, after hearing Jesus speak about the feast, exclaimed:

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

Jesus replied:

“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.

In another rendition of the heavenly 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.” (Matthew 22:8–14)

Through the illustrations of a natural wedding feast, Jesus is teaching spiritual principles: One such principle is 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 Christ’s invitation. The nation of Israel was implicated as the original invited guests; however, the sayings of Jesus are still relevant today. Now anyone with a callous heart who ignores the call of God on their life may find themselves 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.’” (Matthew 22:1–2)

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

Jesus went on to say:

“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. Jesus Christ wasn’t all that concerned about people’s 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 to a place 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 Jesus 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 created children. Through Christ, God will fulfill His original 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!” (Revelation 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.” (Revelation 3:15–16)

Christ’s words,

“I am about to spit you out of my mouth”

are an admonishment to all those who have a shallow commitment to him, to enter into a deeper relationship. And, there is no question Jesus was addressing a church in his rebuke, for this bible verse is from a letter addressed to a church. Earlier in Revelation Jesus was seen symbolically standing among the Laodiceans. The Laodicean church represents Christians who are sure they are in need of nothing, yet lack intimacy with Jesus Christ.

Religious Groups of Christ’s Time:

One looking into the history of religious groups 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.

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. Yet, 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 in 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.’” (Matthew 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.” (Matthew 23:28)

If the scribes and Pharisees had been humble, God-seeking men, they might have repented and found true righteousness. The irony, those men were so devout in their outward practices, they mistakenly thought they were sanctified. They misunderstood the meaning of the Old Covenant laws. In Christ’s day, the teachers of Israel needed to do some learning themselves. They were looking for the Messiah as promised in the Scriptures. Yet when they looked him in the face, they failed to recognize him.

How many men and women today who are active in religion wouldn’t recognize Jesus if he showed up at their doors? And how many people today are trusting beyond hope that mere ritual will save their souls? Among the visible church today there are those who, instead of growing to maturity, are bound in religious ceremony. There is more to having a virtuous relationship with God and Christ than religious ritual; what’s available to every Christian is a deeper life, a righteous prayer filled life before God & Christ, which will end with the ones Jesus loves being swept away and seated at the coming heavenly marriage feast.

Other related articles:

Through The Door & Into Christ’s Image — Rich Kelsey

The Mortgage Of The Earth To Satan — Rich Kelsey

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